Read Part 1.
The Integrity of the Gospel
The first element in conservative Christianity is an absolute devotion to the integrity of the gospel. The gospel is the boundary of the Christian faith. One becomes a Christian precisely by believing the gospel. The gospel is essential, not merely to conservative Christianity, but to Christianity in any form.
The gospel is not primarily about the amelioration of social, economic, cultural, or environmental evils. It may entail these things, but it is about the forgiveness of personal sins, of individual transgressions of divine law. Because God cannot overlook our sins, He has provided a substitute to bear His wrath in our place. Therefore, the gospel affirms that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen of many witnesses.
The gospel deals with historical events: the death of Jesus on the cross and the subsequent resurrection of His body from the tomb. The gospel is not an ethical code, a moral philosophy, a liturgical ceremony, or a system for self-improvement. Rather, it deals with historical events, real happenings that occurred in space and time.
The gospel, however, does not merely narrate these events. It explains them, and the explanation is what makes the difference. That Jesus died on the cross, by itself, is not even a particularly interesting fact. Thousands died on Roman crosses whose names we do not care to know. What matters is not merely that Christ died, but that He died for our sins. When this explanation is attached to the event, it constitutes a doctrine.