Posts filed under Fourth 30

The Kingdom Strikes Back

By Ralph D. Winter

Editor's Note: Perhaps one of Ralph Winter's most popular and well-loved essays is entitled, "The Kingdom Strikes Back." It is a centerpiece chapter in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course reader. Below, we've excerpted a portion of that essay that to us highlights the rationale for the existence of the Roberta Winter Institute. Enjoy.

…the first eleven chapters of Genesis constitute a scary “introduction” to the entire problem of evil, indeed, to the plot of the entire Bible. Those few pages describe three things: 1) a glorious and “good” original creator; 2) the entrance of a rebellious and destructive evil—superhuman, demonic being—resulting in 3) a humanity caught up in that rebellion and brought under the power of that evil being.

Don’t ever think that the whole remainder of the Bible is simply a bundle of divergent, unrelated stories as taught in Sunday School. Rather, the Bible consists of a single drama: the entrance of the Kingdom, the power and the glory of the living God in this enemy-occupied territory. From Genesis 12 to the end of the Bible, and indeed until the end of time, there unfolds the single, coherent drama of “the Kingdom strikes back.” This would make a good title for the Bible itself were it to be printed in modern dress (with Gen 1-11 as the introduction to the whole Bible). In this unfolding drama we see the gradual but irresistible power of God reconquering and redeeming His fallen creation through the giving of His own Son at the very center of the 4000-year period ending in 2000 BC. This is tersely summed up: “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:6).

This counterattack against the Evil One clearly does not await the appearance of the good Person in the center of the story. Indeed, there would seem to be five identifiable epochs of advance prior to the appearance of Christ as well as five after that event. The purpose of this chapter is mainly to describe the five epochs after Christ. However, in order for those later epochs to be seen as part of a single ten-epoch 4,000-year unfolding story, we will note a few clues about the first five epochs.

The theme that links all ten epochs is the grace of God intervening in a “world which lies in the power of the Evil One” (1 Jn 5:19), contesting an enemy who temporarily is “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4) so that the nations will praise God’s name. His plan for doing this is to reach all peoples by conferring an unusual “blessing” on Abraham and Abraham’s children-by-faith, even as we pray “Thy Kingdom come.” By contrast, the Evil One’s plan is to bring reproach on the Name of God. The Evil One stirs up hate, distorts even DNA sequences, perhaps authors suffering and all destruction of God’s good creation. Satan’s devices may very well include devising virulent germs in order to tear down confidence in God’s loving character.

Therefore this “blessing” is a key concept. The English word blessing is not an ideal translation. We see the word in use where Isaac confers his “blessing” on Jacob and not on Esau. It was not “blessings” but “a blessing,” the conferral of a family name, responsibility, obligation, as well as privilege. It is not something you can receive or get like a box of chocolates you can run off with and eat by yourself in a cave, or a new personal power you can show off like rippling muscles. It is something you become in a permanent relationship and fellowship with your Father in Heaven. It returns “families,” that is, nations to His household, to the Kingdom of God, so that the nations “will declare His glory.” The nations are being prevented from declaring God’s glory by the scarcity of evidence of God’s ability to cope with evil. If the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the Devil, then what are the Son of God’s followers and “joint heirs” supposed to do to bring honor to His Name?

The “blessing” of God is in effect conditioned upon its being shared with other nations, since those who yield to and receive God’s blessing are, like Abraham, those of faith who subject themselves to God’s will, become part of His Kingdom, and represent the extension of His rule, His power, His authority within all other peoples.

Photo Credit: Dan Pearce/Flickr

Ralph D. Winter (12/8/24 – 5/20/09) was
an American missiologist and missionary
who founded the Roberta Winter Institute.

Posted on December 7, 2016 and filed under Blog, Fourth 30.

Sixteen Reasons 2016 Wasn’t So Bad

By Beth Snodderly and Brian Lowther

For some people 2016 was a disastrous year (e.g., the Zika outbreak, the Syrian refugee crisis, political upheaval, terrorism, racial unrest, and the list goes on). But here are sixteen reasons why 2016 offers some hope.

1. During his January 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama announced the establishment of a “Cancer Moonshot” initiative to eliminate cancer as we know it.

2. An example of progress toward eliminating cancer: Chinese scientists tested gene-editing in a person for the first time in November 2016. “Researchers removed immune cells from the recipient’s blood and then disabled a gene in them using CRISPR–Cas9, which combines a DNA-cutting enzyme with a molecular guide that can be programmed to tell the enzyme precisely where to cut. The team then cultured the edited cells, increasing their number, and injected them back into the patient, who has metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. The hope is that, without the eliminated portion of DNA, the edited cells will attack and defeat the cancer.”

3. In July 2016, scientists announced they have identified a new gene that contributes to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). This provides another potential target for gene therapy development and brings us one step closer to eliminating this always-fatal disease. Progress is partly due to the online activism of the Ice Bucket Challenge. 

4. Although the world had bad luck last year with Ebola, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that systems are now in place that will speed up development and delivery of vaccines for the next outbreak. WHO is looking, hopefully, towards an Ebola-free future.

5. Scientists are producing artificial limbs that may someday “eliminate disability.” TED talks illustrate these advances:

6. India officially eliminated yaws and maternal and neonatal tetanus in their country this year.

7. Child mortality is down in nearly every country around the world.

8. The only two diseases ever eradicated, remain eradicated.

  • Small Pox remains eradicated worldwide. The United States saves the total of all its contributions to the Small Pox Eradication Campaign every twenty-six days because it is no longer necessary to vaccinate against or treat the disease. The last endemic case of smallpox was recorded in Somalia in 1977.
  • Rinderpest (also called cattle plague—a highly contagious disease with high death rates) also remains eradicated worldwide. After a global eradication campaign, the last confirmed case of Rinderpest was diagnosed in 2001.

9. The final steps toward worldwide eradication of polio began this year. Health teams in 155 countries and territories have begun switching to a different polio vaccine—“a significant milestone in the effort to achieve a polio-free world,” the World Health Organization reports. The new vaccine will protect against the two remaining strains of the virus—types 1 and 3—and will no longer include the type 2 polio virus, which was eradicated in 1999. There have been only 33 cases of the paralyzing disease as of November 2016—all of them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

10. Guinea Worm is close to becoming the second human disease, after small pox, ever eradicated. This parasitic disease “is a particularly devastating and painful disease that incapacitates people for extended periods of time, making them unable to care for themselves, work, grow food for their families, or attend school. In 1986, the disease afflicted an estimated 3.5 million people a year in 21 countries in Africa and Asia.” In early January 2016 the Carter Center announced that only 22 cases were reported during the previous year.

11. The International Task-Force for Disease Eradication lists eight candidates for disease eradication that researchers and practitioners have continued to work toward during 2016:

  • Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease)
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Taeniasis/cysticercosis (pork tapeworm)
  • Lymphatic filariasis
  • Yaws

12. The World Health Organization published a booklet in April 2016, “Eliminating Malaria.” In October 2016, Bill Gates published a blog, “So Long, Sucker: Mapping the End of Malaria.”

13. In November 2016 the Annual Meeting for the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) featured a cross-disease elimination and eradication discussion with polio, malaria, Guinea worm, and Chagas disease experts. The goal is to ensure momentum carries from discussion to real-world collaboration on research and programming.

14. In the last month of 2016 a new HIV vaccine trial is starting in South Africa. “If deployed alongside our current armory of proven HIV prevention tools, a safe and effective vaccine could be the final nail in the coffin for HIV,” says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

15. In a May 2016 news release, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that globally, life expectancy increased by five years between 2000 and 2015—the fastest increase since the 1960s. The increase was greatest in the African Region of WHO where life expectancy increased by 9.4 years to 60 years, driven mainly by improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control, and expanded access to anti-retrovirals for treatment of HIV.

16. And last but not least, the parent organization of the Roberta Winter Institute (RWI)—the former U.S. Center for World Mission, now known as Frontier Ventures—celebrated its 40th anniversary in September. Founder Ralph Winter explained how the RWI contributes toward the vision of Frontier Ventures: “It is truly astonishing how much greater we can make the impact of our missionary evangelism if the true spectrum of concern of our loving God is made clear and is backed up by serious attention [from believers] not only to treating illness but to eradicating the evil causes, the works of the devil.” 

If 2016 was a rough year for you, we hope this list provides a few reasons to keep your hope alive. For the Lord delights in those who put their hope in his unfailing love (paraphrased from Psalm 147:11). Ralph Winter longed to see believers participating with others in these sorts of disease initiatives so that the world could see that we represent a loving God who is not the source of sickness and disease, and that he is actively and visibly opposing sickness and disease through us. 

Photo Credit: duncan c/Flickr

Beth Snodderly is the RWI's Theologian in
Residence and Chair of the Board.

Brian Lowther is the Director of
the Roberta Winter Institute

Posted on December 1, 2016 and filed under Blog, Fourth 30.

Can the world count on a theologically motivated endeavor to eradicate any disease?

By Brian Lowther

Editor's Note: Today we share with you another provocative essay, this time by our director, Brian Lowther. This essay is Brian's attempt to tell the story of how Ralph Winter came to see disease eradication as such a crucial new task for the body of Christ. Brian summarizes some of the current eradication efforts, along with suggesting ways the Body of Christ can play a strategic role. Then, he explores why Christians have never considered a coordinated disease eradication effort within the range of our responsibility. This essay is optimistic and idealistic in tone, but also provides a big picture view of the difficulties of disease eradication and how and why the body of Christ is so well positioned to help. Enjoy

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Posted on November 17, 2016 and filed under Blog, Fourth 30.

Involved or Evolved?

By Ralph D. Winter

Editor's Note: In this very provocative essay originally published in May of 2004, Ralph D. Winter explains why he disliked the term "evolution," but grants that with a certain nuance, it can be helpful. He then proposes that Satanic destruction of God’s good creation is so pervasive that it may extend to what are often called “genetic defects.” Then he recounts a troubling anecdote of a pastor friend of his who instructed him to thank God for the cancer that killed Roberta and the same cancer that was killing him. He also includes an analogy about why eating right and exercising is good but not enough, and a disgusting story about rats. This essay is chock full of some of his most interesting ideas about prehistory and the Creation story in Genesis, including the question, "What would Jesus have said to his hearers if they had known what we know about germs?" We think it represents Dr. Winter at his best. Enjoy

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Posted on November 2, 2016 and filed under Blog, Fourth 30.

How to Live a Positive, Helpful, Fulfilling Life

By Brian Lowther

I’ve been reflecting lately on the different perspectives I’ve held throughout my adult life about the world and my place in it. Like everyone I’ve been seeking a happy life. Seeking such a thing naturally involves developing a strategy on how to attain it.

Chasing Wealth

In my early twenties I thought wealth was the answer. My philosophy was: They say that money doesn’t buy happiness, but I’d like to find out for myself.

It’s almost too obvious to point out why this perspective wasn’t the best approach. After all, our culture is saturated with stories about the pitfalls of greed. The only thing worth mentioning is that I discovered how misguided I was one fine fall day as I sat under an elm tree reading The Master, a novel-like retelling of the life of Jesus by John C. Pollack. As the elm leaves fluttered around me, I read Pollack’s treatment of the famous Matthew 6 passage, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth...” This passage was so compelling that I immediately starting looking for ways to “store up treasures in heaven.”  

An Eternal Element

By my mid-twenties this experience had evolved into a full-fledged distaste for the indulgent pretense of consumerism and a cynical disillusionment with the American dream. There are certain advantages to this perspective, namely you don’t feel the constant need to keep up with the Joneses. You have a graceful excuse to avoid what many people call life: “work[ing] long, hard hours at jobs they hate, to earn money to buy things they don't need, to impress people they don't like.” — Nigel Marsh

My wife and I prayed non-stop during this time for a grand idea, something we could devote our full-time energy to that would utilize our skills and serve the kingdom of God. I had firmly resolved to work in ministry because I couldn’t bear to use the best days and years of my life succeeding at something that didn’t matter. Whatever we did needed to contain an eternal element.

Eventually we found ourselves serving at the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, CA (now known as Frontier Ventures - the RWI's parent ministry). It was a good match. We believed in the U.S. Center’s vision—still do—and they needed people with our skills to work behind the scenes. We certainly weren’t going to get rich working in missions, but living up to our highest ideals was far better.

My new philosophy became: Be content with what you have. Bloom where you’re planted. Find a need and fill it.

Chase Significance

However, there were side effects. I didn’t notice them for the first few years; but gradually they became unbearable. Working behind the scenes far away from the frontlines made it difficult to escape nagging feelings of meaninglessness. I was often able to counteract this restless angst by reminding myself that for every soldier on the frontlines, seven people are necessary back home to pack rations, build ships, heal wounds, etc. But a relentless malaise and a pestering desire to fill a more prominent role lurked just below the surface. Not that I wanted to leave the U.S. Center, I just knew I needed to do something more, or more difficult, something that echoed a little louder in eternity.

I realized this for certain in my early 30’s while standing amidst rows and rows of tombstones after a memorial service. (Why do our most profound epiphanies always occur at funerals? I guess it’s obvious.) Some tombstones are ornate or impressive in size, but most are quite modest. No matter the size or the grandiosity, each passed life always seems so utterly insignificant, lost in the endless rows of tombstones. All of a person’s hopes, fears, relationships, talents, accomplishments, idiosyncrasies and pet peeves are summed up with just a few words on a humble slab of stone in a vast and lonely cemetery.

While I no longer had any interest in amassing a large fortune, becoming a famous celebrity, or inventing the next Facebook, I very much wanted to— excuse the clichés—make a difference, change the world, leave my mark. I was willing to sacrificially serve others, but I wanted to see and feel how my deeds positively influenced their lives.

I was haunted by the Horace Mann quote, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” My philosophy became, don’t chase wealth, success or status. Chase significance.

Being a Nobody

Around this time is when I began to seriously grapple with what we in the Roberta Winter Institute call the “Warfare Worldview.” I can sum up this concept with this statement: God is at work reestablishing shalom in a corrupted creation and defeating the enemy who is responsible for that corruption, and he has called us, commissioned us, and empowered us to participate with him in this process. This concept helped me understand history and the problem of evil with bright, new clarity, and fortuitously it gave me a tremendous new awareness about my place in the world.

Unfortunately, I got these very important ideas mixed up with my ego. I felt like I had Biblical permission to pursue my delusions of grandeur and egotistical idealism. Not only was I going to change the world, but I was going to help God defeat evil. While this new way of looking at the world gave me a deeper sense of how to make my mark, one day I wondered, what if after ten, or twenty, or thirty years of sacrifice and hard work I realize that I haven’t made a difference, that I haven’t changed the world? Then what?

That’s when I came across this J.D. Salinger quote:

“All I know is I’m just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else’s. I’m sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It’s disgusting! …We’re all so conditioned to accept everybody else’s values. Just because it feels good to be applauded and to have people to rave about you, doesn’t make it right. I’m ashamed of it. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody...”[1]

That last phrase really troubled me. I couldn't figure out why he would write that it takes courage to be a nobody. It doesn’t take courage to be a nobody, it takes nothing to be a nobody, right?

Then, just recently it dawned on me. It takes courage to be a nobody, because being a nobody—being lost amidst the tombstones, insignificant and forgotten—is extremely terrifying.

I realized that even if I do change the world, what if that’s still not enough? Name the last three people to win either the Nobel Prize or the Pulitzer Prize. These are rare and gifted people, and yet, they are mostly unknown. On the flip side, most of us can name three teachers who helped us realize our potential in school, or three friends who helped us through a rough patch.

So then what's the right perspective?

I’m sorry to say, I don’t exactly know. I’ve been wrestling with these perspectives for the better part of the past two decades, swinging with the pendulum from one extreme to the other, hoping that a new perspective will suddenly present itself and trump all the others with its elegance. But as of this moment, I only have a hunch.

And that hunch is this: the right perspective is to do something difficult and perhaps scary, something that requires our full attention and great sacrifice, some crucial cog in God’s global machinery of reestablishing shalom and defeating his enemy, BUT—and here’s the really hard part—we probably won’t get any credit for it at all, especially if it succeeds. Such is the life of those who are called to take up their cross daily and follow Jesus. 

Which reminds me of something my mentor, Ralph D. Winter used to say, a quote he got from either Ronald Reagan or Harry Truman, “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit.”


[1] J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey (Little, Brown, 1961)

Photo Credit: Lev Glick/Flickr

Brian Lowther is the Director of
the Roberta Winter Institute

Four Types of Evil, Part III

Spiritual evil and the violence in nature cause people to lose their faith in God. Can this be prevented?

By Brian Lowther

Editor’s Note: Over the past few weeks here on the RWI blog, we’ve been exploring Ralph Winter’s Four Seeds of Destruction. Today, Brian Lowther finishes his three-part series examining Seed #1: The Seed of the Problem of Evil.

In my last blog entry I looked at a few examples to substantiate my hunch that when we battle certain kinds of evil, it shows that God is not the source of these evils, that he does not condone these evils, and that he is actively and visibly opposing these evils through us. I think this idea and these examples go a long way in preventing people from walking away from faith. Today I’ll continue in that vein, with some examples from the categories of Spiritual Evil and Violence in Nature.

1. Spiritual Evil

I think it's safe to say that believers are doing what they can to address the roots of Spiritual Evil by casting out demons and delivering people from demonization through the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

I won’t pretend to know much about the prevalence of this kind of demonic activity or the ins and outs of deliverance ministries. When the demonic activity described in the New Testament happens today, my initial response is to categorize it in a medical or psychiatric sense (e.g., seizures, self-harming behavior, schizophrenia, muteness, etc.) rather than demonic activity. I’m admittedly out of my depth when deciphering between demon possession and medical or psychiatric maladies. Having said that, I know there are legitimate deliverance ministries out there. Chuck Kraft’s Heart’s Set Free ministry is the first one that comes to mind. And to me, the existence and earnestness of these ministries says something about God. 

What do these things say about God? When believers are active in conquering the roots of this kind of evil, it says that God does not intend for people or the world to be infested with evil spiritual beings. And this allows believers to trust in God’s goodness, which prevents them from losing their faith.

For an fascinating blog entry about demonic activity and our response to it, see Roger Olson’s Should Western Christians Rediscover Exorcism?, including the comment thread. I also recommend the dispassionate way this man shares about his own experience in The Washington Post: How a scientist learned to work with exorcists.

2. Violence in Nature

In Part I of this series, I brought up the common assumption that violence in nature is normal and necessary and thus the way God intended things. I think this causes scores and scores of people to lose their faith in God, one prominent example being Charles Darwin.[1]

However, I’m not convinced that it was always necessary for animals to kill one another to survive. It doesn't seem that was the case in Eden. Even from an evolutionary perspective, life appears to have evolved for over 3 billion years without the violence and the killing normally associated with evolution.[2] Perhaps it is necessary now. But that doesn't mean it is how God intended or wanted it to be,[3] or how it will be in the future when the wolf will live with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6), or how we should foresee the kind of world God wants us to work towards.

Am I asking Christians to refocus all their attention on genetically re-engineering wolves so they won’t hunt, kill and eat lambs? No, I’m asking whether God wants us to do anything about a much more potent and efficient killing machine: the mosquito. Bill Gates—who is spearheading efforts to eradicate malaria—has said that the mosquito is the deadliest animal in the world.[4] When it comes to killing humans, no other animal even comes close. Actually, if we are talking about malaria, the plasmodium parasite in the gut of the mosquito is the real culprit. And, while Christians are noted down through history for being kind to people who are sick and helping them get well, we are not well known for fighting the viruses, the bacteria, and the tiny parasites—as in the case of malaria—that cause some of our most harmful diseases. We mount no offense against the pathogens themselves .

While treating the symptoms of diseases like malaria is necessary and perfectly good, ignoring its roots says something about God. It proclaims loudly and embarrassingly that “our God can merely get you a hospital bed to lie on [with a bed net perhaps] and a ticket to heaven,” [5] but either he does not know of the real cause of malaria, does not care, or does not have the ability to do anything about it.

One solution to this problem is a very public, top-to-bottom stance against disease at its roots, both in our theology and in our practical efforts. Otherwise I think people will continue to assume that God intended and created diseases like malaria and all violence in nature and thus will continue to lose their faith. 


As I said before, I think God has called us, commissioned us, and prepared us (i.e., he has given us the wisdom, ingenuity and the ability to work together, plus a Wonderful Counselor) to battle the four types of evil I've covered in this series. When we do, I think that says that God is not the instigator of these evils, that he does not approve of these evils, and that he is unmistakably opposing these evils through us. Being convinced of this, and being aware of and partnering with those who are attempting to fight evil at its roots, will go a long way in ensuring that people never turn their backs on God’s goodness and his powerful love.

But that’s just my speculation. What do you think?



[2] This was during the pre-Cambrian era when life forms were very primitive. See:

[3] See Genesis 1: 29, 30: Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.


[5] Ralph D. Winter, “A Blindspot in Western Christianity?” in Frontiers in Mission.

Photo Credit: U.S. Army medical researchers take part in World Malaria Day 2010, Kisumu, Kenya US Army Africa/Flickr

Brian Lowther is the Director of
the Roberta Winter Institute