In The King Jesus Gospel, it seems to me that Scot is really appealing for an individual and church culture to be shaped by a biblical theology. The gospel is God’s good news. The ‘mission of God’ works itself out in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel is the makes sense of and fulfils the whole biblical narrative. It is not to be reduced to an atomised sort of systematic theology that focuses in on one (admittedly crucial) point in that story and boils it down to being about one thing – personal salvation.
So Scot’s argument is for people to ‘move on’ from simple (perhaps simplistic) understandings of the gospel to a more holistic biblical framework – especially to see how the story of Jesus can only be rightly interpreted through the lens of the OT and the story of Israel. And as this is done, the text ‘comes alive’ in lots of ways as layers of meaning are uncovered.
Now at one level this is simply good exegesis done within a framework of biblical theology and it comes with time – time to read, learn, be taught, and grow in appreciation of the layered symbolism and numerous inter-related biblical themes swirling around the NT – which is after all an extended theological reflection of the OT in light of the coming of Jesus the Messiah.
But for this approach to flourish at a personal and church level, there needs to be an intentionality about teaching and unpacking and learning the story of the Bible. I think this is the thrust of what he means by building a ‘gospel culture’.
A personal note here of how this has worked out in my experience: I’ve been a Christian over 30 years. I give thanks for a beginning and nurturing within a warm hearted evangelical community – a community and a theological way of being that I remain actively (and not uncritically) committed to. I haven’t emerged from a narrow fundamentalist upbringing and felt the need to reject my past.
But the more I have gone on as a Christian the more and more the Bible has ‘come alive’ to me as I’ve appreciated more and more how each part fits within the overall narrative of ‘the mission of God’. It’s an approach to the gospel, Gospels, Jesus and the whole biblical story that I’ve found both exciting and liberating.
Exciting because it has helped me better understand the whole biblical narrative and how the gospel is glorious good news right down at the personal level and right up to the cosmic level. It has helped me better put together creation, fall, Israel, Messiah, cross, resurrection, kingdom, church, Spirit and new creation and has, I hope, helped a lot of my preaching and teaching.
And so multi-layered is this narrative that the NT writers seem to fall over themselves in offering different images and themes to explain its significance.
Liberating because it has helped me see afresh how Jesus is the good news. I taught a class on Christology last term and it has hit me afresh how relentlessly and joyfully Jesus-centered the NT is (while never detaching this from his relationship with the Father and the Spirit).
Despite my positive evangelical upbringing, the gospel was still pretty much a deductive argument made about our sinfulness and God’s holiness. You have broken God’s holy law = you are a sinner = Jesus died your death = decision for Jesus = forgiveness of sins = new life of loving God and loving others (especially through evangelism).
But somewhere the Jesus-centered narrative of the Bible (Israel, kingdom, second Adam etc) gets diminished (not denied), as does the Jesus-centered purpose of the gospel (to conform his disciples into his likeness through the Spirit), as does the King Jesus-centered eschatological ‘end of the story’.
Do you agree that too much of evangelicalism unintentionally sidelines Jesus?
What has been your ‘gospel journey’?
2 thoughts on “The King Jesus Gospel (3): my ‘gospel journey’”
In a training we do at my church, we do the following exercise: we put up three big boards that people can write on, often each on a different wall of the room. On the first board we put something on the top like “Man is Sick” or “Experiences of Brokenness.” We basically ask folks to pray and think about and put up on the board various outgrowths and experiences of evil’s influence and presence in the world.
After we’ve done that, we begin the second board and title it “The Age to Come” or “The kingdom of God” or what have you. And we invite folks to pray and put up features of the kingdom in its fullness.
Lastly, in the middle board, we ask folks to put up the activities of Jesus. What did Jesus do with the authority of God?
Then we invite folks to see the clear and logical connections. We also introduce the evangelical notion of “salvation” and contrast it with the much larger NT usage of the term. We’ve reduced the notion of “salvation” to one slice of it. We’ve thereby reduced Jesus’ mission. We’ve thereby reduced our own. Jesus came to destroy the Devil’s work. He only do that at the cross.
We begin to talk about being ‘holisitic’ in our conceptions of God’s work. We talk about Jesus’ works as not being there merely to prove his divinity. There were also very real revelations of God’s heart and agenda. We start to talk about Jesus’ activity as more about God’s Kingdom than about proving Jesus was the 2nd person of the Trinity. These are things that Jesus, the man, did via the Spirit, at the leading of the Father.
We (evangelicals) do need a bigger picture of the gospel, a bigger picture of Jesus (one shaped by the first and last halves of the gospels), and thereby a bigger picture of God’s ongoing mission via the Spirit & Church.
thanks T, our church is having a retreat soon and that sounds like a great way of engaging people to think and pray about those connections …