E Stanley Jones – photo courtesy of Asbury College
E.Stanley Jones was the most famous Christian missionary of the twentieth century. Known and respected worldwide as an evangelist, devotional writer and statesman, he was also prophetic, foreseeing a future “Christian Revolution” based on rediscovery of what Christ taught of the Kingdom of God and the Year of Jubilee.
The World’s Greatest Missionary
Time magazine in 1938 referred to Jones as “the world’s greatest missionary”, and the Christian Century in 1941 observed that “perhaps no Christian leader in America commands a wider following than he”.
Jones was born January 3, 1884, in Clarksville, Maryland. He was seventeen years old when he determined to find God and “Heaven broke into my spirit”. A year later he had the experience of being “filled with the Holy Spirit”. He enrolled in Asbury College in preparation for the ministry in 1903, and in 1907 decided that he would serve under the Methodist Mission Board as a missionary to India. He arrived in Bombay in November 1907.
America’s Greatest Evangelist Prior to Billy Graham
As a missionary to India, Jones directed his efforts to the educated Indians, determined to “put Christ into the minds and souls and purposes of the intellectual and political leaders of this new awakening India”. In his efforts to communicate with the educated Hindus, Jones emphasized the person of Christ, and not Christianity, the system built up around Him.
A Personal Friend of Mahatma Ghandi
Jones was a personal friend of Mahatma Gandhi, whom he admired greatly, often comparing him to Christ. When Jones started his “round table conferences”, Jawaharlal Nehru himself participated as a young man just beginning his political career. Jones was a strong supporter of Indian nationalism, and totally opposed to imperialisms of all kinds. Being in America during World War II, he was not allowed by the British to return to India until after the war, because of his public stand favoring Indian independence. Upon his return to India Jones moved freely in Congress Party circles, and attempted to bring Mohammed Ali Jinnah, president of the Muslim League, into an agreement concerning a united India.
Jones Inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“In 1963, Dr. E. Stanley Jones received the Gandhi Peace Award. Dr. Jones had become close friends with Mahatma Gandhi, and after Gandhi’s assassination wrote a biography on his life. It is noted that later in time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told Jones’ daughter, Eunice Jones Mathews, that it was this biography that inspired him to “non-violence” in the Civil Rights Movement” [source: wikipedia]
When E. Stanley Jones died in 1973 at the age of 89 he had written 28 books, and hundreds of periodical articles.
JUBILEE: CHRIST’S ALTERNATIVE TO COMMUNISM
In 1935, following a trip to Moscow, Jones authored a book addressing the “social vacuum” of Christianity and the challenge of earthborn totalitarianism. The book was entitled “Christ’s Alternative to Communism”.
The World Economic System Doomed According to Jones
Jones felt that the world economy was headed for a supreme crisis – that the present order of things was doomed, that its injustices were breaking it down, and that world events were leading to a situation in which his generation or the next would have to decide between materialistic, atheistic Communism or the Kingdom of God on earth. His conviction was that Christianity contained within itself a wiser and better radicalism that that offered by the Communists, and that Christians should take this radical program of Jesus and apply it to the remaking of the world. His view was that Christianity had been preached to death, and that in the midst of disorder it was time to apply a bold program for world reconstruction, a “Christian Revolution”.
Rediscovering the Heart of the Gospel
I am deeply convinced that Christianity has within it the program and the vitality for the remaking of the world, if we would only discover it and apply it. This program for the remaking of the world is an integral part of the gospel, the soul of its very soul. We shall call it the Christian Revolution. A revolution that is at the heart of the Gospel.
He realized that Christians would not put themselves behind a revolutionary movement unless they were sure that it was an integral part of the Gospel, the ‘very soul of its soul’. No movement would emerge unless it grew out of deep convictions, convictions and principles bases upon the very foundations of the universe.
“It must rest upon principles that are the very foundations of the universe. It must go as deep as personal, individual need and spread as wide as human relationships extend… It must be honestly there (in the Christian Gospels) and not constitute something smuggled into the account.. we must not read meanings into the account and then triumphantly read the out again, for the universe will not back lies- not even religious lies.”
Jones predicted a coming “moment of the great crisis in the Western world..(due to selfishness and ruthless competition)… There is a doubt creeping across Western civilization about the whole system upon which life is founded. Adam Smith and his Manchester school of economics promised that the laissez faire doctrine would work out for the good of the greatest number. It has not. It cannot.” Jones stressed that the future of the world would depend on co-operation rather than ruthless competition.
I am not a Communist nor a Socialist
Jones declared that he was “not a Communist, nor do I call myself a Socialist, but I am a Christian seeking for a solution of this problem. I am sure- desperately sure- that Christianity must give a lead at this place or abdicate. It is not enough to tell me that Christianity can and does change the lives of individual men. . . Shall we rescue individual slaves and leave intact the slave system? Shall we reclaim individual drunkards and not touch the liquor traffic? Shall we pick up the wounded in war and leave intact the war system?”
It was Jones’ conviction that Jesus came to offer a total redemption. Not only was the soul to be saved, the whole of life was to be redeemed. The Kingdom of God is both personal and social:
“In recent centuries men have been content that it be a personal confession of the personal Saviourhood of Jesus, but we are again discovering that we must confess Christ as Son of God in social, economic, and international relationships as well. And the church must embody that larger confession or cease to be the Church of the Living Christ.”
The Ultimate Program, Jones was convinced, the Christian Revolution, was announced by Jesus of Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry. It was what Jesus called the Good News – the only thing he called the Gospel:
” Jesus gave principles. We can see quite clearly what his program is. It is the Kingdom of God on earth. In this conception he announced a higher order, founded on love, good will, and brotherhood, breaking into and transforming and ultimately displacing the lower world order founded on greed, selfishness, exploitation, and unbrotherliness. That Kingdom is the ultimate order or goal of humanity. But while this Kingdom was his program in general, he put very definite content into it, and marked out the lines of its advance when he made the great announcement in the little synagogue at Nazareth.”
Proclaiming the Lord’s Year of Jubilee
The content of Jesus’ Program was set forth as a proclamation of “the acceptable year of the Lord”, or ” The Lord’s Year of Jubilee”:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those that are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
According to Jones, Jesus had come to declare:
1. Good news to the poor
– the economically disinherited.
2. Release to the captives
– the socially and politically disinherited.
3. The opening of the eyes of the blind
– the physically disinherited.
4. The setting at liberty the bruised
– the morally and spiritually disinherited.
5. The Lord’s Year of Jubilee
– a new beginning on a world scale.
6. The Spirit of the Lord upon me
– the dynamic behind it all.
Jubilee is A New Beginning on a World Scale
Jesus casting the moneychangers out of the temple
Jones’ stated that the way most Christians think of social issues is to start with the individual and then work outwards to change society. He was convinced that Christianity does not confine itself to working from the individual, but also works from the social order to change the individual. His view of the Kingdom was that of a new social order, breaking in to transform the nation as well as the individual.
The truth of this statement, he declared, is the fact that Jesus proclaimed the “Acceptable Year of the Lord”, or “The Lord’s Year of Jubilee”. “The Lord’s Year of Jubilee”, said Jones, refers to the command of Leviticus 25:10:
Ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land”.
This was the year that all debts were canceled, slaves were set free, and those who had lost lands or houses due to poverty would have their possessions restored. It was a new beginning for all the poor. The intention of the law was to keep the land from accumulating into the hands of only a few ( an oligarchy). It thus assured an approximate equality, and maintained a brotherhood in Israel, rather than the situation where a few would lord it over the others who were reduced to slavery.
Jesus enlarged the theme of Jubilee:
“Jesus took this conception and set it as the climax of his own program. As the Year of Jubilee meant a fresh national beginning based on justice and equality and brotherhood, so his Kingdom would mean a fresh world based on justice, equality and brotherhood. The Year of Jubilee had become ‘The Lord’s Year of Jubilee’. He enlarged it and applied it to a world. He expected a collective awakening and rebirth as well as an individual awakening and rebirth. He would work from the individual to the social order, but he would also work from the social order to the individual. His program provided for a collective revival and regeneration- a fresh world beginning.”
Jones’ understanding of the Kingdom was that it is “the most radical proposal ever presented to the mind of man”. He lamented the fact that we have become innoculated with a mild form of Christianity, making us immune to the real thing. “Christianity is not a fold into which we run and are safe, but a new order breaking into and regenerating the old order”.
Jones sincerely believed that men desire to see A New Day, but hold onto the old because they see no alternative but violent revolution. But he envisioned the possibility of a new awakening:
“The possibility of a world awakening taking place through the Lord’s Year of Jubilee gives hope that Christianity will not be looked upon only as a means of personal salvation, but as… a program of reconstruction and regeneration.”
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