The King Jesus Gospel (3)

In this series, I’m blogging through the book The King Jesus Gospel (full series here). This topic has been particularly interesting to me since my days in seminary. For a few years, I’ve studied the Gospels and the Kingdom of God in scripture. My own studies have led me to the position that McKnight is advocating. Let’s talk about it.

In chapter two, Scot McKnight discusses the differences he sees between a “gospel culture” and a “salvation culture.” He first emphasizes that the necessity of a person to make a commitment to follow Christ is non-negotiable. As he sees it, when Evangelicals talk about “evangelism” we have two words in mind: gospel and salvation. Gospel, from the Greek word euangelion, means “good news”. Salvation is a technical term from the Greek word soteria. These are different words that represent different categories of Christian thinking.

I want now to make a stinging accusation. In this book I will be contending firmly that we evangelicals (as a whole) are not really “evangelical” in the sense of the apostolic gospel, but instead we are soterians…we evangelicals (mistakenly) equate the word gospel with the word salvation. Hence, we are really “salvationists.” When we evangelicals see the word gospel, our instinct is to think (personal) “salvation.” We are wired this way. But these two words don’t mean the same thing, and this book will do its best to show the differences.[1]

Speaking about what the Salvation Culture looks like:

Our salvation culture tends toward asking one double-barreled question: “Who is in and who is out?” Or more personally, “Are you in or out?”[2]

McKnight goes on to illustrate that focusing on this question makes the process of growing disciples very difficult. If this question is our focus, then the tendency is to think that once we’re “in” we’re OK, and this is the end of the story until we die. For Evangelicals committed to making “decisions” for Christ, this is easy to see, but the problem also exists for those from sacramental traditions. Let’s use the Anglican Church as an example of a church in the sacramental tradition. A child in the Anglican Church is baptized as an infant, and then almost automatically accepted as a full-fledged Christian at their Confirmation. While the Evangelical focuses on a “decision” for Jesus to get into Heaven, the sacramental system considers you “in” when you’ve been baptized, catechized, and confirmed. Neither approach is asking for a serious commitment from the person to follow Christ in a meaningful way. McKnight’s point is that by focusing on a person being “in or out” in terms of heaven, we are short-circuiting the gospel, and stunting growth as a disciple.

So what do you think? If you grew up in Evangelicalism, how was the Gospel presented to you? What is your story?


[1] p. 29

[2] p. 31

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4 thoughts on “The King Jesus Gospel (3)

  1. I am going through a bit of confusion right now because everything I used to know isn’t really all there is to know. But I am glad I am learning more and not stuck in the “I already know everything” state.
    When I grew up it was all about the date. The day you prayed and accepted Christ as your Savior. If you didnt know the date, you must not really be saved. Nothing else really mattered as long as you had that date.
    Now I am seeing it is not all about the date you said your prayer. Your whole life changes when you truly choose to follow Christ. And I am finally understanding how to tell others about the gospel not just the choice of salvation.

    • Hi Julia,
      I understand your feelings of confusion. What I think I understand gets scrambled from time to time too. It is sometimes kind of painful.

      I don’t remember the exact date when I prayed the prayer, but I know it was a Wednesday evening in January, 1980 after coming home from church. I prayed with my dad in my room. You know, there is nothing wrong with having a date and thinking it important, but it isn’t the complete picture.

      I’m glad you’re getting excited following Christ. Jesus is THE point of it all.

  2. I didn’t have much of church upbringing as a child, so I was one of those radically saved sinners as a young adult…and boy did I need it. While I did have that evangelical salvation experience, I never felt like that was it. It seems like, even in my “infancy” I was aware that salvation wasn’t just a one time experience, but a life long process. Maybe bcause I was(am) so aware of all my faults and that it would time to work through the layers.

    • I’m glad you reminded me of this. I tend to look at these issues through the lens of my own experience. This is why I’m posting on these things. I’m hoping other people’s experiences can educate me a little to how the gospel works in people’s lives.

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