Tracts to Christ: An evaluation of American gospel tracts
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This dissertation provides a biblical, theological, philosophical, and historical evaluation of the seven best-selling gospel tracts in American history: The Four Spiritual Laws, Steps to Peace with God, This Was Your Life!, Eternal Life, Four Things God Wants You to Know, Do You Know?? , and Bridge to Life . Chapter 1 introduces the topic and offers the importance of this study. Chapter 2 answers this crucial question: What is the gospel? Particular attention is given to those aspects of the gospel that are often taken for granted or poorly communicated in gospel presentations. The doctrine of God, the use of the Sinner's Prayer, and assurance of salvation are issues of great concern in this chapter. Chapter 3 addresses the challenges of pluralism and postmodernism in America and offers suggestions to improve our communication of the gospel in light of these challenges. Chapter 4 crystallizes the essential content of the previous two chapters into a series of questions which can be applied not only to gospel tracts but also to virtually any presentation of the gospel. Chapter 5 evaluates each tract according to its theology of the gospel, sensitivity to cultural context, and practical features. A brief word is offered about the potential usefulness of the tract under consideration. By carefully examining the gospel according to these best-selling tracts, this chapter helps answer the question of how evangelicals understand and communicate the gospel in America. Chapter 6 discusses the characteristics of good tracts and offers suggestions on the proper use of tracts in witnessing encounters. This study finds that most best-selling tracts assume a biblical worldview on the part of their readers; therefore, they offer presentations of the gospel that are deficient in content and insensitive to the realities of pluralism and postmodernism. They promote sacramentalism through their use of the Sinner's Prayer and presumptuously confer assurance of salvation upon all who respond positively to their presentations. This study suggests that gospel tracts must ground the gospel within a biblical worldview, include all of the essential elements of the gospel, and restore repentance and faith as the proper responses to the gospel.