Remember that old chorus, “This world is not my home I’m just a-passing through”? I sang that many times as a kid in Daily Vacation Bible School and church camp.
The lyrics seem to suggest believers have no real role or duties on earth and the sooner we can get out of here the better, but is that really sound biblical theology?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #24 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
When I was a young professor, I developed a college course entitled “Christian Social and Political Responsibility.” We examined what the Scripture said about a Christian’s place in the world, beginning with the Cultural Mandate in Gen. 1:26-28 wherein human beings are charged by God to care for the world and develop it.
And we considered Jesus’s prayer in John 17, in which Jesus noted we are to be “not of the world” even though we remain “in the world,” and then not to be forgotten, he said, we are to go “into the world.” And in the Great Commission of Matt 28:19-20 we learned that we are to go into the world and make disciples, teaching them to follow Christ.
As a kid I was much blessed to have parents who took me to church where I learned not just Bible stories but theology, values, principles, and propositions in the Word of God. But it was in college that I first confronted the phrase “Christian theistic world and life view,” a mouthful that meant Christian philosophy of life, what later we shortened to Christian worldview.
A fully developed Christian worldview begins of course with salvation in Christ, but we don’t stop there, nor are we immediately raptured away to eternity. No, we live out our lives, for the time God gives us, and we are supposed to proclaim the Lordship of Christ in all of life.
I have always believed Christians could fulfill these divine commands in a variety of ways, that we are called into all walks of life, some into politics, some not.
This point of view goes back to what the great reformer Martin Luther said about vocation, that the farmer is as important and valued as the clergy.
So, according to Scripture we’re to witness to the truth of Christ, sharing with others the message of reconciliation. We’re to carry the message even as we care for the world, meaning build culture, make possible human flourishing to the glory of God.
But given humanity’s penchant for sin that began with the Fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, Romans 1 tells us sin affects every part of Creation. So, as we live out our lives we come in contact with spiritually bereft individuals who need saving grace, and we come into contact with a world full of what we now call social problems.
Our task as Christians is to speak the truth in love, to be ready always to give an answer, and to bring peace, healing, and hope. This is the evangelism and social concerns tension. For which do we have greater responsibility and to which to we give more time?
In the early 1900s, Christians debated the relative importance of evangelism vs what was then called the social gospel. The Fundamentalist church movement emerged from this, rightly asserting the authority of Scripture—the fundamentals of the faith—over and against the social gospel proponents who too often strayed from Scripture. Unfortunately, many Fundamentalists eventually over-reacted by rejecting responsibility for or engagement in social issues.
By mid-century in the 1940s and thereafter, another segment of conservative Christendom emerged that became known as Evangelicals. Billy Graham, theologian Carl F.H. Henry to name two influential leaders helped propel this movement to great growth. Evangelicals attempted to maintain a commitment to the basic doctrines, the fundamentals of the faith, while giving renewed attention to social concerns.
Like most movements, in time, this one divided and it remains so today, along a spectrum, Right to Left. Some on the Right began to align with conservative politics and the Republican party. Some on the Left began to align with moderate to liberal politics and the Democrat party.
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Now in the early 21st Century, Evangelicals seem to be even more divided and may fragment further. We face a new tension in the form of a set of values collectively known as social justice ideology, maybe better known as Woke philosophy.
As I detailed in an earlier podcast, social justice ideology has infiltrated virtually every part of American culture and much of the Church, especially those who would call themselves Liberal or Progressive or the Left, but now also increasingly among those who, formerly at least, aligned on the Right.
Social justice ideology is a secular worldview. The way social justice advocates define and approach their ostensible public goals—racial justice, helping the marginalized, expanding access and tolerance, justice for those who do not consider themselves sexually binary, and more, is at bottom antithetical to biblical Christianity.
Social justice ideology must be resisted and rejected. It must not be allowed to influence the Christian church…and yet today it is.
In our present day, it’s much like a century ago. We must resist social justice ideology, which is not biblical and not Christian social concern, while at the same time, not losing site of our responsibility to both carry the message—evangelism—and care for the world—social responsibility.
“All positive cultural change includes gospel proclamation and inward spiritual regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The antisocial justice mindset puts evangelism against social transformation. The biblical worldview, however, brings them together into a seamless whole. In the words of John Stott: ‘Evangelism is the major instrument of social change. For the gospel changes people, and changed people can change society.’”
We must not allow the Devil, as the chief of liars, to divide the Christian Church once again, those committed to evangelism on one side, those committed to social engagement on the other. The biblical approach to living in the world while not of the world while going into the world is built upon a Christian worldview that connects evangelism to social change.
In fact, since most of the problems we face are spiritual at root, not social, the Good News of the Gospel stands as the most potent transformational message we can share. It changes people within, then they change what is without.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. For more Christian commentary, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, Discerning What Is Best, or check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com. And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
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