I’m in a “book club” with four other guys who are all believers, and we tend to read books on Christian Theology, which always makes for good discussion with me being an apostate and all. One of the things I like most about the group is that we are free to disagree with one another (even on core issues), and yet we can all still walk away as friends at the end of the night. Our most recent book is The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight.
Let me start off by saying that McKnight is very easy to read — that is to say –he writes well. While I of course disagree with his position and the conclusions he comes to, I didn’t have to trudge my way through the book like others I’ve read, so that was a bonus. Other than being pleasant to read, however, I can’t say much else in favor of the book or McKnight’s conclusions, and I’ll tell you why.
Scot, like other authors such as Brian McLaren, and Rob Bell, seem to be under the impression that Christianity has gotten the gospel and major tenants of the Christian faith wrong for the last 2000 years. In essence, Jesus set things on one trajectory, and then Christians through the ages highjacked things and went off in a direction Jesus never intended. They then call believers to return to the true gospel as proclaimed by Christ, in McKnight’s case — The King Jesus Gospel — the completion of Israel’s story in the person of Jesus. I think there is a major problem in this line of thinking, whether it’s McKnight, or anyone else making the claim that the church has had it wrong for so long. That problem is the Holy Spirit.
In John 16:13, Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth…” and in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” This presents a tremendous problem for McKnight and others who want to say the Church has gotten it wrong for so long, especially as the Holy Spirit is supposed to be indwelling and leading all believers. At best, the Holy Spirit has been asleep behind the wheel for the last 2000 years, and at worst, he is purposely slamming the Church into the guard rails in an attempt to drive Christianity off of a cliff. I tend to think people have the best intentions in pursuing what they believe to be their god, and the same goes for Christians down through the ages. If things have gone so far off the track, and so much destruction and misery has occurred because of the good, yet misguided, intentions of the church — is this not a case of asking for a fish and getting a snake, or asking for bread and getting a stone (Matthew 9:7-11)? McKnight acknowledges the places in history where the church has flown off the rails, but he seems to miss the culpability of the Holy Spirit who was supposed to be leading and guiding the believers.
Now of course the believer, including McKnight, can claim that those people were listening to their own flesh and not the Holy Spirit throughout the ages, but this just loops back around to the same problem. How does Scot know that he’s not listening to his flesh in the direction he’s going? What makes him so sure the confirming voice he hears with his theological conclusions is the Holy Spirit and not his own? It would be quite arrogant for McKnight to claim that he knows it’s the Holy Spirit and those other people are wrong, though theologians of course have done this all through the ages. This is the problem with a deity that chooses to play hide and seek instead of revealing itself plainly to claim its worship from everyone. The most likely conclusion is not that the Holy Spirit is asleep at the wheel, or that he’s trying to run Christianity off of a cliff — it’s that he doesn’t exist. The claims of authors like McKnight or McLaren that the Church has had it wrong for two millennia I think hammer this point home better than anything, and Occam’s razor dictates this is the most reasonable position to come to. I would, however, certainly like to hear Scot’s response to this critique.