Toby Sumpter on God’s Interruptions

Posted: January 29, 2010 by Scott Kistler in Theology

Toby Sumpter, writing in Credenda Agenda, follows the logic of God’s intervention into human life from the Incarnation to the world to come (following his postmillennial eschatology).  He writes that God interrupts the way that people do things, calling them to a new way of life.  It’s really just worth it to read the whole article, which isn’t too long but covers a lot of ground.  Here is a taste:

Generally, this Commission goes under the twin titles mercy ministry and evangelism: the gospel declared to the poor. These are the two sides of the one blade of the Word. And John Piper has helpfully said that the way we keep these two sides together, the way we ensure that this sword remains unified is through a robust doctrine of Hell. He says in a round table discussion with D.A. Carson and Tim Keller, “We exist to relieve all suffering, especially eternal suffering.” He goes on to describe how a ministry of so-called “mercy” that neglects the reality of the possibility of Hell after this life is an enormous failure. In other words, like Jesus, the urgency of our intervention is authorized by the reality of final judgment and eternal torment. I hereby resolve to increase my use of the words “damn” and “hell.” Jesus interrupts every conversation, every story with a good damn.

A good damn consists of condemning the brokenness, condemning the sin, and pointing to the reality of final judgment. It intervenes to pull, drag, and beg the slaves of sin and brokenness out of the fire that is already kindled in their lives. It offers grace and freedom to every form of poverty. Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett define poverty as a complex breakdown in relationships. “Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.” (When Helping Hurts, 62)

Sumpter also wrote an article about the early church creeds and the gospel last month.

  1. Annihilation is an attractive doctrine for those who think the doctrine of eternal wrath is irreconcilable with the nature and character of God. I don’t accept annihilation and do believe that there is eternal wrath. I tremble at this doctrine. I am not compelled as I ought to evangelize with greater zeal because of it. It is much easier to hand out water, fix homes, etc. You are applauded and respected for such acts of mercy.

    The greatest act of mercy in the proclaiming the Gospel of Christ might get you beat up or killed. It doesn’t come with fanfare. This is part of the church’s mission…I am posting a blog with a great quote from a Christianity Today editorial that offers these correctives to the renewed emphasis on “mercy” ministry.

  2. Scott Kistler says:

    I’m there with you. I need to more compelled and be more willing to risk mockery.

    I liked the quote from Christianity Today. I remember reading it too, and it was good. I met John Green and heard him preach when he spoke at our church in 2008, and he seems like a great guy.

    I was also thinking similar thoughts after I did the post. The church is much more manageable when we’re doing good works. So when people want to downplay evangelism for service (that kind of thought has tempted me before) they may be challenging the church’s priorities but they are playing right into the world’s hands. Interruptions can be thought of as rude, but they’re not when the news is urgent.

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