Of recent months we have received a number of articles presenting what can only be called “The New American Standard Version of the Gospel.” After piecing it together into a consecutive narrative, it runs like this.In the beginning God created Satan to tell lies and commit murder. He was created that way, and that was his function. In the beginning God planted a Tree in Eden to cause Adam and Eve to trip up and land themselves in sin. In the beginning God created both good and evil. He needed both, and uses both, to reach His goal for mankind. In the beginning God created man with something subtle and dark, deep down inside him, so that he couldn’t help but fall for the serpent’s lie. There was (and still is) no such thing as free will. You can’t help being a sinner. It’s not your fault and you are not held responsible for it. Sin is a basic ingredient of God’s work. He planned it that way from the beginning, and takes full responsibility for it. Why so? Simply because God wanted to show man the nature of His grace. You see, without sin, it would be impossible for God to manifest His grace to man. And without evil, it would be impossible for man to distinguish and appreciate good. And without the Devil, it would be impossible for man to know the true character of God. From the beginning God designed that His Son should die on the cross to remove all hindrances to the fulfilment of His plan. Therefore evil, Satan, the Tree, and the faulty human mind can all be understood as necessary to reach His goal. When Christ died at Calvary, God was apologising to the world, and now asks everyone, everywhere, to stop feeling guilty, and realise the wisdom of His great plan. Sadly, most people are living under the fear and dread of guilt, and a mistaken identity. But we are saved, not from sin but from guilt. It’s guilt that separates us from God. There is no place in His Gospel for the Law, which only produces condemnation and guilt, there is no divine anger, only God’s strong and gracious yearning for all mankind to return to a proper understanding of who they are and why they were made. That is the Good News.
By contrast, here is the Gospel, “the old, old story” as it has always been presented and preached for the last 2000 years.
In the beginning God created Adam and Eve with free will to choose. Only by the exercise of this power of choice could they come to the true understanding of the nature of God, and eventually yield to God a willing obedience, a holy desire, and a fail-safe mechanism against sin. God made a single Law to crystallise that need for choice, and He placed a Tree in the midst of the Garden as the basis of a test. He warned man of the consequence of disobedience, which would lead to death. He gave man a conscience as a warning device, when a wrong choice was about to be made. Adam fell; Satan was cursed for his treachery; the human pair was driven from the Garden Paradise. But in His foreknowledge God had planned for the entry of sin through Adam’s wrong choice and disobedience. God’s Son was the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” In this way, man in a fallen state could be redeemed, and given the wherewithal to walk well-pleasing to God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Fallen man can therefore learn about his own sin and weakness, and the need to be God-dependent, and at the same time find the true graciousness of God who ever leads him in the paths of righteousness for His holy name’s sake. God hates sin, but loves the sinner. He calls all men everywhere to repent. A day is coming when every mouth will be stopped, and all the world will become guilty before God. He sends the Holy Spirit to convict man of sin, righteousness and judgement. He uses man’s conscience to create a sense of guilt for sin. But God’s Son, the Lord Jesus, when “lifted up”, draws men to Himself. He who repents of his sin and believes is saved, not by works, but by God’s grace, mercy, and lovingkindness
All the statements in the first paragraph have been taken from writings received from various sources, either verbatim, or in essence. Moreover, we have been warned by one of these writers against making any adverse criticism, labelled as negativism, and creating division. But we have presented the two accounts side by side so as to highlight the contrast. Having done so, we believe we are obeying the injunction of the Apostle Jude, who said “Earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints, for there are certain men crept in unawares . . . turning the grace of God into licentiousness.” We have “contended” for the truth, but we are not being “contentious”. We have “divided” good from evil, truth from error, but we are not being “divisive”. We believe God has asked us to send out this warning.