The 2020 "Gospel Centrality" Debate

A debate over what is central to the Gospel among Christians

(Title has been edited from “kingship gospel” to more accurately describe the issue)

Disclaimer: Since I have taken a position on this debate, even though I do try to present both sides, this is by no means unbiased.

This post tracks highlights in the “Gospel Centrality” debate.

This debate began with a talk by Greg Gilbert at the T4G 2020 conference titled “What Is and Isn’t the Gospel.” In his talk, he disagreed with New Testament scholar Scot McKnight’s book The King Jesus Gospel and theologian Matthew Bates’s Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation, claiming that these were books that had “an impulse to take the story of Jesus’s kingship and divorce it from the realities of personal salvation, forgiveness, atonement, and justification.” Scot McKnight and Matthew Bates subsequently published responses in a Christianity Today blog, claiming that Greg Gilbert misrepresented their positions and that his approach was biblically deficient.

As there has been a series of responses by those involved as well as from prominent others, I have decided to collate these so they can be viewed in series.

And a shoutout to the NerdyTheologyMajors Facebook group where some of these posts are being discussed.

Persons of Interest

  • Greg Gilbert is the senior pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He has been a contributor to The Gospel Coalition and has spoken for the T4G Conference. He is the author of the 2010 book What is the Gospel.

  • Matthew Bates is a theologian teaching at Quincy University. He is the author of Salvation by Allegiance Alone published in 2017 and Gospel Allegiance published in 2019.

  • Scot McKnight is a New Testament scholar teaching at Northern Seminary. He is the author of The King Jesus Gospel published in 2011.

  • Andrew Perriman is a New Testament scholar who is a Associate Research Fellow at London School of Theology

  • Chris Kugler is a New Testament scholar teaching at Houston Baptist University

  • Darrell Bock is a New Testament scholar teaching at Dallas Theological Seminary

  • David Fitch is a theologian teaching at Northern Seminary

  • Dennis Edwards is a New Testament scholar teaching at North Park Theological Seminary

  • Jackson Wu is the pseudo-name of an academic missiologist

  • Ligon Duncan is a theologian acting as Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, and council member of The Gospel Coalition.

  • Luke Stamps is a theologian teaching at Clamp Divinity School

  • Mark Galli is an American minister who was the former editor in chief of Christianity Today for seven years

  • Michael Barber a New Testament scholar teaching at Augustine Institute.

  • Michael Bird is a New Testament scholar teaching at Ridley College

  • Nijay Gupta is a New Testament scholar teaching at Portland Seminary

  • Patrick Schreiner is a New Testament scholar teaching at Western Seminary

  • Todd Miles is a professor of theology at Western Seminary

  • Wyatt Grahmn is the Executive Director of The Gospel Coalition Canada

Posts in Chronological Order

  • April 15 2020: Greg Gilbert “A T4G 2020 Sermon: What Is and Isn’t the Gospel” manuscript on 9Marks blog (link) (archived version)

  • April 20 2020: Matthew Bates “Good News? Are T4G/TGC Leaders Starting To Change Their Gospel?” on Christianity Today’s Jesus Creed blog (link) (archived version) (Facebook)

  • April 20 2020: Scot McKnight “King Jesus Gospel: Mere Kingship? No” on Christianity Today’s Jesus Creed blog (link) (archived version)

  • April 20 2020: Michael Barber “The Gospel as More Than "Words": The Bates-McKnight Controversy and Graham Twelftree’s New Book” response to Bates and McKnight (link)

  • April 20 2020: Wyatt Graham “Is the Gospel about Kingship or Salvation (Or both)?” on his blog (link)

  • April 21 2020: Ligon Duncan shares a book review of Salvation by Allegiance Alone by Matthew Bates, published in the The Westminster Theological Journal in 2018 by New Testament scholar Guy Waters, to the T4G20 Attendees Facebook group (link)

  • April 21 2020: Andrew Perriman in response to McKnight and Bates “The gospel is changing, but there’s still some way to go” on his blog (link)

  • April 22 2020: Greg Gilbert “A Response to Scot McKnight and Matthew Bates” counter-responding on 9Marks blog, originally published with title “"Jesus is King" Is Not Good News” (link) (archived version) (Retweeting 9Marks)

  • April 22 2020: 9Marks Tweets “The proclamation "Jesus is King" is not good news at all. For it to be good news, we have to know what this king intends to do—whether he intends to crush or to save, to condemn or to forgive.” on Twitter (1)

  • April 22 2020: 9Marks updates the title of Greg Gilbert’s response to remove the phrase “"Jesus is King" Is Not Good News,” after Nijay Gupta contacts the editor, on Twitter (1) (2)

  • April 22 2020: Michael Bird “The Gospel of the King” response on his blog (link)

  • April 22 2020: David Fitch response on his Facebook (link)

  • April 22 2020: Jackson Wu “Why must we settle for part of the gospel?” response on his blog (link)

  • April 23 2020: Andrew Perriman “Scot McKnight, Matthew Bates, and Greg Gilbert on the gospel” responding after Greg Gilbert’s second response on his blog (link)

  • April 23 2020: Darrell Bock response to Michael Bird’s post on his Facebook (link)

  • April 23 2020: Nijay Gupta “Why Is It So Hard to Define "The Gospel"? A Short Reflection and a Case Study” on his blog (link)

  • April 23 2020: David Fitch on his Facebook (link)

  • April 27 2020: Chris Kugler “So What's the Gospel?” on Christianity Today’s Jesus Creed blog (link)

  • April 28 2020: Scot McKnight “What is "Central" to the Gospel?” on Christianity Today’s Jesus Creed blog (link)

  • April 29 2020: Matthew Bates “Why T4G/TGC Leaders Must Fix Their Gospel” on Christianity Today’s Jesus Creed blog (link)

  • April 29 2020: Mark Galli “There Is More than One Gospel” on his blog (link)

  • April 30 2020: Nijay Gupta “What is the "Gospel" according to Paul? Galatians 3:8 Offers a Big Clue” (link)

  • May 1 2020: Dennis Edwards “Why Clarifying "the Gospel" Matters—Now More Than Ever” (link)

  • May 4 2020: Greg Gilbert “A Final Reply to Scot McKnight and Matthew Bates” on 9Marks blog (link)

  • May 4 2020: Scot McKnight “The Gospel and its Benefits” on Christianity Today’s Jesus Creed blog (link)

  • May 4 2020: Patrick Schreiner and Todd Miles “What is the Gospel? Part 1” Western Seminary podcast (link)

  • May 4 2020: Luke Stamps on Twitter (link)

  • May 11 2020: Patrick Schreiner and Todd Miles “What is the Gospel? Part 1” Western Seminary podcast (link)

  • May 12 2020: David Fitch and Mike Moore “S5 E17: What Difference Does The Gospel Make?” podcast (link)