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P.T. Forsyth, 'the Positive Gospel', and the Church

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image of Ecclesiology

The Congregationalist theologian P.T. Forsyth urgently implored the Church to attend to what he termed 'the Positive Gospel'. The positive gospel was a gospel of finality, looked to the cross as God's holy judgement on the wreck of sin, and viewed the work of Jesus as an incursion into human life rather than a placid evolution from within. A robust understanding of the Church and its ministry flourished or withered in proportion to its concentration on this gospel. A church which skipped past the positive gospel would find that it was exercising a ministry of impression rather than regeneration. On the other hand, a church sustained by the positive gospel would carry out its vocation with a healthy combination of decisiveness and litheness. There is much of value in Forsyth's porous understanding of the relationship between the positive gospel and the Church, but lurking in Forsyth's language is the lure to neglect the embodied reality of the Church and its ministry.


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