The Negative Gospel – Dr Marty Folsom

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The word gospel means good news.

But most people have a hard time seeing goodness in the way that the story of God is presented in churches, on street corners, or by unkind Christians.

In fact, the only thing many people have seen and heard is about a God who is angry, a Son who gets killed on a cross to stop a wrathful Father, and about a Ghost who is holy out of this world, causing people to do erratic things in crazy worship services.

The clincher is that we, as humans, are supposed to see this scenario as giving meaning and purpose to life as we say a prayer and try to be good Christians.

Further yet, if we do not believe in the horrible state of the universe, and our part in its failure, we will go to hell for not admitting it.

God may be love, but His people do not show it as they divide, judge, and try to self-perfect, in order to be acceptable to God and one another.

In the end, this is a false Gospel with all the right actors, but the script is all wrong.

This message focuses on our failure as humans and asserts that we are essentially bad, need to be fixed, and that we have a debt to be covered for all the damage we have done.

God is justly angry at the failures we have become.

It is a fear-based Gospel that is intended to evoke a decision to turn from our old life and to pursue a better life that will finally come in the time after death.

In the meantime, we pretty much live in a hellish life that avoids having fun, gives our time and money to the church, and wonders if this is all for real.

In a nutshell of a poem, we can see the basic formula of the “gospel” is not good news:

The Fear-based Gospel

God the Dad is mad

Cause we are bad.

But if we are sad,

And believe in His Lad,

Then He will be glad

And someday we can go to His pad.


On the other hand, there is a better story that echoes the goodness of God in the Bible.

This version of the gospel begins with a loving God who creates a world intended for companions called humans.

It was never good for humans to be alone, either separated from God or fellow companions.

God lives in relationship as Father, Son, and Spirit and creates humans to live in fulfilling relationships as an echo of God’s image.

Even though God created humans with love, there came a point when humans determined to be self-directing and to become independent of the God who still loved them.

God’s love never stopped; it only persistently looked for ways to be reconciled to those who were now separated into a place of darkness and blindness—but the love that never failed.

So Jesus came to earth to bring the light into the darkness, so we could personally know the love that sent Him and, through Him, to find our way back into the embrace of the Father.

Thus, Jesus firstly came to show us His Father and the love that unconditionally acts on our behalf to restore the relationship that was lost.

This Father has a heart of love and a will to bring back those enslaved to fear, as well as restoring all the fracturing that comes as a result of human independence in pursuit of security and power.

All the Father does is to overcome the alienation, shame, guilt, and blame that cause humans to recoil into places of reclusion, whether in our heads or in our protected domains that keep us apart from one another.

Jesus went to the cross as the erasure of all that haunts and torments us, as well as for the affirmation that He loves us to death and acts beyond our reasonable comprehension, intent on laying down His life as one who acts for a friend who may never fully understand.

But a life of unstoppable, unconditional love is the outcome, as Jesus ever lives to be with us.

The Spirit is one who is sent from the Father to finalize the work of bringing us home.

The Spirit opens our ears to hear the Father say, “You are my child,” and enables us to respond, “Abba, dear Father.”

This is not our cry alone, we share in the Abba cry of Jesus, who has acted as one on behalf of all in order to facilitate bringing us home.

The Spirit is a ghost only in that He is the God-host who dwells in us, restoring our spirit to awaken, enlighten, and reconnect us to the source of love—the Father—and the ongoing act of love—the Son.

The good news is that God never stopped loving humanity.

The Father expressed love in sending the Son to overcome the distance that separated us.

The Son is that expression of love that keeps on speaking.

The Spirit gives us ears to hear the expression of love as a particular address to each of us.

Now we are invited to freely live in a life motivated by the love that will not let us go.

This gospel is born from love and because of it, love is borne in us as we act toward one another, sharing in God’s ongoing outpouring of love that matures us and restores us to an interdependent life as the family of God.

In another nutshell of a more authentic gospel, we poetically see the story that is in fact good to know and gives us life to free us to enjoy the life of love:

The Love-based Gospel

God is revealed as love.

But we have given God the shove.

So Abba sent His Son from above,

Filling us like a hand in glove.

Now we are led by God’s Holy Dove

To share in God’s Kingdom, beloved.


If we continue to live with a fear-based gospel, the world will continue to divide, neighbors will hide from each other, the nations will fracture, and the human heart will be saturated in fear—that is the path to death and destruction.

If we can awaken to the love-based gospel, we have hope, not in ourselves, but in the God who has already acted and invites us to live the connective, restorative, creative, and nurturing life in friendship that is already gifted to us—all is grace—and bids us come to the table—for God’s good and ours.