Monday, July 26, 2010

The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns

I have rarely read a book that evoked such conflicting emotions as Stearns’ work. In 279 pages, the CEO of World Vision brings before the church the needs of the poverty stricken portions of the world in graphic form. He drives home the point that as believers, we have a responsibility, not just an opportunity, to help these people.
    The author spends a lot of time sharing his own personal story of how he went from apathetic Christian (and CEO of a high end tableware company) to being torn apart by the needs found around the globe. Stearns makes some very good points in his criticisms of present day Christianity, and argues that from our faith should flow a host of good works towards those less fortunate than ourselves. With this sentiment, I could not agree more. For too long the church has made do with “benevolence offerings” and gifts for missionaries, while failing to address more pressing needs around the world.  However, while Stearns makes a very valid point, his book raises a lot of red flags.
    Stearns calls the voices of today’s leaders in the anti-poverty movement “prophetic.” Within this group he includes Bono, a rock star, Mother Theresa, and a bishop in the Catholic Church. These alliances raise questions that cannot be addressed here. Stearns also has a very strong Post-Millennial theology, and uses “kingdom building” and “kingdom ushering” language quite frequently. This leads to such an emphasis on social reform that he flirts at times with a works salvation (something that he vehemently denies).  He also seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth with his definition of the Gospel. He equates the salvation aspect with the social aspect as two sides of the same coin, while in other places listing the social aspect as that which flows out of salvation.
    Overall, this is a work that is worth reading for those who need to be shaken out of their American apathy.  As with all works written by fallen men, it must also be read with discernment and discretion. I would highly recommend it for use with mature believers who know enough to glean the wheat from among the tares. -B-
A complimentary copy of this book was provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.

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