24 April 2012

king jesus gospel 3

Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).

[My plan here is to take a series of posts to interact and respond to the book's content, rather than offering a more traditional review.  I will be jumping over things and not taking the time to cover all of of the points.]

One of the challenges presented in this book is that modern evangelical understandings of gospel are inaccurate, or lacking, in regards to the whole of the message.  We are off-track in our implementation of gospel, and the entire culture of the church is being deeply affected by this flaw.  Hence, McK sets out to right the ship and, in so doing, trace the history of the message in order to discover how things became so different than what Scripture presents.  He begins this part of the journey with the gospel as found in Paul, before moving into the tradition of the church (i.e., the creedal affirmations), and then surveys Scripture again through the Gospels and Acts (These areas comprise the central portion of the book.)

To set out properly on the course (see the opening vignette for intended pun), "The best place to begin is the one place in the entire New Testament where someone actually comes close to defining the word gospel.  First Corinthians 15 is that place" (46, emphasis original).  Thus, the discussion centers upon The Apostolic Gospel of Paul.

McK sets out eight observations about 'the Gospel of Paul' and I will not recount each of them here.  Taken from 1 Corinthians 15, he emphasizes that which is distinct about Paul's defining of gospel.  There is a summary of the death and resurrection of Jesus (vv. 3-5) that form the heart of gospel according to Paul (and this type of summary will be quite important as the journey continues).  Thus said, "The gospel is the story of the crucial events in the life of Jesus Christ.  Instead of 'four spiritual laws,' which for many holds up our salvation culture, the earliest gospel concerned four 'events' or 'chapters' in the life of Jesus Christ" (49).  These four chapters, taken from the text: Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ was raised, Christ appeared.

This leads to the immediate conclusion: ". . . the gospel is to announce good news about key events in the life of Jesus Christ" (50, emphasis mine).

In very similar vein to Wright's, How God Became King, McKnight here places gospel, as the story of Jesus, as the story of Israel's fulfillment (see esp. 50-51).  Thus, he asserts that salvation - which is that singular part of the gospel message which has outweighed (McK), outblasted (the Bishop), or overshadowed (:mic) the whole of gospel - flows from the fuller understanding of gospel.  That is, ". . . salvation - the robust salvation of God - is the intended result of the gospel story about Jesus Christ that completes the Story of Israel in the Old Testament" (51, emphasis mine).

The repeated theme that comes up here is that the gospel is a story of Jesus that is complete, more than a story about his death and resurrection . . . and even more than his story in a vacuum - it is the complete story of God's salvation, from the beginning (again, this will be unpacked as the book goes forward).  Paul consistently does this (McK begins to widen from 1 Corinthians 15), and begins to lay a foundation for presenting gospel, either in summary or sermon.

Importantly for us to remember, "There is a Person at the very core of the gospel of Paul, and until that Person is put into the center of centers in Paul's gospel, we will not comprehend his - scratch that - the apostles' gospel accurately.  The gospel Story of Jesus Christ is a story about Jesus as Messiah, Jesus as Lord, Jesus as Savior, and Jesus as Son" (55, emphasis original).  One of the primary ways we have lost the heart of the gospel message, and therefore have lost the kingdom of God from the church, and the king of that kingdom, is because we have turned events into the center of the faith rather than the person who is at the center of all things, especially the faith.

Here I enter my perspective, beyond that which McK writes in this chapter: I am reminded of a challenge which, for many years, has been given to the prosperity preachers and those who seek health-and-wealth-gospels: "Do you come for love of the King, or for love of what is on the King's table?"  Indeed, this could rightly be said to evangelicals who have not fallen in love with Jesus as Messiah as much as they have fallen in love with their own salvation based upon the death and resurrection of Jesus.  By losing the larger narrative we have certainly opened a way for self-satisfaction and egocentrism to distort our world: we have taken our place in the center of a spiritualized story which emphasizes self rather than subjecting all things in heaven and on earth to the Creator.  This, I would suppose, has become evangelicalism's greatest flaw.

McK gives a good conclusion to this portion of the discussion, "One thing is clear and certain: the story will end with God the Father being God for all and in all and through all, and his Son will be glorified as the One through whom God is glorified" (56, emphasis original).

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