The Gospel and Fantasy Christians

Stan Friedman interviewed me about The King Jesus Gospel, and I’m clipping one part. You can read the full interview here.

How have evangelicals made the gospel too human-centric?

The point is this [gospel] is a story about Jesus and we’ve made it into our personal happiness plan.

It’s like when we root for our favorite sports team. When I watch the Bears, I root for the Bears because I want them to do well, not because of something I will get out of it. But some people watch the Bears only to see if their players are going to score fantasy points so their teams can win. That is what I think we have become.

We have become fantasy Christians. We see ourselves vested in certain elements so that when those elements do well we feel good. We don’t care about what’s going on in the pages of the Bible except to the degree that it satisfies what we want to get out of the Bible.

An example is the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan. It’s been converted into a lesson about what we have to do to face temptation. I’m sure such lessons are all good but that is not the point of the text. The point is to see something cool about Jesus. I have often told my students and audiences that when we’re done reading this narrative, we should stand up and clap for Jesus for his obedience. We can see that unlike Israel, Jesus was 100 percent obedient. The implication of that is Jesus was sinless and that we have a sinless Savior.

The first thing we read the Bible for should not be to find out something for me. Our first thing is to be absorbed in the story and glory in the fact that Jesus is the king and our champion.

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.

  • Randall

    I love your analogy using fantasy sports fans. It puts into words the ‘off-ness’ of how we are oftentimes conditioned to read scripture. The temptation to insert ourselves anywhere and everywhere indiscriminately in scripture passages has caused me to get so much confused in days gone by. Thanks, your correction on the way I’ve read scripture has changed our home, albeit sometimes painfully but needed as well.

    In some of the church culture I have participated in Jesus seemed to be little more than a mascot rather than our reason for being.

  • Jerry Sather

    Scot,

    I think you are spot-on regarding the temptation story. Too often we make it into a guide for how WE can overcome temptation. It becomes a moral influence story and I admit that I’ve used it and taught it this way myself. In fact, it is the opening battle in a series of battles that Jesus will fight with the enemy. It isn’t about us except in the sense that it was FOR us. It’s about Jesus, the conflict against the evil powers and the victory God will accomplish though our Lord Christ.

    As you’ve already mentioned, this is a key element in Tom Wright’s Simply Jesus.

  • http://www.chuckroberts.blogspot.com/ Chuck Roberts

    Scot, you are the master of analogies. Great one regarding fantasy sports teams.

    Thanks!

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    So we shouldn’t look to the gospels to learn to be more like Jesus? Whew! That’ll make things much easier. Thanks!

  • T

    Great point, Scot.

    I have to say that every so often, thankfully not very often, I learn something that affects so many facets of my life and thinking that it’s obviously changed my paradigm. Your KJG thesis has been that kind of a thing. I think I was close to agreement with your thesis even before I read it, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the backbone reasons why that you have provided, which adds a lot of fuel to the fire.

    Ever since you started openly discussing the ideas here, I’ve been more powerfully drawn to Jesus’ own story. I’m listening to Acts via the Bible Experience, and it’s hitting me so differently. Same with Philippians, and all the letters. I’m leading worship and hungering for more Christological lyrics and songs. I’m with my family or clients and wondering how I’m really living Jesus’ story (the gospel) or not with them. I’m wondering how much of Jesus’ story I’ve given to my girls in word and deed. And on it goes. It’s getting kind of hard to contain. Just so you know, I blame you at least in significant part. :D

    “Share all good things with your instructor.” So, thank you.

  • T

    ChrisB,

    I don’t think that Scot is arguing that Jesus isn’t our example and that his example has tremendous implications about how we can and should live. Rather, he’s saying that the “first thing” about the gospels isn’t those implications; the first thing is about Jesus.

  • http://www.internetmonk.com chaplain mike

    Like the analogy very much.

  • John W Frye

    ChrisB #4, I am with T on your knee-jerk response to this clip from Scot. Scot did say and I’m sure you read it, “I’m sure such lessons are all good but that’s not the point…” So, Scot did not say we “shouldn’t look to the Gospels to learn to be like Jesus.”

  • Scot McKnight

    Thanks T.
    Thanks John.

  • http://friendedbyChrist.com Tim

    This is great. I’ve been thinking about our tendency to make everything about ourselves, like life is a movie all about me, and I thought of this line in church yesterday (which I know is probably an oversimplification of matters, but it was a helpful framing for me)…

    “It’s all for us, but it’s not about us.” It’s about Jesus. Period.

  • David

    Yes Scot! Yes! Yes!


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