What does The King Jesus Gospel promise?
Scot McKnight poses the question ‘What is the Gospel?’ and seeks to make the case that modern evangelical definitions truncate the biblical Gospel which McKnight identifies as: the story of Israel/the Bible; the story of Jesus; the plan of salvation; and the method of persuasion.
What I appreciated.
As a pastor who is currently preaching the early chapters of 1 Samuel as part of God’s consistent purpose to redeem, rule and preserve a people for Himself, the King Jesus Gospel resonates strongly with me.
McKnight unfolds a case that the death of Jesus makes no sense without an understanding of the Old Testament, and that the Gospel has to involve all of Scripture.
He also strives against individualistic and human centered applications of the Gospel. Again, for a pastor who often reminds the congregation that salvation is not an individual experience with corporate consequences, but a corporate experience with individual consequences, the emphasis is appreciated.
The effort to identify how the whole Scriptures are an integral testimony about God’s saving work in Christ was strong, as was the commitment to framing a Gospel that makes sense of Jesus as the presence of God and Messiah and Lord.
McKnight strives to maintain a relatively irenic approach throughout, with on a couple of minor niggles about Calvinists that don’t seem to be applied to anyone else.
I really want to go back to this book and delve into McKnight’s thought some more.
What I questioned.
For what positions itself as a radical approach I kept reading and wondering what was supposed to be so ground-breaking.
Consider the well known (in Australia, anyway) evangelistic tract 2 Ways To Live, which is framed around six propositions: 1. God the creator; humanity ruling under his authority; 2. Humanity rebels, wishing to run things its own way; 3. God judges (and will judge) humanity for this rebellion; 4. In his love, God sends Jesus to die as an atoning sacrifice; 5. In his power, God raises Jesus to life as ruler and judge; 6. This presents us with a challenge to repent and believe, which to my mind follows the same sorts of points McKnight identifies and pays attention to a narrative biblical theology. It has been in use, in one form or another for a couple of decades.
The end of 1 Corinthians is an odd place to find the definitive biblical articulation of the Gospel. Such a place isn’t usually where significant doctrinal teaching material is found in New Testament letters.
McKnight takes four pages to lay the origin point of the narrowing of Gospel to salvation to the Reformation. He doesn’t maintain that the Reformers began the practice but that they emphasis on the individual experience of salvation laid the foundation for later movements. He doesn’t identify precisely when the tipping point was reached, which would seem to have been the revivalist, dispensational, non-denominational (and even predominantly arminian) movement of the nineteenth century. But that doesn’t gel with McKnight’s efforts to identify the salvation centered gospel as primarily prevalent among neo-calvinists.
While championing the biblical story as the ground for his gospel, McKnight doesn’t acknowledge that the reformers championed justification by faith and personal faith in the Gospel because that was what they identified as primarily missing in the life of the church at that time. They defended the teaching because the church of the time kept pushing back against their biblical teaching. But they integrated that emphasis (at least in the Lutheran/Reformed heritages) with a commitment to the people of God following the Lordship of Christ.
Many contemporary evangelical/Calvinist Christians have found themselves defending a salvation understanding of the Gospel, not because they believe that this exhausts the Gospel, but because that element of salvation continues to be under attack. In addition it can be observed that many ‘neo-calvinists’ have come to the position from a narrow salvation viewpoint but are growing in their appreciation for the more developed understanding of God’s purpose, God’s people, God’s place and God’s rule element which is shown in the Scriptures.
So, for those from a sheltered North American evangelical (or similar) standpoint, The King Jesus Gospel may sound like a revolution. It’s certainly an engaging introduction to a biblical theological appreciation of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is also a helpful insight into where the thought of a prominent evangelical thinker is heading. When you’re done pick up a copy of Graham Goldsworthy’s According To Plan or any of his other books, or the fine works of Sidney Greidanus on preaching Christ from the Old Testament to see more developed and practical expressions of this theme.
My copy of The King Jesus Gospel was provided by Zondervan Publishers as part of their The King Jesus Gospel blog tour.