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’?