A blog entry without pictures of my daughter? Hard to believe, I know…
I’m taking this class called Perspectives (on the World Christian Movement) with a good friend of mine. To try to give you some sort of insight as to what the class is all about and what I’m learning, here’s what I wrote for one of my “personal responses” that are required to get the certificate for the class. I’ve been trying to understand how to contextualize the gospel to unique people groups — and more specifically, what things, whether cultural, political, etc, have we (I) as rich American Christians added to the gospel and how these amendments hinder the gospel’s advancement in the world. Here’s an excerpt from one of my responses:
Christianity was so attractive to people in the first few centuries because it had no political, national, or cultural ties. This is why the Jerusalem Council was so important – it settled the debate, in effect, of how “Jewish” one needed to be (in culture) to be a Christian. The opening sentence in M.R. Thomas’ article “The Turning Point: Setting the Gospel Free,” reads, “The greatest crisis the New Testament church ever faced was actually a culture clash, although some believed the issues were doctrinal.” The Jerusalem Council was more about culture than it was about doctrine. If we can only contextualize the gospel to another culture, the doctrinal issues will be a non-factor. Winter explains, “Christianity was the one religion that had no nationalism at its root, partly because it was rejected by the Jews … once Christianity became locked into a specific cultural tradition and political loyalty, it tended automatically to alienate all who were anti-Roman.” At the moment Christianity became the official religion of Rome, it also became ill-equipped by it’s very form to reach any people group that was against. Thankfully, there were those in Jerusalem who stood up and said, “why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” If only there was a “Roman Council” like the one in Acts 15 to remove the cultural and political amendments of the “Roman” Gospel! Today, we face many of the same issues and are in need of an “American Council” that will proclaim the essentials, and ONLY the essentials, of the Gospel of grace. Too many Christians today tie the gospel to the Republican Party, or proclaim democracy as the “Christian” form of government, or capitalism as the “Christian” economic structure. The Republican platform, democracy, and capitalism may be important, but they can not amend the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have so much work to do to in the non-Western world to deconstruct these ideas and amendments. We cannot allow the Gospel to become locked in to our American cultural traditions or political loyalties – otherwise the gospel then becomes democracy, capitalism, or wearing suit’s and ties on Sunday, which will alienate all who are anti-American. Winter explains it best, “Jesus died for these people around the world. He did not die to preserve our Western way of life.” We must contextualize the gospel within the systems of which other people operate.
So, my question is, if we had an “American Council” today, what would be discussed? In what ways do we amend the gospel with American culture and ideology?
Ok, ok… I lied. So what?
It was reading time with Dad the other night! Isabella is already reading at a 3rd grade level. This is a pretty good one…
She had a LOT of fun!