Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Evangelical Social Engagement

The Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance has released a Statement on Evangelical Social Engagement (published here in Christianity Today). It's an interesting read, and begins like this:

The confession ‘Jesus is Lord’ has immediate political implications for the witness of the church in the world.
Before you go and read it, ask yourself, "what are those implications?" - then see how closely they match the suggestions in the document.


Unknown said...

I wonder sometimes if statements like these lack eschatological bite. Yes in one sense Christ is indeed Lord of everything now...and yet there's a sense in which we're exhiliratingly caught between two stages in the story of his becoming Lord of the universe, a time when he's with us by his Spirit. And in short, I think that puts the focus not on making global poverty history, nor on converting individuals, but on us being his church. His eschatological kingdom is only found where he is by his Spirit...so the church is where people get a glimpse of the new creation, where they see sinners reconciled to God and one another, where the poor are cared for, where the outcast is loved.

I think the article touches on this in the third last paragraph, but still misses the point: the "common life of faith and action" won't necessarily lead to "a transformation of the world' but I think rather it will give the world a startling foretaste of the transformed world Jesus will soon bring in.

Barth says that the church "exists...to set up in the world a new sign which is radically dissimilar to [the world's] own manner and which contradicts it in a way which is full of promise" (CD 4.3.2)

byron smith said...

Christian, as ever, a very thoughtful comment. You are right and I think your comment can be taken further. The language of 'implement[ing] the reign of Christ' or 'working for the kingdom' go beyond the biblical injunctions to 'seek' and 'enter' the kingdom.

However, the final sentence is also relevant: Consequently, the church exercises its social responsibility not only by direct action in the world but also by witnessing to the redemptive work of Christ and looking forward to the consummation of all things in Him.
This comes much closer to your concern, yet I suspect the emphasis is still the wrong way around.

What a great Barth quote!

One of Freedom said...

Amazing how Christ's reign is dependant on our obedience???

One of Freedom said...

Great comment Christian. I often talk about the scary notion evangelicals have about social change as an accident of conversion. The problem I have is that it doesn't work. When everything is about personal salvation the gravity is towards lessing personal risk in society. So actions become ones that entrench "Christian" worldviews and never get to the heart of deep social sin.