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Abstract

The good news of Jesus Christ is a message about the revelation and accomplishment of the goal of history-the restoration of the entire creation from sin. Thus, the Christian faith is not a religion that can be slotted into the private domain of human life. Rather it is a comprehensive worldview embodied by the Christian community. The Christian community has always had to embody the gospel of the kingdom in the context of a culture that holds other comprehensive beliefs. Three cultural contexts can be discerned in church history, all of which bring possibilities for and dangers to a faithful witness to the gospel. Sometimes the cultural setting is hostile to the Christian faith, as in the case of the early church and the church under Communism. While Christians may be limited in contributing to the cultural development of society, they must embody an alternative worldview that challenges the reigning public doctrine, even if it means suffering. Sometimes the cultural arrangement will favour the Christian church, giving it an established position. In this situation, Christians must use the position offered to shape the culture according to the light of the gospel, remaining critical of elements of culture out of keeping with the kingdom and modelling the gentle and uncoercive manner of Jesus the Servant-King. Sometimes Christians will find themselves in a culture that ignores the Christian faith and relegates it to the private realm. Then Christians must refuse to reduce the gospel to a private religious teaching, and seek ways to embody the truth of the gospel for public life. The church in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has seen all three of these cultural contexts. The paper concludes with two comments for the church in Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine, and other countries of the former Soviet Union. First, there may be a parallel situation between the collapse of the Roman empire and the collapse of Communism. Both offer the opportunity for the Christian worldview to fill the vacuum created by the crumbling of the reigning cultural doctrine. Second, the growing presence of capitalistic liberalism threatens the gospel as public truth about human society and culture. The gospel and liberal, democratic capitalism offer two different stories about the world that demands a commitment in faith. Which worldview will provide a foundation for the future of Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe? Will it be the rock of the gospel of Jesus Christ or the sand of a human hope for the future?

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