Monday, July 9, 2007

"Choose Life" from UCCF

"Choose life" has been a great resource that UCCF has used for several years now. Alongside a massive project to attempt to distribute John's gospel to every College Student in the UK there is a website with a very simple presentation of the gospel.

1) Faithfulness of the gospel &
2) Clarity

I've lumped these two categories together for this review, for the problems I have with the site lie on the line between faithfulness and clarity:

The presentation of the gospel comes on four short webpages each with a key statement.

i. God loves the world and wants people to have eternal life
ii. People show by their lives that they have rejected God
iii. God still loves people and has sent Jesus to die so that they might be forgiven rather than condemned
iv. There will always be one of two responses to this news

As a four sentence summary of the gospel this is excellent. (You'll notice it fits pretty well into the categories that I said I'd be looking for: God, man, Christ, response)

There were, however, pieces of the picture that were at least unclear , if not missing altogether.

God is certainly described as being a loving creator. "This sums up God’s attitude to our world. He loves it. He created this world and the human race as an expression of his love". But there seems to be little about his holiness, or about the authority he has associated with him being the creator.

I like the fact that 'eternal life' is used as the way to describe what we are created for: but the description of that life is true but inadequate: "We can know God personally and be known by him." Note that this is described in symmetrical terms. We know him, he knows us. We love him, he loves us. For the gospel to make sense there needs to be greater clarity about the Sovereignty of God: he made us - we belong to him.

This would serve the purpose of the second page also making more sense: sin is well described as"rejecting God" and "our moral rebellion against God". This is a good description of sin. It would make more sense if God's rule had already been explained. Why does it matter if we rebel against God if our relationship with him is basically symmetrical?

Judgement is only hinted at at this point: "So people naturally continue to live in a way that excludes God and invites condemnation and death." It is laid out more clearly in the next page, with a good illustration.

God’s response to our rejection of him is not what you might expect!
He has, of course, every right to reject us. For the way we live in his world with
complete disregard for him is nothing short of scandalous. Imagine arriving home to find that intruders have helped themselves to the contents of your fridge, and are living as if they owned the place. How would you react? I’d guess that your response would reflect your moral outrage. This is not their property; they have no right to treat it as if it were theirs; and you will make sure that justice is done.

Yet, you'll notice that the presentation of judgement is what God might have done, but has decided not to in the gospel. This may be misunderstood as suggesting that the punishment of sin is something that is somehow contrary to God's nature.

There is at this point a good explanation of the cross.

On the cross Jesus, the God-man, willingly took upon himself the judgment and condemnation that should have been ours for our rebellion against God, so that we might be spared.

The section on response is good in what it says: we cannot sit on the fence, we are not morally neutral, we must believe in Jesus. But I was disappointed to see that there was not a clear call to repentance.

So, the gospel is there: but there are some crucial things that are not clear. And when you put the pieces of this gospel presentation together, I cannot but conclude that, though good in places, it is largely fearful of presenting God in any way that will not be appealling to someone in their natural state. Precisely the issues that the world hates about God are absent: his right to rule us; his determination to punish sin; the need for repentance.

3) & 4) Applicability & Responsibility
Elsewhere on the site there are some good places to deal with questions related to the gospel.

You can read John's gospel online, request a free hard copy of John's gospel, explore three follow up questions: Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? What does it mean to follow Jesus?
These questions are given good brief answers. The answer to the second question includes a good explanation of the necessity and sufficiency of Jesus' death for sinners. The third question, however, talks about receiving forgiveness but not about repenting or believing.

There is also a section for Questions, answering 15 of the most common objections to the gospel. I looked at a couple of these:

How can there be a God with so much suffering in the world?
How can a loving God judge people?

Both of these were exemplary short answers to extremely difficult questions: neither gave common false answers that tend to deny God's sovereignty. Both upheld the goodness of God. And most importantly for any apologetic questions, both took the questions back to the gospel. Fantastic!

Another means of follow up is the public forum.

It is a brave thing to have a completely open forum. I think that it is a good idea to have it: BUT, if you are going to have a forum, you need people whose responsibility it is to answer people's questions on that forum. Having browsed around a little, there seem to be some great questions from Non-Christians with no coherent response from Christians. So, one post asks two questions: a question about the Trinity is answered by a response that is modalistic. A question about the extent of the atonement goes effectively unanswered.

Opening up the site for questions that do not have a clear biblical response will give the impression that there is no clear biblical response available... So, I'm going to write a quick response to the questions asked now...

Any of you UCCF guys reading this: please get onto your site and interact with unbelievers who are asking serious questions about the gospel!

On the community life page the site does a good job of pointing people towards a local church.

5) Usability
The site looks great. It also has the advantage of the right-sized amount of text per page: about 200-300 words. Something I have totally failed on in this post! I should conclude...

This site is a great resource: well designed, clear, accessible, interactive. Greater clarity on God's holiness and our need to repent, and greater resourcing of the forum by those apt to teach would take it on a step from a very good site to an absolutely excellent site.

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