Appropriately, Scot McKnight doesn’t take long to raise his beef with the evangelical world of which he is a part. It comes down to this: we have confused “salvation” and “gospel.”
Evangelicals, for all intents and purposes, are today little more than soterians. That is, we believe the core question facing each individual is whether she has been “saved from her sins” (the Greek word for “to save” is sozo, from which we get fancy theological words like soteriology and soterian). As a byproduct, we have developed what McKnight calls a “salvation culture,” in which all that really matters is whether a person is “in” or “out.”
It’s no wonder, then, that evangelical leaders traditionally have to exert herculean effort to move believers towards actual discipleship, or a process of growth in which one becomes increasingly like Christ. We make such a stink over getting saved, as if that were the endgame, and scratch our heads when a new believer won’t budge from the doorway of Christianity.
That one problem, thinking that “gospel” in the New Testament is the equivalent of “salvation” or a “salvation message,” has left the Western church with a slew of other problems. Of course, the dearth of discipleship is one. We’ve got a massive Christian church that could just barely be recognized on the street as having anything to do with Christ. We go about “winning” people to Christ, with little actual regard for their personal well-being (or the fact that they are, indeed, a person worthy of respect). We demand a position of moral authority while appearing no different, ethically, from the surrounding population. I could go on.
But there’s the problem Dr. McKnight seeks to address. We’ve confused “gospel” with “salvation” and have thereby created a culture in which salvation is the only thing that truly matters.