Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

How do you talk about Jesus' mama? That's a good question to ask. If we are honest, most of us talk more about what we don't believe about Mary than about what we do. You can count on a guy like Scot McKnight to call us (evangelicals) out on that one (I mean that in a good way). And that's exactly what he does in this book.

I know that I haven't thought too much about Mary in the past. I know that Catholics make a lot of her (I just went to Montreal this summer and saw the light show at Notre Dame which proves that point). And I also know that God chose her to be the bearer of the Messiah. So what?

McKnight helps us to make sense of Mary. In her song (known as the Magnificat) she says that "from now on people will call me blessed." McKnight goes through the various stories of Mary so that Evangelicals can call the mother of our Lord (God?) blessed.

Mary longed for God to come to his people and establish his kingdom, his new society of justice and peace. Like most people Mary probably thought that the Messiah would march into Jerusalem, kill the Romans and establish his throne. God visited Mary and told her that she would give birth to God's anointed one. Mary submitted to the will of God even though she knew people would consider her an adulteress. But Mary rejoiced because God was going to subvert those on the throne and make her own son King. Promises upon promises. But Mary would discover that things weren't going to be quite as straightforward as she thought. God would indeed bring his new society where his will is done. But this would happen through the suffering of her own son. Mary continued to learn what kind of Messiah her son was to be throughout his life. Jesus placed a priority on loving God which challenged the honor-your-parent commandment; it showed Mary that she would have to submit to her own son as Lord and that Jesus was establishing a new family with himself as the focus.

McKnight also helpfully discusses what Catholics believe about Mary. He tries to avoid caricatures but is still critical at times. In the last chapter McKnight helps us figure out what to do with Mary. One of his suggestions is that we hold an "honor Mary" day where we return to the stories of Mary and glean fresh insight. Mary is a great example of what it means to follow Jesus in the real world.

This book is an excellent Christmas read and, best of all, the gospel shines through in nearly every chapter. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Impressions: Embracing Grace by Scot McKnight

At a small group I was at one Sunday we were having a conversation about how we apply the gospel to our lives as Christians. We made the observation that for some Christians the gospel is something for non-believers, something that you don't really think about once you get saved. What I have found hard is that some people reduce the gospel to a few propositions about having your sins forgiven so that it can be difficult to apply it to every situation in life. Enter Scot McKnight. Embracing Grace is a book about the gospel. It tells us that the gospel is something that we proclaim but that we perform as well.

Here is how McKnight explains the work of the gospel:
"The gospel is the work of God to restore humans in union with God and communion with others, in the context of a community for the good of others and the world"


Eikons: Mcknight says that it is important where we begin when we are thinking about the gospel. McKnight begins with creation and the story of the Eikon (the greek word for "image"). Humans are made in the image of God which means they are God's special creation and are like Him in some way; we are made for relationships with God, others and the world.

Holistic: McKnight's view of sin and atonement are robust. This is because he has a holistic view of the two. Sin is not merely the breaking of a law (although it does include that) but culpable shalom-breaking which affects our relationship with God, others and the world. If we are dealing with a robust problem then we need a robust solution. McKnight emphasizes the importance of the incarnation, the life, death, resurrection and pentecost to the atonement (and therefore the gospel). He favors the recapitulation theory (i.e. Jesus became what we are so we can become what he is) since it can fairly incorporate all the other important theories of atonement (in his book A Community Called Atonment he calls this "identification for incorporation").

Community: God saves individuals but individualism is an enemy of the gospel. God accomplishes his redemptive purposes in the context of communities (i.e. Israel, the Church, and the Kingdom). McKnight's definition of the kingdom can not be divorced from community (and why would it? a kingdom always includes people.). God's kingdom is his society where his will is done. It includes people. God restores us to union with him and communion with others in the context of a community, the kingdom community.

Missional: God creates this community for the good of the world. This is the part that I actually struggled with the most. But when we understand Jesus' words in Matthew 5 everything falls into place. We are to be God's kingdom community that acts as salt and light in this world so that others will glorify God because of the good we do.

McKnight's book has helped me to appreciate the gospel more. With his framework we can actually preach the gospel from the Gospels.