The Gospel You've Never Heard deviates from traditional descriptions of the Bible's teachings in that it is not wed to modern dogma. Indeed, the book's first two chapters make observations and raise questions evangelical Christianity has considerable trouble answering. Rather than attempt incredible rhetorical acrobatics to explain away these very real issues, the author asks the reader to entertain that there might be some genuine biblical problems with the gospel portrayed by the modern church.
The issues raised are many and varied. Some are very general rhetorical questions such as What gospel were Mark, Matthew, and Luke conveying given their many descriptions of the Judgment, none of which match the version described by modern Christians?
Others are more specific such as Jesus says Judge not and you will not be judged and By the same measure you judge others, you shall be judged yourself. What does the former of these say about a non-believers who does not judge others...or a believer who does? How does the latter compare with the claims of modern Christians that God has no choice but to judge everyone against the same standard of perfection?
The author does not merely bring up these and many other difficulties; he also describes how the message of the modern Christian church matches neither the prophecies of the Old Testament specifying the work of the Messiah nor the evangelism of the early apostles showcased in the book of Acts.
However, in no way is this book an attack on Christianity or the Bible. Rather, it describes the problems caused by trying to scrunch the Christian gospel into a Western, human-centered, 21st-century mindset. Rudel brings clarity to Christ's purpose by appealing to the context and heritage of the New Testament and its authors. Jesus' teachings, Paul's writings, and God's Judgment all make sense once we allow the Bible and God's desires (rather than Western philosophy and human insecurity) to define God's work in Christ and Christ's work as Judge.
Rudel convincingly claims that most of the modern gospel is based on "natural theology" rather than the Bible. In opposition to this, The Gospel You've Never Heard provides an understanding of salvation and the final judgment that is based wholly on the Bible --- and on the whole Bible rather than a few verses. Rather than twist and reinterpret Jesus' words to fit within a framework dictated by a few passages written 20 years later by Paul, Rudel shows Jesus' teachings on the Judgment and Paul's ostensibly opposed writings on salvation can peacefully coexist once we understand each. However, you'll have to leave your dogma, expectations, and presumptions at the door to fully appreciate the explanation.
This book acts as a bridge among several separate seekers of spiritual truth. Conservative Christians, those traditionally in favor of a literal reading of scripture, can mature spiritually by grappling with very real, very important, and very biblical issues. Liberal Christians, who may long ago have fled from a serious respect for the Bible, will be challenged to reconsider their evaluation of scripture's place and value. Non-Christians will find a refreshing version of Christianity here that is less easily dismissed for the simple reason that it makes far more sense and avoids the cardboard cut-out versions of God many accuse evangelicals of portraying.
The book answers a lot of questions that are not often presented in church and are seldom engaged satisfactorily when someone is brave enough to bring them up. Without diminishing the value of eternal life after death, it shows how the church has gravely misunderstood the importance of Jesus' sacrifice with regard to its purpose in this world, the creation Christians are called to transform into a Kingdom where the oppressed are uplifted while justice, truth, peace, and love reign.
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