Bags of Bran

The Gospel Index
February 10, 2012, 1:24 pm
Filed under: Biography, Destined to get me in trouble

Next time you’re at the store, you might consider picking up some graph paper for the following exercise.

When you sit and listen to sermons in church, chapel, huddled around the crystal set, or wherever else Providence has seen fit to sow the word, have a piece of graph paper handy.

In preparation for the breaking of the bread (or the shoveling of the gravel, as the case may be), make four columns along the “X” axis with the headings “Noun,” “Adjective,” “Adverb,” and “Other.” Leave some space toward the margin on the right side of the “Other” column because you’ll want to label the items which end up in this column for posterity’s sake.

You really don’t need to label the “Y” axis: the evidence will prove conclusive whatever you call it.

Now you’re ready. Whenever the preacher uses the word “Gospel,” place a mark in the appropriate column, working your way up the “Y” axis. Obviously, since “Gospel” is a noun, you may expect that he will use it as such, and if he’s preaching from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, references to Gospels are right and appropriate. Count them all. We’re not terribly interested in those uses linguistically, only for quantification purposes. You may want to put an “A” in the margin every time the gospel acts as an agent of some sort: the gospel changing something, telling someone something, fetching something, lighting something/someone on fire, and etc.

The other uses are far more interesting even than those where the gospel appears as an agent. For example, when “gospel” is used as an adjective, such as “gospel witness,” “gospel manhood,” “gospel fishing,” “gospel graffiti,” “gospel s’mores,” “gospel detergent,” or “gospel gangstas,” you know you’ve struck a rich vein of ore.

The adverb category is even more elusive than the adjective category, though if your preacher spends his waking moments imbibing deeply from the Well of Crossway, he will probably have picked up a few dynamite adverbial uses for “gospel.” Be careful when you hear uses such as “gospel advancement” which are not clearly noun, adverb, or adjective. Is the gospel advancing itself (noun of agency), or is something else advancing in a gospelly manner (adverb)? You have an evil choice before you at this point. Most often you will hear something like “he went forth in gospel power” where “gospel” is part of a phrase that is acting as an adverb. But who knows: perhaps the winds of doctrine are really stirring the leaves in your pastor’s study lately and he will say something as innovative as “I’m planning to preach the gospel gospel-ly today.”

“But Bags of Bran, what do I put in the “Other category?” No doubt some “Gospel celebrity” somewhere is going to start saying “Gospel is a verb!” without being able to detect the irony in that sentence. Someone will “gospel” something somewhere in space and time. “Fred, will you gospel me that cold chisel? This head gasket is stuck tight.” Gospel as preposition? Maybe not, although it might sell as the LifeWay store. Like I say, the rarest of gems will make their way into the “Other” category. But take heart, because non-creative pastors can be very creative when it comes to dilluting the significance of a significant word.

“But Bags of Bran, what do I do with metaphorical allusions or synonyms for Gospel?” You can keep track of those as well, but for now, stick to the word “Gospel” itself, for analysis of its use will unearth a certain truth about the worm in the brain and winds of doctrine.

I might suggest that the further up the “Y” axis the speaker goes, the more he’s merely rattling in the winds of the age. The further along the “X” axis he goes, the poorer his grasp of reality.

Challenge your friends from other churches to do this as well, and see what fun things you discover!


2 Comments so far
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Brilliant. Richard Mitchell meets evangelical communion service.


Comment by David

[…] There is an appropriate–dare I say sacred–time and place for sitting and meditating on the Gospel. […]


Pingback by A really good and proper occasion to sit and meditate on the Gospel | Bags of Bran

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