The Common Good

Lifeboat Theology vs. Ark Theology (Part 3 of 5 by Rich Nathan)

Let me give you an illustration of the difference between the narrow focus of contemporary American evangelicalism and the big focus of the Bible.

D.L. Moody, the great 19th-century evangelist, described his calling and said that he essentially understood the world as being like an ocean liner that hit an iceberg. God had said to him, "Moody, it is your job to pull as many drowning people out of the water into lifeboats as you can."

Now, that may have been Moody's calling. I don't fault him at all for his understanding of his particular calling. But his "lifeboat theology," which claims that really the only thing that matters is evangelism -- pulling as many folks into lifeboats as you can -- has been both a blessing and a great curse for contemporary evangelicalism. On the one hand, it has created an evangelistic urgency. And it is evangelical churches that are growing because of this passion. On the other hand, by narrowing the focus simply upon getting people to say the Sinner's Prayer, we have had almost nothing to say about whole slices of life.



Let me suggest an alterative theology: "Ark Theology." Noah's Ark not only saved people, it preserved God's other creatures as well. The covenant that God made with Noah and his descendents was not only with humanity, but we read in Genesis 9:10 these words:

and with every living creature that was with you -- the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you -- every living creature on earth.

The rainbow was not just a sign between God and people, but we read in Genesis 9:12, 15 and 17 these words:

And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come. (v. 12)

I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. (v. 15)

So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth." (v. 17)

The Ark Theology -- that God intends to restore all of creation, every realm, every creature, every part. Or as Abraham Kuypur, the great Dutch theologian and politician said nearly 100 years ago, "There is not a square inch of the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ who is sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"



Lifeboat Theology: Jesus wants to be Lord of your life.

Ark Theology: Jesus is Lord over the universe.

Rich Nathan is the pastor of the Vineyard Church in Columbus, Ohio, which is the co-sponsor with Sojourners of next week's Justice Revival. Click here for more details.

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