What's the gospel in seven words?

October 25, 2011

The current Century editorial argues that, while it's unhelpful to insist that Occupy Wall Street produce a list of specific policy demands, it will be useful if the movement can eventually coalesce around a simple statement of general principle. The Tea Party has "Make government smaller!" What's the Occupy equivalent?

Slogan-length summations are crucial to any movement. "Jesus died for my sins" comes up an awful lot in popular Protestantism (mainline as well as evangelical). It's one thing to reject this as an inadequate summary of the gospel; it's quite another to improve on it with comparable pith.

Having seen this challenge come up in the blogosphere a few times, we thought we'd ask a bunch of theologians, pastors and others to take a crack at it. We asked them both to summarize the gospel in seven words and to expand on this in a few sentences. Starting this week, we'll run the responses as a blog series. To see all the responses together as they're posted, bookmark this page.

Got your own version? Feel free to add it as a comment to this post.


Jesus lives. Therefore your future is good.

Robert Jenson ca. 1980. I'm a bit surprised no other student of his has weighed in with this; thought even Jens himself might. I believe the original formulation was, "The man Jesus now lives with death behind him; therefore your future is good." All I might note is that to change "your" into "our" would seriously diminish its kerygmatic power. Michael

7 words

Love God.  Love neighbor.  Transform the world. 

Letter from Bill Williamson

In regard to “The gospel in seven words” (Sep. 5), my contribution is: “Fear not.” And if, like your contributors, I get an explanatory paragraph, I would say that so much of our culture is driven by fear--fear of terrorists, fear of being fired, fear for my health, for my children, for my church not making its budget, and on and on. The gospel says, Do not be afraid.

Bill Williamson

Louisville, Ky.

Letter from Nancy R. Scott

The late Lewis Mudge, onetime dean of McCormick Theological Semi­nary, challenged people to state the gospel in a few words and in non­religious language. Here’s my attempt to do that in seven words: “Fear not! We are all greatly loved.” A few more words could be added: “Love one another, as you have been loved.”

Nancy R. Scott 

Urbana, Ill.

love these creative yet concise words

I love these creative, yet concise, words to sum up our understandings of the core message! I am grateful, however, that we are not actually limited to seven words. Here are a few of my own in answer to the question: Who do you say that I am?

The One who shows us compassionate justice (7 words)
The God who emptied himself for all (7 words)
Compassionate Jewish man-God who loves us (6 words)
God-human who came to show us the Way (8 words)
Servant-God found in the eyes of the oppressed (8 words)
Rabbi who rebukes evil but redeems through love (8 words)
Born in human form to show God's Way (8 words)

The One we see in the eyes of the poor (10 words)

"Jesus challenges us to seek Godly perfection."

"Jesus challenges us to seek Godly perfection."

The words, life, teachings and death of our Master, Jesus, challenge us to do, to act, to follow, to serve, to be better, to do more, to try harder, to be humble, yet Righteousness, to serve God not money, to lose ourselves and gain eternity.

Picking up a cross, going the extra mile, expanding our 'talents' to serve others, and being the Good Samaritan cannot mean a life of leisure and ease. It's a call to action. If we say we love Jesus, but don't hear what he says, we've built our lives on shifting sands, not the Rock of his Words.