The Center for Gospel Culture exists to establish the centrality of the gospel as the basis for developing a gospel culture worldview in renewing every dimension of an individual's life { spiritual, social. theological, ecclesiological, ministerial, psychological, corporate, and professional } so that individuals would be able to think, act, and live in line with the truth of the gospel (Gal 2:14).

How did this start? What was the vision/dream behind CGC?

A core value that we have at our church at Citylife, is to have everyone understand not only the truth of the gospel, but the implications of that truth into every dimension of life. It’s not merely about the gospel being preached and received, but how it can be lived. As a council member of the gospel coalition, I have been thinking, praying, wrestling, and having conversations with others on how we can recapture the center of evangelicalism, which is the gospel. I believe that the center exists to establish the centrality of the gospel as the basis for developing a gospel culture worldview in renewing every dimension of an individual’s life –spiritual, social, theological, ecclesiological, ministerial, psychological, corporate, and professional –so that individuals would be able to think, act, and live in line with the truth of the gospel (Gal 2:14). We want to establish a gospel central worldview for people who want to live out a life that revolves around a gospel culture. I also had a burden to bring some of my background training in biblical theology to help people to have an inter-canonical, diachronic, historical-redemptive, reading the scriptures along its big story plotline.

What is the purpose of having the many categories at our center?

The centrality of the gospel and its gospel culture worldview will serve as the center which realigns, renews, and transforms our orientation to everything, e.g. our culture in general, literature, the arts, media, sex, power, money, ministry, preaching, university ministry, music, culture of ideas, marketplace, education, the academy, the church, our theological framework, mercy, missions, parenting, and counseling, etc. Rather than attaching the gospel or a Christian perspective to these categories, we want all of these things to be driven by a gospel orientation. For example, we are not critiquing literature from a Christian perspective, but we are evaluating literature in order to enter into its story, finding a point of reference, challenging it, and realigning the story with a gospel orientation.

Who is the audience?

This Center isn’t necessarily for people who are in the academy. Whether you are a pastor, seminarian, or layperson who wants to thoughtfully think through how the gospel has implications for every dimension of life, we hope you will find the Center to be engaging and helpful. We want the gospel to be central in our understanding of God, ecclesiology, culture, literature, music, to everything.

What sort of resources?

We will provide resources that will make that the central fabric of the connections that we will make from themes that we find in scripture, or culture, or in literature. To that end, we will provide featured articles from our team of contributors and guest writers, along with monthly articles from each of the respective ministry categories. We hope that you will find this ministry site a place where your mind and heart will be engaged, where you will find some novel contribution along with thoughtful summaries of other helpful resources and we will also provide links to likeminded blogs, ministry sites, etc.

by Stephen Um & Richard Lints

The gospel, which is robust and theologically thick, is more than simply the forgiveness of sins. The Center for Gospel Culture wants to be able to provide an inter-canonical, biblical-theological picture of what the gospel is on the grand redemptive story plotline of creation, fall, redemption, and the new creation. The gospel is not only the way one enters into the kingdom of God, but also the powerful dynamic of how an individual lives out the Christian life.

In brief the gospel is simply the “good news that God has redeemed us through Jesus”.  But the realities lying beneath the surface of this summary are as important as the summary itself. And if we remain content with “surface realities” only, the depth and richness of these realities will be lost on us. It is when we reduce the gospel to its bare simplicity, that redemption becomes so thin as to be irrelevant to most of life.

The “good news” stretches from before the beginning of time all the way beyond the end of time. It is not a truth which begins with my conversion nor does it reach its fulfillment in any particular experience of my life. The gospel has everything to do with the “before and after” context of my life. It is a greater reality into which my entire life is embedded. It is a truth which owns me as opposed to an object I possess. It is larger than my life and is that by which my life makes sense. The gospel is not about “me”, but rather I am defined by the gospel.

God narrates the gospel as the story which begins at Genesis 1 and runs all the way through to Revelation 22. Important dimensions of the gospel are lost when any part of the story from Genesis to Revelation is omitted. When Luke records "And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets He [Jesus] explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." the claim is being made that the story of Jesus is the story of the whole Bible. And the whole Bible is the whole gospel. The gospel is the glue which holds the Bible together even as Jesus is the glue which holds the whole story together.

The word gospel, euangelion, is stating that a formal declaration of victory has been made, and that sin has been overcome through Jesus’ perfect obedience in life and death on the cross. It is something that has been done in history, and we can only receive it by faith. The gospel is good news, rather than mere instruction. It is like a messenger who brings good news of a major historical event that has already happened. Therefore, there are major implications of this event in the life of an individual. In this sense, the gospel is the primacy of God’s work in Christ that changes the fallen condition of his creation, namely, individual sinners who are redeemed and restored in this new creational story.

The content of the message of Jesus is the gospel. He's not merely talking about the gospel or talking about ethical instruction, but he himself is at the heart of the gospel, reconciling broken, alienated, sinful people with their God. In other words, Jesus doesn’t just bring us good news, he is good news. God is the gospel in Jesus.

Jesus not only saves people in history, but also accomplishes redemption by providing grace for the weak. It is an upside-down, ironic, subversive paradigm of how grace comes to the powerless rather than the powerful, the strong, or the privileged. This is the reason why Luke emphasized that the gospel came to marginalized people; namely the weak, the poor, women, tax collectors, Gentiles, and the sick. It is a reversal of the values of what the world highly regards, namely, affluence, status, accumulation of wealth, and power. So it’s an alternative kingdom and a new humanity. The cross better than anything else shows us this great counter-cultural nature of the gospel which provides life through death, power through weakness, wisdom through foolishness, and leadership through service. Therefore, this authority of grace frees the individual from any enslavement to power, status or recognition.

The Gospel is a faith rather than one’s own merit. Paul teaches us that the gospel reveals a righteousness from God (Rom 1:17) and Paul in Gal 2 identifies the gospel with pardon and forgiveness and righteousness and perfection in Christ (2 Cor 5:21). And this can only be received by faith in the finished work of Christ, not by good works or one’s own performance, but by the performance of Christ. And because we are sinners, who have fallen short of the glory of God, and were dead in our trespasses and sin, we need a God who not only can initiate pardon and forgiveness, but also can transfer righteousness and perfection. Jesus came into the world through the Incarnation and saved sinners through redemption in order to renew all things through the new creation.

Furthermore, the Bible can use different word pictures to articulate the breadth and depth of the gospel. The language of the law court (justification, punishment, judgment) illuminates the fundamentally moral character of redemption. In Jesus, God substituted himself in the legal place of a sinner by taking the judgment he deserved so that he can receive the treatment Jesus deserved. The language of the temple (atonement, sacrifice, sanctification) highlights the mystery of the universal presence of God as creator interwoven into the local presence of God as redeemer. This image shows how Jesus was rejected, shamed, and excluded so that the sinner could be purified and cleansed from sin, therefore removing the barrier of shame. The language of the family (adoption, bride and bridegroom) explores the central relational quality of God’s dealing with His creatures. The cross removes the hostility barrier because Jesus removed God’s anger by standing in the sinner’s place as the great high priest and mediator, therefore providing reconciliation and adoption. The language of the marketplace (redemption and possession) captures the dynamic of God’s ownership of His people in all of life. These and many more word pictures help us to appreciate the all-encompassing character of the gospel. Reduce the gospel to any single word picture and something fundamental is lost. Omit any of the word pictures and the gospel loses its traction in our lives.

Here is the rub. The gospel sits light on our lives today by and large. There are too many distractions for many of us, and the gospel gets our attention only when the other distractions of life aren’t exploding on us. Even if we reach this conclusion, too often we then suppose that if we could get rid of the distractions, the gospel would become more important to us. It would have more bite in our lives. These are noble intentions indeed. However . . . the solution here is not a matter of exerting your will (or mine) over these distractions. Greater moral rigor or an increase in self-discipline ironically is one of the ways in which the gospel gets further sidelined. The gospel is about finding ourselves in an alternative universe, not simply rearranging the furniture in the old universe. No matter how much it may seem spiritually or aesthetically pleasing it will never satisfy our souls.

In the weeks to come we want to explore the theological character of the gospel, the pastoral dimensions of the gospel, the missional heart of the gospel and the communal nature of the gospel. There are too many thoughtful people of deep character that are no longer satisfied by gospel-lite. We hope this blog will stimulate these sorts of folk to engage more richly with the breath and the depth of the gospel.

Stephen UmStephen Um - President / Executive Director

A graduate of Phillips Academy at Andover and Boston University, Dr. Um received an M.Div. and Th.M. in Biblical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in New Testament studies at St. Mary's College (University of St. Andrews) in Scotland. Since 2002, Dr. Um has been teaching New Testament studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Covenant Theological Seminary and Emerson College. Dr. Um is the Senior Minister of Citylife Presbyterian Church in Boston, and the author of The Theme of Temple Christology in John's Gospel, The Library of New Testament Studies 2006 and T & T Clark International (formerly the Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series), The Kingdom of God (Crossway, 2011), and Why Cities Matter (Crossway, 2013). Dr. Um also serves as a council member and VP of Asia Initiatives for The Gospel Coalition, and a trainer for Redeemer City to City Asia/Australia. Dr. Um resides in Boston, MA with his wife and three children.

Richard LintsRichard Lints - Theologian in Residence

Dr. Lints is the Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. He has also taught at Trinity College (Bristol, England) and held visiting appointments at Yale Divinity School, Westminster Seminary (California) and Reformed Theological Seminary. He has written a number of books and is currently working on two projects: Identity and Idolatry, and Dealing with Diversity: Ecclesiology, Democracy and the Unusual Wisdom of the Gospel. Richard is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and has served as church planter and pastor. Currently, he is the Campus Pastor of Citylife Chestnut Hill. He and his wife Ann reside in Gloucester, MA and have three grown children, Kate, Sarah and Lucas.

Justin RuddyJustin Ruddy - Assistant Director

Justin is originally from the rusty city of Scranton, PA, but has called Boston home for over 5 years. He is an alumnus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Th.M.) and serves on staff at Citylife Presbyterian Church. His interests include theology, songwriting, fiction, film and baseball. His often neglected Twitter handle is @jjruddy.

Jeremy MullenJeremy Mullen - Senior Contributor

A native of Virginia Beach, VA, Jeremy earned his Bachelor’s of Arts from Vanderbilt University, where he met his wife Adrienne. He then served for four years as an officer in the U.S. Navy. Since graduating from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 2009 with his Master of Divinity, he has served as the chaplain for Reformed University Fellowship at Harvard University and as an assistant pastor at Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Cambridge, MA. Jeremy enjoys working with undergraduates, and remains interested in theology and inter-faith dialogue along with literature, jazz, and NCAA basketball.

Tim ChangTim Chang – Treasurer

Tim holds a B.A. in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and an M.Div from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. After spending most of his life in rival New York City, Tim has come to appreciate Boston and is slowly making his home in the area. For three years, he was the Office Manager at Citylife Presbyterian Church and is currently a Pastoral Intern serving as the Director of Mercy and Missions Ministries of Citylife Presbyterian Church.

ben-shute-thumbBenjamin Shute - Senior Contributor

Benjamin Shute has been drawn to music from an early age, finding in it something that resonates uniquely with the meaning and hope of the gospel. A violinist by trade, he studied under Berliner Philharmoniker first-concertmaster Rainer Kussmaul at Musikhochschule Freiburg (K.A.), as well as with Masuko Ushioda and Lucy Chapman at the New England Conservatory (BMus, DMA). In fall of 2012 he joins the faculty of Dickinson College. At times he has been known to go undercover as a composer and can often be found (or not) on foot or bike in the woods he loves.

Ben SharbaughBen Sharbaugh - Contributor

Ben Sharbaugh is from Durham, NH but has lived in and around Boston for over a decade. He currently works at Harvard University in the Office of Digital Strategy with a focus on multimedia, mobile technology and the web. He studied creative writing (fiction) at Gordon College and is pursuing a master's degree in literature at Harvard University's Extension School. Ben loves reading fiction, watching baseball, playing golf, skiing, video games and Radiohead. He currently lives in Boston with his wife Jess.

Andrew KerhoulasAndrew Kerhoulas - Contributor

Andrew is from Highlands, NC. After completing a B.A. in music and Bible/theology from Asbury University in 2009, he moved from Kentucky to South Hamilton, MA to pursue a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell from which he graduated in 2012. He is currently working as an intern and Associate Music Director at Citylife Presbyterian Church. While growing in the grace of the gospel Andrew’s interests also include listening to music, arranging hymns, writing songs, playing/watching basketball and soccer, exercising, spending quality time with friends and family, and reading. He also enjoys living in the great city of Boston.

Rebecca TibbettsRebecca Tibbetts - Board Member

Rebecca holds a B.A. in English Education from Cedarville University. After graduation she taught English at a school in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for two years. She returned home to Boston to pursue an M.A. in Writing in Publishing from Emerson College and now works for a publisher in the city. Over the years, she has sought to understand and embrace what it means to be transformed by the Gospel. She lives with her husband Michael in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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