Contextualization of the Gospel

Gospel & Secularism           

Rene Girard argued that the Gospel of Christ crucified subverts the world’s ideologies of Violence. Any consideration of the question of divine and human Violence in the Bible must begin by admitting that the issue resists easy resolution, for Violence (in its many dimensions) involves a seemingly impenetrable mystery. [1]

The modern world represents the most significant opportunity for the Gospel since the apostles. It also represents the greatest challenge to the Gospel since the apostles. The good news is that amid great upheaval in how people live, prophecies of the death of religious Faith have not borne out. Religion is as furiously alive as ever. The bad news is that the assumptions of modernism and other secular philosophies that now reign unquestioned in much of the western world and are migrating to other areas of the globe are in many ways toxic to disciple and discipline Christians. [2]

Os Guinness[3] used three words to describe the advanced model global era challenges:

  1. Integrity – a rare commodity today;
  2. Credibility – speaking to issues with credible persuasion that is worthy of Christianity as a duty;
  3. Civility – living out of love for Christ and speaking the truth in love as Christians.

I agree on the eight critical Challenges Guinness proffered:

  1. Facing up the grand cultural challenges of our age –

Guinness said the important words here are ‘Choice’ and ‘Change’; not all choices and engagement are hype. He enumerated three factors; the first speaks of the shift from the Industrial to the Information age. Guinness explained that Globalization is the expansion of human relationships interconnected at a genuinely global level. He affirmed that the world is not just accelerating but living at the speed of light; Faith is profoundly affected by this change. The second is the arrogance of the West. Guinness said there are multiple modernities nowadays: the old trend is Globalization = westernization = Americanization which no longer holds. No great group or government today can bend the world to their power, and the third factor raised by Guinness is the rise of the Global South.

2. Be prepared for Wars of the Spirit.

Guinness analyzed the beliefs and words of three philosophers: Voltaire, Kant, and Nietzsche, to explain this point. He said Voltaire believed that as the world grows more modern, the world will become more religious; Kant wrote that there is no God and the world would come to agree with him; Nietzsche wrote that the wars of the spirit are coming in the next century. Guinness opined that Nietzsche is correct that much of the 20th century showed that as the world grows modern, it grows more religious. He said, “religious is as furiously alive as ever.” Guinness saw a three-cornered contest: Judaism & Christianity in one corner; the second corner will hold the secular faiths opposed to Christianity, and the third corner will hold all religions based on loosely defined “spiritual thoughts”; then the competing notions of revisionists and ‘fundamentalists’ are torn between varieties of relativism.

3. Never underestimate the profound diversity of Secularism.

To Guinness, secularism has no god, no angels, and no sin. Yet secularists have profound respect for the diversity of religions and diversity of thought.

4. Stand against the lethal distortions of Faith in the Modern World.

Guinness affirmed that the first lethal blow is the shift from integrating Faith to fragmentation of Faith. In the Industrial age, lives are lived in two or more places with or without Faith equality. Guinness says this has developed into one standard of Faith and belief for work, another for home or church, and perhaps a third and fourth for each social group. Guinness called this personal fragmentation invariably led to schizophrenic thinking and behavior. He said the second lethal body blow is a move from authority to personal preference; what people believe and how they live their lives goes in two different directions for most people, and the result is schizophrenic thinking and behavior. Guinness’s third lethal blow was from exclusiveness or absoluteness to Syncretism.

 5. Recognize the oddities of communicating in the ‘age of communication.’

Guinness listed the peculiar oddities in and about communication that make it more challenging as inattention, inflation, and multiple authorities.

6. Make sure people have the needed tools for faithful thinking and living

7. Take our stance in the modern world with great care.

Guinness referred to Jesus’ disciples that are taught to be in the world but not of the world. He said Paul also taught the need for Christians to be transformed by the renewal of their minds. Guinness said the pressures on the church in the modern world force Christians towards extremes. He advocated capturing people’s thoughts about Jesus and having more discernment.

8. Never forget the underlying cautions of engaging with modernity.

To Guinness, modernity at its best is the real threat, not because it distorts negative statements that are so brilliant that they cannot be refuted. In conclusion, Guinness asked one to look at the complete challenges of the secular age; look at Globalization; look it in the eye, and not let it intimidate one. He asked people to have Faith in God and have no fear.                                         

The Theological Implications of Jesus’s Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16)

Apostle John gave the most extended account of the upper room. A critical feature of the upper room discourse was Jesus’ emphasis on love. He sets examples for his followers (the disciples). The Lord spoke to His disciples that memorable night on several issues, the last he spent with them. Jesus’ represented the love of the Father, and he emphasized brotherly love without which one cannot be his disciples. The upper room discourse started with Jesus washing his disciples’ feet as examples of serving each other. Jesus predicted his betrayal and Peter’s denial of knowing him. Jesus comforted the disciples, knowing he would be leaving them temporarily. He re-affirmed that he is the only way to God the Father.

John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit. He spoke about the vine and the branches to let the disciples know he is the vine. They are the branches, John 15:5. Jesus Christ made the disciples aware that the world will hate them as the world hates him and explained the work of the Holy Spirit, John 16:15.[4] He consoled the disciples explaining to them that their grief on his death will turn to joy in his resurrection. In the upper room, Jesus prayed: for himself and his disciples. He taught them the Lord’s Prayer and prayed for all believers.

The account of foot washing refers to a local tradition by which foot washing served as a Christian initiation ritual rather than baptism. [5] John devoted almost five chapters to a farewell discourse where he declared his unity with the Father, promised to send the Paraclete, described himself as the “real vine,” and explained that he must leave (die) before the Holy Spirit could come. He then prayed that his followers be one.

Jesus communicated the great virtues of a principle that his followers are to be like himself by intentionally transforming their inner persons into his character. The grandeur of Jesus’ views upon the future was not concealed. And the terrible storm he was about to cause in the world. Christianity implies following Jesus in expectation of the Kingdom of God. A return to the gospel can only renew this glorious origin. In truth, the people of the world will live more harmoniously if they live by the truth Jesus conveyed. The upper room discourse is an awareness and a call to uphold a Christian worldview where faith supersedes reason and fear of God prevents the escalation of conflicts into violence.


  •   [1] T. D., Alexander, and S. Brian, Rosner, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 835.
  • [2] Os, Guinness, “The Gospel and Secularism” (Focus Topic) in GAFCON Jerusalem (2008)
  • [3] Os Guinness, The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on it, (HarperOne, 2008); Os, Guinness, “The Gospel and Secularism” (Focus Topic) in GAFCON Jerusalem 2008, (22-29 June 2008), 5-10.
  • [4] “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I say the Spirit will take from what is mine and make known to you.”
  • [5] Johnson, Maxwell E. The Apostolic Tradition” in The Oxford History of Christian Worship, (Oxford: University Press, 2005), 32-75.

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