The offense of the gospel

7 thoughts on “The offense of the gospel”

  1. I agree with almost everything you say here – but I still wonder, what is your position on Christian involvement in politics? Should we ignore it entirely because we’ve got more important things to worry about? (We do, after all.) If we can be involved, what should that look like? What should we fight about?

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    1. Well (and maybe this is worth unpacking in a longer post at some point), I do believe Christians should engage the political realm. I may not consider myself Reformed, but I think there’s something to Kuyper’s notion of “sphere sovereignty” (i.e. the idea that God is sovereign over every aspect of his creation). So for me, that includes politics. My five(ish) caveats would be:

      (1) We should never be beholden to one political party or figure. (They just want to use us for their own gain anyway.)

      (2) We shouldn’t confuse our political views with the gospel. (Christians are going to see things differently in politics; that shouldn’t stop us from coming together as a body.)

      (3) We shouldn’t engage politics to seek power for ourselves; rather, we should engage with a “prophetic” voice. (For more on this perspective, I’d recommend a book called The Political Meaning of Christianity by Glenn Tinder.)

      (4) We should prioritize issues that concern the well being of others over those that concern our own well being. (So for example, poverty, abortion, and climate change would all qualify as issues worth being taken up by Christians in the political sphere.)

      (5) We should remember that “love your neighbor” trumps everything. We don’t have permission to look at those on the other side of any political issue as our enemies. We don’t fight dirty. We don’t attack people. We don’t play by the world’s rules. (For me, political attack ads are strong evidence of human depravity.)

      Does that help?

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      1. Well, again I agree with everything you say, but still I wonder what that changes practically. I guess what bothers me is – I think that a lot of people who complain about Christians fighting the culture war are really deceiving themselves. They say they don’t like the behavior (“this isn’t how Christians should act”), but really they just don’t like the side or cause those Christians have chosen. When people fight for their pet causes, they’re strangely silent about the supposed impropriety of it all. Quite possibly they’re silent because they don’t realize that they too are fighting in the culture war – they are fighting for what is good and right because they love other people, they think. Well… and just what do you think people on the “other side” think the goal of their actions is?

        “In the face of controversy and opposition, it’s always tempting to withdraw into friendlier confines. But *working for the public good is part of loving our neighbors as ourselves*. The pietistic impulse to simply focus on winning hearts and minds does not sufficiently appreciate the role of institutions and the importance of giving voice to truth in the public square. Conversely, the progressive impulse to stay quiet for fear that we’ll invalidate our witness is a misguided strategy to win over the world by letting them win. Either that or a disingenuous attempt to hide the fact they’ve already sold the ethical farm.” http://bit.ly/MCFE8a

        (My asterisks)

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  2. I think you’re exactly right, Ben. One of the reasons people struggle with the Cross is that it compels us to a notion of God as vulnerable…but I think that’s exactly the sort of God we have.

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  3. Just stumbled on your blog via AlterNet. Why is it I’m moved to tears on reading my own heart in the words of humans like yourself. We’ve come a long ways, most of us, in our stumbling, often very religious journey to get to this point in time, haven’t we? But to read words that defy the “logic” of so many, offered in the humility of those who’ve long ago given up on all the lies used to knowingly or unknowingly break the simple, real-world relationship between a man (woman) and his neighbor, just seem to do that to me. It’s like finding a single like-minded heart when you no longer demand or require an insular, corporate ennobling to live your life through. It’s like seeing Jesus smiling in a crowd. And the crowd is made up of every person walking (crawling, limping) through your life.
    And your five caveats for political engagement mirror my own. And, again, I didn’t arrive there without first exhibiting religious pride in “waging war against…” and “restoring America to…”. Having been so fooled and used and proud keeps me from throwing the stones I so childishly wish to throw, at times. So I just go about my life in the most vulnerable (good word, Brother James), foolish, unselfish way I can – and I fail at it as much as I succeed at it…which I’m ALSO good with now…now that I’m no longer out to placate a demanding god. Thank you Ben, whoever you are. I don’t need to know everything about you to recognize a brother living next door. 🙂

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  4. Guess I always thought the offense of the cross was more personal. Although it is true that God uses the foolish things to confound the wise (providing victory over sin and death through the humiliation and suffering on the cross instead of rescuing the Jewish people from Roman oppression), the offense of the cross has more to do with personal salvation. The offense of the cross is that we cannot, by our own meritorious good works, provide for our own way of salvation. The cross and the resurrection defeated death, and we must place our faith in Christ and the way of salvation that he provided us. There is no other way. If someone is offended by the plain truth of the gospel, then they are offended by cross.

    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

    If someone is offended by the mere fact that I think abortion is a tragedy and a great evil, and I feel that abortion clinics disproportionately end the lives of poor children, then that someone is offended by my views on that issue. This is not the offense of the cross.

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