Scot McKnight of Jesus Creed (the book and the blog) has a new book out called The King Jesus Gospel, which purports to recover the “original good news.” What does this mean? I haven’t read the book, but on his blog, McKnight says that the way we typically think about the gospel–as a scheme for individual salvation–is unfaithful to the witness of the New Testament. He calls this the “soterian” gospel. But the gospel as presented in the earliest preaching of the church is a “story gospel”:
The soterian gospel and the apostolic gospel are framed differently; the soterian gospel frames everything by elements by elements in the doctrine of salvation. The apostolic gospel frames the gospel as Israel’s Story coming to fulfillment in Jesus as King (Messiah) and Lord who saves. Hence, one frames things as the plan for personal salvation; the other frames things as a Story come to its completion/fulfillment in Jesus who saves.
The soterian gospel says that Jesus is fundamentally about how individuals “get right with God.” By contrast, the story gospel (which McKnight maintains is the original, apostolic gospel) is a more communal-corporate story about God’s plans for creation and how they’re fulfilled through the story of Israel; the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; and the calling of the church as a corporate body to witness to God’s kingdom.
What strikes me here is the similarity between what McKnight is trying to do and R. Kendall Soulen’s reconstruction of the Bible’s “canonical narrative” in The God of Israel and Christian Theology. Like McKnight, Soulen is trying to re-frame the gospel as a story about God’s program of blessing-in-difference for all creation–a story in which individual sin and redemption play a subordinate role. And both shift emphasis from a supposedly “universal” scheme of human sinfulness and the need for redemption to the particular history of God’s covenant with creation and specifically with the people Israel as the means through which God’s purposes are realized. I’d be interested to see if there are further parallels or if McKnight is explicitly influenced by Soulen’s work here.