By Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth
Editor’s note. The following are remarks presented last Friday at the National Right to Life Convention. The workshop was titled, “Providing Support and Leadership in Churches” and featured leaders from the National Pro-Life Religious Council (NPRC).
I am a United Methodist pastor. Some in The United Methodist Church (and other churches) believe the Gospel of Christ should be “reimagined” by various special-interest groups. So they hand over the Gospel of Christ to interest (and identity) groups. Then the theologians in these groups deconstruct and reconstruct the Gospel of Christ into various theologies — Black Theology, Feminist Theology, Latino Theology, Liberation Theology, and so on. While genuinely attempting to lift people, these special-interest theologies, I believe, actually narrow and disempower the Gospel of Christ.
Today I will confess that the Gospel of Life is more than a special-interest theology, even more than a Pro-Life Theology. In other words, the Gospel of Life is more than a motivational and operational theology for Christians in the Pro-Life Movement. As far as I am concerned, the Gospel of Life does not grow out of the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel of Life is the Gospel of Christ. They are the same Gospel.
How can I claim that the Gospel of Christ is the Gospel of Life? Evidence. My evidence is found in the Church’s Apostles’ Creed. Consider with me how the Gospel of Christ, outlined by The Apostles’ Creed, repeatedly refers to life.
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
Now, please think with me about The Apostles’ Creed line by line. Notice how the claims of this creed refer, again and again, to the Good News of God’s life and God’s gifts of life.
*God the Father Almighty: God reveals as “Father.” This Father lives, loves one Son, and enjoys missional life with His Son in the power of their Holy Spirit.
*maker of heaven and earth: God the Father, in His almightiness, creates and cares for all that is, including all that lives, including all people.
*Jesus Christ: With the title of “Christ” (or Messiah), the people and history of Israel are invoked. In Israel’s main event, the Exodus, God delivers His people from Egyptian slavery, first by delivering Moses from infant death. After the Exodus, the same Moses receives from God The Ten Commandments, which protect human lives by prohibiting murder.
*who was conceived by the Holy Spirit: God’s Spirit makes possible, or creates, the miraculous conception of Jesus Christ within Mary.
*born of the Virgin Mary: Maternally carried in the usual way, baby Jesus is born of Mary.
*between being born and having suffered: The ministry of Jesus Christ is all about life: raising the dead, healing the sick, freeing the enslaved, forgiving the guilty, and opposing evil and its death-dealing.
*suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried: Jesus Christ accepts upon Himself all that opposes life. This horror destroys Him.
*the third day he rose from the dead: Rising from a tomb, Jesus Christ conquers death and its allies. Indeed, the risen Jesus Christ achieves cosmic victory over death and for life.
*sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: Mysteriously, Jesus Christ rules for His Father over all — including His defeated, but still destructive, enemies. Jesus Christ reigns as the Lord of life.
*from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: At the end of history, Jesus Christ will return, totally redeem all of creation, and absolutely eliminate the forces of death.
*Until then, the Holy Spirit accomplishes much which protects, advances, and increases life in this world.
*the holy catholic Church: The Spirit sustains the Church through the ages to proclaim, practice, and promote the life-giving Gospel and oppose the defeated forces of death.
*the communion of saints: The Spirit helps the living Church Triumphant encourage the living Church Militant, as we struggle to be faithful to God and the Gospel.
*the forgiveness of sins: Sins and guilt harm, limit, and/or end life. The Spirit brings forgiveness based on Christ crucified and risen, and lives are reborn and renewed.
*the resurrection of the body: At history’s end, Jesus Christ’s victory over death will be extended to all.
*the life everlasting: Life from God, and with God, never ends.
So, the Gospel of Christ is indeed the Gospel of Life. And the Gospel of Life is about the living Triune God super-generously giving many gifts of life. With God’s help, we can recognize and receive God’s gifts of life.