If one calling of preachers is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, then Fleming Rutledge is a master of preaching. Her sermons, collected in several popular books, including The Undoing of Death and, most recently, Not Ashamed of the Gospel (Eerdmans), combine vivid and searching readings of Scripture with acute observations of contemporary culture, international politics, and literature. In her preaching vocation, Rutledge often stands at the crossroads of mainline and evangelical contexts, at once guiding mainline audiences back to biblically orthodox roots and helping evangelicals grasp the utterly earth-shattering implications of the Good News. In this article, Rutledge responds to this year's CVP question, Is our gospel too small?, with fresh tellings of the ways God has animated some of the great social movements of the last century.
There are two competing ways of understanding and presenting the Christian gospel in America. They are equally valid and ideally should complement one another, but unfortunately, battle lines have been drawn on both sides. Some Christians emphasize the gospel as purely a matter of individual salvation; others see it essentially in terms of community and of social justice. This problem is partly cultural, but more significantly, it arises from insufficient knowledge of the Scriptures: "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Matt. 22:29).
American Christians of both the Right and Left find it difficult to read Scripture from the perspective of communities other than our own. On one hand, teaching in the mainline churches is often detached from any foundational convictions about "the Scriptures or the power of God." A service may begin, ...1