I attended "Talking Points" at Cornerstone University yesterday at the recommendation of my ONE "friends", Jim. I was not disappointed. The featured speakers were Scot McKnight, David Turner, and Ruth Tucker, each of whom touched on subjects which are of great personal interest to me in my Biblical studies.
First off, on a humorous note, Scot was sitting next to me before he was getting ready to speak. He very nicely turned to me and introduced himself. "I’m Scot," he said. "Nice to meet you," I said. He asked, "Are you a seminary student here?" "No," I replied, "ARE YOU?" He looked a little puzzled and sort of fumbled out, "Err, no, I’m… going to… give a paper." Sorry Scot, I was just messin’ with ya.
Although Scot had pre-written his paper and for the most part read it word for word, it was presented humorously and was quite enlightening. His main point was a critique of The Individualistic Gospel. If the point of the gospel is to get ME saved, so I don’t have to go to hell, there is no responsibility after salvation for ME to do much of anything. Here are some of Scot’s highpoints in his paper which he presented.
Any gospel that omits the ecclesial facet is NOT the gospel. Roman Catholocism teaches, "No salvation outside the church," but evangelicalism teaches, "Salvation without the church." The truth, as Scot sees it, lies somewhere in between these two ideas. The gospel that Christ taught was a gospel of the kingdom. Christ came preaching the kingdom of God and His intent to establish an ecclesiastic community called the kingdom of God.
Scot traced highlights of the Lucan narrative to show that God’s intent in sending His Son was to establish a society in which God’s will is carried out. This would be a community in which the proud were "de-elevated" (very eloquent Scot) and the humble were lifted up, Luke 1:46-55. In the beatitudes, Luke 6:20-26, Christ pronounced the blessings of the kingdom on those who had already received the gospel of the kingdom. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit created that Kingdom-Mission-Community previously spoken of by Christ and the prophets. The interpersonal fellowship, the economic availability/responsibility, and the unity in which the mission of the early church was carried out in preaching the gospel was all due to the "community-shaped gospel". In essence, Scot states what I had believed for some time, that the New Testament Church was nothing less than a manifestation of the kingdom of God.
Scot referenced George Eldon Ladd’s works with great respect and admiration. That struck a positive chord with me since I have read The Kingdom of God in the Jewish Apocryphal Literature (Parts I-IV), Crucial Questions about the Kingdom of God, The Gospel of the Kingdom, The Blessed Hope, and I am currently reading the laborious work The Presence of the Future. Scot seemed to operate under the general modus operandi that Ladd did, in that while the kingdom remains a future eschatalogical event, Christ did usher in some aspects of the kingdom prematurely, that is, before the expected time. The kingdoms of this world have not yet become the kingdoms of Christ, but there are no prohibition from someone entering the Kingdom of God right now by faith in the Son of God. Scot briefly mentioned that "while Ladd got a lot of things right, there remains more to be said." I’d like to dialogue with Scot sometime about what yet remains to be said as I am just about ready to get past Ladd’s conclusions into the next "level" or "arena" or however you’d like to term it.
While Scot brings up some extremely valid points concerning how we preach the gospel, the weakness of his presentation did not address any solutions for gospel presentation in particular. His second presentation, which I hope to get to after I write a little piece on David Turner and Ruth Tucker, addressed the assembly style of the church, but not the presentation of the gospel. So Scot’s critique may do very little to help the evangelical community if no solutions are offered.
But this begs the question, "What can be done?" The gospel, or good news, is only good news if I understand the bad news. The bad news is that we are all sinners by nature due to Adam’s sin and our own individual choices. Christ came preaching the good news of His Kingdom, then inaugurated the New Covenant by shedding His blood on the cross, then rose from the dead for our justification and to prove His power over death itself. Unless I understand that I am a sinner, there is no need for me to believe this gospel. And do Scot’s conclusions diminish the individual choices that one must make in order to enter the kingdom of God? The Bible is clear that "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God", John 3:3; "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish", Luke 13:1-9; "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God", John 3:18; "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved", Romans 10:13.
But I very much enjoyed Scot’s definition of the gospel. To believe in Christ is to walk through the doors into a community of those who do the will of God. Hey, that’s good! That’s what we should be teaching.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman