Vinoth Ramachandra on the Priority in the Gospel


Vinoth Ramachandra, InterVarsity

You have read already on this blog about the controversy created at the Lausanne congress in Cape Town by the one-sided presentation of the Reformed Gospel (whatever that means) by the well-known preacher John Piper.

Rene Padilla also alluded to it in his evaluation of this event that I have published yesterday.

Here is now another reaction to this controversial presentation, this time from Vinoth Ramachandra, one of the most important leaders of the student organisation InterVarsity. I imagine you understand, implicitly, that I agree with Vinoth’s analysis.

I am told that, at the recent Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, a popular American preacher and author vigorously asserted that evangelism, understood as the verbal proclamation of the Gospel, was the Church’s foremost “priority”. Since this is a typical, knee-jerk reaction that talk about social justice or “integral mission” elicits in “conservative” evangelical circles, it is worth exploring who says this kind of thing and whether they actually practice what they are saying.

If a person’s priorities are gauged by what that person spends most of his or her time doing, I am sure that anybody observing the day-to-day life of this preacher would not conclude that evangelism was his first priority.  He has spent considerable time and money in acquiring a long and expensive education. If he has children, I am confident that he has likewise invested significantly in their nurture and secured the best possible education for them. No doubt he eats at least three good meals a day and enjoys at least six hours sleep at night. He has medical insurance and access to the best medical care in the richest nation in the world. Holding a U.S passport, he can freely travel (almost) everywhere in the world, not needing to queue outside foreign embassies to get visas. In other words, his privileged way of life takes so much for granted. It has been made possible by the work and sacrifice of unknown others in many parts of the world. And it is remote from the reality experienced by the majority of his fellow Christians who were present at Cape Town.

Whenever I ask such preachers, “Don’t you want everybody in the world to have the benefits you enjoy?”, the answer I receive is either “That’s the social gospel” or “That’s not our priority, as non-Christians can do that”. If the Gospel is not social, then what is it? And, if non-Christians can make sacrifices to ensure that people like us have a decent life, why are we reluctant to do the same for them? What we are facing here is hypocrisy and double standards, the very things that stirred the indignation of Jesus!

The language of “priorities” belongs to the world of organizations (which usually have a single focus) and institutional roles. I agree that a pastor should do the work of pastoring and not get tied down in administration or seek political office. A musician is called to perform good music (and it is the pastor’s calling to help her understand what that means and to release her from church programs in order to do so). But the primary calling of both is not defined by either occupation or gifting. It is the call to discipleship.

Read the rest of this post on Vinoth’s blog.

* * *

Dr Vinoth Ramachandra was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he also had his secondary schooling. He holds bachelors and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of London. Instead of pursuing an academic career, he returned to Sri Lanka in 1980 and helped to develop a Christian university ministry in that country. In 1987 he was invited to serve as the South Asian Regional Secretary for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), a global partnership of over 150 autonomous and indigenous university student movements. He now serves on the IFES Senior Leadership Team as Secretary for Dialogue & Social Engagement. His multi-faceted role includes giving public lectures and seminars in universities, and helping Christian graduates think and respond as Christians to some of the social, cultural and political challenges they face in their national contexts throughout the world. He has also taught in several theological seminaries and conferences in other parts of the world.

Dr Ramachandra lives in Sri Lanka with his Danish wife, Karin, whom he married in 1998. She is a trained counsellor and Bible teacher. Dr Ramachandra has been involved for many years with the Civil Rights Movement in Sri Lanka, as well as with the global Micah Network and A Rocha (a world-wide biodiversity conservation organization). He is the author of several essays and books of which the most recent is Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues that Shape Our World (2008). (Source, HERE)

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

6 thoughts on “Vinoth Ramachandra on the Priority in the Gospel”

  1. I read the full article and the comments.
    It’s not hard to see why you agree with him 🙂

    On the subject: the comments there confirmed my impression that the Christian world is becoming more and more divided in two big camps. One who got trapped inside its own edifice of institutions, rules and prejudices and the other one who, by trying to make sense of all those rules and prejudices has found itself in a limbo, between what they have been taught for centuries and what they see out there outside the box.
    It would be sad if the only way out for both camps would be to fight each other.

    There must be a third way.

    PS. As always the arguments in this kind of discussions end up in the hotpot of dogmatic issues like hell, sin, salvation, mission, where the communication melts away

    Like

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