The Role of the Church: Prophetic Witness or Co-Creators?

What is the role of the Church in the world? Are we to be involved in the restoration of Eden on earth or are we to be prophetic witnesses of God’s truth to the world?

I ask this question because “evangelical” leaders such as Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Rick Warren, and Bill Hybels are attempting to lead the flock into an effort to “restore our world through the power of the local churches.”(Bill Hybels, wcagls.blogspot.com) They’re rushing headlong into becoming co-creators in their dream of “shalom.”

In order for them to accomplish their vision, they have to downplay eschatology. They can’t convince the Church to be involved in their great restoration unless they can somehow convince us that the return of Christ isn’t the hope of the world, so they shrug it off or even mock it.

Consider this statement by Rick Warren in his book, The Purpose Driven Life (p. 285):

When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. He said in essence, “The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I’ve given you. Focus on that.

Brian McLaren also tries to downplay the return of Jesus in his book, A New Kind of Christianity. On page 196 he explains:

In a participatory eschatology, when we ask, “What does the future hold? the answer begins, “That depends. It depends on you and me. God holds out to us at every moment a brighter future; the issue is whether we are willing to receive it and work with God to help create it. We are participating in the creation of what the future will be.

This “participatory eschatology” is in opposition to the description of those in the “Hall of the Faithful” found in Hebrews. These Old Testament saints were waiting, longing, and looking for the fulfillment of the promise of “a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10),” but they didn’t see the fulfillment in their lifetime.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not
receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth . Instead they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one.Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city
for them.        
(Hebrews 11:13-16)

Jesus also said he was going to prepare a place for us. The Holy City, new Jerusalem, will come down out of heaven prepared as a bride for her husband. (Revelation 21:2) It will be created and completed by God! This is when God’s presence with men will be restored also. In that same chapter an angel shouts, “Now the dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them.” Brian McLaren tries to convince us that the “parousia” doesn’t mean the physical return of Christ to set up his kingdom. Instead he says, “Parousia, in this way, would signal the full arrival, presence, and manifestation of a new age in human history.” (A New Kind of Christianity, p. 198)

But the scriptures teach that we can approach the throne room of God through the blood of Jesus until the final provision of the Holy City where the saints will finally dwell with God. Brian McLaren, on the other hand, teaches that the “parousia” is the age of the spirit, when Christ will live his life through his followers and begin to usher in the kingdom of God on earth, not only in the hearts of men, but also in a physical way . . . a restoration of shalom through human effort rather than through God’s provision and grace.

This brings me back to the question of what the Church’s role is in the world. As McLaren sees it, it is to create the “peaceable kingdom.” He says it is a time when “oppressors will be overthrown, when corruption and infidelity will be replaced by virtue and integrity, and when blessing, justice, and shalom of God flow like a river and fill the earth as waters fill the oceans.” (A New Kind of Christianity, p. 59)

As Christians, how can we believe this is possible in a world which refuses Jesus and his Word?

This is some sort of Hegelian spiral view of history in which the world is somehow being propelled upward and forward in an ever-progressing movement towards shalom. Yet this is the same philosophy that gave birth to Nazism (the Right Hegelians) and Communism (the Left Hegelians)!

No. Our role in the world is not to usher in a physical kingdom created through our own might or strength. It is to proclaim the kingdom of God and appeal to peoples’ hearts. Our FAITH is in God and his promises to us. Even though we can’t see the Holy City, we put our hope and trust in God’s Word, just as those faithful followers of the past. (For example Noah believed God when he said it would rain and Abraham believed God when he said he would have a baby, even though they couldn’t see these things and had no ability to bring them about.)

As Christians, we are to be longing and watching for the return of Jesus. Regardless of what Rick Warren or Brian McLaren say, this is what Jesus commanded. (Matthew 24:42, Matthew 25:13, Luke 21:36)

In the meantime, we are to proclaim God’s Word. We are to be a source of truth, a light in the darkness, a place of refuge for all. We let Jesus live his life through us. So, in a sense, it was Jesus who was leading the slaves out of bondage through Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. It was Jesus who was hiding Jews in the watchmaker’s shop through Corrie ten Boom and her sister. It was Jesus who was standing before the Inquisition and refusing to recant through Martin Luther. It was Jesus who spent time in a Birmingham Jail through Martin Luther King, Jr. It was Jesus who spent time in a communist prison camp through Watchman Nee. It was Jesus who proclaimed liberty for the captives through William Wilberforce.

Why was it Jesus? Because all of these heroes were faithful to God’s Word. They didn’t need a new understanding of Christianity. They were prophetic witnesses to the truth. They never abandoned it, added to it, or twisted it. They stood as faithful stewards against the visions of utopia in their day. The communists, Nazis, slaveholders, and Inquisitors were all peddling a perverted form of Christianity, and these heroes of the faith stood up and opposed those systems based on a proper reading of the Word of God.

Brian McLaren with his “new kind of Christianity, Rick Warren with his huge scheme called the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, Bill Hybels with his Global Leadership Summits (which hope to restore the world through the power of the local church) and Jim Wallis with his “Great [Communist] Awakening,” are not being faithful to the Word and they know it. This is why they must discredit it (by using a perverted form of history which characterizes God as a racist, chauvinistic, genocidal, homophobe, colonialist) and pervert it by adding psychology, business methodology, philosophy, and other worldly wisdom to it.

They don’t realize it, but they are about to become the new Nazis, communists, slaveholders, and Inquisitors, because they’re falling into the same trap of believing that the Word isn’t enough . . . that God isn’t enough . . . and they are becoming those who the next generation will look back upon with disdain.

I refuse to go along with them. Instead, I hope to be a prophetic witness against them.

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