I had promised some time ago to compare and contrast the ideas of NT Wright’s How God Became King and Scot McKnight’s King Jesus Gospel. I plan to do so, beginning tomorrow.
Today, though, I want to reflect for a moment on Dr. McKnight’s work on its own.
Let’s start with the positive. McKnight’s frustration with the current state of the gospel in Western Christianity resonates with me. Having grown up in an evangelical environment, including attending an evangelical college and and evangelical seminary, the salvation story of sinners needing rescue from their sins in order to obtain eternal bliss resides deep in my inner being. At the same time, however, I’ve sought always to be a faithful reader of the scriptures, and have therefore long held an uneasy feeling at this approach. I’ve found myself asking McKnight’s questions again and again: Where is this rather simplistic salvation story in the actual gospels?
Moreover, nearly every evangelistic method I’ve ever encountered amounts to little more than creative proof texting. That is, we pull individual verses out of context and mash them together to make them tell a story they may not have been telling in their original placement. We obliterate the full story in order to convince people they need saving. Then, of course, we wonder why no one in our churches knows how to read their Bibles. Of course they can’t; they’ve been taught from the beginning that they way to get real truth out of the Bible is to pull one verse from Isaiah, another from Malachi, a third from John, still another couple from Romans and Ephesians, and wham!
McKnight’s assessment of the problem is stellar and timely. Further, his re-creation of the whole gospel story, including the rich back story of creation, fall, Israel, exile, and return, is astounding and wonderfully simple. There is no question in my mind that we need more Christians who know the whole story of which they are currently a part.
My complaints with McKnight revolve primarily around the brevity of this work. Too often, I found myself scribbling in the margins, “Tell me more!” or “Explain this further!” Many times, I found his arguments gaining great steam and then cut short. I was constantly filling in gaps in the margins, so I wouldn’t miss it later. This is such an important topic at the very core of what it means to identify with Christ. We need to know the gospel in its fullest sense, or at least as fully as any individual might be capable. I longed for more clarity and deeper investigation.