I've been working my way through Scot McKnight's book, The King Jesus Gospel, here on the blog for the past couple of days. I want to recap what I've learned in the first four chapters.
- We evangelicals have mistaken the Plan of Salvation for the Gospel.
- We have traded in a gospel culture for a salvation culture.
- Our evangelism focuses exclusively on bringing people to a point of decision.
- As a result, we do a poor job of making genuine disciples of Jesus.
- The biblical gospel is the Story of Jesus, found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5
What is most impressive about this book is how clearly and concisely Scot paint the American evangelical landscape. His putting his finger on some things that have been brooding beneath the surface for a long time. So how did we get here?
Chapter 5: How Did Salvation Take Over the Gospel?
The early creeds were the Church's attempt to work out the Story of Jesus, the Gospel. They served to create a gospel culture that survived, though didn't always thrive, until the Reformation. "The singular contribution of the Reformation...was that the gravity of the gospel was shifted toward human response and personal responsibility. ...The Reformation said, in effect, that the 'gospel' must lead to personal salvation." (71)
The Reformation did not create this salvation culture immediately, but it set into action processes by which the old gospel culture was discarded, and the new salvation culture was embraced. "The Story of...Jesus became the System of Salvation." (72) Now we have a Christian culture that is obsessed with salvation, which is merely one of the many benefits of the gospel. The fact that we can go to heaven when we die is good news, but it is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather, it comes to those who believe the gospel, and in that belief, order their lives by it.
My next post on the book will cover the final two chapters, with a particular emphasis on how we create a gospel culture today. I'm skipping the intervening chapters, not because they aren't any good, but because I feel as though I ought to leave something for you to discover when you read the book.