Many Evangelical Christians are missing the gospel says NT scholar Scot McKnight in his recent publication The King Jesus Gospel (Zondervan, 2011).  The problem he believes is that we have confused the gospel with “the plan of salvation.”

Many of us came to faith in response to a concise doctrinal summary like “The Four Spiritual Laws” or “The Romans Road.” Such summaries have their place but lead to problems if they become a substitute for the gospel itself.  If we ask how the Bible defines the gospel (McKnight begins with 1 Cor. 15:1-8), the answer is that gospel refers to the story of Jesus and how Jesus is the fulfillment and completion of the story of the Old Testament.  This results in an understanding of gospel that is broader and deeper than merely a plan of salvation.

This leads McKnight to contrast what he calls a “salvation culture” with a “gospel culture”:

  1.  The salvation culture tends toward an exclusively individualistic understanding of faith; the gospel culture includes the individual in the larger sweep of God’s purpose to redeem all things through the Messiah.
  2. The salvation culture emphasizes a “decision for Christ” which too often results in church membership without discipleship; the gospel culture calls people to respond to Jesus not merely with a “decision” but with a whole-life commitment to the kingdom of God.
  3. The salvation culture lacks the big story of the Bible and consequently Christians are more easily caught up in the stories of surrounding culture (narcissism, consumerism, naturalism, etc.); the gospel culture immerses itself in the powerful story of Jesus as the only antidote to cultural syncretism.

What do you think?  Does this ring true to your own experience in evangelical circles? Is it time to challenge the salvation culture in the name of a deeper understanding of the gospel?

Dave Dunbar is President and Professor of Theology at Biblical Seminary.  He is married to Sharon, has four adult children and six grandchildren.  See also


0 #2 R. Todd Mangum 2011-12-07 16:42
McKnight's book really is good -- with a thesis we really do need to engage. About 15 years ago I remember J. B. Phillips' book coming out, entitled "Your God is too small." John Armstrong's book last year was "Your church is too small." As significant and helpful as those books were, McKnight's is just as significant -- making the case compelling that "our gospel has been too small," reductionistica lly limited to what Dallas Willard has called "a gospel of sin management." It's a must read . . .
0 #1 Nathan Burke 2011-12-05 10:05
Sounds great!

Add comment

Security code

BTS Blog Mission

The purpose of this blog will be to expand the influence of our faculty, maintain contact with our graduates, and invite other friends to think with us about important biblical and theological ideas.

Follow Biblical

Follow us on the following sites and receive notifications on upcoming events and blog entries:

Follow Biblical on facebookFollow Biblical on Twitterg+_64_black

Biblical's Faculty

Biblical’s Faculty:

We are committed to ongoing engagement with culture and the world for the sake of our witness to the Gospel, and to continual learning from Christians in other cultural settings.

Latest Blog Entries

Written on 26 March 2015 - by Susan Disston
Written on 24 March 2015 - by Philip Monroe
Written on 11 March 2015 - by Charles Zimmerman
Written on 27 February 2015 - by Bryan Maier
Written on 25 February 2015 - by Chang Hoon Oh
Written on 20 February 2015 - by Dr. Larry Anderson
Written on 18 February 2015 - by Dr. Susan Baker
Written on 13 February 2015 - by R. Todd Mangum
Written on 12 February 2015 - by Kelly Pfleiger
Written on 10 February 2015 - by Kyuboem Lee

Previous Blog Entries

Contact Admissions

800.235.4021 x146

215.368.5000 x146

215.368.4913 (fax)

Stay Connected with Biblical

Follow us on the following sites:

Follow Biblical on facebookFollow Biblical on TwitterFollow Biblical on YouTubeg+_64_black
Or simply call us at...
800.235.4021 x146 or 215.368.5000 x146

Support Biblical by Giving

800.235.4021 x130

215.368.5000 x130

215.368.7002 (fax)