Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book Review: The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns

While the gospel of social justice is a popular topic today, it is refreshing to read a presentation of the Gospel that gives both spiritual transformation and social justice its biblical due. Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, has written a compelling book that pulls the blinders off of our comfortable, American Christianity. While social justice was given the bulk of the attention here, this is due to Stearns' sense of it's utter neglect in the Gospel of many evangelicals.

This book read like a half autobiography/half World Vision sponsor video script, neither of which I particularly enjoy but both of which I found compelling. And certainly, when there is such abject poverty and suffering in our world, and when we live in such opulence by comparison, we do not deserve to enjoy everything we read.

I was not convinced by some of Stearns' arguments from the Bible. I am still of the mind that Jesus' proclamation of good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and release of the oppressed was primarily (though not solely) referring to the spiritually poor, imprisoned, blind, and oppressed. Case in point: how many prisoners did Jesus free? Not even John the Baptist was freed by Jesus.

However, much of Stearns' offering was well-reasoned and biblically supported. World Vision's founder, Bob Pierce, famously prayed, "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." How will this ever be true if we blind ourselves to the things that break the heart of God?

32 comments:

Bob said...

> Case in point: how many prisoners did Jesus free?

Do you count Peter from Acts 12? Daniel from the lion's den? Joseph? Jeremiah?

Bob said...

Just being a smart alec.

theologyforum said...

Out of curiosity, how do you know that when the Bible says one thing, it really means another? There are a lot of people who would want to say the same thing of passages concerning homosexuality and women in ministry, for example. Why is it that when they pull this kind of interepretation, they are wrong, but when evangelicals do it about social liberation, it's ok?

james

Norman Jeune III said...

James, while I appreciate your question, I think your analogy is a bit oversimplistic. While this could become a rather drawn out discussion, and I'm sure you'll cry foul because I don't completely indulge it here in my comment, I'll share my thoughts anyway.

I will assume (and I could be wrong), but I would guess that Jared interprets the passages referring to the poor and downtrodden as references to spiritual poverty because of the way in which the notion of the kingdom of God is developed in the Gospels. How one views the kingdom of God in light of the gospels will likely determine which side of the interpretive fence one falls on with this issue.

The difference with homosexuality and women in ministry is that there are specific and relatively clear injunctions in Paul opposing these actions. Perhaps some will accuse me of oversimplifying the issue, but from what I can see, arguments in favor allowing these behaviors tend to rely on the premise that the injunctions are culturally and temporally conditioned, and that we must subject the text to our modern presuppositions in order to truly ascertain what endures, essentially, in the text. The other more extreme option, is to suggest that the text may be called into questions morally or ethically, based on modern presuppositions as well.

In the first case, the debate centers on the degree to which the kingdom of God will be inaugurated, primarily, from the actions of man in this world, or from the transcendent in-breaking of Christ into the temporal order at his chosen time. Now, this is not to make the main issue teleological, but simply to point up that the hermenutical questions are very different when you get down to the specific questions involved.

This is not to punt, but it is to get specific with your particular question

Norman Jeune III said...

Let's be fair, and avoid the caracaure that evagelicalism precludes nuanced interpretation; that evangelicals are somehow guilty of hypocrisy anytime they engage anything other than a hyper-wooden reading of the text.

There may be backwater fundamentalists guilty of such ills, but there are also those of a more "liberal" persuasion who are guilty of equal, albeit opposite, ideological ills when it comes to the text.

Once again, questions of ojectivity and subjectivity loom large, as the always do in our modern age. Your questions raises the fact that its probably more helpful to discuss presuppositions regarding the text, before we beginto talk the how's and why's of interpretation.

theologyforum said...

Norman, thanks for the response. I appreciate the point you're trying to make that the two cases are not on the same hermeneutical ground. But, of course, wouldn't those arguing against, say, the immorality of homosexuality talk about how the radical grace of the Gospel and the ethical trend of the Bible means Paul's clear injunctions must be read differently, rather similarly to the way you propose reading clear statements about the materially poor as instead about the spiritually poor b/c of the overall context of the Kingdom of God? There are arguments that don't appeal to modern presuppositions, but to a canonical theology. So, I don't think the issue is so easily dismissed.

I'm not sure if this is to cry foul. All I'm trying to suggest is that the same type of hermeneutical decisions are being made.

I wasn't trying to explode a 'gotcha!' point on evangelicalism at large w/ my question, but I suppose the question, if I'm honest, was born from a frustration that we evangelicals tend to get worked up when the plain or *clear* meaning of the text is evaded by progressives and yet we do rather the same thing with the very plain and *clear* language about the poor. My point is not to say that the "liberal" interpretation is right, but to call evangelicals to account when they find it important to break from their principles and practice.

Of course, all this assumes that the biblical language concerning the Kingdom of God refers not to some spiritual realm, but to a this-worldly political, social and ethical one, or, much better, that there is no dichotomy between the spiritual and the political, social and ethical. I suppose this is where our conversation could become quite drawn out. But I don't think it would be off topic.

I'm not sure if this has advanced our discussion or not, but eventually I think we'll have to converse about the nature of the Kingdom of God, and I'm not sure how ultimately productive that will be for I assume you are as familiar with those arguing for the view I take as I am with those arguing for your interpretation....

Jared said...

James,

Thanks for your thoughts/concerns and I understand the fear that a simplistic interpretation of a passage can lead to a less than biblically balanced view.

And that was my reasoning behind the position I take on the Luke 4 passage. I am always willing to be swayed by biblical evidence to the contrary, but it must be balanced with the evidence from the rest of Scripture.

Did Jesus proclaim good news for both the physically and spiritually poor? Yes. ("Blessed are the poor in spirit") Did Jesus give sight to the physically and spiritually blind? Yes (See John 9:39 for spiritual blindness). Did Jesus release the physically and spiritually oppressed? Yes. In fact freeing the demon-possessed seems to fit both those descriptions.

But did Jesus free one person from a physical prison? John the Baptist may have been hoping for this very thing when he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if he "was the one, or should we expect someone else?" But instead he remained in chains until he was beheaded.

Now I am certainly not trying to downplay the physical social justice that Jesus performed that fulfilled these prophecies. But when Jesus quoted this prophecy about himself, I think it is fair to say it wasn't a 50/50 fulfillment between the physical and spiritual.

As I said before, I am not trying to weasel out of the Christian responsibility to meet the physical needs of those around us. But I think a balanced interpretation of Scripture can do that. For instance, Jesus' call for us to feed, clothe, and visit "the least of these" is clearly meeting physical needs. We don't need to use the Luke 4 passage to build a case for that. Taking one verse alone to the exclusion of all others never leads to very productive biblical theology.

Obviously I haven't even addressed your questions about homosexuality and women in ministry, but a biblically-balanced discussion can be had on both those topics as well.

theologyforum said...

Jared, thanks for your careful remarks here. I think we're pretty much on the same page, although I would want to see a tighter connection b/w the "spiritual" and the "physical." I wouldn't want to collapse them into each other. But I think Jesus' proclamation was an integrated whole, not something like: here are some scattered good works because I have some general human compassion, amidst an unrelated and more important spiritual message about an entirely spiritual salvation. I think physical and spiritual go together. I guess the Bible seems to hold things together that our traditions of interpretation don't. And of course it's much easier to have success when we reduce the message into just one thing.

So I guess I was (over)reacting to your suggestion that "Jesus' proclamation of good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and release of the oppressed was primarily (though not solely) referring to the spiritually poor, imprisoned, blind, and oppressed." I think once we grasp the radical ethic of the Bible, the divisions we draw b/w spiritual and physical disappear, the ethic where the first shall be last and the last shall be first; pray for your enemies; bless those who persecute you; the physically rich are spiritually poor and blessed are the poor and meek. Jesus inverts our value system and coming to terms with this morality is a spiritual event. I could go on, but I think I've rambled enough... Thanks again! James

Jared said...

Looking back on my post, did I use the word "balance" too much?

I would agree with you that too many people see a dichotomy between the physical and spiritual aspects of the Gospel. I believe Jesus came to save and renew the whole person. And he came to save and renew a people who will proclaim and practice it as such.

However, I think the physical is carried by the spiritual. As Paul characterizes it in Romans 10, the "good news" is something that is preached, heard, and believed. Without downplaying the physical aspects of the Gospel, I do believe that spiritual renewal carries the Gospel.

We must let the rest of Scripture inform our categories.

theologyforum said...

Jared, you said "the physical is carried by the spiritual". That's an interesting statement. It's interesting because I can't seem to reconcile that with the incarnation. I mean if the necessary condition for renewal was a spiritual transaction, then why incarnation, cross and bodily resurrection? Looking at Christ alone, sound to me like the physical carries the spiritual. I think if we want to make statements about the priority of the spiritual over the physical, then we'll have to square with the Christian church's rejection of Gnosticism and the necessity of the incarnation for salvation.

I know what you're trying to say, and I think there is something to it. But I just wonder about how you're making these decisions. Again, I think it's better just to say that the physical, emotional, social, political, spiritual and so on are all interconnected. Where am I off base?

Norman Jeune III said...

Thanks James for your response, and I appreciate what your saying about being frustrated with certain interpretive practices of evangelicals, although, perhaps ironically to some, I think the difference here is substantive. I am neither defending evangelicalism as a whole, nor attacking the progressives or "liberals", as you chose to lump the terms together a bit braodly-(perhaps you thought I would make that move?).

Additionally, I, as you also apparently, would not draw a sharp distinction between the physical and spiritual when talking about the nature of the kingdom of God. BUT, I would subordinate the physical to the spiritual when talking about it. I seek not to subordinate the physical or social to the point that it becomes inconsequential, but it stands that often, physical healing is a sign that points to the spiritual implications implied- John 9 would be a perfect example among many.

Where you say:

"But, of course, wouldn't those arguing against, say, the immorality of homosexuality talk about how the radical grace of the Gospel and the ethical trend of the Bible means Paul's clear injunctions must be read differently, rather similarly to the way you propose reading clear statements about the materially poor as instead about the spiritually poor b/c of the overall context of the Kingdom of God? There are arguments that don't appeal to modern presuppositions, but to a canonical theology. So, I don't think the issue is so easily dismissed."

I, again, am inclined to think this comparison is a bit simplistic; in the case of the kingdom of God, there is no passage or chapter in the bible that the kingdom of God will specifically be manifest as "A", whereas in the case of homosexuality, for example, Paul does make a clear statement about the ethics of such behavior. So, I would argue that the kingdom of God calls for interpretation (putting the pieces together), whereas those defending homosexuality for Christians call for interpretation becasue that's what they want to read. Their interpretation is more a response or a reaction, which I think is hard to deny. Perhaps I am being dishonest with myself about the degree to which my presuppositions have obscured my ability to look at this objectively, but as far as I can tell, not ironically, subjectivity seems to be the main pillar of those arguing in favor of the oppsing position.

I emphatically deny the attempt to separate the physical and spiritual when it comes to the kingdom, but perhaps its helpful or fair to ask whether one thinks the kingdom, between the inauguration and consummation of the kingdom of God, is advanced primarily on social and ethical, or spiritual grounds. Again, this is not to favor one, to the exclusion of the other, but I think its a fair question to ask.

There is obviously so much more to say, but I'll leave it here for the moment.

theologyforum said...

Norman, I think my answer to Jared immediately above your comment answers most of what you asked. You'll note there that I don't subordinate the physical to the spiritual, but see them as equal parts of the whole of Christ's work. I did suggest that the incarnation would actually point to the primacy of the physical, but I prefer to say that physical and spiritual are equal partners.

I think I've said all I can say about the similarity b/w the hermeneutical move necessary to read plain references to literally poor people non-literally and the one used to alter plain ethical prohibitions. The point is not that the pro-homosexual interpretation is as meritorious as the spiritualization of the Kingdom of God interpretation, but that it's the same hermeneutical gesture. I've also stated that some, perhaps the minority, argue on the basis of a canonical reading of Scripture, not simply on the basis of modern sensibilities. You don't seem inclined to acknowledge the latter as a possibility.

Andrew Faris said...

James,

Worthwhile concern, to be certain, but I also don't think Jared can really be accused of a trajectory hermeneutic here.

All he is saying is that putting too much emphasis on physical needs misunderstands some of Jesus' statements. So with Isa. 61 and Lk. 4, the best way to argue that would be to talk about how Isa. 61 uses the language it uses, then how Jesus appropriates it. That's not at all the same as suggesting that "the Bible means one thing when it says another" as you accuse him of. That's just trying to use context to understand what it is saying. There isn't a trajectory there.

Again, I just don't think Jared's point was to argue that in much detail. Instead, he gave the brief argument about Jesus and prisoners (a compelling one, I think!), and moved on.

To do something like this with homosexuality would take a lot more argumentation, and most importantly, it would take a suggestion that the Bible never reaches its ultimate ethic but merely points in its direction. I don't see Jared using anything at all like that with social justice and the gospel.

Andrew

Andrew Faris said...

James,

What do you mean by "canonical reading", and who exactly does that?

Andrew

Norman Jeune III said...

Andrew's last comment and question is important. James, in all honesty, I did not respond to your comment about canonical theology, because you really did not unpack what you meant here. It's in vogue lately in theological cicles to discuss canonical theology, which is fine, but that type of work has yet to take one specific trajectory, intepretively speaking. Therefore, in my opinion, it is easy to make reference to canonical theology, but vitally necessary to be more specific. The nature of any canonoical theology is that it can take a number of forms

theologyforum said...

Andrew,

I didn't realize I was accusing Jared of a trajectory hermeneutic. I was responding to his statement that "Jesus' proclamation of good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and release of the oppressed was primarily (though not solely) referring to the spiritually poor, imprisoned, blind, and oppressed."

Maybe I misread him, but it sounded like he was saying references to literal social conditions are in fact metaphors for spiritual conditions. Hence, I asked on what basis he knew that when the Bible is talking about one thing it actually means another? I have certainly made too much of an undeveloped statement, but I think it is important since for so long evangelicals have tended to downplay the social dimensions of the gospel and focus, in their preaching and in their church programs, on the spiritual.

Norman Jeune III said...

I am sincerely not trying to be antagonistic, but I would even take issue with your comment about the extent to which evangelicals are sensitive to social issues. Some of the most socially sensitive churches and people I know are conservative evangelicals. In fact, I think I can say this because they understand, fundamentally, that the gospel at its core, cannot divorce these two elements,even though social renewal is not primary. Social sensitivity and action is a vehicle for gospel proclamation- I don't think evangelicals have necessarily missed this boat.

Andrew Faris said...

James,

Suddenly this is beginning to feel like "CiC gangs up on James". It's not meant to be, but you're making challenges, and I'm a commenter on this blog as much as I am a contributor. So there you go!

The reason I said something about a trajectory was because I cannot think of another way to make sense out of your initial claim that says: "Out of curiosity, how do you know that when the Bible says one thing, it really means another? There are a lot of people who would want to say the same thing of passages concerning homosexuality and women in ministry, for example."

You also say this in your second post: "But, of course, wouldn't those arguing against, say, the immorality of homosexuality talk about how the radical grace of the Gospel and the ethical trend of the Bible means Paul's clear injunctions must be read differently..." (emphasis mine).

Sure sound like a comment about trajectory hermeneutics to me! By contrast, Jared's post has nothing at all like a trajectory idea.

I also just don't think Jared's statement is that undeveloped. I think it's pretty plain, and a pretty common interpretation. I also don't think that there is a larger hermeneutical issue here. I think it is a simple exegetical question that Jared answers a certain way. You can disagree with his answer, but there's no wider inconsistency so far as I can tell.

Andrew

Ian Clausen said...

Interesting threads here. Three topics,

1. nature of the 'spiritual' vs. the 'physical,'

2. biblical hermeneutics, and

3. an 'evangelical' ethic,

strike me as important things to flesh out. Maybe we can get some good posts in the future discussing aspects of any one of these. No great illumination here, but I certainly have views on all three. Thanks for the (perhaps unplanned) discussion Jared.

theologyforum said...

Andrew don't worry - I didn't feel attacked or ganged up upon. I've enjoyed the exchange.

Norman, I didn't mean to say that every single evangelical in the world is insensitive. But I guess your comments here kind of prove my point, comments like the physical is subordinate to the spiritual. That tends to be the trend of evangelicalism, and I think one could look at the average evangelical church and see that usually our concerns are about Bible knowledge, personal holiness and evangelism. When I was in seminary, never once did the issue of how to provide for the poor in my community come up in a class and most of the churches I've worked in never had any poor congregants. That doesn't mean my professors and fellow congregants are insentitive to the issues or don't care, but it does mean that they don't see such ministry as essential to gospel ministry. Just read the average evangelical book - it's mostly focused on spiritual issues, not physical or social ones. Now, I've been very encouraged by the Together for Adoption conference. That's a step in the right direction. But am I wrong to say that for so long evangelicals mainly protested abortion without really encouraging church members to try to practically reduce abortion through increased adoptions? I really can't see how what I said is all that controversial, but maybe we've just had two different experiences of evangelicalism...

Andrew, two things: when I said Jared's statement was undeveloped, I wasn't putting it down or anything like that. I was confessing that I perhaps read a bit too much into what was only one sentence. I really had your statement - "I just don't think Jared's point was to argue that in much detail" - in mind. Subsequently, I see that Jared was not espousing any sort of radical bifurcation of the spiritual and physical. Also, I'm still confused why you think I was accusing Jared of a redemptive-movement hermeneutic. I don't think he's doing that at all. The statements you quoted were in conversation with Norman, which leads me to my next point:

Andrew and Norman, I'm sorry I wasn't clear re: canonical theology. All I mean, basically, is what Norman was talking about when he spoke of the Kingdom of God - putting the pieces together. I'm not trying to defend anything that is en vogue, just the simple, very evangelical practice of trying to listen to the whole of Scripture's witness. Call it biblical theology or canonical theology or systematic theology (if you're wayne grudem) or whatever else. But all I mean is the process of looking at the various scattered references to a theme/topic and attempting to synthesize them.

In the final analysis, I'll concede that the analogy to validating homosexuality was illicit or at least a severe stretch. It was meant to be provocative, and I guess I succeeded on that score. I do still think my basic impulse was right, that evangelicals do have moments where they need to alter the text's plain meaning in order to justify contemporary practice. Evangelicals want to say, as you have said here, that the gospel is primarily about a spiritual reality - being right with God on the basis of Christ's righteousness. Thus, anytime the gospel in the Gospels is discussed in terms of social, not spiritual conditions, we must transform those passages to fix our gospel message (and practice). Am I really saying something that outlandish?

theologyforum said...

penultimate sentence should be "fit" not "fix"

Jared said...

James,

I appreciate your concern about the physical/spiritual dynamic, the incarnation, and gnosticism. But I wasn't talking about the physical and spiritual in such ways.

Speaking of just the Gospel, the good news, the coming of the kingdom of God: a spiritual transformation of heart and mind in response to the Gospel precedes social reformation. Some may seek social justice without "preaching" the Gospel, but a life transformed spiritually by the Gospel does the work. This is what I meant by the spiritual carries the physical.

I agree with Norman, the physical manifestations of the Gospel are subordinate and contingent upon the spiritual transformation of the ones proclaiming the good news. Again, this does not mean they must preach before healing, feeding, visiting and living out the Gospel, but a Gospel-change is the undercurrent of such actions.

I believe that Jesus fulfilled the Isaiah passage in both a physical and spiritual needs sense. I did not say they were merely metaphors of a spiritual fulfilment. My simple point was that the Luke 4 passage had both a spiritual and physical fulfilment in Jesus' ministry, and since he never freed any prisoners that I am aware of, the entire prophecy could describe his spiritual workings while only 3/4 of the prophecy describe his recorded physical workings.

However, there is ample support from the rest of Jesus' ministry and teaching for us to understand the Gospel as more than just a proclamation of spiritual renewal. As I cited earlier, Jesus told us to feed, clothe, and visit "the least of these".

As one final piece of biblical evidence, I offer the early church. While they are held in the highest of regard for sharing all in common, selling what they had to help those in need, etc., it all took place in the context of a community transformed by the preaching of "good news". Again, I am not saying that a verbal proclamation of the Gospel must come first, but I do believe that the spiritual transformation by the Gospel is the undercurrent for the physical out-workings.

Jared said...

James,

sorry to post two in a row here, but I guess we were both composing our last messages at the same time and I want to respond to your last paragraph.

You have been keying in on the evangelical's tendency to read all the Gospel passages in a spiritual context and exclude the physical. Yet you just said "Thus, anytime the gospel in the Gospels is discussed in terms of social, not spiritual conditions, we must transform those passages to fix our gospel message". Might you be making an error in the opposite direction?

Let me be frank. I see a pendulum swing effect in so many aspects of Christianity, that recognizes an error to one extreme on some point of doctrine, and swings to the opposite extreme which is just as far from the true middle.

I do believe that the Gospel is both spiritual and physical. That is is for the salvation not only of souls, but redemption of lives and reformation of societies. I do believe that many have dropped the ball in overemphasizing the spiritual. I do not want to see another pendulum swing in Christianity that overemphasizes the physical.

This is why I used the word "balance" so many times in my first response. We must find balance in our corrections and changes, or we will be making opposite, but equally damaging, mistakes. When you find yourself far left of where you should be on a gravel road, the last thing you want to do is jerk the wheel hard right.

So I believe that it starts with a grassroots effort without bad-mouthing the "evangelicals" or "liberal theologians" who get it wrong (that starts the pendulum swinging). It starts with Christians who are living, giving, sharing, feeding, touching, healing, and preaching the whole Gospel in such a winsome way that the other believers on the two extremes are won back to the middle.

theologyforum said...

Jared, thanks for following up.

I'm not sure how me pointing out that some evangelical interpreters have made a habit of reading passages discussing social conditions as referring to spiritual ones is making an error in the opposite direction...???

I'm not comfortable subordinating the physical to the spiritual nor the spiritual to the physical. I want to say they go together, both are essential to the gospel such that you can't talk about the physical as merely an effect of the essentially spiritual gospel nor vice versa. Of course, given finitude and fallennness, one dimension will be more on display at one time than the other.

In any case, I think it's getting to the point where all we're doing is repeating ourselves, and that probably means that we've reached some common ground, but prefer to stick w/ our respective emphases. I've appreciated our discussion, and hope it has helped you as much as it has me.

Norman Jeune III said...

Well my comment will be brief for now, since I have signal on my blackberry briefly while I,m camping.

In any case, Jared has basically reiterated much of what I would say on the main points. James, I apologize if any of my rather pointed remarks have felt a bit abrasive, so please accept my apologies. Nonetheless, my remarks stand. I amalso still unclear on the reasons for referencing canonical theology; I would personally not be inclined to describe it as akin to systematric theology, if I understand you correclty. I understand canonical theology as akin to systematic thrology, but with the additional considerations of the historical development of the text itself. Not asd a reference to the historical context of events in the text, but a historical consideration of the way in which the biblical was written and ordered. I am just unclear about how you would tie this consideration into the particular interpretive issues we were discussing

I look forward to hearing you thoughts, and if I am unclear here I will blame it on the blackberry. I will review the comments on monday when I get back in town

Thanks

theologyforum said...

Norman, thanks. No apology necessary. Conversations are much more fun when they're lively, I think, at least. I wasn't put off.

I believe the canonical theology you have in mind is associated w/ Brevard Childs. When I used the term, I wasn't trying to reference any school or method, only the general practice of putting the canon together on an issue. Hence, theology that is "canonical" in this sense is theology that takes account of the whole canon on its theme. I was simply saying that just as we have to fill out the content of "Kingdom of God" by working through the canon, so too we have to do that when deciphering the Bible's sexual ethic.

Does that help?

Norman Jeune III said...

James, thanks for your comments clarifying your use of the term "canonical theology". As you mention, I was under the impression that you were referring to the notion of canonical theology as Brevard Childs first articulated it.

I agree with you that lively conversation is always more fun. My problem is that sometimes I get a bit too charged up; its always in good fun though. I just tend to get a bit polemical and animated.

Good discussion! I always enjoy it.

HomeBuilding Team said...

I'm an admitted newbie to these concepts and discussion, but had a question. To say that the gospel is just as physical as spiritual...does that not eventually lead to theology akin to the 'prosperity gospel'? If the good news is as much freedom from poverty and physicaly suffering as it is from sin and spiritual depravity shouldn't faithful believers be free from poverty, sickness and other forms of suffering? I tend to see the physical ministry of the church being more of a moral imperative of those whose lives are changed by the gospel...a major side effect of the gospel, if you will. Jesus healed and fed thousands as an expression of love, but only those who repented (seems that was the thrust of his message) really reaped the benefits of the gospel. Others just took advantage of what they could get and went on about their sinful ways without notable impact.

Jared said...

Home,

I would agree, I would not define the Gospel as "just as physical as spiritual".

The Gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God, is that Jesus is beginning to set right all that was damaged at the fall. Hunger, disease, deformity, and physical death were all overcome during Jesus' ministry as a proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

But just as sickness, hunger, and pain were not the worst things at the fall, the remedy of those things is not the greatest element of the Gospel. All the physical aspects of the fall were merely consequences of a spiritual reality that had already occurred.

Our separation from God was the worst tragedy of the fall, and our redemption to God through Christ (I believe) is the greatest aspect of the Gospel. And without this spiritual aspect of the Gospel as our motivation and driving force, the physical aspects are just band-aids on cancer patients.

This is why I said in an earlier reply, I believe the physical is carried by the spiritual. So just as in the fall, now in the Gospel all the physical aspects are consequences of a spiritual reality that has already occurred.

HomeBuilding Team said...

Jared,

I agree with you. And I suppose your eschatology plays into this somewhat as well. If you are pre-millenial you should see the physical effects of the gospel as only taking place partially until He retunrs, while a post-millenial or even some amillenial views see that the church should/will make the physical restoration universally true prior to His return.

Either way I don't see a huge difference in the mission of the church, as long as the understanding is that the spiritual components of the gospel are the priority and vehicle for the physical ones.

Keith Moore said...

Jared 7 others,
It might be too late to contribute to this discussion, but after reading the threads, I think you guys make the point of the book. I didn't read anything from anyone about them examining his/her balance of the two threads. Nor did I read anything about the further examination from the study guide. Was that since no one else read the book?

BTW, during the 13 days of this discussion, 344,500 kids died of preventable causes (26,500 x 13).

Just an observation.

Jared said...

Keith,

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I certainly read the book because I wrote the review. As for finding a balance of the two threads, that is almost soley what I was addressing. Below are some quotes, let me know what you think.

"As I said before, I am not trying to weasel out of the Christian responsibility to meet the physical needs of those around us. But I think a balanced interpretation of Scripture can do that (mandate the Christian responsibility to meet the physical needs). For instance, Jesus' call for us to feed, clothe, and visit "the least of these" is clearly meeting physical needs. We don't need to use the Luke 4 passage to build a case for that."

"I believe Jesus came to save and renew the whole person. And he came to save and renew a people who will proclaim and practice it as such."

"the physical manifestations of the Gospel are subordinate and contingent upon the spiritual transformation of the ones proclaiming the good news. Again, this does not mean they must preach before healing, feeding, visiting and living out the Gospel, but a Gospel-change is the undercurrent of such actions."

"It starts with Christians who are living, giving, sharing, feeding, touching, healing, and preaching the whole Gospel in such a winsome way that the other believers on the two extremes are won back to the middle."