"Evangelicalism is facing a crisis about the relationship of Jesus to Paul, and many today are choosing sides."

Scot McKnight - Jesus vs. Paul

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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McKnight wrote:
The early 20th century arrival of the social gospel, which seemed to link "kingdom" with "liberal" and "justice," made the Pauline emphasis within the evangelical movement more pronounced. Furthermore, when some evangelicals recently rediscovered Jesus' kingdom vision, they were frequently warned that they were on the verge of falling for a social gospel.

Later Scot says...

Quote:
But what weakens the attempt to make Paul fit into a kingdom vision weakens the attempt to make Jesus fit into Paul's justification paradigm. What makes Paul tick at the level of language just doesn't make Jesus tick. What makes Jesus tick in the kingdom doesn't make Paul tick. We either have to let Jesus be Jesus, who barely talks about justification, and let Paul be Paul, who barely talks about kingdom (video), or we have to find another way

But his solution tampers with the gospel...

McKnight wrote:
The Gospel Way
The problem with the two approaches—trying to make Paul fit Jesus' kingdom vision, or trying to make Jesus fit Paul's justification vision—comes down to this: each approach reduces the word gospel. For one group, it is equated with the kingdom. For the other, it is a synonym for justification by faith. To be sure, the word gospel encapsulates both kingdom and justification, but gospel operates on a foundation deeper than either. If we can grasp that, the supposed disjunction between Jesus and Paul disappears.

...
Excuse me for piling on here, but only when we grasp the gospel as the saving story about Jesus that completes Israel's story do we see the profound unity between Jesus and Paul. Both "gospeled" the same gospel because both told the story of Jesus.

He concludes...

McKnight wrote:
If we begin with kingdom, we have to twist Paul into shape to fit a kingdom vision. If we begin with justification, we have to twist Jesus into shape to fit justification. But if we begin with gospel, and if we understand gospel as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, then we will find what unifies Jesus and Paul—that both witness to Jesus as the center of God's story. The gospel is the core of the Bible, and the gospel is the story of Jesus. (video) Every time we talk about Jesus, we are gospeling. Telling others about Jesus leads to both the kingdom and—but only if we begin with Jesus.

Aaron Blumer's picture

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He's definitely on to something about the growing divide over Jesus vs. Paul. I think he understates the relationship between social gospel and the linking of kingdom now with "liberal" and "justice."
And in the end it's not clear to me what his solution really is. Don't read Jesus in light of Paul, but start with Paul?

At any rate, the main flaw I think is this: "The gospel is the story of Jesus." I don't think this is adequate. It's the story of sin and salvation, the center of which is Jesus. But ultimately, I think the Jesus-Paul problem really springs from failing to maintain the distinction between Israel and the church and God's overlapping but distinct plans for the two. Ultimately, the redemption of Israel in a visible, earthly kingdom is part of the gospel story, too, but it's a distinct thread in the story.
I just don't think there's any way to properly exalt the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of Paul at the same time without giving that distinction it's proper weight.

Charlie's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
He's definitely on to something about the growing divide over Jesus vs. Paul. I think he understates the relationship between social gospel and the linking of kingdom now with "liberal" and "justice."
And in the end it's not clear to me what his solution really is. Don't read Jesus in light of Paul, but start with Paul?

At any rate, the main flaw I think is this: "The gospel is the story of Jesus." I don't think this is adequate. It's the story of sin and salvation, the center of which is Jesus. But ultimately, I think the Jesus-Paul problem really springs from failing to maintain the distinction between Israel and the church and God's overlapping but distinct plans for the two. Ultimately, the redemption of Israel in a visible, earthly kingdom is part of the gospel story, too, but it's a distinct thread in the story.
I just don't think there's any way to properly exalt the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of Paul at the same time without giving that distinction it's proper weight.

It sounds like you didn't read the article very closely. Your quotation is reductionistic: "The gospel is first and foremost about Jesus. Or, to put it theologically, it's about Christology. Behind or underneath both kingdom and justification is the gospel, and the gospel is the saving story of Jesus that completes Israel's story. "To gospel" is to tell a story about Jesus as the Messiah, as the Lord, as the Son of God, as the Savior." This is right in line with orthodox Christianity, which has used the word "Gospel" primarily to refer to the life of Jesus, which is why we have the four Gospels.

McKnight is clearly influenced by some current strains in biblical theology. His proposal bears more than a little resemblance to N. T. Wright's Jesus and the People of God. Yet, in many ways it is quite old, being a more sophisticated reworking of Irenaean recapitulation ideas. The Jesus-Paul problem springs from many things, not least of which being the somewhat radical biblical criticism coming from outside evangelicalism. But the idea that a more Dispensational approach would solve the problem is entirely contrary to the facts of the matter. Dispensationalism has been the single greatest factor in evangelicalism for creating disjunction between Jesus and Paul. It's no coincidence that many early Dispensationalists rejected the whole Bible save the Pauline epistles, and it's clear that a strong Pauline preference persists to this day. Only recently have Dispensationalists grudgingly conceded that parts of the Gospels such as the Sermon on the Mount do actually apply to the church. We have a poster on this very board who questions whether Paul and Jesus really preached the same gospel. Where did he get the idea that they don't? From Clarence Larkin, one of the influential Dispensationalists of the early 20th century.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Peter Laitres's picture

Charlie wrote:
"It's no coincidence that many early Dispensationalists rejected the whole Bible save the Pauline epistles, and it's clear that a strong Pauline preference persists to this day."

Would you like to give us some examples other than these sweeping statements? I have never read after, nor met, a dispensationalist who didn't believe the entire Bible.

Twitter: GodsLaw1 *** www.peterlaitres.net ***  

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” - Galatians 2:21HCSB

Andrew Comings's picture

Peter Laitres wrote:
Would you like to give us some examples other than these sweeping statements? I have never read after, nor met, a dispensationalist who didn't believe the entire Bible.

While I can't speak to the early dispensationalists, I do know that this idea is alive and well today. Actually, they would say they "believe" the whole Bible, but only the Pauline Epistles are relevant for Christians today. This is obviously not the dominating view in dispensationalism, but it is alive and well. My first run-in with this notion was as a teenager working at Burger King. The guy (who belonged to some organization that produced its own literature) would debate with me on my breaks. It was all about "rightly dividing", and he even went so far as to make distinctions as to which of Paul's epistles was relevant for us. Interestingly, he somehow was able to state dogmatically that Hebrews was one of Pauls letters, thus relevant for us today.

More recently I was accosted after preaching a message in Brazil by a man who complained that I should be preaching from "just Paul's letters". His reasoning was the same.

So...this idea is "out there", in more ways than one.

Missionary in Brazil, author of "The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max" Online at: http://www.comingstobrazil.com http://cadernoteologico.wordpress.com

Todd Wood's picture

I have never read after, nor met, a dispensationalist who didn't believe the entire Bible.

A single man, a "brother", just a month ago, told me to "spend time only in the Pauline letters directed to the church". This is what was relevant to him. So I immediately got into the gospel of the O.T. He flat out told me that they, the believers, were saved by the law, and that a massive discontinuity took place with Paul.

I then pulled out my punching gloves. It wasn't a pretty conversation. At all.

But in this statement: "To gospel" is to tell a story about Jesus as the Messiah, as the Lord, as the Son of God, as the Savior. LDS apologists say, right on!

Bob T.'s picture

When I read this article a couple of days ago it occurred to me that he appears to be referring to the synoptic gospels but leaves the theology of the gospel of John out. In the gospel of John we have a theological message of the gospel that was written to bring a person to the place of believing. This is a step to then having a further explanation of why and how only believing is efficacious to us. That further explanation is given in Romans. 1 Cor.15 gives the historical facts of the gospel with application. It still gives no explanation of Justification.

In the synoptic gospels we have the Messiah presenting His Kingdom and alluding to how one must follow Him as the Messiah to be part of the Kingdom. This is ministry under the law to those under the law. The church is alluded to as yet future.

In the gospel of John we have Jesus as the savior of the world.

In Romans we have the explanation of the theology and application of the gospel that enables God to offer Justification and the Kingdom by any and all who will only believe the gospel and become one relying upon its promises.

If the gospel of John is included we have more congruity to the words of Jesus and the words of Paul. It is called progressive revelation.

There are not two gospels here but there are different emphasis in declaring the gospel's hope. There was a declaration of gospel (good news) that emphasized the kingdom promises to Israel. There was also then a later gospel emphasis that was to Jew and Gentile that emphasized hope in the salvation transaction and the future kingdom as it involved all peoples and the ultimate total transformation of the entire universe (2Pet.3:10-13).

Peter Laitres's picture

In reply to all - Hyper-dispensationalists tend to believe that the Pauline epistles exclusively teach church doctrine. They are obviously very wrong. BUT -- even that is far from what was stated by Charlie.

Might I add that if you're not bringing a sacrifice to the temple you are at least acknowledging that not all parts of the Bible equally APPLY to everyone of every age.

So I stand by my statement - the examples cited by others do restrict, wrongfully, the extent of what books of the Bible apply to whom, but they do not reject the Bible in any way. Besides that, in any theological/exegetical argument we can find extremists who, at best, take a kernel of truth and run way too far with it.

Twitter: GodsLaw1 *** www.peterlaitres.net ***  

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” - Galatians 2:21HCSB

Jeff Brown's picture

I wonder if everyone commenting here has read McKnight's piece?

I never went through the tensions of back and forth between Jesus and Paul that McKnight describes from the time I was saved. But the conclusion he comes to is excellent. This is a good read and certainly on target as to what the Bible has to say. McKnight brings Paul and Jesus together (like one would expect for an apostle who says, "for me to live is Christ" and his Messiah).

In spite of the fact that McKnight defines the Kingdom in a much different way than does one of SI's recent front page articles (4th Paragraph under"Two Approaches"), McKnight's whole article has almost nothing to do with any debate over dispensationalism and covenant theology. It has primarily to do with the concepts involved in "The New View of Paul," the Emerging Church, and the likes of Jim Wallis of Sojourners (which is, by the way, a revived argument of theological Liberalism from 100 years ago).

Thanks, Aaron for calling our attention to this.

Jeff Brown

Bob T.'s picture

The issue of the Gospel according to Jesus and the Gospel of Paul is involved with the Lordship Gospel debate. The Lordship Gospel looks to statements of Jesus, especially in the synoptic Gospels, as that which must apply to the Gospel declared today and the terms of Justification. It is a misapplication of statements of the Messiah to those under the law and regarding their responsibility to repent (change mind) and follow the Messiah and obtain the kingdom promises. There is the call to the gospel and discipleship but no explanation of Justification as explained in Romans. That explanation does nor mention repentance as part of faith or a separate requirement of faith. I focuses on the requirement of Justification based on faith alone. Repentance in the Gospels is a call to faith but not that which is part of faith or a requirement of salvation.

A proper understanding of the words of Jesus in His earthly ministry and how that fits with the further revelation through Paul is necessary to properly understand the full theology of the Gospel.

This article is right about increased conflict on this subject. Some promoting the LS Gospel have heightened this issue. John Piper is mentioned as one seeking to give an answer.

Charlie's picture

Bob T. wrote:
The issue of the Gospel according to Jesus and the Gospel of Paul is involved with the Lordship Gospel debate. The Lordship Gospel looks to statements of Jesus, especially in the synoptic Gospels, as that which must apply to the Gospel declared today and the terms of Justification. It is a misapplication of statements of the Messiah to those under the law and regarding their responsibility to repent (change mind) and follow the Messiah and obtain the kingdom promises. There is the call to the gospel and discipleship but no explanation of Justification as explained in Romans. That explanation does nor mention repentance as part of faith or a separate requirement of faith. I focuses on the requirement of Justification based on faith alone. Repentance in the Gospels is a call to faith but not that which is part of faith or a requirement of salvation.

A proper understanding of the words of Jesus in His earthly ministry and how that fits with the further revelation through Paul is necessary to properly understand the full theology of the Gospel.

This article is right about increased conflict on this subject. Some promoting the LS Gospel have heightened this issue. John Piper is mentioned as one seeking to give an answer.

In case anyone was wondering, I think Bob T. confirmed what I was saying about Dispensationalists dividing Jesus and Paul. At least he's honest about it.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jeff wrote:
McKnight's whole article has almost nothing to do with any debate over dispensationalism and covenant theology.

This is true. I raised that subject in my first post because, in his struggle to solve the Jesus vs. Paul tension, it does not appear he gave (mature) dispensationalism a serious look. So it's a bit like looking at a burning building, and you have a fully operational fire hydrant next to you with hoses etc. But you decide instead to work on way to cover the whole building in a huge wet blanket lowered by helicopters.

Weak analogy, but it's early in the morning. Smile My point is that the essence of dispensationalism (not all the distorted and extreme versions) provides a solid solution to this problem and doesn't lean toward views of the kingdom that are so vulnerable to the multitude of modern kingdom theologies that send churches off on wild tangents from their true purpose in the world.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
My point is that the essence of dispensationalism (not all the distorted and extreme versions) provides a solid solution to this problem and doesn't lean toward views of the kingdom that are so vulnerable to the multitude of modern kingdom theologies that send churches off on wild tangents from their true purpose in the world.

Aaron, you are quick to distance yourself from the distorted and extreme versions of dispensationalism, yet it seems as if you are quite content to build up a strawman and attack the "distorted modern kingdom theologies that send churches off on wild tangents from their true purpose in the world." Its those that lean more towards Kingdom now at the expense of the future kingdom (such as the dead emergent church movement) that send the churches on wild goose chases that you refer to.

McKnight demonstrates his faithfulness to the scriptures and gospel, by centering his argument on the person and message of Christ in I Cor. 15. By the way, Scot McKnight has given dispensationalism a fair look, because he grew up as one (along the lines of Charles Ryrie). He was taught it at Cornerstone University in the 1970's (back when it was Grand Rapids Baptist College). However, he rejected it when he went to TEDS.

Jeff Brown's picture

Aaron,

I'll concede your point. So where did you see these helicopters do this?

Again - I distance myself from any dispensational/covenant debate on this issue. McKnight did not bring up the instruction of Jesus in John 16:12-13 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come." One of the reasons that Jesus and Paul sound different from one another is because Jesus withheld a pretty significant amount of truth: truth only to be delivered to the Church after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In fact the NT books of Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude all sound from a little to much different than Jesus. In those eight books the word "kingdom" occurs a total of three times (the infrequency of "kingdom" being one of the arguments some want to use to divide Jesus from Paul). But McKnight would have needed to write an article twice as long to include this point.

Jeff Brown

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
McKnight did not bring up the instruction of Jesus in John 16:12-13 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come."...

But McKnight would have needed to write an article twice as long to include this point.

Perhaps, but John 16:13-15 is where he should have started.

His premise seems to be that Paul's words were not Christ's words. But Jesus won't own that!