The ‘Very Good Gospel’ of Shalom

Last week I offered a post about the York Mystery Plays that I had witnessed during travels in England. That particular rendering of the grand biblical narrative featured heavy emphasis on a pre-Creation angelic rebellion, Satan as a constant antagonist to God and humans, an uncomfortable focus on Jewish high priests conspiring to get Jesus killed, the details of his brutal suffering on the Cross for the redemption of sinners, and a final apocalyptic judgment separating the saved and the damned.

I asked whether this is still the Big Story Christians believe and tell. I asked whether there are alternative versions of the grand Christian Story that are equally (or more) defensible based on biblical sources.

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A particularly winsome new rendering of this type of Gospel account is found in Lisa Sharon Harper’s book, The Very Good Gospel, just out from WaterBrook Press. Harper is a leading progressive evangelical activist, organizer, writer, and speaker who works as chief church engagement officer at Sojourners, in Washington. She is a rising star, a portent of a better future for American evangelicalism.

Harper’s account of the Gospel in her new book is shalom-based. Drawing deeply from a theme that runs through the Bible but is especially strong in the Hebrew prophets, Harper tells a story of a God who acts in Jesus Christ to bring shalom, or holistic peace and justice, in every part of creation. God wants shalom between men and women, shalom for the poor and abused, shalom in family life. God wants shalom across racial lines, between nations, in creation itself, within the tormented human heart, and between humans and God. God is a God of life, bringing life out of death and being for life, its dignity and flourishing. God is for shalom.

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