Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Why Christians should focus on cultural issues as well as evangelism

Scott Klusendorf linked me this article on Facebook, in which he gives five reasons why Christians should not JUST focus on the gospel, but should instead be good at promoting goodness and opposing evil.

Excerpt:

First, it does not follow that because cultural reformers cannot make a culture blameless before God, we shouldn’t try to make it better for the weak and oppressed. I do not know of a single pro-life leader, for example, who argues that cultural reform can save souls eternally; only the gospel does that. The fact that cultural reform cannot get a man to heaven, however, does not mean that it cannot (in many cases through political means) save him from injustice here on earth. In short, pro-life advocates like me do not work for change in culture to save the world from spiritual death, but to save the most vulnerable members of the human family, the unborn, from physical death.

Second, the goal of cobelligerent cultural reform is not necessarily to change the hearts of individuals (whether saved or lost), but to restrain their evil acts. Martin Luther King, Jr., put it well: “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”3 The purpose of government, according to Scripture, is not to ensure salvation, but to promote justice (Rom. 13:1‑4). The primary purpose of the church, of course, is to preach the gospel of Christ, but if Christians, collectively, do not also challenge government to fulfill its duty to protect the weak and defenseless, who will?

Third, the notion that “there can be no real cultural impact apart from the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ” sounds good, but it is simply incorrect. Consider the moral evil of slavery in America, which did not end because of mass conversions to Christ. It ended when believers and nonbelievers joined forces to stand against it—and paid for it with the lives of 360,000 Union soldiers. Was the abolition of slavery not a “real” cultural improvement? True, it did not make those who participated right with God, but it did take the physical whips off the backs of oppressed people. That is moral and cultural improvement by any reasonable standard.

Fourth, it is not spiritually unacceptable for Christians to mobilize with non-Christians for causes other than preaching the gospel. Prior to the Civil War, Protestant clergy worked with non-Christians and organized the Underground Railroad to free black slaves. Anyone who thinks that God’s people are wasting their time pursuing social justice may want to take a look at how important it is to God: Jeremiah 5:26‑28; 9:24; Isaiah 1:16‑17, 21‑23; 58:6‑7; 61:8; Psalm 94:1‑23; Proverbs 24:1‑12; Matthew 25:41‑46.

Fifth, why should anyone suppose that pro-life advocacy detracts from the discipline responsibilities of the local church as outlined in Matthew 28? Simply put, the answer to a lack of evangelical fervor for the Gospel is not to withdraw our political advocacy for the weak and vulnerable; it’s to encourage Christians to do a better job presenting the gospel. We don’t have to stop rescuing the innocent to do that.

This is why I try to have a balance of apologetics with other issues. And not just social policy, but fiscal policy and foreign policy. We need to have complete, comprehensive, coherent Christian worldviews. One obvious benefit of this is that we can connect Christianity with any topic when we are talking to others in the workplace, or anywhere that normal conversations occur. And if we study everything very well, people will link our intelligence to our faith. They’ll say “if you’ve put this much thought into economics, then you must have a well-thought-out faith, too”. Being well-rounded makes you more convincing, more influential on moral and cultural issues, and more effective at turning conversations to the gospel.

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One Response

  1. Dan says:

    This is well said. I would add that we are being disobedient to the commandment to love our neighbor when we do not speak out. For the Christian to insist that our government insure with the power of the sword that Mr. King not be lynched is just as much an act of love as it is an act of indifference to remain silent.

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