Vinoth Ramachandra

Whose “Priority”?Which Gospel?

Posted on: November 20, 2010

I am told that, at the recent Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, a popular American preacher and author vigorously asserted that evangelism, understood as the verbal proclamation of the Gospel, was the Church’s foremost “priority”. Since this is a typical, knee-jerk reaction that talk about social justice or “integral mission” elicits in “conservative” evangelical circles, it is worth exploring who says this kind of thing and whether they actually practice what they are saying.

If a person’s priorities are gauged by what that person spends most of his or her time doing, I am sure that anybody observing the day-to-day life of this preacher would not conclude that evangelism was his first priority.  He has spent considerable time and money in acquiring a long and expensive education. If he has children, I am confident that he has likewise invested significantly in their nurture and secured the best possible education for them. No doubt he eats at least three good meals a day and enjoys at least six hours sleep at night. He has medical insurance and access to the best medical care in the richest nation in the world. Holding a U.S passport, he can freely travel (almost) everywhere in the world, not needing to queue outside foreign embassies to get visas. In other words, his privileged way of life takes so much for granted. It has been made possible by the work and sacrifice of unknown others in many parts of the world. And it is remote from the reality experienced by the majority of his fellow Christians who were present at Cape Town.

Whenever I ask such preachers, “Don’t you want everybody in the world to have the benefits you enjoy?”, the answer I receive is either “That’s the social gospel” or “That’s not our priority, as non-Christians can do that”. If the Gospel is not social, then what is it? And, if non-Christians can make sacrifices to ensure that people like us have a decent life, why are we reluctant to do the same for them? What we are facing here is hypocrisy and double standards, the very things that stirred the indignation of Jesus!

The language of “priorities” belongs to the world of organizations (which usually have a single focus) and institutional roles. I agree that a pastor should do the work of pastoring and not get tied down in administration or seek political office. A musician is called to perform good music (and it is the pastor’s calling to help her understand what that means and to release her from church programs in order to do so). But the primary calling of both is not defined by either occupation or gifting. It is the call to discipleship.

The Church as the disciple-community of Jesus is called in the Great Commission to obey and teach others “to obey everything that I have taught you”. This is pretty comprehensive! How on earth did this Great Commission get reduced to preaching? Trying to select from the teaching of Jesus what we will obey, or trying to rank his teachings in a scale of “priorities”, is not to be a disciple of his. And, then, by what right do we call others to discipleship? Jesus expects that the Church that is proclaiming the Gospel among the nations is also living out that Gospel before the nations. Namely, she is committed to peace-making, hungering and thirsting after justice, loving her enemies, healing the sick, sharing wealth with the dispossessed, striving for unity in the midst of differences, and so on.

The nearest that Jesus ever got to our language of “priorities” was in his rebuke to the Pharisees that they had ignored the “weightier” matters of the law, namely showing justice and mercy and faith (Matt.23:23). Also, when asked by a lawyer what was the “greatest commandment”, Jesus replied: “loving God” with one’s whole being, and “loving one’s neighbour” as ourselves (Matt.22:34-40). Curiously, no evangelical statement of faith that I have come across even refers to this- it is as if the teaching of the one we call “Lord” has been displaced by the creedal formulae handed down to us by our denominational traditions.

I stated in my Blog observations of the Edinburgh 2010 conference (“A Centenary Celebration”, 11 June 2010) that clericalism has blighted the witness of the church. I repeat that conviction with regard to Lausanne. All the plenary speakers at the Congress were either pastors or “fulltime” workers in para-church organizations. They are not representative of the vast majority of Christians around the world who serve God as artists, engineers, lawyers, farmers, mechanics, biologists and a host of other “secular” occupations. They are the real “missionaries” of the Church, engaging with non-Christians on a daily basis, and whose work raises ethical issues that are at the cutting-edge of mission. As long as their voice is marginalized at such conferences, we shall continue to have such meaningless debates about “priorities”.

Would that “Reformed” pastors like the one who spoke at Lausanne give us the lead in recovering the Reformation doctrine of the priesthood of all believers!

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53 Responses to "Whose “Priority”?Which Gospel?"

Once again, Vinoth hammers the nail where it needs to fix the breaking foundation of our evangelical faith.

I have been a Christian for over two decades now. Came from a different faith tradition. One of the most attractive factors of the life of Jesus to me was the absolute concerns he had and did towards social justice in a non violent manner. But now the lack of the same concern within the church is threatening me to move away from the church and all her historicized institutionalization. Honestly I am at the cross paths.

As a student of social sciences I conclude that Marx had a narrow dialectic of a certain kind of history when he expounded ignoring the possibility of multiple histories in human civilization other than the one that is constructed by capital. We conclude thus because Marxism failed to produce what he promised.

If we use the same matrix, a deductionist would argue Jesus has failed because the majority of modern church has failed to adopt the synchronized structural gospel Jesus offered, but has divided in the middle as spiritual or social gospel. In this divide the global evangelical church that is largely influenced by the most powerful and richest section within her that comes from America, has failed to grasp the transiting realities around.
I am neither theologian nor Christian anthropologist. But a political researcher who is a Christian, so I don’t have to safe guard my institutional affiliation and could say this: One of the key reasons for the socially separated modern evangelical faith is the ‘’Grahmian’’ theology constructed by Dr Billy Graham. No doubt he a sincere, holy man. But the ‘individual relation’ paradigm that he propagated and which swept the worldwide church is at the core of this ignorance of the social realities. He either ignored or at best was silent on the need to become socially concerned follower of Jesus, as against his conceptual framework of finding God personally and living the same way. Graham is not only the person who has preached to the most people on the earth, but also was spiritual pastor to 6 last US presidents. In that sense he had a role in influencing the minds of these men to shape their contemporary world from a Christian perspective.

But the results are empirical. I hope at least a small section of the church at will survive this. And return to reclaim the gospel in its full as Jesus did.

Vinoth, thank you for this. Blessing on you and Karen

Why don’t you name the preacher you’re preaching against?

I worked for over 10 years for one of the largest evangelical ‘American’ missions organization and I have to say that what Vinoth writes is true. This is not sensationalism or hype but cold, hard reality.

Many of the rich and powerful evangelical individuals (I have stopped calling these men leaders) in senior positions in large missions organization want to ‘through any means necessary’ convert the unchristian world to Christianity. One example of this is what is called the “One billion souls” initiative. Much of this evangelism strategy has often felt no different from ‘shock and awe’ military tactics. Fill big stadiums with people who are entertained with ‘shock and awe’ cultural programs and at the end are given a choice between Jesus and eternal hell.

But my point is this, I have a lingering suspicion that initiatives like converting “One billion souls” and other such global programs for evangelism, actually has, either consciously or more probably unconsciously, a hidden political agenda. It is about using the soft power of evangelism to weaken, if not eradicate, anything that opposes or threatens US interest and power in the world. The world evangelism agenda of these large American evangelical missions organization enjoys a happy marriage with ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ theory proposed by Samuel Huntington. It works this way – “what clashes against us (American evangelicals) must be ruthlessly converted, and the sooner we get this done it is better for us, our children and our way of life based on freedom.” No matter how many exceptions are thrown at me to what I have written, I hold to my view that my suspicions are not completely unfounded.

So yes, I agree with Vinoth, many of these individuals (some who used to be friends of mine) do everything possible to send their children to the best school/university around, they themselves eat healthy meals three times a day and have the money for private medical treatment. When I’ve argued that the poor everywhere also wish their children could have a better future and they also want to eat nutritious food if they could afford it and also want access to have health-care that is affordable, the response has been simply, pale-faced incomprehension, followed by that trite statement, our priority is ‘peaching the gospel’ to the unevangelized. The double-standard and hypocrisy is simply unspeakable.

Many of these individuals who hold senior positions in large evangelical American missions organization know they cannot really bite (challenge the causes and structures of global injustice) the hand (US government/Wealthy business men) if they want to continue enjoying their jet-setting, over-nutritious, secure and prosperous lifestyle.

I suppose it makes a lot of sense that for many these individuals “Silence against injustice is key to personal success and survival”.

Tiago, I don’t name him simply because my argument is not with him but with the theological position he represents. He is typical of so many others, as the comments by Suren Raghavan and Philip Powell make clear. This post is not about particular “personalities”. It is about the lack of evangelical integrity that many, Christians as well as non-Christians, find a serious obstacle to faith.

Thanks Vinoth for this analysis of the Lausanne congress. I do think that evangelicalism can too often be synonymous with corporate jargon, like focusing on setting “priorities”, and yes there was plenty of that at the Congress.

However, having experienced far more extreme direct transposing of management jargon and techniques to the world of theology and missiology, I do feel that the congress was relatively restrained, and I do realise that when you have such a dominant Christian culture as that in the US, it maybe requires more effort to step out of it and relate to the rest of the world.

Enough about the semantics however, how about the social gospel that you address. I like your analogy of the passport. I cannot think of the unease I felt as I drifted through the passport control in Malaysia this year as I watched my African brothers wait far longer to have their entry approved. I did feel a profound sense of injustice. Yet my question is, as with many of the injustices in the world, what can I do about it? I can certainly speak out about it, and living in Switzerland I certainly do speak out about the evil of the banking system we promote (as do many Christians here), but the reality is we are virtually powerless to do something about it as we are a small minority that despite our efforts remain unheard. We might boycott, send letters, write articles, organise conferences, but what change have we seen? My conclusion is therefore that change in our society can only take place when lives are transformed by the gospel. I believe the outworking of this transformation has to involve the social gospel. We are saved from but we are also saved for.

Which leads me to the next point, your statement saying “Curiously, no evangelical statement of faith that I have come across even refers to this- “.
I agree with your point when it comes to most evangelical statement of Faiths, however when speaking of the Lausanne I think that is unfair, given it is one of the few places where you do get calls for justice in the Evangelical world, whether it is in the 74′ declaration or in this years.

So, yes I back a lot of what you say, however I don’t want to write off everything from Lausanne.

Colin, thanks very much for your comments. My post was never intended as an “analysis” of the Lausanne Congress. That would be presumptuous, since I wasn’t there.

No, I was simply highlighting some blindspots and double standards that are, unfortunately, far more widespread than Lausanne. If you don’t mind me saying so, your letter well illustrates the kind of double standards we are up against!

For example, the “we are powerless” language you fall back on is also a typical reaction I receive when discussing social injustice. I can sympathize with Christians in Pakistan or Iran or Burma who may say this. But when I hear it on the lips of those living in liberal democracies, with an open media and a functioning justice system, I am tempted to respond, like Scrooge, “Bah, humbug!”

When great plans are made for world evangelization, one doesn’t hear any talk about being “powerless”, only about being ”empowered” by the Holy Spirit. If a student were to tell you that she feels “powerless” to share the Gospel with her peers, what would you say to her? If your mother or daughter were victims of a gross injustice that endangered their lives, wouldn’t you work tirelessly, and enlist as many people as possible, to redress the injury? I doubt if you would give up after a few tentative steps.

William Wilberforce spent 40 years laboring with all his intellect and passion to abolish slavery. This, despite his social prominence, and the fact that the majority of his fellow countrymen were Christians. He saw success only on the day before his death. If, after struggling for 40 years to tackle the corrupt Swiss banking system (the example you use), the Swiss Church were to declare that it was “powerless” to change things, I would be much more sympathetic.

I agree with you that the Gospel transforms lives. But which Gospel? One of the biggest obstacles to faith in Christ is that some of the worst evils and abuses have taken place under Presidents and Prime Ministers who called themselves Christians. They were among the most powerful men on earth. So I come back to the question “Which Gospel” do we proclaim? A “Gospel” that does not enlist people for God’s priorities on earth is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thanks for your answer. But I beg to differ. I find the absence of “particular personality” terribly revealing.

I’m fairly sure the particular pastor you were referring to wanted to talk about “evangelism” in the context of being concerned about all suffering, by which he meant suffering beyond this life as well as within this life. It was the threat of the judgement of God which he was trying to remind people of. Given the emphasis in certain parts of the New Testament on the warning of coming judgement, which the theological academy along which many educated Christians often seek to minimise or sanitise (possibly for good reasons at times in reacting against a perverted view of judgement presented by certain kinds of fundamentalism), I think it is fair call. Yet is probably more of an issue for us westerners who are struggling with pressure to preach a “safe” message within our religious context which asserts that the “customer is always right”. Some people refer to this as religious pluralism or the influence of post modernity, I regard more as the way in which consumer capitalism has resulted in the commodification of ideas. I’m not sure this is such an issue for those involved in mission in the majority world, where Christians have been more used to preaching the gospel within a pluralistic landscape.

I too find the language of “priorities” frustrating as it seems to me to split things up which the New Testament holds together. I don’t think you can “preach the gospel and use words if necessary”, neither do I think you can make “word ministry” or “proclamation” a focus without the accompanying signs of the coming of the Kingdom-things like being concerned for justice, the healing of sick, the reconciliation of broken human relationships, care for creation etc. It is interesting that this dichotomy to me remains more of a problem for us westerners in countries like the United States, the UK, Europe and certainly for us here in New Zealand. Again, we have struggled far more with a kind of dualism that I don’t think is nearly as present in other parts of the world. Perhaps it again involves our accomodation to a capitalist order, where talking about justice or mercy interrupts the free market that we are selfishly wishing to uphold. More to the point, I think its more probably a result of our evangelical heritage of preaching that focuses on the eternal destiny of the believer in particularly dualistic terms (i.e going to heaven when you die). This kind of theology is clearly wrong in some ways as it neglects the clear teaching of Jesus, the reality of the resurrection and instead opts for platonic/gnostic understanding of what is material. Yet at the very least it has continued to capture a sense of the gravity of Sin as offence against God, not simply against others, and the reality of judgement. Sure, it has expressed this in poor language and in caricatures but this is not a reason to throw out what it attempts to express completely.

Again, perhaps this reflects the real problem with Lausanne. It is far too dominated by the concerns of British and American evangelicals. This was revealed in everything from the dress code to the kind of worship and speakers present. Very different from something and IFES event like world assembly.

So to conclude this rather long and rambling comment, while I think you are correct in arguing against a language of “priorities”, I would say you need to go easy on the particular pastor. Some of his concern is certainly valid for us in the West, where do actually hear a fluffy social gospel at times that seeks to sanitise God and ignore future judgement (just turn up to many Anglican churches in New Zealand, or visit some (not all) so-called emerging church gatherings) . The real problem is that his message is not really applicable to much of majority world evangelicalism, where doing justice and seeing visible signs of God’s kingdom has often accompanied convicted preaching of the word. We need to realise that the church is diverse in its problems and struggles.

Richard, just a quick response. You will note from my reply to “Tiago” (above) that the issue is far wider than a single pastor. It also cuts across North/South divisions. It is about hypocrisy and double standards (which are not the exclusive preserve of the North), and not primarily about different theology of mission. I would like to see those who believe that evangelism is “primary” actually demonstrate it to us by their lives.

I am also quite amazed that you think justice, peace-making, caring for creation, etc are only relevant to us in the poor world. Or that one can talk of “sin” in some abstract way, unrelated to the relationships within which we live. A lot of these “justice” problems that we struggle with (e.g. climate change, unfair trade rules) are the creation of the rich world. And isn’t there gross injustice, violence, etc in the heart of Western/Northern cities? It is always dangerous to do theology by reaction- something “evangelicals” have been doing for far too long. But the problem, I repeat, is not mainly theological: it is about personal integrity. Many of the “fluffy Anglicans” as you call them (a sad caricature) are at least doing what they believe in; and they do not run around proclaiming their credentials as “Bible believing” or “Great Commission” Christians. Let those who talk a lot about the Bible actually read what the Bible is saying….

Dear Vinoth, you can believe in my name. LOL. Tiago. It’s real. A “particular personality”, as you may say. I’m a portuguese young baptist preacher and I think I fall short of the western/eastern christian divide that feeds many of your ideas. And I suspect I’m one of the very large number of kids that praises God for the influence of the preacher you’re preaching against. But that’s just me. I might be wrong.
Um abraço!

Vinoth, for the record I would never say that justice is only an issue for the “poor” church, a term I never used! New Zealand society currently struggles with a number of very serious social issues such as a very large prison problem, huge issues with domestic violence, and an agricultural industry (especially our dairy industry) which has been hugely environmentally damaging and has indeed contributed to injustice both here and abroad. I am proud that it is many Christians here that have taken the initiative to take action on many of these causes. For example, groups like the salvation army and prison fellowship have done incredible work with offenders through a whole raft of initiatives that are probably more respected outside the church than within it! So please don’t think that I have an abstract view of sin, or feel that I think justice is not really a concern for us except in some sort of patronising “lets look down upon those people in poor countries” kind of way!

My point was to say that in my context it is far more common for evangelical Christians to see these issues as peripheral or not “priorities”, compared with evangelism. I agree with you about the hypocrisy of telling people that preaching is important, yet spending most of your life within the church walls. In my limited experience in dealing with evangelical christians outside of NZ, particularly those I have personally met from Asia and Africa through things like IFES or CMS, tend to hold these two vital aspects of mission together better where my fellow evangelical kiwis have often held them apart.

Also, I wouldn’t say that my label of “fluffy” for certain liberal Anglicans is completely out of place, although I should perhaps clarify things and becarefull of making broad generalisations. I am an Anglican by the way and I attend a middle of the road anglican church, not particularly evangelical church at all that includes many anglo catholics, so please don’t assume I am making a “sad caricature”. I happen to know my denomination in New Zealand all its very large diversity quite well. Turn up to synod, or a youth hui or certain churches and I could point out to you some clear examples. Is it only evangelicals who are hypocrites and are deserving of critique? Besides, you do not know my Kiwi church any better than I do so how can your view be anything less of a caricature than mine?

Let me be honest and say that I dislike and feel some what hurt as a human being misread and pointed out as ignorant I feel you did. I have really appreciated and learnt hugely from your writing, especially as a university student, and was merely trying to contribute something valuable to the discussion. I undoubtedly misread you too.

Richard, I truly apologise if I have misread you. I agree with most of what you say, and we both seem to belong to similar Anglican churches. I have challenged the “fluffy social gospel” in many of my books, as you probably know. I am not unaware of the NZ church/theological context that you were sharing. It is just that I don’t think it is pertinent to the issue under discussion. Why do you feel you need to defend such highly educated, influential preachers and their teaching if you agree that there is a problem here of integrity? (We can criticise the less influential Anglicans another time). Let them defend themselves.

Tiago, I am touched by your loyalty. But you need to separate issues from personalities. Criticising a person’s teaching and/or practice on a certain matter is not the same as “rubbishing” him as a person or rejecting his teaching entirely. I hope you are teaching your kids to think critically as well as biblically.

It’s because I’m trying to teach my kids to think biblically (and critically, as a result) that I questioned the way your post is written. I think I understand your thoughts and in no way I want to be misread. But I sadly felt this was mainly another “evangelical-culture-wars potshot” (pardon my poor english). The fact that you keep humbly answering me is uplifting and I hope we can engage in the way Christ is exalted, even if we strongly disagree.
Um abraço agradecido!

Paul Tillich wrote, “Jesus prayed for the coming of the Kingdom and what arrived was the Church.” I’m still trying to work out if that’s fufillment or anticlimax!

Tom, a bit of both…Tillich’s well-known comment is catchy but simplistic. While it is wrong to identify church and kingdom, we cannot separate them (the church did not begin at Pentecost). The church is the “firstfruits” and called to be a sign, agent of and witness to the kingdom. She has done this at certain times and in certain places, while hopelessly failing in others. But the call remains- to put the spread of the kingdom before the numerical growth of the church.

Thank you for this Vinoth. Though you have not set out to analyse Lausanne 3, your penulitmate paragraph does a great job of pointing out one of the major problems with the meeting.

I would argue that insisting that English should be used for all of the presentations placed another limitation on the voices that could be heard. Not only were all of the speakers leaders in Churches or missions, they were all either Anglophone or highly educated in English.

[...] Ramachandra has just posted an excellent article on holistic mission, which also points out some issues with the Lausanne 3 Congress in Cape Town. The Church as the [...]

I very much appreciated this post and look forward to reading much more from you.

[...] Whose “Priority”?Which Gospel? « Vinoth Ramachandra. Categories: The whole Gospel LikeBe the first to like this post. Comments (0) Trackbacks [...]

As ever, brilliant post Vinoth. I thought your point about the lack of secular theologians on main stages particularly telling! Bless you.

[...] Fascinating post a couple of weeks ago from VR offering a critique of comments by an unnamed American preacher (Os Guinness? Tim Keller?) on the ‘priority’ of the church. It’s a fascinating perspective on the ‘social gospel’ as seen from the Global East and a sharp appraisal of the clericalism of Western evangelicalism. ‘The Church as the disciple-community of Jesus is called in the Great Commission to obey and teach others “to obey everything that I have taught you”. This is pretty comprehensive! How on earth did this Great Commission get reduced to preaching? Trying to select from the teaching of Jesus what we will obey, or trying to rank his teachings in a scale of “priorities”, is not to be a disciple of his. And, then, by what right do we call others to discipleship? Jesus expects that the Church that is proclaiming the Gospel among the nations is also living out that Gospel before the nations. Namely, she is committed to peace-making, hungering and thirsting after justice, loving her enemies, healing the sick, sharing wealth with the dispossessed, striving for unity in the midst of differences, and so on. [...]

Vinoth, thank you for your article. I highly respect what you say/write and you have challenged me over the years.

Did you actually listen to the talk online or is this just through word of mouth? Perhaps you should post the video link so that others can listen to what he said. I felt he held both in tension until the very end, when evangelism was clearly prioritized over wholistic mission. I disagree with this.

Also, to let you know that not all of the speakers were pastors or full-time Christian workers. You wouldn’t know that though, since you didn’t attend (you probably chose not to participate) and likely you haven’t watched the talks online.

The fact that the congress was built around table group discussions with groups of 6 delegates around tables to facilitate discussion & partnership is incredibly important. The fact that those around these tables were not all from the West, not all men and not all in “full-time” ministry is important to remember as the goal was to learn from each other and not just the speakers up front.

“Jesus expects that the Church that is proclaiming the Gospel among the nations is also living out that Gospel before the nations.”

Excellent.

In Matthew 28, Jesus says “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” There seems to be a general order to making disciples. First they must repent and believe the good news to enter the Kingdom. Then they learn “everything that I have commanded”. This pattern is followed in the book of Acts of course. Proclamation>Repentance & Belief>Discipleship.

Here’s are some pertinent questions:
Do you believe there is a place of eternal torment called Hell?
If so, how can one be saved from it?

Are you suggesting from your post that for Jesus, the forgiveness of sins was on a par with being helped physically or having an unjust situation alleviated?

If they are equal then it would render Jesus incoherent and nonsensical in all his talk about hell. (Luke 12:4-6)

Lest there be accusations of “easy believism” or advocating the peddling of “fire insurance”, let’s agree that the Bible teaches that there are massive implications from salvation in a person’s life with regard to how they handle their money and how they participate in their society, relationships, etc.

It seems that the issue you have is with a paltry and unbiblical view of conversion and those who do mass crusades and look for the maximum number of hands raised and commitments made and then ride off into the sunset thinking they’ve done the most important work. I have my doubts about whether that would describe the “reformed” pastor you’ve referred to earlier.

You say, “If a person’s priorities are gauged by what that person spends most of his or her time doing, I am sure that anybody observing the day-to-day life of this preacher would not conclude that evangelism was his first priority.”

How can you accuse this man of hypocrisy with a hypothetically constructed outline of his life? I doubt very seriously that you know much about the influence this person has had on other’s lives… how many have repented and believed through this man’s life work… and how many have then sacrificially laid down their lives for others through gospel proclamation and deeds of love and service.

Vinoth

You’re drawing criticism! Maybe that’s a good thing :)

Over the years i have on occasion come to the conclusion that the bible is actually full of a lot of talk about Justice, Peace Making, Generosity etc.. When i make the point as you have that these are commanded as much (if not more?) than evangelism i have in many ways been told that without evangelism these things are worthless. They say things like the best way to make peace is evangelise them, the best way to unite people is to evangelise them, that the most loving thing you can do for them is to tell them about Jesus and hence evangelism assumes priority again. Do you have anything to say to this?
God bless.

Dear Richard,

Criticism is fine. But what a pity these are all way off target.

Surely your friends who say such things are reading a different Bible and following a very different Jesus from the one we meet in the Gospels. A Jesus who says that “evangelism” is the answer to everything is, as I suggested in my post, a Jesus created by the well-to-do. You could ask them to read again those passages like the ones I mention in my Blog post.

The charge of selfishness and hypocrisy applies directly to them. Do they only “evangelize” their unbelieving children, say, and not care about their education and health? If their mothers were homeless and bankrupt, do they give them tracts and tell them that if they believe in Jesus all will be well?

They are also historically naive and out of touch with reality. If “evangelism” were all that is necessary to bring about peace and unity, how come the US is most divided as a society on a Sunday morning? Non-Christians seem to get along better with each other than most evangelicals do with each other; and they seem to follow the teaching of Jesus more than many evangelicals!

Dear Brian,

You are responding to my reply to Richard Cronin. If you actually read his original comment, you will find that the “straw men” you accuse me of inventing seem to be very much real among his circle of friends.

As for your first letter to me, let me pose some counter-questions:

1. From where do you pick up this tidy formula? For instance, what kind of people does Jesus call to repentance? Zaccaeus repents, but is it because Jesus preached repentance to him? When exactly was Peter converted? And how about Cornelius? He receives the Holy Spirit before he is baptized, and there is no mention of repentance. I suggest that you read through the four Gospels and Acts again and note how much diversity there is in the way people come to discipleship.

2. To whom does Jesus actually issue warnings about “hell”? To the “unreached”? To the religious exclusivists? To his disciples? To those claiming to be his disciples? I suggest you will be surprised if you take the trouble to explore this theme in the Gospels.

3. Regarding the so-called Great Commission, please read my post more carefully. I asked: by whose authority do we seek to “make disciples” of others if we ourselves are not disciples in the way that Jesus defined discipleship? And, I would add, why on earth do we want others to obey Jesus if we are not?

4. Why do you assume that to criticize a pastor (or anybody, for that matter) for being hypocritical in saying that evangelism is our ‘priority”/ “primary task” is to say that everything he does is useless? God, in his mercy, uses all of us despite our flaws and hypocrisies. But that is no excuse to persist in the latter.

If you think my outline of his life was a purely “hypothetical construction”, please prove it. Please show me which statement I made of his priorities in life is untrue. (And please remember that this applies not just to him but all who speak in this way). Look at the way they actually live. If you really believe that all who have never heard the Gospel are facing “eternal torment in hell”, I suggest you should not be wasting time reading my Blog, or doing whatever you are doing. You should be out on the streets saving as many people as you can. That is what I would be doing if I really believed what you and this pastor seem to believe. And I would respect you both for doing it.

Dear Vinoth,

I believe you’re creating lots of “straw men” for your arguments.

Who, but the most theologically deficient, has ever said “evangelism is the answer to everything”?

Who says, “believe in Jesus and all will be well”?

Who says, “evangelism (is) all that is necessary to bring about peace and unity”?

Who evangelizes people and “doesn’t care” about their education and health?

All straw men.

Do you think true, biblical, peace and unity are possible without evangelism? You seem to be disparaging and minimizing it to such a degree one is left with the impression that you don’t think it very important. And if I read your last paragraph correctly I would think you do think it’s possible without conversion (which results from evangelism).

Regarding the US on a Sunday morning… I do not know any other country around the world that is ANY MORE united on a Sunday morning than the US. Other nations are generally (and sadly) as racially divided as the US unless the Christian population is so small that they HAVE to meet together. And even in these situations people generally go to great lengths to meet in a community like themselves. Often times this happens because of language. But other times it’s because it’s just simply hard to cross cultures.

I am an elder in a very very multinational church with very rich people and very poor people. Self segregation is not related to wealth I assure you. And even the more spiritually mature in the congregation have “miles to go” in reaching out cross culturally. It’s just hard, as is loving people and forgiving one another in a mono-ethnic setting.

You seem to assume that the US is a nation with a very high percentage of Christians in it. Just because people attend church or claim some kind of religious beliefs does not make them regenerate. I’m convinced that the pews of many US churches are filled with unregenerate people. Careful study of polls on religion in America would point in that direction as well. So let’s not take them at their word. Jesus didn’t either (Matt. 7:21).

If this is the case, then regaling them with repeated instructions to “do justice”, “be peacemakers”, etc will only heap more guilt and condemnation on them. Oh some of them will act and do good things but only out of guilt without any Gospel motivation. They need regular explanation and proclamation of the Gospel of grace followed by instructions about it’s implications.

The way you speak about evangelism I can only picture Charles Finney type evangelistic tactics. Why would you do this?

Finally, you say “Non-Christians seem to get along better with each other than most evangelicals do with each other; and they seem to follow the teaching of Jesus more than many evangelicals!” I simply don’t agree with this. I know lots of non-Christians and their lives are filled with dissension, conflict, and disregard for God and his holiness. Of course they reflect the image of God still in many ways through his mercy given in common grace. But that does not cancel out the moral paucity of their lives. And besides, when did we start evaluating the power of the Gospel based on relative sinlessness of any congregation? (See 1 Corinthians and the problems these believers were dealing with)

But again I ask you and those who are chiming in in agreement… Do you believe in a literal, eternal hell?

Thanks for your response Vinoth.
The second thing that I should have asked is that some would still see evangelism is more important because without it even if peace is made, people united healed and provided for if they don’t become Christians then it is on no use to them in the long run.

Also re your response to Brian, I did a quick search on the uses of “hell” and it would seem to me that whilst he did warn hypocrites it was their destiny he also left it as a place that anyone could end up in. Am i wrong in this ?

Brian and Richard, It seems to me that the language of “priorities” forces us into making false dichotomies and unbiblical distinctions, along with the kind of hypocrisy that Vinoth has described. Is it really possible to fit all the things the New Testament talks about the church as doing into a narrow grid of “priorities”?

If you actually look at how the New Testament describes the mission of church in evangelism or “promoting the gospel” (as John Dickson puts in what I think is a much better phrase) we don’t see the kind of distinctions we often make or a language of “priorities” all that present. In fact, if you simply look at the what the church is commanded to do in terms of making the gospel known to neighbours you see a whole range of activities which don’t make sense if you naively hold “evangelism” (what do we actually mean by this) as our priority. If all we mean by evangelism is the verbal proclamation of the gospel, we actually don’t see many texts referring to it at all! (Not to say that it isn’t still something that church needs to do)

Activities related to making the gospel known in the New Testament which are surprisingly common, yet we neglect when we narrowly “prioritise” verbal proclamation (by which I assume you mean some kind of God-Sin-Judgement-Cross-Heaven/Hell schema that we tell people):

1. Praying for our neighbours’ salvation and well being and for the coming of the Kingdom on earth as it is heaven. Surely prayer should be priority and a command for us in our life as the church, but how many leaders are going to campaign for the priority of prayer?
2. Financially supporting those involved in regular evangelistic mission, parts of the church that are suffering and have a lack, and actually partnering with them (sharing things in common you could say!)-more than just being a “donor”! Most of Paul’s second missionary journey was occupied by fundraising for the Church in Jerusalem that was suffering famine.
3. The corporate witness of church in doing good deeds: justice, peace making, generosity, reconciliation etc. What do you think Jesus really meant in the Sermon on the Mount when he talked about people praising their Father in heaven due to the good deeds of his community?
4 . Our personal witness through good deeds to our neigbours
5. Regular everyday conversations in which we talk about Jesus in relation to questions people have, and in providing a gentle and humble defence of our faith. The kind of stuff which is part of most our lives as people with real jobs, families and tasks to do.
6. The Church’s corporate witness to the gospel, through its public worship and its exisitance as proof of God’s work in the world, especially in bringing Jews and Gentiles together.
7. The ministry of those specifically recognised as being “evangelists”-those who have a specific calling to preach the gospel and have been recognised by the church to do so.

In addition, if you look at the history of the Church, if the church had decided to neglect its ministry of doing good to others and loving people practically and demonstrating the gospel through deeds, how many people would actually have come to faith? Many of Jesus’ and the disciples opportunities to preach only came through their healing ministries. Likewise, if we take the work of someone like Rodney Stark seriously, it is unlikely the church would ever have grown like it did without the incredible work it did in bringing Jews and Gentiles together and providing sacrificial care for the sick, so much so that paganism was forced to copy the church’s ministry of compassion to keep up! Again, look at the success of mission in India-would it have succeeded if it didn’t involve building hospitals and caring for the sick, challenging notions of caste and providing compassion for those that society had neglected? Would Wesley and the Evangelicals of the 18th century have achieved anything without their ministry to the poor emerging working class and their political activism? Would the Salvation Army be anywhere today without attempting to minister to the poor and those who were alcoholics, along with their own political activism?

A great book which I read recently which helps to free ordinary Christians with the godly vocation of having families, working everyday jobs and serving the church, from the problem and clericalism of “priorities” language is Dickson’s “Promoting the Gospel”. What I like is the way he emphasises the importance of God being known, principally because he is the only God who deserves worship and glory (Psalm 96), in a number of diverse ways we often neglect that scripture actually acknowledges. Its certainly changed the way I think about “evangelism” in practice, especially as I go into working with university students next year as a staff worker for an IFES group.

Dear Vinoth,

I will take some time to try and respond to your questions in the above reply.

But before I do I just want to clarify a few things.

From what you’ve written above am I correct in surmising the following?:

1. You don’t believe that there is an eternal place of torment called Hell
2. You don’t believe that repentance from our state of sinfulness is necessary for salvation and regeneration except if you are a hypocritical religious leader.
3. You don’t believe that all who have not heard and believed the Gospel will go to hell. In other words, there is some other way some people will avoid judgment and condemnation on the day of judgment.

I ask because it surely changes the trajectory of ones’ discipleship, what we understand God’s character to be, and how or why we speak with non-Christians about Christ and his gospel.

Now a few replies to your questions…

1. “What kind of people does Jesus call to repentance?”

I believe everyone must repent from their state of rebellion against God in order to believe in him and the good news that their sins are atoned for and all that follows from that. John the Baptist was performing a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and this surely doesn’t refer simply to the religious leaders who were among the crowd. Matthew and Mark report a summary of Jesus’ message to everyone in the opening chapters of their books… repent and believe in the gospel. And this was before confrontation with the religious leaders began. Jesus tells the adulterous woman to go and stop sinning. He specifically warns many others not to sin including many he healed but who disobeyed like the man healed at the pool of Bethsaida. This all seems to be shorthand for repentance. And finally, in the book of Acts, almost every address to crowds includes some instruction to repent and believe. These crowds were not primarily religious authorities including the day of Pentecost crowd and many others.

I believe that Cornelius was repentant given that he was a devout God-fearer. Thus when he believed the good news, the Holy Spirit came on he and his family.

2. “To whom does Jesus issue warnings about “hell”?

Since a number of these references are in the sermon on the mount, it seems likely that he was telling this to followers. He was not in a confrontation with religious leaders at that time.

Additionally, one can see hell referred to more often in Jesus’ parables, without directly calling it hell. These seem directed at anyone who would reject the Son of God and not just the religious leaders. Jesus says in John that everyone is already condemned (John 3:18, 36)

Hell seems to be everyone’s destination without repentance and faith in Christ.

In your last paragraph in the December 14th reply, you challenge me to not waste my time reading your blog and “be out on the streets saving as many people as you can”. It’s really a good idea. And I do seek to share the Gospel each and every day if I can along with adorning the Gospel with a life of discipleship in the way I treat others, how I spend money, how I lead my family, and what I do with my free time. All these things hopefully glorify God and some will enter the Kingdom through my proclamation. I also trust in the sovereignty of God and so I rest in him even as I seek to “run the race”.

Lastly, re: Richard in NZ…

Richard I do not think that making the proclamation of a verbal Gospel a “priority” necessarily creates “false dichotomies”, “hypocrisies”, and “unbiblical distinctions”. Good deeds are not self interpreting. People cannot come into the Kingdom by simply experiencing of seeing my good deeds. But they can when I share a verbal account of the good news. Conversely, people can come to faith with even brief encounters where the Gospel is shared verbally (see the many Biblical examples). But surely if they see my life for any stretch of time and it’s filled with hypocrisy and unrighteousness, then my message is cast in a bad light.

Thanks to both of you for engaging in spirited conversation about these important matters.

Dear Brian,

I am sorry but you only keep repeating yourself instead of seriously addressing the counter-questions I put to you.

I am not interested in being squeezed into your tidy little boxes. If you are serious about wanting to know what I do and teach regarding mission, all you have to do is read any of my books which are widely available in the U.S. You could begin with The Message of Mission (co-authored with Howard Peskett, IVP, 2003) which is an exposition of fifteen biblical texts from Genesis to Revelation.

Dear Vinoth,
what a terrible conversation. “I am not interested in being squeezed into your tidy little boxes” – talk about epistemological humility.
Brian, it seems that we are the bigots here. It’s this kind of intelectual pride that writes a post about John Piper without aknowledging it. At least you’re talking about what you honestly believe and trying to make it reasonable.
Vinoth, not coming back here. And try reading “Occidentalism” by Ian Buruma.

Tiago,

if i may use ur own words

……it seems that we are the bigots here……….

that’s “quite revealing”!!!!!!!!!!!! (ur post#7)

u first read the book occidentalism urself and then ask others to read. it has no relevance here. perhaps u thought u could make use of “occidentalism”, catchy word eh. well vinoth’s faith in conflicts defy any attempts at caricaturing…
***********
TIAGO only
btw some clowns (no better word) from john piper’s own bethlehem baptist church now encamps in delhi university guest house, hoping to teach christians of delhi “how to win” delhi college students/lead campus groups. they are the experts!!!!!! and i ask this fren of mine, their client here how do they presume they can just come over here and then start teaching? start instructing everyone “how to do”… he’s shocked. this was the first time somebody asked him… this pied piper has got many clients not only in lisbon eh.

Tiago,

sorry i forgot to include this line:

it’s much easier to use we instead of i and that’s quie revealing.

BRIAN,

wref to ur posts, i think you’re not getting what vinoth was really trying to say. i dun find ur (counter)questions or replies helpful either.

inorder to help clarify, let me rephrase one of vinoth’s question(s) this way:

since u really believe in “eternal hell”, and that those who’ve not heard and confessed Jesus as Lord & Saviour are Damned forever, do you then spend at least 10-16 hrs daily “EVANGELIZING” the ppl of all stripes u encounter- ur neighbours, strangers u meet on the street, prostitutes in ur city…..anybody who sincerely believes with all his heart will not even pause for a drink, making every minute count to win one (invisible to naked eye) soul.

if all the folks in ur city are faithful believers, then u should be moving on to a new city….

even as u take time to reply to vinoth’s blog and my post, i m really curious as to how many ppl u’ve shared ur gospel aka evangelized today? 50? 20? 10? 5? 1? 10 minutes wasted is may be 1 soul lost.

dyu now get what vinoth was driving at wrt spending the most of ur time? pls don’t take this as an insult.

ur reply will determine if i’d be interested enough in answering ur prev questions.
*******************************************
(may be in all fairness, if i preach nay shout at passers by the gospel in “take it-leave it” fashion, i could claim i presented the gospel to a 100 today)

[...] December 20, 2010 Mary’s Magnificat is a thing of true beauty. I have trouble, as does Vinith here, with this false duality that Christianity is either about social justice or glorifying God. Last [...]

I have read this post and the earlier post on Edinburgh 2010. Three observations here:

First, to Vinoth, everyone who are serving fulltime in church or para-church organization are less-real missionaries as compared to the laity because they are not impacting the real mission field (the “offices, schools, factories, village councils, research laboratories, company board rooms, and so on”).

Second, as reflected in the first point, we know that Vinoth assumes that there is a clear distinction between the real mission fields and the less-real ones. Therefore those who serve in the real mission fields are the real missionaries, while those pastors and fulltime workers are less-real missionaries.

Third, as reflected in the second point, Vinoth assumes that he knows who are the real Christians and who are not the real Christians. Therefore those “Christian men and women in offices, schools, factories, village councils, research laboratories, company board rooms, and so on” are the real ones. They all have their theology, personal struggles and issues sorted out, and are always ready to impact the world in the real mission fields. While those Christian “pastor and fulltime workers” are not real Christians because they still have not sort out their theology, personal struggles and issues (such as they have no idea where is the “real” mission field).

My critique on Vinoth’s critiques is simply on the third point which grounds his second point, of which grounds his first point.

Vinoth’s clear distinction between those who are the real Christians and those who are not is highly questionable. No one knows for sure, according to the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13). Until Christ comes back again, we will always have the weeds and the wheat together. Augustine has expounded this in his City of God, Book 18.

That means the churches will always have weeds, that is the non-Christians who profess to be Christians, around. This applies to both the clergy as well as the laity. Therefore the internal politics at some churches are as challenging as secular organizations, if not worse. And there are laities who profess to be Christians but behave like pagans out there.

In a world where weeds and wheat cannot be distinguished, how then can we say that those who work in the churches are not facing issues that are common in the secular organizations? I have heard pastors and fulltime workers who said that their office politics are exactly like the secular workforce. I have heard of professing Christians who have indulged in nonsense like non-Christians in their offices, schools, factories, village councils, research laboratories, company board rooms, and so on. There are even clergies who do all kind of nonsense within the churches!

Perhaps, Vinoth has not yet come across these situations. If that is the case, then it is not Vinoth’s fault that he came to such an incorrect perception about the world and missiology.

In such a world, the churches and the rest of the world is a missionary field, where missionaries are needed to constantly reach out to people regardless of those who profess to be Christians or not. Of course, to those who are already professing, the outreach to them is slightly different from those who have not. But the point is that there is no such thing as the secular world is the real mission field while the churches are less-real.

When we don’t fall into Vinoth’s mistaken category, we will have a clearer picture of God’s mission in the real world.

[...] Read the rest of this post on Vinoth’s blog. [...]

With all due respect, I have to agree with Brian here.
P.S. I am sure that the Reformed pastor was concerned to send his children to good schools etc…but he PRIORITIZED their salvation first and I am sure he would have been more than happy if his children never finished HS, but were saved (if he had to choose between the two)!

I am also fairly sure that this Reformed pastor is very concerned and cares about poverty, but he (like Jesus and the apostles) is more concerned about eternal suffering. So am I!
Shouldn’t we all be?

P.S. To your point: Whenever I ask such preachers, “Don’t you want everybody in the world to have the benefits you enjoy?”

I am quite sure that this Reformed pastor (and most US evangelicals) would simply answer: “OF COURSE we want everybody in the world to have the benefits that we enjoy!”

To add a bit to what I said before, I am quite sure that this Reformed pastor would prefer to have his children poor and uneducated, but saved – versus rich, famous and unsaved.
Don’t you think so? That is integrity! But maybe I misunderstand you.

@suantak – We all fall short at evangelizing. However, this reformed pastor would lack integrity only if he spent more time getting rich and/or preaching the social gospel than evangelizing. I do not think that is the case. Would you agree?

1. Your source of information is hearsay. Such a source is subjective and therefore, not reliable. It makes sense for you to accept their report, if those who told you about what went on in Cape Town are of the same bend as you.

2. The main tool of evangelizing is proclaiming the Gospel by words. That is the essence of the ‘Great Commission’ as found in the last words of Jesus addressed to the disciples, as recorded at the end of the Gospels and in the 1st chapter of the book of Acts. Faith comes by hearing the Gospel (Rom 10). This was understood by the apostles and they went from place to place, preaching the Gospel. Verbal proclamation is not understood as a ‘priority’ by John Piper and others from the Reformed evangelicals, but by Jesus and all His apostles. If you want to add something else to this, that is you adding and not Jesus or the apostles. In one of your next paragraphs you tackle the commands of Jesus. They are not (necessarily) meant as main tools of evangelizing, but as standard of Christian living. The proclamation through words remains however the main tool of promoting the Gospel. Throwing money at the problems of the world could be done by anyone, as another comment says. But that doesn’t save souls. Only faith in Christ, faith that comes thru the hearing of the Word.

3. Your description of Piper’s daily activities, down to the hours of his sleep, is very accurate. But, how do you know this? Is this a reflection of your daily schedule? How much time and money you spent in acquiring your education? BTW, who paid for it? Do you have children? If you do, do you neglect spending time with them for ‘the sake of the Gospel’? Isn’t taking care of your household a command for a Christian? And if someone has medical insurance, and a US passport, is he or she a reprobate Christian? A bad one?

The end of your second paragraph sound like Das Kapital of Marx! Do you want to start class warfare? Who are exactly the unknown in other parts of the world that secured the privileges Piper has? Are they known to you, or you’re employing socialist slogans?

And, if Pipers has more privileges that other Christians, are we supposed to think that he has no right to preach to the un-privileged Christians? Or are we supposed to take what he says as wrong? Or, do his privileges change the fact that to preach the Gospel by words is a priority?

Yes, we have to set priorities. By your assertion, Jesus was a… institution! Because he set out as his priority to preach the Gospel (Mk 1:38). Also Jesus wanted us to set priorities: to seek the Kingdom of God FIRST (Mt 6:33).

4. You point fingers at what others think is the social gospel. What do you think is the social gospel? And, what is the gospel, after all? Let’s not attach qualifications to the gospel, because those qualifications and not the privileges or the lack of them will ultimately divide the Body of Christ. While we should strive for the betterment of the lives of others, our main duty as Christians is to proclaim the gospel by words. I, as a full-time pastor, that works a full-time secular job to provide for his family, and as one that has no insurance at all, no retirement plan, no money saved, as one who pays for my expenses to proclaim the gospel in the US and abroad, have no desire or need to lay my hands on the wealth of those who have more. I don’t want to take what is theirs to make it mine. I am not jealous and I do not envy them. I strongly believe that my God will provide for all my needs!

5. I can see now what you mean by ‘social gospel’: is mixing together of some of the teachings of Jesus, with some of the teachings of men. While I am not against building hospitals and sending medical relief to those in need of such, let’s not forget that when Jesus sent the disciples to heal the sick, it was in the power of the Holy Spirit and not through human means. The healing of the sick was associated in Jesus’ command with preaching (first), then healing of the sick, rising of the dead, cleansing of the lepers, casting out of demons. Where are those items in the ‘social gospel’? Sharing of wealth is a socialistic concept while ecumenism (or whatever ‘unity in the midst of differences’ means) is a liberal concept.

Dear Schmuli,

Have you actually read Das Kapital? Or are you just sloganeering? You seem to use “Marxist” and “liberal” as swear words (and “Reformed evangelical” as identical to being a disciple of Jesus). But if sharing wealth is “socialist” and Christian unity “liberal”, then perhaps Jesus and the early Church were socialist and liberal! Or, more accurately, socialists and liberals may help “Reformed evangelicals” read the Bible more carefully. If God could use an ass to rebuke his mad prophet Balam, why can’t he use socialists and liberals to rebuke “Reformed evangelicals’ of hypocrisy and selective reading of the Gospels?

Vinoth does not need defending, but I would advise you to do him the honour of actually reading his Blog before you comment on it! You accuse him of hearsay and then make it abundantly clear that what he says, whether about the Reformed pastor or people like you, is perfectly accurate. For example, you read the Great Commission with conventional evangelical spectacles- why not open your Bible and read Matt 28:16-20 again in the light of what Vinoth has said in his Blog?

Dear suantak

I’m back to chime in again after a busy Christmas season.

I believe what you’re describing in your post above, directed to me, is a distortion of the biblical picture of an “evangelistic life”. I do believe in a literal eternal hell and it is of utmost importance to share the Gospel which is communicated with words and commended by works. And I also believe that God is sovereign in any and every spiritual new birth experienced by a person through faith in the gospel.

I do think I understand what Vinoth has said to me in his replies and posts despite the fact that you think I have simply not understood him.

I think I’ve presented a fair and balanced rebuttal and provided some thoughtful replies to Vinoth’s questions in addition to asking what I felt were some fair questions about what Vinoth’s fundamental beliefs were. I think you’ll see above that many people have considered my objections and questions fair, including at least one commenter who seems to typically side with Vinoth (see Richard Cronin – Dec 14).

But in the end Vinoth has decided not to answer any of my questions and has, with what feels like thick condescension, only fed me questions to answer with suggestions like “take the trouble to explore this … in the Gospels”, “you’re just repeating yourself”, “your tidy little boxes”, and suggestions to buy his books.

I have asked about these fundamental things because they are, just that, fundamental. Agreeing on the gospel is important.

The organization that Vinoth works for has these two points in it’s doctrinal statement:

>The universal sinfulness and guilt of all people since the fall, rendering them subject to God’s wrath and condemnation.

>Redemption from the guilt, penalty, dominion and pollution of sin, solely through the sacrificial death (as our representative and substitute) of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God.

My unanswered questions to him relate directly to these statements.

I’m open to fair and Godly rebuke if you or anyone on the blog feels I’ve overstepped my bounds or not treated someone here with Christian charity, kindness, and gentleness. But I stand by my assertions about what the Bible teaches.

Brian:

Your comments are tiresome. For all your pious talk, you are actually arrogant and rude. You don’t seem to show Vinoth the simple courtesy of actually reading his Blog before you rush to make your comments. He has made it absolutely clear that the issue is not about verbally proclaiming the Gospel (he does more public evangelism than you probably do). It is about the unbiblical and hypocritical nature of the arguments that claim evangelism as “primary”, “priority”, etc.

And if you follow his advice and get down to reading his books, you will learn that the motivation for evangelism has nothing at all to do with belief in a “literal, eternal hell”. (What does this mean anyway? How do you combine images of “outer darkness”, and “fire and brimstone” LITERALLY?!) Why don’t you stop commenting and engage in some more serious study of the NT? And please search out the answer to the question he put to you: to whom does Jesus issue these warnings? (Certainly not to the unevangelized!)

And what is the relevance of the IFES doctrinal statement (which has absolutely nothing about hell in it)? You make too many assumptions and, as Vinoth told you, you make neat little boxes into which you want to squeeze others. I am not surprised that he refuses to be drawn into these silly games.

Please give the rest of us a rest.

There are two things that frustrate me most as an NT scholar and thank you to speak up on both of them in one blog:

one is the fact that evangelism is ‘preaching’ – you are so right: it rather happens when we live a godly life among ungodly people and occasionally have an answer for those who ask for the reason of our hope (guess someone in the Bible said that before me :). I’ve come to notice this when I tried to get women involved in the ‘mission’ – it does not take anything else really (there’s no way how women in my community could be burdened with more additional chores) but a change of attitude. Whatever I do and wherever I do it – it’s my mission field (you see I’ve got an issue with the mission-evangelism dichotomy as well what do you think of that?).

The other thing you said in an answer to commentators: I too wished the people who talk so much about being true to the Bible should be really reading what it says – and sometimes it differs from the myths we grew up with tremendously and in the most liberating ways too. I’ve come to realize that most people who insist on the Bible, actually mean their interpretations of it.

I’m off trying to find your Subverting Global Myths. Sounds like an interesting read. Unfortunately I don’t live in an area where Christian books are easily acquirable. Wish me luck. Blessings on your head.

Many thanks for this!

Brian.
Please don’t use me to bolster your opinions. In fact your use of my comment ( i ASKED vinoth a question about hell i did not accuse him of being wrong) is indicative of the problem that you have that others have pointed out namely that you are not reading what is being said but rather reading what you want to see.

Richard… it’s been almost 1.5 years since we were discussing this and you’re only now taking issue with me referring to you?

You said, “Also re your response to Brian, I did a quick search on the uses of “hell” and it would seem to me that whilst he did warn hypocrites it was their destiny he also left it as a place that anyone could end up in. Am i wrong in this ?

I’m sorry, but you did seem to question Vinoth’s implied assertion that Jesus’ hell comments were only for “hypocrites” and not for the general populace.

You said yourself that you’d done the “search on the uses of “hell”‘. Are you going to depend on Vinoth for your conclusions about scripture or make your own?

Vinoth is boycotting me on his blog now since he views me as a troll. Too bad, since I think the my posts were fair and thoughtful. He simply didn’t want to answer my questions. Most probably because honest answers would call into question his alignment with the IFES statement of faith.

[...] Maybe there is no real contradiction, for both these men love God and give their lives to furthering his Kingdom and serving His people. Which is good and brings comfort, in the midst of loud noise from so many debating and faulting. There’s a whole cacophony of sounds out there, mostly claiming authority; a prime example here- http://vinothramachandra.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/whose-prioritywhich-gospel/ [...]

I know who you are talking about. But i’d like to say one thing. He is a man who is deeply committed to evangelism himself. I have read that every morning he takes jogs with the intention that he will meet people on the way hoping to get opportunities to share the gospel. He is a man who has no bodyguards, no fancy cars and lives in a simple house. He is a man who has a church that supports hundreds of missionaries around the world. And he is reformed!….And i know reformed pastors who have big houses, read hundreds of books and write blogs but hardly know what s happening next door. There are good and bad examples of preachers in all church traditions. There is no need to generalize.

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