The conflict seems not to be the need for Christians to do good works, which include socially beneficial actions. The conflict seems to revolve around what constitutes the Gospel and what is a Gospel issue.
Anthony Bradley recently lamented the influence of what he calls Great Commission Christianity (GCC) because it only represents a partial understanding of the Gospel (he calls it “accidentally deficient”). What GCC misses, argues Bradley, is a right focus on the Gospel’s effect of restoring the creation. Pointedly, for Bradley, this means that GCC Christians do not prioritize social issues and so social justice.
His alternative, Cosmic Redemption Christianity (CRC), affirms what GCC does but also includes cosmic restoration. Put simply, it includes evangelism and the drive “to liberate creation from the power of the devil until Christ returns.”
Is he right? Is GCC an accidentally deficient version of Christianity? As is often the case, things are not so simple. Here’s a short review of the two sides which will hopefully clarify the current debate.
GCC Advocates do Act Justly in the World
Many GCC Christians have done social good in the world. And this has been important to their Christianity. Michael Haykin recently wrote:
“Yes, all the way from the deacons in Calvin’s Geneva taking care of the city poor, to Spurgeon urging the British Parliament to prosecute not only prostitutes but also the men who used their services, to Spurgeon’s stated refusal to sit down at the Lord’s Table with slave owners, which led to his books being burned in the antebellum South. In between, we have men like William Wilberforce, who sat on the boards of more than 60 charities and believed social change had to happen on the fronts of both personal conversion and also socio-political legislation.”
So many GCC heroes have pursued justice among society. It is not true that GCC Christians do not care about justice nor are unconcerned about it.
But that’s not exactly Bradley’s contention.
Where Bradley Sees the Main Problem
“Great Commission Christianity doesn’t typically preach a redemption of all creation. They never have. Great Commission Christianity preached a revivalistic, individualistic, truncated gospel to slaves on plantations and did not seek to free slaves from slavery. GCC did nothing to thwart and fight against lynching during Reconstruction. GCC did nothing to liberate blacks from Jim Crow. In fact, it was the opposite. It was typically GCC church members in the South that fought against the black church led Civil-Rights Movement.”
He further claims that the same is true today. GCC Christians are unable to understand racial tensions and why African American Christians are leaving GCC.