Greetings and welcome! My name is Chad Whitacre, and, under God, I am launching a new project called Gospel Desk. Gospel Desk builds faith by deeply engaging with the Gospels. “Study and believe,” that’s one motto. Another motto is, “Working on a building” … watch out for that one!
In this inaugural post it seems appropriate to begin with a basic description of the Gospels and their meaning. My fear is that this will feel somewhat dry and distant, but I’m not sure yet who will be reading this, and I don’t want to assume common ground that may not exist. May God enliven this description for each of us as he pleases!
After that I will introduce the three initial projects I am pursuing under the Gospel Desk banner.
Let’s start with some basics.
The Gospels are four overlapping accounts of the life of Jesus. They were written in Greek almost 2,000 years ago, and each one is about 60 pages long. There are other accounts of the life of Jesus than the so-called “canonical” (official) Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Church accepts these four because they are the most faithful witnesses to what we believe: Jesus is the Son of God.
The Gospels are the first four of the 27 books of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The Old Testament of the Christian Bible (roughly identical with the Jewish scriptures) is a bit more fluid: there are 39 books recognized by practically all Christians, with additional books recognized by various jurisdictions.
The Bible tells a single, overarching story that encompasses the whole Cosmos. Within this “metanarrative” are embedded many, many particular stories, one of which is the story of Jesus in the Gospels. The narrative structure of the Christian Bible as a whole is:
Exposition: In the opening pages, God creates the Cosmos, culminating in humankind. God’s creation is good, and our first ancestors—Adam and Eve—enjoy a life of pure and harmonious relationship with God.
Rising Action: Our first parents rebel against God. This original sin ruins our relationship with God; this is death, and it affects all of creation. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament the problem of sin and death deepens, even as God begins working through his chosen people, the Jews, to resolve the problem for everyone.
Climax: The Gospels are the climax of the Biblical story. Jesus gathers a new community around himself, the Church, and then definitively resolves the problem of sin and death through his own death. God raises him from the dead!
Falling Action: Through the Church, the Holy Spirit works out the resolution of the problem of sin and death in every aspect of creation. The New Testament continues with a narrative of the early Church (the Acts of the Apostles, a sequel specifically to the Gospel of St. Luke), followed by a series of 21 letters written within the Church in the first 100 years after Jesus’ resurrection.
Conclusion: The last book of the New Testament, the Revelation of St. John, is a vision of the future completion of God’s work to resolve the problem of sin and death for all creation.
God is the main character of all story, the center of all meaning. Through the Bible, God makes me aware of the problem of sin and death, of disconnection from him, and invites me to participate in his ongoing resolution of this problem. My life is one particular story embedded within God’s overarching story. I live in the bright shadow of Jesus, in the falling action, in the age of the Church.
The Gospels tie together all of the threads of the Biblical story, from the cosmic to the intensely personal, in a way that I find utterly compelling. Apart from the Gospels, the Bible is interesting; because of the Gospels, I submit to the Biblical story as my own. The Gospels bring me close to Jesus, and it turns out that I love Jesus.
The purpose of Gospel Desk is to build faith by deeply engaging with the Gospels. Here are three projects to kick things off:
The Gospels—A print edition designed for readability in community. I first published this in 2010, with the latest (sold out) print run in 2012. I’m working on getting it back into print and available on Amazon.
A Narrative Apparatus—The purpose of the Gospels is to point to Jesus as the Son of God. As such, they are structured with Jesus at the center, and everyone else defined in relation to him according to their faith. My goal is to catalog every person in the Gospels along these lines, to support in-depth study of faith in Christ.
The Twelve Believers—My study of the Gospels to date has led me to appreciate a group of saints I’m calling the Twelve Believers. These are the people that Christ, in the Gospels, explicitly, directly praises for their faith. We should celebrate them as well! In this project, Lord willing, we will explore their stories, and produce liturgical art related to the Twelve Believers for use in the Church.
So there you have it, three projects to launch Gospel Desk! Thanks for joining me on this adventure within an adventure. Email is the best way to share your questions and feedback, if you like. Peace for now!