I am reading and reacting to Christopher Wright’s book, The Mission of God.
Way deep in the book comes the following, which helped me put his argument in context:
I write as a son of Northern Ireland. That has to be one of the most “evangelized’ patches on the globe. As I grew up, almost anybody I met could have told me the gospel and “how to get saved.” . . . Yet in my Protestant evangelical culture, the zeal for evangelism was equal only to the suspicion of any form of Christian social concern or conscience about issues of justice. That was the domain of liberals and ecumenicals, and a betrayal of the “pure” gospel. (p. 321).
This is what he writes this book over against. He feels that he grew up in a culture where the mission of Jesus was falsely believed to have been effective. But he was able to see that even though most everyone had been evangelized, something was wrong. The concerns of the whole Bible, which included social concerns, were not being met. So he sees that mission must mean more than recruiting individuals into an evangelism-centered church.
He brings the more holistic salvation implied in the exodus (and in another chapter by the Jubilee laws) to bear on this. These ideas, he believes, go into what Jesus must have meant by the Kingdom of God.
As I have explained before, I get confused when this recognition that the Bible is about more than individual salvation is said to mean that our mission is political. To be political means to me that we claim to know what legislation God would support today. I question that. The claim that we know the position of God on gun control or health care seems to me to make about as much sense as to claim that we know God’s position on who the KC Chiefs should have picked first in the NFL draft. I am not non-political. I do have opinions on these things (including the NFL draft) but I feel I would be overstepping to claim that God has the same positions that I do.
Yet I stand with Wright in opposing what I think the Dutch theologian, G. C. Berkouwer, called Salvation Individualism. This is a position that stems from an eschatology that says the Last Judgment will mostly be about which individuals are saved and lost. The idea that mission is sort of like selling eternal life insurance derives from that view. I agree with Wright that biblical redemption has to do with community and family and even helping people materially in the here and now.
The claim that this makes mission political, though, perplexes me.