Friday, February 6, 2009

Redemptive Universalism vs. redemptive universalism

I just finished teaching a class at a local university on the impact of faith and spirituality on U2's music. I told the class that that subject needed a whole semester, not just one class period. As it turns out, it was a great time and there were some fantastic questions. One of the better ones revolved around the last Vertigo Tour. At one point, Bono dons a head band that has the symbols of the three great religions that trace back to Abraham...Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There were also, if my memory of my attendance at the Chicago concert serves me right, writings from the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran that flashed up on the screen. Typical of American Evangelicalism, there were immediate cries of "universalism" and U2's spiritual compromise (Folk have been levying that charge for almost 25 years, and each time U2 continues to do things that still leave these evangelicals scratching their heads!). The question in the class this morning was this: "How can Bono as a follower of Christ, speak so inclusively of Judaism and Islam. My answer was two-fold. First, you need only to read Bono's owns words (as well as those of the Edge, Larry Mullen, and now, also, Adam Clayton) concerning their faith in Christ. When it comes to Redemptive Universalism..."Redemptive" used in terms of being saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ, Bono and U2 are not Universalists but clearly stand in the stream of Orthodox Christianity. Second, however, there is another kind of redemptive universalism--that which flows from the call of Scripture for followers of Christ to live redemptively in this world; to live in such a way so that the goodness, beauty and truth of Kingdom Living brings redemptive elements to society and culture. When it comes to living redemptively to bring beauty to earth, there is room for a universalistic approach as it relates to working with others. If we are no longer talking about redemption solely in terms of the work of the cross to save souls and are now talking about redemption in terms of bringing the values of the Kingdom to bear upon the world, we ought to talk about working alongside all humanity. If we're talking about redemptive values of remembering the poor, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, showing mercy to those facing AIDS, etc, then we ought to include others in the conversation. Bono's point in his 2006 National Prayer Breakfast speech is that the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran all speak of helping the poor...therefore, when it comes to tackling issues of human brokenness, we need to enlist the help of as many as possible. Bono and U2 are motivated by love and obedience to Christ...others may not share the same motivation...but others may be willing to join hands in tackling difficult issues. So, what we have is redemptive universalism, NOT Redemptive Universalism! Get it?

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