Scot McKnight’s final chapter in his new book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited begins with a brilliant analogy. He tells of visiting a site in Ireland while giving lectures there called Newgrange. I’ve been to Ireland, but never there. Newgrange is famous because it has what appears to be a 5000 year old burial site. However, no one really knows what it means. Who put it here and for what reason? What is its meaning? We have an artifact, but no interpretation. On that same day, after lunch Scot relates that he and Kris visited another site, this time the late fifth-century monastery Monasterboice known for the Muiredach Cross, an 18 ft. high cross. The cross, another artifact of history, but this object has an interpretation. The cross without the interpretation would be not much different from the burial site at Newgrange. But we know what it means. The cross’s interpretation is the gospel. Scot makes this point: “the gospel is Jesus’ and the apostle’s interpretation of the story of Life” (148).
Here’s Scot’s summary of the gospel. The gospel is:
- framed by Israel’s Story: the narration of the saving Story of Jesus as the completion of the Story of Israel
- centers on the lordship of Jesus
- involves summoning people to respond
- saves and redeems (132-33)
The gospel’s presentation cannot simply be reduced to a handful of points that can be communicated in a few short minutes according to Scot. The gospel is the story from creation to new creation, from creation to consummation. In a few pages Scot sketches out the gospel presentation. I’ll adapt his sketch here.
Like all presentations it begins in Genesis. But rather than focusing on the individual and his or her broken relationship with God, Scot begins with humanity as a entity. Humanity has sinned. They have “usurped” God’s governing authority. Instead of acting as his representatives, they attempted to separate themselves from him and run the show. The gospel the announcement of God’s solution to the problem of a usurping humanity who deserves death. This salvation solution runs through the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and Joshua, Saul, David and Solomon and the Zerubbable, Judas Maccabee and John Hyrcanus. The story comes to is mid-point in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth the son of Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ public ministry, his arrest, his death on a Roman cross, his resurrection, and ascension as the Lord and King of this world. It continues in the and through the assembly of Messiah, the church, who as individuals hear the gospel, repent of their usurpation, entrust themselves to Messiah, and then together embody the Messiah to the world by the indwelling of the Spirit. The story’s end, although in one sense its new beginning, is the return of the King and of the coming of the new heavens and new earth.
Scot insists that as soon as we attempt to reduce the story to a sound bite or a napkin or note card we’re already off track.
Do you agree or disagree? Do you agree that it is unbiblical in communicating the gospel to reduce it to anything less than the full story? Or do you think there’s biblical support for the common abbreviation the gospel’s story to the individual element of that story (I mean the element of me and my relationship to God) so as to allow for brief articulation?