Scot McKnight and The King Jesus Gospel
This week Scot McKnight spoke at Truett Seminary on the campus of Baylor University. You can find those lectures here. Before delivering the Parchman lectures he spoke to a handful of Church of Christ ministers on Monday at the Crestview Church of Christ (Thanks to Jim Martin for putting this together). He spoke to us about several topics, but the main thrust of our conversation was on his new book, The King Jesus Gospel. Meeting Scot was a pleasure. I’ve read most of his books and kept up with his daily writings on his blog. I was surprised to learn how familiar Scot was with Churches of Christ. He quoted the plan of salvation (hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized), and referred to as not as the Stone-Campbell movement, but as the restoration movement. Scot came to speak to us on Monday, not because he wanted to sell books, but because he cares about ministers and the work we are doing.
Scot wrote the book because he believes there is a major problem within evangelicalism. Many people who profess faith in Christ do not remain faithful. He believes one of the reasons this is happening is because evangelicals have misunderstood the term gospel. Before we delve into Scot’s thesis let me say a few things about evangelicals and Churches of Christ. The word evangelical is a broad term that encompasses many different denominations and religious groups. Some members of Churches of Christ have fully embraced the evangelical movement, but others have not been so quick to hop on board. Just this week Richard Beck, a psychology professor at Abilene Christian University, posted an article on his blog entitled Churches of Christ versus Evangelicalism: Five Contrasts. Dr. Allan McNicol, professor at Austin Graduate School of Theology, has also noted the differences between evangelicals and Churches of Christ. Notice what he says in a review essay entitled Churches of Christ Meet the Evangelicals from volume 19 of Christian Studies.
“Evangelicalism and the Stone-Campbell Movement represent two different theological traditions. It is not possible to reconcile them fully any more than it is possible to reconcile say, the Reformed Tradition and Eastern Orthodoxy…Neither the idea of salvation by faith alone nor the view of the atonement as penal substitution for our sins are identifying marks of Churches of Christ. Our polar star is the restoration of the common faith of the ancient church, not least the confession of baptism for the forgiveness of sins, as the basis for the unity of all believers. This fundamental presupposition leads us to a very different understanding of the Christian faith.”
I point this out because everything that Scot says in his book about evangelicals is not necessarily true of Churches of Christ. That being said people within Churches of Christ need to read this book, because we have embraced the salvation gospel Scot warns about.
In some ways Churches of Christ are ahead of the curve when it comes to promoting the true gospel, as opposed to a salvation gospel. On Monday Scot suggested that there should be more emphasis on the eucharist (the Lord’s Supper) and baptism. This is something we already do. He suggests in his book that the gospel is defined in 1 Cor. 15. I can recall several times that I have been teaching class and asked “What is the gospel?” Without fail one of the members will point out 1 Cor. 15. Scot also makes the point that the early church referred to the four gospels (plural) as the gospel (singular). I remember my grandmother driving this point home. She used to say there is only one gospel. Scot would have appreciated my grandmother’s biblical insight here. All that being said Churches of Christ are still heavily indoctrinated by the soterian gospel. Just this week I took an informal survey in our adult bible class. I handed everyone a sheet of paper and asked them to write down one word that describes Jesus. Over half the class wrote down Savior. No one wrote King, Messiah, or Christ, and only two people put Lord. This just goes to show that we are in desperate need of The King Jesus Gospel.
What I love about this book is that Scot presents a clear and concise argument based on scripture and historical accounts. Too often theologians want to argue a point in a book and scripture is the one thing missing. What Scot presents in this book is not a new idea or a new way of reading scripture. He shows us how we have missed the point. It’s all there in the bible and we’ve just missed it. He does a great job in chapter 5 of pointing out the historical shift that took place which led to the soterian gospel many have embraced.
After presenting his case in the first eight chapters Scot drives the point home in the final two. Notice what he writes on pages 133-134.
“…much of the soterian approach to evangelism today fastens on Jesus as (personal) Savior and dodges Jesus as Messiah and Lord. If there is any pervasive heresy today, it’s right here. Anyone who can preach the gospel and not make Jesus’ exalted lordship the focal point simply isn’t preaching the apostolic gospel.”
Many people today have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior, but they have not made him Lord of their life. This is the problem Scot seeks to address and solve. I cannot recommend this book enough. If we want to be a Christian community that is relevant, then we must heed the advice found in Scot’s book.