Justice and the gospel

Aid project in Kenya

When I was a young christian (a few decades ago now!), evangelical churches tended to focus on evangelism, and some viewed justice and social action with suspicion. Things have changed since then, with most christians and churches supportive of social welfare and overseas aid programs.

There is still a tendency to see these programs as of secondary importance compared to evangelism, but this too is changing.

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A great light

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. …. in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.”

Isaiah, c 700 BCE. (Isaiah 9:1,2,6,7)

Does the gospel include caring for others?

Salvation Army helping

Another way in which Christianity is changing is the number of churches that are getting involved in their local communities, offering help and counselling services to those who need them and finding ways to make their community a better and more caring place.

We can learn from three different churches in three different continents.

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The gospel = the good news, right?

Headline

We all know what the gospel is, don’t we, even though we might express it slightly differently?

You’re a sinner (so am I), Jesus died to save you from your sins, now you can go to heaven instead of hell. That’s good news, and that’s what “gospel” means.

Trouble is, that’s not exactly what the Bible says.

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Taize, Lakota nation and the suffering of Jesus

Taize with the Lakota

Taize is an ecumenical monastery in Burgundy, France. The Lakota are an American Indian nation on a reservation in South Dakota, USA. You might not expect them to feature in the same story, but recently they did. It is a moving story.

New insights

Jason Micheli joined more than a thousand pilgrims attending a Taize gathering, this time not in France but on the Pine Ridge Reservation, at the invitation of Lakota nation.

During a time of worship centred around the cross, he had some insights into the cross, human suffering and oppression.

I came across them on Tony Jones’ blog, Theoblogy, and then back on Jason’s blog Tamed Cynic. I felt they needed to be shared.

Check it out. I think you’ll find it worthwhile.

Photo taken from Theoblogy

Half a billion healings?

Praying for healing

It is a circular argument, but it has been made often, from David Hume down to present day sceptics. There is no believable evidence for genuine miraculous healings, they say. But what about all the stories of people being healed? We know they can’t be true, they say, because no-one has ever shown scientifically that healing can occur.

So New Testament scholar Craig Keener decided to break the circle.

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Believing the Bible: the New Testament

John's Gospel

This is the tenth in a series of posts on Understanding the Bible in the 21st century.

We have seen that the Bible claims to be an authoritative scripture which reveals God. We have also seen that it doesn’t seem to claim to be inerrant or the very words of God himself.

So what can we honestly believe about the Bible, and how does this help us?

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Conversion stories: another part of the picture

Montage of faces

I have commented before on people who decide they no longer believe in Jesus (see Atheists who once were christians, Pastors who once were christians, and Why do some christians give up belief?).

But this is only one side of the story. At the same time, a significant number of people from a non-religious background are choosing to believe. I have taken an interest in finding some of their stories.

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Don Richardson: a blast from the past!

Don Richardson baptising

If you were an aspiring christian missionary, would you take your wife and three young children deep into the jungles of West Papua to a headhunting, cannibalistic tribe who valued treachery as a virtue? Nope, I don’t think I’d have the guts either.

But Don Richardson did. And God blessed his sacrificial ministry.

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Christianity and respectability

LLM posted an interesting quote from Tim Keller in her blog, Enough Light. Here is a part of it:

Man in suit

“in general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him. We see this throughout the New Testament accounts of Jesus’s life. In every case where Jesus meets a religious person and a sexual outcast (as in Luke 7) or a religious person and a racial outcast (as in John 3-4) or a religious person and a political outcast (as in Luke 19), the outcast is the one who connects with Jesus and the elder-brother type does not. Jesus says to the respectable religious leaders ‘the tax collectors and the prostitutes enter the kingdom before you’ (Matthew 21:31).

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A small victory in the fight against child slavery

Stop the Traffik

There has been a long campaign for chocolate companies to only source their cocoa from farms that don’t use trafficked child labour, and who pay the workers a fair wage. And progress has been slow.

I have previously reported how I have joined many others in writing to chocolate companies here in Australia asking them to adopt Fairtrade or other certification that guarantees ethical practices.

So it is always good to celebrate encouraging news.

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Billy Graham on who will be ‘saved’

Billy Graham

I have previously posted on the various views christians have on who will be saved (Can only christians be saved?). The exclusivists say only those who specifically believe in Jesus. The universalists say everyone, eventually. And the inclusivists say anyone who follows whatever light they have been given.

Recently I came across a quote that showed Billy Graham’s view.

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Gospel centred or salvation centred?

Jesus on the cross

Evangelical christianity has historically had a strong emphasis on personal salvation, which it sees as coming from repentance and faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. This is generally seen as the main purpose of Jesus’ life and death.

This basic evangelical teaching can be drawn from the letters of Paul (although some theologians question this), but it isn’t so easily seen in the life and teachings of Jesus. Perhaps we need to re-think?

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Rethinking the gospel with Frank Viola

Almost exactly a year ago, I posted on the meaning of the word “gospel” (Good news?) and prepared a more detailed page on what seems to me to be a better understanding of the core of our faith and message (What message?).

I still think this is one of the most misunderstood aspects of christianity, yet it is right at the core of our belief.

Recently I discovered this post (Rethinking the gospel) by author Frank Viola on similar matters. Worth checking out.