A thoughtful (and recently unsubscribed) reader sent me a good-bye letter of sorts, though I hope I can talk them out of it. I have had a few angry folks ask to be unsubscribed because of too-much-Christian content, which was no surprise (and please feel free to happy-unsubscribe if this stuff bothers you, you don't have to write and let me know—you can just click the unsubscribe button, I do it all the time). Interestingly, this letter was a sort of too-little-Christian unsubscribe.
I am posting their (anonymized) message and my response because I think we both have valid points. If I had a commenting system or was using social media, I wouldn't do this—it isn't my intent to shame anyone in any way. Thankfully, I'm off of social media and we can have reasonable conversations where well-constructed messages like this one represent an opportunity for me to reflect and consider if I may have gotten off track. So, if you send me a message, just know that I may use it in a future post (after removing any personal identifying information of course). If your opinion is truly incredible, perhaps we can just post it here and leave my big fat mouth out of it! A dream come true for many.
Here's the letter:
I am unsubscribing. It is unfortunate because I've agreed with everything you said up until this point and still agree with most of what you said in Episode 211... however, you mention the gospel several times and then fail to explain it. What is the gospel? Repent of your sins (not in the bible), ask for forgiveness (we are forgiven when we accept the substitutionary payment for our sins).
Trusting in the death of Jesus Christ as payment for sins... that is the gospel. There is nothing we can do to earn or merit our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). How do you expect people to work/live together as one without unifying over Jesus Christ (whom you did not mention)
Thank you for all of the medical freedom information you have shared and even for pointing out where we as a nation are going wrong. Your message will fall on deaf ears and will be confusing if you never clarify the gospel clearly: what it is, AND what it is not. That message needs to be front and center or you will end up with an ecumenical mess. This, I am not interested in.
And my response:
I am glad you wrote because you bring up an important point I wanted to cover sooner or later. I have a book that explains most everything about the Christian faith as I understand it, if you're interested. It's called Red Pill Gospel and I can guarantee you will disagree with some of what's in that book. For instance, it is my understanding that the gospel is actually not so much about trusting in the death of Jesus Christ as payment for our sins, as you have indicated. The gospel, or good news, is that our Messiah provided for us so that eternal life through resurrection would be possible if we accept him as Lord. The forgiveness of sin was but a sideshow in comparison. Thousands of people did not follow Jesus around because he promised them he would forgive them of their sin—they already had a system in place that provided for that. He promised something no one could have imagined—the expectation and hope of eternal life that would only come through the future Kingdom of God.
Yes, the forgiveness of sin was a part of it, but again, that is not why throngs of people were so enthralled with his message. Previously, they all thought death was forever—not because their sins weren't forgiven, but because they didn't have the notion of the immortal soul that our Greek/pagan-infused culture has forced upon us. I believe you are correct in saying there is nothing we can do to earn or merit our salvation, but it is wrong to limit the gospel to just the sin part. Before Jesus came, most every Jew believed that when you died you were dead. End of story. That was Sheol—what many Bibles mistakenly label "hell." Jesus represented an incredible shift. If all he had done was preach "You don't have to sacrifice animals anymore. I'm going to die on the cross and you can have an extra ram and some birds left over at the end of the year," I don't think there would have been much interest. But there was. People were ecstatic. People dropped everything they had and followed him because he promised them something new, something they'd never imagined before—eternal life through the coming Kingdom of God. The forgiveness of sin was not a new thing. Eternal life? Most certainly, it was.
Does that clarify the gospel for you, or does it confuse? Are you and I unified now, or not? Many people have different interpretations of the Christian faith, from Catholicism to Calvinism, from Presbyterians to Methodists. Within the context of living and working together, I can accept all of them, though I'm sure we would all be very different. My interpretation will no doubt differ from others and if you've studied much history, you will know that Catholics and the Reformers killed thousands and thousands of innocent men, women, and children all because they could not deal with others having differing versions of the gospel story than theirs.
We cannot make this mistake. We must insist on allowing a plurality of Christian faiths. Even if we were to agree completely on the nature of the gospel, we would then find another, more specific, attribute to disagree on. Infant baptism or believer's baptism? Free will or predestination? Regulative principle or Pink Floyd concert? On and on these distinctions and disagreements will go, forever. To insist on one flavor over the other will lead to the same death and destruction that killed so many for hundreds of years. America would have never been successful without this crucial distinction. America was exactly the ecumenical mess you describe—and very successful, despite it. Any future community of believers must allow for the same leniency.
If my interpretation of the gospel is so far from yours that you don't believe that you and I could "work/live together as one," then you are right to unsubscribe. However, if you understand that trying to force a specific variant upon a community or nation of believers to represent one of the darkest periods of Christian history, you should reconsider unsubscribing—I think there may be more left to explore. Either way, I wish you and your family nothing but the best.