Blogger of the Month for August 2008
Jim West Interviews Scot McKnight
Editorial Note: Scot McKnight authors the Jesus Creed blog athttp://www.jesuscreed.org/.
JW: Scott, tell our readers about yourself by completing this sentence- ‘Scot McKnight is….’
SM: I’ll let others fill that in.
JW: Your blog, Jesus Creed, is without doubt one of the most popular ‘biblioblogs’ out there. According to Technorati (at the moment I write this), you have an “Authority’ of 925 and more than 5,160 reactions elsewhere on the web. To what do you attribute this popularity?
SM: We don’t have surveys, of course, so I can only guess. To begin with, I post consistently — 3x per day plus something each day on the weekend. We also try to produce variety on the blog so that it is not just about one thing and one topic. And since I think all theology is personal, and the modernistic movement sought to turn theology into objective, impersonal, disinterested science, the blog is also personal at times.
JW: Did you begin blogging simply to complement your work ‘The Jesus Creed’?
SM: I developed a website (but not a blog) to complement my book at my publisher’s suggestion. Only when an editor of a magazine suggested that I might like to blog did I begin to blog. So, no, the blog was not at all about marketing the book. “Jesus Creed” was a natural title for the blog because of what the book had done.
JW: Once that book reached the public and became something of a smash, did you find yourself either surprised or amazed? Or, to put it another way, did you expect the book to be as successful as it was?
SM: I’m an optimist so I had some hopes for the book. What I didn’t know was what that would involve — speaking more than I had been doing, giving radio interviews, getting phone calls from newspapers, and having good folks like you ask me questions like this!
JW: Besides writing books, which you do rather a lot of (and may your tribe increase!), and blogging, what else occupies your day?
SM: My days differ by the kind of day it is. On teaching days I leave the house very early, somewhere between 6 and 6:30am, and do my teaching and grading and meetings on those days. On non-teaching days I’m at my desk by 7am or so and stay there, more or less, until 3 or 4pm. I’m not tempted to do other things. At about 4pm (or when I get home from school), I get a salad ready for dinner; when Kris gets home from her psychology practice, we eat our salad and then go for a long walk, about 3 miles. Then I cook dinner. Then we drink tea, and we do various things in the evening, but often we are home reading and talking and then we say Compline prayers and go to bed.
JW: Tell us about the school you serve as a faculty member of.
SM: It is a Christian college established by the Evangelical Covenant Church, but it hangs comfortably somewhere between a Wheaton and a typical American university.
JW: What drew you to a career in academia?
SM: I had a profound spiritual experience the summer after my junior year in high school, began studying the Bible and knew from that time that I wanted to devote my life to studying the Bible. So, I went to a Christian college (Cornerstone) and it has moved on since then.
JW: If you weren’t an academic, what career path might you presently occupy?
SM: I would probably have become a high school teacher and coach.
JW: If you don’t mind, tell us a bit about your family.
SM: My wife, Kris, was my grade school and high school sweetheart; we have been married 34 years. We have two kids, both grown and married. Our daughter, Laura, is married to Mark Barringer; they live near us and she is a 1st grade teacher. Mark is now finishing his college degree in business after working for a number of years on staff for the Willow Creek Association. (So, if you want to know why we began attending Willow, that’s the answer.) Our son, Lukas, is married to Annika Nelson and they live in western New York. Lukas is a professional baseball scout for the Chicago Cubs.
JW: Does your wife read your blog? And if she does, what does she think of it?
SM: She reads my blog and many other blogs; she keeps me up with some blogs and many of the links in my Weekly Meanderings come from her reading of blogs. She likes the blog world and she constantly makes suggestions about topics for the blog. So, in many ways it is “our” blog though I do almost all the writing. Some of the “high number hit” posts I’ve had have been as a result of her suggestions.
JW: You are well known too in the so called ‘Emergent Movement’. What drew you to that expression of Christianity?
SM: I am big on calling it the Emerging Movement; I think “emergent” refers to Emergent Village. I didn’t know that much about the movement until a colleague, Ginny Olson, told me about it. She got me to checking out some blogs and then I started blogging and then I got into the emerging conversation and it dawned on me that much of what is going on in the emerging movement, which is a world-wide movement that is influencing the church in significant ways, resonated with who I am and what I think.
JW: What would you say to critics of the movement, if you had one paragraph to say it?
SM: Listen long enough to know what is being said in the movement before you start criticizing. Many of us have been hurt because vocal critics have been sloppy and careless in collecting evidence. Instead of collecting a lot, they have found one or two folks they think represent the movement — no one in fact does — and criticized them and therefore the whole movement. Some look for the liberal trends in the movement and then say “that’s emerging/emergent.” Yes, there are some liberal trends in some of the people and there are some very conservative trends, too, but the critics have irresponsibly ignored those voices because they are on the hunt instead of into patient description of a movement.
JW: If it’s not too personal a question, since we are talking about faith here, what is your faith experience?
SM: I don’t know what is meant by “faith experience.”
JW: On another matter, what do you make of the recent rage about Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ supposed tomb, and that sort of thing?
SM: I’ve ignored this one; when I see certain names and media outlets suggesting their typical conspiracy theory I tend simply to ignore the stuff. I don’t need to mention names; you know who they are.
JW: Do you give credence to such archaeological findings or are you somewhat skeptical when you first hear of them?
SM: I try to see what the evidence is. Say, for instance, this new text about resurrection that Israel Knohl is making so much of. Fine, I say, let’s see the text and let’s get a picture of the text and let’s see if his speculative theory that it means there was hope of a resurrection before Jesus is plausible. (I doubt the text is clear enough to say this.) And then let’s step back and see what he is saying: that Jews may have though the Messiah would be raised. I doubt that is the case but it is pretty clear that the earliest followers of Jesus didn’t think like this, nor when Jesus made the claim and his followers supported that claim and then when he died, they didn’t all stand up and announce, “Look here folks, this is nothing. Messiahs die and then they are raised.” This is simply bad history because this is not the evidence we have from the 1st Century world. Furthermore, even if that text says that a certain Simon would be raised, the question I want to ask is this: “Well, was he?” And then I want to ask those folks, “Was Jesus?” And in their logic they ought then to admit it would be plausible. Then what? That’s the sort of thing I do when I hear about sensational discoveries, which are the only ones that make it to the news. Otherwise, stick to the journals and you’ll hear about little things all the time.
JW: Do you think that archaeology is capable of ‘proving’ the biblical text?
SM: Sometimes it does; I don’t sit around hoping for this though. There is enough out there to know that the statements in the Bible are reasonable and credible.
JW: I’ve probably already taken up too much of your time- for which I thank you! But I do have to ask one parting question: what hidden talent or secret hobby do you engage in that readers might find surprising? Do you, for instance, go to yodeling contests or make wedding cakes for friends or do drywall hanging for a hobby? What’s your secret?
SM: I have no secret hobbies I don’t think. Maybe cooking and using fountain pens and — playing a competitive game of golf.
JW: Scot, thanks so much!