Victory, Atonement, Restoration, and Response: The Shape of the New Testament Canon and the Holistic Gospel Message -- By: Matthew Emerson

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 03:2 (Winter 2012)
Article: Victory, Atonement, Restoration, and Response: The Shape of the New Testament Canon and the Holistic Gospel Message
Author: Matthew Emerson


Victory, Atonement, Restoration, and Response:
The Shape of the New Testament Canon and the Holistic Gospel Message

Matthew Emerson

California Baptist University

Introduction

When Christians and Bible scholars discuss the gospel, defining the word “gospel” is just as important as the many discussions about its implications in politics, church life, or the environment. We often hear distinctions between Christus Victor and penal substitutionary atonement, between a soterian gospel and a Kingdom gospel, and between a gospel that has implications for all of creation and one that applies to only individual souls.1 In the midst of this conversation, though, and especially in the midst of these important distinctions, we must ask if we are actually distinguishing between what is contained in the definition of “gospel” and what is not. Is it entirely correct to divide between a Christus Victor gospel, a soterian gospel, and a restorative gospel? Can we separate Christ’s victory over evil from his restoration of creation and from penal substitutionary atonement?2 The argument here is that the biblical account does not divide between these three different aspects of the gospel – victory, atonement, and restoration – but that each are a part of Jesus’ work in his life, death, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost, and return.3 This threefold work of victory, atonement, and restoration,4 coupled

with the church’s proclamation of it both as an announcement of Christ has done and as a call to repent and believe to the nations,5 are all included in a holistic view of the term “gospel.” More particularly, the thesis of this essay is that this holistic view of the gospel is supported by the shape6 of the biblical canon and for the purposes of this paper the shape of the New Testament.

The canonical shape of the New Testament aids the reader in understanding the biblical gospel as a threefold work of victory over evil, restoration of creation, and redemption from sin through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, as well as the proclamation of the church of that work both in announcing it and calling the nations to respond to it. This will be demonstrated through attention to the shape of the fourfold gospel corpus and Acts, the placement of Revelation at the end of the canon, and the shape of the epistles. In searc...

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