Prof Scot McKnight is a theologian, proliferate blogger and writer who has published several books such as The Jesus Creed (2004) and One.Life (2010) which are worth reading especially for those who are interested in spiritual formation. In this latest (2011) book, McKnight put forward the thesis that the contemporary North American Protestant churches are stuck in a ‘salvation culture’ mode when they should be in the ‘gospel culture’ mode. Being in the ‘gospel culture’ mode will ensure that these American Christians become disciples of Jesus Christ.
The key to his argument is the definition of the gospel. McKnight defines the gospel as the good news of God’s plan for a people of God worshiping Him in ‘cosmic temple ‘ in Gen 2 to the ‘new Jerusalem in Revelation. This includes fulfilment and completion of Israel in Jesus’ coming, death and resurrection. The emphasis will then be also on Jesus as Lord and King in the kingdom of God in the post-resurrection era. He compares this to some understanding of the gospel as the good news for personal salvation. He attributes this ‘salvation gospel’ and its resultant ‘salvation culture’ to be the result of Augustine and the Reformation influences.
I find his distinction between the gospel announcement and personal salvation a little disturbing. And also the lower role of justification by faith he assigns in the gospel message. In his excellent exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, 20-28, he tries to separate them but instead of either/or, I wonder if it should be and/plus. The gospel message aside from the telling of the Israel and of Jesus should also include personal salvation and justification by faith. It will be useful if McKnight examines other Scriptures that explain the gospel message and share his thoughts on them.
I agree with McKnight in most parts but at times, I am left wondering at how did he arrive at his conclusions in others. It is a thought provoking book about our basic understanding of the gospel and salvation. Again as in many ‘theological’ discussion, I am left with a ‘so what.’ How does a gospel culture helps us to become committed disciples? Here, McKnight refers us back to his book One.Life. One.Life, like his Jesus Creed describes what we should do as disciples rather than how do we motivate people to intentionally become disciples. I believe that is the foundational question facing the church today. The debate about the gospel and salvation is a symptom rather than the issue. Christians know all about discipleship and following Jesus. The issue is how to get them to intentionally become one.