Haiti: A Deficient Gospel

This quote fromDr Dieumeme Noelliste, president of the Caribbean Evangelical Theological Association, quoted here in CT, made me think of many of our own problems with a reduced gospel of  “saving souls for heaven” that has resulted in a church which has nothing to say to the issues of social justice, economic inequality and racial reconciliation.

“My view: the gospel that has been preached in Haiti has left a vacuum—has left the political landscape untouched. The church doesn’t see its business as being a prophetic witness to those in power. The result has been a political sector left to its own devices; this is why the common people were the first responders to the crisis, not the government. This is the result of the gospel being truncated, emasculated, instead of confronting the powers that be to do what God intends for them to do: protect and enhance life.”

HT: TSK

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~ by John on January 23, 2010.

2 Responses to “Haiti: A Deficient Gospel”

  1. “reduced gospel of “saving souls for heaven”,” as opposed to? Biblically speaking that is?

    “A church which has nothing to say to the issues of social justice, economic inequality and racial reconciliation,” might well be a function of deficient leadership or lethargic inaction or lackluster teaching but to link them so tightly to the Gospel message? Could you give a bit more explanation?

    “The result has been a political sector left to its own devices; this is why the common people were the first responders to the crisis, not the government.” Are governments saved or individuals? When any government responds to tragidy is it a Christian act? The South Africa government responded, was that a Christian act?

    “the gospel being truncated, emasculated…” What do you want to add to the Gospel message?

    Have I missed something here?

  2. Mark, let me say immediately what I am not saying and on which we probably agree. I am in no way downplaying the cross or Christ, the sinfulness of man and our need of a Saviour to rescue us from the wrath of a just God. For the record I believe in penal substitutionary atonement.

    Let me now attempt to respond to your critiques. I will try to keep it short and let you respond where you disagree or require clarification.

    1) Saving souls for heaven is not biblical language. This language is influenced in part by Plato and in part by individualistic western post-enlightenment Christianity. The language the Bible uses is of God reconciling all things to himself in Christ.

    2) Jesus, himself, uses the language of the in-breaking and growing Kingdom. There is certainly a future element to this kingdom – consummation. But the Kingdom has broken in, in real and significant ways, through the death and resurrection of Jesus and the subsequent sending of the Holy Spirit. We of course enter this kingdom through faith in Christ alone by grace alone.

    3) Thus the gospel message is not simply about me and my individual relationship with Jesus rather it is me (or us!) joining with God in his work of reconciling all things to himself. The gospel is not simply a free ticket to heaven when I die with in effect little to say about God’s present work in this world, wider than my personal life and holiness.

    4) In Christ we become citizens of another kingdom who live and represent the values and life of that Kingdom now. If the central tenet of that Kingdom is heaven then effectively what matters in life before death is personal holiness. And it is hard to argue with that logic. I have both experienced and preached this line before. Think about most application in most churches – personal holiness. Is that really all God is on about in the Bible?

    5) But if our role is as citizens of the in-breaking Kingdom (communal) to join with God in his work of reconciling all things to Him – then suddenly matters of social justice, racial reconciliation, poverty allieviation etc are no longer good things to do. They are essential to our understanding of the gospel message o

    6) I wish to add nothing to the gospel – I simply wish us to hear it fully, radically, holistically.

    7) N.T. Wright in his book Surprised by Hope helped me to see that our doctrine of eschatology (last things) effects our understanding of the gospel message in more significant ways than we often assume.

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