EMBRACE TOGETHER FOR CHRIST, COMPASSION, AND AFRICA
Compassion and the Lost ASSEMBLIES OF GOD WORLD MISSIONS – AFRICA REACHING
EMBRACE TOGETHER FOR CHRIST, COMPASSION, AND AFRICA
n the subject of social justice, Carl F. H. Henry, the late twentieth-century theologian, once affirmed that yes, “God is just.” “But,” he added, “if that is all you have to offer, then where in that is good news for sinful men?” In this issue of Embrace, we address the relationship between compassion and the lost, and in the spirit of Carl Henry, wish to call attention to the ever-present need to keep central the reality of lost humanity and its centrality to the mission of the Church. In this issue, we first hear from Mike McClaflin, the recently retired director of the Africa Region for Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM). With the insight gleaned from a lifetime of service in Africa missions, Mike reminds us that we do not “need to diminish our passion for the lost to engage the realities of compassion.” Then we take a few moments to hear from the new director (as of January 1, 2014) of the Africa Region, Greg Beggs. In a brief interview Greg lays out some of the framework for his view of how compassion and the lost must relate to one another as we seek to serve Christ in Africa alongside our national church partners. Next missionary and nurse practitioner Christine Little describes how Community Health Evangelism (CHE) is bringing physical health and spiritual wholeness to the people of Zambia. Finally, Jerry Ireland closes out this issue with a practical guide for compassionate workers, and a review of Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Journey Toward Justice. We hope that you find this issue to be informative and practical. We pray that you are inspired toward greater effectiveness in your work for the Lord. And, if you come across something you disagree with, or don’t like, please send us a note at info@ africaagcare.org. Or, if you have an idea for an article or submission, send us a short proposal along with a sample of your writing. Thank you for taking the time to explore this edition of Embrace.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR EDITOR ASSISTANT EDITOR EDITORIAL ASSISTANT DESIGN
Greg Beggs Jerry Ireland Paula Ireland Esther Jayne Josh Thomassen
REFERENCE BOARD Mitre Djakouti Lance Hines Steve Pennington Randy Tarr Laura Goodrich Joseph K. Wumbee AFRICA AG CARE Joseph K. Wumbee Jerry Ireland Paula Ireland Suzanne Hurst Bill Moore EMBRACE is published quarterly by Africa AG Care and Assemblies of God World MissionsAfrica and circulated free of charge to interested parties upon request.
Cover: A young boy in Pantang Village, outside Accra, Ghana. Photo by Jerry Ireland.
580 D W. Central St., Springfield, MO 65802 Phone: 417-851-5895 | Fax: 417-851-5899 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 EMBRACE SUMMER 2014
Finding Balance BY MIKE MCCLAFLIN
number of years ago I shared a cup of coffee with the director of a major relief and development agency while we were both in Nairobi. The subject that came up is one that is often discussed in these kinds of settings. I wonder, said my friend, whether I am primarily an evangelical doing relief and development work or a relief and development professional who happens to be an evangelical? Books, lectures, seminars, and countless other documents have been dedicated to bringing definition, balance, and parity to works of compassion and their place in Christian ministry. In my preamble to this edition of Embrace, I have chosen my words carefully and with conviction. This is because the sometimes sharp divide between the redemptive-focused evangelical and those whose arms reach and surround the hurt of mankind “in Christ’s name” is softening, and we are witnessing greater solidarity in recent times. I have often said, and continue to believe, that lostness is the greatest curse afflicting the peoples of this world. Therefore, in the light of eternity, if conflict should arise, the issues of the eternal, by their very nature, trump those of the temporal. All too often this position (or way of thinking) is unfortunately interpreted as an arbitrary reduction in the value of the gospel’s imperative to minister to those dealing with poverty, physical suffering, and injustice.
By rising to the challenge that faith without works is dead, we bring the totality of the meaning of the gospel into sharper focus. This focus, through necessity, will then drive us to the conclusion and resulting action that we cannot separate the redemptive process from the whole person (body, soul, spirit) whom God has placed in our path. Paul said it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, NIV). One does not need to diminish our passion for the lost to engage the realities of compassion. Scripture demands that a life lived in full service to Christ requires investment in these realities wherever they may be present within the human experience. As we continue to confront the complicated mess that man’s original sin inflicted on God’s creation, we do so hand in hand with our Redeemer and His guidance. I commend this issue of Embrace to your ever increasing knowledge of our Savior and his matchless Gospel. MIKE MCCLAFLIN recently retired as Regional Director for Assemblies of God World Missions, Africa. He now serves with Convoy of Hope.
SUMMER 2014 EMBRACE 3
AN INTERVIEW with Greg Beggs Earlier this year, we took some time to interview Greg Beggs, who recently became director of the Africa Region for AGWM. In what follows, Greg shares a few of his thoughts on how compassion and lostness relate to our work on the continent.
First, welcome to your new role as Africa Regional Director! What are your impressions after your first month or so in office? Looking at Africa’s needs in light of our resources is an extremely humbling thing. I am more keenly aware of our need as AGWM for God’s divine intervention in our mission.
How old were you when you first came to Africa? What are some of the most dramatic changes you’ve seen over the years in terms of both challenges and opportunities for the Church in Africa? I was three years old when we arrived in Tanzania. Technology and the world becoming more monocultural are two huge changes. Travel and information have created both challenges and opportunities for the Gospel. The African church has access to a multiplicity of philosophical and theological opinions, some of which are good and some of which are bad.
4 EMBRACE SUMMER 2014
What do you see as the most pressing needs in Africa presently, and how do those needs relate to our mission? Do you anticipate any changes or shifts in these needs in the coming years? I see three macro trends as pressing needs in Africa. The urbanization of Africa is a phenomenon that must be addressed. Under-engaged demographics, such as the children of Africa must be tackled. Unreached People Groups along with the Islamization of Africa continue to be a reality that must not be ignored.
How can we do a better job of integrating compassion with reaching the lost? A holistic, grassroots, local church approach to compassion is key to sustainability. It also, in a natural way, integrates “touching and reaching” in a seamless way.
What experiences did you have growing up in Africa that fundamentally shaped your perceptions of this continent, both as a child and later as an adult? Growing up, it was my honor to know Africans as friends. I knew Africa as a friend before I knew her as a colleague in ministry. Perhaps it has given me a bit of a different perspective on life and ministry on the African continent. As missionaries it is vital to see Africans as not only colleagues in our task, but as true friends. African people are not a means to a ministry end, they are brothers and sisters.
What would your advice be to newly appointed missionaries in Africa who want to work in compassion? Be a learner before you are a doer. Learn a heart language of a people group. Learn to work with a national church at local church level. Take the time to earn the right to be heard. Learn that Africa has its own capacity and way of dealing with need. Do not be in a hurry.
Many churchgoers in America have been deeply moved by the needs in Africa and want to do something to help. What advice would you give to those churches, so they might maximize their efforts and impact the Kingdom long term? Churches in the USA need to work with missionaries on the ground who know how to engage national churches in projects that are needed, strategic and sustainable. These projects will end up being far more holistic in the long run.
Any final thought you want to leave our readers with? It is our duty and honor as AGWM missionaries to engage in compassion ministries. People, because they are created in the image of God, deserve any compassion we can give. At the same time we want to do so in ways that are sustainable and that point people to Jesus.
Greg and Danna Beggs
Community Health Evangelism: Reaching the Lost with the Love and Compassion of Christ BY CHRISTINE LITTLE
eated under a mango tree, our visitors from the USA listened intently as the local Community Health Evangelism (CHE) coordinator enthusiastically described how their CHE team had been ministering in their community of Nkoloma. As I scanned the faces of our Zambian friends gathered in the circle, I could not help but smile. God was accomplishing great things through them as CHE volunteers. Vulnerable children were attending school, orphaned babies were receiving goat’s milk, HIV clients were getting much needed care, the malnourished were receiving supplements from the CHE garden, and many were being introduced to Christ. Having experienced the impact of CHE ministries in their own lives, two
present in our circle were now lead pastors in their communities. Moseni was one of these pastors. Before the Community Health Evangelism program came into his area, Moseni was living without Christ and struggling with an alcohol addiction. He had heard of a community development program coming into his area and took interest. Little did he know of the impact this program would make in his life. He joined the CHE trainings, but after each meeting, he would proceed to the local tavern to finish off the day. However, as the weeks passed, Moseni learned more about Jesus Christ. Being a Jehovah’s Witness, he had thought of Jesus merely as a prophet, but through the CHE
6 EMBRACE SUMMER 2014
trainings, he began to know Him as the Son of God. The CHE trainers taught of the salvation gift Jesus had for all who would receive. Moseni realized how much he needed Christ in his own life. Before the completion of his CHE training, Moseni received Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and thereafter overcame his addiction to alcohol. He began ministering through home visits in his community as a CHE volunteer. Soon he discovered that God had much more for him to do. Over the years, there has been discussion regarding the placement of compassion ministries in relation to evangelism and missions. For some, compassion ministries and evangelism have been viewed as two separate entities. Their concern is that including compassion ministries in mission strategies might divert the church from the call of evangelism. Yes, the church has been given the call to go and make disciples of all nations through the Great Commission of Christ (Matt. 28:19-20). However, as we answer this call, we carry with us the Great Commandments to first love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39). The Great Commandments are the motivating factors moving the church forward to accomplish the Great Commission. Jesus further expounds on what it means to love our neighbors in the parable of the Samaritan reaching out to a stranger in need (Luke 10). This parable reveals love through acts of compassion. It is evident that compassion ministries and evangelism do indeed go hand-in-hand. Throughout the Gospels, our Lord Jesus ministered not only in words of truth, but also in action. He saw the needs of those around him and responded. Whether in teachings, in feeding the 5,000, in healing the sick, or in performing other miracles, Jesus’ approach was wholistic. He identified not only the spiritual needs, but also the physical and social needs of those He encountered. Through his acts of compassion, Jesus further revealed who He
was and his love for people. The Scriptures challenge us, as his ambassadors, to reflect and share Christ with those around us. What better way to do this than to reveal Jesus through the truth of the Gospel and acts of compassion just as He did. One outreach that follows Jesus’ example is CHE. Birthed out of Medical Ambassadors International, CHE has been implemented across the globe as a model of evangelism through compassion outreach. The goal of CHE is “to establish a development ministry whose purpose is to bring together Jesus’ Great Commission and the Great Commandment” (MAI, 2013). This is accomplished by training community members as evangelists (CHEs) who regularly visit neighboring households, sharing the gospel and promoting principles of disease prevention and healthy living (MAI, 2013). CHEs undergo an initial 150 hours of training in disease prevention, health promotion, evangelism and discipleship. As needs are identified by the local CHE committee, the CHEs are further trained in community projects utilizing local resources. By incorporating core values of self-governance, sustainability, appropriate technology and volunteering, CHE deters the issue of dependency and encourages members to tap into their God given gifts, talents and resources to make a difference. Through CHE, individuals from local churches and communities are equipped and mobilized to reach out to their neighbors by modeling the walk of our Lord Jesus and by meeting community needs in the same wholistic manner. Through the CHE program in Zambia, we are seeing churches and communities moving beyond their walls and boarders to reach out to their neighbors with the love of Christ. Individuals who would not typically step out in ministry are being mobilized. Because CHE programs utilize picture booklets and memorization of Scriptures, both the literate and illiterate are able to participate. Regardless of age, gender, social status or education level, many step forward with a desire to be used by God. Approaching their work as a ministry and not just a volunteer program, the CHEs are overcoming obstacles to impact their communities for Christ. As the result of their dedication and sacrifice, we are seeing God do great things through CHE in Zambia. Communities are being cleaned up through latrine and garbage pit programs. Local clinics are reporting decreased incidences of preventable diseases such as diarrhea in these areas. Children who would not be able to go to school due to lack of school fees are in school
as a result of micro-enterprising programs developed by CHE workers. Malnourished children are growing strong due to food supplements provided through their local CHE programs. HIV clients are receiving love and support in the midst of stigma. As a result of these acts of love and regular home visits by the CHEs, many have come to know Christ. This
has led to church growth in these communities. CHE has also given way for church planting. In Choma, two churches have been established as a result of the CHE program in that area. The testimonies go on and on in regards to what God is doing in Zambia through CHE programs. As for Moseni, he received the call to full time ministry through his work with the CHE program. He attended a local Bible school and became an assistant pastor of a local church. Today, Monseni is a lead pastor of a newly planted Pentecostal church in his community. He continues to work with CHE as a committee member and community leader with a desire to reach the lost through compassion ministries. He has personally experienced what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ and how a CHE program enables the church to mirror our Lord’s walk.
Medical Ambassadors International. (November 2013). Community Health Evangelism Overview. Medical Ambassadors International. Retrieved from http://www.medicalambassadors.org/pdf/CHE%20 Overview.pdf
CHRISTINE LITTLE is a career missionary serving in Zambia. She is nurse practitioner and works with Community Health Evangelism.
If you would like more information regarding Community Health Evangelism, please contact the AG Healthcare ministries office or visit the National Global CHE website.
SUMMER 2014 EMBRACE 7
Compassion and the Lost : A Practical Guide for the 21st Century
BY JERRY IRELAND
iblical compassion always centers around the reality of sin and the plight of the lost. In the Christian worldview, human suffering is the direct product of sin, and injustice the manifestation of sin in the social arena. To be a Christian, then, is to be burdened by not only the effects of sin, but to be moved to lead those under its spell to the healing and wholeness that comes from following Christ. Yet, sometimes, in the evangelism vs. social concern divide, the centrality of the lost can become obscured. Often this happens because, as this debate drags on, we sometimes become more concerned about defending our position than about faithfulness to Scripture. The debate itself can tend to polarize us around a particular position and cause us to develop a one-sided emphasis on one aspect or the other. In this article, I wish to articulate a few steps
that those engaged in compassionate ministry can take to avoid this kind of dichotomizing. By making the lost a chief and explicit concern of who we are and what we do, compassionate workers can do much to restore the unity of the body of Christ and further the work of the Kingdom. 1. Promote giving to evangelistic, church planting, and Bible school ministries. There is, sadly, in our modern era an imbalance regarding where the church directs her resources. Specifically, in recent years, only about 10-30% of missionariesâ€™ directly engage in evangelism and church planting. Also, at least 85% of missions finances go to places where the church already exists.1 Statistics also suggest that in recent years, giving to relief and development type work is on the rise, while
giving to evangelism and discipleship is declining among U.S. missions sending agencies.2 When we consider these facts, its no wonder that there is tension between the workers in these respective areas. In light of this, should we then simply pursue our own calling without concern for this lopsided reality? Do we not have a responsibility to speak to this imbalance? As missionaries who emphasize compassion, we must be compassionate towards our fellow missionaries who labor in evangelism and church planting and realize that we are partners in that task. I believe there are several practical things that compassionate ministry workers can do to help alleviate the one-sided distribution of resources. First, when we meet with pastors or speak in churches, we can make appeals for greater involvement in evangelistic work. This
in fact, would seem to be a natural stance for those who advocate “holism,” given that the word itself implies both sides of the equation. But, how holistic are we really, if we never get around to mentioning the pressing needs for evangelism and church planting? By being a vociferous advocate for evangelism, many of the fears and suspicions that exist between compassion and evangelism workers will likely dissipate. The most logical way to go about this would be to show how evangelism and discipleship impact compassionate ministries, and vice versa. If they do not, or if we have a hard time connecting the dots, then this might indicate the need for reevaluation. But many times, we can easily describe the work of the church in terms of a wheel, with many interconnected and intersecting spokes, that together form SUMMER 2014 EMBRACE 9
a formidable and unified whole. We can often show how, if one spoke is out of place, then the whole structure becomes unstable. Second, we can help correct this imbalance by personally supporting work among unreached people groups (UPG’s). We can hardly, with a straight face anyway, encourage others to give to evangelistic work if we ourselves do not. This means, perhaps, that we must become better stewards of our own resources so that we can have more to give. Often, the debate over evangelism and compassion centers on the perception of limited resources: if forced to choose, the argument goes, should we not direct our limited resources primarily toward evangelism? But how true is this limited resource claim, really? Some evidence suggests that for folks in the West, it’s not the amount of resources we have available that is problematic, but rather the way in which we use those resources. For instance, the average Christian (and surely this includes some missionaries!) gives only about one penny per day to missions. Yet, Christians spend about $8 billion annually on conferences. Furthermore, Christians constitute about 33% of the world’s population, but receive 53% of the world’s annual income. Of that income, Christians spend 98% of it on themselves.3 In other words, our issue seems to be less one of resources than of stewardship, and without a doubt those of us working in compassion are among those who can redirect some of our personal and ministry finances toward evangelism. I would add here that ministry finances might be legitimately redirected if we can connect the dots, as it were, for our supporters between compassion and evangelism. For example, if we have a children’s ministry in a particular country, and there are missionaries working in that country that focus on UPG’s, then it would be perfectly within reason to share some of our ministry resources with those missionaries, on the grounds that those unreached peoples have children who need to know the love of Christ. In this way, even if our sending churches don’t recognize and attempt to correct the shortfall for evangelistic work, then those on the ground can do so in perfectly legitimate ways that are completely ethical and in line with our purposes and goals. 2. Engage in faithful exposition of Scripture. One of the primary sources of skepticism between the prioritism and holism camps flows from an occasional dubious use of Scripture,
10 EMBRACE SUMMER 2014
by both sides. There are several errors I have noticed that seem to be fairly common. First, I have sometimes seen this issue discussed as though it were a contest to see who can stack up the most passages in favor of a particular position. Yet, in reality, if something is taught even once in Scripture, then it is just as true as if it is taught a hundred times. True, some things constitute a more dominant theme, such as the Kingdom of God, and thereby govern our interpretation of other parts of Scripture. But, doctrines themselves are not more or less true depending on the number of passages that teach them. This in fact is what Evangelicals mean when we speak of the verbal, plenary, inspiration of Scripture. The Bible, in all of its individual words and parts, and in its totality, is inspired of God so that every part of it and all of it is fully and equally God’s Word. Therefore, what Scripture says, whether it does so once or a
dozen times, is what God says. Furthermore, the evangelical doctrine of Scripture emphasizes that we believe as everything that Scripture affirms. Second, too often both sides of this debate are guilty of proof-texting in order to prove a point. Proof-texting is the process whereby one finds a text that appears to support an argument, and then, without any consideration of the surrounding historical or literary context, employs that text in the service of a particular agenda. Such an approach does nothing but strengthen the arguments of the other, making our own basis seem rather flimsy, since prooftexting arguments rarely stand up to scrutiny. That said, there are a few things we can do to avoid this. To begin with, we should turn to reliable commentaries in order to understand a passage within its context. Just because a passage in an English translation of the Bible
mentions “compassion” or the “poor,” this does not mean that we can readily assume that these terms mean what we think they mean. Furthermore, we should remember that we have a canon of Scripture, and that the NT can only be properly understood in light of the OT. Good commentaries will guide in understanding the textual, historical, and literary issues behind the text. Some good evangelical commentaries that are generally very reliable are those published by Baker Books and its scholarly division, Baker Academic, Broadman and Holman, Gospel Publishing House, Eerdmans, InterVarsity Press, Moody Press, Thomas Nelson, and Zondervan, are among the best. Stick with these and you will usually find solidly evangelical perspectives on the verses in question. Yet, even here a word of caution is in order. Given the breadth of Evangelicalism, it is a good idea to know something of the theological perspective of the author. Are they a Calvinist or Arminian, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox? Do they advocate liberation theology, process theology, or something else? Knowing these things (and often a quick Google search will do the job) will help us know what presuppositions and assumptions an author brings to the table. And, until we know these things, we should be extremely cautious about adopting the arguments of a particular author. Of course, none of this is to suggest that we should neglect the role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation. God, by the Holy Spirit, illumines the text for us and enables us to explore the depths of His Word far beyond our own natural ability. But, we should also approach Scripture with a certain degree of humility. When we turn to commentaries, we are simply submitting our interpretation to the broader community, aware that sometimes there are issues at work in or behind the text that we could not possibly be aware of without some in-depth study. 3. Pray about going! Finally, compassionate workers should seriously and prayerful consider that our compassionate inclinations may make us ideal candidates to work among the unreached. That is, just because we have a heart for development-type work, we should not assume that this means we are called to work in alreadyevangelized areas where the needs are mostly humanitarian in nature. In fact, in most restricted access countries, compassion-related work constitutes one of the few legitimate ways open to us for serving the people of those nations. And indeed, compassion and loving action SUMMER 2014 EMBRACE 11
have proven one of the most effective tools in evangelizing among UPG’s. Andrew White, who pastors a church in Baghdad, makes the following observation about how he reaches his Muslim neighbors: Any evangelism is love. If we show real love, they will be drawn to Jesus. I have 500 Muslims in my church. I have never “evangelized” them. I never go knocking on their doors. But what we have done is show them real love and kindness in our church’s ministries of compassion—food distribution and the like. They see that we as Christians care about them, and they want to come and worship as we do.4
present a unified front, but we also find greater effectiveness in each endeavor. By doing these things we can become truly holistic in our efforts to minister to physical and spiritual needs as we seek to bring others to Christ. This is the model that Jesus gave us, and it is the paradigm that was at work throughout most of church history. We should, therefore, settle for nothing less.
See “About Missions,” www.aboutmissions.org/ statistics.html.
Linda J. Weber, ed., Mission Handbook, 21st Century ed. (Wheaton,
IL: EMIS, 2010). Ibid.
“Loving Muslims One at a Time,” Christianity Today (http://www.
Conclusion Because the debate over compassion and evangelism has been a rather protracted one, and has been at times extremely divisive, I fear that we have become entrenched in our own individual defensive postures, and forgotten to a degree, how closely our views align with one another. But this reality need not exist. It is helpful I think to remember that divisions within the body of Christ further neither evangelistic nor compassionate efforts. By championing the cause of evangelism and doing all we can to support related ministries, we not only
12 EMBRACE SUMMER 2014
christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/september/iraq-church-muslims. html?paging=off). The citation of this quote is not meant as a blanket endorsement of food distribution programs, but simply to say that compassion often is fundamental to ministry among Muslims.
JERRY IRELAND is the Director of Africa AG Care and is currently completing his PhD in Theology and Apologetics.
THE SHEEP AND GOATS: LOCATING THE “LEAST OF THESE” BY JERRY IRELAND
onsulting commentaries requires that we do more than turn to our favorite book advocating whatever perspective we’re presenting. For example, while I find much worth retaining in the works of Ron Sider (e.g., Good News and Good Works), I have found him at times to present certain passages as more conclusive for his perspective than they are. For example, regarding Matthew 25:31ff and the story of the sheep and the goats, Sider says that here Jesus “warned his followers in the strongest possible words that those who do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit prisoners will experience eternal damnation.”1 Thus, Sider leaves one with the impression that this passage applies to the poor in general and to anyone in need. Yet, a survey of four contemporary scholars reveals that four out of four argue that in this context Jesus’ reference to “the least of these brothers of mine” refers to his disciples, and not to the poor in general. As Craig Blomberg points out, every other use of “brothers” in Matthew refers strictly to Jesus’ disciples.2 It would be odd if this particular reference, for no apparent reason, deviated from this pattern. So, obviously Sider is wrong, correct? Well, not exactly. For example, Robert Mounce points out that scholars are highly divided on the interpretation of this passage (I seem to have gotten lucky in my draw of four from the same perspective), and so presumably one could find reasonable exegetes who uphold Sider’s position. Plus, Leon Morris says the emphasis on the “the least of these brothers of mine” as referring to Jesus’ disciples “does not
give the followers of Jesus license to do good deeds to fellow Christians but [not] outsiders. Everyone in need is to be the object of Christian benevolence.”3 Similarly, Craig Keener, too, observes that the Bible (though perhaps not this particular passage), teaches that God judges those who neglect the poor in general. So what might be a more responsible way to refer to this passage in the context of the Church’s compassionate mandate than to simply say, as Sider does, that Jesus is here advocating a general concern for the poor? Perhaps John Wesley offers the best solution. Wesley proposes the Matthew 25 text is a specific application (to Jesus disciples) of a more general principle taken from Prov. 19:17—“the person who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.” By taking Wesley’s perspective, we can affirm the texts most likely primary meaning, and yet still find in it (without reading into it) support for serving the poor in general. Plus, as Craig Blomberg observes regarding this passage, “None of this is to suggest that believers should not likewise minister to the acute physical needs of the spiritually “other”; instead, one can support that principle better by turning to different passages, most notably the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25 – 37).”4
Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, Fifth Ed., 47.
Craig Blomberg, Christians in an Age of Wealth: A Biblical
Theology of Stewardship, Chapter 4, under “Jesus and the Gospels,” (Zondervan, Kindle ed., n.y.). Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1992), Accordance electronic ed., n.p Blomberg, Chapter 4, under “Jesus and the Gospels.”
SUMMER 2014 EMBRACE 13
Book Review Journey Toward Justice: Personal Encounters in the Global South, by Nicholas Wolterstorff. Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2013; Reviewed by Jerry Ireland. Nicholas Wolterstorff (hereafter NW), currently the Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology at Yale University, and known for among other things, his magisterial defense of divine speech (see his Divine Discourse), here takes on the topic of justice within a Christian framework. However, he does so not only as a Christian philosopher in the Calvinist tradition, but also as one who has been deeply moved by the issues of justice around the world. That is, the book is threaded throughout by a genuinely engaging autobiographical narrative of one man’s journey toward justice, with a goal toward inspiring others to pursue similar journeys as part of their Christian calling. In this text, NW looks at this issue in six parts: Awakenings— which describes his own coming to terms with justice issues and the God-given mandate to respond, Justice and Rights—which constitute the most philosophical portion as NW examines what is meant when people talk about those topics both in the context of theism and otherwise, Justice in Scripture—a brief but potent survey of scripture on the issue, Righting Injustice—looks at ways one actually engages these issues from a practical perspective, Just Punishment— addresses how the Bible is often misunderstood in regards to the believers call to actively respond to injustice, and finally, Beauty, Hope and Justice—which looks at the interconnection within a Christian worldview of these three things. The real strength of this work lies in its ability to be both intellectually stimulating and at the same time empathetic to real-world injustices. For example, in Part One, Awakening, NW takes a refreshingly readable and engaging autobiographical approach that details some of his own history of becoming “awakened” to the reality of social injustice around the world, especially in South Africa during apartheid, and in the middle east in relation to the Palestinian issue. He later also reflects on his experiences in Honduras, which also were instrumental in shaping his views. Especially relevant is that out of these experiences, NW looks at justice issues not from the perspective more
14 EMBRACE SUMMER 2014
common to philosophers, namely the ideal society, but in relation to actual societies, and in relation to real people. This to me, brings a much needed dimension that is often lost in discussions of this topic; namely, that justice always is a discussion about the real suffering of real people. His point here is that coming face-to-face with the wronged proved the crucial component that moved him to action. On theological issues, NW handles the biblical text well, though at times referring the reader to other articles or books wherein he addresses the topic more thoroughly. This is sure to frustrate some who will want to dispute with NW over some of his points. But especially helpful are several areas of Biblical faith that have often been misinterpreted or misapplied in arguing against Christian involvement in justice issues. For example, he is absolutely correct when he avers, “justice runs like a scarlet thread throughout the New Testament” (Ch. 14). He is equally on target when he points out that in our “English Translations of the New Testament,” (Ch. 15), we Western Christians have often taken on an only partially true definition of “righteousness” in the NT. This last point in fact goes directly to the goal of this new series edited by Joel Carpenter entitled Turning South, of which this book is the first installment. The very goal of this series makes it especially relevant to an African audience, namely in that it seeks to encourage scholarly engagement in the Northern Hemisphere with issues emerging from the global South, the now widely acknowledged epicenter of Christianity. Wolterstorff helps the reader think through these issues in an intellectually rigorous manner, and provides a solid theological defense of his approach in a highly readable narrative style. This text would make a great resource for any graduate or postgraduate program that addresses these or any related issues, and I heartily recommend it. The editorial staff would like to express our gratitude to Baker Academic and Trinity McFadden for providing a review copy of this text.
EMBRACE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD WORLD MISSIONS – AFRICA 580 D W. CENTRAL ST. | SPRINGFIELD, MO 65802
A publication of Africa AG Care dedicated to Christ, Compassion, and the people of Africa. To begin your FREE subscription:
EMBRACE 580 D W. Central St. Springfield, MO 65802
This edition, looks at Compassion and the Lost and includes an article on Community Health Evangelism and an interview with Africa Regional...