Jan 30, 2010

Sociological Dimensions of the Gospel

John Amtstutz, "Beyond Pentecost: A Study of Some Sociological Dimensions of New Testament Church Growth from the Book of Acts," in
Essays on Apostolic Themes: Studies in Honor of Howard M. Ervin, ed. Paul Elbert (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1985), 219-20, states that,

"Paul, the apostle of Gentile freedom, saw the issues [related to the gospel] most clearly. They were first and foremost theological. The basis of salvation is faith in the grace of God, not faith in the works of men. But Paul also wisely saw that the issues were sociological as well. Because the basis of salvation was divine grace, not human works, men of all nations could receive salvation as a gift without denying their cultural identity. They could "remain in the state in which they were called" (1 Cor 7:17–24). Paul's ‘theology of calling’ affirmed the validity of cultural diversity among believers. ‘Against the assimilationist pressures of the Judaizers, Paul argued in favor of (cultural) pluralism. Against the cries for Christian (cultural) uniformity Paul raised the banner of Christian liberty.’[1] Paul kept the offense of the gospel where it belonged, in the cross not the culture (1 Cor 1:18–25). Unity in the body of Christ did not require destruction of cultural differences. Rather, it meant the transcending of such differences so that Jews and Gentiles loved one another, not looked like one another. The gospel invited men to move from one kingdom to another, not one culture to another (Col 1:13). Thus Jews remained Jewish and Gentiles remained Gentile, but all were one in Christ, not culture. Is it any wonder, then, that after the decision of the Jerusalem conference the number of Gentiles entering the household of faith greatly increased (Acts 16:20)? Although the door into the household of faith was low, low enough to require all men to bow in humble repentance and faith in God's gift, it was wide enough that men of any nation could enter without losing their diversity in our world, the truly Pentecostal Church will be led of the Spirit to discover modern ways to implement Paul's theology of calling, that disciples may be made of all nations without forcing people to deny their culture to become western or American Christians."

[1] C. Peter Wagner, Our Kind of People: The Ethical Dimensions of Church Growth in America (Nashville: John Knox, 1979), 128.

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