I found John Starke’s respectful iron-sharpening-iron tweaking of Trevin Wax’s three-legged stool analogy for the gospel to be a helpful improvement.

Instead of saying that (1) story, (2) announcement, and (3) community are the three equal legs of a stool, Starke explains his alternative:

So here is my counter-solution to Wax’s “three-legged stool.” In keeping with the “stool” illustration, let’s say the the gospel (its saving powerful announcement and definition) is the stool itself, not just one of the legs, but the entire support system.

The legs that support the gospel are the (1) the story, since it gives the gospel its context; (2) the community of a local church that encourages us to preserve the gospel and live in accordance with it; and (3) good works and holiness as the fruit of new birth and a life that is empowered by the Spirit.

Some of these legs will be weaker than others at times, but it is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ that we are saved.

This seems helpful to me. I think one can agree with virtually everything in Trevin’s helpful work while wanting to find a more compelling version of the metaphor.

I’m thankful for discussions like this as we seek to articulate and advance the gospel together as brothers and sisters.

Update: Trevin responds.

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7 thoughts on “The Gospel as a Three-Legged Stool?”

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Does The Gospel Coalition have a different Gospel than the Gospel of Liberal Protestants and Liberal Emergers?

    1. John Starke says:

      Truth, I’m not sure the intention of your question. But, yes, The Gospel Coalition does have a different understanding of the gospel than liberal conclusions.

      1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

        Hi John,

        I was just thinking that the three legs underneath the seat of the stool is a different thing than the seat of the stool.

        Liberal Protestants and liberal Emergers could use the same three legs as The Gospel Coalition does, but I was wondering whether you’d agree or disagree about whether they have the same “seat” of substantive content of the Gospel.

        I’m heartened to see that you disagree that theological liberals preach and teach the same Gospel as The Gospel Coalition.

        1. John Starke says:

          Truth,
          I think if you read the review (if you haven’t already), then you’ll see that I don’t believe the gospel and the three legs are the same thing. That’s actually my main concern is to show that the three legs (just an illustration, btw) are only implications or provide context for the saving gospel message.

          You can read our foundation documents that state pretty clearly our stance on these issues:

          Confessional Statement:
          http://thegospelcoalition.org/about/foundation-documents/confessional/

          The Gospel for All of Life: Preamble:
          http://thegospelcoalition.org/about/foundation-documents/preamble/

          1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

            Thanks John. Very helpful.

  2. Timothy Parker says:

    Just browsing your website. Do you have regular discussions about what the is? God drives my mind differently than most and He’s been pushing me to question typical presentations of the gospel. I hear many speak of the ‘recipe’ paradigm and in contrast, I hear Jesus and Paul speak of the ‘cake’ paradigm. The two paradigms can produce different results. I was hoping to discuss the matter knowing that I often ask questions that leave others confused – even seminary professors. Without getting into the decisional regeneration or baptismal regeneration scenarios, what I suggest is that Christ and Paul speak of a ‘resultant cake reality gospel’ that assumes a right recipe whereas others get hung up on the recipe itself that might practically exclude the reality of the ‘cake’ in regeneration. When I suggest a cake paradigm, I am accused of distorting the gospel. What do you think?

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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