Social Media

Concerned about The Coalition (Part 1) | Brook Kidron

As much as I’d love to run with any given topic without having to qualify every word that I say, I do not believe that the Indian church (in the broader sense) is at a stage of maturity where we can take it all at once. So, you’ll forgive my repeated urges in this one to keep contextualizing what I say and qualifying what I mean. 

When I first heard that The Gospel Coalition had started their India edition, my initial response was, “Wow! That’s nice!”, and broadly speaking, that sentiment remains. Any sincere endeavor to spread the Gospel message, and bring Gospel-centered churches together, is one that I admire and support. Having said that, it is also true of any coalition, that there will be pros and cons, agreements and disagreements, and regulations and compromises. But the question is, where do we draw the line?

What Happened

It first came to my attention when a recent article, and a video, from TGC India created a dust-up among several evangelicals. In it, the conversation is about the ‘dream of a new India’. After an initial reluctance to throw my hat in the ring, a careful survey of these content was more than persuasive enough to get me to do this episode. 

Now, at the onset, let me say that I’m able to agree and amen several of the comments that were made by these men, and even to relate to the sentiment behind many of the comments that I personally would have worded differently. 

However, there were several points that took me by surprise, and my Spidey-sense just wouldn’t stop tingling.

Qualification 1

This is not meant to be a derision of the men behind TGC India. I do not know many of them, and some I know from afar. My Christian posture in that regard is to see these men as genuine, bible-believing, Gospel-centered, and sincere in their efforts, unless and until time proves otherwise.

Therefore, my attention is to the content of the article, to which I will respond in this episode, and then the video to which I will respond in the next. And I hope it will be helpful to the TGC (if they ever listen to this) and to those of you who do. 

Here's the article in question

The Dream of a New India

The word ‘dream’ is used 9 times in the entire article without once articulating what that dream is. This suggested ‘dream of a new India’ or the mentions of people’s ‘dreams’ had me coming away from the article as though I’d just seen a dream. There was nothing there anchoring me to anything solid, just an arbitrary amalgam of wishful thought. What is the ‘dream of a new India’ which the author suggests is “obvious to the citizens of this ancient nation, and to much of the world outside”?  

He calls it a kaleidoscopic dream, obviously intending that we see it to be a beautiful dream, but without any clarity, the more I stare I’m afraid I’ll fall into a hypnotic sleep and start dreaming for real this time. 

Qualification 2

I am not saying that the author is incapable of clarity, or that he doesn’t have a reasonable point. I’m just saying that I couldn’t get the point, probably because (and I’m speculating at this point) he’s speaking of something that is clear in his mind, but unfortunately unknown to the rest of us (or at least to me). 

To that extent, it seemed to me that the article was a dream of a dream. 

Fog on the Barrow-downs

In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo and his companions find themselves in a predicament in the hills of the Barrow-downs. After being sent off by the wonderful Tom Bombadil, over what, at the onset, appeared to be ‘an encouraging sight’ with a clear view to the end of the Downs, ended up being a nightmare when the group fell asleep after a heavy lunch and woke to a thick fog that descended upon them. They could no longer see the exit and were eventually captured by a Barrow-wight (a mound demon). 

This is my analogy of vague visioneering that, in the name of the visible horizon, leads men through the shadowy fog of many dangers. And that is not my expectation of the very public and influential TGC. Laying a sheet over the advance of the Gospel hides the many secular influences that will reveal itself on the other side, and by then it’ll be too late for too many. 

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1 

Faith is not anchored in dreams but promises. Promises given to us by the word of God. And a dream birthed in faith must have biblical clarity. 

Fault lines of a dream, or a terminal disease?

There is a big difference between the Gospel’s impact upon the world, and the world’s impact upon the world in the name of the Gospel.  

In Matthew 7:21-23, we read of those who prophesied, cast out demons, and did many might miracles in the name of Christ, only to have Christ himself deny all knowledge of them. The young woman in Acts 16 who heralded Paul as servant of the Most High God who proclaimed the way of salvation, had to have a demon driven out of her in the end.  

Positive statements of Gospel affirmation are often misguided when they are produced from a cultural perspective looking inward, rather than from a biblical perspective looking outward. From within the confines of Scripture, we see a world in need of serious reform, but from without, we are tempted to see wonderland. Talk about dreams. 

The rest of the article has the author addressing three specific fault lines for which he suggests that we as Christians should use “the ancient gospel as a healing balm into each of them”. 

As I read these, the fog of a dream seemed to have a certain shape to it, and I ended up with more questions than answers. This great and beautiful kaleidoscopic dream of India appears to be a dream of a prosperous India with a stable and rich economy, and a vibrant, generous and inclusive culture. Who wouldn’t want that, right? 

There is a big difference between the Gospel’s impact upon the world, and the world’s impact upon the world in the name of the Gospel.

Qualification 3

I believe that desiring the prosperity of the nation, shaping its culture, influencing its policies and law, and discipling its people are all core to a Gospel-centered church. The Kingdom building mission of the church is not achieved within its four walls, it is rooted within but spreads out like branches from a vine, with the life-giving sap produced within. When Jesus commanded the church to disciple men to observe all his commandments, that included laymen, children, and women to laborers, couriers, students, and teachers to businessmen, actors, politicians, chefs, and fashion designers. To that extent, I agree with the author’s sentiment.

But the big question I have here is this, “Is not the Gospel dream of India so much more than national prosperity and socioeconomic stability?”  

These identified fault-lines to me appear the symptoms of the terminal illness of worldliness rather than blips on a Gospel-centered journey to the new India. We don’t need the ancient Gospel to heal these symptoms, we need it to re-prioritize our dreams. 

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

C.S Lewis

We need the Gospel to give us dreams, not to fulfill the dreams we already have of ourselves. 

Fault Line #1: The Stark and Cruel Reality of Income Inequality 

*Pause for Effect*  

Let me break this one down for you. Inequality is not sin.  

It can be a result of sin, but in and of itself, inequality is a divine design. A man does not equal a woman in many ways – whether biologically, general temperament, or functional authority in the created order. At the same time both men and women are equal in dignity and worth in the eyes of God. But, you see, that component of inequality was the way it was meant to be even before the fall of man. 

So, when someone says, ‘Income Inequality’, what are we talking about? The IIT grad coming out his graduation will likely be paid more than an engineering grad coming out of Hogwarts’ School of Engineering & Technology. A male actor in a leading role bringing in more money to the producers will be paid more than a female actor in a leading role who bring in less money. These are appropriate inequalities. It’s not gender bias or institutionalized inequality. It’s due payment for services rendered and higher qualifications.  

Or are we talking about a person being paid less because they’re dark skinned, obese, female, and not much to look at. That is cruel inequality and must be fought by every fiber of Gospel truth. 

But without this clarity, when the author says, “Christians cannot ignore this cruel fault line”, I wonder hard if we’re talking about the same thing.   

“The gospel must not only call us to radical generosity, but it must also compel us to persistent advocacy and impactful contribution to policies that ensure a more equitable distribution of existing income and wealth, as well as equitable opportunity to create new wealth.” 

Not at all! The Gospel must call us to radical generosity, not to make an equitable distribution of existing income and wealth, but to teach, train and support men to qualify and improve their skills in service. 

Another quote from the author, “Christians gifted with entrepreneurial skill and inclination must harness it to solve this glaring inequity problem. Those in the technology space must explore ways to use it to ease the pain of the poor.” 

Again, I ask the question, “How?” Who are these who are made poor because of income inequality? What is the context and the target group that we’re looking at?

Qualification 4

Again, I’m not against generosity, or helping the poor, or solving genuine inequality problems. But the lack of clarity in an article of this reach ought to have been clearer. For crying out loud, I’m making more qualification in this episode for my kind audience of 20 people.

Fault Line #2: Entrapment of Young Lives at the Altar of Economic Growth 

I have few quarrels here, and I understand what he’s trying to say.  

“In this exasperatingly driven world, Christians indeed have a glorious opportunity to be a compelling and winsome gospel counterculture—joyfully choosing service instead of selfish striving, a healthy work-rest-life balance instead of the rat race, and in living and displaying gospel attributes like contentment, peace, a wise fearlessness and the faith and courage to rest.” 


But may I add that the most important Gospel tool in this formula, not mentioned specifically in the article, is preaching the word of God.  

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 

Romans 10:14-15

May I also add that counterculture is what got Jesus killed, His apostles killed, the early church fathers killed, and created generations of Christian martyrs down through history.  

So, let’s do this, but let us also count the cost. 

Fault Line #3: The Ruthless Crushing of Dreams in Cities 

Here again, I find that the problem is not so much in crushed dreams, but in poor dreaming. The fix of these fault lines requires a change in people’s dreams.  

The author rightly says, “Christians must avoid the error of triumphalism—we can solve all the problems if we pray and work together; and the error of defeatism—we cannot do anything because the problems are too big.” 

But in coming together to solve these problems, what should we do?

Conclusion – TGC India needs a stronger editorial team

There is a way of communicating where one can say a lot of things but not say them quite forcefully enough, and when questioned, they can respond, “Oh that’s not what I meant”, or “I wasn’t thinking along those lines”. This isn’t helpful. We must strive for clarity, especially in this nascent stage of theological reform that I believe has begun in India.  

Not all of us are scholars, or renowned theologians and we all want to play our part.  

Qualification 5

I’d like to think the same about the author and his intentions. But a strong editorial team will go a long way in ensuring the clarity of the content that is put out.

A final word 

I smell “wokeness” in the air. Call me paranoid, but the overall subtlety and language seems to me like darts being thrown at an invisible board that’s moving the all the time. Covered beneath the sheets of this “gospel” advance, will we see the ugly head of the “social justice” false gospel at the other end? 

If by any chance this is the agenda of the Barrow-downs, TGC India should just call a spade, a spade – the biggest fault line of them all. If not, brothers, we need to strive for more clarity. 

I speak to you as a pastor who cares for the welfare of this nation and is glad to see the TGC banner in India. 

Cheers, and I’ll see you on the next episode.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *