Gospel and Social Responsibility Series (1)

I mentioned a while back that I’d kindly been invited by Scot McKnight to contribute to a guest series at Jesus Creed. Well, it got started last Friday and I’ll re-post each one ‘for the record’ here as well. The main discussion will be going on there, but feel welcome to comment here as well!

The series is on what I think is an excellent book, the Transforming the World?: the Gospel and Social Responsibility, edited by Jamie Grant and Dewi Hughes. [Hughes is theological advisor to Tearfund (the major evangelical relief agency in the UK) and member of the Lausanne Movement’s Theology Working Group. Grant is lecturer in Biblical Studies in The Highland Theological College in Scotland.]  It has an impressive list of contributors, mostly but not exclusively within the UK.

“Evangelical Christianity has long been plagued by a dichotomy.”

“For the past half century evangelicals have been trying to ‘exorcize the demon’ of associating social action with liberalism.”

These are two comments in the introduction of an important book published in the UK on a much discussed theme.

This is the short introductory post – the ones to come will be more substantial. So as we get stuck in, here are a couple of questions:

Do you agree that evangelicalism has been plagued by a dichotomy between the gospel and social responsibility?

If so, how successfully has this dichotomy been ‘exorcised’?

In your experience, how rooted in actual church practice is a more holistic understanding of the gospel?

I’m going to have to be selective and look at only some chapters in each part of the book. But to get thing started, I’ll sketch the overall structure as it argues for a holistic understanding of the gospel.

Part 1 gives a resounding ‘YES’ to this question: ‘Should evangelicals be attempting to make this world a better place in tune with God’s will as well as prepare people for life in a better world? In 7 chapters, it offers a biblical-theological basis for a holistic gospel through examining the Old and New Testaments’ consistent concern for those in need.

Part 2, made up of another 7 chapters, explores the ‘how’ of this call to transform this world – using the lens of social ethics, systematic theology, church history and applied theology.

The big picture being proposed, and that we will unpack in more detail over the coming days, is this:

The Bible’s teaching regarding the believer’s responsibilities towards those in need makes it absolutely plain that God’s salvific work is both spiritual and physical. Therefore the church – as God’s representative on this earth – should be characterized as those who bring a message of salvation that deals with humanity in every respect, practical as well as spiritual. (12)

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