New Creation Gospel

I have said this before, but I want to repeat it: the soterian gospel resolves one problem — our broken relationship with God. The soterian gospel focuses on one event — the cross as the place where Christ takes our place, shoulders our sins, removes our guilt, and forgives our sin. The soterian gospel pleads for one major response — trust in that Christ for that problem. (See my King Jesus Gospel.)

The Story gospel is otherwise, and Daniel Kirk, in his new book Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? urges us to see the gospel in Story terms. At the core, Daniel and I agree. So I want to post what Daniel says the problems of the Bible/Story are intended to resolve and to do this Kirk examines Genesis 1-3 and then proposes the following questions as what the Bible’s Story will answer:

What will happen to God’s very good creation?
Will it be forever handed over to the rule of alien powers?
Will God’s co-laborers ever rejoin God in the work of ruling the world for him and with him?
Will God have to give up on this world and simply take people out of it?
Will God find some way for his originally chosen agent (humanity) to play the lead in restoring God’s originally chosen order (a world in which humanity rules on God’s behalf?)

This was all in paragraph form in Kirk’s book (p. 35) but I laid them out to see what the Bible’s Story is seeking to resolve. In my decade of working on gospel, I’m convinced we have not done well on articulating the problem the Story resolves. We do have one problem we’ve focused on (the sin-as-personal-guilt problem) but because that’s the whole problem, there are whole dimensions of the Bible we don’t need — like the Old Testament narrative, like the life and teachings of Jesus, like the resurrection, like the exaltation. Daniel Kirk’s proposal seeks to do justice to the whole Bible’s narrative with a whole Bible gospel.

Kirk’s proposal, though, isn’t just about remonstrating with how we articulate the gospel. Chp 2 focuses on kingdom and new creation. The solution of the Bible moves from Adam to Abraham (as the new Adam with the same task as Adam’s), then Moses, then David, and then Jesus Christ as the One True Israelite who answers those questions above! It becomes a gospel wherein Jesus as Lord, King, Savior become the center. Not just Jesus as Savior.

Just a few highlights: Kirk ties Genesis 1-2 to Mark 1-2 to show that Jesus’ mission, his kingdom work, is to restore creation that has gone of out of control by sin. He shows that Paul’s gospel, too, is concerned with that same holistic, creation-affirming, human-to-God and human-to-human and human-to-creation restoring work.

Kirk quickly points out that the Son of Man of Daniel 7 is to be tied to the creation narrative so that the Son of Man’s rule is a rule over creation, just as Genesis 1-2 said the human should rule.

Kirk argues that resurrection transcends my personal life after death to make Jesus Lord and King over all creation; this is all found in 1 Cor 15 and Romans 1 — and there Jesus is adopted and enthroned as Son of God (kingly rule) as a result of the resurrection. The spiritual gifts are extensions/gifts of the ruling King to his subjects — and here I’m surprised Kirk doesn’t bring in Eph 4 but he’s still got sufficient evidence.  New creation themes in Paul: Rom 8, 2 Cor 5, 1 Cor 15. And the future is forcing its way into the future in Christ, in the new creation community called the church. Very nice narrative.

Soterians are undone by the Story gospel because the Story gospel takes every bit of that soterian approach and gives it more biblical footings, extending the soterian gospel to biblical proportions.

About Scot McKnight

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

  • SuperStar

    Love it! McKnight, Wright, and Kirk. A trifecta. The Story gospel reigns.

  • Susan N.

    Romans 8…and Psalm 139 — my two favorite chapters in the whole wide world. :-)

    Soterian gospel = narrow; exclusive
    Story gospel = broad; inclusive

    If that’s a fair summation of the two, then I’m all for the “Story” version!

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

    Scot, thanks for continuing to think about this, explore this, point to others who are adding further dimensions to it, and for drawing out more and more implications for our lives and for the church. You are serving us all well with this teaching.

  • Rick

    Susan N #2-

    Does that mean that the soterian aspect of the gospel, not the “Soterian gospel”, cannot be narrow and exclusive?

  • Susan N.

    I don’t know, Rick (#4). You tell me?

  • Richard

    This may not be connected in your mind Scot but it is in mine. How does shifting from soterian to story, especially from individual salvation to corporate new creation, impact the way we understand passages dealing with punishment after death (aka hell, ECT, etc).

    Maybe this is the same question as Susan N and Rick?

  • Justin

    Ugh… Would somebody on this blog please start reading Vos, Ridderbos and Beale? These guys were story gospel before story gospel was cool and they also happen to be about as soterian and reformed as you can get.

  • Norman

    This exploration has been ongoing for several years by some in the Preterist community. It’s always interesting to observe how other groups get excited in discovering some of these issues that have always been there but somehow get lost in the eddy’s of religious thinking. When Preterist point these observations out people shrug their shoulders and walk away but let a noted author talk about it and it’s like manna from Heaven. ;-)

  • John Mc

    Both the soterian gospel and the story gospel as described posit a flawed creation and campaign by The Ceeator to repair it which has lasted 15 billion years, so far.

    I have a hard time accepting that premise.

  • John Mc

    Moreover God’s pronouncements at each step of the creative enterprise suggest a continuing failure to discern the flaw, and thus a profoundly disturbing lack of divine insight.

    Very problematic for me.

  • Rich

    John Mc stated:

    “Both the soterian gospel and the story gospel as described posit a flawed creation and campaign by The Ceeator to repair it which has lasted 15 billion years, so far”

    The problem is your application to the physical. The physical creation is nowhere in view. Genesis is not about the creation of the physical just as the de-creation and re-creation in NT eschatology is not about the physical. This is why Biblical creation points to back around ~6 to 10,000 years, yet physical creation was completed Billions of years ago.

    Norman, you are right on. Amazing isn’t it? If people want to get a more completed work on this subject they should read “Beyond Creation Science: New Covenant Creation from Genesis to Revelation ” by Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn

  • Susan N.

    Well, I’m going to step right out here and risk inserting my big foot in my (bigger) mouth. (Since Rick did not reply to my #5, I have no idea where he was coming from in his question @ #4.) Following along with RJS’s post yesterday on Peter Enns book ‘The Evolution of Adam’, I see in the big-picture, “Story” view that the Bible paints a progressively fuller and clearer understanding of God and His plan in, for, and with creation.

    Richard (#6) – The doctrine of hell and ECT certainly is a part of the question/problem I have with the soterian gospel.

    John Mc (#8,9) – I’m pondering all that you’ve said…which was quite a lot (in few words; I wish I could do that!) In my thought-process, currently, I do not believe that “creation” per se is flawed and in need of repair. To refine my (current) view of Story vs. Soterian Gospel, I think I would say that it is more about God working to restore (redeem?) the relationship with humankind. When will we understand God fully, and apprehend the full truth of His love? In Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ongoing Lordship over creation, it’s a done deal, from God’s end. Even many of who believe “in faith” on Jesus as Savior struggle to comprehend and fully apprehend the magnitude of the Story. (I include myself in this group.) There is some mystery to God, after all?

    Please forgive my thinking-out-loud-process, which is undoubtedly flawed in its delivery. Maybe someone else can offer a more coherent explanation?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Norman#8, I don’t really want to pick a fight (are those fight’en words?), but I do want to ask you a favor. I believe that everyone needs to work out their faith and beliefs for themselves. The problem is that the starting point for people can be incredibly diverse, so we are forced to rehash many arguments over time.

    One of the great insights I have received by reading here at JC is that patience with struggle of others is core to attitude of Scot, rjs, T and many others. The willingness to come aside others and walk with them anew is a core belief I see repeated over and over.

    You speak the truth, there will always be someone or some group that has already hashed all of this out somewhere. But that is largely irrelevant to the plight of the individual that is trying to work out their faith from the beginning point no where near that end point.

    Clearly I am using your response to get this off my chest, and hope you don’t mind. Scot’s blog is not just concerned with working out the state-of-the-art in thinking, but to help people in our journey.

    I am saying this as someone who has been help tremendously by hanging out here with all of you :)

  • http://benirwin.wordpress.com Ben

    @ #1 It does seem there’s a movement afoot to recover a more authentic, complete expression of the gospel. Maybe Scot and others could start a new organization to advance this worthy cause. Call it The Gospel Coalit– oh wait.

  • http://c-far.blogspot.com/ josenmiami

    good post above and interesting comments. I am grateful that you, Scot, are putting time and thought into this and raising it a public forum for discussion. Someone said that in a period of reform (or paradigm change) one must return to rethink one’s Christology (in the light of the great tradition of course). I think soteriology must follow.

    A friend and I both teach in the largest community college in the U.S. … and we have frequent opportunities to relate to undergraduates around issues of spirituality. We also find it harder and harder to realistically point them to what you are calling the “soterian” solution to their spiritual needs, but we have yet to articulate a convincing alternative.

    Keep it up, we will be following along as you “do theology” for the 21st century!

  • John Mc

    Rich@11,

    Are you saying that Creation as encountered in Reformed theology is an abstraction disconnected from the reality of the physical world?

  • http://www.preachermike.com Mike

    Thanks so much, Scot. Can’t wait to get ahold of this book. This is right on target!

  • Richard

    @ 14

    Now that’s an elephant in the room!

  • Jason E

    Just wanted to pass along a great training tool in the Story: http://www.storyformedlife.org/

    Simple course that does a great job of challenging and deepening beliefs from Creation to ReCreation.

  • John Mc

    josenmiami@15,

    I am beginning to think more in terms of process rather than completion; to set aside human notions of “perfection” and allow instead for the divine/human relationship to develop and mature over time, allowing the flaws and hiccups which happen in all relationships to to play out.

    The best relationships are always based not upon the righteousness of either party but upon the investment and faithfulness of the parties – and that is the message I am perceiving more and more in Scripture.

  • Amos Paul

    @ Rick

    I, personally, do think that putting hard ‘limits’ upon the soterian Gospel may be a mistake. That is, limits like Substutionary Atonement, or Christus Victor, or Ransom, or Pelagian Holy Example, etc.

    What if no truly Christ-focused theory or assertion about the ‘sin problem’ and consequent Soterian Gospel is THE correct theory, but A correct theory? What if they all look at the same thing–the redemptive, awesome, ruling power of our King Jesus Christ–from different angles? What if being ‘saved’ has too many dimensions to trap in one tiny view?

  • Norman

    DRT,
    You are indeed correct and I was just venting a little myself. One needs to do that occasionally. ;-)

    I indeed realize just how difficult it is to move people toward a better understanding of the Biblical narrative. However there is a common idea out there that everyone’s opinion is just as good as the other and that isn’t exactly true is it. People are all on various stages of understanding and it is what it is yet we do need to respect where a person is at presently. There is a need however for the Scott’s and RJS’s of the world but there is also a need for some to push a little more aggressively at times also. However convincing people is akin to herding cats, it’s almost impossible and is simply the reality of the nature of humanity.

    So it doesn’t hurt to throw down the gauntlet every once in a while though either.

  • Amos Paul

    Correction: I meant to say Soterian *aspect* to the Gospel, rather than relegate all the Soterian theories to existing merely within the realm of an exclusively Soterian Gospel.

  • Rick

    Susan N-

    I was just wondering if you were linking the fuller gospel message (King Jesus Gospel) with a more inclusive stance. I don’t know if the soteriology of the KJG necessarily negates exclusive or narrow (for the record, I lean towards soft inclusivism).

    Amos Paul-

    I agree on recognizing the wider/various aspects of soteriology.

  • http://restoryinglife.com Joe at restoryinglife.com

    After years of trying to sort of life exclusively through the soterian, and recently having moved to more of a story format, I’m loving this.

    Here’s the basic framework I’ve been working with: http://restoryinglife.com/bible-restorying/

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Susan N.

    Norman, DRT, Amos Paul – as to various arguments (and stages of progression in that effort), for the meaning of Christ’s resurrection in (re)creation. Is belief that it happened and that it is of the utmost significance in our relationship to the Father, through Christ, sufficient to live as Christ taught (in word and by example)? Or, is explaining accurately “how it works” for salvation the necessary step in “Gospeling?” I think our understanding of “resurrection life” has immediate implications to our lived faith. What we believe about it impacts how we interact with (love well) our “neighbors.” And, at the personal level, how we love (or despise) ourselves as understood to be eternally and perfectly loved (or not) by God.

    But if we’re really serious about the idea that “our beliefs do not ‘save’ us,” but rather the Person of Jesus Christ and what He has already done, then to a great degree, our discussions all down through Church history only amount to our human way of making sense of God and His love for us. Are we still evolving in this understanding? Does what we create in terms of belief systems add or take anything away from what God, in Christ, has already done? I’m sincerely asking (not being a smart alek.)

    In chemistry, we have learned that matter is neither created nor destroyed; it merely changes forms (is transformed). Ponder that in terms of Story Gospel, and if that doesn’t blow your mind, the defense rests its case. :-)

  • Susan N.

    Rick #24 – that clarification helps. I think the best description I can ascribe to my own “soteriology” is that I want to be as *in*clusive as I can be, and hope beyond the limits of my own understanding of the vastness of God’s love, that as many as possible will be reconciled/redeemed/restored through Christ. Is the goodness, mercy, and perfect love of God believable? If it’s not, then we’re all in big trouble, if you ask me. I hold onto 1 Cor. 13 — especially this: “LOVE (and this must begin with the Godhead, for me, rather than my pale imitation of love) NEVER FAILS.” That’s where I am at, currently. All the rest (sorting out the belief system, i.e., the meaning and effect of the resurrection) is gravy, as they say.

  • Rick

    Susan N-

    Thanks for the clarification.

    So from your formula in #2:

    “Soterian gospel = narrow; exclusive
    Story gospel = broad; inclusive”

    But could the “Story gospel” include an exclusive soteriology?

  • Norman

    Susan N.

    I believe there are basic core concepts that all believers should share in. Christ sums it up in His answer to what constitutes the greatest commandment.

    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Within this parameter is the search for a better understanding of the disclosures that has been revealed to humanity. The disclosure is ancient and often difficult and requires one who aspires to these things pursue it as seeking a Pearl of great value. It is indeed of great value if the issues involved resonate within our cultural submissions.

    Many issues have been misconstrued over the ages that had or have negative connotations for individual, family, communities and the greater culture at large. Reconciling these negative causes is important in healthy community living IMO. Some issues are more problematic and important than others. I have a passion for understanding Genesis better because its misconceptions have had a negative effect upon my family at large and has led to some rejecting God. By rejecting God I believe there has been degradation in the quality of some family member’s life and those affected by them. I would like to see those issues become lessened as time marches forward instead of resigning myself to just letting people be themselves or whatever will be will be. I think we all want to contribute somehow to the overall betterment of society and that begins with personal application of the Spirit of Christ but it also flows outward with our own individual testimony to the world.

    Think of the movie “it’s a wonderful life” in which a replay is made of Jimmy Stewart’s town without his good influence. I believe we all want to think we can make a contribution in some manner since we have been gifted with life and the knowledge of God through Christ while on this good earth.

  • Susan N.

    Rick #27 – exclusive in the sense that from beginning to end, and at all points in between, it centers on Jesus Christ. I think that Buddha or Muhammad have some interesting truths to convey; but that is not the same overarching “Greatest Story Ever Told”, “Good News Gospel” that is communicated through and embodied in Jesus Christ.

    Is that what you’re driving at?

    I think if I would define the Story Gospel in exclusive terms, it would focus on Jesus as the One, versus who’s “in” and who’s “out” from the other side of the equation.

    I hope that we agree on that, but either way, that’s what I think.

  • Amos Paul

    Susan,

    >Does what we create in terms of belief systems add or take anything away from what God, in Christ, has already done?

    Yes and no? Ultimately, of course not. I am, personally, also very inclusivist in my Soterian theology. Mark 3:28-29 is important to me in that regard:

    “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”

    I see the person of the Holy Spirit being our objectively real relationship with God. I accept the possibility of *ultimately* rejecting the Spirit/God (‘blaspheme’), but also see that as a deeply personal, spiritual, and again ultimately dynamic process. Christ is working to make God all in all.

    Immediately, however, I do think that there is an invitation to step into real and objectively different life. An opportunity to recognize the Spirit here and now and begin to live the life that God has called us into. And while I struggle with living that life so much myself, I also believe the Scriptures about growing in the truth and knowledge of Jesus Christ, of being guided into all truth, etc.

    I don’t claim to have a monopoly on the truth–but I do think I have a particular viewpoint upon it. And that living the Christian life means growing in your perspective upon Christ (including particular beliefs). Inclusively, I also recognize that there are *other* viewpoints that I am not a party to, but for me (and, presumably, others) asserting my own beliefs, challenging them, and growing within my understanding of them is crucially a *part* of attempting to live a life with love in Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength.

  • Richard

    @ 29

    At that’s precisely the sort of thing that makes me wonder: if Jesus (exclusive) is committed to restoring his creation (inclusive), what makes us think that there are limits to that? It sounds reminiscent of the guy that restores part of his house and leaves the rest unfinished for 30 years…

  • Susan N.

    Norman (#28) – I certainly appreciate your heartfelt desire to reconcile the relationships in your family, which have been damaged by false/confusing doctrine(s).

    I would submit two thoughts for your consideration. The first is concerning The Great Commandment: Love God; love neighbor, as yourself. We see/hear that as a hierarchical command. However, Jesus also taught to privilege “mercy over sacrifice.” Thus, only in learning to love in a holistic way — God AND neighbor (as ourselves), can we begin to be like Jesus and honor him as “Lord and King.” If loving God means treating others unjustly/unmercifully, then do we get credit for loving God (higher order command)? Doubtful, imho.

    Second, as I am studying the Book of Exodus, it so happens that I landed on the ‘Golden Calf’ incident (Exodus 32) this week. It seems the calf was not so much a replacement for Yahweh as God among the people, but a symbol for Yahweh that the people could manage and manipulate (in their own minds) for their own ends. Sometimes — and I speak from experience — our belief systems, however convinced we are that they are the real, right one, serve to reduce God to a manageable deity to be used for our own ends rather than worshiped as He is.

    I cling boldly to my faith in the Person of Jesus Christ, and I’m not letting loose of that for anybody or anything. Beyond that, I am less inclined to promote my beliefs about theology and doctrine as superior to that of others. But, Norman, I hate it as much as you seem to, when belief systems harm people and turn them away from following Christ. Lord have mercy on us all! Save us from ourselves :-(

  • Susan N.

    Richard (#31) – dude! Amen!!

  • Rick

    Susan N #32-

    “I cling boldly to my faith in the Person of Jesus Christ, and I’m not letting loose of that for anybody or anything. Beyond that, I am less inclined to promote my beliefs about theology and doctrine as superior to that of others.”

    Is it about superiority, or is it about truth?

    Is it about “my beliefs”, or is it about the beliefs of the church throughout history? Where do we say the Holy Spirit had no role in the theology of the early church, and the development of doctrine?

    For example, where does the fully God/fully man Jesus play into our essential beliefs? The Trinity?

  • Norman

    Susan N.

    You speak wisdom. :-)

    I’m reminded of Mark Noll’s book concerning his concerns with some evangelical ideas. “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind”

  • Susan N.

    Thank you, all, for being in this very thought-provoking discussion with me. I am off to see my nursing home “peeps” now. (Just didn’t want anyone to think that I am ignoring them by my lack of response.) ~Peace~

  • Jerry

    JasonE 19. Who’s behind the Story Formed Life training? Couldn’t tell from the site. I’ve learned to be wary of these things. Story is now a buzzword that even “soterians” are using.

  • Luke Allison

    The question I’m starting to ask around my church leadership is “What’s your story”?

    Bill Hybells recently shared his “five words” that best describe the Christian story (or was it the Gospel? I can’t remember). We’ve been trying a similar experiment around here, since most everybody accepts the idea of the narrative being the most important thing.

    It’s very easy, however, to articulate a story that puts soteriology in the highest seat of importance. This is like building a tower only to find out that you’ve been using tin instead of steel.

    The Gospel Coalition emphasizes the “story”, too. Only they say things like: “The Bible’s narrative primarily asks this question: ‘How can a Holy God forgive unholy people?’, or ‘How can sinful people enter into the presence of a sinless God’ etc.”
    Even the more level-headed New Reformed (the Kuyperians?) place the “problem of goodness” or “Ten Commandments Test” at the center of the narrative.

    So it’s not simply a matter of articulating the story over the soteriology, it’s articulating the story in such a way that it doesn’t needlessly highlight secondary aspects.

    John MC 9 and 10:

    I am asking similar questions right now. My favorite thinkers all seem to agree that death is a great enemy. And yet, in the several billion-year-old system, death is a necessary and perhaps even beautiful means of progression.

    Is it that personhood accentuates the fear of death and subsequently renders death an enemy? God’s concern in Genesis, after all, isn’t so much that people would die, but that they would LIVE forever in the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3:22-24).

    Hebrews 2:14-15 puts forward the assertion that the Enemy possessed the “power of death”, and that one of the things Jesus’ death accomplished was to set humanity free from the slavery that comes from “the fear of death”. These are merely snippets, but this is part of rearticulating the story in a way that doesn’t leave out huge chunks of the narrative.


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