What is the Gospel?

Recently I came across a review of Gospel by J.D. Greear written by Scot McKnight. Scot is a scholar I respect a ton, his writing is always forceful but charitable, he always attempts to stay true to the text itself rather than a system, he is ecumenical in his outlook, and from my few brief encounters with him he seems like a really nice guy. Having said that, whenever Scot speaks I listen because there is always something valuable in what he says. Anyway back to the review…Greear read the review which and responded to the review in the comments. This in turn sparked a discussion online between Greear and McKnight. In it McKnight sticks a dagger (at least I believe) in the Gospel Centered tendency to make everything “gospel.” Now being reformed I sympathize a lot with Greear, and I believe that its fine to teach out of one’s theological system, but I think that McKnight is on to something that many reformed and gospel centered people forget, namely that although justification is a marvelous gift from God, a gift that deserves to be meditated upon constantly, and that justification is a key part of the gospel…

Justification is not the Gospel, King Jesus is the Gospel.

Here is what McKnight has to say about the Gospel.

JD, thanks for your graciousness — after all, I pointed at you in this post. Here’s a big one for me: in my view, many (I’m not saying this about you) see in the word “gospel” what amounts to “my theology, a rich theology of grace that is far more difficult to accept and is far more rigorous than others think and there are only a few of us who really believe it all and have the courage to take it all in.” In other words, “gospel” has become “high Calvinist theology.” Much of what I see in TGC’s gospel-shaped, gospel-focused, gospel-this-and-that, is for me mostly the same as high Calvinism.

Remove it all and replace it with “Jesus, King Jesus, Lord, Savior” and now we’ve got the gospel. The gospel is about Jesus, not about our theological systems. I see then in your study an emphasis with which I’d agree as a theology, we are accepted by God on the basis of what God has done for us and not by what we do … all is well at good there, but the gospel is first and foremost a declaration of good news about Jesus as King. The gospel is not that I’m accepted but that Jesus is King, he is accepted in the beloved circle of the Father, and because we are in him we too are accepted. Make sense to you?

Scot McKnight
Scot McKnight

So what do you think? Is the gospel the same thing as justification by faith or is it the announcement that Jesus is Messiah and Lord?


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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