In the wider evangelical community there continues to be discussion about the meaning of “the gospel.” Folks such as Scot McKnight and N.T. Wright talk about the “king Jesus” gospel as the outworking of the history of Israel. The gospel is primarily about the restoration of all creation and individual salvation takes place within this larger outworking.
Tim Keller expressed a rival interpretation of salvation and the gospel in an interview on Trevin Wax’s blog. For what it is worth, John Wesley would agree with Keller’s emphasis over McKnight and Wright, although he, of course, disagrees with Keller on several other points.
Scot and I disagree on this. But yes, I do think individual salvation needs to be kept central.
In Romans 8 Paul speaks of the renewal of creation—its liberation from decay—something that shows that ultimately God’s salvation means the renewal of the whole world, not just the salvation of individual souls. Yet in verse 21 Paul says that the creation will be brought into our freedom and glory as children of God—the glory that we as individuals have received through faith in Jesus Christ.
So rather than saying—as many do—that the main point of the gospel is cosmic salvation, and our individual salvation(s) are just part of that, it might be more accurate to say it’s the other way around. It may be that cosmic renewal is a fruit of our individual, personal salvation.
Because I read Romans 8 the way I do—I see substitutionary atonement and justification as not something that comes along with the bigger story but as the point of the spear of the Big Story.