What exactly is the gospel? Is it merely the message that Jesus is king, or is the forgiveness of sins and justification also constitutive to the gospel? The entire cast and crew are here to discuss the resuscitated debate between Matthew Bates, Scot McKnight and Greg Gilbert as to what the gospel truly is, pointing out strengths and weaknesses and political proclivities on both sides.


Summary of the debate between Bates, McKnight and Gilbert et al [0:00 – 7:15]

Is the stated debate really the debate, or is the debate more political? [7:15 – 16:05]

The conflation of movements and groups in evangelicalism [16:05 – 24:00]

The errors of an individualized gospel [24:00 – 31:15]

Biblical theological and systematic connections between the kingship of Christ and justification [31:15 – 36:50]

The integral and effectual call in the gospel [36:50 – 39:00]

If either of these sides’ views were preached on a Sunday, would it count as preaching the gospel? [39:00 – 44:20]

Matt suggests all churches preach from the lectionary and describes why this debate is really a sign of decadence [44:20 – 47:16]

Resources mentioned: 

Article: Good News? Are T4G/TGC Leaders Starting To Change Their Gospel? by Matthew Bates

Alastair’s Daily Biblical Reflections


If you’re interested in supporting the show financially, you can check out our Patreon here.

Finally, as always, follow DerekAndrew, and Alastair for more tweet-sized brilliance. Thanks to Timothy Motte for his sound editing work. And thanks to The Joy Eternal for lending us their music, which everybody should download out of gratitude for their kindness.

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Posted by Caleb Wait

Caleb Wait (MATS, Westminster Seminary California) is a writer and the producer of Mere Fidelity. He and his wife Kristin have two children and live in Northern California. You can follow him on Twitter @calebwait and he invites you to email him at ciwait93@gmail.com.


  1. I appreciated a lot of the insights you guys offered in this episode. I would have preferred if you guys invited Matthew Bates or Scot McKnight (or both) to join you in this dialogue. My only issue with this episode is I think it was too simplistic. It felt like it was shrugged off as merely a political debate in evangelical-american circles. I disagree. I think there’s a legitimate disagreement here. Below is a post I posted on my facebook page after I read the blogs written by Bates, McKnight, and Gilbert. I think it shows the need why we need clarity on “What is the Gospel?”

    My Facebook post on April 29, 2020:
    I don’t know who’s following along this debate happening online right now about the content of the gospel. It’s really fascinating. I’ve created a google doc with all the links tracking the online debate just in case you missed it.

    I don’t have much to add to this discussion except that I think Bates’ quote addresses the heart of the problem:
    “Moreover, if we mis-locate our personal justification by making it internal to the gospel rather than a benefit, justification can wrongly be weaponized to split the one true gospel-affirming church. This is nearly the reverse of justification’s actual purpose for the church. Properly locating it helps us make progress toward ecumenical reconciliation.” – Matthew Bates, “Why T4G/TGC Leaders Must Fix Their Gospel.”

    I still consider myself evangelical. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this in evangelical circles, “They’re not believers because they don’t believe the gospel.” From personal experience “they” refers to the following people but not limited to: catholics, orthodox, liberal protestants, neo-liberal protestants, and anyone who denies penal substitution theory of atonement. If you ask why these people don’t believe the gospel the response will be, “Because they believe in salvation by works, and not in justification by faith alone.” Implying that if one does not believe in the protestant view of justification by faith alone, then one does not believe the gospel. I’ve always felt that this was a strange juxtaposition. But I couldn’t put my finger on it. For example, I recall when N. T. Wright was accused of not believing the gospel when he espoused his theory of justification. We were warned: “Watch out.” “Wright preaches a false gospel.” At that time (2009-2011), I just started to read Wright’s works, and was immensely blessed by his scholarship. I couldn’t imagine Wright not believing the “Gospel.” I knew something was not right.

    Before I left to Duke Divinity School, I was told that Stanely Hauerwas may not believe the gospel. I was cautioned that I will be around professors who don’t believe the gospel. When pressed, my mentors meant either justification by faith alone or penal substitution theory of atonement. And it’s true. At Duke Divinity School, most professors did not espouse a gospel that necessitated justification by faith alone, imputation of Christ’s righteousness, or penal substitution theory of atonement. In fact, many criticized those views. But they all believed and preached that Jesus is King, Lord, Supreme; the ruler of the world; the one who brings new creation; the initiator of God’s life towards us; I can go on. I don’t think I heard one professor say, “Jesus is Lord and so is … “ I do wish more professors were more bold in proclaiming the Lordship and Kingship of Jesus, but I don’t doubt that they don’t believe it.

    The crux of this debate is really important because it comes down to who should we call a brother or sister in the Lord? Are catholics brothers or sisters in the Lord? How about orthodox christians? If Wright, Bates, and McKnight are right, then anyone who proclaims Jesus as Lord and King are brothers and sisters in the Lord. Especially anyone who affirms the Trinitarian nature of God in the proclamation of the Gospel


  2. […] true, of course. What is the extent of the gospel, and what is its core? You could listen to this podcast, or read this (intentionally biased) article for more information. The whole debate among […]


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