Scot McKnight on the earliest Christian gospel (2)

Last Friday and Saturday we had a fantastic 2010 IBI Summer Institute with Scot McKnight. Two full days, 8 sessions, a full house. Scot worked hard and was brilliant.

I’m doing a few posts this week on what Scot had to say. And I should say that these are just based on my notes.

Much of the content of the lectures will be the material for a new book The Earliest Christian Gospel – so we were treated to a special preview.

One of the problems with the ‘plan of salvation’ interpretation of the gospel, Scot argued, is that it tends to very individualistic and has little impetus and necessary connection to discipleship.

Yet when you look more closely at the gospel preached by Paul it cannot be reduced to the traditional evangelical plan of salvation.

Arguing from 1 Cor 15:1-5ff as they key place where Paul’s gospel is defined, Scot proposed that this gospel :

– is a tradition received and known and memorised and passed on

– includes death, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances

– is the climax and culmination of the story of Israel in the story of Jesus ‘according to the Scriptures’

– the story of Jesus is the saving story, he died ‘for our sins’

– this story of Jesus is a complete story, the good news of the gospel includes ascension and Pentecost

– The gospel is a story of Jesus as Lord, Son of God and Messiah. It is a statement about Jesus and all must submit to Jesus. The gospel is about his lordship

– In 1 Cor 15:28 all things will be subject to God – God will be all in all. The story of the gospel climaxes in the submission of all things to God the Father.

Scot suggests that this is the shape of the gospel;  it declares the story of Jesus. This story can compel and evoke belief by its power and beauty. It does not require manipulation or guilt or a particular emotional response ; it is not so much persuasion as proclamation. Our responsibility is to tell the story and ask the Spirit to do his work.

A couple of comments / questions:

Personally I’ve found this narrative understanding of what I like to call ‘the astonishing good news’ to be exciting, compelling and ‘true’ to whole flow of Scripture. I’ve increasingly shifted how I teach my introduction to theology class over the last few years to a much more narrative structure and it seems to work well. Students ‘get’ (I think!) this and it feels fresh and makes sense from creation, Israel, Jesus, kingdom, Spirit, church, new creation.

In a sense this is a biblical theology (Bible themes) view of the gospel versus a systematic theology [systematised into abstract categories] gospel. The traditional evangelical gospel has been heavily influenced by systematic theological categories, deeply influenced from the Reformation on.

The two are not opposed to each other. Scot’s proposal is that the narrative story of the gospel will speak more compellingly in a culture where theological categories are becoming increasingly remote.

What d’ya reckon?


2 thoughts on “Scot McKnight on the earliest Christian gospel (2)

  1. I’m loving this, Patrick – just sorry I couldn’t be there last week. We see the role and the power of narrative throughout scripture (Nathan coming to David, Jesus’ parables, etc.).

    In our culture, people engage with life issues using narrative (theatre, film, the arts…). Why not the gospel? I’m finding that the people I engage with are attracted and intrigued by stories about Jesus.

  2. Thanks Ruth; a simple point but it seems to me that the entire NT is a theological reflection on Jesus – and that should have a very profound bearing on evangelism. The first Christians joyfully and passionately proclaimed Jesus and told his story and its significance for both Jews and Gentiles.

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