Craig von Buseck: What was the motivation behind ‘The Big Five’? What was the ‘aha’ moment when you said I need to write this book?
Dr. Daniel Gilbert: As I was pastoring, seeing the direction of my denomination and also getting to know a lot of people cross-denominationally – both non-mainline and also mainline Christians – I realized that the majority of Christians don’t know the big five of the Christian faith. These are the essentials of the Christian faith that are the foundations for what we believe and why we believe it. I could see where the members of our church where, and the direction that the denomination was going, which was actually denying some of these foundational, core teachings of the church, and of the Word of God. After talking with a lot of people through the years, it just came to me that I needed to not just preach on the essentials of the faith, I needed to write a book for the for the common believer to understand the core essentials of the Christian faith and how to live them out.
CVB: So what are the big 5 and how did they come to you?
Dr. Gilbert: They have been a part of the foundation of the church – from the early church into the first, second, third, fourth, fifth century. Then they were reemphasized during the Reformation period by the great leaders like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and Martin Bucer. They brought these five essentials back to the awareness of the church. So I’m just building upon the great foundation of Scripture, the early church fathers, and then our great leaders of the reformation.
CVB: So let’s go through the big 5. Number One: Scripture Alone. For you and me this is a basic part of our thinking. Yet in our post-Christian culture, it’s almost a radical idea for many people.
Dr. Gilbert: You’re right. I think to say that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, and the original, inerrant word of God is something that goes contrary to our culture today. They struggle with absolute truth. And so we have to establish that the Bible is absolute truth – that it is the inspired, infallible Word of God. What that means is that there are no errors. The Bible does not contradicted itself. Now there are passages that may seem to counter one another, but when you learn how to study the Word properly, then you realize it truly is God-breathed.
That’s what the word “inspired” means – to be God-breathed through holy men that wrote with their personality, the very words of God that we are to live our life upon. The world today, and even in the church, many just don’t believe the Bible. They may say, “Oh yeah, it’s inspired, but it has a lot of errors.” Well that contradicts itself. It’s either inspired and infallible or it’s not
CVB: Is God almighty or is He not? Because if He’s almighty, He’s going to protect His revelation.
Dr. Gilbert: Oh, that’s great. I haven’t heard it that way, but absolutely! God protects His revelation, even in the translations that we have. Now, there are better English translations – and the better translations are just so rich with the Spirit of God permeating through the Word. If we truly understand that we must build our life founded on the authority of the Word of God, then life goes so much better.
CVB: All right. So Number Two: Christ Alone. You write, “He is Lord and Savior and provides salvation.”
Dr. Gilbert: Yes. Once again, in our post-Christian world, many have not been taught that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. In the pluralistic world that we live in, there is bad teaching that says there are many ways to God. There is no other way to a personal relationship with almighty God, except through Jesus Christ alone. Jesus Himself says this, and this is where we must be true to Scripture. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the father except through me.” Peter, when he’s preaching in the book of Acts, he states that “…there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And that my name is Jesus – Yeshua Hamashiach, the Messiah.
When, when you study the Scriptures and when you look at history as well, Jesus is Lord. And he is God incarnate, God in the flesh, the Son of God who lived a sinless life and who suffered and died for the sins of the world – for your sins, my sins, for all of our sins, all of our mistakes, all of our hurts, and all of our pains. And then he physically rose from the dead so that we might have life and life more abundantly here and in heaven.
He says that in John 3:16: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to die for us – for all of our mistakes, all of our hurts, all of our pains, that if we only believe, put our trust and faith in Him, we shall be saved and have eternal life. And so God does take the action because He loves us. He created the human race for relationship.
When Adam and Eve fell, sin entered into the world and we lost and broke relationship with God. But in God’s mercy, grace, and great love, He made a way. He starts out in Genesis chapter three and prophesies that a savior will come. Then He chooses the people of Israel through Abraham and calls him to be the father of a great nation.
Through this salvation story, and through the Chosen People, God brings us the Deliverer, the Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin. And that’s an important part too. There’s an attack on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. If you take the virgin birth away, you take away the divinity of Christ. So I talk about this in the chapter on Christ Alone. It is a beautiful story of God reaching down and giving us is His only begotten Son so that we could have relationship with the Creator of the universe and live a life of fullness and purpose.
CVB: All right. So Number Three: Salvation is By Grace Alone.
Dr. Gilbert: Oh, this is so wonderful. Because God so loved us He also made a way. We can’t do anything in our own strength or in our own goodness to earn God’s favor or salvation. God loves us too much and He knows that we’re too messed up. We’re too broken to be able to fix ourselves. So God made a way again through Jesus Christ and it’s by grace, which basically means unmerited favor. There’s nothing that I can do to gain God’s favor to enter into a relationship with Him and eternal life. So He made a way and it’s through grace alone.
Paul writes about it so clearly in Ephesians chapter 2. It says we were such sinners and we rebelled against God, but He still loved us. And it says, but God in His great mercy made a way through His son, Jesus, that we are saved by grace.
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Check out Part Two of my interview with Dr. Daniel Gilbert!
Dr. Daniel Gilbert serves as the Director of the Masters’ Program and an Assistant Professor for the School of Divinity at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. An ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church, Dr. Gilbert is the Founder and CEO of EmPowered Living International Ministries, a non-profit ministry to help educate, equip, and empower leaders to transform communities through sound theology, the power of the Holy Spirit, and humanitarian action. He also has founded ELIM Theological Institute in Siaya, Kenya, training pastors in underdeveloped nations in theology, biblical studies and pastoral leadership. Learn more at thebig5book.com
Dr. Craig von Buseck is Managing Editor of Inspiration.org.
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