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.
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?”
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?