Scot McKnight and the earliest Christian gospel (7)

Friday and Saturday 11-12 June 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 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.

This is the next to last post on what Scot had to say.

He asked what does a ‘salvation culture’ [traditional evangelical gospel ‘plan of salvation’] look like as in contrast to a ‘gospel culture’ [the gospel of Jesus, Peter, Paul etc that Scot has been unpacking]?

And he proposed that David Bebbington’s famous and well accepted ‘quadrilatorial’ describing the four core characteristics of evangelicalism is so popular because it ‘captures’ much of what evangelicalism is. Yet Bebbington’s framework is revealing in that it really describes a ‘salvation culture’ where:

1. Bible: is the ‘norming norm’

2. Cross: seen especially in terms of substitutionary atonement and dealing with sins, personal relationship with God

3. Personal conversion: a focus on being born again

4. Activity: bible study; discipleship; social action; all of life flowing from faith

In contrast, after some group work, these were the sorts of characteristics that participants came up with to describe a ‘gospel culture’:

1. Jesus – the gospel is all about him, fulfilling the hopes of Israel and being Messiah for all. He is the risen Lord of all and this changes everything.

2. The Bible as a saving narrative – the mission of God. Telling and inviting people into God’s redeeming purposes

3. Church – as an integral part of the gospel, standing in continuity with Israel, God’s kingdom and God’s redemptive purposes for the world, witnessing to who Jesus. [And it is well known that traditional evangelicalism has real struggles fitting ecclesiology in as a necessary part of the ‘plan of salvation’].

4. Transformed life, through the Spirit, in communities of disciples, witnessing to who Jesus is and embodying life within the kingdom of God.

To be clear, Scot is NOT setting these two against one another, as if one is ‘wrong’ and one is ‘right’. And neither is he saying that the traditional evangelical gospel has no place for the characteristics of the ‘gospel culture’.

This is a question of emphasis, of a ‘culture’ of thinking and talking about the gospel, and an argument for a ‘reshuffling of the cards’ to see the gospel in more Jesus focused, big-picture narrative terms rather than ‘me and my personal salvation’ sort of terms.

This is very close to soon to be the ex-Bishop,  N T Wright sort of territory and his argument that the good news is that Jesus is Lord.  See here for an example of this sort of discussion between John Piper and N T Wright reviewed by Trevin Wax.

So a question – what difference might all this make – personally?; in talking about the gospel? in how we see church? in mission?


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