Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrines of grace create a culture of grace, as Jesus himself touches us through his truths. Without the doctrines, the culture alone is fragile. Without the culture, the doctrines alone appear pointless. For example:
The doctrine of regeneration creates a culture of humility (Ephesians 2:1-9).
The doctrine of justification creates a culture of inclusion (Galatians 2:11-16).
The doctrine of reconciliation creates a culture of peace (Ephesians 2:14-16).
The doctrine of sanctification creates a culture of life (Romans 6:20-23).
The doctrine of glorification creates a culture of hope (Romans 5:2).
The doctrine of God creates a culture of honesty (1 John 1:5-10). And what could be more basic than that?
If we want this culture to thrive, we can’t take doctrinal short cuts. If we want this doctrine to be credible, we can’t disregard the culture. But churches where the doctrine and culture converge bear living witness to the power of Jesus.
Churches that do not exude humility, inclusion, peace, life, hope and honesty — even if they have gospel doctrine on paper, they lack that doctrine at a functional level, where it counts in the lives of actual people. Churches that are haughty, exclusivistic, contentious, exhausted, past-oriented and in denial are revealing a gospel deficit.
The current rediscovery of the gospel as doctrine is good, very good. But a completely new discovery of the gospel as culture — the gospel embodied in community — will be infinitely better, filled with a divine power such as we have not yet seen.
Is there any reason not to go there? Is the status quo all that great? Doesn’t the gospel itself call for a new kind of community?