If you were asked ‘what do you believe?’, what would you say?
I have just finished reading Scott McKnight’s book ‘The King Jesus Gospel‘. Scott is keen to recover what he calls ‘a Gospel culture’ which moves beyond the plan of salvation and the method of persuasion we use to convince listeners they need to adopt the plan of salvation. He wants to recapture the Gospel of King Jesus, Jesus as Lord. Articulated in its earliest form by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. He argues that evangelicals have lost sight of the Gospel and have become Soterians, interested only in salvation.
It’s a fascinating thesis, which I suspect is probably true of the more pragmatic, moralistic and therapeutic evangelicalism that exists in the US. But he seems to be shooting in the wrong direction. He targets the New Calvinists, the Young Restless and Reformed. But one of the things I appreciate about the New Calvinists is that they do precisely what Scott calls for. They are creating a ‘Gospel Culture’ as they tap into the covenant theology of the Reformed tradition which emphasises that the Gospel is the story of Israel that reaches it’s climax, it’s fulfilment in Jesus. This is exactly how Scott defines his Gospel! Of course, they bemoan the state of evangelicalism too and so have re-emphasised grace, justification by faith alone and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, but, in almost all of the books I have read these emphases sit in the context of the story of the people of Israel. Don Carson in his book ‘The God Who Is There‘ does it, Michael Horton in his books ‘Introducing Covenant Theology‘ and ‘The Gospel-Driven Life‘ does it too and they are both hugely influential amongst the Reformed.
Having said all of that, the book is a timely reminder that grace has a face, it is a person, not a mechanism or a doctrine, and that person is Jesus. That is why the Gospel can be found in the four accounts of Jesus life, that is why Peter’s preaching is all about Jesus and why Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 recounts the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I am sure the New Calvinists would say ‘Amen’ to that. After all, as Mark Driscoll is fond of saying, ‘it’s all about Jesus.’
So, back to the question. If you were asked, ‘what do you believe?’ what would you say. Here is something I wrote to answer that question.
In the beginning God created a world of beauty and grandeur, a world in harmony with itself and with God, held together in his sovereign arms. Into this good world God placed humanity, created to cultivate the world on his behalf. Yet humanity chose its own destiny, fracturing its relationship with God and rupturing the harmony of creation.
But God did not abandon his creation to destruction and decay. Instead he made a promise: a promise to renew it all, to make it right. So he chose one man and his family, and through them, a people, and through this people, a king, to represent him to the world.
This King, Jesus; God himself made flesh; born of a virgin, preached good news to the poor and proclaimed the arrival of the kingdom of God as he healed the sick and forgave sins. He confronted the oppression of religion and political tyranny and was eventually tortured and executed.
In the face of such violence and opposition he remained faithful to God, offering up his humanity as a sacrifice of obedience, while simultaneously, and mysteriously, also bearing in his own body God’s judgement upon a rebellious humanity. Three days later he returned to life having pushed through death and come out the other side.
Those who trust Jesus as their king share this resurrection life, a life reconciled with God. They are empowered to live new lives, forgiven and free from the addiction of sin and the allure of idols, bound together into new relationships forged by God’s Spirit as they are called into a new life of worship, prayer and discipleship as they await the return of their king and the renewal of everything that is.