Thursday, August 31, 2006

This Is Quite Helpful

I really can't say this is what I've been trying to say all along. Certainly it offers far more than that, and I'm still too dumb to know exactly what I believe. But it certainly adds a great deal of light to the discussion. Thanks to Dr. Burggraff for permitting publication and to Bob Bixby for tracking it down.


Bruce McKanna said...

Here are some thoughts from an evangelical, new covenant, historic pre-millennialist (though I don’t like the term “premillennial” very much), baptistic Christian.

Why does it seem that Christians end up either saying “we don’t need to address social issues or try to meet social needs,” or “we have a responsibility to reform society and redeem culture.” These both seem like extremes that are not faithful to the Scriptures. The “pessimist” seems to use his theology as a spiritual excuse not to give sacrificially. Isn’t it ironic that, as wealthy as most Christians are in this country (myself included), we are willing to talk about mercy and grace in the gospel but at the same time are very reluctant to demonstrate it by living and giving sacrificially toward the very people to whom we are trying to communicate mercy and grace! If I am to love my neighbor as myself, I cannot ignore the practical needs around me while claiming to have a better spiritual solution. Curse the “logic” that says premillennialists shouldn’t be working for the good of their neighbors in tangible ways. That’s the same kind of warped reasoning that says predestinarians shouldn’t pray or evangelize: it ignores some scriptural truth while emphasizing another doctrine in an inappropriate way.

The “optimist” on the other hand somehow thinks his work is going to save the world or turn America back to God when the deepest needs require the work of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification for there to be any real change. I cannot rely on providing some material goods, a measure of justice, and a better cultural environment to be a solution in any sense to what is ultimately wrong with this world. Therefore, any social work we do cannot be an end to itself, neither is it a mere tool for us to leverage a hearing for the gospel, but it is simply a demonstration of the greater reality of God’s justice, mercy, and grace. This is simple godliness: Christians imitating God. Furthermore, our good works should be a foretaste of the righteous reign of Christ that will be the perfect society of the redeemed. Yes, the kingdom is future, but I live under the lordship of Christ now, and the world should be able to see and experience its reality in my life.

And another thing… I would love to get some clarification on this issue of corporate versus individual responsibility (see Burggraff’s point 4 in his conclusion). I have thought in these same terms myself before, I guess so as to make sure the church doesn’t lose its gospel focus, but what is the basis for dividing these things up? Or, to put it another way, how is it that the Great Commission is apparently so clearly a (or perhaps “the”) mandate for the church? I think it would be easier to “prove” that it was a commission for the apostles, but I don’t think that is accurate either. Certainly we do not mean to say that evangelism is the responsibility of the church as institution and not the members as individuals. Even those commands that pertain to specific segments of the body, such as instruction for husbands, wives, children, slaves, and masters, affected their social relationships with one another in the body, and they were addressed in the corporate context for mutual edification and accountability. We agree that the church can teach doctrine, train believers how to carry out practical commands, hold them accountable for obedience, discipline them for disobedience, appoint leaders on the basis of their exemplary lifestyles, and so on. We rightly use programs like Sunday School classes to help our people with biblical marriage, the stewardship of money, or discovering God’s will, but then we think that any coordinated effort in helping Christians live godly lives of compassion toward the lost is not the church’s job? Remember that part of the Great Commission: “teach them to obey all that I have commanded.” Could it be that simple?

Don said...

Hi again Ben

I was thinking about this topic late last night and put together some thoughts here:

FWIW. I'd be interested in what you think. Of course, please note that I was writing late!!

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3