A whole lot has been written about Scot McKnight’s latest book King Jesus Gospel. We probably don’t need another review of it. Nonetheless, since I received a free copy (in full disclosure) I need to say something . (Again in full disclosure, before I requested a copy, I already knew I would like it. I had a early preview).
I think pretty much everyone knows by now Scot McKnight’s contention that evangelicals equate the word “gospel” with the word “salvation.” Hence, according to McKnight, we evangelicals are really “soterians” not “evangelicals”. According to McKnight, the NT gospel should not and cannot be reduced to “our plan of salvation.”(39). Scot shows in King Jesus Gospel that the gospel according to the NT is best defined out of 1 Corinthian 15. Here the Gospel is the telling of the whole Jesus Story as the completion of the Story of Israel, the lordship of Christ over the whole world. It is the summoning of people to respond to the completion of the promise to Israel in Jesus Christ as Lord. Through the proclamation of the gospel, we are invited to enter into this grand work of God in history in Christ. Out of all this, we are saved and redeemed (here’s where salvation is part of the gospel but not to be equated with the gospel). Without the Story (of Israel), Scot says, there is no gospel (36). So Scot singularly does one thing in this book, he shows how “individual salvation” is part of the wider gospel. It is not the whole gospel. The salvation we as individuals receive is something we receive as we participate in the wider work of God in the world to bring in His Kingdom in and through Jesus Christ. Even this “personal” salvation is much bigger than “justification by faith” although it certainly includes that!
Scot does a good job unfurling this gospel as it appears in the Bible focusing on the apostle Paul’s 1 Cor 15, the four gospels themselves and the preaching of the apostles in the book of Acts. He gives his quick take (and it is a quick one) on how the gospel culture of the first three centuries turned into what we have now, a salvation culture obsessed with individual salvation and getting people out of hell into heaven. It is all nicely done
I think this is a landmark book because it summarizes and communicates the important issues of New Perspective, NT Wright and the Kingdom/Paul debate for everyday Christian life in a way the average adult Christian can grab hold of. That’s a feat! I have been trying to teach New Perspective on Paul, NT Wright on God’s “making all things right,” for years. I have been trying to teach how the gospel is not an either/or – kingdom or justification. It is bigger than both and includes both. This book does what I couldn’t do. My student’s light bulbs have been going on this quarter and they are using this book with elders in their churches.
Of course, if there is one lack here in McKnight’s book, it is the thin offering on ecclesiology at the end of the book (ch.10). To me, the redescribing of the gospel according to the New Testament changes how we gather as a people in the world. It changes the way we “proclaim the gospel” at Sunday gathering, “proclaim the gospel as witness in our everyday lives”, how we engage everyday life as the places where God is at work to complete His Mission, how we pray and how we inhabit the world in Mission, how people are baptized into the kingdom (we return to some of the ancient rites). It’s probably too much to ask, but the last chapter on “Creating a Gospel culture” leaves us asking for much more. But this is a short book. I chalk it up to that.
So, all this leaves me with the one question that headlines this blog post. Has the Gospel Coalition caved in all of this? These friends, who have taken on the name “Gospel” and sought a re-invigoration of it (“the gospel”) as “justification by faith,” seem largely absent in challenging McKnight’s book. There are some good reviews out there by Reformed types. Michael Horton, for instance basically argues (here) with Scot over the innocence of Luther and Calvin on the individualizing of salvation. He himself seems to fall into the trap of saying McKnight is marginalizing “salvation” as the forgiveness of sins (just like many seem to accuse NT Wright of). See McKnight’s response here. But Horton is a classical Reformed theologian. He’s not in the Gospel Coalition/Neo-Reformed camp. Where are the serious disagreements from the Gospel Coalition/Neo Reformed bloggers? Even Neo-Reformed blogger Trevin Wax seems to demure to McKnight by subordinating (unintentionally?) “salvation” into part of what God has accomplished in Christ’s Kingship over the world. Is this not what Trevin is saying when he says here “I see the announcement of 1 Corinthians 15 as the gospel presentation by which we are being saved.” But even aside from Trevin, where is John Piper, Al Mohler, or Don Carson in response to this book? (I couldn’t find reviews by them?) Why the silence?
So my question is: is this silence real? (I could have missed some reviews – please help me here) Or maybe, just maybe, has Scot McKnight done the impossible? Has Scot given us the bridge to bring together – the “NT Wright-ests” with the “John Piper-ites”? – for a re-invigoration of the gospel of the Kingdom in our times? Is this what is happening? or am I hearing crickets chirping in “the Gospel Coalition camp? Just asking