Founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission
A young girl, 13, visiting her aunt was horrified to glimpse the ravages of her aunt's total mastectomy. She never forgot that--even years later, after marrying into a wealthy family and becoming one of the most famous socialites in Washington.
In that dizzy whirl of Washington she hardly ever left a conversation with the high and mighty without needling someone concerning a necessary massive national onslaught on cancer.
It was her persistence, finally, which lifted the issue into unavoidable prominence, making possible the Nixon/Ted Kennedy bill that gave $100 million a year to the National Cancer Institute. Was she an Evangelical? Would it have made any difference--if our theology urges us simply to endure cancer, not fight it? See item #4 below.
1. Who is Patrick Johnstone?
Patrick Johnstone is one of God's greatest gifts to the twentieth century mission movement.
He began as an effective local missionary in Southern Africa at which time he also began to concern himself with the entire global mission cause. He may, in that sense of global vision, be the closest thing to a present-day William Carey, whose little book encompassed the entire world.
Patrick's little book took on the whole world, too. _Operation World_ became a contemporary "snap shot" of the global standing of church and mission. In its recent editions it covers the growth of the Gospel in the entire 20th century.
Now, however, Patrick has just come out with a new book, _The Church is Bigger Than You Think_, which is much more than a "snap shot" of the present century. It is like a motion picture which covers all twenty centuries! It is terrific!
I have no hesitation in saying that it is the best single-volume introduction to the entire cause of missions. It is sparkling and readable but comprehensive and very wise. It undoubtedly gives more balanced insight, and at the same destroys more popular misunderstandings, than any other book. Its 26 chapters are beautifully designed for two thirteen-week Sunday School programs. We want to do everything in our power to enable as many people as possible to get this book. About an hour ago I received word from Scotland that they will ship us 3,000 copies to arrive in mid-August. Look inside the back cover for a special half-price offer on this wonderful new book.
One reader reminded us that: Alcohol plays a prominent role in almost every type of crime: 53% of murders 57% of sex crimes 47% of burglaries 60% of assaults 80% of suicides 40% of work-related deaths 50% of work-related injuries
But my concern is also that we are unaware of our cultural blindness to this problem!
3. Is this free will?
One reader wonders if we no longer believe in "free will." He says "Why can't people simply choose not to smoke, not to gamble, not to drink if they want to?"
Okay, a young man I know--of his own "free will"--now has a swollen and abscessed ear due to an attempt to pierce it high up in the cartilage. Do we underestimate the power of culture to drag youth in destructive ways? Is that "free will?"
Listen to the Harvard professor mentioned earlier:
"Humanity at any moment of history is caught in that time, as *trapped* as an insect in amber. The mores, traditions and attitudes of an era inform the individuals then living, often *blinding* them to the consideration of alternatives." (Emphasis mine.)
Yes, "trapped, blinded" in what only seems to be "free will."
4. Gregory Boyd will soon be widely talked about!
His recent book, God at War (Intervarsity Press) portrays in very thorough footnoted form some of the very same issues I have brought up in these columns recently.
Gregory Boyd is a local pastor and also a theology professor at Bethel Theological Seminary in Minneapolis. His eloquent and articulate answer to the anguished cry of Luther in our last issue is both welcome and astounding.
Boyd dares to take exception with the most quoted theologian in all of Christian history, who is owned by both Roman Catholic and Protestant, namely, Augustine of Hippo. With ponderous research on his side, Gregory Boyd states boldly that Augustine has brought confusion to all Christians since his time by implying that behind all evil, all suffering, all destruction, all pain, all perversion there is "a mysterious good" which is controlled by God!
Instead of saying, like the Bible does, that God often turns Satan's evil against him Augustine allows us to think that God created evil, and essentially guides Satan.
"Never!" says Boyd. He says modern evangelicals are not really fighting Satan as they should (I add especially at the tiny level) but are assuming God is behind Satan's every move.
I am curious. I have often wondered why we evangelicals feel we can and should "fight" against organized crime, against drug pushers (but not if they push nicotine or alcohol), against genocidal powers like the Nazis, the merciless aggressors in ethnic cleansing, evil political forces, etc. Yet we don't feel it is up to us as a mission force--we leave it to the World Health Organization--to fight against other gross evils like the killer viruses and microbes which are gaining on us!
Perhaps there are two reasons:
- We don't think we know exactly what to do if we were to try to launch "a massive onslaught on malaria at its root." We don't know if we have the ability to outwit the latest deadly versions of tuberculosis or staphylococcus or sepsis. It's all too much to think about. So we don't plan to do more than comfort the victims?
- Or, perhaps, we are not aware of the entire range of Satan's insidious perversions, and are unaware that God has commanded us to counterattack in His Name in even these 'small" areas.
God says "My Name shall be great among the nations." That should challenge us to open people's eyes to mass blindness so we and they can struggle out of the power of Satan and his darkness into the light of the glory of God. This includes comforting victims of evil and praying for the sick but also warring against every kind of evil, every source of suffering and thus making His Name great. How else can peoples around the world--held in bondage in countless ways--come to believe in a God who is "great?" --Ralph D. Winter