Friday, August 05, 2011

Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?

Downtown Monroe
There's a mini-review and preview at of NT scholar Scot McKnight's forthcoming The King Jesus Gospel: The  Original Good News Revisited. The review links us to an excellent 18-minute presentation by McKnight at the 2010 Q Gathering. Please watch it here.  

McKnight suggests that "the [biblical] text has been buried or has disappeared under the interpretation. The question is: 'Did Jesus preach the gospel?'"

For many evangelical Jesus-followers the "gospel" has become identitifed with "salvation" or "the Romans Road." While McKnight affirms that there is a "Romans Road," his objection is that the Gospel has, in the minds of many, been reduced to this. Twentieth-century "gospel tracts" have reduced the Gospel to sound bytes and have framed the way many view the gospel.

The CT article says: "Equating the plan of salvation with gospel means Jesus could not have preached the Good News. Only the Apostles, like Paul, who preached after Jesus' death and resurrection could possibly present this message. McKnight believes this is an error rooted in a false understanding of what the Gospel is." As McKnight says in the video, "Poor Jesus - he was born on the wrong side of the cross."

We've lost contact with the meaning of the "gospel." Words matter. McKnight says - "When all words in the Bible mean 'personal salvation,' no words mean anything."

McKnight shares four expressions that we use and we must keep separate if we are to develop a "gospel culture."
  1. The biblical narrative. McKnight's 6 points here have similarities to N.T. Wright's understanding of Scripture presenting a Grand Narrative, as a "5-act play," in which we live. McKnight says "many people call this the 'gospel.' It's not."
  2. The gospel. "The word 'gospel' belongs to the narrative, and it makes sense only within the narrative." McKnight says: "The 'gospel' is the announcement, the heralding, the declaration that Jesus is Messiah and that he is the point and goal and telos of the narrative. He is the Redeemer, the Messiah, and the Lord. He lived, he died, and he was buried, and he rose again, and he is coming again. As the raised and ascended One, he is Lord of Jews and Gentiles, and that is the gospel according to the New Testament."
  3. The plan of salvation. "It's not quite the gospel." Yet evangelical Christians feast on this. "No one in the NT calls [the plan of salvation] the "gospel."" Surely, indubitably, McKnight is correct on this. Those who disagree have buried the text under an interpretation of the text.
  4. The method of persuasion. Regarding 19th- and 20th-century "hellfire and damnation" methods as ways of getting one's attention, "no one who preched the gospel in the NT did this."
McKnight issues this challenge: go back to the New Testament, go back to the four gospels, and ask what this word 'gospel' meant within the text.

McKnight takes us to 1 Corinthians 15, and the verses I am preaching on this coming Sunday morning at Redeemer. Paul seems to have "lost his Calvinistic nerve for a moment" when he says it is possible to "have believed in vain." (1 Cor. 15:2) We see from vv. 1-4 that, for Paul, the "gospel" is to declare and tell the story of Jesus as the climax of scriptures of Israel's story. There is a story that comes to a climax in Jesus.... Paul here does not mention "justification," he does not mention "double imputation." Yes, this is a "saving story." But the saving story, "the plan of salvation," is not identical to the gospel, which is the climax to Israel's story."