A video in which presidential candidate Joe Biden answers a question regarding transgendered children recently made its rounds on social media. The video reminded me of something Christians sometimes do, or are tempted to do, and should not do. Here’s the video:
According to the description for this episode of UNSHACKLED! titled ‘The Enemy Within,’ “In this homage to CS Lewis’s ‘The Screwtape Letters’, a Senior Tempter instructs a Junior Tempter how to secure the damnation of their latest ‘patient.’ The fact that this patient is part of a Bible study only emboldens their efforts.”
In this article, Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer argue, “Whites are not corporately guilty for their ancestors’ racial sins (much less the sins of historical strangers) and do not need to corporately repent for them.”
In their 1983 song Burning Down the House, the American Rock Band, Talking Heads, sang, “Watch out you might get what you’re after…”
Today’s evangelical talking heads are burning down the house by tossing every sinner they can find out of Christian orthodoxy. And I’m afraid, if things don’t change, they might just get what they’re after.
It seems that we could generate much more light, instead of mere heat, if we would take the time to define the terms of our controversies. In the past few years, a social media divide has emerged among Christians who argue, on the one hand, that we must address racism by preaching the gospel, and those who argue, on the other hand, that while the gospel must remain central to the church, wider forms of social activism are also necessary as legitimate implications of the gospel. This common method of framing the debate is actually too crude to be helpful. What we need is a nuanced look at what, exactly, is being argued on each side.
[See Part 1 of this series.]
Although the salvation accomplished by the cross work of Jesus Christ entails multiple dimensions of deliverance—from the power of Satan, from the dominion of sin, from this present evil age, etc.—there is no greater deliverance accomplished by Christ than that which is from the looming judgment of God over humanity. Having surveyed this theme in the Old Testament, my purpose in this installment is to show that the preaching of the gospel by the apostles in the book of Acts demonstrates the same truth.
It is common knowledge that the word “gospel” means “good news,” but the nature of that news and what, exactly, makes it good are not always a matter of agreement. Is the good news the hope that we might go to Heaven when we die? Is it that we will be raised from the dead with Christ? Is it that God is creating a new world? Is it that, through Jesus Christ, God has triumphed over the devil? Is it that God has formed a new society of reconciled humanity through the cross work of his Son? Is it the forgiveness of sins? Is it liberty to the oppressed? Is it victory over evil?
In fact, the gospel is about all of the above and more. God’s redemptive work is both individual and global, microcosmic and macrocosmic, eternally salvific and socially transformational. However, the recognition of Scripture’s rich diversity of perspectives on God’s salvation through Christ does not eliminate the need for careful understanding of the order and logic of the gospel. It is entirely possible to proclaim gospel truths in a manner that distorts the biblical shape of the good news and, consequently, tends to lead people astray from the true gospel of Christ. And so, if we are going to proclaim the gospel rightly, we must ask the question: what is the primary orientation of the good news of Christ’s redeeming work?