What Does It Mean to Be a Developing Christian in Today's World?

What Does It Mean to Be a Developing Christian in Today's World?

Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 39
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5452-4.ch008


All the preceding chapters have built up to this final and perhaps most important chapter. As the title of this chapter suggests, the goal is to present a clear answer to the question, “What does it mean to be a developing Christian in today's world?” Although there are many pressing problems in today's world that a developing Christian is obliged to confront, five key categories of problems are discussed: (1) poverty and income equality, (2) the immigrant and refugee crisis, (3) the many faces of violence, (4) the many faces of bigotry, and (5) the problems caused by power and oppression. In each case, consideration is given to explaining why developing Christians should consider the problem to be intolerable, why the problem exists, and potential solutions to them. To make the arguments in this book even more concrete and practical, the life of an exemplary modern Christian (Dorothy Day) is discussed and linked to the present and prior chapters. The chapter ends with a plea for dialog, unity, and a call to social action.
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Let us continue to hope, work, and pray that in the future we will live to see a warless world, a better distribution of wealth, and a brotherhood that transcends race or color. ~ Martin Luther King (1952)

The goal of this book was twofold: (1) to use critical thinking and research from multiple fields to determine which of the pillars of the Traditional Christian paradigm should be retained, which should be revised, and which should be dropped; and (2) to draw out the implications of this reconstituted set of pillars for how to live, pray, and participate in the modern world. I have tried to show that it is not relatively straightforward to answer questions such as, “What would Jesus do?” or “What is the Christian thing to do?” without conducting this detailed, critical analysis and coming up with a compelling and defensible analysis of what it means to be Christian. Without such an analysis, there would be endless debates whether particular actions are Christian but no resolutions to these debates because everyone would either cling to their own superficial and insufficiently substantiated intuitions about Christianity, or appeal to particular lines of Scripture in a literal, selective, and tendentious way. The limitations of the latter approach become apparent when one adopts the critical essentialist approach to biblical interpretation rather than a fundamentalist, literal interpretation. Constructing the set of pillars takes the argument up one level of analysis beyond the literal text to get at the meaning and truth that was intended by Jesus and the earliest Christians.

In this final chapter, we can consider the implications of the first seven chapters for how to respond to five troublesome issues that we face in the contemporary world but have been with us for some time. As will become clear, solving these problems is an essential aspect of bringing about the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom, there are no violent conflicts or deep divisions among groups, everyone has their basic needs met, everyone feels loved and valued, and there is a strong sense of fellowship, common purpose, and enriched spirituality. Everyone seeks to discern the Will of God and works to fulfill this Will on a daily basis (Crossan, 2009). This is the ideal that Developing Christians are called to help realize. Crossan (2009) called this a collaborative eschatology.

In characterizing the Kingdom in this way and arguing that it is our duty as Christians to help bring it about, I am reasserting and updating the arguments of the leaders of Social Gospel movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Evans, 2017). In reemphasizing these arguments, I am also following the lead of Martin Luther King who was very influenced by works written by the leaders of the Social Gospel movement (e.g., Washington Gladden and Walter Rauschenbusch) (Evans, 2017).

So, how do we close the gap between the current state of affairs and the Kingdom of God as Jesus, Gladden, Rauschenbusch, and Dr. King argued? How do we collaborate with God to bring it about? What obstacles stand in our way? In what follows, I provide answers to these questions for five problems in turn.


The Problem(S) Of Poverty And Failures Of Standard Solutions

In every country in the world, there is a wide and growing divide between a small percentage of extremely wealthy people and the rest of the population, many of whom are just scraping by. Economist Muhammad Yunus (2017) reports that in 2010, some 388 people owned more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population (which totaled 3.3 billion people). By 2017, the number who held more than half of the world’s wealth shrank to just eight people! But there are many other people in the United States (~300,000) who are not as wealthy as those eight individuals but still earn more than one million dollars per year. What is more, the eight richest people and the U.S. millionaires earn far more than the vast majority of other people in the United States (who earn less than $60,000), and these less wealthy American still earn far more than most people around the world.

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