WRF Board Member Kin Yip Louie Responds to Bob Heerdt's Comments on EVANGELII GAUDIUM
A Response to Mr. Robert Heerdt’s Thoughts on Pope Francis’s EVANGELII GAUDIUM
1. I'm thankful for Mr Heerdt's response, and I agree with most of what he's said there. But, as a theologian, I'm disappointed that the media, like Mr Heerdt, has chosen mostly to focus only on the issue of economic justice in Evangelii Glaudium. Probably this is because that the media find this part the most relevant and comprehensible.
2. Though the economic teaching in Evangelii Glaudium is not new, it is helpful. I do wish that the Reformed community can devote more time thinking through the morality of our economic systems.
3. However, it seems to me that the real significance of the letter lies in its theology; in particular, its eccessiology.
4. The title of the letter means 'The Joy of the Gospel.' The theme of this long letter is that the purpose of the church is to bring the joy of the gospel to humanity.
5. In the past (and even in the present), there is a tendency for the Catholic Church to focus on the magisterial role of the church. The church is the possessor of truth, and all people should listen to the church.
6. Without denying the importance of truth, Francis emphasizes that the main job of the church is not to pronounce moral truths, but to bring the joy of the gospel to all people.
7. If people only hear condemnation in the words and deeds of the church, then the church has failed in its mission. It has failed to embody the joy of the gospel.
8. In other words, the church should not aim at improving its authority in the society, but it should aim at serving the needs of people. 'The needs' here refer to anything that hinder people from enjoying the fullness of life intended by God.
9. It is in this context that Francis mentions various social issues, including the breaking down of family life, human trafficking, exploitative financial system, income inequality and other issues. These social sins reduce human life to a state of misery
10. To use theological jargon, Francis emphasizes that our God is a missional God, and it is imperative that the church should participate in the mission of God.
11. As indicated by the recent WRF book, REFORMED MEANS MISSIONAL: FOLLOWING JESUS INTO THE WORLD, the Reformed tradition should be missional too, even when we do not always live up to our own expectation. Even if we have all the right doctrines, we fail as a church if we do not strive to make people aware of the liberating power of truth. Unfortunately, Mr. Heerdt is probably right in saying that a lot of Reformed churches are somewhat insular and inward-looking.
12. 'The Joy of the Gospel.' May Francis’s letter remind us all that we Christians should be the joy-bearers of and to the world.