WCIUjournal
Copy of SOCIAL JUSTICE

Social Justice

In what ways does a godly presence in a society lead to social justices?

Photo credit: Gustave Deghilage - Flickr

A Conversation with Ralph D. Winter about the Search for Meaning in a Secular Society

Beth Snodderly is a past president of William Carey International University. She currently serves as editor for the  WCIU Journal  and the  Ralph D. Winter Research Center . This article is based, in part, on her dissertation research.

Beth Snodderly is a past president of William Carey International University. She currently serves as editor for the WCIU Journal and the Ralph D. Winter Research Center. This article is based, in part, on her dissertation research.

WCIU Journal: Social Justice Topic

March 26, 2019

by Beth Snodderly 

Introduction

• Why is there so much suffering in the world?

• Why do bad things happen to good people?

• Why has the human species been allowed full, unfettered measure of violence for so long? (Marks 2008, 364).

• Why am I alive? Does my existence count for anything?

People are searching for meaning in their lives and answers to questions like these. Church historian Ralph D. Winter highlighted this when he asked in an Editorial Comment,

How is a wretchedly poor, dispossessed family in Darfur similar to a comparatively wealthy, retired believer in the USA? In both cases they need a good reason to live. Their primary bond is not the need for food, or money, or security. The wealthy, retired person may think that with enough food and shelter he can get along. But retired people die prematurely if they do not have a reason to live (Winter 2007b).

French philosopher-theologian Jacques Ellul contributed the insight that “even before we humans knew we lived on a globe we sought a global understanding of our humanity” (Fasching 2014). He also highlighted the problem of trying to find that understanding in the great cities of today’s global civilization that are held together by technology and science. The dominant technological, rationalist explanations for what we see happening around us are what we speak of as a “secular” worldview, which does not give satisfactory answers to the “why” questions. Rather than attempting to see the whole picture (a “metanarrative”), a secular approach, without God in the picture, just explains the science and technology pieces of reality.

But, in agreement with Winter, theologian Lesslie Newbigin pointed out that the human spirit cannot live permanently with a form of rationality which has no answer to the question “Why?” (Newbigin 1989, 213). In his article titled, “Evangelism in the Context of Secularization,” Newbigin theorized,

If there is no answer to the question, “What is human life really for? What is the purpose of human life and of the whole creation?” people will seek to fill the void with the search for instant pleasure in drugs, in sex, in mindless violence through which one can express the sense of meaninglessness (Newbigin 1990, 150).

The importance of finding meaning in life is the theme of Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. He wrote about his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp where he found that the secret to survival was in deliberately choosing to create a sense of meaning and purpose for continuing to live. He found that “those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’ ” (Burton, 2012). While Frankl’s interpretation offers a self-centered approach to creating meaning in life, others look outside of themselves for a spiritual, but not necessarily religious, explanation. They want to feel connected to something larger than themselves (Raney 2017). In other words, they are searching for a source of meaning, and they are not finding it in secular rationalism. This conclusion is supported by a recent book review of Why Liberalism Failed:

As we have slowly and surely attained more progress, we have lost something that undergirds all of it: meaning, cohesion, and a different, deeper kind of happiness than the satiation of all our earthly needs. … There is no going back. For our civilization, God is dead. Meaning is meaningless outside the satisfaction of our material wants and can become, at its very best, merely a form of awe at meaninglessness. We have no common concept of human flourishing apart from materialism, and therefore we stand alone (Sullivan 2018) (emphasis added).

Communicating Meaning through a Biblical Interpretation of History

The Christian community offers a variety of culturally adapted biblical models about the ultimate meaning of life that can help us make sense of our experience (Newbigin 1989, 65), the very thing many secular or non-religious people are looking for. One of these models, that this paper will explore, comes from Ralph Winter who stressed, along with Newbigin, that the Bible gives the best answers to the “why” questions of life. The Bible gives us the true story that explains who we are, where we come from, and where we are going (Newbigin 1990, 152). In his many talks and writings, Winter promoted a distinctive metanarrative—his interpretation of history from Creation to the present, from the perspective of God’s purposes in history, along with the opposition of God’s adversary, the devil, who should be getting the blame instead of God for the evils in this world (Winter 2009b).

Communicating “Good News”

In order to communicate well to secular people, we have to try to understand how they think, in light of the biblical story (Newbigin 1989, 96). But Winter pointed out that, instead, evangelicals tend to use “insider” language that does not communicate appropriately to “secular” or non-religious people (Winter 2004b). He often gave this illustration:

Suppose you were going to Egypt and immigration officials found a Bible in your suitcase. They ask you a very direct question: “Are you here to convert Muslims?” What would be the proper answer? In their language—which is standard English—since they don’t go to church they don’t know what we mean by “convert,” which is radically different from what people outside the church mean. Our Bibles contain a word which is translated, “proselyte.” Our Bible condemns proselytization. Proselytization is forcing Greeks to become culturally Jews. And that, the Bible is opposed to. So we could say to them, “We are absolutely opposed to proselytization.” Well, maybe they don’t even know that word, but they do know the word, “convert,” and it means the same thing to them. Therefore you could say to them very accurately, “My religion forbids me to convert Muslims. Or to convert anybody.” We’re not in the business of getting people to shift from one culture to another. … If the question is, “Are you here to spread Christianity,” the answer should be no. That’s not the business we’re in. We’re spreading the knowledge of Christ (Winter 2004c).

Indian scholar Ken Gnanakan also emphasizes that we are to spread Christ, not Christianity, in his book, The Whole Gospel of God. He states, “there is no room for us advocating a Christian culture, or a Gospel culture separated from the local cultures that we are part of. … We do not break from our cultures, but build on them as the Gospel enters our varied cultures” (Gnanakan 2014, 317-20). The Gospel entering a culture for the first time is what Ralph Winter called a “missiological breakthrough,” which he distinguished from evangelism of one’s own people (Winter 2004b). Winter observed that Christianity is the only world religious system that is willing to take upon itself the cultural clothes of every tradition in the world (Winter 2009b). The thinking of Gnanakan and Winter parallels that of anthropologist Charles Kraft who wrote, “the way of Jesus is … to honor a people’s culture, not to wrest them from it. Just as he entered the cultural life of first century Palestine in order to communicate with them, so we are to enter the cultural matrix of people we seek to win” (Kraft 2001, 46). Lausanne’s Consultation on Gospel and Culture likewise proclaimed, “The process of communicating the gospel cannot be isolated from the human culture from which it comes or from that in which it is to be proclaimed” (Willowbank Report 1978).

This sort of contextual thinking explains Ralph Winter’s passion to “make sense to today’s scientists” (and other secular people) (Winter 2008, 240-43). Winter wanted to defend the trustworthiness of the Bible in the eyes of the average well-educated secular person. He pointed out that huge obstacles exist for anyone who would seriously attempt to evangelize in a scientifically-oriented society. For example, “if we recognize the existence of the ‘unreached people’ of the scientifically educated community of, say, Hyderabad, we quickly face the frontier of ‘the religion of science’ ” (Winter 2004c, 36-37). Winter recognized that most scientists believe “the record of the rocks” regarding the age of the earth and development of life, and they are turned away from any interest in biblical faith if they think they have to believe, with some evangelicals, that the earth is only 6000 years old. Wheaton graduate and journalist Michael Gerson pointed out:

There is no meaningful theological difference between creation by divine intervention and creation by natural selection; both are consistent with belief in a purposeful universe, and with serious interpretation of biblical texts. Evangelicals have placed an entirely superfluous stumbling block before their neighbors and children, encouraging every young person who loves science to reject Christianity (Gerson 2018).

Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project, likewise asked, “Is it any wonder that many sadly turn away from faith concluding that they cannot believe in a God who asks for an abandonment of logic and reason?” (Collins 2003, 112).

But according to Winter’s (and my) analysis we can believe in both an old earth (before Genesis 1:1), and a young “recreated” earth (Genesis 1) (Winter 2008, xv; Snodderly 2014, 41, 69). Neither interpretation implies a rejection of the Bible’s inerrancy. If we insist the Bible says something it was not intended to say—as Luther and Calvin did regarding the sun moving around the earth—we may unintentionally tear down confidence in the Bible and prevent people from coming to faith (Winter 2008, 248).

If most evangelicals are not “speaking the language of the native” (referring to educated people in the global science and technology worlds), the result is that such people are being kept from faith by a miscommunication or misunderstanding of the Bible.

History in Biblical Perspective

Ironically, in hypothesizing a narrative about creation and history that would make sense both to scientists and to Bible-believing evangelicals, Winter had to emphasize a biblical reality that is not readily accepted by non-spiritual secular people. But, as Lesslie Newbigin recognized, “the ‘secular’ society is not a neutral area into which we can project the Christian message. It is an area already occupied by other gods. We have a battle on our hands. We are dealing with principalities and powers” (Newbigin 1990, 150). Winter recognized this in calling his metanarrative, “The Battle for Our Planet” (Winter 2009c), that begins with a new interpretation of Genesis 1 in an attempt to overcome barriers to belief.

The Battle for Our Planet

Winter saw two significant barriers to biblical faith: the “why” questions about the suffering, violence, and evil in this world that seem to imply God is as fault, as if there is no Satan behind it; and a Bible that is thought to be untrustworthy and scientifically inaccurate, beginning with Genesis 1. He dealt with both of these obstacles in an unusual way. This paper gives a brief overview of Winter’s attempt to conjecturally interpret Genesis 1 in such a way as not to conflict with the latest scientific views, while recognizing that Genesis 1 was never meant to be a science textbook. This story may be helpful in dealing with people who believe current science is mainly correct in regard to how old the earth is. It may also be helpful to anyone who is confused about why and how radical evil appeared in our world.

Winter’s scenario differs from the views of many scientists in that it explains the development of life by a means quite different from Darwinian theory of a random evolutionary process. He insisted that an intelligence is involved in the gradual evolution found in nature. Just as intelligent engineers were responsible for the evolution of car design, Winter postulated that God employed intelligent angels at every point in the creation process (to work with the matter that God had created out of nothing). Over time, they increased in knowledge and skill, and life forms became more complex. (For example, in the Cambrian period, only very simple life forms existed, and those were mostly in the oceans.) He suggested that “transitional animals being found are proof of the continuity of design; not proof of the absence of design” (Winter 2006c). His perspective allows for much of both the so-called “Young Earth” and the “Old Earth” perspectives, but most of all, it highlights an important dimension of Christian mission that glorifies God and draws people to Him. 

Pre-history

The official “history” period of this metanarrative cannot be well understood without the backdrop of a prehistory that (mostly) makes sense to scientists and other educated secular people. It begins with the speculation that the lengthy “geologic ages” occurred before Genesis 1:1, and that the vicious carnivorous animal fossils are not the same thing as the plant-eating life described in Genesis 1:30.

Most people assume that when Genesis was written, people were aware of the earth as a planet that was part of a solar system, galaxy, and universe, and that the creation of all that is what is being referred to in Genesis 1:1. But it is an anachronistic interpretation of Genesis 1 to read our knowledge today into something that was put together several thousand years ago in a different culture. In the Gospel of Matthew, for example, we get a look at a very different conception of the meaning of time from our modern technological understanding. Matthew marks off 14 generations from Abraham to David; 14 generations from David to the Exile; and 14 generations from the Exile to the birth of Jesus. These time periods are not actually equal in length, but rather they are equal in significance.

We also find in Matthew’s genealogy that he does not trace Jesus’ lineage back to “the” beginning with Adam as the first human, although Adam is certainly part of Jesus’ genealogy (Luke 3:38). Instead, to frame the story he plans to tell, Matthew starts with the beginning of God’s covenant with the Hebrew people through Abraham. Similarly, Winter believed, Genesis does not begin with “the” beginning of everything, but with the beginning of the human story (Winter 2006a) that God wanted to tell his people to let them know where they came from and why they were chosen. As long ago as 1958 Dr. Merrill Unger, the chair of the Old Testament Department at Dallas Theological Seminary, taught that “the geologic ages” preceded Genesis 1:1 and that the events of Genesis 1 portray not the beginning but “a relative beginning” (Unger 1958; 1981).

This relatively “new creation” concept allows for someone to accept both young earth and old earth views.[1] But there is something else that was even more important for Winter. If the thousands of forms of life that are now extinct lived before Genesis 1, their pervasively violent and predatory character could then be attributed, not to God’s perfect will, but to the evil, distorting work of Satan and his rebel angels after Satan’s “fall.” This suggests that after the second “fall” (of Adam), the recently created, undistorted life forms of Genesis chapter one would have been forced out of the Garden of Eden, along with the human couple, into the larger world where they would have interbred with the long-perverted other forms of life. As a result, there would have been a gradual reversion to the pre-Genesis perversity and viciousness that were the results of Satan’s earlier fall.

Biblical History: Other New Beginnings

Noah

Eventually, after the invasion of evil into the Garden and the expulsion of the humans from this protected area, the Bible says man “was only doing evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). In order to preserve a godly remnant of humans from being swallowed up by the evil around them, God permitted a major disaster—a flood—as judgment. Larger forms of life would have been killed by the flood, but a few were preserved by Noah, and these gradually replenished that entire section of the earth.

Abraham

Out of all the subsequent chaos and evil (such as the events of the tower of Babel), God chose one man in a plan to strike back at the enemy’s invasion of the earth where God intends for His glory to dwell and His Kingdom to reign. Genesis 12 describes God’s new covenant with Abraham and this becomes the theme of the rest of Bible. In this original “Great Commission,” God foretold that through Abraham and his descendants He would bless all the peoples of the world (Genesis 12:3) so that some from every people group could become part of God’s family.

The Exodus

Abraham’s descendants ended up in Egypt, where they grew from about 70 people to several million people. After 400 years, they were ready to be a nation instead of Pharaoh’s slaves. God chose Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt into Canaan, a land that would be their own. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament we see that God is in the mission business, whether His people recognized their role in redemption or not.

Exile

When God’s people went into exile, as punishment for their disobedience, they were able to help the people of Babylon learn about the true God. At the same time, they learned from the Zoroastrians more about Satan and his opposition to God’s will.

Jesus

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, was the basis all along for defeating the devil, and blessing and reconciling all peoples of the earth to God. Through Jesus we receive greater knowledge of God. He is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3). God calls people from all tribes, nations, and linguistic groups to follow Him: to repent of sin, turn to Him through Jesus, and be enlisted in the cosmic battle against evil.

The Growth of Biblical Influence in 400-Year Epochs

Those who came to know God through the person of Jesus began to grow into a new transnational movement, extending the Kingdom of God into many cultures. This movement built significantly on the foundation of centuries of Jewish witness and has changed the world. For convenience in surveying and seeing patterns in mission history, Winter postulated five 400-year epochs following the coming of Jesus. He saw a general pattern of each epoch starting with chaos and darkness while ending with a flourishing of biblical faith in a new cultural basin. Although Christianity became mainly European for a time, the re-expansion of Christianity began at the end of the fourth epoch. Now in the 21st century the biblical faith is so globalized that historian Philip Jenkins believes the views of Northern Christians are becoming less and less significant in comparison to the views of Christians in the Global South (Jenkins 2011, 148).

0–400, First Epoch: Winning the Romans

400–800, Second Epoch: Winning the Barbarians

800–1200, Third Epoch: Winning the Vikings


1200–1600, Fourth Epoch: The Gospel Fails to Go East

1600–2000+, Fifth Epoch: To the Ends of the Earth 

God’s Kingdom in the Midst of a Secular World

 Longer versions of Winter’s metanarrative describe at length how Satan has been at work throughout history, distorting God’s creation and deceiving people into blaming God for all the bad things that happen in this world. Since the time of Augustine, the New Testament’s concept of Satan has largely been overlooked in Western Christianity. We have been influenced by a neo-platonic view of a God who, for mysterious reasons, initiates both good and evil, with Satan largely absent from the story. Bruce McLaughlin, a science professor who has a doctorate from MIT and also authors a website titled, “Christianity: Truth or Lie?” summarized Winter’s view of Satan’s role in history and the world this way:

According to Scripture, the universe was originally good and the glory of God is still evident in it (Rom. 1:20). But something else—something frightfully wicked—is evident in it as well. Of their own free will, Satan and other spiritual beings rebelled against God in the primordial past and now abuse their God-given authority over certain aspects of creation. Satan, who holds the power of death (Heb. 2:14), exercises a pervasive, structural, diabolic influence to the point that the entire creation is in bondage to decay. The pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile character of nature should be attributed to Satan and his army, not to God. Jesus’ earthly ministry reflected the belief that the world had been seized by a hostile, sinister lord. Jesus came to take it back (McLaughlin 2004, 237).

The Scope of Believers’ Mandate in a Secular World

Jesus set an example for believers to follow. By their actions, believers can show that it is not God’s will to inflict suffering, wars, and disease on people. When people wonder why God allows bad things to happen to good people they are not likely to be interested in getting to know that kind of God. This was the experience of a former evangelical, John Marks, who wrote the book, Reasons to Believe: One Man's Journey Among the Evangelicals and the Faith He Left Behind. He withdrew from belief in God because he could not understand why God would allow people to slaughter each other as they have throughout history, and that he observed close up in covering the Bosnian wars for CBS (Marks 2008). But since God does not overrule the free will he has granted his creatures, societies and all creation have been experiencing the consequences of angelic and human choices, both good and bad, ever since Satan’s/Lucifer’s opposition to God began.

The biblical writers encouraged their hearers to make good choices, to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). To do this, Jacques Ellul emphasized the importance of an authentic Christian “presence” in a society. One way to bring God’s presence into a society, he said, is by welcoming, rather than rejecting, the stranger—a frequent theme in Scripture (Gen. 18:1-5; Matt. 25:35; Heb. 13:2). American evangelicals, who agree by their silence and voting records with current political hostility toward immigrants, are doing exactly the opposite of what God’s people should be doing to demonstrate the character and glory of God to a secular world. Ellul saw evangelism as “spreading the Good News of God’s hospitality to the whole human race” (Fasching 2014). Likewise, Lesslie Newbigin stated: “statistical evidence goes to show that those within our secularized societies who are being drawn out of unbelief to faith in Christ say that they were drawn through the friendship of a local congregation” (Newbigin 1990, 153). He taught that people will recognize the presence of the Kingdom of God when they see acts of compassion flowing from believers who are filled with the Spirit and are living the “true story.” Since the gospel comes to a secular person through the believers they encounter in their daily lives, communities of believers must live in such as way as to “make sense” to those they wish to invite to be part of God’s Kingdom (Newbigin 1989). This recalls Winter’s desire to “make sense to today’s scientists” which was the motivation for his speculation about pre-history (Winter 2008, 240).

Winter, Newbigin, and Ellul all believed that all followers of Christ need to be constantly asking themselves what would be the maximum contribution they can make to the kingdom of God. “The primary action of the Church in the world is the action of its members in their daily work,” Newbigin said (1990, 154). Ed Stetzer, Director of Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center and pastor of Moody Church, wrote in a recent editorial: “whether we’re working as shopkeepers, bread-bakers, or investment fund managers, we should see the work we do as a form of ministry unto the Lord—part of a kingdom mission” (Stetzer 2018). In his book, Subversive Kingdom, Stetzer spoke of being display windows for what God’s Kingdom is meant to look like (Stetzer 2012, 189).

Winter went even further in seeing that an important part of the “holy calling” of daily work was to actively participate as soldiers in a cosmic battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. In this he was in agreement with Jonathan Blanchard, founder of Wheaton College, who preached in 1839 that “every true minister of Christ is a universal reformer, whose business it is, so far as possible, to reform all the evils which press on human concerns.” (Dayton and Strong 2014, 56). (Blanchard was an abolitionist who practiced what he preached. When he became the first president of Wheaton College in 1860, the college become a stop on the underground railroad [http://a2z.my.wheaton.edu/underground-railroad]). Winter insisted, “[Believers’] real purpose will be to identify and destroy all forms of evil, both human and microbiological, and their work will thus be explainable in plain English without religious jargon” (Winter 2007c). He wanted believers to recognize that the Christian mission is far more complex and demanding than we may have thought: “In this war, God is expecting our help. This is a mission to restore glory to God!” (Winter 2008, 284).

Disease as a Work of the Devil to Fight in God’s Name

Winter particularly emphasized one specific way believers could glorify God in the fight against evil by demonstrating God’s attributes. His passion in the last decade of his life was to mobilize believers to recognize the evil one’s distortions in the realm of disease and to be involved in fighting back to eradicate diseases at their origins. He asked,

What would Jesus have said to His hearers if they had known what we know about germs? Would He have warned them against perversions of their DNA by Satan? Would He have encouraged them to fight back and not to assume that destructive forms of life were made that way in the original creation by God? Would He have encouraged His hearers to master enough microbiology to be able to restore distorted forms of life to their original state? Would not Jesus have urged His hearers to go all out to discover what Satan has done to produce cancer and to seek to conquer this dread disease? (Winter 2008, 247).  

Satan’s massive damage to the purposes of the Kingdom of God through disease, such as malaria and cancer, amounts to noise so loud, Winter felt, that people can’t hear what we are preaching to them (Winter 2008, 227). He felt that our Gospel would carry far greater conviction if believers’ actions showed them to be allied with God in opposition to deadly pathogens. “Disassociating God from the works of the devil becomes then both the means and the end of winning souls to Christ” (Winter 2008, 323).

Obviously, individuals usually need to organize with others to be effective in dealing with deadly pathogens, but Winter lamented that there is not one Christian institution in the world dedicated to eradication of disease pathogens (Winter 2008, 325). Instead it is left to secular scientists and philanthropists, who instinctively know that disease elimination or even eradication is the right thing to do. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations recently gave $76 million to pay off Nigeria’s debt to Japan for its nearly-successful polio eradication campaign (Berger 2018). Gates optimistically believes that by 2025, malaria will have been eliminated except in “very tough places, like equatorial Africa” (Galanes 2018). While The Carter Center is not a Christian organization, its founders are followers of Jesus. In March of this year the author of a liberal blog called Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter “real Christians,” in recognition of their successful efforts to eliminate Guinea Worm in South Sudan (https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/3/21/1750858/-South-Sudan-Carter-Center-announce-Eradication-of-Guinea-Worm-Disease-in-South-Sudan). More of this work of elimination of disease could be done in Jesus’ name if His followers would expand their concept of mission in a secular world.

Winter, Newbigin, and Stetzer all saw that believers’ involvement in the world causes people to sense the presence of a new reality and this raises questions in peoples’ minds, opening the door for explaining the gospel. Winter pointed out that educated evangelicals are beginning to have positions of social influence. He felt if they would live out a “full-spectrum gospel” it could mean an enormous change. If we find ways to demonstrate God’s goodness and his love, Winter felt, people will say, “what’s this?” (Winter 2006b) and “doors will open” (Winter 2007c). Newbigin also saw that acts of compassion inspired by the Holy Spirit’s presence would lead secular people to ask, “‘Why do you do this? Why do you behave like this?’ Here is where the true evangelistic dialogue begins” (Newbigin 1990, 156). Stetzer encouraged believers to realize that “We carry around an agenda designed to get the kingdom of God both brought up in conversation and brought down to earth” (Stetzer 2012, 121).

Conclusion

In fact, Winter said, getting people reconciled to God and to His Kingdom must go together. “Otherwise our absence at the frontlines of major global problems means we are misrepresenting God’s will and misusing the wisdom and resources He has given us to act out and speak out His love and glorify His Name among all peoples” (Winter 2008, 356).

The nations are being prevented from declaring God’s glory by the scarcity of evidence of God’s ability to cope with evil. If the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the Devil, then what are the Son of God’s followers and “joint heirs” supposed to do to bring honor to His Name? (Winter 2009a, 8)

Because the gospel is a message of hope, the poorest must see some concrete reason for hope before they can understand the gospel (Winter 2008, 338). Winter wanted leaders of Christian organizations to recognize that they need to lead the way in organizing specialized structures to restore God’s reputation in the eyes of the on-looking secular world. Believers must demonstrate to potential (and former) followers of Jesus that disease, suffering, wars, violence, and evil are not God’s will and are not from him. In the book of Job, for example, “it is very clear that God isn’t the one who has the idea of inflicting suffering. Satan is the one who suggests it” (Winter 2006d).

Winter pointed to the importance of seeing the historical big picture—that God is in an ongoing battle with a spiritual enemy, starting even before Genesis 1, who came to “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10). Acknowledging the existence of this opposition from “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12) can provide answers to some of the most thorny “why” questions, while the human need for meaning in life can be met by joining God to overcome evil with good.

The “cure” for an unevangelized secular world, Winter believed, is for the church to organize and defeat evil in God’s name. In this way believers will be defending God’s character and reputation, so that the works of the devil are not attributed to God. But he emphasized that “Good works must go beyond just personal good deeds to organized good deeds which will include … serious concern for global slavery, poverty, and disease. Otherwise we evangelicals will misrepresent the character of God and our proclamation activity will lack both credibility and authenticity” (Winter 2007c, 9).

Global researcher Justin Long posted on Facebook a list of “megaproblems” that believers could potentially be involved in addressing, including:

• Abortion

• Water / sanitation
• Hunger
Poverty
• Infectious disease
• Conflict / nukes
• Harassment / trafficking / slavery
• Police states
Refugees / migration
• Isolation / separation / inequality
Education
• Infrastructure
Climate/pollution

• Corruption

But the church has not adequately organized itself through necessary structures to show compassion and moral outrage to counteract corruption, disease, and poverty (Winter 2008, 357). In fact, evangelicals’ poor showing on national issues of racism and sexual harassment have led Twitter users to say to me that I should find “a more compassionate religion” than evangelicalism. Although believers are largely not yet organized in bringing God’s will into the dark and suffering places in our world, Winter’s understanding of history led him to be aware that God’s expanding Kingdom is not going to stop with our own generation (although it may leave us behind as has happened in the Near East and Europe). The good news is that “this Gospel of the Kingdom must be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all peoples, and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14) (Winter 2009a, 23).

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 Footnote:

[1] For a detailed exegetical explanation of this view, see my book, Chaos Is Not God’s Will, published by WCIU Press and available as a free download at https://www.academia.edu/12140120/Chaos_Is_Not_Gods_Will.