November 7, 2015

Gospel Avoidance: A Thought

Why do so many trendy vicars want to stress the "I'm OK / You're OK" line rather than the good news? But isn't that the good news, you might ask? Well, not really. The good news is what comes after. What comes first is the acknowledgement -- indeed the recognition -- that all is not well with the world or with us, and that we bear some responsibility for that illness. Sin is real, and inescapable, and the human heart is incapable of healing itself, try as we might. That's not good news, and as with a devastating medical diagnosis I can understand people wanting to avoid it.

But there is good news: that there is a treatment for this illness, a salve for this wound, indeed a salvation for the human condition. This is the good news that some seem to avoid, perhaps not willing to acknowledge or recognize the condition that this good news remedies. They literally have no compunction. If all the physician can do is pass along word of inevitable death, reluctance to mention the disease might make some sense, and in earlier days it was a common practice to shield patients from such dismal diagnoses; but when the doctor has the good news that a treatment is available, what reason is there not to acknowledge both the problem of sin and its remedy?

Pelagius was probably wrongly tagged as the origin of this sort of gospel avoidance, or leaping to salvation while downplaying that from which salvation delivers. I think it deeply human. Anyone who has sat as a chaplain by a hospital bedside has seen the urgency with which family members will try to shield their loved ones from a devastating diagnosis or prognosis. But in this case, as dire as the illness, there is a cure. That is the good news. And there is no reason not to share it.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG