The Church & Social Responsibility

C.H. Spurgeon said, “Nothing but the Gospel can sweep away social evil… The Gospel is the great broom with which to cleanse the filthiness of the city; nothing else will avail.”[1] Spurgeon experienced the truth of that statement in his city and Scripture attests of its truth over and over again.

Look at Acts 19:18-20 for a prime example of the social change that took place because of the gospel. Also look how faith changed Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). He no longer defrauded people but restored fourfold those whom he had defrauded. He also gave half of his belongings to the poor. It should therefore not be our first goal to enact political and social change but spiritual change that takes place through the receiving of the gospel.[2]

If the gospel is truly received social change will follow. I do not believe in the social gospel[3] but the gospel will inevitably bear fruit in the social realm. The gospel is necessarily social; that is, it has unavoidable implications on society. As Carl F. H. Henry has said, “A globe-changing passion certainly characterized the early church… A Christianity without a passion to turn the world upside down is not reflective of apostolic Christianity.”[4] We must show and tell the gospel if there is to be a full and effective presentation.

The Lausanne Committee accurately said this of Christian social responsibility:

“We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all people. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression. Because men and women are made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, colour, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbour and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.”[5]

_____________________

[1] C. H. Spurgeon, the soul winner, 247.

[2] Thomas r. Schreiner says, “Jesus did not call for political revolution; he trusted in the power of the word of God (mark 4:28) and focused on the need of the nation to repent and turn to God… what will change society is individuals turning from their sin and committing themselves wholly to God” (Schreiner, new testament theology, 52-53). However, that is not to say that political involvement is wrong (mark 6:14-20; matt. 14:1-12; acts 16:35-39; 24:25; 1 Tim. 2:1-4) only that we should not set our hopes on it. The gospel is the power to salvation and therefore the power to change (cf. Rom. 1:16; 1 cor. 6:9-11). Note, however, that john the baptizer was martyred like many other Christians, for biblically informed political convictions (I think of Bonheoffer and Martin Luther King Jr. Notice, also that they gave their life and did not take life). 

[3] The social gospel movement was a movement started by Walter Rauschenbusch in the early 1900s. It emphases social justice over and against the gospel and has a defective view of the kingdom of God (among other things). Contra the social gospel movement the kingdom of God, though ushered in by Christ’s coming, does not find its fulfillment until Jesus brings it down from heaven. However, in revolting against the social gospel we should not be guilty of revolting against the Christian social imperative (see carl f. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, 22)

We don’t bring in the Kingdom, God does (cf. Rev. 21:1-2; dan. 2:44-45).

However much we try or even succeed in our responsibility to secure greater economic justice, Christians can look beyond this world, with all its tribulations and inequities, to the restoration of all things at Christ’s return (acts 3:21). Our faith is not pinned or limited to humanity’s capacity to share generously; for it is only at the second coming that our full humanness will be restored. This does not mean that we cease our efforts to improve this world however. On the contrary, it is because we cherish the vision of completed humanness in the end that we must all the more promote human dignity today (www.lausanne.org).

[4] Henry, The Uneasy Conscience Of Modern Fundamentalism, 16.

[5] http://www.lausanne.org (italics mine). See: Acts 17:26, 31; Gen. 18:25; Isa. 1:17; Prov. 13:31; Ps. 45:7; Gen. 1:26, 27; James. 3:9; Lev. 19:18; Luke 6:27, 35; James. 2:14-26; Jn. 3:3, 5; Matt. 5:20; 6:33; 2 Cor. 3:18; James. 2:20.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: