The Holistic Christianity of Reconciliation

God’s Mission and Our Mission of Reconciliation

God’s mission through Christ is to reconcile all things back to himself (Colossians 1:20). This begins when he “reconciled us to himself through Christ,” and continues when we, as his “ambassadors,” perform “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).

The Hebraic understanding is that “God is One” which undergirds the Christian view is that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all things.

The problem, however, is that the evangelical Church in North America has embraced a Greek (Plato and Aristotle) understanding of reality that separates the sacred from the secular. This false worldview led to the Gnostic heresy of the early Church, and in the 21st Century, the North American evangelical Church accepts a neo-gnostic understanding of reality. Alan Roxburgh writes, “Gnostic movements have always sought to dematerialize and spiritualize Jesus, limiting God’s engagement to some inner, spiritual experience that is disembodied from most of the public and material engagement of the world.”

Here N. T. Wright explains the gnostic heresy:

N.T. Wright on Gnosticism

Alan Hirsch correctly states, “There is no such thing as sacred and secular in biblical worldview. It can conceive of no part of the world that does not come under the claim of Yahweh’s lordship.”

The evangelical Church has neglected the Hebraic understanding of life in favor of the dualistic view that separates the secular from the sacred. Instead of seeing its ministry in terms of “the reconciliation of all things,” it sees its ministry in terms of growing and managing its own institutional life. As Alan Hirsch points out, it sees its ministry as the “mediating institution” between the sacred and the secular. The diagram below shows this mistaken idea of the church’s mediating position between the sphere of God and the sphere of the world.

dualistic spirituality -1

If we are to revitalize our ministry of reconciliation, we must no longer see the church as a mediating institution. Rather, we must see our ministry as the equipping and empowering of God’s people to be God’s agents of the reconciliation of all things back to God in Christ. Jesus is Lord of all.

non-dualistic spirituality

(diagrams adapted from Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways)


Zac Derr said...

Bob I continue to benefit from your blog. As I was reading your current series I wonder if I found a little typo in this sentence:

The evangelical Church has neglected the Hebraic understanding of life in favor of the dualistic view that separates the spiritual from the sacred.

Do you intend "...separates the secular from the sacred."?

i love your blog and miss seeing you around.

Michael said...

Hi Bob,

As valuable as some of his insights are, Hirsch is way off on this one. He is right to state that "there is no such thing as sacred and secular" in a biblical worldview, but that is because secularism is the foreign idea, not sacramentality. So whereas secular/sacred is an unhelpful antithesis worthy of rejection, a sacred/profane distinction helps delineate God's movement in history and gives shape to God's salvation. David Fitch gives an apt explanation of the problem here. Also see Alan Roxburgh's critique of Hirsch's approach in pp. 21 and 33 of Introducing the Missional Church.

The idea of God incarnate means that the Word of God (the Trinity's 3rd person) is now indelibly particular. Jesus was not a ghostly everyman, he was a 1st-century Palestinian Jew. Furthermore, God's reign was evident in Jesus' limited, particular location. Jesus mediated God's reign in a very particular way. After Jesus' ascension, the Word was not disembodied, but the incarnation continued in the midst of his followers. Thus the particularity continues, albeit ever evolving and expanding as more people follow Christ. The church does not own the corner on God's reign, but it certainly mediates it--to flatten this distinction is to oversimplify the Christendom / post-Christendom shift.

If we no longer see the church as a mediating institution (an idea not quite as new as Hirsch makes it sound), we are falling prey to the problem dualism, not solving it.

Bob Robinson said...

Thanks for catching that!
We can still see each other, you know, we still are in the same geographic area! I miss you too. I'd love to hear how your new gig is going!

Bob Robinson said...

Thanks for the heads-up on Fitch's and Roxburgh's critiques. Very helpful!

Michael said...

No problem.
I see that my link to Fitch didn't take, I'm inept when it comes to html tags.
Here the link...


Bob Robinson said...

Michael's link is broken. Here it is again:

The Emerging View of the Church in Society: Alan Hirsch/Michael Frost and the Danger of De-Ecclesiologizing The Church in Mission