I’m not familiar with Mark Brouwer, a Christian Reformed pastor at Loop Church in Chicago, but I had a post of his recommended to me a few weeks ago. Titled “Second thoughts about ministry, church, and faith,” the Rev. Brouwer asks, “Am I the only one who thinks this?” He isn’t, and thankfully, neither am I. It’s an excellent piece. I particularly appreciate his point #3, which I think is fundamental to the others:
For me, the central message in the Bible — and the interpretive overlay to the Bible and the spiritual life — is multi-faceted reconciliation through the establishment of the Kingdom of God. . . .
Atonement through the cross is obviously an important part of salvation, but it needs to be understood in the context of the bigger picture of the Kingdom of God. This is, in my view, the key insight that separates Reformed theology from the typical Evangelical and Fundamentalist church. In today’s evangelical church, the emphasis is on a reductionist version of “the Gospel,” which boils down to the need to believe a certain atonement theory about the cross so that your sins can be forgiven.
If we don’t understand that this “Gospel” is part of a larger story, we misunderstand the Bible, and we will become increasingly individualistic in our faith-life, and will become irrelevant in our culture. The Gospel is about reconciling people together, setting captives free, overcoming injustice, bringing healing to hurts . . . it’s not just getting our sins forgiven so that we can go to heaven when we die.
The message of the cross stands at the center of that center, but he’s right: when we narrow our focus too much, we shrink the work and purpose of Jesus on the cross to something just our size. God is on about something much bigger than me. (Thank goodness.)
Image: Dave Pape. Public domain.