Cheap grace is like cheap termite control

To me, cheap grace doesn’t mean that it didn’t cost much, so much as it isn’t worth much. Still, sometimes there is a connection. The price of a car repair, or a surgical operation, is affected by how deep into the inner workings the professional will have to go. If you don’t believe you have a deep problem, or if you believe it’s already been fixed, you won’t pay the price needed to fix it. If your problem is termites and you won’t fix it, eventually you won’t have a house. If your problem is spiritual, you can patch over the holes, keep the telltale sawdust swept away, and ignore the swarms each spring. But in the end you’ll have no place to seek refuge from reality.

Redemption and lift, reconsidered

After reading my post Redemption and lift,
Tim McIntosh asked:

Has there ever been any empirical evidence that “redemption and lift” is a reality? There are many examples of poor sectors of countries that have had genuine revivals but no lift. The redemption and lift philosophy has been used to reject the idea of getting involved in holistic ministry.

Then what a bad use of the redemption and lift philosophy: to say that salvation has economic implications so we shouldn’t encourage them. That is, to paraphrase William Carey‘s critics, “If God wants to improve crop yields or reduce child abuse, he will do it without your help or ours.” If the Gospel affects the whole person, what kind of ministry is there besides holistic?

It turns out that in Donald McGavran’s Understanding Church Growth, one of the main points which he made in his chapter “Halting Due to Redemption and Lift” was negative, not positive: when poor people respond to the witness of the Gospel, they often want to leave the neighborhood, which leaves the neighborhood without their witness to the Gospel.

So I’m applying the term differently than McGavran did. However, you’re applying the term differently than I did. Notice that the examples I gave were on a personal/family level. When one man has more disposable income because he stops drinking, that doesn’t mean his whole community has more disposable income. However, if enough people stop drinking, some bars will go out of business, which affects the whole community. That happened in the 1905 Welsh Revival, documented by J. Edwin Orr.

Just a thought: you referred to “sectors of countries” but do the words “sector” or “country” (in our sense of those words) even appear in the New Testament mandates? The Gospel can transform sectors and countries, but it does that by transforming individuals, households, and people groups: all words which do appear in the New Testament mandates.

However, in the same way that lift can be promoted by redemption, lift can be thwarted by lack of redemption. If a “holistic ministry” focuses on fighting alcoholism among people who enjoy being drunk, that ministry is going to have some problems.

A million good atheists in New York City?

CNN reports that a coalition of non-religious organizations is running a atheist ad campaign in New York city subways, “designed to raise awareness about people who don’t believe in a god.”

The advertisements ask the question, written simply over an image of a blue sky with wispy white clouds: “A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?”

The ads are actually misleading. That 2008 survey cited by the sponsors, American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population, didn’t ask people if they were good. The word “good” doesn’t even appear in the report. It just asked about religious affiliation. True, the 15% who said they had no religious affiliation weren’t saying they were Christians who hadn’t found a good church, but they weren’t saying they were atheists either. Only 7% said they were atheists.

The most startling claim, of course, is that New York City has a million good people, period. I mean, I think the Chasidic Jews only estimate a dozen or two really good people worldwide. Maybe good people are naturally attracted to New York City. Still, if I were you, I would keep alert on the subway, and lock  my car.

But the ads ask a good question, even if they begin with an inaccurate statement. That is, they ask, “Are you good?” I suspect that, if they think about it, that question will make a lot of New Yorkers a little uncomfortable. I know it did that for me. And if the answer is no, there are organizations in New York City that can help. But I don’t think they’re atheist organizations.

What is a swinger?

“The whole curse of the last century has been what is called the Swing of the Pendulum; that is, the idea that Man must go alternately from one extreme to the other. It is a shameful and even shocking fancy; it is the denial of the whole dignity of the mankind. When Man is alive he stands still. It is only when he is dead that he swings.”

G.K. Chesterton, “The New House” Alarms and Discursions

Everything is cheaper now.

“Comforts that were rare among our forefathers are now multiplied in factories and handed out wholesale; and indeed, nobody nowadays, so long as he is content to go without air, space, quiet, decency and good manners, need be without anything whatever that he wants; or at least a reasonably cheap imitation of it.”

G.K. Chesterton, Commonwealth, 1933