Saturday, October 29, 2011

McKnight's King Jesus Gospel 1

I was able to get a copy of Scot McKnight's new book, King Jesus Gospel over here.  My initial hunch is that it might be a very helpful book at this time.  I thought I would try to dawdle through it these next few weeks.

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In this opening foray, Scot paints the picture of what he is addressing--American evangelism that is overwhelmingly focused on getting someone to make a decision, pray a prayer.  He recounts the story of visiting a man in the days of Evangelism Explosion (we Wesleyans did the same thing with Maxwell's stuff).  The key point was to get some stranger or near stranger to pray a prayer.

In the story he recounts, the deacon he is with misses all the social cues at someone's house.  They have gone to the home of a one time visitor to the church.  After prolonged persistence, the guy prays the prayer.  They leave.  The deacon celebrates--someone's been saved.  The man never darkens the door of the church again.

Then Scot gets real.  He figures that by conservative estimates, 50% of these decisions don't amount to much of significance afterwards.  Teasing American evangelical biases, he suggests that the correlation between evangelical "decisions" and solid faith later is about the same as the correlation between Roman Catholic children baptized and significant faith later.

Here's a poignant quote: "Focusing youth events, retreats and programs on persuading people to make a decision disarms the gospel, distorts numbers, and diminishes the significance of discipleship" (20).

So it begins...

9 comments:

Rick Dykema said...

Thanks for joining the conversation around this book! We just picked it up this morning.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It is very disturbing when one pronounces "God's agenda", as it conforms to some belief and behavior about "God" that reduces liberty. It doesn't matter if such belief leads to "good works" or not. This is exactly what Islam does, as Islam super-intends Allah over all of life. Apart from God, there is no "life", in this understanding. This leaves little room for differences of opinion concerning many things that should be left open.

Who says that a Catholic that is baptized 'in faith", is not 'saved"? Is salvation something that people are to make judgments about? Is salvation something that can be described in the same way for everyone, no matter how different they are in their interests or commitments? And what about all of the diverse denominational differences in understanding "salvation"? Do such Christians believe in liberty of conscience, or is that just for those that need "further holiness training" by those "in the know", which means a 'new Magisterium", or re-affirming an ancient text as Supreme Authority, when the questions are still not answered in the same way?

Is salvation dependent on a "special messenger", accepting the "special messanger", or "the secret message"? Is salvation about secret knowledge such as the mystery cults understood? Or is salvation about a social agenda that is to limit liberty and bring in a uniform and classless society, such as communism?

FrGregACCA said...

"Teasing American evangelical biases, he suggests that the correlation between evangelical "decisions" and solid faith later is about the same as the correlation between Roman Catholic children baptized and significant faith later."

Actually, I suspect the numbers are better for those who receive infant baptism, especially among RC's.

Let us remember the parable of the sower and the aphorism, "Train up a child in the way that he should go..."

Of course, this is also true for those of us raised, actively raised, in an Evangelical context. I made that decision, prayed that prayer, at age seven. I have not lived a perfect life since. Far from it! But I have always been a Christian.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

FrGregACCA,
Internalization of one's religious upbringing can be a significant identity factor, but it can also be damaging, if such upbringing was continually negative toward the child. The child will internalize these negative messages personally, as children do not make distinctions between making a mistake and being a mistake! This can hinder a child's ability to think of himself and others in a healthy way.

In this sense, salvation is to be freed from a overly active religious conscience, or a overly dependent personality.

I know someone who was a preacher but was transgender in orientation. He was not respectful of those he ministered to, but really despised them. I think it would have been much more healthy for him to accept that he did not belong in the pulpit, when he disagreed with about everything those in the pew stood for. Salvation for him, as well as those in the pew existed in his exit. I think this is the case for all group identifications and those that choose to affiliate with them.

Those raised in a strict environment may or may not "stay faithful" to what they learned as a child and some of it has to do with how they internalized the message, and what the message ended up meaning to them as a person that continues to develop.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Some suggest that Martin Luther because of his background/personality had an overly zealous religious conscience. This was the basis of his "conversion" and finding "liberty", as not "under law". His experience became the "Gospel message" of the Reformed Tradition.

But, other Traditions lay claim not on psychological truth, but on behavioral truth. The question then becomes can behavior be demanded when one's psychological bent/temprament is not geared toward that behavior? These are questions about pscyhology, sociology, morality, society, and policy.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Such questions about policy are leading ones concerning social change, or maintaining the status quo.

JohnM said...

"They have gone to the home of a one time visitor to the church. After prolonged persistence, the guy prays the prayer. They leave. The deacon celebrates--someone's been saved. The man never darkens the door of the church again."

I'm quite familiar with the scenario. A resulting fifty percent rate of ongoing strong faith is a way optimistic estimate for people who never really expressed any interest in Christianity but are cajoled or badgered into repeating the prescribed words.

However, not all responses to what Scot McKnight calls the soterian gospel are made in the context described by that scenario. Never darkened the door AGAIN implies the person ever did in the first place. I'd bet "the correlation between evangelical "decisions" and solid faith later" is quite a bit higher when the individual has some degree of current, and maybe even prior, association with a church that preaches the gospel. And yes I mean from a "soterian" understanding.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

JohnM,
No one agrees about what constitutes salvation, but since the correlaton of liberty to license has been suggested, so often, as it pertains to "grace"/works discussions, moral developmental theories are where many are deciding to "throw their hat"! And such are the stuff of "discipleship making" evangelicalism or John Wesley's bands movement OR a moral ontological understanding about the universe that is absolute supporting "social/moral order" theories of the universe.

Faith communities have agendas, as any social group. Such agendas feed the denomination's goals. Denominational goals are not acceptable to everyone, as they are also bent on a supernaturalistic understanding of reality (though the denomination plays by the rules of any other social organization.)So, what in effect is "the Gospel", except promoting a specific "flavor" of supernaturalism within a natural social structure and in America without an accountability!

Or it is promoting a naturalist understanding of "faith" where "social problems" become the Church's work in the world. This view boils down to humanism.

So whether supernatural claims that depend upon natural social structures to further their goals without accountability, OR natural social structures that the Church addresses, both have agendas for individual members, and understandings as to "faith claims".

Scott F said...

I've been trying to figure out what Wright and McKnight mean by defining the gospel the way they do. More to the point, how does their interpretation affect how we view the Kingdom of God and the practice of Christianity. While it is fun to snark about the obvious failings within a movement or organization, the fix is the rub!

I look forward to your thoughts on this perspective on Paul and Jesus.