The Hole in our Gospel

May 31, 2010

activism / books

Recently, I had the opportunity to read The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns through Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze program for bloggers.1 Richard Stearns is the president of World Vision US.2 In addition to this review, there is a great deal of info on the book, and steps to take after reading it, at the book’s website.

Anyway, the book is partly a story of how Richard Stearns’ life has been impacted by the essential call to justice that the message of Jesus brings, and partly an expression of that call to justice and the ways in which the American church has, for the most part, completely missed it and thus presented the world with a gospel that is not complete.

What the book says

That needs to be restated: the American church has presented a gospel that is not complete. The book then goes into deep observances of how true that is, giving overviews of what the Bible expects of us with regard to justice – holistic, all-encompassing justice – and how that has played itself out in bringing Richard Stearns to a place of spending his life in pursuit of that justice.

A large part of his information here is designed to get folks who would call themselves Christians to understand that their faith demands that they seek to alleviate the plight of the poor and oppressed around the world. The rest of it is designed to tell stories that have the power to shake folks out of their ignorance and indifference toward these things, getting rid of misconceptions about poverty and disease and showing our role in oppression and in freeing oppressed people.

What the book says to me

I found this to be a necessary book, even though I was already aware of the majority of the issues of poverty, disease, and oppression that it covers. Each still had much to teach me, many places to encourage and challenge me, and many places to remind me of things that I’ve forgotten or neglected to do anything about. It is also, importantly, insistent that there are things that I can do, and this is essential in a book of this nature. It is so easy when learning of systemic issues of justice to become complacent from simply being overwhelmed, and Stearns does not allow this.

I also found it necessary from a theological perspective. Stearns has a strong grasp of the theological and biblical issues around justice, and beautiful stories with which to express them. It’s also a beautiful thing for me to see someone who is clearly an evangelical be willing to throw himself so wholeheartedly on the line in support of justice.

I can’t overemphasize how much I loved seeing it. I have occasional theological differences with things written in the book, and that’s fantastic. It’s great to see that it is possible for him to have such a profound love for justice and the poor and oppressed, in spite of the theological and political structures within evangelicalism that keep so many from grasping it, that he is able to devote his life to them. Beautiful book that needs to be read, and its call to action needs to be heard.

  1. In the interest of disclosure, I received the book for free, and am not required to write positively about it. []
  2. Many folks who know of World Vision know (as I did) of their child sponsorship programs, but maybe not much else. In recent months, both from this book and from other things I’ve run across, I’ve been learning about all the additional work they do among the poor and oppressed, seeking to promote justice and bear witness to the kingdom of God. It’s a wonderful organization. []