The faculty of Saint Paul School of Theology in the late 1980s did an excellent job of teaching us (MDiv students) about liberation theology in all its many forms -- Latin American, Feminist, African-American, Two-Thirds World, and LGBT. Their teaching inspired me to expand my sense of Christian concern until it included social issues and not just spiritual matters. They persuaded me to care about people who were suffering because of corruption, prejudice, and bigotry.
My professors moved me to care, which was far as their instruction went, to the point of intellectual assent, but it did not lead to the next step, that of practical action. I was convinced that the faculty members were correct, that the coming Kingdom of God would indeed be one of equality; however I was not taught how to work with Christ for that Kingdom.
Fortunately, the faculty heard their students’ criticism, and they arranged for a community organizer from Omaha to teach a summer course. At last, here was the practical application of theory that had been missing from the rest of the curriculum. The instructor had organized a variety of co-operatives in Omaha, including a credit union and a food co-op, and he taught us the how and the why of co-operative ventures. Regrettably, his attempts to integrate theology into his theories on co-operative economic action were not as helpful.
Reading the devotion for today in Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones brought back memories of that summer course. If only someone had taught the Omaha community organizer about Jones’ theological perspective. Here was the integration of theology and action that MDiv students needed as they prepared for their ministries. The writings of E. Stanley Jones might have helped the instructor appreciate the theological underpinnings that could inform his actions.
This morning’s attention-grabbing passage from Reverend Jones read,
“I have social hope amid the hopelessness around me. For as we discover the larger meaning of sin -- as we discover that the central social sin is the organizing of life on the unchristian principle of selfish competition when cooperation is open to us, when we discover the disloyalty to Christ involved in allowing the means of production to fall into the hands of the few for private personal gain instead of being in the hands of society for the good of all, when we discover all this, as we are slowly doing, with many a set-back, then we shall turn to Him for a larger salvation.”
How about it all you E. Stanley Jones professors of evangelism? Teach your MDiv students about your namesake’s larger vision of salvation. Connect the dots between Jones and Mahatma Gandhi, and explain how this missionary to India came to incorporate cooperative action into his ministry. Your students will be grateful for the integration of the theoretical with the practical.