In the midst of thesis work, I had been thinking -- If the Gospel is God's Truth, can it be corrupted? I chewed on this question for quite a bit and it went on for a couple of days. Absolutely, you bet!!!. As early as in the time of St. Paul - apostle to the Gentiles, we read his warning in Gal 1:8. He even pronounced a curse on himself should he go back and change the message. This is astounding because even when the apostles were around, people have been changing the Gospel already. People, and thus by mplication, the Christian Church, can corrupt it.
There are so many reasons why this happens. The Gospel is good news - Jesus dying and being raised from the dead for the sinner's forgiveness while that sinner is still a sinner - is just (pardon me) --- too darn too good to be true. This is absolutely just too much goodnews to take and our mind gets overwhelmed by the force of this reality. Our mind is not program for this sort of reality.
Let me list a few things why the Gospel may be corrupted by people and thus by churches (let me know if I missed some) ...
1. The Gospel is counter-intuitive. It is not natural to comprehend, so it is easy to misconstrue it. What is intuitive but for God to be good to those who are good? Certainly he is bad to those who are bad, that would be more natural to think of. But God being good to the bad? That would be...non-sense! So even if Jesus is there, we patch the Gospel and re-package it with us or something in us included in it. We change the Gospel to a proposition rather than keep it as proclamation. In other words, we impose our intuition into it and thereby change it however subtly. Fortunately, the Bible does not change, you go back to it and it still says the same - Christ died for sinners. God's Grace (Jesus) is greater than our sin.
2. Sin itself. Our sinfulness makes us corrupt the Gospel. Unbelief is part of that sinfulness. Deceitfully workin inside us, our tendency is not to believe it. Sin does that and we do not always see it already operating in our hearts - we disbelieve. The less famous sin -- pride, says - surely it can not be that I do not have to do anything. What? Simple trust in the fact of the Gospel? Surely (we say), it can not be that easy - I still have to do something like ... 'decide', 'confess', 'pray' and 'believe" etc. So we focus on the results of faith rather than the Christ of faith. So we focus on the spiritual effects and use them to change the Gospel. We make the results to a formula, a command, a work to be done. I like what I heard from Dr. Nigel when once interviewed at Issues Etc., he said - do not talk to me about faith, talk to me about Jesus -- what a wise advice.
If the Gospel is too good to be true, it is only so, because we are just too bad to deserve it.