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Thursday, July 29, 2010
The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
Touching, Powerful Look at Extreme Poverty and at What Christians Can Do
Richard Stearns has been the president of World Vision U.S., perhaps the leading Christian relief organization in the world, since 1998. In The Hole In Our Gospel Stearns lays out powerful, persuasive arguments for the need for Christians to act out their faith, especially when helping "the least of these." (Matthew 25:40)
The book's title comes from the visual image of literally cutting out the parts of the Bible that are uncomfortable for you. Stearns asserts that we have cut out the parts that demand the church act because of a desire to avoid the concept of doing good works to get into heaven. Clearly, the Bible states that faith alone is all that is required. The church has stopped with that and is ignoring the opportunities to do good works in the name of Christ.
Stearns is quick to affirm that good works without faith is pointless for salvation. But, he is fond of quoting Matthew 25 and the Book of James which note that works should proceed from faith - they are a sign of a healthy faith. As James notes: "Faith without works is dead."
Once Stearns establishes his religious foundation and his personal story, he describes the great need across the planet with several heartbreaking stories and statistics. Children forced into slavery, women mutilated by child soldiers, starving families (including a woman in Haiti who was trying to give her children to anyone who could just feed them) and on and on.
Stearns reminds his Christian readers that Christ wanted his church to remember the poor, have compassion on them as he did so often. Stearns is not advocating handouts (although there are clearly times for that, such as with the woman I wrote about in the previous paragraph). Rather, he tells several stories based around the idea of "microlending" - building up capital in a neighborhood or region so that they can be self-sustaining. I found that to be the part that was the most exciting - getting some economic momentum going in those areas while advancing the Gospel.
That being said, Stearns does veer off course a couple of times and wander into hyperbole (I hope - otherwise he has no real sense of economics and his microlending stories make me doubt that). For example, on page 141 he writes, "The wealthiest countries...spend 90 percent of the world's health care dollars, allowing the remaining four-fifths of the planet to spend only 10 percent of the money." Allow? I was unaware that the industrialized world was actually keeping the undeveloped world on a budget and we only allow them to spend a certain amount. It would be more accurate to say that most of the world gets the same medical treatment (or, more accurately, lack thereof) that has been available throughout human history and the developed world has developed the wealth to spend more (tons and tons more).
But, 99% of the book is dead on correct in my eye. There is an awful need out there and the church seems to be ignoring it. The Hole In Our Gospel is a powerful call to action.
Related website: http://www.theholeinourgospel.com/
I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns.
Reviewed July 29, 2010.