The Individualistic Gospel

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
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4 Responses to The Individualistic Gospel

  1. Jim says:

    Orange-
     
    I hadn\’t really tought about the fact that Scot didn\’t offer solutions during his talk until you mentioned it here. After you mentioned it, I couldn\’t think of any solutions that he offered either. But now that I\’ve listed to the audio files from the day, I think he did:
     
    -1- He told the person from that church (you know, the one with the initials Willow Creek) to change the gospel they were preaching.
     
    -2- He said, "The kind of gospel we preach shapes the kind of Christian we create," and that separating the gospel and the Kingdom was "an act of Biblical violence." While this is not a list of how to implement the gospel, it tells us that we cannot preach an individualistic gospel without expecting individualistic Christians. Logic would then tell us that Scot\’s solution would include preaching community or the Kingdom as part of the gospel presentation.
     
    -3- Scot does not disagree with your point that "the gospel is only good news if I understand the bad news." Do you remember the end of session 1? He says, "To summon people to believe in Jesus then is to call individuals–yes individuals–to follow Christ, and they will discover within the minute of faith that following Jesus means walking straight into the doors of a fellowship of those, to quote Jesus once again, \’who do the will of my Father.\’" He finishses by saying, "To respond to Jesus is to join the church both universal and local."
     
    If, by claiming that Scot did not offer solutions, you mean that he did not give us a "five step" program to implement a non-individualistic gospel, then you are correct–he did not do that. Nor would I have wanted or expected him to do so. That would have defeated the point. The gospel we preach must include the Kingdom of God and the community it creates, or it is not the gospel. So the solution is simple–preach the Kingdom (I think some guy named Jesus did that). I think Scot did offer the solution, he just didn\’t create a one-size-fits-all application and force feed it to us.
     
    One last note: I am very surprised that you did not take issue with Scot\’s blanket statement that no one celebrates civic holidays anymore. I know that you, like every good goverment employee, enjoy civic holidays immensely.

  2. Jim says:

    Orange-
     
    By the way, I left a comment on Scot\’s blog today and pointed him to your site. He did get a MSN account, so he can\’t leave comments, but he sent me this email:
    ——————————————————————-
    Jim,

    Thanks for this. I read the orange mailman\’s response, and tried to respond, but there must be some requirement I don\’t have. But, what I\’d tell him is that I was asked to address the problem of the individualistic gospel and was not asked to provide an evangelistic strategy. I do think individuals have to have faith — and I said that pretty clearly — but we have to avoid making such a response the whole of the gospel.
    Blessings,
    Scot McKnight
    Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies North Park University
    3225 W. Foster Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60625
    smcknight@northpark.edu
    http://www.jesuscreed.org

  3. Darrin says:

    Hey Jim-
     
    Thanks for leaving that little tidbit over on Scot\’s blog.  I\’m not through here yet as you\’ll see.  I was thinking about leaving him a little something after I had posted on all four sessions.
     
    I agree with all of your points and would not have expected Scot to give a "five step plan" either.  My point there being a slight critique, was not meant to disagree with Scot, but to encourage us to be thinking in that direction, ie, offer some solutions.  And at the same time to realize that there is an individualistic nature to the gospel that can\’t be ignored.  Yes, let\’s emphasize these points that Scot has presented, but realize the pendulum could swing too far in the other direction.  For instance, "I became a member of my church, now I am in the kingdom of God."
     
    I\’m trying to turn over in my own mind the flaws that I may have in the ways I think of preaching the gospel and the ways that I preach the gospel.  The practical solution that is staring me in the face causes the classic dispensational model to come tumbling to the ground.  The gospel of the kingdom is the gospel that Jesus preached and also is the gospel that He "handed off" for His disciples to preach.
     
    How can we preach the gospel as Scot has laid out in a way that a first grader could understand?
     
    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
     
    -The Orange Mailman

  4. Darrin says:

    Scot-
     
    If you do come and read this, thank you very much for your response.  I realize that you were "contracted" (so to speak), to narrow the scope of your presentation on the subject matter.  I\’m hoping that folks like yourself will awaken the need to present the "community" aspect of the gospel so that others may be thinking of ways to incorporate this into the "preaching of the gospel".  Let\’s be thinking forward about this.
     
    I agree about "making such a response the whole of the gospel".  In fact, this Sunday I will be substituting for another Sunday School teacher (not you Jim) and will be teaching on repentance.  And guess what I\’m going to say is a part of repentance according to Acts 2:38?  Baptism!  I\’m going to clarify that baptism is not necessary for salvation, but it is necessary for Biblical repentance.  The reason being that repentance is the change of heart, change of mind, resulting in the change of direction in a life.  When we repent, we are turning from sin, Satan, the flesh, the world, but what are we turning toward?  We are turning toward Christ and Christ\’s body, the church.  And now that I\’ve heard you speak on this, I\’m going to incorporate a little tidbit of your presentation into that point.  I\’m pretty sure there are some people attending that class who have not been baptized or joined our church.  (Pray Pray Pray)
     
    I really "get" what you were saying.  Many people make repentance out to be less than it really is, just like folks make the gospel out to be less than it really is.  I\’m very much in agreement with the first session you gave.  But, just wait until I write about the last session (insert evil smirk here).
     
    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
     
    -The Orange Mailman

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