RE: Souls are saved, AND Communities are reformed through the gospel

03:01:04, rev. 07

The Editor

The Daily Gleaner

RE: Souls are saved, AND Communities are reformed through the gospel

Dear Sir

Rev. Jesse Jackson rather aptly observes that if, while walking through a rough part of town on a dark night, you were to see four strapping young men coming your way, you would be immensely relieved to learn that they were coming from a Bible study.

I am therefore quite disappointed to read in Rev. Roderick Hewitt’s Gleaner article on The religious dimension of violence within our culture:

“I wish to posit an argument that there is a significant religious dimension to the expression of crime and violence in our culture . . . . The phenomenal rise in charismatic and newer forms of evangelical churches saw some church leaders functioning like TV stars.  Their churches became big and wealthy . . . people were fed with an anti-ecumenical theology.  The individualism [sic] as an ideology became enthroned.  Salvation became totally individualised.  Christ came to change individuals, without similar emphasis being invested in salvation of the community . . . .  The individual wants became god and this was legitimised by the misguided prosperity individualist theology imported also from North America . . . . It is this spirit of unchecked individualism that is feeding the violence in our society.  No-one is accountable to the other.  The individual sets the agenda at the expense of the well being f the community.”  [Gleaner, Wed. Jan 1, 2003, p. B5.]

My concern deepened when I visited the Gleaner’s web site and saw his letter to the editor of Sept. 26, 2001.  For, while we were yet reeling over the horrible events of 9/11, Rev. Hewitt used the term “fundamentalist” to tie Christians who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God -- thus partaking of God’s absolute love, truth, purity and power -- to the islamist extremism that led to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and even to the crusades of the Middle Ages!

Clearly, these claims are over-wrought and largely specious.  The record must be set straight. 

First, and foremost, it should be clear that, biblically: (1) souls are saved, (2) people are converted and discipled, and (3) their lives, families, communities and associated institutions are reformed as a result.  For, communities and their institutions do not have souls.  So, it is only through spiritually transformed – “born again” -- people who are motivated, envisioned and equipped by God to change their communities under the Lordship of Christ that the church can bring enduring blessings to the nations.

As Paul puts it: “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith . . . not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” [Eph. 2:8 – 10, cf. 4:9 – 29 & Titus 2:11 - 14.]  Biblically, such “good works” speak to our individuality, family life, church activities and involvement in the whole sphere of the community.  Therefore, there is no basis for driving a wedge between evangelism and discipleship of the individual on the one hand, and upliftment of the community on the other. 

Now, Mr Hewitt rightly deplores the fact that in some church quarters there has been an over-emphasis on the individual, and poorly grounded teachings on material blessings.  But it can hardly be said that it is those who have been trying to live godly lives based on the Bible, under the nurture and discipline of their churches who have been responsible for Jamaica’s surge in violence since the 1960’s.   Indeed, the time-gap between the upsurge of crime and violence in the 1960’s and church movements that rose to prominence in the 1980’s proves that Rev. Hewitt’s argument is deeply flawed. 

Would it not be sounder to link the rise in crime to the family disintegration caused by urbanisation and emigration under conditions that left many impoverished children to grow up on the streets?  Was it not the arming and politicising of the resulting street gangs and the rise of the illicit drugs trade that entrenched the phenomenon through the creation of Garrisons and Drug Lords?

Perhaps, the most over-heated point is the assumption that taking the Bible seriously as the inspired, authentic, authoritative Word of God leads to the fanatical mentality of terrorists and crusaders.  Please, sirs, it was not nineteen members of the “First Holiness Church of God in Christ, Redeemed, Blood-Washed and Spirit-Gifted,” that hijacked four airliners full of hapless innocents and crashed them into buildings full of people going about the ordinary affairs of life! 

Instead, history records that in the barbarous Dark Ages the people were systematically kept from having the Bible in their own language.  But the sacrifices of martyrs such as Tyndale -- betrayed and burned at the stake in 1536 for the “crime” of translating the Bible into English -- unleashed the force of the gospel by putting the Bible and its message in the hands of the people.  This led to centuries of reformation and liberation, as ordinary people stood up for conscience, for freedom, and to end age-old social injustices: despotic tyranny; wars of conquest; colonialism and slavery; child labour; barbaric prison conditions; the oppression of women.

And that is exactly what we should expect.  Therefore, let us move on from over-heated, polarising rhetoric to the real ministry of the church: saving souls, transforming lives and reforming and blessing communities as we build our nation under God.


Gordon E. Mullings