“The good news of the gospel, as it has been proclaimed for the last two millennia, has no future.”
So says Darrell J. Fasching in his provocative little book, The Coming of the Millennium.
For 2,000 years, he contends, the good news has been twisted into bad news; and this bad news has been preached by Christians of all world kinds—Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and Pentecostal.
“You have heard it said that on the day of judgment only Christians will be saved and all others will be consigned to eternal damnation ….”
That is pretty much the way I have heard it said—in fact, that is pretty much the way I have said it … in print and from the pulpit.
” … but I say to you that the gospel proclaims salvation for the whole human race.”
Fasching does not carry the same authority as Jesus, even when he invokes the speech pattern of our Lord (“You have heard it said … but I say unto you ….”); but his message does startle and surprise with much the same effect as Jesus many years ago.
“Out of the noblest of ideas, namely, its concern to save the world through conversion, Christianity has violated its own ideas. For while the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount preaches love of enemies, Christendom had no place for the stranger, much less the enemy.”
In support of this reading of Christian history (and not all the evidence points in the same direction!), Fasching documents the Christian persecution of dissenters, heretics, Jews, Muslims (often referred to as Turks) and assorted unbelievers.
Christianized countries, like Germany and Russia in the last century, produced ethnic cleansing on a massive scale. Much of this Fasching describes in two large scholarly books on Auschwitz and Hiroshima.
This small book (123 pages) is a strong and straightforward assertion of where his research and reflection have taken him: “You have heard it said that non-Christians are strangers who will not enter the Kingdom of God …[and he admits there is substantial biblical material to support such a doctrine] … but I say to you that God enters our lives through the very presence of a stranger.”
The good news that must shape Christianity in the third millennium, according to Fasching, is that God prefers the pluralism of a world of strangers, each in a unique way reflecting the glory and purpose of God, to the uniformity of a sacred society.
Jesus himself, so Fasching contends, was a stranger, the ultimate outsider, who suffered and died at the hands of God’s people, all the while representing in his person, in his body, the very presence of the living God.
So here is the core of the gospel according to Fasching: God comes to us as a stranger. In the stranger among us, God acts to redeem us all; as strangers to one another, we receive the salvation of God.
As his theme text, Fasching quotes Paul the apostle: “We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10).
This, he contends, is “good news for the whole human race,” words he takes for the subtitle of the book.
Whether or not Fasching presents a true and faithful account of the gospel of God, or his interpretation of the facts of history is reliable, those of us who read, research, ponder and pray should consider these matters.
Little book, big ideas.