In the last post, we looked at the gospel message as it is typically put forth today, what Scot McKnight has labeled the ‘soterian gospel’ and identified as not being the original gospel but rather the plan of salvation.
Before that, we looked at the elements of story and how each version of the gospel sees God’s Story. I do not know that McKnight would totally agree with how I’m comparing the two, but this framing is what is most helpful to me. The picture below shows how I see these two storylines differing.
Again, the gospel we are used to (the Four Spiritual Laws, the bridge illustration…) is really just the Plan of Salvation. Sharing it is not wrong or invalid, but as we saw in the last post, it easily leads to a one-dimensional, one-way, me-centered relationship with Christ.
That is not to say that the Billy Graham crusades (for example) were pointless, or that God cannot use this skinny version of the gospel to bring us into right relationship with Him, expand His kingdom, and bring glory to His name. But for those of us who take the Great Commission in Matthew 28 seriously, we must always be seeking to make the message we bring be as close to Jesus’ original gospel as we can.
So asking ‘What is the gospel?’ and ‘Who is Jesus?’ are essential questions for each generation to freshly wrestle with as we stand on the shoulders of the generations before us. We cannot be afraid of the search, but it must be a search done humbly and with open minds in Christian community, led by the Spirit, immersed in the Scriptures, contextualized in history, and tested theologically.
In the next post, we will examine what faith in Jesus looks like based off of ‘the King Jesus gospel.’