Scot McKnight and David deSilva Discuss the Meaning of the Gospel

Over at The Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight is blogging his way through David A. deSilva’s Transformation: The Heart of Paul’s Gospel.

In the book, deSilva argues that the gospel message is far richer than the “get out of hell free” pass that some Christians have unintentionally reduced it to today. He guides readers in expanding their definition of the gospel message as presented in Paul’s letters, and he demonstrates that the gift of righteousness that Paul speaks of in Romans is nothing less than the means to transform and renew all of creation—including ourselves.

As Scot McKnight begins working his way through Transformation, he offers his appreciation for the book’s emphasis, along with a pushback regarding how we define the gospel:

I like deSilva’s emphasis but I will say of his approach what I have said about the soterian approach in my book The King Jesus Gospel. In this book, which we will blog through, David pretty much equates gospel with soteriology and his soteriology has a strong sanctification or transformationist theme, and I agree with that kind of soteriology. But the gospel, articulated overtly in passages like 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 and 2 Timothy 2:8, is first of all christological — it is to tell a story about Jesus as Messiah and Lord of all, whose life was one of entering into our human condition (ending in death) in order to raise us from that human condition. . . .

deSilva puts his finger on a pervasive weakness in some forms of the soterian gospel: it too often lacks the implication of transformation. On that I agree with David, and so we will go through this book.

So I would say that change is not the gospel. The gospel is that Jesus has been crucified and raised and those who are in fellowship with him can and will be changed into Christlikeness. Christoformity is not the gospel; it is what happens when the gospel impacts a person.

David deSilva then chimed in on the comments to explain how he uses the term:

First, I’m thinking of “Gospel” here in terms of what Paul presented as “the good news about how God had intervened and was intervening in the history of humanity and the history of individual humans and humans-in-community to set human beings right before God.” As you read through the book, Scot, I’m confident that you’ll see attention given to the Christological core of the Gospel, but I also think that Paul’s good news, and what he himself saw as the “good” in this “good news,” had to do indeed with the impact of the Christ-event in the lives of believers, which is a way of saying that the Holy Spirit is as much a focus of Paul’s Gospel as the Christ-event.

Second, I would suggest that a statement such as Titus 3:3–8a is as much a summary statement of “Gospel” for Paul as 1 Cor 15:3–8ish or 2 Tim 2:8. Even if Paul does not use the word “Gospel” in that passage, it is still a summary of what Paul would have Titus “insist upon” in his church as core to the movement. Perhaps in the back of my mind I’m also thinking that Paul is articulating his “Gospel” where he doesn’t specifically use the term, and that where Paul does use the term he is not making exclusive claims about the content of his proclamation of “good news.”

McKnight responded, saying, “I hold transformation as vital to the integrity of the salvation message of the Bible, but I do think ‘gospel’ itself is a claim about the story of Israel being fulfilled in the story of Jesus and that its first note is christology. But, with your theme appearing a close second: all christology entails soteriology and all soteriology is transformational.”

Read their full discussion on the original post. Then be sure to pick up your own copy of Transformation: The Heart of Paul’s Gospel, so you can follow along as Scot McKnight continues to blog through the book.

In the meantime, how do you define the gospel? Which element(s) do you see as central to everything else?