Losing the Plot

In response to a post at 9 Marks by Jonathan Leeman that accuses the missional church of being some kind of stalking horse for a new kind of social gospel, Bill Kinnon and Dan MacDonald offer up a pair of very good responses. I really can’t say much to improve on what they said, but I do want to step back from the immediate question regarding whether missional church is somehow afoul of Leeman’s particular view of Christianity and ask how we lost the plot.

What I mean by this is that it’s not terribly difficult, when one reads the gospels straight through, to get the impression that charity and mercy are central commands of Christ and not some optional extras. When Leeman embraces acts of mercy and charity there only means to other ends.

“This means, further, that any form of social activity should serve the purposes of evangelism and discipleship—since evangelism is what produces worshippers.”

These conditional forms of mercy do not strike me as inherently Christian. I mean is not the remarkable thing about Christianity the fact that Christ offered himself up for the sinful without any conditions (warning, think about this carefully if you are a Calvinist). What are we when we repay this unmerited, extravagant sacrifice with our own tight-fisted behaviour? Are we following Christ if our stance is “sure we’ll be merciful, so long as it makes our church grow.” No. All we will have done is prove the cynical critiques of Christianity to be true.

This question tends to be framed as a matter of whether the gospel is big enough to include mercy or not. What I find though when I look at this situation is that even when one looks at nothing but the idea of atonement and the call to imitate Christ is that we are left with no option but to love mercy and do justice. Simply put, if Christ gave up his own life so entirely for humanity, by what means can we claim to be his followers while wanting to put all kinds of conditions on who we deign to offer mercy?