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August 07, 2014



It seems like a pretty straightforward disagreement on which objective is the means and which is the end. Willardians (I haven't read Willard himself) seem to look at the redemption of the world as a means, possibly one means among several, toward the end of making more Christians, or at least of cementing the power base of existing Christian organizations. Whereas respectful infidels like us will tend to look at healing the world as the reason we do most anything in the public sphere. That's not to say we can't make alliances with Christianists toward specific goals - we just have to be mindful of where objectives differ and plan accordingly.

Greg Horton

It's probably a huge bias on my part reflected here, but I think those Christians who can more easily disengage the "gospel message" from healing the world do the world a better service. Heal it first. Tell your story second. Or, hell, let the healing speak for you 

Sent from my iPad


"You gentlemen who think you have a mission
to purge us of the seven deadly sins
should first sort out the basic food position
then start your preaching, that's where it begins" - Kurt Weill

Greg Horton

Love that quote. I'll be reading about Mr. Weill now. Thanks.


I tend to agree and I'm not sure it's because there's any bias involved. If healing the world is just a PR stunt, then doing that "right" (with respect to that priority) means ignoring what real, sustainable healing looks like, and appealing instead to people's perceptions. You want the reputation for doing good, but spending the resources actually doing good is irresponsible when you can be manipulating your public image to maximize the number of asses in seats on Sunday. Contrast that approach with a group that believes it's an actual sacred duty to make things better: they do that, they do it right, and they do it well, and even when they have additional objectives, real allies will never have grounds to complain about their methods or work ethic.

This lens of priorities helps me decide which projects run by religious groups I'm willing to contribute to. For instance, if there's any language anywhere about uniting Christians, I give it a pass. Making the world a good and fair place to live for everyone may be impossible for humans, but Jesus Himself wouldn't be able to redeem the Church.



I think Willard would argue that the purpose for making Christians is to redeem the world. He sees human flourishing (in love, peace, and justice) as the primary intention of God in the world and Christians as those who participate in making that happen.

I don't think Willard would be comfortable divorcing the means from the end; the means of justice, peace, and love ARE also the end. For this reason, it is never a Christian option to use other means (politics, power, violence) because in doing so, the end is negated.


Slufi, thanks for the clarification. As I said, I have never read Willard, and I'm not competent to guess what he might think. All I can do is look at the behavior of people and organizations, and follow the advice of a wise Jewish guy who (probably) once said, "You will know them by their fruits."

Regarding your last sentence, I don't know how to say this without sounding cynical, but it's also mostly sincere. I wish Christians actually believed that.



If Christians actually believed that, the whole world would want to be on board. Which is exactly Willard's point in much of his writing.

I don't think it is cynical to recognize that few Christians (and certainly, it seems, not the vocal or "influential" ones) live it out. I think Willard would agree with that assessment of the Church. I certainly do.

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