As I recently made known, we started up a series on the kingdom of God at Cornerstone this past Sunday (the audio and notes can be found at this link). And, though I had originally planned to purchase and read Scot McKnight’s newest release, The King Jesus Gospel, I had thought I would do it at some point down the road. Yet I decided to go ahead and get the book this week, believing it would be able to give some more insight into the gospel of the kingdom as I prepared my messages.
Hence, this week I purchased the book and have read about a third of it so far. The reason I held back at first is that, from what I can tell by reading other’s blogs about some of the book’s central points, I believe I was already on a similar page to McKnight. And I reckoned a lot of what he says has already been addressed by such New Testament studies pillars as N.T. Wright and George Ladd.
But, again, noting my recent preaching series that has begun, and also knowing I really like McKnight’s approaches to biblical studies and theology, I decided to purchase the book sooner rather than later. It has proved a good and stirring read thus far.
One thing that constantly came out in the early chapters of the book is how, even though we identify ourselves by the term evangelicals, we have actually been more soterians (salvationists) rather than evangelicals (proclaimers of the evangel-good news). Of course, McKnight does not and will not back away from the reality that people must be personally born again to see the kingdom of God. But he questions whether our focus on the plan of salvation and personal salvation has actually eclipsed a faithful understanding and proclaiming of the gospel as found upon the lips of Jesus and the first apostles.
I believe the word gospel has been hijacked by what we believe about “personal salvation,” and the gospel itself has been reshaped to facilitate making “decisions.” The result of this hijacking is the word gospel no longer means in our world what it originally meant to either Jesus or the apostles. (p26)
And later on he states:
I am convinced that because we think the gospel is the Plan of Salvation, and because we preach the Plan of Salvation, as the gospel, we are not actually preaching the gospel. To make this more serious, what we are in most need of today, especially with a generation for whom the Plan of Salvation doesn’t make instinctive sense, is more gospel preaching that sets the context for the Plan of Salvation (p40)
Though many associate the gospel, the good news, with personal salvation or justification, these are not actually the gospel. Of course, they are the fruit of faithful proclamation and response to the evangel. But they are not inherently the gospel.
And McKnight reiterates what Tom Wright had already said in his book, What Saint Paul Really Said (which I was, oddly enough, already reading):
I am perfectly comfortable with what people normally mean when they say “the gospel.” I just don’t think it is what Paul means. In other words, I am not denying that the usual meanings are things that people ought to say, to preach about, to believe. I simply wouldn’t use the word “gospel” to denote these things.
And so McKnight begins to lay out what he sees the gospel as – the fulfilment of the story of Israel in the Messiah-Jesus. But I will share more later on in a more complete follow-up review of the book.
Having said all this, so far, this book has proven to be a good read. And I think it is time that evangelicals start to rethink just what the evangel truly is all about.