Part of a week-long discussion of The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited by Scot McKnight
Tomorrow, I’ll polish off my series on this book with a substantive post on Scot’s thesis, and whether I buy it. But for today, I’ve got some nits to pick. Forgive me, but I’m a booky person, and I’m also a quibbler, so there are some things about this (and every) book that bug me. And Scot has privately assured me that my quibbles will not affect our friendship.
That being said…
1) This book needed a better edit. I say that because it could be tighter. For example, Scot spends too much time backing away from conclusions before he even makes them. He’s critical of Luther and Calvin, and fairly so, but he tells us way too many times how much he appreciates and respects them. Every criticism, it seems, is prefaced with a caveat.
2) Dallas Williard is not a pastor. Scot refers to “Pastor Dallas” and “Pastor Tom” (NT Wright). These guys are not pastors. Neither is Scot, and neither am I. A pastor is someone who pastors a church. You can be a “Reverend” and not a pastor, but you can’t be a “pastor” unless you lead a congregation.
3) Where are the feminist voices? Scot has a mastery of New Testament scholarship…to a point. NT Wright, Darrell Bock, FF Bruce, IH Marshall, RN Longnecker, even John Piper are quoted, some at length. There’s even a passing reference to Justo González in the last chapter. But, in an effort to get to the core of what the gospel really is, Scot neglects the many, powerful feminist biblical scholars of the last half century. This will be a deal-breaker for some readers.
4) “I” and “We” – I’ve had this debate with Scot before. The use of the academic “we” is awkward, and it doesn’t work at all in this book because in one paragraph, Scot says “we,” and in the next, he says “I.” For example, Scot begins chapter six by writing sentences like this:
- “…we have been given a whole new angle…”
- “…once we do show the relation of gospel and salvation…”
- “…which we sketched in what we said about…”
- “…we suddenly discover that…”
- “So our conclusion is that…”
But, by the second paragraph of this chapter, he writes:
- “I suggest this gets…”
- “The gospel, I am arguing, is…”
The vast majority of the book is in the first person singular. That’s because it’s actually a very personal book, which I appreciate. Toward the end, Scot even admits that when he wrote a book for which I served as the general editor, he was not yet able to articulate how much he was breaking from the traditional evangelical (aka, soterian) version of the gospel. I appreciate this personal aspect of the book.
And I also submit to Scot and to all academics, the “academic first person plural” is not only awkward but, as Scot found in this book, unsustainable over an entire work.