Just finished reading Jonathan Leeman’s article called “Is the God of the Missional Gospel Too Small?” his answer is yes, the missional movement as well as evangelism and missions are the door to liberalism.
He does what a lot of conservative folks do, he mistakes the part for the whole. And pet ideas or ways of expressing theology that if not addressed “properly” make a person, church or movement liberal. I consider myself to be conservative (I’m a PBU and DTS grad) and deeply missional. So I think Jonathan needs to fine tune a bit and enter into the missional discussion instead of dashing the whole thing as liberal. Here is why.
First it must be said that every movement of any group has its left and right wings. There are conservative and liberal Republicans, there are blue dog democrats and the new democrat coalition, there are liberalish and conservativish Southern Baptists as well as theologically conservative while socially liberal emerging church folk along with the theologically liberal variety too. The list goes on.
Jonathan has some food for thought so let me summarize what I think he is saying. He says that the missional movement has a small God because it focus on social justice and not the glory of God tarnished at the fall of man. He says that missional folk don’t believe in a literal hell but believe in annihilation or “mere absence of God – the sinner receiving what he asked for, and nothing more.” This, he says, leads to a de-emphasis on conversion preferring rather to focus on conversation and the positive transformation of societal structures. This brings him to say that the Biblical storyline has been reduced to social justice and creation care. His point in this last part is that everyone, even Hollywood stars, can see these problems and that believers though they can have these as good projects must only undertake them as tools for evangelism.
Now, in all of this he has some interesting thoughts on Jesus’ view on helping the poor vs worship and on the health of society without the personal and individual transformation that the gospel brings.
Really, for me, the section titled “Reductionistic Biblical Storyline” was the most interesting.
On a lighter side, at one point he lifts up John Stott but forgets that Stott is an annihilationist. Which brings me back to the point that every group has its conservatives and liberals and even the conservatives can be liberal about some things while liberals can surprise conservatives by being even more conservative about other things. Our world may be black and white but sometimes the pixels on the image are mixed up so much that they look a lot like grey, well maybe there is grey.
The mixing of the pixels is what Jonathan leaves out. I know missional people who are weak on hell and very strong on personal salvation and the deep transformation of life long discipleship.
It is, after all, the evangelists, missionaries and missional church planters who are sharing the gospel so that people are made into life long disciples of Jesus and gathered into churches. I think Jonathan has forgotten that..