Thoughts of a Living Christian

Musings of an amateur theologian and hopeful writer

Archive for the tag “Justification”

King Jesus

Reading McKnight[1] I found myself happy that questions I have had for some time are being answered – or at least being discussed in some way. Evangelicalism has for a long time, in my opinion, squashed the Gospel (and, indeed, much of theology and Scripture) into a nice, neat package, easy to unwrap and admire from all angles in one’s own palm. To be sure, I have much to be indebted to Evangelicalism for, and there is much to be admired, but a heavy emphasis on a personal salvation, as present in much Evangelical theology, results in a distortion. I would certainly not remove the need for a personal response to God’s grace, as well as the need for personal repentance, but building one’s understanding of the Gospel on the foundation of an individualistic, personal salvation has a high probability of leading to what I think is a major weakness in many Gospel presentations, certainly not limited to Evangelicalism: the Gospel is simply about getting as many people as possible through the Pearly Gates.

This portrayal of the Gospel – as seen, for example, in Packer and Oden’s portrayal[2] – becomes strictly about justification,[3] with little space for sanctification and discipleship. McKnight’s incorporation of the history of Israel, ongoing obedience, and greater focus on the resurrection results in a more comprehensive account of the Gospel. He argues, “The word gospel…belongs to the story of Jesus as the resolution of Israel’s story,” and is thus “a story about Jesus as Messiah.”[4] Perhaps the only problem I have with McKnight’s portrayal is its tendency to lean solely toward a propitiatory atonement, with indeed very little reference to individual sin and repentance. There is definite need for greater discussion on personal justification without severing it from sanctification, etc. as many Evangelical presentations have done.

[1] Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011).

[2] Thomas C. Oden J. I. Packer, One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004). 35-36.

[3] Seen especially in their statement: “The heart of the Gospel is that our holy, loving Creator, confronted with human hostility and rebellion, has chosen in his own freedom and faithfulness to become our holy, loving Redeemer and Restorer,” (p. 187). The very heart of the Gospel, they say, is a reaction to the problem of sin, rather than Jesus being Israel’s messiah, as McKnight argues.

[4] McKnight. 44, 55. Cf. p. 51 – “Salvation – the robust salvation of God – is the intended result of the gospel about Jesus Christ that completes the Story of Israel in the Old Testament.”


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