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In Case you Missed it: An Interview with Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a widely-recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. He is the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University (Chicago, Illinois). A popular and witty speaker, Dr. McKnight has made numerous guest appearanceswith national media and is regularly asked to speakat local churches and educational events across the world. He is an award-winning and influential blogger, and the author of over thirty titles. His book, The Jesus Creed (one of my favorites), is renowned for its directness, readability, and power. It would be challenging to look across the landscape of today’s Christian leaders, writers, and activists and not find people who have been deeply influenced by Scot’s writing and thinking. (click on book titles/bookcoverto purchase)

Publisher’s Weekly accurately describes McKnight’s new book, One.Life: Jesus Calls We Follow, in a recent review, “… McKnight, argues against the Christianity he was taught in his youth, an interpretation he finds overly fixated on the personal piety of believers rather than their influence in society. He contends instead that Jesus called believers to action and to the establishment of a world of justice, compassion, and peace…” I believe readers of The Jesus Creed will find One.Life every bit as intriguing. In his trademark conversational style, McKnightdraws the reader intoa journey of exploring what Jesus’ Kingdom vision really looks like. He connects the deepest dreams and longings we have as human beingsto that Kingdom vision, and reminds us that following Jesus means far more than inner transformation. With honesty and humorhe shares themisconceptions he hadaboutfaith,and howhislife drastically changed as he learned more and more about the Jesus of the New Testament. His story-telling and teachingresonated deeply with me and allowed me to wrestle with questions about my own life and faith.One.Life is a rich and challengingcall to genuine discipleship that would make an excellent small group study.Scot’s words encourage you to reexamine every area of your life and ask what it means to truly follow the call of Jesus.

I recently had the opportunity totalk with Scot about his new book, One.Life, and a couple other interesting topics. Here are “Five Good Answers” with Dr. Scot McKnight:

Matt: How much isOne.Life an expression of what you began writing in The Jesus Creed?

Scot: Good question Matt, and one I haven’t directly thought about … so this is the time. The Jesus Creed was a sketch of how Jesus’ amendment of the Jewish Shema — love God with your whole being — was formative for his life and the life of his followers. One.Life is the challenge not only to follow the Jesus Creed but to follow the whole of Jesus’ kingdom vision. The Jesus Creed is part of that kingdom vision but there are other categories that need to be explored, too, like justice and peace and wisdom.

But these two books are my more accessible level books about Jesus — the first more in an ethical direction and this second one in a more challenging level.

Matt: What did you hope to accomplish when you set out to write One.Life?

Scot: I am convinced the discipleship summons of Jesus is not an option: Jesus expected his followers to follow him. (That’s what a follower means!) And I’m also convinced that far too many Christians think of the Christian life either as some kind of passive acceptance/making the right decision and then it’s all over, or that going to church is enough, or that personal piety — prayer and Bible reading — is really what Jesus wanted us to do. His own words reveal those approaches fall dangerously, if not eternally, short.

One way of summing up this book is to see it as a sketch of “kingdom holiness.” That is, what does it mean to be holy when the vision is a kingdom vision? That’s my quest inOne.Life and my goal is to get folks to read it and give their “One (and only) life” to Jesus and his kingdom vision.

Matt, you can’t control what happens with a book — publishers can’t even predict what will happen. But my prayer and hope is that pastors will read it and see the value for their congregations; that young adult pastors will see that this book sketches what young adults are really craving to see — a Christian life that takes the words of Jesus seriously; and I’m praying parents will buy this book, read it, and talk about it with their young adult children who are struggling with church.

Matt: As an educator, I enjoy the stories you share about the interactions with your students. What makes teaching meaningful for you?

Scot: It’s part of who I am. I don’t know that I ever decided in one moment that I wanted to be a teacher. But my father was a high school English and Driver’s Education teacher; teaching was part of the life of our family. As I began to mature I wanted to be a teacher and a coach … and I think God used that background and desire to shift my entire focus from becoming a high school (German) teacher and coach to giving my “One.Life” to Jesus and teach the Bible.

What I most like is to see the biblical themes come alive for students. I dive in when my classes begin; I don’t spend a week or two catching students up… we just dive in and I challenged them to probe the significance of the Bible or the teaching of Jesus — or whatever I’m teaching — for how they live and for what the Church is like. My assumption is that the Bible is significant — and we just explore its significance.

I love my students. Perhaps I should say I “try” to love them. Some students, whether out of laziness or bad habits, can be annoying but I learn their name and I call them by name and I try to get them involved in the subject. It is always a highlight when one of them “stops by” the office to chat – much better than scheduling an appointment to talk about a paper or to ask about some test.

Matt: In the book, you talk about having some dramatic paradigm shifts in your view of faith as a young man; what is the most dramatic turning point/moment/realization on your faith journey in the last ten years?

Scot: By far, the publication of The Jesus Creed. That idea — that we are called to love God and to love others — changed how I live my life, but that book also propelled me into the opportunity to speak all around the world. Kris and I travel 20 times or more a year to churches or conferences for speaking, and I’m not sure that could have happened without The Jesus Creed.

But I have to confess the most exciting thing I’ve done, alongside The Jesus Creed, is the two-part book that is now coming out: the first one is One.Life and the second one will be on the gospel, but I’m not sure of the title yet. (It might be King Jesus or In the Beginning was the Gospel, or something else.) Those two books are the heart of what I’ve been dreaming of writing: challenging the church with a gospel that is more biblical and so clearly challenges easy ‘believism’ and summons us all to become followers of Jesus.

Matt: You mention a few of your favorite novels in One.Life. Is there any particular fiction writer whose novels/stories/characters have impacted your faith?

You’ll not like this, but I don’t read novels much. I try to read novels because I’m supposed to be informed as a professor — and supposed to know influential writings. So I try to read them but mostly I get bored and put them down to read some non-fiction.

But, there are a few that grab me every time. I love Flannery O’Connor’s graphic and weird images, none any more evocative than “Parker’s Back.” I enjoyed Homer’s classic epics and Virgil’s Aeneid, and I worked my way all the way through Dante’s Divine Comedy, finding his Paradiso so rich and textured. I read Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea every year and I have for years read Dickens’ Christmas Carol at Christmas. But here it is, almost Christmas, and I’ve not read it … and will probably miss reading it this year.

Yes, I like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, but find Ms. Lee’s seclusive life as interesting. I’ve got no novels in my stack of books to read right now.

Yes, I say this as a son of an English teacher who loved novels. It somehow didn’t pass on to me.

Matt: What is the greatest challenge the Church is facing in the 21st Century?

Scot: I can see this succinctly: evangelizing a gospel that speaks meaningfully and challengingly to the next generation. More and more I am seeing that some of our older ways just no longer work.

For more from Scot McKnight I encourage you to check out hisblog at:

(Friday’s Five Good Answers with Scot McKnight was originallypublished here at the blog on 1/7/2011)

Next week’s “Five Good Answers” falls on Good Friday and will feature a very special guest interview.

One thought on “In Case you Missed it: An Interview with Scot McKnight

  1. An interview well-done, Matt. Scot’s succinct responses here certainly leave me wanting more.
    So it looks like I have yet another book to purchase & read! 😉

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