Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Greg Gilbert - What is the Gospel?

Several years ago I was given Greg Gilbert's short book What is the Gospel? as a gift.  While this book makes many good affirmations, it is also an example of the sort of self-contradictory assertions made by those in the Neo-Calvinist camp.  

Consider the following statements:
First, if you are not a Christian, thank you for reading this far into the book.  I hope you've taken the opportunity to give some thought to this good news about Jesus, and pray it has gotten deeply into your mind.  For you, I think the "what now?" question is really easy.  There aren't millions of things you ought to do. There is one: repent of your sins and believe in Jesus.  That means recognizing your spiritual bankruptcy, acknowledging your complete inability to save yourself, and coming to Jesus as your only hope of ever being forgiven and right before God. (Gilbert, p.116)
Gilbert page 116 - notice the line to what is said on the very next page.

So in Gilbert's theology:

One Thing = Two Things (repent, believe)
Two Things = Three Things (recognize, acknowledge, come to Jesus)
and thus
Three Things = One Thing
Any sober reading of Gilbert's statement reveals that his "one thing" that man must do is defined by two things (repentance and faith) and this is further clarified by three things (recognition, understanding, and coming to Jesus).  In short, it is a squirrel's nest of logical contradictions.  It is indeed puzzling that men who believe you must do three things in order to obtain eternal life insist that there is only one thing you need to do.  It is as though they believe there some inherent power in stating that only one thing must be done.

So in Gilbert's gospel either one, two, or three things must be done in order for this person to become a Christian.  As we shall see, when Gilbert uses the phrase "becoming a Christian" he is speaking of obtaining the gift of eternal life.  Let's read on:
Becoming a Christian is not some laborious process.  There's nothing to earn.  Jesus has already earned everything you need.  What the gospel calls you to do is to turn your heart away from sin and toward Jesus in faith - that is, trust and reliance.  It calls you to come to him and say, "I know I can't save myself, Jesus, so I'm trusting you to do it for me."  And then a whole world opens up before you.  But it all begins with repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus to save you. (Gilbert, p.116)
So from these two statements it is apparent that the saving work of Christ is not a finished work, but a potential work that is offered to all of humanity on the condition of the one thing that man must do, defined by two things, and further clarified as three things.  

But whether one, two, or three things remain to be done to procure man's eternal salvation is irrelevant.  If anything remains to be done, then Christ's work is not a finished work.  Moreover if that which must be done is something man must do, then salvation is synergistic and Gilbert is not preaching salvation by sovereign grace as he claims.  In light of Gilbert's previous affirmations, it seems incredible that on the very next page he goes on to say:
The gospel tells me that my righteous standing before God is not grounded in checking off some spiritual bingo card. (Gilbert, p.117)
Gilbert's quote on page 117.
If the acquisition of eternal life is in any way tied to doing the one-two-three thing that Gilbert's gospel demands, then salvation most certainly is grounded in checking off some spiritual bingo card - the card of belief, recognition, acknowledgement, repentance, and coming to Christ.  

So, brother Gilbert, which is it?  Is eternal salvation about doing the list of things stated on page 116, or is it not about doing a list of things as stated on page 117?  One thing is certain, it cannot be both.


We would have you know that the gospel is a proclamation (Is 61:1, Luke 4:18) of the finished work of Christ (John 19:30) on behalf of his people. (Matt 1:21)  It is not an offer of salvation to all of humanity condition upon repentance and faith, but a declaration to the elect that their warfare is accomplished. (Is 40:2) It is accompanied by the assurance that those who believe are of his sheep (John 10:27-28) and an admonition to walk in obedient discipleship and thereby save yourself from this untoward generation. (Acts 2:40)  


  1. Thanks for your v. good videos (of audio blog insights).
    Two typos in your rehearsal of G.G.:
    @ 0:23, there is "...acknowledging your complete to save yourself..."
    @ 3:05, there is "The Gospel tells me (the Christian, teth)..."
    These are minor, but I thought you'd want to know.
    Keep up the good work!
    Robert Cook is posting your audio blogs at Facebook to everyone's edification.
    Yours in Christ,
    Hugh McCann

    1. Brother Hugh,

      Thanks for your kind words of support regarding this blog post and video. I particularly appreciate your words of correction. Rest assured that as a result of your feedback we have already taken steps to correct these mistakes in the blog and the video which you correctly pointed out. I have requested that an extensive post-mortem, root cause analysis be run in an all-hands-on-deck meeting of the entire executive staff via closed-circuit video conference simulcast to all of our US and international locations. As the result of a similar error which occurred last year, an independent audit by Price Waterhouse Coopers revealed that "a lack of staffing may have attributed to the error" and included the recommendation that we double the size of our staff by terminating all board members whose only credentials were having once been Galilean fishermen, and replacing them with those who had received formal seminary training.

      This proposal was soundly rejected.

      God bless and thanks for the encouragement and contribution to the cause of truth. :)

    2. Dear mysterious "teth,"

      Very good. Glad to read you're cutting fat, dead wood, etc. Nothing like appointing a committee to look into the matter to get it all sorted out ASAP!

  2. Oops, saw on your piece on the SBC gospel that "teth" is your acronym for TheEarsToHear! :)

    Are you anonymous, or may we know your identity?