Sunday, July 13, 2008

Christians Should Help the Poor, But Our Greatest Responsibility is the Gospel

This is an article I saw posted on Lighthouse Trails Research. The original source is: Understand the Times with Roger Oakland

The emerging church talks a lot about the kingdom of God on earth, but in language and philosophy much different from the Bible. One emergent writer hopes the emerging church will handle the problems of this world in a manner that is "smarter" and "more effective" than those who have gone before. With "integrative means of participating in the healing of our world," he believes:

"The Spirit of God that hovered over creation is still present in our world, inviting us to collaborate with our Maker in the fulfillment of God's reign on earth."(1)

The same writer, Mark Scandrette, expresses his communal vision for a utopian world:

"The kingdom of God is a generative people who believe that a more beautiful and sustainable way of life is possible."(2)

Doug Pagitt explains that the emerging church is looking for this perfect kingdom on earth that will:

"... really be good news for the people of the world and not just the promise of a world to come. Many find good news in the call of Jesus to join the kingdom of God. And let me tell you "Kingdom of God" language is really big in the emerging church."(3)

When we think of the poor in Africa, or the homeless in America, or a child dying of AIDS, we want a world that has no suffering like this. But is the message of the kingdom of God that Jesus preached one that promises global healing and a world without pain and suffering? No, it isn't. Not now anyway. In our human thinking, we can't imagine that God would really want or allow all this suffering, so we decide that the goal for humanity should be unity, peace, no pain, or sorrow. And in an effort to accomplish this, the most important thing is forgotten. Jesus came to save lost sinners and give them utopia, so to speak, within their hearts. So, while we as Christians should do what we can to help the needy, our greatest responsibility is getting the Gospel to them.

Mark Scandrette goes so far as to say that the "interest in theologies of the kingdom of God is related" to a "sense of interconnection."(4)

Leonard Sweet calls this interconnection the TOE theory (theories of everything), in which all creation is connected together through a spiritual force he calls New Light. Sweet states:

"If the church is to dance, however, it must first get its flabby self back into shape. A good place to begin is the stretching exercise of touching its TOEs [which he also refers to as Grand Unified Theory].... Then, and only then, will a New Light movement of "world-making" faith have helped to create the world that is to, and may yet, be. Then, and only then, will earthlings have uncovered the meaning of these words, some of the last words ... Thomas Merton uttered: "We are already one. But we imagine that we are not."

The Kingdom Now theology and the emerging church's utopian kingdom are all about what the natural, carnal man views as significant. Jesus came to give peace and rest to the suffering, to the poor and those in need. It's a peace that passes all earthly understanding, and it's a kingdom, as Jesus said, not of this world. In our earthly minds we cannot understand this, especially when we think about the often horrific suffering all around us.

If Rick Warren or Brian McLaren were to take their message of the kingdom of God here and now (and don't think about that eternal home too much) to a poor man in a hut in Africa, what will it do for him? Supposing he can never leave that hut, how will their message help him? But with Jesus Christ's message, that man can be born again and by faith, through God's grace, have Jesus living inside him every day of his remaining life. Jesus promised that if anyone invited Him in, He would come in and sup with him (Revelation 3:20).

Jesus told His disciples the world would always have suffering and there would always be poor people. He didn't say this to give allowance to ignore or avoid the poor and suffering. But He wanted His followers to know that this earth is not the final destination for those whose names are found in the Book of Life (those who belong to Christ). That is why in the Book of Revelation, the apostle John said:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.... And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:1,4)

The true kingdom of God makes no sense to the unbelieving, unsaved person. The very idea of it is foolishness to him. Thus, human schemes and theologies are created to fit his way of thinking. But the Bible says what is wisdom to man is foolishness to God:

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (I Corinthians 1:18-21) (from chapter 9, Faith Undone)


1. Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Mark Scandrette section, "Growing Pains," p. 30.
2. Doug Pagitt, "Unraveling Emergent," op. cit.
3. Ibid.
4. Mark Scandrette, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, p. 27.
5. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, p. 13


Blogger Chaddie P. said...

"But is the message of the kingdom of God that Jesus preached one that promises global healing and a world without pain and suffering? No, it isn't."

Actually, from Luke's gospel the message of the kingdom is very much about creating a utopia. It's the utopia that the OT called Jubilee.

This is what Jesus has in mind when he reads from the Isaiah scroll in Navareth:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

And this is the reason they wanted to stone him then and there.

You can attempt to spiritualize the message and say that Jesus was speaking of some inner freedom for the oppressed and the poor, but to do so, I feel, is a wanton misreading of the text.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Kennyo said...


What "good news" was Jesus sent to "preach" to the poor? That they could get a hot meal down the road?

What was the "freedom" Jesus was to "proclaim" to the prisoners? That he will get all of them out of jail?

I don't think any of the above.

Jesus was not a revolutionary set out to correct all the social ills. Otherwise He would have done it.

He came primarily to be the substitutionary atonement taking upon himself the wrath of God's justice due to our sin. (Isaiah 53)

The message Jesus preached was "Repent". Believe on Him for the forgiveness of your sins and take up your cross and follow him.

Sounds pretty "spiritual" to me. And I thank him for it each day. Wouldn't that be a nice message to preach to the poor?

1:39 AM  
Blogger Hank said...

You can not have the crown without the cross. It is freedom that will make our world a utopia but freedom cannot exist without Christ Jesus as King.

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To some, Jesus on the cross and His resurection is not the "WHOLE " gospel there is more , it is only maybe half or maybe a quarter or maybe a third ... I don't know. We might need to clarify this from someone who really knows .
What exactly completes the "whole" ? Is it feeding the poor ? Is it going Green( the new Religon)? Is it picking up the trash everywhere all the time and when do I stop? Is it not cutting down any more trees? Is it buying a hybrid car ? Is it never throwing plastic and alum. in the landfill? Would it be that the Whole gospel is half grace and the other half/quarter /third works?
A friend told me that if you take all the christians and stop all the charity work they do tomorrow the world would go into complete turmoil. The Church has always done great works in the world and still does today, It is the result of the love one has for the Lord .
I believe the "Whole Gospel" movement is just another trick , deception , distraction from the devil to get the Church away her real duty to preach the Biblical gospel . This "new" Whole gospel trend makes some in the church FEEL good about pleasing the world.. it is something they can join with the world on , finally they have something in common with the non-believers or maybe the Truth from the Bible is just too hard for the world to hear, they won't like me anymore.
Preach Church ..SIN, SALVATION, REPENTENCE, JUSTIFICATION to the world and SANTIFICATION to the Church
Mike Oliver

11:04 PM  

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