The Gospel is not the Gospel of individual salvation. This is a relatively recent fiction. The Gospel is the declaration that the kingdom of God is accessible now. Jesus proclaims the drawing near of the kingdom during his earthly ministry. The resurrection inaugurates the kingdom of God on earth. It's open, now, to us. That's the Gospel. The good news is that the shalom of the kingdom is now available to us. The good news is that all are welcome. The good news is that prostitutes and tax collectors get in before religious folk. The Gospel is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, so any real notion of salvation takes into account the entire creation, not just souls, whatever those are.
Here's the idea that McLaren flirts with in The Last Word and the Word After That. Salvation is by grace, which means it's for everyone, and judgment is by works, which means it's for everyone. In a very Barthian/Moltmannian sense, he's dancing on the edge of universalism, but not the "everyone gets in without a scratch" sort of universalism. Nope. This is universalism that involves judgment. And what if through your whole life you lived contrary to the kingdom? If we're supposed to be becoming Christ-like, so that as Hubmaier said "when the heavenly city is finally let down, we will be the kind of people who can dwell in it," what will it mean if we've been selfish, lustful, bitter, judgmental, profligate (I love that word.), and just plain evil? It will mean there won't be enough of me left after judgment to move on with the rest of the story. This is what I'm going to call modified exclusivism. Because of what Jesus does, we're all in, so to speak, but we can't all get in because we don't spend time becoming.
Lewis flirts with this idea in The Great Divorce. The characters are gray, spectral, and nebulous, while the kingdom of God is bright, clear, and hard-edged. I wrote quite a while back that I think churches are doing their people a disservice because they are leading them to believe that glorification is this process whereby all that is ugly in them will be wiped away so we can be with God forever. I'm afraid that's a fiction too. That process is called sanctification, and we're supposed to be working on it now. No pill. No magic wand. We're either the kind of folk who can live in the kingdom, or we're not, and then there isn't enough left of us to move forward.
This isn't legalism and it's not salvation by works. Salvation is by grace. Legalism offers a list of things that must/must not be done that have nothing to do with what must/must not be done, much like fundamentalism. I'm saying that salvation is the process whereby Jesus overcomes the principalities and powers, ushers us into the kingdom of God, and we practice the virtues and sacraments and works that make us into the people of God, and through our sacramental presence and work, help bring salvation to the entire creation. All of this so that when we reach the eschaton, unlike Lewis's characters, we won't be stranded on the edge of the kingdom; we'll go higher up and farther in.
Next installment. Hell, or not.