It's amazing how God has given me a desire to get interested in a certain subject or read a certain book or have a certain experience, and then I see how they are related although they seem to be very different. I'm now reading two different books that I just happened to find out about. I had no idea they would be similar - presenting the social gospel. However, they seem to come from two different "Christian" perspectives.
The first one is entitled Street Faith by Barabara J. Elliott and the second one is Brian McLaren's new book, Everything Must Change.
For the next few posts I will be reviewing, comparing and discussing these two books. You can see their covers on my Shelfari shefl at the immediate left.
First a general overview of both books. Street Saints is the most comprehensive book I've seen that shows us specific faith-based programs in our towns and cities and how they operate. The general theme of this book is that Christians and churches are getting involved in ministries to the disenfranchised. Another theme in this book that I think is very important is these programs do not neglect the gospel. In one of the last chapters, Elliott brings forth a very strong statemnt of what the gospel is. She actually utters the words, "substitutionary atonement." Oh my gosh!! Some one who champions the social gospel has the guts to actually say those words., Today, that is truly miraculous. I've written quite a few posts here asking why it has become so difficult, since after the Civil War, for evangelicals to do the social gospel without ditching their statements of faith. I think this book is at least getting to the answer.
And then we have Brian McLaren's book. As usual, McLaren presents the social gospel but not what I would call The Gospel. It is the gospel according to many in the emergent movement, which I've said before much of which equates to liberal Protestantism. Some bloggers who've reviewed this book says he presents Marxist liberation theology. Frankly, I didn't see that and I think that might be a bit unfair. But it is basically the stuff I heard growing up in my liberal Protestant church.
If we all would just do the right thing, everything would change for the better because people are basically good and will do the right thing. That was the theme of this book - at least to me. I found it the book to be interesting and as usual McLaren does a credible job of identifying problems. It's the answers that bothers me.
Everything Must Change deals with what McLaren calls three interlocking systems. And if these systems don’t interlock correctly, the balance of nature and society is thrown off. The three systems are:
1. Prosperity Dysfunction-seen in the environment disaster
2. Equity Dysfunction-seen in the huge disparity between the CEO class and the underclass
3. Security Dysfunction-Seen as violence to be the way to keep the status quo
In future reviews of this book we shall see how McLaren develops these three themes. And in future reviews of Street Faith we shall find out how churches and individuals start faith-based ministries, how they are funded, how they operate, who is involved and the outcomes.
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