As a postscript to “Pete Buttigieg, Theologian?“, I want to note something on the other side of the interview–because it really was more of a dialogue, not just questions and answers. Jim Wallis is a theologian, though not a faithful or trustworthy one, as the interview exemplified.
After all, in the article in question Wallis is interviewing a man engaged in persistent and publicly acknowledged immorality of a kind that God declares detestable (Lev. 18:22). That is a key piece of context for any Christian viewing this discussion.
Towards the beginning, Wallis says:
The lawyer, says to Jesus, “How do I inherit eternal life?” And he says, “Love God. Love your neighbor.” Simple as that.
The reference is to Luke 10:25ff. Wallis follows that on the question of loving our neighbors, which is quite right because that’s where the text follows. But something has been left out: what about this love for God business? What does that look like?
According to Scripture, love for God involves obedience (Jn. 14:23). Indeed, the most interesting parallel to note is that in Luke 18, Jesus is asked the very same question, but this time He points the inquirer to the commandments of the Old Testament law (Lk. 18:20). This isn’t Jesus giving two different answers; He’s giving the same answer in two different ways; after all, as Jesus Himself says, the two commandments to love God and love neighbor are a summary of the law (Matt. 22:37-40).
The failure of the social gospel has always been that it taught love of neighbor but neglected love of God. For loving God requires not only that we love our neighbor but, first and fundamentally, that we turn from our sins and receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. There is no gospel without the call to repentance and faith.
To talk about eternal life with someone who is living in persistent sin, without calling them to repent and believe, is a mockery of the gospel.
But there is a real gospel, a good news of eternal life for all who will turn from sin and trust Jesus. God sent His Son to save sinners from all their sins; Jesus Christ died upon the cross and rose again so that we can have life in Him. And yes, this has inescapable implications for what we do with our lives in this world. But the real gospel is good not only for human flourishing in this present world, but for human flourishing in the kingdom of God through all eternity. And a real theologian must declare the real gospel to people who really need it.