Scot McKnight brings fresh breeze into the discussion of The Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is the Gospel? Surely every Pastor and Sunday School teacher must have this basic question down to the black and white and surely every Christian has no problem articulating The Gospel to others...right? Admittedly one of those who honestly struggles with interpreting the proper balance of scripture in this area, I found Scot's work to produce the hooks and footholds to facilitate a new and helpful discernment.
The work is certainly "safe" for those who might be concerned of an author departing from the Word. McKnight doesn't reject what he sees as the prevailing evangelical ideas on salvation, what he argues is that The Gospel of Jesus Christ (as clearly established in scripture) is so much more.
Building on others, like NT Wright & Dallas Willard, Scot McKnight wrestles with our crystallized doctrines of salvation and wonders if modern Christianity (that developed during the pendulum swing of the Reformation) hasn't taken the Gospel of Jesus Christ and stripped it of its full meaning. That instead of the fullness of the Gospel as represented by Jesus Christ in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; expounded by Paul and Peter; and repeated in sermons in the book of Acts which reflect the full meaning of the story of Jesus who fulfills, completes, and resolves Israel's story - McKnight argues we find many have allowed the definition of the Gospel, "to collapse into abstract doctrines that reduce all that God has said and done into a carefully packaged plan of salvation."
The concern is that we unwittingly stripped the Gospel of its full meaning when, in an attempt to correct the errors of the church that existed prior to the reformation (salvation concerns of works), we've too often boiled it down to nothing more than a doctrine of salvation - to suggest that the Gospel is nothing more than an individual plan of Salvation. "Sin management."
Ã¢â¬Â¢ Individual (as opposed to corporate)
Ã¢â¬Â¢ Decisions (as opposed to discipleship)
Ã¢â¬Â¢ Sin management mentality - ticket punched: leaving many to wonder if they even need the bible to walk rightly.
Scot has got my attention: the Gospel is, in truth, much more than my personal plan of sin management. McKnight puts it like this:
Ã¢â¬Â¢ The Gospel is God's explanation of the intended life through the biblical accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is the revealed interpretation of the life He intends for the Imagebearer.
Ã¢â¬Â¢ We must know this Gospel if we hope to possess and share a true Gospel culture - [and it's that Gospel culture that's glimpsed in the book of Acts as anointed by the Holy Spirit and bringing thousands into Christ on a daily basis.
One of the errors of our day is our tendency to minimize the story - to reduce the gospel message to napkin or a note card. ("A minute to win it?")
McKnight issues the call to return to be the people of the Word - to know the Word from Genesis to Revelation; to ponder the depths of the contours in the story of God as revealed in the bible - to listen to His Holy Word - to Listen to Him speak to us - to see the Messiah in His proper context and then can we hope to truly reflect His light and bear His image.
That will preach, as they say. And hopefully, by focusing on the revealed life and words of Christ as interpreted through scripture, we'll find more and more decision makers able to apprehend who God is and how best to respond to Him.
Wish it was in paperback so we could share it more readily in the prisons.
This book, like many others by McKnight, has caused a bit of a stir - you can see the mixed reactions below. Even those who do not agree with McKnight should be able to credit his writing style as well his passion for asking important questions.
The main question he so eloquently asks throughout this book is "What is the Gospel"? Most Evangelical Christians would say something about being saved from our sins by the death of Jesus. While McKnight agrees that Jesus does save us from our sins, he doesn't see this as the Gospel. His point is that we have created a salvation culture, but not so much a Gospel culture. He sets out to explain what he sees as the Gospel - which is essentially Jesus Christ being the fulfillment of Israel. So on some level, this book serves as an easily accessible monograph on what the word "Gospel" means.
I really enjoyed this book - it is incredibly well-written and well-footnoted (I wrote down a few new books I want to check out). McKnight, as he usually does, is gentle with those he disagrees with. Since he is presenting a fairly novel idea for most of us (though he does fully document the Biblical and historical reasons of those who agree with him), I think this book would make for an excellent discussion in some sort of group setting. Thus, I wish he would have added a fourth Appendix with a discussion guide - however I also realize this might be nit-picking. I think it will take some time for me to think through the issues he brings up but I know that even though I might disagree with some of his conclusions, he nonetheless is an incredibly important voice in discerning what it means to be an effective Christian and how to be an effective witness to culture in our day.
Sometime back I had this issue, the bible says that Jesus "preached the gospel" and that the disciples "preached the gospel," but it never spelled out exactly what they were saying. And for sometime the modern church in America has over laid that word "gospel" with soteriology. In other words, we say that the "gospel" is about the saving grace of the cross. But while the gospel (euangelion) contains the work of the cross, that is not all that it is. You can not define the gospel simply by explaining the cross. For the simple explanation that ... the cross had not happened when Jesus and his disciples were preaching.
Jesus did not preach, "believe that I will die on the cross and resurrect for your sins." That could not have been the "gospel" that he preached. And yet, if you ask a Christian today what the gospel is, you will hear some rendition of the atonement of the cross.
Now, I have no problem with saying that the cross is good news or that salvation is now apart of the modern telling of the gospel. But before we get to modernity, I think we should understand WHY the story of Jesus is good news.
Today, people can explain salvation and the cross without ever once mentioning the Old Testament. We ask the new to the faith to "confess Christ as Lord," without ever telling them what that means or why it's important.
Scot McKnight in his new book The King Jesus Gospel writes, "one reason why so many Christians today don't know the Old Testament is because their gospel doesn't even need it." but "the gospel of the New Testament cannot be reduced to the plan of salvation."
Scot McKnight is the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University. He is the author of The Jesus Creed which won the Christianity Today book award for 2004 in the area of Christian living. McKnight's blog, Jesus Creed, has been a popular site for Evangelicals to discuss various theologies.
His new book seeks to unlock the BIG QUESTION: what is the gospel? Scot believes that Christianity is stuck in a salvation culture, but that we need to transition and find our true home in a "gospel culture."
McKnight is a smart writer who writes a great book. This book is for anyone seeking to re-learn the biblical concept of gospel and for anyone who wants to communicate a full gospel story to the world. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Zondervan for sending me the above mentioned product for review purposes. I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.