Jesus. Real Life.

Is it “believe in Jesus” or “believe in the atonement”?

Scot McKnight asks this question in his second post discussing Greg Boyd’s new book, The Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution:

How central to the gospel and to the Christian faith is following Jesus? Is a Christian someone who follows Jesus? Or, would you define “Christian” in another way? How would you define it?

Go by Scot’s blog to read and comment on those and some other great questions posed by Scot about Boyd’s book. Here’s my comment:

On the first set of questions, yes, following Jesus is central to the Christian (little Christ) faith and to the gospel, IMO. Are we called to trust the atonement? Yes. But that is only one facet of trusting Jesus, which is the focus of the New Testament. Putting our faith in him simultaneously includes trusting his atonement, his resurrection, his promises, his teachings, his plan for overcoming evil, his Spirit, his ongoing leadership, joining his people, etc. The gospel is at the core, the proclamation of a person, the “Christ”-ened King, and his great deeds and plan for the world. This gospel calls us to quit working against him (because of what we all naturally trust and love) and start trusting, loving and following him above all.

But Luther defined “gospel”, despite the much larger NT usage, as “properly nothing else” than our justification. (Very odd for a founder of the ‘sola scriptura’ movement.) Our idea of God’s “salvation” has also been similarly whittled down from the much larger biblical usage of that term to our legal status alone. Our “orthodoxy”, our ‘right teaching’ or ‘right belief’ of Christianity only includes facts about Jesus, generally speaking, but no teachings of Jesus. I think it is hard to understate how thoroughly, at least in its core concepts and our mental mapping of the faith, that we have divorced being a Christian from becoming a little Christ. Kudos to Boyd and the many others that point this out.


6 responses

  1. Patrick

    Found your sites (the previous blog and now this one) by the link from comments @ Jesus Creed. Your comments many times have resonated deeply with me. The first paragraph of your response today is a prime example. Your thoughts on trusting Jesus in this fashion stirs my soul at what I feel is near its deepest level. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I would love to find out more about how these insights are lived out for you.

    November 4, 2009 at 12:17 pm

  2. T Freeman


    Wow. That’s very kind. I’m thrilled to be encouraging towards Jesus. Please feel free to come by here and converse anytime, even with disagreement!

    The thoughts in that first paragraph have been stirring me at the deepest level as well for several years now and it’s still going, thank God. As for how I’m starting to live it out, some of that you can probably get from what I post and comment about here and elsewhere. The 12 steps help me come out of denial about and identify the places I don’t trust/love Jesus, and am following some darker leadership and their “gospel,” and then move, with God’s help and the help of other disciples, into greater trust of Jesus. The Lord’s prayer has become much more valuable to me, as has the Jesus Creed. I’m trying to just let Jesus influence and shape me more and see everything he’s done, doing or has in mind to do as good news. I’m sure there’s more I could say, but will have to come later!

    Thanks again.

    November 4, 2009 at 12:47 pm

  3. T Freeman


    I would add that the scope of what I consider “gospel work” has become appreciably larger. Helping the single mom in the inner city do her job as a mother to her kids is not just good work, it’s gospel work because her treating her children as they should be treated is of huge importance to Jesus and agenda for the world. Of course, as the agenda of God’s Christ gets that “small” it also covers the world. Healing, social justice, addiction recovery, on and on–the agenda of Jesus’ administration, if you will, is so multi-faceted and thorough–it truly “covers the earth.” I just want to be obedient and cooperative with his work in parts of the world I contact, especially where my actions are strongest felt. I want to be one that “gathers things together” with him and quit everything I do to “scatter them further apart.” And I want to help everyone to do the same, for everyone’s sake.

    November 6, 2009 at 11:44 am

  4. Patrick

    Thanks. Very much.

    November 9, 2009 at 12:57 pm

  5. Gotta love McKnight…

    November 12, 2009 at 3:26 pm

  6. T Freeman


    He maintains as civil and thoughtful a blog as anyone I’ve seen. I think praying/repeating the Jesus Creed as often as he does is working for him!

    November 12, 2009 at 4:20 pm

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