Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The divine conspiracy - right, left, or other

In chapter 2 of Dallas Willard's 'The Divine Conspiracy' he says most of what we do in the church is nothing but "sin management." We either think Jesus died for us so we can be forgiven and go to heaven (right), or that Jesus is only in those who suffer or are oppressed (left). But we talk little of real life transformation. He says both the Christian Right and Left are incomplete.

On p. 42 he says of the 'gospel on the right':
If you ask anyone from that 74 percent of Americans who say they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ what the Christian gospel is, you will probably be told that Jesus died to pay for our sins, and that if we will only believe he did this, we will go to heaven when we die.

In this way what is only one theory of the "atonement" is made out to be the whole of the essential message of Jesus. To continue with theological language for the moment, *justification* has taken the place of *regeneration*, or new life. Being let off the divine hook replaces possession of a divine life "from above." For all of the talk about the "new birth" among conservative Christians, there is an almost total lack of understanding of what that new birth is in practical terms and of how it relates to forgiveness and imputed or transmitted righteousness.

Then on p. 51 he says of the 'gospel on the left':
To be committed to the oppressed, to liberation, or just to 'community' became for many the whole of what is essential to Christian commitment. The gospel, or "good news," on this view, was that God himself stood behind liberation, equality, and community; that Jesus died to promote them, or at least for lack of them; and that he "lives on" in all efforts and tendencies favoring them. For the theological left, simply this became the message of Christ.

He says there needs to be an integration of these two. And it comes through better teaching. We need to make the kingdom of God make sense.

On p. 58 he puts the question to pastors and teachers: "Must not all who speak for Christ constantly ask themselves these crucial questions:
  • Does the gospel I preach and teach have a natural tendency to cause people who hear it to become full-time students of Jesus?
  • Would those who believe it become his apprentices as a natural "next step"?
  • What can we reasonably expect would result from people actually believing the substance of my message?
Wow. I suppose I should start redoing my sermon now.

I like what Willard said on p. 48:
The issue, so far as the gospel in the Gospels is concerned, is whether we are alive to God or dead to him. Do we walk in an interactive relationship with him that constitutes a new kind of life, life "from above"?

Indeed. Good stuff.