Wednesday, September 05, 2007

From an individualistic gospel to a global one

The gospel is bigger than individual conversion and salvation. This seems to be a recurring theme for me these days. One of the books I'm editing now that will come out in spring 2008 is called True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In, by James Choung, in which the author uses a narrative story to explore whether Christianity really makes a difference in a world of global crises and oppression. Another one of my authors just e-mailed me to ask my take on how people's questions have shifted in recent decades. I responded that generally, various sources say that the basic question of modern (esp. post-WWII evangelicalism) was "Is it true?" whereas in the postmodern context the question has shifted to "Is it real?" or "Does it work?"

But maybe we're entering into a new era where the question is not so much about the gospel's truth or efficacy for an individual, but rather framed in terms of global healing and hope. I notice that Brian McLaren's forthcoming book, Everything Must Change, has the subtitle "Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope." I haven't read it yet, but it seems like it will be spinning out implications of the kingdom of God in global crises like AIDS and environmental issues. Perhaps a major shift is taking place from the more individualistic approach to the gospel (accept Jesus because it benefits you; follow Jesus because he'll make your life better; Jesus as vehicle for self-improvement) to the more communal approach of the '90s (join this community of fellow believers; you're not alone anymore) to a now more global approach (Jesus is healing the whole world, and we can be a part of it).

Of course, back in the '60s people were wrestling with global issues and civil rights and the Vietnam War and everything too. So maybe it's too simplistic to try to boil it down to neat categories. But I think there's certainly a shift in emphasis (especially in apologetic efficacy) from "Jesus is true for me and he can be true for you" to "Jesus is real, and he matters not just for you and me, but for the poor, the environment, the oppressed, the whole hurting world."


Dianne said...

These are interesting and compelling thoughts, right in line with what I've been reading and thinking of late. I never realized how selfish my Christianity was until lately. I really do see the value of community as God's greater intention. Lots to ponder!

Milton Stanley said...

I sure hope "does it work" isn't the driving question. As W.H. Auden once pointed out, torture "works." So does idolatry (Jer. 44:15-19).

clayburkle said...

I am tracking with you brother. I'm regularly asking myself and others.... what is the gospel. I am almost cringing at the individualistic focus of gospel presentation that I regularly hear. And I've been trained in it so long... I often find myself falling into these old patterns.

What voices have you found that are helping you discover the wholeness of the gospel?