I recently had the pleasure of contributing to a chapter to a book edited by Amos Yong, The Spirit Renews the Face of the Earth. The chapter is entitled “Preaching the Full Gospel in the face of the Global Environmental Crises”. Sometime in the next little while I intend to respond to a review of the book, and my chapter in particular, written by Raymond Hughes on the Renewal Dynamics blog. In the meantime, let me briefly summarise the argument of the paper.
The logic of the paper is based on a critical analysis of the Pentecostal “full-gospel”. Those of you familiar with the full gospel may be aware that Pentecostals have traditionally proclaimed a fourfold (or full) gospel; Jesus saves, baptises in the Spirit, heals and is coming again. In more recent decades this fourfold gospel has been extended to include a fifth element relating to the gospel of blessing.
My argument, in sum, is that Pentecostal appropriation of fundamentalist approaches to theology – literal six day fundamentalism and narrow views of salvation and end times – has worked against the development of a ‘green’ theology; against any recognition that the message of the gospel is good news for the earth. This is because presumptions that the earth was created only 6000 years ago, and is soon to be destroyed in the apocalyptic return of Jesus, alonside concepts of salvation that prioritise the soul over and against the body, have meant that:
- the affirmation that ‘Jesus saves’ has been focused on saving souls, and not on the broader social (and ecological) implications of the kingdom
- the declaration that ‘Jesus baptises in the Spirit’ has been concerned with individual spiritual experience, and not on the broader work of the Spirit in the world
- the promotion of the idea that ‘Jesus heals’ has focused on the individual only and not extended to healing of the environment
- the belief in the immanent the end of the world has entrenched the concern for souls as a priority over and against social and ecological concerns
- the emphasis on financial prosperity has aligned the movement with the economic systems that have generated the environmental problems we now face.
The paper goes on to argue for a reframing of the Pentecostal message in such a way that we can truly claim to be preaching the “full gospel” – one that recognises that Jesus saves the cosmos, that Jesus heals a sick creation, that Jesus baptises in the Spirit for the sake of empowering the church to participate in His liberating of all the world (and earth), and that Jesus’ return results in the earth’s renewal not its destruction.