Sunday, February 04, 2007


Leslie Newbigin in 1982 prophetically spoke of what is still true in the church today -a kind of assumed split between evangelism and social action. He states that “the dichotomy that opens up in our perceptions at this point is part of the deep going dualism that we inherit from the pagan (Greek) roots of our culture and which the biblical witness has never been able to eradicate.”

"...The church that invites men and women to take refuge in the name of Jesus without this challenge to the dominion of evil, [structural justice] then it becomes a countersign, and the more successful it is in increasing its membership, the more it becomes a sign against the sovereignty of God. An ‘evangelism’ that seeks to evade this challenge and this conflict, which‑for example‑welcomes a brutal tyranny because it allows free entry for missionaries rather than a more humane regime that puts difficulties in their way, becomes a sign against the gospel of the kingdom. We have, surely, the authority of the Lord himself for saying that church growth that does not bear fruit is only providing fuel for hell (Jn. 15:1‑6)." OUCH!

As a pastor I find it terribly difficult to mend this fundamental rift of the gospel. I think we do hold a fundamental dualism that is Gnostic and Greek in it's roots not biblical. I am sure we can think of lots of churches where this is true. BUT... The goal of this post is not to pull out the spec in another's eye but to take notice of the log in our own. Where is my church community fundamentally truncating and reducing the gospel in this manners? Lord help me to see!


Sarah Louise said...

Shouldn't the question be equally be where is your church expanding the gospel?

matty B said...

Sorry all I can't find BJ email as I am seperated from my address book at present.

hope your imbibing (sp?) and traveling moves you well.
two thoughts:
I was actually think something similar this am. I think it connects a conflict in Christianity that I was pondering and maybe is near the heart of the dualism you are studying. Here are the conflcting scriptures in my mind. Basically, why didn't grace carry the people BOTH the sheep and the goats into heaven?
a. You shall know a tree by its fruit.
b. It is by grace you have been saved

What is fruit? Who determines its value? Who judges it. Clearly Jesus.
I guess that only God knows whether you are feeding the poor, etc in his name AND in his spirit. Because there is no social justice. There is better and worse for sure, and all of it to the end of "being Jesus" on earth: serving, healing, and trying to touch people with the love of God. I agree you cannot hold the hand of Jesus and not reach out with the other to those in need of any kind.

BUT you must be moved by God, otherwise we (me) will get the "depart from me for I never knew you."
We come to Jesus broken. He calls us and mends us. What next? I agree that people (me included) fill the rest of their lives with Christian duties and garbage that God could care less about, or need, or want.

Humbly I am striving and groaning, calling out to the Lord to lead me, to help me, to give me strength to tackle the issues at His heart, not the issues that pull at heart strings.

Hearing myself I sound harsh. Is that the "prophet" in me or am I just insensitive?


2. Would REALLY value your comments on my blogs. Either by email, or if you want to tell the world then "as you wish." I value your heart for Jesus and pray for the fruit to come to the 'burgh. Where Watterson knows all good people go when they die.

matty B said...

ooops my blog:

Benj Petroelje said...

I appreciate the thoughts BJ. It is so interesting to me how we have long dichotomized these two issues. How have we gotten away with dividing these two issues? Either we can preach the gospel or we can call for social action? It seems to me that the very gospel that Paul preached was one that smacked they very social structures of his day in the face. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not ... If Jesus is King, then all the puppet deities of ancient Rome could not be. At every turn Paul's gospel proposes radical social implications ... I find it sad that, at times in Church history, the gospel has been shrouded to say something very different. Good things to think about ...

shanna gronewold said...

Wow, great blog bj and also great responses.... I join in the great question asking regarding the gospel and social justice. I wonder about the saying that a hungry person often cannot hear the preaching because his stomach is preaching louder. I wonder why the Church naturally drifts towards fundementalism, it did during Jesus day and still does today.... I wonder how one can preach someone to fall in love with Christ and desire to live fully for Him from his heart..... it is much easier to preach to someone's behavior to change than for someone's heart to fall in love with the changer of behavior.... I know these thoughts are random but i throw them into the mix of questions in which we continue to seek Christ, whom we love.