Making Disciples Today: Christianity Today's New Global Gospel Project
Ongoing controversies over the nature of the Atonement (substitutionary or Christus Victor?), the historical Adam (creation or evolution?), the afterlife (heaven and hell or universalism?), the nature of the authority of Scripture ("inerrant" or "infallible" or "trustworthy"?)—among other debates—show how relevant doctrine remains. But the debates also reveal how confused many Christians are about the basic truths of the faith, a confusion that will worsen if we don't respond to two pressing realities.
First is an increasingly post-Christian world. The rich ideas contained in words like creation and fall, judgment and forgiveness, grace and obedience, crucifixion and resurrection, church, final judgment, and Trinity are little known to most people. In fact, many outside and inside the church are either hostile to traditional Christian teachings or mix belief systems, religious and not, to create their own.
Second is the challenge of internet technology. Secular and pluralistic worldviews were prevalent before the Internet, of course, but now every idea and worldview, every philosophy and religion is a click away. We are electronic neighbors with atheists and theists, Hindus and Muslims, terrorists and pacifists, secularists and agnostics, New Agers and rationalists. Every idea imaginable is now at the fingertips of every Christian who has internet access. The average Christian toys with an unprecedented range of ideas today, arguably more ideas and worldviews than did Augustine, Calvin, Cranmer, and Wesley. Needless to say, encounters with our electronic neighbors are both fascinating and bewildering.
Add to this the ongoing need to grow "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13, ESV), so that we might more fully love God and neighbor. It's clear as ever that we need a deeper grounding in Scripture and the great teachings of the faith. We believe this is the crucial challenge of the 21st century; without being grounded in the gospel, we simply cannot live it out for long.
J. I. Packer and Gary Parrett recently completed Grounded in the Gospel, a fresh argument for teaching the faith (traditionally known as catechesis). As Packer put it, "Ongoing learning is part of the calling of the church. It has to be taught in all churches at all times." Recovering an emphasis on careful, lifelong instruction in faith "will be totally uphill all the way. We shall be challenging the dominant trends in our culture, and it won't be easy."
With this issue of Christianity Today, we embark afresh on such an enterprise. We are calling it the Global Gospel Project (GGP), resources for a full-orbed discipleship of heart, mind, soul, and strength.
To date, nearly all catechisms have been written with one tradition or another in mind—Reformed or Baptist or Catholic and so on. Given the realities of contemporary worldwide evangelicalism, we also need discipleship resources that embrace a broad, centrist, and historic understanding of the faith, one that recognizes the gifts of our various traditions yet focuses on the gospel message and mission we share. Our mission to spread the gospel in word and deed can only be strengthened as we understand and grow together in what is core to that gospel.
The GGP resources will not replace the catechisms of our different traditions; it will not be able to drill deeply in the unique teachings of these traditions, which bring such richness to worldwide Christianity. But the GGP does have seven emphases that will, we believe, help it contribute to all churches: