Scot McKnight’s fifth chapter of his brand new book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited asks the question “How did Salvation take over the Gospel?” That certainly is a strange question on the face of it since most of us would have thought prior to reading this little book that the gospel was salvation. But if you’ve been following these posts, you know that Scot is asserting that the apostolic, New Testament gospel is not the same thing as the system of salvation that most of us have assumed.
To this point in the book, Scot has attempted to show a reader that the gospel of Paul and that of the early Christians of the first few centuries of the church was not understood as a plan of personal salvation. For Scot, the earliest Christian creeds and the Rule of Faith reveal an unbroken link with the apostolic gospel of 1 Cor 15.
We have traveled a considerable distance from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in the heart of the first century to Nicea in the fourth century . . . the gospel is the Story of Jesus as the completion of the Story of Israel as found in Scriptures, and that gospel story formed and framed the culture of the earliest Christians (69).
So what happened? Quite simply, the Reformation. While Scot strongly commends the reformers for the message of human response and personal responsibility (he thinks the Reformation was “God-led” and necessary), he sees in their “reframing” of the gospel the seeds of the contemporary reductionism of the gospel to the Plan of Salvation. Neither Luther nor Calvin had a thin gospel Scot says, but with their shift of the gospel story to a story of personal salvation, set the wheel in motion. Putting it sharply he states, “When I read today’s thin and superficial reductions of the gospel to simple points, I know that that could have never happened apart from the Reformation” (71). Add 18th to 20th century evangelicalism and American revivalism . . . and, consequently, “today we are losing contact with the gospel culture” (75).
Scot concludes with this prescription, “We need to regain contact with the gospel culture in a way that we do not lose the salvation culture” (76).
Do you see a difference of perspective on the gospel between its presentation in early creeds and the Rule of Faith and today’s usual evangelical articulation?