I’m really dragging out my discussion of Paul Hiebert’s Transforming Worldviews, so I’ll limit myself to one last post. There’s lots more to examine in this landmark work on Christianity and culture, but you’ll just have to read the rest for yourself.
Toward the end of the book, Hiebert discusses a biblical worldview. He recognizes that there are many different worldviews represented in the Bible, but insists that there are certain ideas that are central to who we are as Christians. One of the main ones has to do with the King and the Kingdom. Hiebert notes that it is the King that defines the Kingdom. There is danger in overemphasizing the Kingdom itself, rather than the King:
A weakness of this view is that it loses sight of how lost human beings are without Christ and the urgency of evangelism. Another is that the church becomes a political player in the arena of world politics. It is no longer a countercultural community on earth, a prophetic voice of the reign of God in the lives of his people. Christianity becomes a civil religion, used to justify democracy, capitalism, individual rights, and Western cultures. (Kindle location 5921)
Bingo. In a pendulum swing, the church has moved from focusing only on evangelism to totally neglecting it. We build houses, feed people, promote justice… but don’t tell people about the King. The Kingdom only exists because there is a King.
Newbigin observes, “An entity can be defined either in terms of its boundaries or in terms of its centre. The Church is an entity which is properly described by its centre. It is impossible to define exactly the boundaries of the Church, and the attempt to do so always ends up in an unevangelical legalism. But it is always possible and necessary to define the centre. The Church is its proper self, and is a sign of the Kingdom, only insofar as it continually points men and women beyond itself to Jesus and invites them to personal conversion and commitment to him” (1980, 68). (Kindle location 5988)
When we emphasize the King, we talk less about who is in and who is out. The focus is on moving people toward Jesus, toward the center.
What about boundaries between saved and lost? For God, who sees into our hearts, the category “Christian” is digital. He knows who are truly his followers and who are worshiping other gods. For us humans, the boundary is often fuzzy. We see the outside, not the heart. Some whom we believe to be Christians may not be so, and some we believe to be lost may, indeed, be followers of Christ. (Kindle location 6035)
Our task isn’t to decide who is “us” and who isn’t. We aren’t defined by our relationship with other Christians, nor their relationship with us. It’s about our relationship with Jesus. We’d do well to spend less time fighting about who is and who isn’t part of the family and more time strengthening relationships with Jesus.
One last quote. This one is worth the price of admission:
The church and believers are called to worship God, to have fellowship with one another, and to bear witness to the gospel in a lost world. Of these three—worship, fellowship, and mission—the church and believers will do the first two better in heaven. It is only the last that they can do best here on earth. (Kindle location 6075)
Sharing the gospel deserves a privileged spot in the work of the church. It’s what we do uniquely now that we won’t do when the Kingdom is fully realized. That’s why attempts to define the church’s mission solely in terms of the Kingdom are inadequate. We can’t limit ourselves to what we will do when the Kingdom is restored. We have to be about pointing people to the King.