Sunday, November 06, 2011

McKnight 4: From Salvation to Story

I've been working through Scot McKnight's King Jesus Gospel.  The previous posts include:

Intro: Evangelism Explosion
Chap 1: The Big Question: What is the Gospel?
Chap 2: Gospel Culture vs Salvation Culture

Today it's Chap 3: From Salvation to Story

In this chapter, Scot argues that "The Plan of Salvation and the Method of Persuasion have been given so much weight they are crushing and have crushed the Story of Israel and the Story of Jesus" (43).  To put the plan of salvation in proper perspective, he argues, we have to understand it in the context of the story of God walking with Israel which culminated in the story of Jesus.

He also reveals his hand in this section, he is going to argue that "the word gospel belongs to one and only one of our four sets of terms [story of Israel, story of Jesus, plan of salvation, method of persuasion], and I will contend that it belongs to the Story of Jesus as the resolution to Israel's Story" (44).  In other words, the gospel is not the plan of salvation but the good news about Jesus.

McKnight will no doubt get to the implications.  I think we can again see the two I have already mentioned--getting it right and where we put our emphasis.

I do think that Scot, like Tom Wright, overreads the role the story of Israel played in the thinking of the NT authors.  When we draw from history, we tend to be very selective.  We use what Lyotard called petits récits.  Wright and McKnight in this chapter blur, in my opinion, into theological interpretation (rather than historical exegesis) when they import too much of a grand récit from the OT into the localized meanings of specific passages in the NT.  And they run the risk of creating too unified a grand récit of the NT use of the word "gospel" as well.

In short, creating an overarching sense of the gospel in the New Testament moves beyond exegesis into theologizing, just as drawing on some supposed unified story of Israel is neither OT exegesis nor a story presupposed in its entirety by any one NT text.  It is theologizing.  I have no problem with such theologizing, only that it so often pretends to be exegesis.

The "grand narrative" that Wright and here McKnight are building is constructed out of biblical materials but it goes well beyond the "local narratives" presupposed by individual NT texts. It blurs into theological interpretation and at that point is not exegesis.

6 comments:

Scott F said...

Thank you so much for calling out Wright and McKnight. In trying to figure out what the whole Wrightian fuss was, I could not shake the feeling that he was too clever for his own good, that he had created this lovely story in his head that was so compelling that he would not allow any any inconvenient facts of history to ruin its elegance.

Ken Schenck said...

He is much cleverer than I. I do want to make it clear, however, in case he or Scot should chance across this exchange, that by saying they are theologizing, I am not dismissing what they're saying. I'm simply claiming that they have moved beyond the biblical text to theological construction.

Scott F said...

This Story of Israel meme is kicking up a lot of discussion about how interpretations of kingdom of heaven/God affect Christian practice and outlook. Reading various blogs , especially Scot McKnight's discussions of his gospel of Jesus, a question has introduced itself in my mind.

Is the gospel about Jesus primarily or about the Kingdom itself? Jesus spends a lot of time discussing the nature of the kingdom and what is expected of his followers behavior - supposedly in relation to their role in the kingdom. In fact, compared to the kingdom discussion, Jesus' kingship hardly comes up in the Gospels. Even in John's Gospel, Jesus casts his role as doing the will of the Father.

I am increasingly thinking that McKnight is off on a tangent that, while intellectually satisfying, is a theological dead end.

Scott F said...

I would hold that theology should never be divorced from exegesis, history or even science. Without outside checks. theology descends into metaphysics and opinion, an intellectual exercise increasingly divorced from the lives of those it should be reaching.

Scot McKnight said...

Ken, I don't see you calling us out so much as making a point.

Well, the Story ... I'm doing my bet to figure out what "story" makes sense of gospeling in the NT, and I focus on 1 Cor 15 and the gospel sermons in Acts, where Scriptures are used ... in other words, there is some kind of Story at work that gives rise to Jesus being Messiah/King.

We can at least take a good look at the Scriptures they were appealing to.

On top of this, I see the Gospels as the gospel itself, and I hope that is not a stretch for your readers. Why else call them "gospel"?

Fundamental to my project is seeing christology as the center of what gospel is: it's the Story about Jesus that is what they mean by gospel.

Anyway, thanks Ken.

I don't want any more theological interpretation than I see at work in the NT itself, but you'd have a hard time besting theological interpretation in 1 Cor 15 (esp 3-28) or the powerhouse at work in Acts 2, and even Peter in 10:43 saying something like "all the prophets are about Jesus."

And to say either Tom or I have overdone theologizing would, for both of us I suppose, require something concrete to give us an idea what you mean.

It's hard for me to think saying the gospel is the Story of Israel (basic OT narrative) coming to completion/fulfillment in Jesus as the saving story as overdoing it ... or am I misreading you brother?

You're in Rome. Ah, the good life. Love Italy.

Ken Schenck said...

Thanks for clarifying Scot! I suppose it's dangerous for me to go chapter by chapter when I don't fully know the nuances you will bring out later. I hope to post today (Tuesday) on the next chapter and, like you say, you get more specific there.

One of my main claims is that the content of "the gospel" may be a little different depending on which passage we are looking at. In any case, I'm far more in agreement with you and Wright than in disagreement...