A new acquaintance of mine (I hope we become friends, but it’s too early to call him a friend) has made some comments on this blog with reference to my claim that Jason Stellman has denied the Gospel as he has rejected the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This very acquaintance, Russ Rentler, has posted an article at his blog on the Gospel and if Stellman has denied it. Have a read.
Russ (if I may call him that) appeals to 1 Corinthians 15 to define the Gospel. Let me honestly congratulate him for this. He’s a man looking to God’s own Word for guidance. That’s very Protestant of him. As a Roman Catholic I should think he would be more consistent to appeal to the Magisterium, who will give him the *correct* interpretation of Scripture and Tradition. How, Russ, what makes you think that you can understand the Bible correctly? This, I understand, is not the topic, but as we press into the topic, we will most assuredly find that this issue (that is, the issue of final authority) will be the root of nearly all of our disagreements. I say that the final court of appeal is the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture. Traditional Roman Catholicism holds that the final court of appeal is the what the Magisterium says that Scripture and Tradition say.
Back to 1 Corinthians 15. Suppose that Russ is correct and that Paul is here giving the only necessary content of the Gospel, suppose that these very words ARE the Gospel, and that nothing more needs to be said, then let me ask a question or two. Are Arians, then, heretics who have denied the Gospel or are they Gospel-believers and Gospel-preachers? They hold to the words in these verses, don’t they? Let me ask another question, the Judiazers that came into the Galatian churches after Paul had gone through, did they deny any part of what Paul articulated in 1 Corinthians 15? Certainly not. Somehow, though, Paul accused them of holding to “another gospel.” How strange.
Now, what IS Paul doing in these first few verses of 1 Cor 15? Is he laying down THE definition of the Gospel, beyond which we need not press? Of course not. Anyone reading the text can see the connection between vv 3-4 and the rest of the chapter. Paul is saying that one of the necessary doctrines of the Gospel is the resurrection of the body. He had specifically preached that when he was in Corinth, but now some in the Corinthian church have turned around to deny bodily resurrection (vs 12). The upshot, here, is that Russ has not taken the time to examine even the immediate context of the passage he’s quoting. Russ’s interpretation of this passage is like people reading 1 Cor 2:2, “For I determined to know nothing among you but Christ and him crucified” and thinking that Paul went to Corinth and simply repeated: “Christ and him crucified. Christ and him crucified. Christ and him crucified.” Instead, of course, Paul is contrasting the simple Gospel “foolishness” with the wisdom of men. Similarly, in 1 Cor 15:2-3, Paul gives a thumbnail of his Gospel message focusing on the salient point that some Corinthians were denying. Paul is clearly not trying to give a this-and-only-this-is-the-Gospel admonition, as Russ would have us to think.
I thank Russ for looking to the right place to begin settling our differences, that is, God’s own Word, settled and unchanged – the Bible. I would admonish him to read it more carefully. That admonition comes from a man well-familiar with his own weaknesses and lack of thorough-going exegetical prowess. We all stumble in many ways. Let us draw near to Christ together, but not (in the final analysis) dependent upon fallible men, but upon the infallible and incorruptible Bible.