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Living at the Crossroads: A Faithful, Relevant Witness

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Presentation on theme: "Living at the Crossroads: A Faithful, Relevant Witness"— Presentation transcript:

1 Living at the Crossroads: A Faithful, Relevant Witness
Chapter 8

2 Comprehensive Vision for Cultural Engagement
Jesus Christ is Creator and Redeemer of all things Salvation is restorative and comprehensive Church is called to witness to this comprehensive salvation

3 Evangelicalism and Comprehensive Salvation
Early 20th century: Salvation otherworldly, individualistic, dualistic Retreat from cultural engagement Did not see gospel as transforming power of all of human life

4 Retreat into Private Religion
As our concern over rampant secularization increases, we may in fashioning a missiology of Western culture easily be seduced into concentrating on the “religious” aspect only, leaving the rest to the secular powers, not least because these powers exert massive pressures on the church to limit itself to the soul of the individual. This is, after all, in keeping with the Enlightenment worldview: religion is a private affair, its truth claims are relative and have no place in the public sphere of “facts.” But Christian theology itself also contributed to this notion, as it increasingly individualized, interiorized, ecclesiasticized, and privatized salvation (David Bosch).

5 Evangelicalism and Comprehensive Salvation: Turnaround in late 20th c.
Carl F. H. Henry challenged narrow mission of the church

6 Challenge to Evangelicals
Whereas once the redemptive gospel was a world-changing message, now it was narrowed to a world-resisting message Fundamentalism in revolting against the Social Gospel seemed also to revolt against the Christian social imperative It does not challenge the injustices of the totalitarianisms, the secularisms of modern education, the evils of racial hatred, the wrongs of current labor-management relations, and inadequate bases of international dealings.

7 Evangelicalism and Comprehensive Salvation: Turnaround in late 20th c.
Carl F. H. Henry challenged narrow mission of the church Lausanne Covenant (1974) and World Evangelical Fellowship (1983)

8 Evangelical Mission Statements
“The salvation we claim should be transforming us (2 Cor. 3:18) in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead (James 1:14–26).” (Lausanne Covenant) “Evil is not only in the human heart but also in social structures The mission of the church includes both the proclamation of the Gospel and its demonstration. We must therefore evangelize, respond to immediate human needs, and press for social transformation.” (WEF)

9 Examples of Missionary Encounter
Christian businesswoman and profit motive Christian graduate student and power of secular university Christian social worker and humanist psych hospital Christian history teacher and public school Christian athlete and greed in professional sport Christian politician and liberal government

10 Critical Participation
Participants in our culture who “love and cherish all its created goodness” Yet critical participants who reject and challenge the idolatry that twists it Involvement and separation, solidarity and opposition

11 In the world but not of it
Jesus’ Prayer for His Disciples I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. - John 17:14-18

12 Dilemma of the Believing Community
Solidarity: Part of western culture Creational mandate: responsible for cultural development Christ’s redemption is comprehensive Have good news for healing of culture Rejection: Whole of western culture distorted by sinful idolatry Fundamental incompatibility between Scriptural and western story Danger: Relevance may lead to unfaithfulness; attempts to be faithful may lead to irrelevance

13 Western Culture

14 Unbearable Tension “Unbearable tension” that comes from being a member of two communities anchored in “two different and incompatible stories.” (Newbigin)

15 Unbearable Tension Christians are: Members of western community
Shaped by cultural story Members of covenant community Shaped by Biblical story

16 Unbearable Tension of Living at the Crossroads

17 Tension Between Gospel and Culture
The deeper the consciousness of the tension and the urge to take this yoke upon itself are felt, the healthier the Church is. The more oblivious of this tension the Church is, the more well established and at home in this world it feels, the more it is in deadly danger of being the salt that has lost its savour. - Hendrik Kraemer

18 Unaware of unbearable tension
The problem of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society is now very present to us. It is not merely the problem of a minority in a society of individuals holding an alien belief. It is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves; institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian; and as for the Christian who is not conscious of his dilemma—and he is in the majority—he is becoming more and more de-Christianized by all sorts of unconscious pressures; paganism now holding all the most valuable advertising space (T.S. Eliot).

19 How Do We Live Faithfully at the Crossroads Between Two Stories?
Withdrawal: Cultural separation/irrelevance (reject cultural story) Affirmation: Cultural captivity (affirm cultural story) Dualism (affirm part, reject part)

20 Solving the unbearable tension

21 Withdrawal Strategy Rejection of culture because it is disfigured by sin Rightly understand: Not of this world Gospel judges culture Christ against culture Isolation, ghettoization Fossil, irrelevant

22 Withdrawal... Rightly understands antithetical religious commitments of different communities Wrongly believes cultural flight is right or possible

23 Solving the unbearable tension
Withdrawal Accommodation

24 Accommodation Strategy
Affirm culture because it is creational Rightly understand: In the world Gospel affirms culture Christ of culture Absorption, compromise Chameleon, syncretism

25 Solving the unbearable tension
Withdrawal Accommodation Dualism

26 Dualism Rightly understands: Christ above, in paradox with culture
Creational life is shared Much truth, justice, etc. in the world Christ above, in paradox with culture Wrongly sets aside all-encompassing religious beliefs

27 Solving the unbearable tension
Withdrawal Accommodation Dualism

28 The Gospel speaks: Word of grace… culture is good creation [structure] Word of judgement… culture is idolatrously twisted and sinfully distorted [misdirection] Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil (I Thess. 5:21f).

29 Biblical Position: Affirmative/Antithetical Approach to Culture
Gospel/Yes At home Good creation May not withdraw Reject Gospel/No At odds Sinful distortion May not accept status quo

30 Missionary’s Inner Dialogue
Way of being in the culture; state of mind Desire to live in both worlds fully Faithfulness to Biblical story Views all of culture through lens of Scripture Seeks to discern idolatrous twisting of words, institutions, cultural practices, etc. Seeks to discern creational structure

31 A Biblical Example John’s use of classical categories


33 In the synoptic gospels the Kingdom of God is:
Central image for the Jews Central image for Jesus Central image for Matthew, Mark, Luke


35 In John’s gospel... He employs images popular in classical culture and philosophy Heaven/earth, life/death, light/darkness, flesh/spirit

36 Do we have a different gospel?

37 Do we have a different gospel?

38 John 1:1,14 In the beginning was the logos...
...and the logos became sarx.

39 New translation or articulation of the gospel is both:
Relevant: He uses language of classical dualism familiar to hearers Faithful: Challenges the idolatry of the classical dualism

40 Subversive Fulfillment
Fulfills religious longing for order and origin (creational) Subverts idolatrous understanding

41 Another Biblical Example: Household
OIKOS: extended family in Roman empire structured hierarchically and oppressively Fundamental social building block of Roman empire Undifferentiated institution made up of marital, family, economic, political relationships Oppressive and hierarchical distortion

42 Response of the early church
Reject? Affirm? Transformed! (Eph. 5:21-6:4)

43 Subversive Fulfillment
Discerned creational relationships Transformed relationships creating new institution recognizable as good news to culture

44 Cultural Discernment What is the creational insight or structure?
What is the idolatrous distortion or direction? What kind of healing action is possible?

45 Faithful Cultural Strategy
Faithfulness and relevance Avoid withdrawal, accommodation, common ground Affirms both responsibility for cultural development and antithetical challenge to idolatrous development Affirmation, rejection, healing

46 A Communal Witness Importance of callings of individuals in culture
“A missionary encounter with the West will have to be primarily a ministry of the laity.” (Bosch) “The primary witness to the sovereignty of Christ must be given, and can only be given, in the ordinary secular work of lay men and women in business, in politics, in professional work, as farmers, factory workers and so on.” (Newbigin)

47 A Communal Witness Importance of callings of individuals in culture
Danger of individual witness Communal witness Alternative community

48 Alternative Community
“The most important contribution which the Church can make to a new social order is to be itself a new social order.” (Newbigin) The church is called to embody a different form of life, to be an alternative community, a countercultural body, “a visible, beckoning, hope-giving, guiding sign of the shalom of the kingdom.”

49 Alternative Community in West
A community of justice in a world of economic and ecological injustice A community of generosity and simplicity (of ‘enough’) in a consumer world A community of selfless giving in a world of selfishness A community of truth (humility and boldness) in a world of relativism A community of hope in a world of disillusionment and consumer satiation A community of joy and thanksgiving in a world of entitlement A community who experiences God’s presence in a secular world

50 A Communal Witness Importance of callings of individuals in culture
Danger of individual witness Communal witness Alternative community Organizations in various sectors of public life

51 Organizing for Public Witness
Corporate witness in politics, trade unions, media, education, etc. “Without a proper organizational association we cannot meet our common responsibility in various respects.” It will be difficult to meet our Christian responsibility especially in scholarship and politics “without associating ourselves organizationally with one another.” (Herman Ridderbos)

52 A Communal Witness Importance of callings of individuals in culture
Danger of individual witness Communal witness Alternative community Organizations in various sectors of public life Equipping members for active and informed participation in public life

53 A Merciful Witness Mercy and justice
“We must do both: we must care for the victim of disaster or injustice, and we must also undertake those measures of social engineering or revolution which are needed to prevent disaster and injustice from happening.” (Newbigin)

54 A Merciful Witness Mercy and justice
Siding with the poor and oppressed

55 A Tolerant and Suffering Witness
Tolerance and pluralism Principled or committed pluralism Each community maintains faith commitment as true Respectful dialogue between competing truth claims Differs from ‘agnostic pluralism’ of humanism

56 A Tolerant and Suffering Witness
Tolerance and pluralism Principled or committed pluralism No coercion or power for kingdom Witness to not building of kingdom Witness in public life will bring suffering

57 Suffering and witness Missionary encounter with idolatrous power brings conflict and suffering Mission under the cross “If we take seriously our duty as servants of God within the institutions of human society, we shall find plenty of opportunity to learn what it means to suffer for righteousness’ sake, and we shall learn that to suffer for righteousness sake is really a blessed thing.” (Newbigin)

58 A Faithful Witness Pressure to conform to idolatry
Need for spirituality and community “If there is a committed people as the sign and agent and foretaste of what God intends, it can only be insofar as their life is continually renewed through contact with God himself.” (Newbigin)

59 If the church is indeed to be Jesus’ agent in bringing his whole agenda to his whole world, it needs his own Spirit. Indeed, if the church attempts to do what has to be done without constantly seeking to be fi lled and equipped by Jesus’ own Spirit, it is committing blasphemy each time it opens its mouth. This is not a plea that all Christians should enlist in the charismatic movement. Rather, it is a plea that all Christians, particularly those involved at the leading edge of the church’s mission to bring healing and renewal to the world, should be people of prayer, invoking the Spirit of Jesus daily and hourly as they go about their tasks, lest they be betrayed into the arrogance of their own agendas or into the cowardice of relativism (N.T. Wright).

60 Supportive community: Urgent plea to pastors
Are we taking seriously our duty to support [our lay people] in their warfare? Do we seriously regard them as front-line troops? What about the scores of Christians working in offices and shops in that part of the city? Have we ever done anything seriously to strengthen their Christian witness, to help them in facing the very difficult ethical problems which they have to meet every day, to give them the assurance that the whole fellowship is behind them in their daily spiritual warfare? (Newbigin addressing pastors)

61 Need for community Nourished by Scripture, prayer, fellowship, worship
Supported by encouragement, prayer, counsel, financial help Equipped to fulfill task in community

62 Following Jesus Essenes withdrew Saduccees accommodated
Pharisees retreated into organized religion Zealots employed coercive strategy Jesus call to uncompromising and suffering witness to kingdom

63 Church: Salt, Light, and a City on a Hill
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:13–16)

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