Scot McKnight is the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University in Chicago, Illinois, but I know him as a prolific blogger and internet friend.
What I love about Scot is that he has a unique ability to successfully bridge the divide between theologically conservative evangelicals and more progressive ones. When they get busy fighting, he gets busy trying to get them to listen better to one another, or at least to treat each other with more respect.
Scot isn’t uncritical of either group, but his critiques are always rooted in a graciousness that stems from his commitment to what he calls The Jesus Creed, but what others know as Jesus’ summary of the Law and the Prophets from Mark 12:28-33, which says, in essence: love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. I value his contribution because I think he helps to shake conservatives free of their unbiblical sacred cows and reminds those who have left the fold not to despise the breasts that nursed them.
Another thing I love about Scot is his heart for young people. He’s a serious academic, but he’s first and foremost a teacher. This comes through in his blog and his many books, the latest of which is One.Life: Jesus Calls We Follow.
He writes in the afterward that the book was written for “people who really do think a Christian is someone who follows Jesus,” but I read it as a love letter to his students, especially those who may be floundering as they try to figure out what to do with their lives.
In chapters with names like Kingdom.Life, Love.Life, Peace.Life, Sex.Life, Vocation.Life, and Eternity.Life, his approach both stylistically and narratively seems geared toward a youthful audience. He tells stories about his students and then proceeds to answer the questions these stories pose or advocate the big living they demonstrate.
In the chapter called Justice.Life, he writes: “When I hear Christians describe the Christian life as little more than soul development and personal intimacy with God … I have to wonder if Christians even read their Bibles.” And in the promotional material, McKnight says, “Jesus offers to us a kingdom dream that transforms us to the very core of our being. His vision is so big we are called to give our entire life to it. His vision is so big it swallows up our dreams.”
One.Life exhorts readers to live up to their Christian calling.
There’s a section in the chapter on Vocation.Life that is classic McKnight. He quotes from two members of evangelical tribe who don’t exactly represent consensus in a way that makes a beautiful point about our interdependence while subtly reminding evangelical readers that our diverse members all belong the same spiritual family. He writes:
“When Rob Bell and John Piper, two famous pastors, speak of sex as ‘this is that,’ meaning sexuality points us toward spirituality (Bell) or ‘the mystery of Christ and the Church’ (Piper) they are tapping into the deepest mystery of life by connecting what we get to do—marriage and sex and love—to who God is. This deep mystery of life reveals that life itself is personal. The deepest dimension of the kingdom dream and of life itself is that we are persons who dwell with other persons, and only in loving others do we tap into the core of that mystery. When we do, we know it.”
So while John Piper unhelpfully tweets “Farewell Rob Bell.” in response to promotional videos for Bell’s latest book and Bell ignores him and other critics, McKnight takes the high road that defines his work and that faithful Christian living requires.
On the topic of hell that is at the center of Piper’s disagreement with Bell, McKnight writes,
“I believe in heaven. I believe in heaven because Jesus did and I hope I believe in heaven as Jesus did. I believe in heaven because I believe in justice, in peace, and in love. …I don’t, however, believe ‘heaven’ is forever and ever. I believe that what is forever and ever is called the New Heavens and the New Earth, the time and the place where heaven comes down to earth. The New Heavens and the New Earth will be the fullness of flourishing.
But belief in the New Heavens and the New Earth also means I believe in hell. I believe in hell because Jesus did. And I hope I believe in hell as Jesus believed in hell. I believe in hell because I believe in justice, in peace, and in love. But I don’t believe hell is a gassy furnace where humans are scorched forever and ever and ever and ever. …I don’t believe in Dante’s hell or in God as the grand torturer. Hell will be the end of flourishing.”
To find out more about what McKnight thinks the afterlike will be like and what it means to live the One.Life you’ve been given as God intended, you’ll have to read his book for yourself. He does say this, however: “I’ve aged enough to wonder what’s on the other side and I’ve come to this conclusion: ‘If you’ve got One.Life and if there is a life after death, and if that life is ‘forever and ever,’ then I want to live now in light of the longer stretch of life.”
Me too Scot. Me too.