A Facebook friend asked me this question:
Q: What is the “Gospel”, or the “Good News” of the Bible?
Here is my reply:
A: I hope you will see that this is not a dodge, but I know of no passage in the entire Bible that purports to give a direct answer to that question. In no place does it say, “Now here is the gospel message…” or “Now, the particulars of the gospel message are these: ….” And to be sure, I went back through all the “gospel” passages before sitting down to reply. If I have missed such a passage, please point it out.
Certainly there are elements of the gospel message all throughout the extant writings, but we are quite a long way from having anything like we might expect to have—a formal exposition on the contents of the message itself.
How, then, can I answer you? By providing information not found in the Bible? Or by speculating that I have identified the “essentials” or “core” of the gospel message? Or even that I have figured out ALL of it?
I observe that many people get themselves in trouble when trying to fill in these gaps in what we are told. They include all manner of trappings into the gospel message, as crucial and indispensable parts of it. But if the Bible does not say, who are we to say?
And in response to this problem of what ALL to include in the gospel message, many default to a “core” position, by which they purport to discern what LITTLE must be included. That is, what is of “core” importance. But again, where is it written who gets to decide what is “core” and what is not?
This is a huge problem in Christendom—one that few acknowledge and fewer still have any reality-based paradigms for handling.
So at this point, I have to decline to answer your question because I simply do not have the information to answer it. The Bible simply is not a complete record of everything that was practiced, believed, and taught. I wish it were, but it is demonstrably not—our present question being a prime example, along with other questions such as the whereabouts of a definition of “Christian” or of “Christianity”.
Some have endeavored to fill in the gaps and to create a systematic model by which to understand it all, but such theologies are riddled with conjecture and even with outright contradiction in places. And others, apparently finding it easier to thrive on hearsay than to do their own math, have clung to such works, not even realizing where the problems exist.
Though it is said sometimes, there seems to be a general bent in Christianity against saying “We do not know” as often as reality itself would conjure up that admission.
I have become increasingly content with saying “I don’t know”—and yet at the same time, I search far more diligently than do most in hopes of discovering, analyzing, and documenting facts tucked away in the texts. For me, therefore, “I don’t know” is not an indication of surrender on a question, but a mere status update.