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Friday, January 3, 2014

Larger Than The Soul

The Puritan Gift was hailed by the Financial Times as one of the Top Ten Business Books of the Year in 2007. In this acclaimed book, British authors Kenneth and William Hopper (brothers) maintain that early American Puritans, such as John Winthrop, provided a foundation for the best of American business practice up until 1970. The results, until then, were positively staggering. 

But why did Christianity have such a positive affect on America's development, yet not in some other places of the world where Christianity has been introduced? As my friend Lowell Bakke once remarked, "Why are some cities that have been Christianized and churched, like Lagos, Nigeria, still full of poverty and corruption?"

Part of the answer lies in the terms Christianized and churched. In the case of America, Puritans saw no separation between "a man's shop and his chapel." They embraced a wholistic form of Christianity that saw fish farming and shoe making as God's work. 

In some parts of the world, "Christianization" has produced a withdrawal of Christians from business, arts and politics. A personalized and privatized Gospel has produced Christians with little or no interest in the way business is done, or how civil affairs are managed.

As Dr. Darrell Furgason observed: “In places like Africa...Western missionaries generally brought the Gospel in the way they learned it, as a purely soul-saving faith, with no real bearing on anything else—religion was a mostly personal matter, nothing to do with things like politics, science, law, economics….African people were given the Gospel, but not how to build a righteous nation, how to apply Christianity to everything."

As one African friend of mine put it: "Africans have understood the Gospel of Salvation, but not the Gospel of the Kingdom." Yes, the "Gospel of Salvation" points people to becoming born-again through faith in Christ's shed blood. Through this door we enter into a relationship with Jesus, and this is the beginning.

But the Gospel of the Kingdom helps us understand what salvation is for. We are not just saved from something, but for something. Personal salvation is a part of the Gospel of the Kingdom, but not the whole. The Kingdom is larger than the soul. 

One of the best descriptions I've heard on this topic is by Paul Stevens, in an interview I did with him several years ago at Regent College:

Or click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VitIItMXKc0.

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  1. Very illuminating. We ought to be emphasizing that more, that we are saved FOR something, not From something, and that makes all the difference. Excellent point!

  2. There is a wonderfully interesting article in the most recent "Christianity Today" which suggests that Protestant missionaries of the 19th century had more of a positive impact on subsequent political systems and culture than we might assume. I'd encourage those interested to read the article: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/january-february/world-missionaries-made.html

    Perhaps there was more of a Kingdom gospel message being communicated than we give them credit for.

    1. Thanks, Denise. This is most certainly the case for 19th Century missionaries to Korea, which I will talk about in a near-future post. It is a remarkable story from which we can learn much, and too few people know about it, at lease where I come from.