Transformation: Repenting of Evangelical Gnosticism
Imago Dei is the Latin phrase meaning ‘Made in the image of God”. This phrase is at the core of the Multi-Cultural ministry.
Yesterday I was on a Zoom call with two Asian pastors. They have members of their church working at a processing plant that was impacted by Covid-19. Many internationals arrive in the States in pursuit of the American Dream. Yet, many of these same Foreign-born families feel trapped in poverty and broken relationships.
Click on The Gospel Coalition review of Brian Fikkert & Kelly Kapic’s excellent book Becoming Whole to equip our churches in Multi-Cultural ministry. As you know, our family learned community from the poor in the townships of South Africa. Our children studied at Covenant College under these two authors and we are so thankful for Brian Fikkert and Kelly Kapic writing this follow up to When Helping Hurts.
How does the Gospel Transform people and Cultures? Fikkert & Kapic call us to answer two essential questions at the root of transformation:
- Why did Jesus Come to Earth? 2. What is the Gospel?
Fikkert’s wheel diagram describes our Whole being of our internal relationships of mind, emotions, will, and body and our external relationships of God, others, self, creation. He defines Poverty not as a lack of material resources, but as Broken Relationships. Therefore, our economic, political, religious, and social systems are broken by the Fall of Man into Sin. Sin is the reason Jesus came to Earth. The Gospel is the great exchange of Jesus’ righteousness for our sin.
Fikkert defines two broken narratives in our American culture that warp our Imago Dei. The first is Western Naturalism that says God is irrelevant to life, and that our world is only about material consumption. The Second is a Western Christian mix of this materialistic narrative of the American Dream with a Biblical worldview to produce what poverty expert Darrow Miller calls “Evangelical Gnosticism”. Gnosticism is a heresy that dates to the 1st century that separated the Spiritual as Good, and the Material as Bad. Christians may worship Jesus on Sunday, but we worship at the idol of the American dream Monday through Saturday. Fikkert summarizes the 2 characteristics of Evangelical Gnosticism:
- Primary goal of life is to get the soul to heaven for eternity
- Secondary goal is to pursue the American dream, making the body happy in this life through material consumption.
Often, we are blinded to our own cultural baggage and the effects our culture influences our views. In South Africa, we observed many American programs that would hurt more than help because of this Evangelical Gnostic narrative. The narrative is that poor people should pursue the American dream in this life and trust Jesus He will take our souls to heaven when we die. This narrative does not lead to Human flourishing to be Whole, but materialistic idolatry that makes us more unhappy and broken in our relationships.
Fikkert calls us to repent of this Evangelical Gnosticism and examine our disciple-making narrative. Research has shown that millennials are more individualistic, materialistic, and narcissistic than any generation in American History. Sociologist Christian Smith explains that a vast majority of America’s youth have replaced historic Gospel transformation with “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”. They view God as irrelevant to everyday life, but available as their ‘Divine Butler” when needed. This is the fruit of Evangelical Gnosticism.
In contrast, we can cross the street and learn community from our neighboring Christians living among us in America from the Majority world of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Let me close with two very encouraging stories of Transformation:
- Truth Centered Transformation (TCT) is a church-based ministry that equips the poor to live out the narrative and practices of God’s Kingdom without outside funding or Western dependence on programs. Please watch this outstanding video of a church in Southeast Asia Transforming a community through a bridge.
- Center for Faith & Work Cohort is a church-based ministry that equips All People to reject the narrative of Evangelical Gnosticism Monday through Saturday. The Cohort capstone project will mobilize churches and business leaders to reach out to All People in their community to empower families to Become Whole
Please know we are praying for each of our Churches in the Central District to follow Jesus to Disciple the Nations across the street and around the world to Become Whole.