Saturday, February 21, 2009

Globalization: Part I

When we think of “globalism” we may think it is a fairly recent phenomenon. We think of things such as the “global village,” or “multi-national corporations,” or the “global economic crisis,” or the ease of travel and communication that we enjoy today.

It could safely be said, however, that biblical Christianity is the first globalized movement in the history of the world. The global and universal meaning of the message of Scripture was made evident when God said to Abraham “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). All the families of the earth would be blessed through what God was doing in and through Abraham and his offspring. While it has been argued that the Jewish believers of the time before Christ did not see their task as going out into the world to convert people to the one true faith, it is clear that the God of the Hebrew Scriptures is the God who created the heavens and the earth, and who sought to bring all mankind back to himself.

The Hebrew Scriptures were written in a time of polytheism and animism. Polytheism is the idea that there are many gods—family gods, gods for a particular clan, territorial gods, gods of various aspects of nature, etc. Animism is the idea that all things, even those things we would call “material,” have an animus, that is, a spirit to them. The spiritual forces that are all around us, according to this belief, can be good or bad or neutral, they can be personal or impersonal, but most importantly, they must be manipulated properly to assure success and well-being in life. It is important to understand that in the midst of this world of polytheism and animistic beliefs, the Hebrew Scriptures are unique in that they speak of One True God, who is Creator of the world.

The Hebrew Scriptures are replete with references demonstrating this God is not of just a territory or clan, but is meant for all. For example, Psalm 67 says:

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Clearly this God’s “saving power” is to be made known “among all nations,” so that “all peoples” are to praise him and “all the ends of the earth fear him.” What we learn in the Hebrew Scriptures is that there is One God, who is over all, who is to be worshiped by all, who is to be respected by all. His dominion is global, and more importantly, his message of grace and love is for all.

The global nature of Christianity becomes even more explicit in the pages of the New Testament, where Christ says that the church is to go into all the world to give witness to the gospel—“in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Christianity is a global movement, and the message of God to the world has always made that point.

Next we will need to talk about globalism today and what it means for the church.