Monday, June 04, 2007

Stackhouse: Christian Vision Project

In the a recent addition to the Christian Vision Project--which has included some excellent essays--John Stackhouse gently mocks (and caricatures) the idea that millions of people might go to hell if they don't hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Over against this "horror" is the "corresponding horror" in the hearts of many "about a God who allows whole nations and generations to plunge into a lost eternity simply because no one happened to reach them with the gospel." (Anyone see the straw man in this description?)

Based on Heb. 11:6--"without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him"--Stackhouse says that it's "obvious" that people in the OT had saving faith apart from conscious belief in Christ; ergo, the same thing can happen today. (Stackhouse would be helped by reviewing the opening two verses of the book of Hebrews, which specifically address the issue of how God speaks to people today.)

Stackhouse goes on to argue for an expansion of the meaning of "gospel":
The Christian gospel therefore is not a narrowly spiritual one, but literally embraces everything, everywhere, at every moment. Every action that brings shalom—that preserves or enhances the flourishing of things, people, and relationships—is the primary will of God for humanity. Christians ought therefore to recognize and affirm anything our neighbors do to make peace, whether those neighbors intend to honor God or not. Indeed, we can cooperate with them in those ventures, since we see in them the divine agenda of shalom.
If the gospel and biblical shalom include everything, then they include nothing. Does Stackhouse truly think that a Christ-hating policeman who breaks up a domestic dispute, or an adulterous high school principal who gives a kid encouragement about his grades, are fulfilling God's "primary will for humanity"?

Stackhouse makes some excellent points. For example, this is a very good--and biblical--sentence: "Thus we are not going back to Eden, nor up to a (spiritual) heaven, but forward to the New Jerusalem, which comes down from heaven to earth as our proper home (Rev. 21)." But much of the rest of the article contains a great deal of imbalanced, unbiblical thinking.

I think Andy Crouch and the Christian Vision Project can do a lot better than this, and they should be embarrassed for printing stuff like this.

For a thoughtful response to one form of inclusivism, see this review essay by Jim Hamilton, as well as the forthcoming IVP book, The Gospel for All Nations: A Response to Inclusivism, ed. Robert Peterson and Chris Morgan.