The King Jesus Gospel (3): my ‘gospel journey’

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’?

Comments, as ever, welcome.

The King Jesus Gospel (2) Building a gospel culture

In the final chapter of The King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight proposes some ways the church can develop what he calls a ‘gospel culture’.

i. Become people of the story: letting the story of Jesus become our story. That Christians live and shape their lives (their individual story) around the mission and identity of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and risen Lord.

ii. This means engaging and reading and soaking in the Gospels, and gradually seeing more and more how the story of Jesus is built upon and fulfils the story of Israel. He also suggests adopting a church calendar in that it is structured around the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and return of Jesus.

iii. Seeing the rest of the NT as a continuing story of Jesus in and through his body, the church. And being an active part of that story within Jesus’ church.

iv. Engaging with the ongoing story of Jesus through his church in history – knowing and valuing the Creeds, the great Reformation confessions, or more modern ones like Lausanne Covenant and Manila Manifesto – dunno why 2010 Cape Town Commitment not mentioned, esp since Scot loves it.

v. Engaging with, resisting and countering other false stories that claim too much. Contemporary stories like individualism, consumerism, nationalism, moral relativism, scientific naturalism and so on.

vi. Embracing the story personally: to be shaped by the gospel story is to believe, repent, and be baptised into the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. It is to be converted and empowered by the Spirit. This gospel culture summons people to a life of prayer and a love for and embrace of Christ’s church. A gospel culture will be marked by the kinds of things Jesus does – other directed service and love.

What do you make of his suggestions?

Seems to me that a pretty key question is how different or distinct in actual praxis is this ‘gospel culture’ from a ‘soterian culture’?

If your Christian faith has been re-shaped by the sort of gospel culture that McKnight describes, what has this looked like in practice? What difference has it made?

(I hope to reflect on my own ‘gospel journey’ on Monday.)

Edit – forgot this bit

And just to show that I’m not an uncritical acolyte 😉 – one thing I think a greater emphasis could have been given to is eschatology. Our place in the story is to look forward to its culmination. Christianity is eschatology. The church essentially is an ‘eschatological community’. How many churches think of themselves like that?! Why not? Because of a failure of seeing themselves within the bigger story – this time the ultimate story of God’s eschatological purposes. Therefore this future looking hope needs to be built into the fabric of any ‘gospel culture’.