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Saturday, March 3, 2012

"The King Jesus Gospel" (Scot McKnight)

TITLE: The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited
AUTHOR: Scot McKnight
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, (176 pages).

Scot McKnight is one of the most insightful writers of this era. Having written a number of bestselling books so far, this book is poised to do to evangelism what his previous books have done: giving a fresh look at conventional topics. In this book, McKnight begins with an important question: "What is the Gospel?" He shows us how many Christians, including well-meaning pastors, teachers, and trained evangelists have pigeon-holed the gospel into mainly one thing: Salvation. Instead, McKnight argues powerfully that the gospel is not solely about the salvation message or the sole purpose of squeezing out personal decisions by non-Christians to say the sinners' prayer. Neither is it purely about 'justification by faith' or any form of guilt seeding in order to 'make decisions for Christ.' Such views are too myopic and can actually 'hijack' the true meaning of what gospel means. Calling it 'salvation culture,' or 'soterians.' McKnight proposes the need to cultivate in evangelism a 'gospel culture,' or 'gospeling.'

Soterians reduce the gospel to mainly the salvation message. Gospeling essentially sees the entire gospel not only with Jesus as the high point, but THE point about the gospel message. Gospeling is essentially one story in 4 parts, with Jesus as the kingly focus.

  1. Story of Israel/Bible
  2. Story of Jesus
  3. Plan of Salvation
  4. Method of Persuasion
McKnight teaches that the foundation of gospeling is the entire story of Israel and the Bible, revealed in Jesus Christ, from which we are able to tell the salvation plan and persuasion. Soterians tend to focus on the initial steps of evangelization. Gospeling goes much farther back into the Old Testament, and a lot forward into the New Covenant and discipleship. Gospeling is the big story of Jesus fulfilling the promises of the Old Testament, and promising the coming Kingdom. McKnight bases his thesis on his exegesis of 1 Cor 15. He makes eight observations of the gospel according to Paul. He also warns that soterians risk preaching only a partial gospel when they tell only the message of salvation in their outreach efforts. Worse, due to the overwhelming stress on "PERSONAL SALVATION," soterians may very well be feeding the ferocious individualistic culture so prevalent in many parts of modern society. For McKnight, the call for 'personal salvation' is mainly seen as the subculture of the whole gospel story. It is not to be made the main culture!

Knowing that this may stir up the hornet's nest of conventional proponents of soterian-evangelism, McKnight takes pains to exegete 1 Corinthians 15. He points out that the Nicene Creed and the Apostle's Creed are essentially gospelling creeds. He points out that part of the problem behind the evolution of the 'salvation culture' lies in the misunderstanding of the Lutheran, Reformed, and Anabaptists movements, that shift from the big story of the gospel to the small story of personal salvation. Salvation needs to flow FROM the gospel, and not vice versa. In modern evangelicalism, McKnight brings forth various witnesses who shows that modern evangelism has become reduced into experiential faith. Pastor Eric reduces the gospel to the salvation message without much emphasis on the death and resurrection of Jesus. Pastor Tom also comments that too many people reduces the gospel into 'ordo salutis,' or the plan for salvation. Pastor Willard warns about the gospel being reduced to a 'gospel of sin management.'

The next half of the book is McKnight's passionate piecing together of the real 'King Jesus Gospel.' He highlights six differences between the soterians and gospeling.

  1. Soterians focus on Jesus mainly as Saviour. Gospeling focuses on Jesus as Lord, Messiah, Saviour.
  2. Soterians frame evangelism as salvation; Gospeling frames the whole story of Israel in Jesus.
  3. Soterians focuses on judgment and wrath; Gospeling focus on Jesus as the final Judge
  4. Soterians reduce gospel to individualistic salvation; Gospeling moves people toward church.
  5. Soterians contribute to empire building; Gospeling is about kingdom of God invited in.
  6. Soterians focus on being saved; Gospeling is focused on belonging to Jesus.
McKnight helpfully gives us a chapter on how to build a gospeling culture.

Closing Thoughts

This book has been voted the best outreach book of 2012 under the category of Evangelism, by Outreach Magazine. Having read this book, I believe McKnight has given the Christian public a valuable insight that highlights the weaknesses of our conventional evangelism approaches. He does such a good job in pointing out the reductionism of the true gospel into a salvation culture that it can be risky. Some laypersons may find it hard to see the difference. They may even see McKnight's thesis as 'neutralizing' the good work done by traditional evangelists who have been so successful with the gospel culture. Although the statistics that McKnight highlights point to an alarming dropout rate of new conversions, the conventional 'salvation culture' has been very helpful. The problem with evangelism is that there are too few people doing the work of an evangelist. The workers are already so few, and McKnight's thesis may reduce this number even more by at least two ways. Firstly, it makes the 'salvation culture' look bad. Secondly, it is not easy for the newbie to understand the 'gospeling' culture McKnight advocates. While I agree with McKnight's thesis, I am mindful of the application and the teaching of this idea to the laypersons. What is needed is a workbook or a workshop to train the trainers. Teach the teacher. Tell the whole gospel story and make it as easy to tell and to understand like the 'Four Spiritual Laws.' Show the Church how the "King Jesus Gospel" augments the conventional message. The thesis is strong and very good. What is needed now is a King Jesus 'elevator message' that is clear, concise, and catchy. The faster we get it, the less potential for confusion of a very important message.

Ratings: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Zondervan and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. Comments provided are freely mine.

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