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Social Justice: Social Gospel? | September / October 2011 Modern Reformation

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Social Justice: Social Gospel?
September / October 2011

In this issue, we shift gears in Matthew 28:18-20, taking up an important discussion of the gospel and social justice. We believe that a Reformation understanding of law and gospel, two-kingdoms theology, and the uniqueness of the task given by God to the church should be brought to bear on this sometimes controversial topic. Our editor-in-chief Michael Horton helps us recognize that the commission and the commandment each has its own logic, means, and application, and that these differences must be recognized so that each one can flourish as God intends. Seminary professor David VanDrunen explains the difference between the church as an institution with offices and means of grace and the church as an organism, or a community of faith and life. Next, Kim Riddlebarger, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim and White Horse Inn co-host, spells out the debates concerning eschatology—in particular, amillennialism—that frequently underwrite discussions about the role of the church in relation to culture. Then another White Horse Inn co-host, Ken Jones, also pastor of Glendale Missionary Baptist Church, offers a well-informed discussion of the black church and social justice. And when it comes to realistic strategies for making a difference in this world and loving one's neighbor, Tim Blackmon—a Christian Reformed minister who serves at the American Protestant Church of The Hague in the Netherlands—encourages us to recover the lost art of hospitality. Finally, looking in passages of Scripture at examples of Jesus' miracles and service to the poor, Presbyterian pastor Jon Payne reminds us that these events function first as testimonies to Christ's true status as God's Messiah.

As you peruse this issue, remember that the gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation. Christ's liberality and merciful charity to us on the cross does indeed have the power to inspire us to grateful lives of service to the poor and the weak. But remember the words of Lee Iacocca when it concerns the mission of the church, "Keep the main thing the main thing."

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  • Guest - ivan

    I am an avid listener of WHI but I have been somewhat confused about the issue of social justice. I have no issues with Christians being salt and light and serving our neighbours as we ought but there are several things that i see wrong wrong with SJ:

    1. Justice is getting what you deserve – or getting your right(s)….a very humanist view. On the other hand MERCY is not getting what you deserve, and GRACE is getting what you don’t deserve. I think the calamity of the term SJ is that it supports that you have ‘rights’ and by having those rights you can demand them......this flies in the face of Mercy.... something that is given not demanded.

    2. The term SJ is itself steeped in communism (marxism) and liberalism and there are good reasons to steer the church away from this new term and retain traditional ones like mercy, charity and missions. Q: What is the first site you hit when you google the term SJ? is this the message we teach our young folk? Has this got the potential to confuse young christians.

    3. The concept is a humanist ideology and is a man-made (relative) replacement to biblical morality.

    4. Many secular high schools, clubs, organisations have a SJ arm – so adopting the term SJ into the church can‘muddy’ the distinction between christian mission work and secular ‘compassion’ work.

    5. It can confuse the Gospel and if the Gospel is not retained as the big deal and the central focus then churches/christians can drift into a form of works righteousness....social gospel.

    Personally, I think the term is deceptive and should be avoided where possible and not promoted by churches or pastors. We should however retain the more traditional terms and concepts of Christian mercy and charity and promote these in our unique vocabulary.

    Justice, Mercy, and Grace
    Justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve, and grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
    By Justin Edwards

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