Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is "Jesus Saves" enough?

Is "Jesus saves" an adequate summary of the Christian message? Yes. . . and no. It's been said that the gospel is simple enough that a child can understand it, yet so rich and multifaceted that a lifetime is not enough time to grasp it fully. To illustrate here's an anecdote from Richard Mouw.

I had guessed that the taxi driver was a Christian as soon as I got into the cab. The evidence certainly seemed strong: there was a small wooden cross hanging from his rearview mirror, and when I leaned forward to tell him what hotel I wanted to go to, I saw an open Bible on the front
passenger seat. But all doubt was removed when, driving through the city, we passed a church with a large neon sign proclaiming “Jesus Saves.” The driver leaned back, pointing: “See that sign? That’s all you need to know!”
His remark caught me off guard, so I merely grunted a quick approving sound. But when he dropped me off a few minutes later, I told him that I appreciated his Christian witness. Needless to say, though, if we had been given time for a longer conversation I would have discussed the two word message with him at a great length.
That message is a profound one. I’m pleased when I see it on public display. But it is
shorthand for a lot of important topics, ones that deal with highly significant questions. Here are
some of them. Who is the Jesus who saves? What does he save us from? How did he do it? What does he expect us to do about it? What does his saving mission tell us about how human history is going to end up?
People can agree on the simple formula, “Jesus Saves,” and still have strong disagreements
about how to answer those questions. As a Presbyterian who subscribes to the basic teachings
associated with the Reformed faith, I believe that my tradition provides a profound framework for answering those important questions. And when I say “subscribe” I am putting it mildly. I am passionate about the Reformed way of understanding the basic claims of the gospel.

Like Mouw I'm passionate about the "Reformed way of understanding the basic claims of the gospel." Contrary to the impression you get from some Reformed folks, the Presbyterian/Reformed understanding doesn't have a monopoly on biblical truth, but it's the understanding I believe is the best expression of that biblical truth, and it's the one I've chosen to order my life around. Mouw's anecdote serves as an advertisement for studying a contemporary expression of the Reformed understanding called the Essential Tenets. These tenets are the foundation of a brand new Presbyterian denomination called ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians that I'm excited to be part of. You can read more about this movement here and here.

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