Sunday, 18 May 2008

All Are Sinners Implies the Need for Evangelism

One of the hard things about coming to faith (or a deeper faith) is to admit that we have to change our ideas and lives. The underlying principle is that we are wrong and the inherited faith is right (to put it crudely; yes I know it is not about being right and wrong, but the crudity has its point). We have to learn afresh how to be human, have our ideas and expectations turned over, and act differently. (If it were not so Christianity seems a little superfluous.) It applies to all of us, and does not matter how long we have been people of faith. This is partly why I have more sympathy for evangelism than many others in the progressive wing of the church. There is a tendency amongst progressives to eschew evangelism because it assumes that the 'targets' are missing something that they need and we (the evangelists) have. For many progressives this smacks of colonialism. And, of course, it can be the face of a crude colonialism. Despite that, the gospel does assume that there is a lack within us, and that only God can fill this lack, and God has done this in Jesus Christ. All people must hear and respond. This understanding need not be colonialist, and in fact, it could be argued that those who hold out for a 'universal religious experience expressed in multiple ways' approach might just be the ones pushing the colonialist wagon! But more on that later. Three points that might go someway toward a more positive appraisal of the evangelist's task.

  • All have sinned, and all need the saving grace of Jesus Christ. No exceptions, and self-righteousness is explicitly contrary to the inner logic of evangelism. Don't judge evanglism by the repellent aspects of smug/I'm saved Christianity.

  • All need what they do not have naturally, and this deficit is present in each of us and in every culture. There is no basis for pride (on the part of the evangelist) in this; quite the reverse. We should all be joined together by the bonds of humility and the knowledge of our continuing need. Whatever we have received through Christ is pure and unadulterated gift. Even faith is a gift. (One of the problems with smug Christianity: it becomes a work.)

  • God has chosen to bring salvation through a means that is not universally available naturally. The good news of salvation must be brought to each and every one of us. That is, the good news of God's salvation in Christ is spread by the simple, and profound, act of opening our doors and lives to our neighbours. How very humble and un-selfrighteous. Indeed, how very Christ-like.


  1. I think though that many would struggle with this as it claims a "truth". That something about the Gospel is Exclusive in that it calls people to move from where they are. Having said that this call is inclusive of all people in that it is to everyone

  2. Yes, I think that is right. The Gospel excludes all so that all may be included through grace. Universal sin and universal salvation (Rom 5)

  3. Which is so profound really. None are included but through Jesus and that all are welcome to be included.

    It means we need to remember we are only included because of Grace and that we do not have the right to excluded except through the same Grace which find ourselves included by. (What i mean by this is that those are excluded are those that have chosen for themselves not to accept that Grace which God offers to them)