Dan Migliore on Reading Scripture for the “Whole Gospel”

Anyone who knows me, or has been a regular reader here at DET for any amount of time, knows that I’m a Barthian (of a particular stripe). But such folks also know that I’m only a Barthian because I was a Calvinist first. And I don’t mean either this kind of Calvinist, or this kind of Calvinist. I mean that I read (both past and present tenses) and love Calvin himself, and I am still convinced that – were it not for Barth – Calvin would be the best theological option on offer. One important piece of my thinking in drawing that conclusion is the biblical timbre of Calvin’s theology. More than anyone else, Calvin attempts (he does not always succeed, but he attempts) to say everything that he hears the Bible saying regardless of how neat, tidy, or comfortable it is for his theology. It is Calvin’s good faith effort to incorporate the entire biblical witness in his theology that sets him apart. 

Of course, part of what distinguishes Barth from Calvin is a different approach to the scope of the biblical witness. But that is an entirely different conversation. 

For the present, I want to highlight how Migliore transposes Calvin’s concern for theologically dealing with the entire biblical witness into a broadly Barthian framework. He does this by talking about “the whole gospel.”

Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding, 13.
It is…an inescapable part of the theological task to ask, What is the whole gospel that holds the church together in the bond of faith, hope, and love? If matters of race, gender, and ethnic heritage threaten the unity of the church, is that in part because our understandings of God, human beings created in the image of God, and the nature and purpose of the church are insufficiently formed by the gospel of Jesus Christ? If the church bears an uncertain witness on ecological issues, is that in part because the doctrine of creation has been badly neglected or is insufficiently integrated with other doctrines of the faith? If the church sets personal redemption against concern for social justice or concern for social justice against personal redemption, is that in part because its understanding of salvation is truncated? If the church is disturbed by the voices of the poor, women, blacks, Hispanics, the unemployed, the physically and mentally challenged, is this not because its quest for the whole truth of the gospel is arrested? When a deaf ear is turned to these disturbing voices, is it not because we assume that we are already in possession of the whole truth? In every age Christian theology must be strong and free enough to ask whether the church bears witness in its proclamation and life to the fullness and catholicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church is always threatened by a false unity that does not allow for the inclusion of strangers and outcasts. Theology exists to keep alive the quest for the whole gospel that alone can bring unity without loss of enriching diversity, community without loss of personal or cultural integrity, peace without compromise of justice. Theology must not only ask, What is the true gospel? But also, What is the whole gospel? What is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of God in Christ (Eph. 3:18-19)?
As always, the emphasis is mine. 

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