News Worth Sharing, 12 Dec 2008
by Graham Kings
Date added: 30/07/2020
News worth sharing
Graham Kings The Guardian 12 Dec 2008
Evangelism which is natural, patient, attentive and earthed in involvement in the community, is the lifeblood of our faith
'But I always liked Jesus better than you. He seemed so gracious and you seemed so … '
'Mean? Sad, isn't it? He came to show people who I am and most folks only believe it about him. They still play us off like good cop/bad cop most of the time, especially religious folk. When they want people to do what they think is right, they need a stern God. When they need forgiveness, they run to Jesus.'
This is a key conversation concerning the heart of God in the American novel The Shack, by William Paul Young. It has sold nearly 2m copies, having been rejected by about 30 publishers, and is recommended by prominent evangelicals in the US and Britain.
The Shack has been at the top of fiction bestseller lists and is hailed as a modern day Pilgrim's Progress. It explores the mystery of personal suffering in dialogue with God the Trinity. Intriguingly, the "Father" is portrayed as an African American mother, the "Spirit" is an east Asian woman and Jesus as a not-particularly-handsome Middle Eastern Jew.
This is a novel way of exploring the first essential belief of evangelicals, the intrinsic dynamic of God's life in Trinity. The second is that our good works are a "thank you" rather than a "please". They are offered to God in gratitude for the salvation he has already freely provided for us in Christ, which we have received by faith. They are not a plaintive plea directed at him for our acceptance, on our own behalf.
The third is that Jesus died in our place and rose into new embodied life as our pioneer. This transfer of places and involvement in new life – he instead of us and we in him – provides the foundation for a fourth essential, which is assurance of our sins being forgiven. Holy Communion may be seen as the sacrament of assurance.
There is an important distinction between this and presumption. Assurance is based on trusting God's word about what he has already done for us in Christ. Presumption is mistakenly founded on trusting ourselves and what we think we have to do to be accepted by God.
We are led, fifthly, into an open relationship with God in prayer, which is often expressed as conversation with God, as well as through written prayers, and in the study of the Bible, which is seen as God's authoritative word – not locked up in a book, but released in our lives. The scriptures are not set on a level with "reason" and "tradition" but above them and interpreted contextually by them.
Finally, this news is so good that it is worth sharing with others, of all faiths and of none. Evangelism which is natural, patient and attentive and earthed in involvement in the community, is the vital lifeblood of evangelicalism.
The 19th century novel Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, also explores deep themes of redemption and Christian life. The portrait of the insistent St John Rivers, who tries and fails to persuade Jane to join him in missionary work in India, is often seen as a caricature of an evangelical. If the above six pointers to belief ring true, perhaps the more sympathetic portrait of an evangelical may be Jane Eyre herself.