There’s an ironic similarity between (1) “the social gospel” — reducing the gospel and Christian mission to advancing social justice — and (2) “Christian nationalism” — hitching the Christian mission to the church having/maintaining cultural dominance.
Christian cultural and social impact, of course, I believe are good, and flow out of the Christian mission.
But interestingly/ironically, these two socially and politically polar opposite viewpoints — (1) “the social gospel” and (2) “Christian nationalism” — err seemingly in the same way: they misplace the center of the church’s mission with a usurping concern over their social presence.
To the “social gospel” we say, Yes, social justice is a biblical imperative, and its outworking is entailed in Christian mission. But social justice is not itself the gospel, nor should it be equated with biblical “salvation.”
To the “Christian nationalist” we say again, impact on society is admirable. But it’s not the end-all-be-all. Our witness comes first. Cultural domination is not our mission. And when we conceive of it as such, we can find ourselves pursuing it at the expense of our witness.
In short, both (again, ironically) make cultural and social impact paramount at the expense of the soteriological center of our mission.
And ironically both chastise the other for doing what they themselves do: equating their mission with the pursuit of a particular political vision, either the Left’s in the case of the “social gospel,” or the Right’s in the case of “Christian nationalism.”
They’re polar opposite on the political spectrum. But underneath, they share the same warp and woof.
In this one-day Training Seminar lead, we examined some of the core framework, analytics, and ideologies that serve much of our culture’s current political and social justice engagement. The aim is to look at these things from a Biblical perspective with the goal of better equipping ourselves to navigate the climate in which we live.
Due to the unfortunate volatile and seemingly unproductive nature of current public discourse around these matters, I have decided not to make this material open to the public. However, if you would like to request a copy of my notes for this Training Seminar, you can email my church here.
Christianity is the world’s largest religion. And as Rebecca McLaughlin argues, if nothing else just given the sheer mass of those who find its beliefs compelling, everyone at some point should give serious Christianity deep consideration.
If you are not a worshipper of Jesus, I want to commend this book to you and ask you to consider reading it.
A very good and thoughtful book addressing some of today’s most pressing issues re the veracity of Christianity. Believers as well will be both encouraged and stretched by picking up this volume.
An excerpt from Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, chapter 8:
[T]hough religion and philosophy are related, there is also a world of difference between them. Although they frequently have the same content and object, these objects are viewed in each domain from a very different perspective. The aim of science is knowledge; in religion it is comfort, peace, salvation. … Even the most profound philosopher, therefore, for all his knowledge does not rise above religion; he can never meet his religious needs by science. Though science may tell him that God is and what God is, it is only by religion that he knows that that God is also his God and his Father. Science may teach him that sin and grace exist, but it is only by religion that he takes part in the blessedness of religion and the sonship of God. Even if science could know all things and solve all metaphysical problems, it would still only yield theoretical knowledge and not personal participation in the benefits of salvation. For salvation is bound up with believing, not with knowing. But it is far from true that science and philosophy can attain this benefit. There are still many people, to be sure, who continue to expect all salvation from science and to consider religion superfluous. … Nonetheless, a turnabout is in progress. Prominent men of science are beginning to see that science fails to answer the most important questions of life. … In the natural sciences the mysteries are not diminishing but increasing, and the philosophy of nature is again raising its voice. … And, further, the numerous manifestations of superstition evident today demonstrate that humankind cannot live by the bread of science alone but need every word that comes from the mouth of God. Indeed, science does not tell us what God is or what humanity is; it leaves us ignorant of the origin, essence, and goal of things. It can therefore never replace religion, nor ever compensate for its loss.