The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited
Author: Scot McKnight
This book is personal for Scot McKnight, a scholar, popular blogger, and Northern Seminary professor. It is part of his "quest to understand more sharply both what the gospel is and what evangelism is - and, perhaps most importantly, how to do evangelism in a way that leads beyond decisions to discipleship" (p. 21).
The book opens with McKnight sketching part of the problem as he sees it. He contends that "there is a minimal difference in correlation between evangelical children and teenagers who make a decision for Christ and who later become genuine disciples, and Roman Catholics who are baptized as infants and who as adults become faithful and devout Catholic disciples" (p. 20).
He hopes to shed light on this problem by asking and answering one of the most important questions for Christians to sort out today: "What is the gospel?" (p. 23). The question intersects with the problem because, according to McKnight, "Our biggest problem is that we have an entire culture shaped by a misunderstanding of the gospel. That so-called gospel is deconstructing the church" (p. 27).
Or again, he makes the stark claim that "we evangelicals (mistakenly) equate the word gospel with the word salvation . . . [Therefore] we have created a 'salvation culture' and mistakenly assumed it is a 'gospel culture'" (p. 29).
He says as much in the book trailer:
But it's not all bad news. After helpfully re-presenting the place of salvation in the larger Story of the Bible, McKnight locates the Apostolic gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul highlights four events in the life of Jesus:
that Christ died, that Christ was buried, that Christ was raised, and that Christ appeared (p. 49).
Salvation, then, "is the intended result of the gospel story about Jesus Christ that completes the Story of Israel in the Old Testament" (p. 51). The result flows out of the story. When the result overshadows the story, we have entered a "salvation culture." "That culture," says McKnight, "is designed by God to be a subculture and not a dominant culture. The dominant culture is the gospel culture" (p. 62).
How did the salvation culture move from subculture to dominant culture?
McKnight adjusts his scholarly cap and explains, "The 'gospel culture' that ruled the church from the time of Jesus to the Reformation and which was shaped and built on 1 Corinthians 15, was reshaped during the Reformation . . . into a salvation culture" (p. 76).
The rest of the book demonstrates how this gospel is present not only in the four gospels of the New Testament, but also throughout the rest of the New Testament and on into the creeds of the church.
How can we get back on track?
How can we work to create a gospel culture again?
McKnight outlines 5 suggestions:
1) We have to become People of the Story (p. 153).
"The gospel is all about the Story of Israel coming to its resolution in the Story of Jesus and our letting that story become our story" (p. 153).
2) We need to immerse ourselves even more into the Story of Jesus (p. 153).
"We need to soak ourselves in the Story of Jesus by reading, pondering, digesting, and mulling over in our heads and hearts the Four Gospels" (p. 153).
3) We need to see how the apostle's writings take the Story of Israel and the Story of Jesus into the next generation and into a difficult culture, and how this generation led all the way to our generation (p. 155).
"A proper reading of these books means we see them as continuations and fresh applications of the Story of Jesus in new contexts" (p. 156).
4) We need to counter the stories that bracket our story and that reframe our story (p. 157).
"We can build a gospel culture if we emphasize baptism and Eucharist as the counter stories to the cultural stories that flood the Internet and media every day" (p. 158).
5) We need to embrace this story so that we are saved and can be transformed by the gospel story (p. 158).
"A gospel culture can only be created if we are thoroughly converted ourselves" (p. 159).
This book is a very thorough and thoughtful (and understandable) exploration of an important question that the church faces today. I highly recommend it - in either print or audio.
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