Is a God-Centered Gospel Better Than a Man-Centered Gospel?

Hang around Christians long enough and you’ll encounter the God-centered/Man-centered Gospel battle. One side takes the other to task for ignoring the “real” gospel and leaving out the most important aspects of the Truth as God has delivered it.

The God-centered folks (at least on the Internet) typically side with Calvinism and talk about being “Gospel-driven.” John Piper espouses that group’s ideal when he states that “God is the Gospel.” Tug-o'-WarGod-centered folks often see themselves as the last bastion of the true faith. To them, a person’s depth of faith matters most. They talk about what God as God is doing.

The Man-centered folks typically espouse a Pentecostal flavor, even if they align more with mainline Protestantism. They see equipping and walking in what Christ has purchased on the cross as key to being a Christian. To them, a person’s gifting matters. They talk about what God through Man is doing.

The problem with this dichotomy is that I don’t see either side as being the be all and end all of what Christianity represents. The New Testament doesn’t end at the Gospel of John, and it doesn’t begin at the Book of Acts.

The whole _____-centered concept is flawed in that it forces Christians to concentrate on one aspect of the Gospel over another. But the Gospel is not simply what God has done, nor what He is doing, but a continual flow of work from Genesis 1:1 to the present age, with God as Father (Creator/Source), Son (Savior/Lord), and Holy Spirit (Empowerer/Mover), each Person of the Godhead meeting a need within the entirety of the Gospel story, God shaping His Kingdom through Man in the form of the Church.

When we make the Gospel God-centered alone, it becomes what was, and not what it is. It ceases mostly at the cross and trickles slightly into the resurrection. What God bought for man stops at freedom from sin and plays down the Spirit-filled life of the believer, who is otherwise now ambassador and fully Spirit-empowered saint, in the process of being restored to all that Adam was supposed to be.

While being God-centered sounds theologically correct on paper, the practical outplaying of that belief tends to turns adherents into the spiritual equivalent of the master-degree-holding, jobless, twenty-something living in his parents’ basement. There’s a nihilistic bent there that excuses all responsibility for growing up and taking on the adult world. Over mocha lattes, one can argue the strengths and weaknesses of infralapsarianism like a pro, but at some point one must go out and do the stuff. One can’t expect mom and dad to shoulder it all. Just do the work expected and stop talking about systematic theologies and personal suffering all the time.

The Man-centered side fares little better in practice, as the natural progression is toward the ronin, a samurai who serves no master. People who talk about empowerment and personally fighting principalities and powers can, over time, divorce their cause from the One who enabled it.  A disconnection from the Head occurs, and more than once has the ronin Christian believed too much of his or her own press, only to crash and burn amid error and self-centeredness. A Man-centered Gospel tends to forget who God was and still is, forcing the Gospel to start at Pentecost and forgetting the sacrificial aspect of the cross in favor of what that sacrifice purchased. It takes all the gifts and glosses over what was required to buy them and why. Or worse, forgets Who bought them and how.

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing from only one side.

Christians must start with the elements of a God-centered Gospel and add the elements of a Man-centered Gospel, while maintaining a constant foundation in God-centeredness. Instead, we’ve turned Christianity into a spiritual form of “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC,” and that distinction should never exist. Sinner versus Saint is not the way life is. We are somehow both, and we need to start living that way.

God equips Man to do the work and puts His Holy Spirit in us for a reason. We are an empowered people. God doesn’t expect us to constantly ask Him to do the work Himself when He says we have within us His own Spirit-Life and Power to do what He tasks us with. Nor are we to get all high and mighty about that reality but to remember that life begins at the cross, and that without God we can do nothing. It’s His Kingdom, and He is still King.

C’mon, Church! We have got to get this right or else we will be caught living a half-life when Christ returns.

by Dan Edelen

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10 Comments

  1. linda
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mr. Edelun,
    In this blog you say “the Gospel story, God shaping His Kingdom through Man in the form of the Church.”

    The apostle Paul states that we are in an endurance race. We are trying to get to a destination. The apostle Peter says our goal is “an abundant welcome into the eternal kingdom of God.”
    Jesus states that “my kingdom is not of this world.” Peter says this world as we know it in our present day will be destroyed by fire. God will create a new heaven and a new earth that will be the future home of righteousness.

    The Bible says that we are weak in this world in our flesh. Because of this weakness God’s strength is known and shown on our behalf. The Bible also says that we Christians are to overcome the works of the flesh. The works of the flesh in our own individual lives.

    Our goal is eternal life, not the conquering of this world and its powers. What I notice in the New Testament is that the word ‘kingdom’ does not seem to ever be capitalized. Yet, everyone capitalizes it. The word ‘man’ is not capitalized. Yet people capitalize it. In this world, we are helpless. We need God. We are totally dependant on God.

    Has God gifted us as believers? I say yes. To the purpose of strengthening our brothers in the Lord. Until we are built up into a holy temple for God to reside. A ‘new man’ the Bible says. With Christ as its’ head. This is not the old Adam.

    These are just some of my thoughts.

    • Posted April 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      Linda,

      BTW, it’s Edelen.

      Now, regarding our helplessness, I totally disagree with the teachings I see online and elsewhere that portray Man as some simpering weakling. This is entirely untrue of the Spirit-indwelt believer. Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply ignoring the truth of the Scriptures. And I’m very frankly fed up with such people because they are denying everything purchased for us on the cross. They are picking and choosing what was purchased, and you simply cannot do that.

      The Spirit-filled Christian is a force to be reckoned with, someone who tears down strongholds and puts down principalities and powers. Anyone who teaches otherwise is not teaching the Bible. Period. In the eyes of hell, the saint of God is one scary foe.

      For heaven’s sake, let’s start living that reality and stop listening to anyone who says otherwise!

      • linda
        Posted April 15, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

        Hi Mr. Edelen,
        I think what I’m saying is through our weakness God is strong on our behalf. Do we have any control over a miracle? No. Can we turn one hair on our head grey? No. Can we grow height in our bodies? No. Were we involved in creation? No. (If we were it was entirely in Christ). And so forth.

        Do we have strength. Yes. But only in Christ. Was Samson able to conquer an army on his own? No. God gave Samson the victory. This is what I mean by ‘we are weak in our flesh’. We are totally dependent on God.

        Are we (men) the ones guiding history and fulfilling scripture? No, God is the one in control. We are following God. We are not blazing our own trial through the woods so to speak.
        Jesus only did what he saw the father doing. We need to do the same.

        • Posted April 16, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          Linda,

          Faith is what we bring to any miracle. So there is a part we play. Jesus could do no miracles in His hometown because the people did not have any faith in Him.

          Yes, we do have strength, and yes, it is only in Christ. But He dwells in us by His Spirit and we discount that indwelling all too easily. We can’t do that. The apostles certainly didn’t go around proclaiming their weakness all the time like we do today. I challenge anyone here to read Acts and circle all the parts where the apostles went around talking about weakness all the time. In encounter after encounter, they instead ministered from the strength working in them through the Spirit. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as weak; God has not made us weak by His Spirit but strong.

  2. linda
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    An additional thought Mr. Edelun,
    Any teaching trying to push the saints into the gifts in order to conquer this world and rule it is spiritual abuse. God says he is going to destroy this earth as we know it, why would our job be to conguer it and rule it? No. This teaching is not right theology or teaching. But it seems to be very popular? We have false prophets in the church abusing the saints.

    Is this the reason the saints are so discouraged and are very reluctant to bring new people to church services? Not just this teaching of the ‘KINGDOM’ but so many other teachings as well, it seems. May the true leaders of the church appointed and gifted by God stand up and be seen. What we appear to have in most churches today is something the believers are not relating to.

    • Posted April 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Linda,

      I agree that dominionism is out of hand and has gone too far. That said, this does not mean that it has no worth. The original charge of Man in the Garden has not been rescinded. The Spirit-filled believer should continue to walk in that destiny.

      People who try to put down the gifts are doing the Church a major disservice. There are two errors: One is to put the gifts down because they’re “scary” and the other is to abuse their use. Neither is right. We have a Church in the U.S. largely at the poles, with some people denying the gifts altogether (God forbid!) while others abuse the gifts (God forbid!). The gifts are for today and require wise and proper use as outlined in the Scriptures.

      • linda
        Posted April 15, 2013 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

        Hello Mr. Edelen,
        I agree that the gifts are for today. I also believe that there are prophets and apostles today. Many Christians do not. The church today is built on the foundation provided by the prophets and apostles. The problem being, most churches belief and teach that the pastor is the prophet and the apostle.

        We have denied the system and plan of God for prophets and apostles. How is the church then to prosper? God doesn’t say in his word the Bible that the church is built on the foundation provided by pastors.

        Let’s get on the right page with some of these things and we may see some of the changes that are needed in the church. What stops us? Greed, protectionism, egotism, pride, sin, jealousy, disbelief, denial.

        Why don’t we deal with some of these in the church. This is coming largely from the current leadership in churches. Is there any need to wonder why the church is doing poorly in our day?

        • Posted April 16, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink

          Linda,

          The simple answer is that we have substituted a corporate hierarchy, stolen from the business world, and used it as the model under which most churches run. This started happening back in the 1920s, when the American Church suddenly became enamored of the “Jesus, CEO” idea. Yes, that idea is almost 100 years old already, and it has had 100 years to make life more difficult for Christians, all without us realizing that it was hurting, not helping. “Jesus, CEO” got a boost in the 1990s with the rise of the business consultant mentality that was a second wave of attack on the Church. Suddenly, it was better to have businesspeople running our churches rather than those gifted by the Spirit to do so.

          Why can’t we deal with this? Because we American Christians have so run together the American Civil Religion and genuine Christianity that we can’t tell them apart anymore, nor can we separate the chaff of one from the wheat of the other.

          • linda
            Posted April 17, 2013 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

            Hi Mr. Edelen,
            I think what we have in churches is a structure and leadership that is not guided or empowered by the Holy Spirit.
            We have leadership who continue to misinterpret and highlight one aspect or another of the gospel (the word of God) in error. They have led believers over many hills and dales the past 25 to 30 years. With essentially no fruit from all of this activity.

            What is considered fruit today is numbers of people coming to church services. The reason they come is of no concern for these leaders. In fact, whatever people want to hear is what is given out from the pulpit by most leaders today. This looks like a political institution, and acts and behaves like a political institution.

            Today’s church leaders in a general sense (even pentecostal and charismatic churches) do not want Christian leadership in their churches. What they want is their present ‘system’ and ‘control’ to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit to give them credibility with the masses.

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  1. [...] Is a God-Centered Gospel Better Than a Man-Centered Gospel?: Hang around Christians long enough and you’ll encounter the God-centered/Man-centered Gospel battle. One side takes the other to task for ignoring the “real” gospel and leaving out the most important aspects of the Truth as God has delivered it. – by Dan Edelen – http://ceruleansanctum.com/201.....ospel.html [...]

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