Visions from the Vincents

October 20, 2008

Spreading the Wealth Around?

Joe the Plumber recently escalated to the forefront of the political scene as the result of a simple question addressed to Democratic Presidential Candidate, Barak Obama, which resulted in a response that “spreading the wealth around” is good.  Well, I haven’t posted a political blog yet, and do not intend to do so here.  Rather than endorsing any particular candidate, I simply want to entertain why this idea of “spreading the wealth around” actually connects to a grander ideology that opposes the basic tenets of Christianity.

What is Socialism?

You really can’t talk about Socialism without a few quick thoughts from history, in particular, Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels critical work, The Communist Manifesto (CM).  The worldview ascribed to by these authors demonstrates a certain genius that unfortunately, at the end of the day, conveys a shallow understanding of humanity and a complete absence of a view of God. CM seeks to bring peace.  In this work, they claim that the main cause of unrest in a given society centers on class warfare.  In particular, CM claims that the rich (Bourgeois) and the poor (Proletarians) are constantly at war with one another.  So, how can peace and freedom be achieved?  Ultimately, the disintegration of private property.  Socialism is the temporary mechanism suggested to bring about the transition from capitalism to communism.  A great way to describe it is “spreading the wealth around.”

How is this worldview genius?

This is really ingenious in the sense that much of the expectations set forth in CM can be seen today in the United States as well as other countries.  In some senses, CM is almost prophetic.  Class warfare is a real and present danger.

How this worldview is shallow?

Genius and shallow seem to contradict one another.  Can the two coexist simultaneously?  I would argue yes.  This worldview seems and feels right in many ways.  But, if we look at the way that this worldview plays out it fails the test of experience and doctrine.  Notice, that this philosophical system has never played out well.  Have we forgotten the history of China, Russia, or Germany?  This philosophical system has never served to help the lives of people, nor has it served to encourage the free exchange of religious ideas.  Not only does it fail the test of experience, it fails the test of doctrine.  All of us watch with glee as Robin Hood robs from the rich and gives to the poor.  The rich are characterized as evil and the poor as virtuous.  So, of course, we like to see good conquer evil.  This picture has an anthropology that perhaps improves on CM, but it still doesn’t tender an accurate portrayal of humanity.

A Huge Assumption

Notice the huge assumption of CM: if you give everyone the same stuff, nobody will be unhappy.  In other words, Utopia is expensive but possible if you just take from the rich and give to the poor.  Again, the Utopian experiment has been attempted and failed.  Why?  Our problems run much deeper than the toys and gadgets and property that surround us.  Here is a quick public service announcement for you: greed isn’t the only thing in us that isn’t virtuous.  Giving everyone the same paycheck doesn’t end lust, greed, pride, or racism.  In fact, socialism can encourage greed and other sins, which again, just look to history to find the great tragedies associated with this worldview.

Bigger issues at play

Christians know that the problems that we face run much deeper than what is “out there.”  A basic doctine of humanity states that man is born into sin–all of us.  Humans have deep-rooted sin issues that need to be addressed.  Socialism assumes the basic goodness of man claiming that the real problem is that the rich take advantage of the poor.  In reality, we need to ask ourselves, “Why do the rich take advantage of the poor, and why do the poor seek to take advantage of the rich?”  Furthermore, will the fracturing of class warfare not only give way to further types of warfare?  In truth, the real issue that we have is “warfare” in general.  We are a people that waged war against God by sinning against him, and we war with one another.

Conclusion

What we really need isn’t “spreading the wealth around” we need an identity change.  We need to make Jesus our King, repent of our sins, and believe in him for salvation.  The best way to redeem culture is to evangelize it.  Redeeming culture happens when culture is redeemed!  So, who are you voting for?  Worldviews matter, and we need to consider the relationships that differing philosophies have to one another.  It might just be that something that sounds good is actually not!

October 1, 2008

Evangelism Mythbuster #6

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joshua @ 1:24 am

What if I don't get a lot of these filled out?

6. Evangelism without a decision is a failure. Decisions are not the ultimate goal of evangelism.

Some get a lot of decisions

If you remember the intro, evangelism literally means to “proclaim the good news.”  I have already made it clear that making disciples is the goal of evangelism not decisions.  Many still monitor successful evangelism by decisions, but is this biblical.  One question we must ask ourselves is what does Paul mean that some have the gift of evangelism in Eph 4:11.  Is that to say that they are more effective?  Is there some tangible, measurable means by which it is made evident that a certain person has this particular gift?  I would say so.  Philip, a deacon, is also referred to as “the evangelist” (Acts 21:8).  This title is probably in reference to at least what we see of him in Acts 8:5, “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.”  And despite the efforts of Simon the magician the results were obvious in 8:12, “but when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”  So, Philip was an effective evangelist with results (admittedly in a special time in redemptive history).  We have seen many throughout history who seem to be particularly gifted in evangelism: George Whitfield, Billy Graham, etc.

The result of effective evangelists

In fact, they receive such a response that it makes others feel taunted by the success of others.  So much so, that they are immobilized with a fear that they are not getting decisions.  I believe many quit as a result of poor returns on their evangelistic investments.  The costly activity of proclaiming the gospel is intimidating enough for many without the doubts that loom large in the wake of yet another perceived failed evangelistic effort.  But, is the perception of a failed evangelistic effort necessarily perceivable to the naked eye.  Or, what if the great value of God is that his people rejoice in his mighty deeds which happens to be the same vehicle God uses to create his people it is the Word that displays life and gives life.

The proclamation of the good news doesn’t just create life, it displays it.

Peter couldn’t be more clear.  In 1 Pet 2:9, he says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  His mixed audience of believers hear that they, though including both Jews and Gentiles, have become the new people of God absorbing Old Testament identities only ascribed to Jews like “priesthood” and “holy.”  God made us his people “that you my proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” So, it is the proclamation itself we are told is our calling, and God uses that to expand the boundaries of his kingdom.  Our God is a speaking God from the beginning of Scripture to the end.  Through speech he reveals himself and the true nature of reality.  Just as he spoke the first creation into being, he is speaking a new creation into being.  The amazing thing that happens in the New Testament is that he knits his people so tightly to himself that he actually uses them to speak the Word that usher in the second creation.  That Word is Christ.

When Christ stands up!

But, if the borders aren’t expanded, it doesn’t mean that evangelism has failed.  The proclamation itself is our calling.  In Acts 7, Stephen proclaims a majestic and full account of the gospel, and is stoned to death.  Does this mean that Stephen failed?  By no means!  Notice that 2,000 years later I am still talking about the majesty of this evangelistic effort that tendered no immediate response, except what we find in Acts 8:1-4.  The Christians running for their lives eagerly proclaimed that same gospel that endangered their lives and led to the death of Stephen.  Some may say that he didn’t get a lot of decisions that day, so, he failed.  But, that is not how Christ viewed it.  This is one of the only, if not the only, example of Christ standing in honor of some one in all of Scripture.  We may think that that evangelistic attempt ended in the worst possible way.  God’s perspective differs from man’s.  God’s perspective is the one that matters.  Some of us may have many experiences that feel like failure, when in actuality, they bring great honor to Christ even if we don’t have the decisions of a Billy Graham or  George Whitfield.

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