The holey gospel – BEWARE!

A recent book that demonstrates this clear connection is titled The Hole in Our Gospel, authored by Richard Stearns (Thomas Nelson, pub., 2010), president of World Vision U.S. (see p. 8 for a review). Bill Hybels’s Willow Creek Church purchased 10,000 copies, and churches that are part of the Willow Creek Association have likewise ordered thousands of the books. Five pages of endorsements include Chuck Colson, Kay Warren, Bono, Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Max Lucado, Ron Sider, Eugene Peterson, Alec Hill, and Leighton Ford, among others. This volume (on which we are planning an extensive critique) is sprinkled with quotes from Catholic saints and mystics along with Nobel Laureate Mother Teresa (the “poster child” for Stearns’s message). An alleged quote from St. Francis of Assisi sets the theme of the book: “Preach the gospel always; when necessary use words” (p. 23). Stearns’s thesis is that Christians have a hole in their gospel if their lives don’t demonstrate good works. The “good works” that Stearns has in mind focus mainly on meeting the physical needs of the poor and correcting social injustices throughout the world. Whether or not this is feasible, few could argue with his sincerity–or doubt the nobility of his objective. But is it biblical? From beginning to end, Stearns misuses and abuses Scripture in his attempt to prove his case. For example, he is at the very least confused about the biblical gospel. He erroneously speaks of Matthew 25:31-46 as the Final Judgment of the saved and the lost: “Those whose lives were characterized by acts of love done to ‘the least of these’ were blessed and welcomed by Christ into His Father’s kingdom. Those who had failed to respond, whose faith found no expression in compassion to the needy, were banished into eternal fire” (p. 53). Although he attempts to qualify his works-gospel by saying, “This does not mean we are saved by piling up enough good works to satisfy God” (p. 59), he tells us elsewhere that in the example of Lazarus and the rich man, “The plain conclusion is that the rich man went to hell because of his appalling apathy and failure to act in the face of the gross disparity between his wealth and Lazarus’s poverty” (p. 187). [source]