1. It is biblical:
The restoration and renewal of all things, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is at the heart of the biblical storyline (Ephesians 1:7-10; Romans 8:18-23). We may describe this as a movement from creation to new creation. This work of restoration, mirroring the extent of the fall, is holistic in scope. No aspect of creation has been left untouched by the pervasive nature of sin and brokenness. Individually our sin has severed our relationship with God. Corporately we have severed our relationship with each other and with the creation itself. Furthermore, broken relationships have deeply marred the nature of the institutions we have built and the structures we have established as we have sought to order society. Our individual and corporate sin has meant we have built structures fraught with injustice, greed and inequality (Genesis 1-11).
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has dealt with our individual sin before a just and holy God (Romans 3:21-24) and also with the works or effects of sin in our broken world. (Colossians 3:19-20; Revelation 21:5; 22:1-6) This clearly has individual and communal implications and similarly it must also have structural implications for our sin-built structures which continue to sustain and promote inequality, greed and injustice. The story of the early church pictures for us a significant change in the nature of our relationships with one another because of the work of Jesus, racial prejudices are broken down (reflected in the structure and the work of the church itself) (Galatians 2:11-21; Ephesians 2:11-22; , economic inequality is worked against (Acts 6:1-7; James 5:1-5), famine relief is provided for (Acts 11:27-30), greater dignity is given to women and children in the community (Mark 10:13-16; Galatians 3:28), slaves (Philemon) and foreigners (Acts 8:26-40; 10; 11:19-21; 15:1-35; Ephesians 2:11-13) are included as equals in the work of the gospel.
The new creation pictured in the last few chapters of the Bible is pictured as a kingdom of holistic redemption. Images of sufficient and bountiful provision, inclusion, beauty, security, justice, racial harmony and the healing of the nations are central to the nature of God’s coming kingdom (Acts 2:42-27; 4:32-36; 11:27-30; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4; Ephesians 2:11-22; Revelation 22:1-6). It is this same kingdom which has broken into our world now in part and in weakness but broken in nonetheless through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We live though in expectation that though one-day Jesus will return to consummate his kingdom in all its fullness, in the present we ought to see real and significant signs and life of that Kingdom through the life and witness of Church.
2. It is contextual
It would not be an overstatement to suggest that this is the critical apologetic issue in South Africa today, in particular for people of colour (approximately 85% of the population) and even more particularly for young people (approximately 66% of the population below the age of 35). The perception that evangelical theology has little or nothing to say to the lived experiences and cries for justice of the oppressed and marginalised certainly has been strengthened by our silence in the face of oppression and our spiritualized dichotomy, which speaks much to the soul but little to the body.
The existential, though often-unspoken questions, with which young black evangelicals are grappling with today have to do with the colonial nature of Christianity. Are the radicals right when they declare Christianity to be the white man’s religion and a tool of oppression whose primary aim is to subjugate and compromise African people, their culture and their theology Evangelicals poor track record in addressing issues of racial and economic inequality and in working for substantive change both in the church and society, seem to add credence to these claims. We need, as a matter of urgency, to recover a holistic, cross-centred gospel that speaks to the context and concerns of the people of South Africa, whilst fostering a robust spirituality shaped by a desire to pursue justice, eradicate inequality and uplift the poor and the marginalized.
If we fail in this it is most likely we will see a significant number of young black evangelicals shifting their allegiances, leaving evangelicalism and not inconceivably leaving any semblance of Christianity altogether. If we wish to see a robust gospel witness flourishing in our land we must return to the Scriptures, we must search our assumptions, we must wrestle with our context and we must listen to the voices of our black brothers and sisters as they cry out for justice.
3. It is Evangelistic
The gospel is a word of proclamation about who Jesus is and what he has done (Luke 24:45-48;1 Corinthians 2:1-2). That word though never comes in a vacuum but always within a specific context (Acts 2:14-36; 17:16-31). The gospel is a universal and unchanging message which speaks to the specific longings and cries of any given culture. We are called to be a counter-cultural community of God’s people who through the nature of our lives together, both in the world and for the world, put on display the new picture of humanity which the gospel word brings into being. It is this new way of living in God’s world which will cause unbelievers to ask us for the reason for our hope and glorify God (1 Peter 2:12; 3:15). The church as a people of justice and mercy are a sign and a foretaste of God’s kingdom. Just as good works are inseparable from faith in the life of believers so justice in the life of the Christian community is inseparable from the work of evangelism.
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