In his article, "Why We Need Jesus," Michael Horton explains why the nature of the gospel as a proclamation of historical truth both surprises and challenges us. Our culture defines reason as naturalism, and so it allows reasonable people to be religious only as long as they either confine their religious claims to the realm of private opinion (i.e., based on personal revelations or ideas that apply only to them), or focus on general revelation to which everyone can reason (e.g., advice for living well). Neither of these options threatens the sovereignty of naturalism.
But, Horton says, the gospel is not something we could deduce on our own through reason (though we can certainly reason about it, once known), nor is it the kind of thing that could be true for me but not for you—"the gospel transcends these rules, and refuses to play by them." Because it's a historical claim, it's not a private faith, but a public fact. And it requires a hearing of the truth to be known.
This is partly why the gospel is scandalous: not because it's irrational and subjective, but precisely because here, faith refuses to remain on the Alcatraz of private opinion. The gospel is also a scandal because of what it announces: a radical rescue operation amid a radical problem (God's wrath). The gospel exposes that our claim to be defenders of reason [i.e., naturalists, as our culture defines reason] is based on an irrational decision to ignore history and to stand in defiance of our own intuition that we are shipwrecked and need rescue. Left to ourselves, we use reason so irrationally that we determine that God cannot enter history, even before we examine whether he has done so. Again, it's not "neutral reason" running the show here, but a blind faith in naturalism.
While we were looking for "God" in the glorious splendor of our inner lights and universal morality, the Son became the most scandalously particular yet historically accessible revelation of God. It's not private therapy or rational argument, but a public announcement….
What happens when God grows up in the neighborhood? Or presents himself on the road, as he did with his dejected disciples? This God didn't wait for us to discover him; he spoke and acted first. As a result, the gospel creates not speculative pundits, spiritual gurus, or moralists, but witnesses.
Second, the gospel tears down the wall between reason and faith, public and private, objective and subjective truth, by its very content. We need special revelation because we need to be saved. That puts the matter squarely on the historical claims of the gospel: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The whole question of a self-revealing God is taken out of the merely private realm; it's public truth….
The gospel is not the conclusion of a logical syllogism or an intuition of our universal moral experience. It's not a timeless truth. Rather, it is the announcement that "when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal. 4:4-5).
Christmas is a great reminder of this.