Is the gospel emphasis leaving daily redemption out?

I’m reading an interesting book, ‘The Divine Conspiracy’, by Dallas Willard.  Here’s a particular quote which sums up for me some of the dilemma I’ve seen as a Christian blogger, between Christians at different ends of the spectrum:

When we examine the broad spectrum of Christian proclamation and practice, we see that the only thing made essential on the right wing of theology is forgiveness of the individual’s sins.  On the left it is removal of social or structural evils.  The current gospel then becomes a gospel of ‘sin management’.  Transformation of life and character is no part of the redemptive message.  Moment to moment human reality in its depths is not the arena of faith and eternal living.

From The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, Chapter 2, The Gospels of Sin Management pg 49-50 in my copy.

While blogging, I’ve seen the evangelical, redeemed and Pentecostal movements generally preaching that apart from all else, if you confess your belief in Christ, you are forgiven your sins.  You know that if you die, you will get to heaven.  The goal is to see as many people confess this and therefore be ‘saved’ as possible – this is the most urgent priority.

Redemption is far more about what happens after you die, not going to hell, than about experiencing redemption on a daily basis.  In Pente circles at least, these days, discipleship is often more about raising up ‘leaders’, to plant new churches or proselytise to bring in new members, than it is about encouraging that quiet, daily inner growth and reliance upon God, which transforms character from within, but does not necessarily turn everyone into a leader of sorts.   I imagine there are however some teachers who do encourage the latter – but where is it in terms of priority generally?

I’ve also come across the left wing of Christianity, who make some very good points about social justice issues.  As my Christian growth took place in various evangelical churches, this was fairly recent exposure for me – I didn’t realise when I was younger that being involved in Greenpeace, or war protests and so forth, could be an essential expression of Christian faith for some.  Maybe I was just a bit slow, but I can at least say that I _never_ had that put to me in church.  Now I realise some Christian groups, as Dallas Willard seems to imply above, regard this as an essential expression of Christian faith, and would probably see a person’s faith as very one dimensional without evidence of this kind of involvement with ‘the other’ in their lives.

Dallas Willard appears to say that actual inner change, an experience of the life of Christ within us _now_, is part of the redemption.  (I totally agree with him, and pray for this kind of inner growth as time goes by, and the kind of revelation of God that will transform more and more.)

I don’t think these churches would disagree with him, but their messages don’t typically aim for this kind of change so much as other programmed types of involvement that achieve their good ends – just not the good ends that are inside us necessarily.  There are behavioural checkboxes to tick, such as tithing, or involvement in a ministry, or attending a home group, rather than inwardly making choices to live in Him whenever there is one to be made, in a quieter fashion, and growing in this abiding over time – of course the results of this are seen, but not in a programmed sense.

Evidence for this, I think, is where a church puts its program needs ahead of treating individuals with love.  One very public example would perhaps be Mike Guggliemucci’s father putting attendance at a Men’s Camp ahead of spending time with his publically disgraced son.  There are many other smaller examples but I won’t begin listing them.

If churches changed their message to place more emphasis on inner transformation and focused more on getting that revelation of the love of God – and living it as their number one priority – do you think there would be less scandalous behaviour in the church, greater unity within the faith, less abuse of power, and the growth of the kind of community that outsiders can genuinely see a difference in – a light – that they’d want to be part of?

7 thoughts on “Is the gospel emphasis leaving daily redemption out?

  1. ‘Redemption is far more about what happens after you die, not going to hell, than about experiencing redemption on a daily basis’

    Well, the last thing to be redeemed is our body, but the soul and the spirit are already redeemed, and, even the body is bought and paid for at the cross.

    It’s the resurrection we await. The only certainty we have of heaven is in patient continuance, and of walking in righteousness and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. This is what hear taught in Pentecostal and charismatic circles.

    I wonder how you could be redeemed daily.

    When we are born again, we are sealed with the Spirit until the redemption of our bodies. The whole of creation groans as it awaits that day. But our body can only be redeemed because our spirit is quickened.

    We were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. “In whom we have redemption”. Present tense. Won for us at the cross, and given at the new birth.

    Eph 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

    Eph 1:14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

    Eph 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

    Col 1:14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

    ‘the only thing made essential on the right wing of theology is forgiveness of the individual’s sin’

    Which isn’t true. There are a great many things made essential, assuming by ‘right wing’ he means evangelicals and Pentecostals. but it has to be said that without God’s grave, which leads to the forgiveness of sins, and without the acceptance of the work of the cross, any kind of Christian approach is worthless, because it’s only through faith in the blood that a person can be born again. Social works alone can follow, but can never lead one to Christ.

  2. But a sinners prayer said 20 years ago does not grant me eternal security unless I continue in Him.

    There is enough evidence in the New Testament to show me that it is possible to lose your salvation. The classic text is in Hebrews where the writers asks if it is possible to regain salvation once it is lost.

    This should not lead to a lot of Neurotic Christians who keep asking whether or not they have lost their salvation. A daily walk with Jesus is what is needed.

    All the warnings about being ‘cut off’ are all addressed to believers. So it is important that we get a balanced view of scripture. There are 80 passages of scripture in the New Testament warning believers. There are a similar number that tell believers that our Heavenly Father is able to keep us.

    But the context is generally (paraphrase) “keep yourselves in the love of God for He is able to keep you from stumbling” that kind of thing.

    Well, that’s my tuppence worth anyway.


  3. By ‘daily redemption’ I think I mean to _experience_ redemption on a daily basis, by daily walking in Christ. We have already been redeemed, but don’t always seem to experience it.

    For example, when I over react in anger (just an easy example) to something my kids do, I may not be experiencing the redemption from my old nature that I should be if I’m walking in Christ. Whereas if I walk with Him more closely, and know him better (in the sense of being more intimate with Him), then I will increasingly experience salvation from the effect of sin on a daily basis, and without self effort, will sin in anger less. He is my cure, now, as well as my eternal saviour.

    I guess the concept I found interesting was that perhaps if church groups of various types focussed on encouraging one another more to grow in our intimacy with God in various ways, rather than focussing on meeting various program goals, perhaps we would as a group sin less, hurt others less, and avoid some of the sad stories we see over and over. Truly abiding in God must result in the exercise of love towards one another being put before more materially measurable goals.

    I hope that makes sense. Thanks for bearing with me. It is a litle difficult to explain clearly. (I have still not finished the book yet, but its got me thinking.)

  4. Its really good to be thinking about these things.

    Better reflecting Jesus into the community is key to fulfilling our own ministries.

    I was surprised when I realised the following:
    1) Each believer has a ministry that they are operating in every second. Not just “God has a plan and purpose for your life … go and find out what it is” or “identify your gift so you can use it later” … you are a priest to one person or many people right now!
    2) Jesus didn’t command us to like one another. He commanded us to agape one another. That means to meet each others needs … even when we don’t like each other. Agape is the love shown by the Good Samaritan of course.
    3) When you recognise where your ministry is and the sheep you are acting as shepherd for (non-believers I mean) you are then faced with the difficulty of actually sharing the gospel with them.
    Getting to know the Bible is absolutely essential. The trouble is, the more you get to know the bible, the more you get to question everything you’ve been taught. Unfortunately, for some believers, that doesn’t take much time.
    The Lord will provide doors of ministry that open spontaneously. What I have found is that the quality of my ministry depends on the quality and quantity of my biblical knowledge. It means that this is much better now than it was 5 years ago.

    When you need a plumber, you don’t send for a maths tutor (unless he’s also a pretty good plumber)
    When I am asked about Jesus, the Bible, etc I can now talk about it reasonably well. (unless I am having a conversation with a Biblically literate person who disagrees with me … 😉 )

    I suppose what I am trying to say is that it’s not enough to be on your own and concentrate on “your own” walk. We all have a responsibility to sow and reap in the harvest field (I am starting to sound like a tent revivalist from the deep south)

    Some will be called to sow (that’s me for one) some will be called to reap, and some will be called to sow and reap at different times and seasons in their lives and ministry.

  5. Couldn’t find where else to post this and I don’t know how to post articles but I think this was an excellent analysis of the US’s rejection of ‘me’ centred Christianity in the re-election of Obama.

    Why is it that many conservative Christians reject a health plan similar to our Medicare which is designed to bring affordable health care to the poor?

    Americans again buy into Obama’s promotion of the common good

    The culture of individualism suffered a major setback this week in the home of the mythic rugged individual. As Barack Obama accepted victory in the US presidential election on Wednesday morning, he was also quick to claim a mandate for the communitarian ethos – a faith in the common good over strictly private interest – that was central to his campaign.

    “The belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations,” he intoned, in language that reflects the theology of the social gospel.

    Whatever the style of Obama’s oratory, be it Ivy League-educated professor or radical community organiser from the south side of Chicago, there has been a recurring theme to his thinking. We heard it first when he was a Senate candidate for Illinois addressing the 2004 Democratic conference. “It is the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.”

    That phrase might not be strictly biblical but the tone and the intent are: that we are all in this together; part of “the one body”, language that certainly is biblical.

    It has become the leitmotif of a reborn, if occasionally halting, progressive movement in the US that is trying to reconnect with its roots in religion, in faith-in-action. A Catholic nun, Sister Simone Campbell, became the surprise star of this year’s Democratic convention when she gave a barn-burning speech very much in the vein of being the keeper of my brethren.
    As Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, a Baptist minister in Boston and sociologist at the prestigious Colby College in Maine, points out, Obama is very much in tune with the core of African-American theology. The teaching in Matthew’s gospel about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sheltering the stranger – of “whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me” – is, says Gilkes, “the canon within the canon”.

    It is a canon long shared by liberal Protestants and evangelicals, with a proud history in the anti-slavery and women’s suffrage movements. It is a canon common to Catholics who have imbibed their church’s teaching on the preferential option for the poor. This election in particular was distinguished by having two vice-presidential candidates who represented starkly different understandings of Catholic doctrine.

    Democrat Joe Biden is a classic “social justice” Catholic – union hall and Irish tavern, “Joey from [hardscrabble] Scranton”, to his core. Republican Paul Ryan was on the record naming the radical individualist philosopher Ayn Rand as the “one thinker, one person” he would credit with his decision to enter politics.
    So Americans knew what they were getting when they voted for the Obama ticket, twice and convincingly. They knew what they were getting in 2008, after he said he wanted to “spread the wealth around”. And they knew in 2012, when he told business executives, whose companies had benefited from a publicly educated workforce and publicly provided roads and bridges, “you didn’t build that”.

    Voters in three populous and electorally important states – Massachusetts, Ohio and Wisconsin – also knew what they were getting when they voted for Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown and Tammy Baldwin. They all stood on unambiguously communitarian platforms that demanded sacrifices from the economic elite to match the sacrifices of America’s poor and middle class.

    But none of this should be surprising because, as one of America’s leading public intellectuals, E.J. Dionne, argues in his new book, Our Divided Political Heart, the history of the US is one of tension between its communitarian and individualist impulses.
    If the US election result is a swing to the left, it is only by default. Just as progressives forsook their religious antecedents and, unwittingly, helped create the now waning “religious right” in the US, as Dionne illustrates, communitarianism also has a rich heritage among conservatives. For a time, they defined themselves, with their language of family, neighbourhood and nation, by their opposition to self-centredness and hedonism.
    If you take the word Republican, strip it of its capital letter, and turn it on its head, you get an idea of this important, if forgotten, strain in American history. The small ”r” republicans believed in a civic patriotism of the common good. But in the past 30 years, US conservatives have veered into an individualism that looks more like the mantra of the ”me generation” than the philosophy of Edmund Burke – the original conservative.

    And for the second presidential election in a row, they have been rejected by their fellow citizens.

    Andrew West presents the Religion and Ethics Report on ABC Radio National.

    Read more:

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