Derek Webb and the Gospel
Derek Webb recently gave an interview at ‘Said at Southern’ in which he was asked to define the gospel. His answer in about 30 seconds was:
“What a great question. I guess I’d probably…my instinct is to say that it’s Jesus coming, living, dying, and being resurrected and his inaugurating the already and the not yet of all things being restored to himself…and that happening by way of himself…the being made right of all things…that process both beginning and being a reality in the lives and hearts of believers and yet a day coming when it will be more fully realized. But the good news, the gospel, the speaking of the good news, I would say is the news of his kingdom coming the inaugurating of his kingdom coming…that’s my instinct.”
I will say that this answer is deficient in some ways and lacks some clarification. This answer has also sparked quite a bit of conversation about Webb’s view of the gospel throughout blogs. I won’t take the time to link them all, but they are easily found. Most of the conversation has been in the disappointment in Web’s definition. There is no atonement, no focus on sin, no imputed righteousness, and so on. Therefore, because of this, Webb has been under attack in both posts and comments pretty viciously by Blog sites that I regularly read and respect. I’m disappointed.
I would be the first to admit that his music recently has left me confused at times, disappointed and uncomfortable. Webb has put himself in the spotlight of many young Reformed eyes who are waiting for ‘Thankful II”. Therefore, when Webb states a definition of the gospel that does not spell out Reformed terms, people pounce on him.
I believe the problem people are having with Webb’s definition is that he does not spell out any of the “whys” and the “hows” of the gospel. Webb does not spell out why we need the gospel and how the gospel is accomplished clearly – sin, cross, atonement, imputed righteousness, etc. He just states the climax. But the interviewer did not ask Webb, “Now Derek, say I am an unbeliever, can you give me a gospel presentation?” He asked him what is the gospel – from believer to believer. The gospel is that because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ we get to “enjoy God forever.” The message of I Corinthians 15, where Paul gives the definition of the gospel message he has preached, as being focussed on the death and resurrection of Christ and inheriting the kingdom of God which cannot be inherited by flesh. Paul does not mention substitutionary atonement, imputed righteousness, or total depravity – though it is certainly implied and taught elsewhere by Paul. It seems Webb’s definition is shorthand of Paul’s definition.
Certainly, we do not have the gospel without “whys” and “hows”, but we need to not pounce on those who just state what the hope of the gospel is without the “whys” and “hows”. Resurrection, restoration, and inheritance of the kingdom are good news for Christians. Let’s not attack those who affirm this.
Note – The interviewer of the Derek Webb interview gave a good response to the chatter as well.