My very good friend and colleague Scot McKnight, recently hailed my no less than Tom Wright as “one of the most powerful and able New Testament scholars on the American scene–and, in a measure, on the world scene”, is about to drop an atomic bomb in the middle of the already besieged city of American evangelicalism.
While others have offered reassessments of the evangelism strategies and Evangelical theology, no one yet has written an argument definitive and forceful enough to create a paradigm shift, a New Perspective on the Gospel. Scot may very well have done this with his new book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited.
Tom Wright is certainly correct when he wrote in the forward: “The revolution Scot is proposing is massive–so massive that I doubt whether any of his colleagues, and certainly not this writer, will at once agree with every detail”. Still, I think this is a book that is essential reading for every pastor, youth worker, campus ministry leader and indeed every committed Christ follower. We should never take the “gospel” for granted. Our understanding of the gospel, our gospel caricature, should habitually be submitted to the light of Bible’s witness. There are too many examples in the history of the church to take for granted that “we have it right”.
Here’s the central issue Scot is tackling in the book, and its one that has been a perennial discussion since at least the time that I’ve been an adult Christian: Evangelism as a call to decision versus evangelism as a call to a life of discipleship. The former has led to the problem of having “The Decided” in our pews who are yet “The Discipled”. According to Scot, this problem has been created by our “Plan of Salvation” gospel theology. While in no way downplaying the need for a decisive action as a first step, Scot argues that the biblical gospel must be defined such that the end goal is not only or singularly “personal salvation” from sin, but salvation from sin so to participate in God’s epic story of world rescue.
Does Scot’s concern resonate with you?