Monday, March 3, 2008

Wholism and Prioritism: Rather Gnosticism, Materialism, and Wholism

"Perhaps we all awaited a resurrection." Housekeeping

The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the bones.
Pr. 15:30 ESV

“A twinkle in the eye means joy in the heart,
and good news makes you feel fit as a fiddle”. MSG

Where does the body end and the spirit begin? This is not a new discussion. There are many many ways of looking at this. Does the ministry of preaching (word) have a greater seat in the Kingdom than feeding and clothing (deeds)? Are practical works a means to an end? Or are they an end in themselves? I think some more fundamental questions must be asked to answer these questions about wholism and prioritism.

These are not merely questions about practice but about the Gospel that we preach. Peter Leithart’s Against Christianity's, whole thesis is this point, the Christian Gospel is not a set of truths, propositions, or statements that people affirm, that would be Christianity. The Gospel is, as N.T. Wright says, “Jesus is Lord, and one day every knee shall bow..." Therefore Leithart can say that the Gospel is economics, art, and anything else. Not merely something that you can extract principles about economics from. The Gospel is a redemptive and healing work to all things.

When someone says that the preaching of the Gospel is prioritized over ministry of deeds, what they are saying is that the Gospel is a set of truths orally communicated that people must know, we feed people so that they might be alive long enough to pray the sinners prayer and await the rapture.  I am personally confused that the same people who fight for a literal and historical account of the Bible seem to see only the spiritual world ahead of us.

(Enter Leithart stage left)

If Leithart is correct, then we need a new vocabulary. Christianity, and it’s red headed step child prioritism, are more correctly known as Gnosticism. The Gospel is wholistic; everything on this earth will be made new by the resurrection of Christ. What then are we preaching? Did Christ appear as a spirit? Was his body or his spirit crucified? We do not want to run to the other extreme of materialism. Rather the whole Gospel must be preached to the whole person.

To return to the objection at the beginning, what is at stake is not where does money go? To the pastor or to the shovels to dig the well? The questions are:

How do we see God working?
What kind of Kingdom is coming?
What kind of Kingdom are we proclaiming?
What kind of King do we serve?

1 comment:

.Colin. said...

This is an interesting straw-man argument.
I mean, really? Are we comparing prioritism with gnosticism? maybe a bit much. But I see what you're trying to say. This is a very interesting conversation, and I'm still trying to hash out exactly what I believe on the issue. I know my innards say I'm a prioritist, but thats where all heresy starts...ha.

i wouldn't say that the prioritism necessarily always implies that "spiritual needs" have a higher seat in ministry, but rather a different type of role/capacity. Just a thought. thanks for writing this and continuing on both of our thought processes.