The third session was given by Ruth Tucker focusing more on the missions aspect of the gospel. I was able to talk with Ruth a little before the session since she was sitting up front. When I came back from lunch (that was some goooood lunch) Ruth was sitting right next to the chair that I had been sitting in. At first she was engaged in talking with Scot McKnight and someone else that I later learned was her husband. After they were done speaking and Ruth was left to herself, she turned her attention to me.
She turned with a very nice smile and asked, "Hello, who are you?"
I told her my name and asked, "And who are you?"
She replied with a little astonishment in her voice, "Well I’m Ruth Tucker. I’m the speaker." She sort of said it like, "Don’t you know who I am?"
Of course, I knew who she was. I was just messin’ with her. But Ruth turned out to be a little fireball herself.
She looked at me and asked, "Well what interests you about this? Why are you here?’
I responded, "I’m a Christian."
She looked a little despondent. She said, "Well that’s a little disappointing. It would have made it better for me if you would have said you were a Muslim. Then when I got up to speak I would know there would be some friction in the air."
I said, "I’m sorry to disappoint you." Of course I had a big smile on my face as did she. Ruth was very nice and very personable.
When Ruth did get up to speak, she had two main themes. Contextualization versus Confrontation. The Contextualization of the gospel is the literal transmission of an unchanging gospel of the kingdom in verbal form. Simply put, we should not add our cultural baggage to the gospel. As we preach the gospel to other cultures, let’s not try to convert people to the "American" way of thinking, let’s convert them to Jesus Christ.
But, Ruth’s cutting edge point was the other side of the coin. Do we try to contextualize and lose the confrontational side of the gospel? The gospel is offensive. Ruth pointed out the false god of America as being "full blown materialism", with the need for the gospel to confront this evil. Are we changing the gospel so as to not be offensive? People want their stuff. Do we preach the gospel to them telling them that God wants to bless them just the way they are?
Ruth had a nice little slap on the wrist for the Emergent Church. In Ruth’s words, the Emergent Church hasn’t just changed the methods of the message, it has changed the message itself. But Ruth’s knockout punch was for the "prosperity gospel". This is the belief that God wants you to be, not only spiritually blessed, but materially blessed as well. I believe Ruth compared materialism to animism. Ouch.
After Ruth’s lecture, I had the chance to talk to her again. I had a very practical question for her. "If Scot’s thesis is correct, and the gospel of the kingdom is the establishment of a society or community of those who do the will of God, and the New Testament Church was a manifestation of that, and your thesis is correct, that God wants us to reject materialism, then what are the pragmatic ramifications for an individualistic society such as ours in putting these two themes together? Do we create a "communistic" society? Do we do away with personal property? How far do we carry it?"
Ruth didn’t have any answers for me.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman