... The Gospel is self-authenticating because it is the declarative promise of salvation from the mouth of Christ (through the servant of the Word): “You are saved.” “I’ve got the Gospel and you don’t” statements are something completely different–basically Gnostic claims to secret knowledge. The Gospel is always Christ’s Word, not our own. When we’re curious who’s got the Gospel and who doesn’t, the question to ask is not, “Does so-and-so line up with this principle,” but “Are they declaring Christ’s promise of salvation to sinners?” And if the question is, “Where can I find the Gospel?” then the answer is, “In the mouth of anyone who’s telling you that Christ has saved you.”
That answer isn't complete, of course, but it gets to the heart of what we need to remember. There is a point past which freaking out about particular doctrines and angles misses the point of the One to whom those doctrines ought to be pointing if they are Christian doctrines. The one who declares the good news is the one who declares that Christ is savior. The one who declares that because Christ is savior you can live a new life and should start living that life now with a bullet-point list has missed the boat, not on purpose, but missed the boat.
It is becoming clearer to me how things I have considered acceptable preaching and teaching have often hollowed out the actual Gospel that Christ saves sinners and replaced it with Christ being a god who validates what people want to in His name. It is one thing to say that we as ambassadors of Christ can live out the Gospel in our lives and another to speak as though we are tasked to "redeem culture" which can often become a form of tacitly accepted Christian imperialism, attempting to reclaim a Christendom we believe we have unfairly lost. It would be good to go back to a less sexually decadent era ... but not if we got back to the racist and ethnocentrist and self-deluding weaknesses of the earlier generations. At some point we must recognize that in repudiating the sins of our fathers we bring our own sins to the table and there is a place for us in the ranks of those whom the future will look back upon and ask, "Why did they think THAT was smart or holy?"
More and more I can appreciate why C. S. Lewis articulated what he called "mere Christianity" and why so many Christians of every confessional stripe find that "mere Christianity" is not only not good enough but for many of them simply not Christianity. Which is a shame, because if there is a lesson to be learned from the Pharisees in every generation it is that zeal for what you consider the things of God does not always mean you make the right decisions or that your vision isn't blinkered. We should be brave enough to speak of what is wrong and to reach out to those in need but we should also recognize that when we speak of ourselves and not in a way that points toward the Lord we are using the Lord as a mere tool, a device to get for us from others what we demand of them. Those who may speak most of grace are too often those least able to demonstrate it in any meaningful way in their actual lives, which is a shame.