The Changeless Gospel -- By: Luke L. Keefer Jr.

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 32:0 (NA 2000)
Article: The Changeless Gospel
Author: Luke L. Keefer Jr.

The Changeless Gospel1

Luke L. Keefer Jr.

Luke L. Keefer (M.Div., Asbury; Ph.D., Temple) is Professor of Church History and Theology at ATS.

The most difficult thing about change is knowing what changes are good, to know how much change is good, and to know which things should not change. When individuals encounter too much change they become mentally ill. When cultures change too much they lose their identity. When churches change too much the faith becomes corrupt.

So, strange as it might seem, the best way to manage change is to have something that does not change. We can think of the human body as an illustration of what I mean. Doctors tell us that thousands of our body cells are dying each day and are replaced by new cells. Yet we remain the same person in spite of all these cell changes. There is a genetic-code (our DNA) within us that gets transferred to each new cell.

Think of the chaos that would result if this were not true. Oriental people might slowly change into Westerners. Men might slowly become women. Or we might all turn into dogs or cats, birds or fish. And think of a student who spent four years in a school and came to the examination in mathematics and found that his new brain cells only remembered contemporary music! But these things do not happen to us, because something within is not changed by all the changes that are occurring in our bodies.

This leads us to ask what is the genetic code of the church? Is there a spiritual DNA which will preserve the church even as it changes its ministry for a world which will be much different a few decades from now?

I think the answer to this question is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know that Luke wrote two books: a Gospel and the Book of Acts. The Gospel of Luke (and here we could say of Matthew, Mark and John, as well) is the story of salvation which must never change. It is the substance of our faith, the core of our preaching, the measure of truth and life. If we try to change the gospel account, faith becomes sick and the church becomes weak.

The Book of Acts, by way of contrast, shows how this gospel held fast in the midst of a church and a world which changed much. In fact, if the church had not changed the gospel would have lost its power. I want to

emphasize the changeless character of the gospel: what must not change in the 21st or any other century if the church is to have a healthy identity and ministry.

Lessons from Church History: Changes that Compromised the Gospel

The Constantinian Church (4th Century A.D.)


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