The Jesus Creed: An Interview With Scot McKnight (May-Jun 2005)

By Matt Dabbs

by New Wineskins Staff
May – June, 2005

The Jesus Creed is “Love God. Love Others.” The Jews referred to it as the Shema, and Jesus added emphasis on transferring that love for God to love of others, says McKnight. That’s the Jesus Creed. But for a loving relationship to exist between a human and God there must be truth-telling … If we can’t tell the truth to one another, we are not revealing one another. Truth-telling to God is the sole foundation for a relationship. If we have not told the truth, we have not revealed ourselves back to God.

NW: Why did you write The Jesus Creed?

Scot McKnight: I began with a desire to write a life and teaching of Jesus with a view to spiritual formation.

NW:: Why?

Scot McKnight: I believe in the disciplines, but Jesus didn’t teach the disciplines. I teach a course on spiritual formation, and I approach this by asking, How would Jesus approach Spiritual formation … Jesus ties it to loving God and loving others. Sometimes we need to see what the very bedrock of our faith is: loving God and loving others.

NW: Love is at once profound, simple, idealistic yet practically hard as climbing a sheer cliff with bare hands.

Scot McKnight: But the difference is spiritual formation: what is going on in our lives all the time to shape our Christian character in our inner most being.

NW: The spiritual disciplines lead to something …

The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnightScot McKnight: Disciplines are the means whereby formation takes place. I wanted to look at how Jesus would have understood Spiritual formation. I think there are a lot of Christians today who are regaining a deep appreciation for our Jewish heritage.

NW: Examples?

Scot McKnight: John Ortberg was at Willow Creek, and he and I were having lunch and told him I was interested in (Jesus Creed), the life of Joseph, on how Joseph would have been perceived in the world of Galilee. Ortberg said, “I’m sensing a big need for Christians to understand the Jewish context of our faith.”

NW: Yes, we certainly want that. The Old Testament is not simply a means of understanding the New Testament but that certainly is a must for more fully discerning the New Testament.

Scot McKnight: I think that social context of Joseph and Mary is pretty significant. Mary would have been slandered as a Na’ap (having an illegitimate child) and Joseph as a person in poverty; now that’s quite a way to change the world!

Inter-texuality—new texts are bringing to life old texts. This is Tom Wright’s whole thing about the exile. This is the whole thing about Jesus calling John Baptist courageous. No one else was baptizing as an initiation rite, prior to John the Baptist. None of the apocalyptic prophets baptized; I believe water for purification at the Jordan is in some sense a reputiation of the temple. John the Baptist’s father was a priest—Zacharias was probably gone by the time of John’s public ministry. Zacharias and Elizabeth are pretty old— post-menopausal Elizabeth … get their report of what Zacharias thought of their son granting purity outside of the temple. John clearly does not think the temple’s going to get the job done.

NW: Let’s shift gears here. Talk about themes in your book. You had mentioned love and truth. Talk about that.

Scot McKnight: For a loving relationship to exist between a human and God there must be truth-telling … If we can’t tell the truth to one another, we are not revealing one another. Truth-telling to God is the sole foundation for a relationship. If we have not told the truth, we have not revealed ourselves back to God. Until Adam tells God what he’s done, he’s hiding from God. This is simple as it gets, if we’re living a life of sin, we’re not facing [God] eye to eye, we’re facing God with our heads cocked.

NW: You’re telling the truth now.

Scot McKnight: Love is holy, rather than mush-headed, pluralistic acceptance of everything. That’s really what I’m going after there. I don’t believe Jesus said anything new when he said Love one another. Jesus connects with Shema — that’s what is new. It becomes a centralized feature of the creed. That love is a holy love … it brooks no rival. You don’t love anyone else above God. And when you love that person, you always do what is right for that person. So Leviticus 19, Jesus is quoting from a chapter … many people would find it offensive … it would be morally disciplined, morally righteousness, not just some soft-pedaling, accept everything—so love always does what is right.

NW: So, it’s not politically correct nor is it hatefully dogmatic or ideological, right?

Scot McKnight: You don’t want to hear what I have to say about political correctness … I think tolerance is a cheap version of what Christians are called to do. I tolerate my neighbor cutting down all his trees. We tolerate people of a different religion, because we want to have our own freedom. Christians are not called to tolerate but to love. Tolerance is a condescending idea. In a pluralistic society, tolerance, there are no truths, so let’s just all accept one another, none of whom will be accepted as right, so it suspends and surrenders all truth…love treats with profound respect. We do not tolerate our children, we love them. Tolerance is condescending, lacks courage.

NW: Talk about prayer a moment.

Scot McKnight: I think imagination is important in prayer, so when I pray in the morning for my family, for my wife, my daughter, my son, for their day and how I can help them. Easier when they were home, when they’re away, maybe it’s more meddling. I believe imagination is important in prayer … what we can do to help … how can I love … if I pray the Jesus Creed daily, if I remind myself of my wife: today when my wife gets home I’m going to be cooking dinner for her. I’m praying for God to be with her and how I might love her more.

I love the statement by Fredricka M. Green, “we’re in the glad to meet you stage … ” as a Protestant, I have always taught the Magnificat, themes that are in the Magnificat that are in the mission of Jesus, here’s Mary, these are the central themes of life—that’s what a Magnificat is—the central teachings of life … and I think Mary was marginalized because of her social status … and I think there’s indication that Jesus learned a lot from his mother, and as Protestants we need to see that, appreciate Mary … look at Magnificat and see how many of these words, teachings, expressions show up in Jesus’ teaching. A lot of high Christology people are nervous about that, but Jesus as Luke 2 says, he grew in favor with God and man. New Wineskins

Scot McKnightScot McKnight, author of the newly released book The Jesus Creed recently spoke with New Wineskins’ managing editor, Greg Taylor. McKnight has much to offer the New Wineskins community and the larger Christian community.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1581 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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