Recently, Richard Smith in Argentina published a “sympathetic critique” of Darrow’s book Discipling Nations. He raised issues about Disciple Nations Alliance teaching that have been noted by others from time to time. We published, in six parts, Richard’s critique and Darrow’s response.
In this follow-up post we bring you Richard’s response to Darrow, and Darrow’s reply.
As you will see, in the providence of God, Darrow and Richard are sharing the platform at the Bible Societies’ Global Advocacy Exchange in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this week! editor
I was happy to receive your response to my blog…. While the site is gaining readership, I rarely get feedback. So, your thoughtful commentary was a pleasant surprise.
So good to hear from you. Our discussion has been a pleasant surprise. We have posted our dialogue at Darrow Miller and Friends. Readers have been fascinated at the discussion we are having and also the tenor of our engagement. Thank you so much!
You will be interested to know that I just talked with Cristian of the Bible Society that will facilitate the conference where you and I will be speaking. The first thing Cristian said was that he had just been talking with you! What a wonder is God’s providence! To think we began this dialogue without knowing one another and then to find out we will both be speaking at the Bible Societies’ Global Advocacy Exchange in Buenos Aires. Looking forward to meeting you and spending time continuing our discussion.
I will make three brief comments, because “an analysis as reflective as yours deserves an attentive response.”
First, I not only read your book (twice), I studied it. I took notes, made cross-references, searched for citations of your texts by others, sought other reviews, and I looked at your ministry website.
I am honored that you took so much time. It does speak of your seriousness, and affirms the need that I had to respond to your earnestness.
Second, you referred me to several, additional texts of yours and of others, and I am grateful. In my blog I referred readers to resources on my site, including two articles by myself. Might I suggest you read: “A Place at the Table: Christian Political Engagement in a Post-Christian Context” and “The Mission of God and Economic Prosperity.” (They are on the site in Spanish. If you want English copies, I can provide them to you.) You will see in the article, “A Place At The Table,” that my vision for Christian social engagement is different than yours (though not incompatible). I also invite you to read some of my blogs (on the “English Page”).
Yes, Richard, I would like to read the two articles you referred to in English. I would appreciate it if you would send them to me. This could be further fodder for our discussion. I will also check out a few of your blog posts.
More about biblical principles than techniques
Third, if we assume your optimism is warranted, I wonder how it might be implemented. What is the infrastructure (institutions, economics, ideas, education, personnel) to make it happen? The infrastructure issue is what I raise in several of my questions at the end of part two. This is a theme with which I am interested. Even if your optimism and vision are plausible, there would be massive, long-term changes needed in terms of education (theological and general), economic investment, and leadership in the church.
Richard, as you so rightly distinguished, there is a difference between an optimistic view of the future and the actual implementation of such a view.
I would say that the “secret” is not a how-to manual, but the application of biblical principles of government, economics, education, science, etc. Not “ten easy steps,” but a set of principles that, when applied, bring transformation. The ten steps are the “what.” It is the wonder and power of the “why” that will provide the motivation and set the direction of the work.
The Reformation in Europe, the Wesleyan Revivals in England, and the First Great Awakening in the USA are great examples that this kind of change can occur on a massive national (and even continental level) in a relatively short period of time, with the key instrument being what I like to call the “Monday Church.” Let me explain.
In today’s economy, we too often see the church as a building where people gather to worship on Sunday. This is the Sunday “go to meeting” church. But the church is not a building. The Bible speaks of the church as a people, as the bride of Christ, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, as koinonia (fellowship). The church gathers on Sunday for corporate worship and equipping and then scatters on Monday all over the society to disciple and serve. The same people that gather on Sunday are still the church on Monday. Most of the work of the church takes place Monday through Saturday.
Biblical principles in all of life make the difference
The Reformation in Europe was not simply a spiritual revival; it was a reforming of the countries of northern Europe, a reformation that began with education, and eventually included science, economics and politics. The reordering and restructuring of societies was the outcome of the preaching of the whole counsel of God, and the embrace of policies based on biblical principles applied in all areas of life, by prince and pauper alike.
The Wesleyan Revivals produced reform in all of English society. Wesley’s spiritual sons and daughters organized themselves (Wesley’s “Methods”) for going deeper into knowledge and application of the word of God. The Clapham Sect, whose members included William Wilberforce, showed how one well-organized group of people could be used of God to reform an entire society. They ended up reforming the prison system, ending slavery, bringing civility to British society, reducing drug and alcohol abuse, and more, all in one generation. They were committed, focused and organized to bring substantial change to Britain. And they did, under the leadership of and in concert with the Spirit of God. The Clapham Sect was a good example of the Monday Church.
The story of Arthur Guinness, founder of Guinness Beer, is a wonderful account of how one of Wesley’s disciples sought to apply biblical principles in, of all things, a brewery. Stephen Mansfield tells the story in The Search for God and Guinness. Even an old Baptist like me can’t help find it inspirational.
Space doesn’t permit me to elaborate on how the First Great Awakening in America was the fire that led to the founding of our nation on biblical principles and the concept of covenant.
At the Disciple Nations Alliance, we have reflected on what others have done. Those reflections are available in a lecture and series of PowerPoint slides. You can find it here.
Yes, the changes are massive; and this is why the potential is so exciting. These changes have happened in history, under the power and direction of the Spirit of God and the agency of the church in a nation. After all, this is God’s work, his mission, and he has called us to engage with Him, i.e. to CO-mission with him to disciple nations.
Finally …. I would enjoy a dialogue, as well … I would like to tell you more about this site, Cosmovision Biblica, and the ministry of Global Scholars (including the upcoming Society of Christian Scholars).
I think, honestly, that we will discover areas where we can cooperate and areas where we should function individually or in parallel. In fact, I suspect that the ministries of Cosmovision Biblica and Global Scholars will support your work over the long term.
Richard, I too look forward to continuing the dialogue. It will be great for us to get some time together at the Global Advocacy Exchange next month in Argentina. I look forward to hearing more about your life and work and to pursuing together some of the issues that we may still be interested in discussing. We could also explore specific areas where we might mutually collaborate.
Under the same wings,