The Gospel Today

Most people understand the gospel today along the following lines: God created us and that God is loving and holy; we are made as image bearers and sinned; God is therefore both for us and against us; God resolved our dilemma by sending his Son, Jesus, into the world to die in our place, suffer our punishment, and to forgive us of our sins; if we believe (some add repent) we will be reconciled to God, can experience a transformed life now and will spend eternity with God.

In my recent book, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, I call the above paragraph the “soterian” gospel. The Greek word for salvation is soteria and, because that gospel is framed as the plan for personal salvation, I call it the “soterian” gospel. Before I take another step into this sticky wicket I want to say that those statements are biblically justifiable and they are part of what the Bible says about salvation but …

My big contention today is that the soterian gospel is not what the New Testament means by “gospel.” It is only a part of the New Testament gospel, and it ends up swallowing the Story. Let me explain.

In reading the New Testament texts that actually tell us what the gospel is, we discover that the soterian gospel is not what the Bible means by gospel. The fundamental biblical texts are 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul overtly tells us he is passing on the one and only apostolic gospel; the second set of texts is the gospel as found in the gospeling sermons in Acts. There are seven of them (Acts 2, 3, 4, 10-11, 13, 14, 17) and I would emphasize two of them as the fullest examples (Act 2, 10-11, one to Jews and one to a Gentile). The third place to find the meaning of the “gospel” is The Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament. They were called “The Gospel [not Gospels] according to…” because they were the only gospel anyone knew.

The soterian gospel and the apostolic gospel are framed differently; the soterian gospel frames everything by elements by elements in the doctrine of salvation. The apostolic gospel frames the gospel as Israel’s Story coming to fulfillment in Jesus as King (Messiah) and Lord who saves. Hence, one frames things as the plan for personal salvation; the other frames things as a Story come to its completion/fulfillment in Jesus who saves. So, let’s speak of the Soterian gospel and the Story gospel.

This difference before us is not a choice between Salvation or Story. Some have suggested that in the King Jesus Gospel book I need to be more balanced. Really? There is a profound imbalance in the soterian gospel because it is only salvation and no Story and it is a gospel that is not the same as found in 1 Cor 15 etc, while the Story gospel of King Jesus has both Story and salvation and fits with 1 Cor 15 etc.. The balance of the Bible can only be recovered by re-framing the gospel around the Story that finds its way to Jesus.

So let’s be clear here: the options are (1) the soterian gospel of Salvation without Israel’s Story framing it or (2) the Story gospel that saves. Or, salvation with no story or Story with salvation.  Which one is more biblical? That’s the only question that really matters. All I’m asking is to look at your gospel and look at 1 Cor 15, the sermons in Acts, and the Gospels and see if it is the same as that gospel.

My contention is that the soterian gospel’s reduction to four or five points cannot be found in the Bible as the gospel and eliminates or ruins the Bible’s Story as central to the gospel. Perhaps some of that Story comes up in passing and in discussion by the evangelist, but the soterian gospel is not shaped by the Bible’s Story but by the need for an individual sinner to be saved in order to escape God’s wrath.

A point then of emphasis: we are not talking about simply tweaking or upgrading or improving the soterian gospel by adding Story. We are not saying the soterian gospel just happened to forget the Story. We are talking about a massive reorientation by rethinking all we do through the Story gospel — through 1 Cor 15, Acts and the Gospels. We are talking about a revolutionary way of reading the Bible and doing theology and church through the lens of the original gospel. We are contending the soterian gospel is not what the NT means by gospel.

Read 1 Corinthians 15 etc and ask what it means for gospeling.

Yes, I’m fully aware how disorienting this can be to some, but what is more healthy for the church? To recover and to feast on the Bible’s gospel, which is the Story of King Jesus, Lord and Savior, or the soterian gospel that doesn’t even need the Bible’s Story to hold it together?

The soterian gospel is everywhere, and I see it in Evangelism Explosion and in Cru’s four spiritual laws and in the Bridge Illustration, and sometimes there’s more about the love of God et al, and I see it most articulately in Greg Gilbert’s book, What Is the Gospel? (9Marks). Gilbert’s four major themes in his gospel are: God as the righteous creator, Man as sinner, Christ as Savior, and the human response in faith and repentance. From this flows the kingdom and sanctification, etc. But I’m convinced this soterian gospel is not what the NT means by gospel. Salvation, yes, flows out of the Story gospel but the plan for personal salvation and the gospel are not one and the same thing. How one frames the gospel is what matters most because it reveals God and God’s intent for this world.

Here’s a chart that shows the differences between these two, and the only real question is this: Which one fits what 1 Cor 15 and Acts say? I have chosen to use (last line) the term “Salvation” vs. “Kingdom” to emphasize the bigness of life under Jesus the King vs. personal salvation, but I’d be more than happy to say the Kingdom entails a robust Salvation. So, I’ll avoid that discussion today. I want to emphasize that the soterian gospel aims at personal salvation while the Story gospel aims at kingdom and it includes personal, individual salvation. This is not the false choice of individual vs. corporate, but individual vs. individual/corporate. The difference between the two is substantial, even revolutionary.

Compare the two. Do you see the massive differences? One only speaks to how I can get saved while the other tells me something about Jesus that saves (me).

My belief is that the soterian gospel takes one clause of 1 Corinthians 15 and re-frames the whole in light of that one clause.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.

Thus, for our sins is used to re-shape the Story of Jesus into the plan for personal salvation. Thus …

He died for our sins according to the Scriptures
he was buried
he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
and he appeared…

… becomes:

God
Humans as sinners
Christ as Savior
Humans respond in faith and repentance.

Here’s what we need to think about: Is the Story gospel that saves more faithful to the NT than the soterian gospel? If so, we need to be reformed and always reforming. We can begin today.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • John C

    The reason this is a ‘massive reorientation’ is that it suggests that the Protestant Reformation didn’t fully recover the NT Gospel. The Gospel of modern Evangelicals is still a Reformation Gospel. And you’re implying that the Reformers preoccupation with personal salvation (a late medieval obsession) obscures a good deal of the Gospel. There’s a strong case for saying that the Reformers never really did justice to the Gospels or James (since they saw the Gospel at its clearest in Romans, Galatians).

    There is, of course, a third option you don’t mention, but which is increasingly popular: The Story minus personal salvation. The assumption here is that since everyone (or almost everyone) will be saved in the end, the point of Gospel preaching is not to ‘get people saved’ from hell but to bring in the kingdom of justice and peace.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Great time yesterday, and excellent talk by Scot, even if it left me reeling. I posted both from this post, from that, and from my reading in the book (I’m not finished yet with that. http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/better-understanding-the-gospel/

  • http://paceebene.org/user/8 jarrod McKenna

    Scot I’m so impressed but you are slightly off.

    I’m not talking about your theology but the use of “sticky wicket” ;)

    U step onto the cricket pitch not into but I’m still impressed. :) We are in New Zealand & I am finding TKJG so helpful in my interactive workshops on the Biblical Narrative & our Ecological Crisis. I’ve been asked to present this in Durban at COP17 so if your sales go up in NZ and South Africa… that’s why. ;)

    Thanks for your work and witness. Love to Kris.
    Jarrod

  • http://brianmetzger.blogspot.com/ Brianmpei

    I think we’re at a time that it is crucial we recover the story gospel. I also think the church story will fight it every step of the way. It is far harder to live with King Jesus than it is to live with Saviour Jesus. The demands of Kingdom living are far more encompassing than church living. The church can sanctify my little constructs. The Kingdom demolishes them.

  • John Dickson

    Funny how the truth sounds heretical sometimes.

  • Greg M

    Scot,

    I am really enjoying the book and agree with your premise that we should have a more robust gospel by taking our cue from the NT and the early church.

    Here’s a thought though – every good story has good character development. Perhaps that is where the soterian gospel can supplement (not supplant) the story gospel – filling out the characterization of God and humanity (in addition to the characterization of Jesus, which is accounted for in the story gospel). This characterization is reflected throughout the story in OT and NT (for instance, God as holy).

  • joel

    I appreciate that you’ve written the book. I’ve just started it and am slowly working through it.

    For the last 2-3 years, I’ve gotten the feeling that “something’s wrong” with the gospel as we hear it in most churches. Maybe this will, if nothing else, help define the “something”.

    Thank You

  • http://timmhallman.blogspot.com Tim Hallman

    The soterian gospel seems reductionistic. The soterian gospel is a product of the Enlightenment era, a modernistic working of Scripture and salvation? The Story Gospel is intriguing. I’m currently awaiting the book from Amazon.com. First Love Wins, now this. What to believe? Everything seems to be in flux.

  • Vaughn Treco

    Scot, your post has given expression to a critical aspect if my own spiritual-theological journey… one that has been left mute to a significant degree. I look forward to the fruit of this discussion. The reward cannot help but be for the good of the Church.

  • Jerry S

    Scot, your book arrived just in time for my planned sermon series on “The Story of God” which dealt with understanding the gospel as narrative. I’ve been mulling on these themes for several years from such diverse readings as Michael Lodahl’s “The Story of God”, Robert Webber’s emphasis on worship as telling the story and the writing of Tom Wright, particularly in his book on Justification.

    All that said, much of my Christian life was based on a Soterian approach. The Four Spiritual Laws were ubiquitous in my church circles. My seminary evangelism training program was a Wesleyan adaptation of EE and I taught Navigators discipleship programs for years that emphasized the Bridge. Along the path of 20+ years of ministry I’ve memorized and used the Roman Road, The Jer 2:13 Broken Cisterns illustration and even the “One Verse Evangelism” of Romans 6:23. What I’ve found over the years is that these are not useful in making disciples (note that I say disciples, not decisions). The focus of these presentations is on sin and forgiveness and not the larger issues of discipleship. Where is the emphasis on the resurrection and on Jesus as Messiah and Lord?

    Scot, thank you, thank you, thank you for this book! You have brought many scattered strands of my thinking into an integrated whole. Bless you!

  • Rick

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the book. I appreciate that you include the history of how this soterian gospel developed.

    I do have a “soterian” question though. On page 56, in connection with 1 Cor 15, you wrote,

    “…when we are finally connected to God in this eternal union…”

    What is meant by “finally connected”?

  • Scot McKnight

    Tim, I’m not so sure I’d want to explain the soterian approach through the lens of Enlightenment or Modernity. Yes, there is a pragmatism that comes through both so that we can control things — and the ‘here’s how to get saved’ approach is pragmatic.

    But…

    I see this as a revivalism reduction and, in particular, a way of packaging the gospel in order to precipitate decisions. More needs to be said, but I don’t know that history well and so I avoided writing about it …

  • Scot McKnight

    Rick, in the Eschaton. (“Finally” in the sense of telos/goal of history.)

  • Rick

    Scot-

    Thanks.

  • Taylor G

    What are going to be the theological implications of this reorientation? A change in evangelism? A slightly more optimistic view of what God is up to in the world. I’m curious how this changes the big picture for Christians.

  • http://www.manafo.blogspot.com david

    I’ve grown alot the last few years understanding the Bible as story and seeing Jesus as fulfilling Israel’s vocation. Embracing Grace, Webber’s books, NT Wright, etc.

    Question, with the Story, Jesus, and Salvation so steeped in Israel how can we communicate the gospel and the invitation for EVERYONE to people who aren’t familiar with or don’t grasp Israel’s story.

    I wonder if one of the reasons the Soterian gospel became popular was you didn’t have to fill in the historical blanks.

    THoughts?

  • Jerry S

    Scot,

    I think your chart is helpful.
    The story includes the elements on the left. The holiness/love of God and the sinfulness/beloved of man are shown in the story of Israel.

    It seems you are also saying that a Soterian gospel reduces Jesus to Savior, while the true gospel is much more expansive. Is that right?

  • Scot McKnight

    Taylor G, the theological implications are substantive: instead of a Jesus as Savior (only or mostly etc) gospel we will have a King Jesus (Messiah, Lord, Savior) gospel. The aim will not be decisions, but ushering folks into the kingdom of God, now and in the eschaton. The entire framework of what we see God doing will expand to kingdom proportions. I could go on…

  • Scot McKnight

    david,

    The Story of Israel cannot be restricted to Jewishness or to knowing the OT, but to seeing that God elected Israel (missionally — think Chris Wright) to be a light to the nations to lead the world to glorify God.

    No, the Story of Israel is not the place to begin with evangelism as if we have to do an OT history course first, though it is that Story alone that shows us what gospel is. We begin with Jesus and the OT comes into Jesus and the NT comes out of Jesus … but Jesus is where we focus.

  • Jerry S

    Scot,

    Another point to unpack–the last point of both gospels includes Repent/Believe, but the Story Gospel includes baptism. You mention baptism briefly in the book. I happen to agree with you, but can you unpack it a bit?

    Working with Catholic chaplains, I’ve come to appreciate the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Baptism in a Gospeling context would seem to imply some form of catechumenate. Yes?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I had an ah ha this morning whiile pondering this post and thinking about Benedict’s book.

    In Deut 18:9 and on, Israel is told to not have the types of prophets that they other lands have. They are not to have “anyone who practices divination, 13 an omen reader, 14 a soothsayer, 15 a sorcerer, 16 18:11 one who casts spells, 17 one who conjures up spirits, 18 a practitioner of the occult, 19 or a necromancer.”

    It never occurred to me to contrast that with the role of the prophet in Israel. What this text is saying, is that it is not the role of the prophet in Israel to become a soothsayer. People are to shy away from the ones who try to fortell the future.

    And then, in 18:15 and on, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you – from your fellow Israelites; 23 you must listen to him”. And we know that the role of Moses is definitely not being a soothsayer, his role we learn later is to talk directly to god, to show us the face of god.

    So too with Jesus, the prophet, his role is to show us the face of god, to show us the way. His role is not to be a soothsayer and tell about the future.

    But, given our human desire for security, we want to make Jesus into a soothsayer, someone who will give us the future and show us that it will be OK in the end.

    But that is not the role for Jesus, instead, like Moses, he is to show us the face of god and that will show us the way, the direction, our purpose and goal.

    This is in contrast to the soterian gospel that makes Jesus into a soothsayer so that we somehow feel comforted by what he tells us about the future. But that is not what Jesus said, and it is not the role he plays in the story.

  • Jerry S

    Scot, you advocated using the Church Year as a tool for gospeling. I’ve used the Revised Common Lectionary for several years but I’m excited by the prospects of the Narrative Lectionary which tells the “Story” over the nine month school year. You can see it imformation on this at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/narrative_lectionary.aspx

  • Richard

    Scot,

    In what ways would you differentiate your work here from NT Wright’s work, Tom Holland’s, Christopher Wright’s, Rob Bell’s, or Brian McLaren’s? Even Chuck Colson was nailing the reductionism of the “soterianism gospel” at the Q Conference several years ago when he talked about the Gospel being presented as 2 parts (fall and redemption) when its really 4 parts (creation, fall, redemption, and restoration).

    Not saying your voice isn’t needed here (and fully acknowledging that you have a more irenic voice than Brian and Rob when you write) but I am curious if there are distinctives here for those of us that have been immersed in this the last decade.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    One huge caveat I want to add to my blog posting now. That is according to my understanding. I can’t speak for Scot, LOL.

  • http://www.gplus.to/justinheap Justin

    Hey Scot, definitely loving this whole conversation! One question which often comes up in discussion with friends (and foes, haha) is where does atonement tangibly sit in this conversation?

    In the most simplistic of the “Story Gospel”, where and how do you see atonement coming in to play? Is that something you could unpack a little further here or on the Jesus Creed?

    Thanks so much!

  • Amos Paul

    @1 John C,

    I would contend that this isn’t specifically a Reformation problem. I would contend that the ‘soterian formula’ view of Gospel has been a result of the Western world that, more often than not, views the courtroom or certificate of debt analogies as primary to what Christ did. Indeed, I think that such a framework is emblematic of the officious Roman society that the Catholic church grew up in.

    The Reformers took this framework directly from the Catholic church, but but argued that the ‘formula’ only worked by grace through faith alone. the Catholic church in general didn’t contend with them that they were mis-understanding what the Gospel was. They argued with them based upon what they thought you actually had to do to participate in that soterian Gospel.

    I think that we can look east and see this distinction made clear–that the EO et al focus, rather, on Christus Victor soteriology which is, inherently I think, more story-oriented. That is not to say, however, that I think the Eastern churches have got the Gospel right and the Western wrong… but, rather, that things I think we’ve gotten wrong they’ve generally gotten right. That may very well be a two-way street though. As a wise man once said, it’s better to take the plank out of your own before attempting to take the splinter out of your brother’s :).

  • Scot McKnight

    Justin, I have a post planned to discuss (briefly) atonement.

  • Scot McKnight

    Richard, I am closest to both Wrights! Mine differs significantly from the others (except I don’t know Holland’s work). No one has spelled out the logic of 1 Cor 15 to sermons in Acts to Gospels as I have done, though others have mentioned this. But it hasn’t come home clearly enough to many enough (and too many still think kingdom means little more than justice), so I put my hand to the plow to push this some more.

  • Richard

    I would agree that you are closest to the Wrights. I suppose I should have clarified that your central thesis of evangelicalism presenting a reductionist gospel is a horn that’s been sounding for quite sometime.

    Holland wrote Contours of Pauline Theology around the same time Surprised By Hope (NT) and Mission of God (Christopher) were both released (all three would have filled in blanks for each other if they had been sitting in the same room drinking coffee together). His major contribution is highlighting the ways in which the Gospels and Paul anchor Jesus’ work in Israel’s story as a New Exodus (a theme Bell and Golden picked up subsequently in Jesus Wants to Save Christians).

    This – “No one has spelled out the logic of 1 Cor 15 to sermons in Acts to Gospels as I have done, though others have mentioned this.” – is a massive contribution so thank you for that. In light of that, you might find some intriguing parallels and benefit from engaging with Moltmann.

    Thanks for putting your hand to the plow and not looking back.

  • Jim

    I am loving this conversation. Ironically, I have not read this book but was just developing a series for a retreat beginning with how understanding the “Whole Gospel” needs to be central if we are to be people who bless the world as descendants of Abraham (and fulfill God’s promise to him).

    My biggest issue with the soterian Gospel is how it’s orientation caters to individuals but leaves out the importance of community. If the Gospel is, “Jesus died for my sins and if I have faith I will receive eternal life,” than what purpose is there to try and be agents of change in this world?

    How does atonement fit into this picture? Well, I feel obviously if we are to believe in the whole narrative, we have to see Jesus as King. His death on the cross and resurrection proves His Lordship over all things! This means following Him. Also, I do still believe that He paid the penalty for our sins thus offering us forgiveness and new life. Finally, as He proved to be Lord over death, He also proved Lord over life. He lived perfect and sinless.

    In essence, these three atonement views of Christus Victor, Penal Substitution and Christus Exemplar allow me to live out my part in the narrative now. Without His death and resurrection, He would not have proven His Lordship and obedience and forgiveness.

    Again, I am loving the discussion and blessings to all who are reading!

  • http://www.livingtheology.net Liz VerHage

    Scot – I am enjoying this conversation and see some parallels to other narratives that are currently working to re-stitch the “whole gospel” back together again… Do you think Yoder’s kingly/nation language and thought about the church and Lordship fits with what you’re trying to recover here? I haven’t gotten your book yet and so am curious – Yoder has been my helpful guide for how to see the (biblical) gospel in the midst of worldly stories and evangelical stories that omit parts of the Story. Are there any red flags you have with Yoder? And – a corollary – how do you see the church fitting with this sense of Story as you’re framing it? Maybe this is all covered in your book… gotta go get it. :) I would be VERY interested in thinking about how ecclesiology is affected by both the loss of Story and the move to integrate Story and salvation.

  • http://forestlakebible.com Chris Phillips

    Scot –
    You responded to Taylor G with “The aim will not be decisions, but ushering folks into the kingdom of God, now and in the eschaton.” As a pastor, I am curious to know what you mean by this statement. I think that I know what you mean by “decisions,” but not the rest of the statement – “ushering folks into the kingdom of God.” Do you mean that the church leads the nations to live in light of Jesus’ Kingship (his reigning authority as Lord/Messiah)? Could you explain? Thanks.

  • JHM

    Scot,

    I am honestly not really seeing a big difference between the Soterian Gospel and Story Gospel. To me it looks like the Story Gospel is just putting the Soterian Gospel into more context, filling it out. I have a hard time seeing where it is actually saying anything different. Can you help me out?

    I know I need to get the book but I wondered if you might at some point say a few things as to concretely what the movement from Soterian Gospel to Story Gospel actually means.

  • Amanda F

    Yesssss! As a fellow big big picture thinker, I can’t think of anything more exhilarating than this conversation and its sweeping implications. I agree that Scot’s not the first to bring up the topic (particularly the problems that the individualized soterian gospel creates in lack of discipleship emphasis), his scriptural approach is certainly fresh for our time and I think he’s dead on about both the big picture implications, and the necessity for a reboot, not just a “tacking on” to the weak soterian gospel.
    I think, as Scot communicates, the tricky part is both helping less big-picture thinkers see that this full reboot is necessary, and also emphasising that we’re certainly not talking about taking away personal salvation or “adding on” to salvation in the Galatians sense, which for good reason, people are particularly sensitive about.

    What a phenomenal Story we are living in! I am being swallowed up by it even as this conversation unfolds. Kinda want to go buy a huge white board to start mapping out some of these implications with more details. Keep up the good fight Scot!

  • Matt

    Scot,

    Have you read chapter 4 (“Are We Missing the Whole Gospel?”) in Gilbert and DeYoung’s new book, “What Is the Mission of the Church?” In it, they argue that the NT word “gospel” is used in both a ‘zoom lens’ (i.e., narrow) AND ‘wide angle’ (i.e., cosmic) sense, and show how the two perspectives/usages relate. The meaning of “gospel” in the NT, they demonstrate, is multi-faceted and even multi-perspectival, not flattened and one-dimensional.

    By the way, Gilbert first published these ideas in the 2008 T4G volume, “Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology” (see Addendum, pp. 121-131). I commend that chapter to you if you haven’t read it. I think you’ll be surprised at how nuanced and, yes, balanced it is.

    I’d be curious to hear your take, as I haven’t seen you comment on either of these chapters.

    Thanks, Scot!

  • http://www.CollegeTransitionInitiative.com Derek Melleby

    Perhaps another missing piece is that we are reading the Biblical text (the True story of the world) as Gentiles. For those of us who aren’t Jewish, this isn’t “our story.” When approaching the text that way, “the Gospel” starts with Creation (and/or Jesus, but they are so closely connected). I think that’s what Paul is up to in Acts 17, Romans 1 and elsewhere.

    So then the question becomes “how is it that I am now included in this story?” Well, the answer is “Good News” indeed and seems to be the central concern of Paul’s epistles. In other words, I think we need to put ourselves in the position to ask the kinds of questions that the NT is addressing. And, when we do, so much of the Bible begins to “make sense” in a much more meaningful way than the “soterian gospel.” Of course, the Bible is so mysterious and profound; I want to be careful in trying to develop a schema that “makes sense” of all of it. But the “story Gospel” does seem to be a more faithful reading.

  • Dan Arnold

    Scot,

    I appreciate your bringing the issue of our inadequate representation of the Gospel. You have articulated something I began to recognize when I went through my Systematic Theology classes.

    So here’s my dilemma: For some reason, I find myself frequently in discussions with people who describe themselves as either non-Christians or disconnected from Christianity about what it means to be a Christian. When I talk with these folks about the ideas that you are now bringing out in your book, they find it very attractive. However, they’re not interested in the decision oriented Gospel (and neither am I, for that matter) but they would like to find others with whom they can explore some of this.

    And that’s the problem. I really don’t know of churches where I can point them to that preach the Gospel as you’ve articulated it in your book. Not to mention that many of these discussions are happening with business clients who live in far away states. Scot, what would you suggest in terms of continuing to follow-up with folks like this in our present church culture?

  • Jon G

    Scot! A wonderful post! I can’t wait to get my hands on my signed copy of the book! (thanks btw!)

    Also, to the commentators – this, to me, feels like one of those threads that I’m going to have to print and hold on to. There’s a lot of gold in here that I don’t want to forget. I can almost feel the momentum of the Church changing course…

    Thank you all for engaging this conversation!

  • Jon G

    BTW, Scot -

    You might want to add some tags to this post. Instead of just “Gospel”, I’d add a couple dozen more categories because this changes everything! :-)

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com/ Peter G.

    Or, salvation with no story or Story with salvation.

    Scot, why is there no “salvation with story” option? Or even “salvation as story”?

    In short, I wonder how you would respond to Trevin Wax’s comments that “the reason I think it’s ultimately unhelpful to distinguish between a story gospel and a soterian gospel is because I think the story is soterian, that is, the grand narrative of Scripture is telling us about God’s glory in saving sinners through the cross and resurrection of His Son. The heart of Israel’s story is hope for salvation delivered by the coming Messiah-King.”

    Also, where does new birth figure in your storied Gospel? Is the problem with decisionism that it doesn’t tell the story right or that it often gives a false impression about the nature of new birth (i.e., making it salvation on-demand rather than a work of God).

    Thanks!

  • Scot McKnight

    Peter G,

    The Story Gospel above is Story with salvation, and salvation as story. I contend the soterian gospel does not have the story that we find in 1 Cor 15 or in the Acts sermons.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com/ Peter G.

    Thanks, Scot. I’ll have to think some more about the distinction you’re making. It’s not coming through too clearly to me.

  • scotmcknight

    Peter G., Trevin Wax for instance wants a story of redemption, but that equivocates on what I mean by Story (which means Israel’s Story leading to Jesus as Messiah) and I suspect he means “creation, fall redemption” kind of story, which to me is another form of the soterian approach to the gospel.

    For me, the central theme of gospel is the Story of the Bible that leads to Jesus as Messiah, not the story that leads to my salvation. The soterian approach does not need a Messiah/King or Jesus as Lord, but only a Savior (look at how Gilbert’s chps get “themed”). The Story gospel entails salvation but it’s central focus is a Christ-exalting Story.

  • rjs

    That is interesting Scot.

    Creation, Fall, Redemption is another kind of soterian story because it all hinges on the need for redemption, our individual redemption. I haven’t really thought about this deeply enough yet…

  • Alex

    Scot, I was wondering what you think of approaches to sharing the gospel that equate the good news as the good news of “what Jesus has done for me” and other such approaches that seem to lump together witnessing, evangelizing, and sharing the gospel? Seems to be rooted loosely in Acts 26 and some individual examples within the gospels themselves of, say, John the Baptist or Andrew or whoever ‘witnessing’ to Jesus. This seems to fit in to a Soterian gospel approach – just trying to boil things down to make it easier for people to share something about Jesus. Do you see this much? Is it a distinction we need to clarify? Thanks.

  • http://www.CollegeTransitionInitiative.com Derek Melleby

    Scot –

    Just so we are on the same page here… this is very intriguing, indeed. Are you saying that the Creation, Fall, Redemption motif (as a helpful, but not complete way of understanding the narrative) advocated for by biblical theologians like Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Al Wolters, Bartholomew & Goheen, Walsh & Middleton, and a few others are really just putting forth another way to tell the soterian gospel?

    I understand the shortcomings of this theological tradition and for your perhaps distaste for the Calvinism from which it derived, but it seems that “Creation, Fall, Redemption” is closer to the “Story Gospel.” And, I would argue, that it is because of the writers above (and N.T. Wright) that your “Story Gospel” gets much traction. To me, your gift to the church is that you are fleshing out Creation, Fall, Redemption, providing more context and, frankly, making it more biblical. But you are certainly not doing something “different” than what the above writers have attempted to do using the CFR schema. In other words, it’s hard to read Al Wolters’ “Creation Regained” and conclude the he thinks that the Bible is only about personal salvation?

    I’m not trying to be the theological police here. And I certainly don’t think that reformational/Dutch Calvinism is above reproach, but your statement linking Creation, Fall, Redemption to your misgivings about the “soterian gospel” came across to me as biting the hand that feeds you.

  • Ann

    I would never have thought that the Creation, Fall, Redemption, (and I’d have to add Consummation) would be considered part of the soterian gospel. After reading that, I thought “really?” I’ll have to give this more thought but if that is the case I’m going to have have a lot of work to do rethinking my entire worldview.

  • Joe George

    I think that if the word or activity “arguement” had never existed, 3/4 of today’s scholars (and a fair number of speaking-circuit pastors & teachers) would be out of work.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    A couple of days later… 1 Cor. 15 opens up the life of faith with the resurrection of Christ, in my estimation of that chapter. Barth saw it, in The Resurrection of the Dead, as the crown of the whole epistle. When I was working on my final exegesis of 1 Corinthians with Dr. Russ Spittler, I agreed w/ Barth, but added that 1 Cor. 9 gives the self-emptying prerequisite to 1 Cor. 15. Paul’s message, imho, was to challenge the Corinthians not to live an “empty” faith – Greek words in 1 Cor. 15 for “vain”/”empty” correspond to the words for false idols substituted for “names” in the LXX. So, as far as behavior went, from Paul’s teaching, we can either embody true faith or no faith, at all. I grew to love and appreciate our brother, Paul, through this epistle. Lifting one verse out of that epistle just seems to end up emptying the gospel of too much action Paul called for, imho. I.e., there’d better be a good story filling up that verse! :)

  • Steve Kolk

    Scot, I enjoyed meeting you in Wichita where I also bought this new book of yours. Thanks for signing it, but more than that thank you for stirring up my passion to grasp the whole gospel. For your book has got me started on taking up the challenge of answering “What is the gospel?” After finishing my first read-through, I am now taking up your challenge of answering that question by turning to the New Testament beginning at 1st Corinthians 15.

    And some words you wrote about that chapter jump out at me. On page 51 you wrote “We must say something vitally important to preserving a gospel culture: Paul does not articulate how Jesus’ death did something ‘for our sins’ He only tells us that Jesus actually died ‘for our sins.’”

    For me it seems Paul does answer this question in 1Cor 15. At the very least Paul gives us great big clues to how he himself would answer the question ‘How did Jesus die for our sins?’ In verses 43 through 49, especially verse 45, Paul describes the effects of sin on the bodies we all live in and got through our blood line back to Adam.

    Unpacking these verses does and can I think give us Paul’s answer. I learned of this from a hard to find book titled “Psychology of Redemption” by Oswald Chambers. And your new book stirred up my remembrance of that book which expounds much more on this. What I learned from that book is how Jesus life and death as the second Adam restores us from the sin we all inherit from the first Adam. Essentially we are given a new innocence of the spirit to help us deal with sin in a new way. That’s my pale, brief recap of what I learned from 1Cor 15 from that book.

    In wrapping up my thoughts here, my point is this: I agree with you that 1Cor 15 is a great place to start to answer “What is the gospel?” More to the point Could we not? Should we not unpack ALL of the truth from ALL of the f15th chapter of 1st Corinthians to give a full answer to “What is the gospel?”


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