Gospel Too Small, Or Human Will Too Big?

Post a Comment » Written on May 1st, 2008     
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CHICAGO, IL (May 1, 2008) – Is our gospel too small?

That is the question Bradley Nassif, professor of biblical and theological studies at North Park University, seeks to answer in the current issue of the evangelical publication Christianity Today.

He leans on the desert fathers and mothers for assistance. “If the desert fathers were alive today, I believe they would tell us that our gospel is too small because our wills are too big,” Nassif writes in “The Poverty of Love.”

The article is the latest installment in the magazine’s “The Christian Vision Project,” which focuses on a single question each year. The project seeks the responses of a select group of creative thinkers drawn from the ranks of pastors, scholars, artists, and activists.

Editors turned to Nassif to address the question from his perspective as an Orthodox believer who also has built bridges with evangelicals. One leading Orthodox magazine has referred to Nassif as “a courageous and enthusiastic pioneer of Orthodox-evangelical dialogue around the world.”

To understand the desert fathers and mothers simply as practitioners of arduous ascetical practices is a mistake. “The end goal of every spiritual practice was love,” Nassif writes. He relates the story in which a fourth-century monk asks Anthony the Great why the latter is more popular given that the monk is more rigorous in his ascetical practices. “Because I love God more than you do,” was Anthony’s response.

Love begins in repentance, however, if the heart is to be cleared of the “stony rubble in the soil of their hearts,” Nassif writes. “The gospel was so alive in the monks because repentance was a lifestyle for them, not a single event.”

Humble repentance that receives God’s grace leads to action beyond reading more books, attending more Bible studies and church services, and creating more programs. Rather, the reception of grace will lead to a love that is rich.

North Park University was founded in 1891 by the Evangelical Covenant Church.

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