Wednesday, April 23, 2008

holistic gospel

With passion and conviction a new generation of Christians are being raised up to live like Jesus and spread his message all over the world. Like never before, young American Christians have the resources to travel to the impoverished parts of the world. And like never before, young, American evangelicals have a heart for the "least of these" both at home and abroad.

This trend is both encouraging and dangerous. It is encouraging because it is a sign that we Americans are beginning to learn about the holistic nature of the gospel. The good news is good news for the whole person, body, soul and mind and not just good news for the soul. It is good news for the present and the future and not just good news for the "after-life."

The danger in finally learning to live out a holistic gospel is that it would slip into a "social gospel." But the failed experiment of the social gospel in America should die here. If we export it to Africa and Asia, it will have the same devastating and materialistic affects that it has had in the U.S.

The holistic gospel recognizes people's "whole person" needs. It recognizes that people need food and clean water and that as Jesus' hands and feet on earth, it is our job to help them get them. It recognizes that people need basic health care and that the church should be the leaders in promoting solutions to fulfilling these needs for people globally. It recognizes people's need for education so that they might glorify God with all their minds and have opportunities that are self-sustaining.

It also recognizes that the greatest need of all for people is to connect to, worship and receive love from their Creator. It admits that while physical and social needs are part of the gospel, the gospel is incomplete if it does not address the person at the level of their soul.

The social gospel often forgets this last and greatest need. It assumes that it is enough to fulfill physical needs without ever addressing the deeper needs of the spirit. The social gospel is like a person who waters their indoor plants everyday yet keeps the plants in a dark closet. A plant needs both light and water to grow. Water without light kills the plant and does a good job of growing mold. Light without water kills the plant and dries up the soil. Both are needed for healthy plants.

This is also the case for the gospel. For people to grow into the fullness of what God designed them to be, we need a holistic gospel. We need a gospel that offers the hope of transformation for the inner life and the outer life. The good news of Jesus offers both.


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