Tag Archives: oppression

Calvin on the Injustice of Oppression by Those in Power

But there is still more; that is, that the image of God is engraved in all people. Therefore not only do I despise my [own] flesh whenever I oppress anyone, but to my fullest capacity I violate the image of God. Therefore let us carefully  note that God willed in this passage to point out to those who are in authority and who receive esteem, who are richer than others and who enjoy some degree of honor, that they must not abuse those who are under their hand; they must not torment them beyond measure. They must always reflect on the fact that we are all descended from Adam’s race, that we possess a common nature and even that the image of God is engraved on us…

(John Calvin: Writings On Pastoral Piety, trans. Elsie Anne McKee, 260-1.)

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The Latin American Church

It is fairly common for Americans to believe that the West is the major exporter of new ideas and trends around the world. For instance, Mark Noll believes that “understanding American patterns provides insight for what has been happening elsewhere in the world.”[1] Although he does not believe this is due to direct causation, he does believe it is a correlative effect. However, this way of thinking ignores that what has mostly been a one-way street of ideas, missionaries, and movements coming to Latin America is actually a stream which flows both ways.[2] Because of this we must understand how Latin American emigration is changing the shape of Christianity in the United States.

According to Philip Jenkins “by 2050 Latinos will make up about a quarter of the national population,” with the vast majority of these Latinos coming from a Christian background.[3] Currently in the United States there are 37.5 million Latinos (not including undocumented immigrants and Puerto Ricans).[4] If we begin to study immigration trends we see that immigration to the U.S. has been predominantly Christian[5] with many of these immigrants coming from the “new centers of faith”: Africa and Latin America[6]. These immigrants are impacting how American Christians understand their faith. For instance we might look at the American Catholic Church which is currently importing priests from Latin America and Spain due to shortages in priests.[7] This has led to the Virgin Mary, which was seldom seen in the North American Catholic church up until the 1980’s, to be venerated throughout the United States.[8] If we look at the Protestant church we see the difference Latinos have made as well. In many places throughout the U.S. it was fairly common to see abandoned American churches, however now those churches have been put to use again by Latino Christians who have moved into the area. In addition to this many American churches are seeing church growth due to growth in their Hispanic congregations.[9]

If Christianity from Latin America is becoming influential in the United States we need to understand the major theological themes that the Latin American church is dealing with at home. These two issues are 1-poverty and oppression and 2-charismatic Christianity.

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[1] Mark A. Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 189.

[2] Odina E. González and Justo González, Christianity in Latin America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 302.

[3] Philip Jenkins, God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 284.

[4] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 304.

[5] Jenkins, God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis, 284.

[6] Jehu Hanciles, “God’s Mission through Migration: African Initiatives in Globalizing Mission,” in Evangelical, Ecumenical, and Anabaptist Missiologies in Conversation, ed James Krabill, Walter Sawatsky, and Charles Van Engen (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2006), 59.

[7] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 305.

[8] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 304-5.

[9] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 307.

Some Thoughts on Colossians: Are You Preaching the Full Gospel?

So there is this story of an early first century man, this man started to be known as being a sort of a revolutionary. He was speaking against the authorities and their unjust ways of ruling the people. This man lived in an era where civil unrest was the norm. People were constantly protesting against their rulers and authorities. So In a day of common civil unrest he could have easily become just another man who complained but he generated a very large following. So when this guy started talking about his coming kingdom this really drew the attention of the powers and authorities. The powers and authorities couldn’t take it anymore, they found him to be a threat to their power and to their way of life so they arrested Him and put him to trial. It was actually a mock trial. Well these rulers and authorities realized this man was a “rebel king” so they did what people always did to rebel kings. They took him and paraded him through the streets. They mocked him and put him on full display, bringing the utmost amount of shame imaginable to this “rebel king.” They gave him a robe and crown and addressed him as “king: as they beat him. They forced him to march through the city to  a hill where everyone could watch his execution. They stripped this rebel king and made a spectacle of him, triumphing over him.

What I just described pretty accurately describes a common practice in Roman times where a rebel king is mocked and made a spectacle of by his captors. Of course though the “rebel king” I have been referring to is Jesus. But note the irony! Check out verse 15. Paul Declares that God was stripping the armor of the rulers and authorities. He was holding them up to public contempt. On the cross Jesus was triumphing over the powers and authorities. Jesus was unjustly put to death by the authorities and powers of his day; he was put to death by Rome and the Jewish Temple authorities. But his victory on the cross means more than just that it also means that…

On the cross Christ defeated  the oppressive, unjust, and destructive powers, systems, and authorities of his time and of all time.

So if Jesus defeated the unjust, oppressive, destructive, powers of his day what does that mean for Christ followers today?

  1. First it means that Christ’s victory was a victory over spiritual powers.
  2. Second it means that Christ’s victory on the cross demands a response from us. We must participate in announcing his victory over the oppressive powers, authorities, and systems of our day.
  3. Third it means that on the cross Christ defeated the most oppressive, destructive, and viscous system, ruler, or power that has wounded everyone under the sun…. on the cross Christ was victorious over sin.

In the church we are accustomed to hearing the third point and possibly the first point as well (if you come from a more charismatic church). But to tell you the truth I don’t hear too many people talking about the second point. I honestly believe that this is a very important part of our gospel proclamation.

When we proclaim the gospel we aren’t simply proclaiming “Jesus Saves” we are proclaiming, “Jesus is Lord!”

Yet Jesus is not simply Lord over a bunch of individuals who decided to follow him. Jesus is Lord over all things and all things must submit to Christ, including evil, oppressive, and destructive powers, authorities, and systems.

So as you think about the passage this week consider this questions:

  • What kind of gospel are you preaching, is it a holistic gospel or a reduced gospel?
  • Is it a gospel that addresses individuals or is it a cosmic gospel (as in Colossians 1:23)?
  • What are the systems, powers, and authorities that the gospel actually addresses?