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Part 3 in a series on The Call to Creativity

Answering the call to creativity requires a shift in the way we view the gospel and our role in transforming culture. The concept of the four-chapter gospel provides the framework for this change in our thinking. For most of us, our definition of the gospel needs expanding.

A failure to grasp the four-chapter gospel has narrowed the vision of the evangelical church. Narrowing our conception of the gospel causes us to miss the purpose of humans in creation, resulting in ignorance of the dignity and creativity we all possess.

Understanding the four-chapter gospel helps us grasp who we were created to be – so what is it?

Two Chapters versus Four

Most Christians know the two-chapter gospel, even if they don’t use that term. The two-chapter gospel states in “chapter one” that our problem is separation from God because of our sin. “Chapter two” describes the solution to this dilemma: Jesus came into the world to bring salvation through his work on the cross. This gospel is divided into two parts: sin (the fall) and redemption.

While these claims are profoundly true, they only tell part of the story.

The four chapter gospel bookends the fall and redemption with two crucial parts: creation and restoration. Here is a helpful visual comparison:

Two-Chapter Gospel Four-Chapter Gospel
Fall Creation
Redemption Fall
Redemption
Restoration

As we’ll see, which version you believe affects your view of human purpose and creativity. First, though, let’s walk through the four chapters.

Creation

Genesis teaches us that God’s creation is real and good. It also teaches us about the nature of the relationship between God and humanity.

Adam and Eve had “response-ability”:

  • They had the ability to respond to God (personally),
  • They had the ability to respond to each other (corporately),
  • And they had the ability to respond to the creation (cosmically).

The Fall

After the fall, these three capacities for response were damaged and defaced. The fall affects all three dimensions – personal, corporate, and cosmic:

  • Adam and Eve hid from God (personal).
  • Adam blames Eve; Eve blames the serpent (corporate).
  • Genesis 3:17 says the ground is “cursed” because of Adam and Eve (cosmic).

Notice how all the dimensions, healthy in creation, are inverted after the fall.

Redemption

Redemption applies to every area affected by the fall:

  • Christ died, rose, and reigns in power for us. According to Romans 8:34, he also prays on our behalf (personal).
  • I Corinthians 12:13 tells us that when we accept Christ, we are now “baptized by the one Spirit into the one body” – the church (corporate).
  • Redemption extends to the whole cosmos. Romans 8:19-21 says that “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage” (cosmic).

Restoration

Restoration is the final chapter in which the whole creation is finally restored. Almost every time the Bible uses the word “new” (referencing new birth, new selves, new creation, new heavens and new earth, etc.), it uses the Greek word kainos, meaning “renewed.” God will not throw away creation, but renew it. Al Wolters says,

God does not make junk, and he does not junk what he has made.

Conclusion

What are the implications of the four chapter gospel for creativity? How does embracing the additional chapters influence our outlook on the world?

Hugh Whelchel is fond of saying that if we don’t grasp the four-chapter gospel, we’ll see salvation as merely a bus ticket to heaven. We twiddle our thumbs and let the world keep on spinning as it is, until Christ returns.

A four-chapter gospel sees a different end in sight, and this makes all the difference for how we live in the present. As Mike Metzger says, the four-chapter gospel reminds humanity of its dignity, because it points out two things:

  • Our dignity: the chapter of creation reminds us we are made in God’s image and imbued with worth and value.
  • Our role: creation tells us that, being made in God’s image, we possess the creativity of the Creator. We are co- or sub-creators whom he will use to bring about the final chapter, the restoration of all things.

Tim Keller says this of the four-chapter gospel and its relation to the call to creativity:

If…the story of salvation is creation, fall, redemption, restoration, then things look different…the purpose of redemption is not to escape the world but renew it…if we lose the emphasis on the corporate – on the kingdom – we lose the power of the gospel for cultural transformation. 

We will not answer the call to creativity without a framework that provides context for creativity and cultural transformation. The four-chapter gospel is that framework, giving meaning to our creativity, our faith, and our work.

What do you think? How does your understanding of the gospel affect how you answer the call to creativity? Leave your comments here

This post is part of a series on The Call to Creativity
Dr. Art Lindsley

About Dr. Art Lindsley

Art Lindsley, Ph.D. is Vice President of Theological Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. An esteemed author and teacher, Dr. Lindsley received his B.S. in Chemistry from Seattle Pacific University, an M.Div. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Read More...

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