Kristin Rudolph (@Kristin_Rudolph)
As a young generation of activist-minded, idealistic evangelicals confronts the brokenness and frustration of the real world, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is calling for a “calibration check” to determine what it means for Christians to “have a faithful commitment to doing good.” In the first of a new webcast series from Q Ideas, Wigg-Stevenson told Q founder and president Gabe Lyons he sees “a generation of Christians really who are thinking seriously about cultural renewal [and] … the common good.”
Wigg-Stevenson, a pastor and founder of the nuclear abolition group, Two Futures Project, said “there’s been a real surge in what I’d call Christian activism over the last ten years.” He explained “the work’s harder than we initially thought it might be,” which demands serious consideration of what it means “to live out our faith in public.” To consider these questions, Wigg-Stevenson wrote The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good, which was released this year.
The author said the idea of “progress and that we are just slowly but surely we’re building a better world and it’s irreversible” cannot be reconciled with a Christian understanding of the world and history. “Part of the progressive vision … is that we’re building into the future. But it doesn’t necessarily have an answer for how you deal with the past,” Wigg-Stevenson explained. He continued: “One of the things I think is so troublesome from a Christian perspective is that [a progressive vision] just cannot make sense of the irreversible tragedy of history that there are people and cultures who have been ground under … and they are not retrievable.”
“As Christians we have to think that history needs more than an oil change. History needs redemption and that’s part of a Christian understanding of salvation,” Wigg-Stevenson stated. He cautioned activists that the world is “tragically shot through with sin and that requires a Redeemer … so our response to history is not to get in and tinker with it until it’s okay, our response to history is to be faithful to the only One whose entry into history is its solution.”
“American Christianity, especially American evangelicalism is so pragmatic, so practical,” Wigg-Stevenson explained, that it often loses sight of its primary commitment to Christ and takes a “problem solving” approach that leaves little room to lament the incurable brokenness of our world. Further, he said “first and foremost our call is to fidelity [to Christ] and in some places fidelity looks like being effective,” but “fidelity isn’t always effective.”
Wigg-Stevenson pointed out how American evangelicals have downplayed the role of peace in Christianity, as they “are not super comfortable with the peace movement coming out of the Vietnam era as being something sort of culturally and morally suspicious. I think we need to get over that allergy to peace because peace is shot through the Bible.”
He pointed to Micah chapter four, which describes the “the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established … and peoples will stream to it” in peace during the last days. Wigg-Stevenson said “the kingdom is quite obviously not here yet … [and] the ‘mountain of the temple of the Lord,’ from a Christian interpretation of Micah, is the mountain of the cross. That’s where Christ, whose own body became the temple of God, that’s where he was crucified and died for our sin.”
He explained that “every place where … Christ is exalted in every heart and in every community will start to see effects that look like what’s outlined in Micah, [though] they might be small.” A primary orientation toward Christ as Redeemer is the essential foundation of all good work, the pastor advised. Lyons agreed, adding: “these glimpses of the kingdom are the way that the world starts to know there is a better way [to live].”
Activist minded evangelicals would do well to heed Wigg-Stevenson’s advice. It is easy to lose sight of the Christian’s primary call to love God while pouring one’s life into a worthy cause. To do so results at best in burn out, at worst idolatry, and even worse, both. While evangelicals are rightly concerned with addressing the world’s brokenness, a sober approach to activism grounded in Christ’s ultimate redemptive work is true faithfulness.