God is wanting groups of his people to move forward with this new agenda. Groups might be para church organizations, might be little groups in prayer, or it might be churches.
This is linked with New View Theology.
These two parts to the old agenda leads to a gospel that is wholly individualistic, and focuses solely on the relationship between me and God and on religious issues to boot.
It does, of course, take different forms in different places and times and among different people - charismatic has one form, calvinist another, methodist another, baptist yet another. But the common thread is an individualistic central emphasis - my relationship with God as the most important, overriding thing. All else is secondary - and, by implication, if we focus on what is secondary then we are wasting time and effort and gifts that God gave us, and we risk going against God.
That individualist-religious gospel was valid and appropriate in the 1700s and 1800s, when poor individuals were crushed, or (different culture) individuals were suppressed by state machinery.
It is other aspects of the gospel that must become important, those that are ignored today and that address the major problems individualism has brought in (see below):
By 'creation' I mean not only nature, but also secular possibilities such as art, play, justice, economics, transport, technology, etc.
The new agenda centres on what God's Plan is. God's Plan is not just to populate heaven with saved individuals, but it is to make a wonderful interwoven creation in which human beings have a major and priviledged part, to steward the creation for its own sake rather than for our sake or pleasure, and bring every aspect of the creation under Christ, into completion in Christ, not just the religious aspects.
These things are important because they are loved by God, and we are here to love them too on his behalf. That is the Chief end of Man (according to Genesis 1:26-28). That is what we have to capture (or re-capture) these days. It is these things that make sense to non-Christians today.
We in this new era need as God's people to take seriously our responsibility to the rest of Creation, to serve it for its sake and not for ours, our interconnectedness with it rather than our independence of it and our using of it. Then we will find our real place in God's plan, our real fulfilment as individuals, our real joy.
This gospel meets the needs of today and tomorrow. And it addresses the real major problems of today and tomorrow, and it honours God. The gospel of 1700s and 1800s applied today in our individualistic West, maybe as its charismatic version or prosperity version, as in USA, dishonours God and leads to millions turning away from God rather than to God. Because to God's people. This has happened before - the Jews - and God's people were defeated into exile.
I'm not saying that we turn against the current formulation of the gospel. It is still valid, but as part rather than the central whole. I still use it myself; I did 3 weeks ago with Doreen, 5 years ago with Bill, 10 years ago with Harry Horton, when I invited them to turn to Christ for forgiveness and salvation. But their personal salvation is not the end; it is rather a part in a much larger process during which they learn many wonderful truths about God and his Plan. It is part of the constellation of truths they need to discover and respond to about God. Only part.
I'm not talking about a few years or decades but about a few centuries for each agenda. Each of God's agendas starts, grows, has effect, becomes corrupt and creates a new set of presenting problems. And at some stage God shifts the agenda, when the time is right, to address the major problems created by the old agenda.
When it is time for a new agenda, we find various groups of people starting to recognise and speak to particular sets of problems of the old agenda.
Over the past 40 years we can see a start of the emergence of this new agenda in evangelical circles. For example:
Those are just filaments of the new agenda, a start. Different strands point in the same direction and God will bring in a new agenda to suit the time we are in and are entering.
Even non-Christians have a hand in recognising the problems of the old agenda and seeking the new, without perhaps realising it is God's agenda they are seeking. But they, as we, are in God's image and our souls all find themselves restless when we are out of kilter with God's Plan. So non-Christians are applying their thinking to first recognising and then solving the major presenting problems as they become plain and seeking 'justice'. (This is why I believe we Christians should not treat postmodernism as enemy.)
(Scripture tells us plainly that God works through or values 'non-Christians' (e.g. Cyrus, Naaman). God's plan is partly taken through non-Christians. This is a whole new piece of theology that I won't expand on here. But Christians who resist what God is doing outside the church are resisting God.)
(This is a sideline, and may be skipped.)
Hebrews says that Abraham looked for a city whose maker and founder were God. So do I, but paradoxically so. In time before my seeing the new agenda, when I believed the old agenda of the primacy of the religious aspect and my own personal relationship with God, I believed I *ought* to look forward to heaven but if I were truthful had to admit I did not. But since I have taken the new agenda, in which every aspect is important, and in which God loves his whole interwoven creation, I find myself looking for and seeking a city whose maker and founder is God. By 'city' I include the natural world, but one in which human culture is a harmonious place. I now believe in the continuity of what we are amongst now, its resurrection, purificaton, fulfilment, glorification rather than its destruction. And, valuing what is around me now, paradoxically, I look forward to the future 'city' because it will be when all aspects work as they should. I believe that what we do here and now echoes in eternity, but with a glorious echo fulfilled in Christ. That is a paradox: that once I turn my eyes and love to the here and now creation, I find myself yearning as Abraham yearned and willing to forsake all for Christ.
(A second paradox is that I love God's law. I just know that God's will is health and blessing for the whole creation. Before, I believed that God's law and justice were somehow at variance with his love. But now I see them as emerging from his love - for the whole creation. And I find myself echoing the psalmist who said "I love your law, o my God". I love God's law, because it is health and blessing for all.)
But we are now in a liberal-pagan world, not nominal Christian one. The pagan world does not world take the same things for granted as previously, for example that God is good, to be trusted, to be taken seriously, that God sees us as responsible, that God is judge, and that we are responsible to him and must respond to him. The pagen world takes different truths for granted. For example, the value of the individual is now taken for granted. So we no longer need make it a centrally emphasized truth in our presentations of the gospel (the good news from God), but must rather make other truths the central ones that are explicitly expressed. (Note: I am speaking about Western culture, that is dominant worldwide, not about Chinese, Islamic, Hindu etc. culture.)
So we need to explicitly proclaim different truths of the full gospel now. I don't know what this will be, but Andrew Faraday said once that the green agenda will become important in evangelism. We need to work it out - we who these days take God seriously. Two things:
My own belief is that the new agenda gospel will speak about our responsibility before God for his planet and the rest of Creation, including every aspect thereof, linked with an invitation to take God's forgiveness for damaging his planet and let his Holy Spirit into our lives so we will grow the fruit of the Spirit in our attitudes towards the Creation.
Think about the Reformation. Think about the Pentecostal revival. Think about the missionary movement of the nineteenth century. Think about Francis of Assissi.
... More to be written.
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2003.
Part of his xn pages, that open up various things from one of the Christian perspectives. Comments, queries welcome.
Created: 19 October 2003. Last updated: 15 December 2003 moved to discussion. 22 May 2005 link to Dooyeweerd Pages corrected. 17 August 2014 dealt with all '../../'.