In Scot McKnight’s article in the December issue of Christianity Today [ HatTip: TC ] I think he is really onto something big here. He is bringing up an issue that is just on the cusp of really becoming a major issue within evangelical Christianity, especially amongst younger evangelicals. People are finding that they can resonate more with Jesus’ kingdom vision rather than Paul’s message of justification. For those who don’t think so, just wait and see. Today, there is a disconnect between our inability to connect Jesus’ language about the “kingdom of God” with Paul’s language of justification, says McKnight. What McKnight wants us to see is that the two can be reconciled.
This article has caused me to become more self-aware of the change in my own theology. In coming out of a Lutheran seminary two years ago. I have been more storied in the justice/kingdom language in the gospels of Jesus rather than the justification language of Paul’s epistles. As a result, I have been preaching more from the gospels–actually more than double the number of sermons on Paul’s epistles. Why? Perhaps I just feel more comfortable with Jesus’ kingdom of God, and less comfortable with Paul’s justification. I am an evangelical, but am I a typical evangelical? Perhaps…perhaps not. However, I think this may be representative of many recent seminary graduates, especially those coming out from more liberal seminaries where social justice is sometimes over-emphasized.
During my seminary days, I have heard far more sermons in chapel on the gospels of Jesus rather than on Paul’s epistles….in church too. What will be a consequence of this change? Our sermons will become more justice-oriented rather than justification-oriented. Perhaps this may have contributed to the mainline denominations emphasis on justice in their theology. . Perhaps I need to be re-storied in Paul’s language of justification rather than Jesus’ justice language on the kingdom of God? Where is the balance in my life? Perhaps this is why I’ve decided to take continue education classes at an evangelical seminary because I feel that I am missing out on an evangelical slant on Paul’s understanding of the gospel.
In our evangelical minds, we may like to think of ourselves as pro-justification and on the side of Paul, but our theology may actually be more in line with the justice of Jesus’ kingdom of God. Regarding gospelling, McKnight says in the video interview, that we have moved into a persuasive rhetoric, whereas, we used to use declarative rhetoric. Persuasive rhetoric is open to manipulation so we should be more declarative in our gospelling. [ video here…]
In your church, are you hearing more sermons based on the gospel text? Or on Paul’s epistles?