Just finished working through Creation Care by Doug and Jonathan Moo. Overall it's a great book offering a sound biblical theology of the natural order. But there is one very troubling chapter (ch. 10) in which the authors declare that "creation care is part of the gospel." This is just the latest example in a trend among evangelicals to load the gospel with content that does not belong in the gospel proper.
Let's be clear about this: the gospel is the good news of what God has done for us through Christ (see esp. 1 Cor. 15), a message that is received by faith and repentance. The gospel is not an action, or series of actions, that we perform. The gospel is not "do social justice." It is not "do ecological justice." It is not "do economic justice." All of these are important, and all will be concerns of those who have embraced the gospel message. But they do not constitute the gospel itself, in whole or in part.
Here are some of the consequences I see flowing from this evangelical confusion about the gospel:
1. It undermines the core evangelical doctrine of justification by faith alone. How could it be otherwise, when you start saying that intrinsic to the gospel is stuff we must do in addition to a message about Christ that we must receive?
2. It undermines true evangelism. When Christians think that community organizing is "spreading the gospel" and when they think that their nonChristian neighbors and friends are engaged in "gospel work" because they are committed to social, economic, and ecological justice, the actual gospel message is not going to be shared as often as it otherwise would be. The tragedy of this should be evident to all who believe in the realities of death and hell.
3. It saddles Christians with a load of guilt that they don't need to bear. The NT reveals plenty of sins for us to experience true guilt about: pride, malice, envy, greed, etc. Now some evangelicals want to add to that burden feelings of guilt about owning SUVs, not using a bicycle often enough, consuming fast food, drinking bottled water, turning the thermostat up during the winter months, etc. Was this not the error of the Pharisees--burdening the consciences of God's people with a load of extra-biblical rules?
4. It directs much of the Church's finite human and material resources away from Bible translation, church planting, and missions work (where those resources are most needed) and toward economic, environmental, and social causes that are already flooded with volunteers, extremely well-funded, are not directly tied to the biblical mission.
5. It will cause some Christians to believe that their churches are not "preaching the whole gospel" because there are no sermons being preached or activities being organized around economic, environmental, and social causes. The result of this will be conflict between some church members and their church leaders, some unnecessary departures of members from their local churches (on the grounds that their churches "don't care about the whole gospel"), and some public judgments against those good churches (on social media, for example) based on nonbiblical standards.