Friday, May 30, 2008

The True Story? Or Removing the Offense of the Gospel?

Trevin Wax has an excellent, multi-part review of James Choung's new book, True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In (IVP, 2008). The True Story model has become for many in InterVarsity the main way of doing evangelism, and there are tracts to help students learn the model.

Here are Trevin's posts on it:

True Story 1: A Summary

True Story 2: What I Liked

True Story 3: Sin, Punishment, and the Long Lost Law

True Story 4: The Truncated Cross

True Story 5: Conclusions

Here are a couple of excerpts to give you a flavor of Trevin's review:
Choung’s presentation has many commendable aspects. I hope that readers will incorporate some of the above emphases into their own presentations of the gospel. Choung puts his finger on many of the weak spots in traditional gospel presentations. He is right to seek to capture more fully the biblical portrait, and yet, as we will see tomorrow, I believe his missteps actually make his gospel presentation less complete than the traditional presentations he is critiquing.
Among the things missing in Choung's presentation? Heaven. Hell. The Law of God. The Holiness of God. Penal substitution (caricatured as "cosmic child abuse").
James Choung’s True Story seeks to remedy the incompleteness of traditional presentations of the gospel by filling in the central aspects of the biblical Story (kingdom, mission life, church) that we have tended to leave out. Yet as he takes on this worthy challenge, Choung downplays and minimizes other aspects of the biblical teaching on salvation (atonement, personal sin against God, holiness, Law), omissions that ultimately prove detrimental to his gospel presentation.
Here is Trevin's conclusion:
If the outcome of our gospel presentation allows listeners to avoid the issue of personal sin, then we have completely missed the boat. The gospel answers more than the problem of individual sin, yes. But it never answers less. And to excise the offensive nature of our sinfulness and God’s holiness from the gospel is to remove the stumbling block. At this point, we are not being more faithful to Scripture, but less.

James Choung’s True Story helpfully points out some of the deficiencies of our gospel presentations. We would do well to incorporate many of his insights into our presentation of the gospel. But True Story fails, not in what Choung adds, but in what he takes away. At the end of the day, I believe the traditional presentations (for all their flaws) are actually more complete than the gospel of True Story.