Saturday, June 14, 2008

Recantation

So after much ado I'm recanting the previous post. If you haven't perused it, please do, then offer your thoughts.

Something that kept bugging me was what it would look like in practice. If the Missio Dei involves the integration of evangelism and social action, as Luke 4 seems to attest, then it seems silly--as I now believe--to methodologically privilege either evangelism or social action. It would require my theory to be different from my practice--often a troublesome sign.

However, I think I had some valid concerns firing my original argument. My main worry is that young evangelicals are beginning to throw the proverbial baby out with the evangelical bath water. In the public sphere it is much more popular to be pro-social action than it is to be evangelically pro-Christ. I'm not saying the two aren't compatible. Instead, I'm saying that you can give all you have to the oppressed while forgetting to give all of who you are to Christ. I worry that young emergent types forget the great commission and therefore concede to the subtle hegemonic un-evangelism of western secularism. The call of Christ is towards mission, evangelism and social action.

11 comments:

Matt Kamps said...

So actually you aren't recanting after all. The difference between theory (theology) and practice says nothing about your points in the earlier post- it says more about how much the gospel has yet to transform all of your (our) thinking on these issues.
In practice, many social justice first evangelicals (if they can be called that, are no different from Oprah, Obama, or Gandhi. Their practice, and what they perceive to be valuable- loving one's neighbor- come before loving their maker.
The Bible doesn't let us pick and choose which parts are our favorites. To be Biblical means you struggle with it all- you don't just pick some of it.
When we live out the life of Christ, it will get some of the same reaction he got- Luke 4:28-29
Social justice is really popular right now, and there is no offense in it. It is not offensive because it doesn't include Christ's claim over all of life, and it doesn't think about all our good works being to God like filthy rags...
In short, it isn't explicitly God-honoring. Is that important or not?

Matt Kamps said...

A second point should be this- that our conception of evangelical evangelism (ie. Campus Crusade, Billy Graham) should also be examined, as some of this tangle isn't so much a problem of the Bible, but how our conception of 'evangelism' has formed.
Perhaps the social justice movement is a reaction against a sort of "save our souls for heaven" type of evangelism.

Bryan Halferty said...

I agree with the disregard for evangelism being rooted in an aversion to the "save our souls for heaven" model. In fact I was realizing that my first argument was all about championing evangelism so that people can be saved for the earth's sake.

I guess I recanted, and I think I still have, because I'm worried about differences between theory and practice. I started thinking about this when a friend pointed out that for Jesus preaching the good news of the Kingdom is always wedded to actions like the healing of the sick.

Matt Kamps said...

I'm not sure what you mean by 'theory and practice'. If by that you mean a congruence between your beliefs and what you do- I would partly agree.
Our theory needs to be constantly reshaped by the biblical text- to the point that, if my theory contradicts what the text plainly says, then I'M wrong- not the text. My practice then follows. The Bible is fully of dichotomies such as outward obedience vs. heart, faith and works, etc.

Faith and works should be concurrent, faith is action- but faith is supreme over action in the sense that people in the Bible often did the "right things" but their hearts were not honoring God in it- their hearts being the important thing. But even to this, we have a difficult passage in Matthew 23- an easy passage to read in your view to. I would say that Matthew 23 talks more to the inner man than to outer works.

One more thought to add to this- What about the filling of the Holy Spirit? Isn't that what makes a Christian a Christian? Isn't that what makes us capable of living out Christ's life? Then I would argue that heart/theory/theology/evangelism is first, and the living out of the life is second. To be a Christian is to constantly be living out the deeper inner change that has taken place within you.

Bryan Halferty said...

I think I agree.

About Theory and Practice...

I don't know what it'd look like (in practice) to methodologically privilege the work of the Spirit in evangelism. It wouldn't mean that we do evangelism chronologically first. And I don't want an attitude that says, "Well, evangelism is really what we need to do..."

John Stott talks about the Missio Dei including everything that God cares about.

Let's keep talking though. I think this is important.

Matt Kamps said...

We are talking about a subject that is big, so I feel like we are just painting around the edges a little. So with that in mind, consider this: Ephesians 1-3 are all about theology- about what God has done (and is doing? is this what you mean by Missio Dei?) and chapters 4-6 are all about walking it out (practice). There is a reason why 1-3 come before 4-6, not solely chronologically but more foundationally (have you been working construction lately? which comes first?) Chapters 1-3 contain maybe one or two imperatives (Eph. 2:11 ("remember") and 3:13 ("not to be discouraged") while chapters 4-6 contain 80-90 commands, interspersed with little review lessons on chaps 1-3, depending upon how you sort them out. This colors the picture quite a lot for me, moving away from legalism and towards a more rooted view of our works. Eph. 2:10 "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
I wouldn't be surprised if the the current social gospel movement turned legalistic because many adherents to it minimize the necessity of union with Christ and filling of the Holy Spirit as the foundation and power to do any social good.
Think backwards to the WWJD movement- it turned legalistic, focused on actions intead of heart motives- something contemporary evangelicalism is good at. (wear the bracelet, think about doing the right thing) WWJD came from the book "In His Steps" by Charles Sheldon, and was written in the early 1900's, when the social gospel movement in the US (maybe look up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Gospel)
It shows a little bit that this isn't a new phenomenon. Which you probably already knew

Bryan Halferty said...

Hmm... I agree

mrteague said...

I'm not even going to pretend to actually keep up with what you guys are saying, but, I'm going to risk throwing in my 2 cents nonetheless...
Jesus Himself seems like a good model that, for me, ties a lot of this together (at least, as far as I think I understand what you're both saying). The Word became flesh. Without the eternal Word, the church & all her activities are just flesh. W/o flesh, the Word is unable to effect redemption, healing, deliverance, etc. (For example, a Word that can't bleed can't atone for sin or heal us by His stripes). Bryan mentioned that the preaching of the kingdom is often wedded to healings & such. These aren't two subjects to be kept in balance but an organic whole. For example, inasmuch as sickness is a kingdom, healing is a manifestation of the kingdom we preach.

Bryan Halferty said...

thanks Teague! I really appreciated "these things aren't two things to be kept in balance but an organic whole." Good stuff.

Bryan Halferty said...

thanks Teague! I really appreciated "these things aren't two things to be kept in balance but an organic whole." Good stuff.

Theresa said...

Whoa guys, good conversation! It appears I've been absent from this blog a little (lot) too long....I seemed to have missed out on the conversation part since we're going back a month, so I won't add more to the "talk" anymore. I do want to say that I'm thankful this discussion is happening, though, and I hope this blog post is spurring similar discussions in many other places.

Matt, I miss having talks like this with you and Missy! And I love how you brought in Ephesians....