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.