Stringfellow on Friday – the gospel and the outcast

As I have grown older I have become less and less tolerant of the evangelical debates about the atonement, gender roles, Pauline theology, ecclesiology, politics and so on. Not because I think they are unimportant, but because they are often a very convenient excuse for avoiding what needs to be done, or for not co-operating in co-belligerent activity. As I have grown older the incarnation has assumed greater importance in my thinking, encompassing all the work of Christ, not just what happened on the cross. How he lived as well as died is hugely significant and with that has grown an understanding of his identification with the marginalised. I’m not a liberation theologian. I’m not actually sure what ideological form of theology I would espouse other than trying to think how Jesus might act in a similar circumstance, or asking how might the whole Gospel message, such as I understand it, compel me to act or what might it require of me. Here is Stringfellow,

To be concerned with the outcast is an echo…of the Gospel itself. Characteristically, the Christian is to be found in his work and witness in the world among those for whom no-one else cares—the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the misfits, the homeless, the orphans and beggars. The preence of the Christian among the outcasts is a way in which the Christian represents, concretely, the ubiquity and universality of the intercession of Christ for all. All human beings are encompassed in the ministry of the Christian to the least.
My People is the Enemy, 1964


9 thoughts on “Stringfellow on Friday – the gospel and the outcast

  1. Brilliant quotation Glen, I totally agree with it but I don’t think it is a question of one or other,doctrine/evangelism V incarnational mission/social action. It is both. I suppose apart from Christ, William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army was a model of both (see ‘The General Next to God’ by Richard Collier)He was a red hot evangelist who never pulled a punch when he was preaching about salvation,hell,the cross, dedication but did the most tremendous work among the ‘the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the misfits, the homeless, the orphans and beggars’.

    Just because some people are all doctrine and no action, doesn’t mean we should do the opposite.

  2. @Tim, that’s a great idea Tim. Stringfellow for Advent. Maybe we should pick a book and read it together. Maybe ‘an ethic..’ or ‘simplicity of faith’. Maybe see if there are a few who want to join us?

    @Andrew. I agree and I disagree Andrew. I agree wholeheartedly that it’s not either/or. However I think there may be times in the life of the Church when we have become so skewed in our thinking and practice that correction is required, and that sometimes means ‘overstating’ things. I think we need correction on the doing of justice – nor as evangelistic foreplay (as a friend describes it) but just because it’s the right thing to do.

  3. Glen thanks for replying.I would agree and disagree.I agree that sometimes it needs overstating. But not just social justice etc where Christians are too wordy and unconcerned about man’s social plight, but also where there is only a socal agenda there needs to be the same passion for spiritual salvation.We need to be passionate about both of them and stress one or other where one is lacking,

  4. Glenn, et. al., these are things I wrestle with all time in my life and classes. I too am more and more drawn to the incarnation–the entering into the suffering of the world, an act that in itself is redemptive. If you suffer with someone, you don’t really have to convince them or persuade them of a whole lot.

    The other thought that has recently troubled me is this: in a world of capitalistic, consumeristic advertising, does proclamation really mean anything anymore, or are we just one more group trying to persuade someone that they’re wrong, and we are right? That their life will be better is they use our product? (Maybe have been watching too much “Mad Men”!) I know that there is plenty about proclamation in scripture, but in a world full and overflowing with sundry proclamation(s), what makes us think ours is somehow better or more effective? . . . Can’t ask these questions too many places, eh? Except on Glenn’s blog. 🙂

    I’ve not heard of Stringfellow, but, time permitting, would love to join the reading group. Just ordered _Keeper of the Word_, 3 bucks on Amazon.

  5. Andrew, keep it coming. It’s maybe for another post sometime soon, but what I would say here is that there is no ‘spiritual’ salvation that does not also involve concern for people’s physical condition, the places and conditions in which they live etc. My job is not their salvation (that’s the work of the Spirit). My responsibility is to engage in the work of the Kingdom so that something of its light can infiltrate the darkness. We should maybe have a coffee sometime…what do you think?

  6. Mitch, glad you haven’t read any Stringfellow, I’ll look forward to your contributions during Advent then on Mockingbird’s Leap. And I’m delighted too that quotations of his are getting some debate here.

    I never thought about the power of proclamation in a world suffused with marketing and sales. Perhaps it highlights again the importance in our day of showing the Gospel, rather than simply telling.

    Keep it coming

  7. Coffee sounds good Glen.I think I remember putting a comment on your blog some years ago and to our surprise we met each other at the Soliton Conference at the North Coast the next day!

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