Darrow Miller and Friends

Doesn’t Wholism Just Send Well-fed, Clothed People to Hell?

That assertion is sometimes made of a comprehensive approach to Christian ministry such as taught by the DNA.

At one level, this is a straw-man argument, an attack of a caricature of wholism. The DNA is not among those who promote feeding the hungry while ignoring their spiritual dimension. But there’s another level to this discussion.

Abraham Kuyper

I thought about this recently while reading Abraham Kuyper, the Reformed theologian, pastor and Dutch statesman who powerfully influenced evangelical Christianity. His Stone lectures, given at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1898, include some helpful reflection on this question.

All agree that the Christian religion is substantially soteriological. ‘What must I do to be saved?’ remains throughout all the ages the question of the anxious inquirer, to which above all else an answer must be given.

Yet both body and soul were made by God, and God cares about both. What sort of gospel would consider physical suffering irrelevant? Is it a faithful witness to the cosmic Lordship of Jesus Christ to regard feeding the hungry as a distraction from the real work of preaching?  To reduce the gospel only to things eternal is to suggest that the creation and the life of man on earth are irrelevant and unimportant to God. The Bible, in places like Romans 8 and Colossians 1, affirms otherwise.

Kuyper writes of erroneous thinking by Christians which “has led to more than one sect to a mystic worshiping of Christ alone, to the exclusion of God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Christ [in this school of thought] was conceived exclusively as the Savior, and His cosmological significance was lost out of sight. . . . Certainly our salvation is of substantial weight, but it cannot be compared with the much greater weight of the glory of our God Who has revealed His majesty in His wondrous creation.

The proclamation-only view has its counterparts in other ministry domains as well. At the board meeting of a Christian university I heard someone say, “God doesn’t care about the business [of the university]. He cares about the education of the students.”

Does God care about the education of the students? Yes. About the doctrine courses? Yes. How about the classes on counseling? Yes. Or music? Yes. Does He care about the social life? The meal service? The accounting office? The board meetings? Yes, yes, yes, yes.

As Darrow Miller demonstrates in LifeWork, God cares about the business. (Check out this recent interview with Darrow on that subject.)

As Kuyper argues in the Stone lectures, he cares about all of creation and all of life.

Because He is Lord of all.

– Gary Brumbelow

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Gary is the Disciple Nations Alliance editorial manager. He manages Darrow Miller and Friends and serves as editor and co-writer on various book projects. For eight years Gary served as a cross-cultural church planting missionary among First Nations people of Canada. His career also includes 14 years as executive director of InterAct Ministries, an Oregon-based church-planting organization in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Gary is a graduate of Grace University, earned an MA from Wheaton College and a Graduate Studies Diploma from Western Seminary. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife, Valerie. They have two married sons and twelve grandchildren. In addition to his work with the DNA, Gary serves as the pastor of Troutdale Community Church.

1 Comment

  1. Joan Brauning

    September 29, 2010 - 7:48 am

    Amen! This is reformation theology at its best.