HOLISM
or
PRIORITISM
The Good News for Who?
Drawn From:
Paradigms in Conflict by David Hesslegrave, 2005
Christian Mission in the Modern World by John Stott, 1975
QUESTIONS?
• Are the poor a particular object of our Mission?
– In what sense are we to “reach the poor”?
– Who are the “poor” anyway?
– Does salvation incorporate deliverance from
oppression & poverty?
QUESTIONS?
• What is the relationship between preaching the
gospel and reaching out to the poor?
– Between offering the water of life, and giving a cup
of cool water?
– Between saving the soul and saving the body?
Poor as a “god-term”
• Assumed meaning
– So important it governs assumptions & feelings
• What does it mean to be “poor”?
• What is the proper Christian response?
–
–
–
–
Resolving the causations…
Alleviating injustice / suffering…
Determining West’s liability – to or for the poor…
Intervening: social development or evangelization…
Emerging Emphasis on “Poor”
• Modern missions always ministered soul & body
• Ecumenical missions shifted focus / priorities
• Evangelicals readjusted focus in 1970’s
Three Positions Regarding the Poor
1.
Radical Liberationism
•
•
2.
Marxist informed
Salvation = deliverance from injustice & cultural
transformation
Holism
•
Dynamic partnership of socio-political action and gospel
proclamation
•
•
3.
Revisionist: evangelism and social action as equal partners
Restrained: evangelism takes priority over social action
Prioritism
•
Maintains sharp distinction between primary (spiritual) and
secondary (social) missions
VISUALIZATION “A”
SPIRIT
body
health
body
mind
mind
SPIRIT
educ
soc.
wealth
VISUALIZATION “B”
Spiritual transformation – Social transformation
Spirit/Soul — Mind/Body
Evangelism – Social Action
VISUALIZATION “C”
Liberation
Holism
Prioritism
Theology
Theology
Theology
Radical
Revisionist
Restrained
Traditional
The mission is
to promote
justice in
society and
establish
Shalom on the
earth.
The mission is
to minister to
society and
individuals
without
dichotomizing
between the
physical and
spiritual or the
body and the
soul/spirit.
The mission is
to minister to
society and
individuals
socially and
spiritually while
giving certain
priority to
evangelism.
The mission is
primarily to
make disciples
of all nations.
Other Christian
ministries are
good but
secondary and
supportive.
Alleged Inadequacies of Holism
• Holistic “cradle” built of one fiber:
– No Priorities!
• Bough #1 -- Argument from reason
– Christianity begins with absolute dichotomy between
the Creator and his creation”
• Bough #2 -- Argument from revelation
– Misinterpretation of biblical motifs, obscuring biblical
priorities regarding the mission of the Church
Biblical Arguments
(Hesselgrave)
• Premise:
– If we can prove “the poor” does not mean those in
material need, we can legitimize a clear priority on
spiritual over material ministries.
• The Poor in the O.T.
– Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy (Isa. 61:1-2)
• Employs Hebrew term anao in “figurative” sense.
• The Poor in the N.T.
– Luke’s record of Messianic fulfillment (Lk. 4:18)
• Employs Greek term ptochos in “metaphorical” sense
Biblical Arguments
(Hesselgrave)
• Some Conclusions
– A limited concept of “salvation”?
• Platonic or Hebraic hermeneutic?
– If salvation is the spirit alone, poor necessarily are
poor in spirit alone.
• Christ’s ministry not that dichotomized
• John’s teaching in I John 3:17-19
• Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 25:31-46
A Holistic Theology of Salvation
• Bible is Heilsgeschichte – salvation history
– God’s continuing intervention into affairs of lost &
suffering humanity to save
• O.T. multiple deliverances
• N.T. ministry of Jesus (Yeshua = God is salvation)
– Our “mission” is to join Christ in his rescue mission
• What all is mission depends largely on how broadly we
interpret salvation
A Holistic Theology of Salvation
What Salvation is NOT
• NOT principally psycho-physical health
– Post WWII equation of salvation with wholeness/health
– Salvation is used in NT to denote physical deliverance (sozo)
– Central meaning of salvation in Christ is moral, not material
– To overly blend the two realms generates missional confusion
– To overly distinguish the two is to Westernize NT intention
A Holistic Theology of Salvation
What Salvation is NOT
• NOT principally political-social liberation
– Ecumenical trend in 1970’s toward a theology of liberation
– Goal of mission: Establishment of new humanity, or shalom,
or K.G.
• Promoted by Gustavo Gutierrez (A Theology of
Liberation, 1973)
– Noble / proper missional pursuits – but not the essence of
biblical salvation
• Problem: Evangelism is replaced by social/political action
A Holistic Theology of Salvation
What Salvation is NOT
• NOT principally about our bodies or societies
– But neither does it disregard them
– God is greatly concerned for our bodies and our societies
– One day, both body and society will be redeemed
– Godly love compels us to labor meanwhile in both spheres
• Lausanne Covenant (par. 5)
A Holistic Theology of Salvation
What Salvation IS
• Freedom (liberation): past, present and future
– Past:
• Freedom from judgment for sonship
– Present:
• Freedom from self for service
– Future:
• Freedom from decay for glory
Four Proclaimed
“Confident” Conclusions
• The Christian gospel is both true and good news
• The Good News is first and foremost spiritual salvation
of sinners
• Christian missionary is primarily about proclaiming
gospel to the most spiritually poor/lost
• Missionaries do best when they prioritize ministry to
the most spiritually receptive
The Wesleyan Tradition
in Missions
• Historically
– Began in very holistic spirit of John Wesley
– Reacted to social gospel / ecumenical liberalism
– Recent resurgence of holistic approach
• Current Vision Statement (WGM)
– World Gospel Mission will minister through preaching, teaching and
healing ministries. World Gospel Mission will assist in forming culturally
relevant congregations comprised of maturing disciples of Jesus Christ
who will evangelize and reproduce themselves within their own cultures
and across cultural boundaries and call believers to the deeper work of
God in the human heart of being cleansed from all sin and filled with the
Holy Spirit by faith.