Social Gospel 2
Mission

The social gospel is a legitimate child of evangelism

 

“I am so tired of hearing this social gospel held up as the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason the Church pushes this social gospel is because by and large it doesn’t believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ which forgives, reconciles and changes people from within,” fumed ‘dannybhoy’ in yesterday’s comment thread. “Amen to that,” declared David. “AMEN!!!” yelped  ‘preacher’, before expounding: “Many Churches embrace the social gospel because the true one is too hard to handle, ministers are not preaching the Cross & the Blood as the only way that mankind can be redeemed. This diluting of the truth has resulted in Christians reaching a spiritual plateau with no direction or reason to go on. They feel there is more, but the leadership is poor, or often non existent so in frustration they turn to social good works, which in themselves are good but of no eternal value.”

This is a warped apprehension of the gospel, and a judgmental mistrust of Church leadership. The relationship between evangelism and social concern is evidenced throughout the history of the Church, though variously and sometimes conflictingly expressed. America’s ‘Great Awakening’, the Pietistic Movement in Germany and the Evangelical Revival under the Wesleys all proved a great stimulus to both strategies of evangelism and programmes of what we now term ‘social justice’. But defining the relationship between the two is complex: a disproportionate emphasis on social justice may indeed lead to what some term a ‘social gospel’, in which God’s kingdom on earth becomes a series of social programmes; and yet a narrow emphasis on evangelism may lead to a salvation consisting simply of a ticket to heaven, with little regard for earthly welfare or justice.

The 1974 Lausanne Conference suggested that “evangelism and social concern were equal but separate partners that together made up the mission of the church”. But tensions and ambiguities remained. Some argued that evangelism without a commitment to social concern would produce churches which were blind to social justice. Others argued that a commitment to social involvement as equal to evangelism would produce churches that were mostly social service agencies and thus distract from people’s most desperate need, namely to obtain the eternal salvation of their souls.

To attempt to define the nature of the relationship between the two, it is necessary to examine the themes throughout the Bible, from the Old Testament foundation of Shalom to the New Testament emphasis on the proclamation of the gospel bringing liberation for the poor.

The Church is called to declare salvation (Acts 20:24), which Bosch (in Transforming Mission p412) describes as “announcing that God, Creator and Lord of the universe, has personally intervened in human history and has done so supremely through the person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth who is Lord of history, Saviour and Liberator.” If the work of Christ is accompanied by a declaration of the Kingdom of God, evangelism may be seen as spreading the good news that God is establishing a new order through Christ, calling people to repent and embrace restoration. Matthew records salvation in terms of liberation from burdens (Mt 11:28f), and Luke refers to it as ‘preaching peace by Jesus Christ’ (Acts 10:36). ‘Peace’ here echoes the many Old Testament promises that God would liberate his people from oppression, and create a community in which everyone contributes to the needs of all:

The messianic peace, Shalom, wrought by Jesus Christ, involves not only a new relationship to God but also a relationship between man and his neighbour. Shalom is not a gift that the Lord gives apart from himself; rather, he himself is Shalom (Eph2:14), and through his death he has brought all hostility among men to an end (Bosch, Transforming Mission, p412).

There is a particular emphasis on the poor, the broken-hearted, captives and prisoners, with notable examples of God rescuing his people from adverse conditions and giving them a new life. In many of the Psalms (eg 9:9; 140:12) those who wait for God’s salvation are the materially poor, the physically disabled, the persecuted and oppressed. To enter into salvation is to be liberated (Ps 145:14-20), not only from sin, but also from earthly oppression.

The basic meaning of the original is ‘to create spaciousness’ or, one might say, ‘room to live’. From this root, it comes to mean the people’s freedom from whatever confines or restricts their ability to flourish as God intends (Kirk What is Mission, p64).

Since poverty is relative, it is important to examine what Luke means by ‘the poor’. As previously expounded:

The peasants (eg Lk 6:20) who possessed little material wealth were not called ‘poor’ (πτωχός – ‘ptochos’) if they possessed what was sufficient (ie subsistence) – they were termed ‘penes’ (πένης). Jesus was concerned with the literal, physical needs of men (ie not just the spiritual [cf Acts 10:38]). When Luke was addressing the ‘poor’, he meant those who had no money – the oppressed, miserable, dependent, humiliated – and this is translated by ‘ptochos’, indicating ‘poverty-stricken…to cower down or hide oneself for fear’ – the need to beg. The ‘penes’ has to work, but the ‘ptochos’ has to beg. Those addressed by Jesus are the destitute beggars; not ‘penes’ or the general peasant audience of few possessions. This is (or ought to be) an important distinction for politicians and for the modern audience in a society where the threshold of poverty is defined by the non-possession of a television, a DVD player, and Nike trainers.

Although rich and poor are Luke’s terms, their social and cultural meanings within Luke’s context remain a debated question. But the irruption of the poor remains a direct challenge to the mission of the Church, whether they be beggars or lowly-paid workers:

This new presence of the poor and oppressed is making itself felt in the popular struggles for liberation and in the historical consciousness arising from these struggles. It is also making itself felt within the church, for there the poor are increasingly making their voices heard and claiming openly their right to live and think the faith in their own terms (Gutiérrez, The Truth Shall Make You Free, p8).

If the πτωχός is deprived of the basic needs of life – food, water, shelter, clothing – the message of salvation demands the provision of the necessities to restore dignity. But for the πένης, whose life is manageable but manifestly subject to inequalities and deprivation, salvation also demands ‘human rights’ – an involvement in the democratic process, education, healthcare, and protection under the law. Gutiérrez (p9) sees both as a sort of death:

Death, in this case, is caused by hunger, sickness, or the oppressive methods used by those who see their privileges endangered by any and every effort to free the oppressed. It is physical death to which cultural death is added, because in a situation of oppression everything is destroyed that gives unity and strength to the dispossessed of this world.

While we might obsess about the causes of this “death” and thereafter dispense charity according to notions of worthiness, there is no indication that the Church should practice such discrimination. Thus the question of whether the poor are victims of their circumstances or have made their own poverty ceases to matter in the context of evangelism: Matthew’s ‘social contract’ (Mt 7:12) becomes the great leveller, and constitutes the Church’s foundational expression of social justice.

The Hebrew word for jubilee (יוֹבֵל – yôbêl) means ‘release’ (Ex 21:2-6 cf Lk4:18), thus, in a sense, justice is another word for liberation – the removal of the barriers which prevent human beings from participating fully in the benefits and responsibilities of the community. The legislation concerning the year of jubilee (Lev 25:8ff.) releases those who are denied the means of livelihood (land) and are, therefore forced to be dependent on others (25:39-41). Luke’s ‘Nazareth Manifesto’ (Lk 4:16-19) may be seen as a declaration that the time had come for the fulfilment of these laws, with Jesus declaring the purpose of his own mission and the future mission of the Church. Evangelism thus gives birth to a ‘jubilee’ community (not once every 49 years, but in its daily practice), in which social justice – or the ‘social gospel’ – may be defined as giving to each his or her due.

The social gospel is not the bastard progeny of evangelism: it is a legitimate child, born of love, compassion, mercy and justice. There are, however, tensions, distinctions and contradictions in the ‘relationship’ (for want of a better word):

i) Social justice – separate from evangelism
A ‘relationship’ between evangelism and social justice does not demand that they belong to each other; nor does it imply that they cannot exist independently. The Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37) was moved to tend the wounds of the victim, and he did so without preaching. And Philip preached the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) without any interrogation of his needs. There are clearly occasions when it is legitimate to perform one or the other. It is also worth noting that the Church is called to be a charismatic community – some are gifted to be ‘evangelists’ (Eph 4:11), while others are called to ‘minister’ (Rom 12:7; 1Pt 4:11). While it is clear that particular situations and specialist vocations may legitimately lead to a separation of evangelistic and social responsibilities, the two may also be fused in a more intimate relationship.

ii) Social justice – a child of evangelism
If faith works by love (Gal 5:6), and the apostolic example was to ‘shew thee my faith by my works’ (Js2:18 cf 1Jn 3:16-18), then the evangelism which brings people to a new life of relationship with God should manifest itself in the service of others. Churches which have programmes of social involvement to meet specific needs are obedient to the demand to serve. Conversion is followed by commitment, and intrinsic to this is a social dimension (Titus 2:14). While good works cannot bring salvation, they are undeniably evidence of salvation (Js 2:14-26). In this model, social justice is a service rendered in and of itself; the actions constitute the testimony. There is no quid pro quo ‘acceptance of the Lord’: social justice is administered unconditionally, without crass expectations of conversion in return.

iii) Social justice – a door to evangelism
In their constant opening and closing, doors permit introduction and on-going communication, both of which are necessary for relationship. Social involvement can help to break down barriers of suspicion, and thereby open doors in hearts which may have been closed for years. Feeding the starving, tending the sick, running a youth club, or helping mothers look after young children may all lead to evangelistic opportunities for the hearing of the gospel message. Worship becomes inseparable from evangelism and social action in the community. The focus on social responsibility – helping in foodbank, picking up litter, decorating school toilets – becomes gospel seed-planting. Jesus did, after all, perform miracles of feeding and healing before proclaiming the Good News.

By seeking to serve people, it is possible to move from their ‘felt needs’ to their deeper need concerning their relationship with God… If we turn a blind eye to the suffering, the social oppression, the alienation and loneliness of people, let us not be surprised if they turn a deaf ear to our message of eternal salvation (Lausanne Movement).

iv) Social justice – a partner to evangelism
Rather than miracles preceding proclamation, they may be seen as simultaneous – Jesus’ words explain his actions, which in turn dramatise his words. The fusion of the message of God’s love in providing salvation, and his manifest concern for the needy, becomes a relationship of equal partners. Evangelism has social implications because it demands that people repent of social as well as personal sins, and to live a new life as a member of a Kingdom community. Social justice has evangelistic implications because acts of mercy and love are a demonstration of the gospel. Thus evangelism and social justice, while distinct from each other, are integrally related in the proclamation of and obedience to the gospel. The partnership may thereby seen as a marriage in which husband and wife not only belong to and depend on each other, but where one should also be able to see something of the one in the other. This means that there is an evangelistic dimension in all truly Christian social action, even when explicit evangelism does not take place. Likewise, there is a social dimension in all authentic evangelism, even where explicit social action does not occur.

iv) Social justice and evangelism – a marriage of unequals?
If the relationship is marriage, it assumes that they are of identical importance and possess equality of precedence. But the Lausanne Covenant affirms that “in the church’s mission of sacrificial service, evangelism is primary”. This is a simple matter of logic, since for the Church to be involved in social justice presupposes a community of socially responsible Christians, and it can only be by evangelism and discipleship that they have become such. If social justice is a progeny of evangelism, then evangelism must precede it, and so the optimal model is that of the legitimate child.

Evangelism is also primary in the sense that it offers eternal salvation. While an holistic approach to salvation does not limit its definition to simply ‘going to heaven’, it is undeniable, as the Lausanne Movement make clear, that “the supreme and ultimate need of all mankind is the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that therefore a person’s eternal, spiritual salvation is of greater importance than temporal and material well-being” (cf 2Cor 4:16-18). In practice, the possibility is remote of being presented with a stark choice between feeding the starving or declaring the Good News. If the ear is to hear, it helps if the belly is full. Rather than competing with each other, social justice and evangelism mutually support and strengthen each other.

The Good Samaritan’s love in action challenges us to work for justice because the Church cannot remain passive or neutral when fellow men suffer from poverty. Equally, it is not only a question of ethics in the present, but also the proclamation of a hope that is future. Jesus blessed those who showed mercy, who worked for Shalom, who provided hospitality without any thought of reward (Mt 5:4-9; Lk6:30-36), and the poor themselves are blessed, for in the coming of the Kingdom there will be sufficient for all (Lk 6:20f). Thus the Church is not called simply to proclaim the gospel, but simultaneously to live out its evangelistic message – “Just as one cannot speak of the church without speaking of its mission, it (is) impossible to think of the church without thinking, in the same breath, of the world to which it is sent” (Bosch, p377). The message of salvation is not only the ‘law’ of alleviating material poverty in this world (our love for others), but also of the communication of the Good News for all mankind (that God loves us), regardless of social status.

If the Church is to proclaim with confidence that knowing God and entering the Kingdom is liberation from the bondage of sin, and also proclaim justice in action for the weak and oppressed, the gospel is social. Occasionally, but rarely, the word preached will be separate and distinct from the word witnessed. More frequently, the two will coexist because love is best preached by serving, caring and giving.

  • Shadrach Fire

    A response to true evangelism produces a genuine social concern. Period.

  • Anton

    Yes, Your Grace, the social gospel is scriptural. I think that some of your regulars are fed up that it is the only part of the gospel which the CoE seems to preach nowadays. And that is perhaps because it is feeling the contradiction of being an Established church in a secular society…

  • The Explorer

    “Faith without works is dead.” Fine. The truth of this is expounded in ‘James’ 2: 14-26.

    The problem is works without faith. An atheist can (and sometimes does) do works without religious faith: although Barna research suggested that, despite all the talk, when it comes to it unbelievers are seven times less likely to give time or money to charity than believers. (How one arrives at that figure I don’t know, but Barna is reputable.)

    Social justice is found in the Pentateuch, but the modern understanding of the term arose within Fabian socialism. Jubilees, gleaning, cancelling of debt etc relied on the individual conscience; Fabian socialism relied on the power of the State to assume the role of conscience.

    Fabianism and Christianity had social justice in common, but they didn’t have God in common. If social justice is your gospel, you don’t need the paraphernalia of the Church with all its rigmarole about the worship of an imaginary deity; you just need some sort of organisation concerned about the poor. Maybe someone will start a political party with that in mind: how about the unbelieving wing of the Church of England?

  • len

    It seems to me that the issue here is ‘separation’ between the social aspects of the Gospel and the salvation offered by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Everyone Jesus fed and healed died eventually but what was their eternal destination?.

    So’ feeding’ and ‘healing’ was the call to come and hear the Gospel and the compassion for the hungry and sick was to show the nature of God but salvation is the absolute centre of the Gospel.
    An atheist can do all’ the works’ as indeed also can those who are’ religious’ such as the Pharisees but without the message of salvation through Jesus Christ these works (good in themselves) are not the complete Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    The Church is seeking a means to’ be relevant’ and is doing what it consider’ right’ but the [complete] Gospel is the Power and the Wisdom of God and the church needs God on board if it is to save anyone….

  • Philip___

    The commission Christ gave the church, the command He brought before His Ascension, is to preach the Gospel of “repentance and forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47). That’s how disciples of Christ are made, and how we are brought into peace – i.e. peace with God (Rom 5:1), when we were at enmity with God because of our sin. This eternal salvation comes through faith and this faith comes through preaching God’s word (Rom 10). God has announced the Gospel and what He has announced was written down for future generations, and that must be proclaimed with words. (So none of the “I live the gospel and only use words if necessary” nonsense.)

    At least this article seems to avoid the two wings idea of the church’s mission: evangelism as one wing and social action/’justice’ as the other wing, instead suggesting social action is one result of evangelism. When people are transformed by the Gospel, they become better employees, employers, parents, neighbours, and so on. e.g. Wilberforce used his position in politics to campaign to end slavery. Today there are Christians in politics who work for justice for the most vulnerable – particularly the unborn, the sick and elderly.

  • Albert

    The theme of this post seems spot on to me.

    Obviously Christianity cannot be reduced to its social teaching, and neither can evangelism reduced to social teaching. Christian social teaching cannot be reduced to social either. But I am sometimes surprised on a range of issues that posters here do not seem to see the moral implications of their faith. Let’s be clear: if there are parts of our lives which the Gospel does not illuminate, those parts will simply take the shape of an unthinking secularism. From abortion to war to poverty, I find this an almost exceptionless rule.

  • carl jacobs

    in which social justice – or the ‘social gospel’ – may be defined as giving to each his or her due.

    Once again we are presented with an entire argument that assumes the concept of “social justice” without providing an adequate definition of what “social justice” is. Nor does it give any clue as to how one would know when it has been achieved. Nor does it declare the agent responsible to bring it about. Nor does it address the moral hazard inherent in any system that establishes a right to a particular standard of living divorced from the effort of work.

    • Well, it took bloody ages to write and it’s cost you not one penny, so thank the Lord for a free blessing, even if it’s just a dirty rag.

      • carl jacobs

        You can’t tell me that “social justice” is the handmaid of the Gospel unless you are willing to tell me what “social justice” is. I know what justice is. What is “social justice?” “Giving to each his or her due” is not a meaningful definition.

        • “You can’t tell me..”
          Nor can you.

          • carl jacobs

            Why are you angry at me for pointing out the begged question at the center of your post?

          • sarky

            Because you could of just googled it?

          • carl jacobs

            Don’t play the fool with me, sarky. I have Googled it and I find as many different definitions as links. Most of those whom I encounter yapping about social justice will tell me that access to abortion is a matter of social justice. Do you think our host would agree with that? If not, then what is the difference between his concept of social justice and all these other instantiations of social justice that I encounter? Can you tell me?

          • Inspector General

            Well did you ever, Carl!
            You’ve had a rough hand set about you today. Still, it’s character building, they say…

          • carl jacobs

            I can take it. T’aint no big thing.

          • Inspector General

            You’re being very brave about it. Mummy’s little soldier like…

          • carl jacobs

            Don’t you have someone lower on the racial hierarchy who requires instruction in proper servitude to your august self? Why are you bothering me with this nonsense?

          • Inspector General

            Let it all out, Carl…

          • The Explorer

            That reminds me of the topic that led to the demise of Linus.

          • Inspector General

            Yes, Linus is no more. Perhaps the Holy Spirit intervened and convinced him that opposing his fellow trinity members was not a good thing, either that or Cranmer banned him…

          • The Explorer

            HG didn’t ban him. Pissoir did for him. Hence my comment, as in what you do in one. (What most people do, anyway.)

          • The Explorer

            Social justice is the extermination of the white, heterosexual male. Once that has happened all the social injustices can be rectified, and the good society can finally emerge. (There are even some self-loathing white heterosexual males who actually believe this, and see the necessity for their own destruction. If they were turkeys, they’d be voting for Christmas.)

          • Anger? Why do you infer anger from a succinct but firm riposte? It is rather exasperation at your dogmatic refusal to infer from the entirety of a 2,500-word post how ‘social justice’ (which appeared, when first referenced, in quote marks) may be apprehended. Not ‘is’, but ‘may’. The clues are all there, yet you distil the concept to seven words, devoid of all context. Instead of chomping at every jot and tittle, why not imbibe from the vast well of creativity?

          • jsampson45

            I would have thought anger and exasperation were much the same thing. Meanwhile, as a rather poor Bible student I find justice there, but I have not found social justice there. Thank God that mercy and love are also there. If we received our due, rich or poor, we would be in serious trouble.

          • The Explorer

            The difference between anger and exasperation is interesting. I’d say exasperation is narrower: generally justified when someone else has been foolish. But there can be all sorts of reasons for anger, some justified, some not.

          • He’s American, Archbishop. His well of creativity is fairly shallow.

          • carl jacobs

            Fie on thee, Man U fan.

          • Lord Chatham

            HEY!! (Ok, that’s fair)

          • Martin

            Cranmer

            There is no social gospel, for the so called ‘social gospel’ is about Man saving himself. Trouble is, we are, by nature, in the cesspit, with nothing solid to stand one, without a solid wall to climb, even if our limbs were strong enough to pull us out. Mankind, by nature, can do nothing pleasing to God, not even repentance.

            The social gospel is a lie, and to post such an article is to encourage those who are dead in their sins and think they are Christians, as are many of our ‘church leaders’, in their delusions. You have done harm to the gospel.

          • The Explorer

            Christ did seem pleased by Peter’s affirmation (even if Pete spoiled it a moment later), and by the faith of the Centurion.

          • Martin

            TE

            But those were created by the work of the Holy Spirit in their souls, they were not natural works.

          • Inspector General

            Rather sad take on us and our creator who apparently hates us then Martin. You might be in a cesspit all of your own making, but the Inspector certainly is not, he’ll have you know…

          • CliveM

            You know Inspector, I have always thought of it as a false piety to groan at our unworthiness, sin and general disgustingness. We have worth because God recognises worth in us.

          • Inspector General

            Quite, Clive. All this self loathing is bad for the soul. One suggests Martin invest in a good bottle of single malt and then view his world…

          • Martin

            Clive

            The only reason we have value is because we are in Christ.

          • DanJ0

            It probably explains why some Christians, particularly online, treat other people like pieces of shit. It appears to be built into their particular theology.

          • CliveM

            I know of no instance where Christ treated anyone like a piece of shit.

            He wasn’t always pleased with the person, but that’s different entirely.

          • DanJ0

            That supposes the particular theology of those people is in alignment. I think it’s been poisoned myself.

          • CliveM

            Sadly all to often a persons theology reflects what they wish God was, not as he is.

          • Inspector General

            You’re thinking of pederasty….

          • DanJ0

            Alert! Alert! The Inspector is on his way to yet another episode!

          • Inspector General

            The cult of homosexuality is completely based on abuse of other people and selfishness. That’s what several years of inspecting the topic has revealed. Yes, there are instances of genuine love between two male individuals, but only in their latter years. It would not be cynical to explain this as merely the result of both being no longer capable of cheating on each other behind their backs.

          • Martin

            IG

            It’s our nature, inherited from Adam, we are all in that cesspit & only Christ can pull us out.

          • Inspector General

            Oh, you believe in Adam then. Good gracious!

          • Martin

            IG

            I believe what God says, I know that is unusual, even apparently for Christians.

            If Adam didn’t exist then neither did Christ.

            For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (I Corinthians 15:22 [ESV])

          • Inspector General

            As you wish, but do give some thought to the word ‘analogy’. As for living in a cesspit, the worst this man has done today is wind Carl up. A venal sin, if sin it was, and it wasn’t…

          • Martin

            IG

            If Adam is an analogy then so is Christ. How can anyone be saved from something caused by an analogy? It really is too silly for words, either Adam is a real person or Christianity is nonsense. The choice is yours.

            Sin is sin, there are no categories for all sin leads to death.

          • Inspector General

            Strange argument you have there…

          • Martin

            IG

            You find biblical arguments strange?

          • Inspector General

            Yours, mainly…

          • Martin

            IG

            It’s not just mine, it’s the argument of the Reformers, indeed the argument of the 39 Articles.

          • Inspector General

            Oh for the good old days, when the peasantry was illiterate and reliant on priests. Just as Christ intended…

          • The Explorer

            We must be heading back to the good old days if mass illiteracy and biblical ignorance are anything to go by. Except there’s a lot of other stuff as well that Christ certainly didn’t intend. Directly contrary to his commands.

          • Martin

            IG

            So where was the office of priest in the NT Church?

          • CliveM

            So there is no space for analogy in the bible?

          • Martin

            Clive

            No, I didn’t say that. But if Adam is an analogy then so is Christ.

          • CliveM

            The one doesn’t follow the other.

          • Martin

            Clive

            Of course it does. If Adam didn’t exist and didn’t fall we would not be sinners in need of salvation. Christ would not exist because we wouldn’t need to be saved.

          • carl jacobs

            Anger? Why do you infer anger from a succinct but firm riposte?

            Mostly because I perceive ‘bloody’ to be a pretty harsh word in British usage. It lead me to believe I had offended you. If my perception was wrong, then I am content with your contrary assertion.

            I re-read this article, and all of the troubling features remain for me. There is a way for me to read this article and agree with it. There is a way for me to read it and reject it outright. The difference is in the unspecified details that devolve into responsibilities. And that is what exasperates me about this subject. Social Justice is always presented this way – as an empty concept into which people pour their own preconceived notions.

            Don’t make me follows clues. Don’t make me infer what you mean. I will inevitably end up where I started. I will read my own concepts into your arguments. Define the concept you are defending, and expand it to explain how that imposes a specific responsibility on me. Tell me how to identify that responsibility. Tell me whether that responsibility is individual or collective. Then I will be able to evaluate what you say.

      • Cressida de Nova

        Why bother responding to a captious idiot who uses this forum as an educational opportunity in learning English expression .Your eloquence is wasted on him. This post deserves a thank you, so thank you Y.G!

  • CliveM

    I sometimes think those of us on the Right who appear uncomfortable with Bishops talking of the Social Gospel, give the impression that we are not interested in it. I’m sure in a lot of cases this is not correct. But it does give the impression of turning our back in the face of need.

    Of course part of the reason for this is that all too often the solutions offered and parallels being drawn by the Bishops seem to mirror those of the Left (usually strongly left) and often salted with the same loading of judgementalism against those with differing solutions.

    That being said, it would not be the Church of Christ if it didn’t draw societies eyes to those struggling on the fringes and demanding that they not be forgotten.

    It should also be said that with possible exceptions, most of our Christian leaders are aware that the Gospel is more then this, it is just that the press isn’t interested, so it’s difficult for the wider message to be heard.

  • Orwell Ian

    An interesting and helpful post. I have been convinced for a long time that in considering evangelism on the one hand and social action on the other, the short answer is that we have to do both. In practice there are of course many everyday challenges and it’s far from easy to get the balance right.

    • CliveM

      At a Church I attended years ago, it was very much the done thing for the young, well educated and relatively comfietably off to move and live in areas of poverty and social deprivation to show solidarity with the poor and perhaps work and campaign in their behalf.

      It has to be said not all the locals were enamoured with this, felt patronised and wondered why anyone with sense would move to a place they were desperate to leave!

      (in fairness I should add, some were appreciative as well).

  • Sybaseguru

    If we do the social gospel but ignore evangelism we are simply social workers fur lining the gutter. If people are converted as we proclaim the Gospel whilst we help people, then their lives are transformed by Christ and they are taken out of the gutter.
    Many years ago on holiday in France I met a vicar from Jarrow (as of Marches fame) who explained the problem he had was that new Christians moved to better areas within three years, as their lives were transformed, so he found it difficult to build a team.

    • Anton

      He should be delighted that he makes converts and that they go to spread the gospel elsewhere!

  • Inspector General

    Something just ran down the inside of the Inspector’s leg. That’s what happens when he stands at his laptop contraption and sees phrases like ‘social justice’. Like Carl, he doesn’t know what social justice is, but he knows who screams for it on demonstrations: Feminists, including the abortionists, homosexual activists. Secularists. The so called poor. Those who want to flood the country with immigrants. Scots wanting another referendum. People who are jealous of others wealth. And those who close grammar schools.

    So, in the absence of a reliable definition of social justice, can we think of it as a precursor to Marxism? Next question. What’s it made of, this stuff we are told to hold so dear? Well, we have dollops of self-interest, greed and envy, with idleness thrown it. Mix in some sloth and a plentiful measure of entitlement, and, wait, don’t forget falling standards. Yuck, just look at it, and it whiffs awful too. Needs a bit more entitlement, one thinks.

    But whatever it is, it has no place in God’s church, because Christianity is the ultimate denier of social justice. Not everyone will be saved, so we are told. Where’s the social justice in that?

    • Martin

      IG

      “But whatever it is, it has no place in God’s church, because Christianity is the ultimate denier of social justice. Not everyone will be saved, so we are told. Where’s the social justice in that?”

      Indeed, it isn’t justice, it is grace. We get what we don’t deserve because of the mercy of God.

      You really need to get to grips with how bad God actually thinks we are. Outside of Christ our good deeds are not just worthless but actually sinful.

      We have all become like one who is unclean,
      and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
      We all fade like a leaf,
      and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
      (Isaiah 64:6 [ESV]

      • Inspector General

        Steady, that man. You’re losing it. Look, just continue pasting pages of the bible to your walls and you’ll be alright, until help arrives…

        • Martin

          IG

          What have I lost?

          If I have lost any sense of my own righteousness and value that is good.

          • Inspector General

            Your bloody sanity. That’s what you’ve seem to have lost….

          • Martin

            IG

            I’m perfectly sane.

          • If Jack had a £1 for every person who has said that to him whilst compulsorily detained, he would be a wealthy man. That said, many did prove to be sane – none perfectly so.

          • Cressida de Nova

            One cannot be perfectly sane but they can be deadly sane:)

          • Indeed some people are completely sane and deadly. Jack has met one or two in his time. The human mind, minus empathy, compassion and any sense of right or wrong, is a scary, scary phenomenon.

          • Martin

            HJ

            So are you saying we are all insane, that you are the only sane one?

            BTW, I saw a narrow boat today called Appy Jack. There was no apostrophe so I assume the H may have dropped off.

        • Actually, he’s quite correct, Inspector. His presentation may be unpalatable but God hates sin – not the sinner. He has ordered the means of our redemption and makes His grace available to pull us to Him.

          • Anton

            “God hates sin – not the sinner.”

            Psalms 5:4-6 and 11:5-6?

            I suspect that some of the discussions about this and free will are over paradoxes that God has given us, that we may grow in the pondering.

          • The search for certainty over this deep mystery lies at the root of the conflicts amongst Christians. “What must I do to be saved?” Can we do anything to be saved other than throw ourselves into the Hands of God and listen to His Church and the revelations granted her.

          • Anton

            I’d merely change the last clause to “and read his scriptures and the revelations granted therein”.

          • There’s a surprise … ;0)

    • DanJ0

      I like to start with the notion that like should be treated alike. So, when someone makes the argument that they are due something, if someone else can show they’re sufficiently alike in the relevant attributes then, as a matter of social justice, they ought to be due the same.

      • Martin

        DanJ0

        We all deserve Hell, God offers mercy & we all reject it. Have you come across this parable:

        For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you. So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, Why do you stand here idle all day? They said to him, Because no one has hired us. He said to them, You go into the vineyard too. And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first. And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat. But he replied to one of them, Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? So the last will be first, and the first last.
        (Matthew 20:1-16 [ESV])

        It entirely answers your point.

        • Inspector General

          What a cheek! You’re using analogy….and after all you’ve posted too!

          • Martin

            IG

            I’ve never said there was anything wrong with analogy, just with saying that Adam is an analogy, since he was a man, our forefather, the federal head of all mankind by nature.

          • Inspector General

            Your faith then is like a house of cards, and if you take Adam away…

          • Martin

            IG

            If you take Adam away there is no Christianity. But Adam is as real as you or I. Well, as I anyway.

        • DanJ0

          If only there was compelling evidence of a human-centred god to support your hypothesis.

          • Martin

            DanJ0

            Fact is, you know God exists, just like the rest of humanity.

            For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
            (Romans 1:18-21 [ESV]

            And your foolish heart is darkened.

            But it is interesting that you fail to address my point.

          • Anton

            Please don’t patronise DanJ0, Martin. When I was an atheist I genuinely did not believe that God existed. I was not denying something that I believed in my heart existed.

          • Martin

            Anton

            I’m not patronising nor did I say believe. Everyone knows that God exists.

          • Anton

            I didn’t! So I was a counter-example to your assertion that “Everyone knows…”

          • Martin

            Anton

            God says you did:

            For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21 [ESV])

          • Anton

            Am I or am I not a higher authority than God about what I believe? That’s an interesting question. I suspect that the answer to this conundrum is in the meaning of the word “know”. German and many other languages distinguish WISSEN and KENNEN, for a start.

          • Martin

            Anton

            You will note I did not say believe, but no, you are not a higher authority than God about what you believe, or even know.

          • Anton

            I’d say that I was a fool at that time who, to quote the scriptures, said in his heart (NB: not head) that there was no God.

          • Martin

            Anton

            Of course, and you were a fool because you ignored what you knew.

          • Anton

            Given that I thought I didn’t know it at the time, how did I know it, please?

          • DanJ0

            He thinks you were a liar at the time, which is what he think I am now. Or at least that’s what he tells me every so often.

          • Martin

            DanJ0

            We are all liars by nature, we even lie to ourselves.

          • Martin

            Anton

            You deceived yourself. Scripture plainly teaches that all know God exists and are without excuse for failing to worship Him.

            For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
            (Romans 1:18-21 [ESV]

          • Anton

            I don’t need extended passages of scripture quoting at me; I am a committed evangelical. Rather, I need it made sense of to me, which you are not doing. Scripture is never wrong but the issue is deeper than you are currently seeing.

          • DanJ0

            He’s not trying to patronise me, it’s a form of passive aggression. He’s dead in his sins, as you people call it, and indulging his hate. He does Christianity a great disservice by sullying its name with people like me.

          • Cressida de Nova

            So was there a damascene moment that made you change your mind? Was it so overwhelming it made the existence of a higher power clear or was it a series of life events that changed your mind. Do you feel differently ( happier ,more at peace) now than before? Is it better, same or worse? Sorry I am asking you all these pointed questions . I don’t know any atheists in real life well enough to ask these questions of . I find atheism in intelligent people curious and interesting.

          • Anton

            No, it was gradual, although with one or two key moments.

          • DanJ0

            There’s no failure, I just didn’t bother.

          • Martin

            DanJ0

            And on your grave, and on your charge sheet will be written “I just didn’t bother”. Your laziness destroys you.

          • DanJ0

            Martin, I’m an a-theist. Your quoting scripture to me to push your point is as much a turn off to me as a Muslim quoting the Qur’an. That I see no goodness in you, and that you’re a Fred Phelps act-alike to me, means that you’re pretty much written off.

          • Martin

            DanJ0

            No, you are not an a-theist, you know God exists. You are a fraud, one who pretends God does not exist so he can worship his own self. You wouldn’t know goodness if you were to see it.

      • Inspector General

        Did you used to say “It’s not fair” a lot when a child?

        • DanJ0

          No. However, I expect women to be paid the same as men if they do the same job. How about you?

          • Inspector General

            What’s that got to do with the price of fish? If you think that you can water down the insidious quality that is this so called social justice with the equal pay act, then you’re rumbled…

          • DanJ0

            It’s a simple example, for simple people.

          • Inspector General

            Let’s raise the stakes then. What do you think of the ‘social justice’ of abortion, euthanasia (probably) and redistribution of wealth so the idle can live a life style they’ve seen on their DSS provided 42 inch colour LCD…

          • DanJ0

            How about opportunities for anyone to go to a top university, provided they pass the academic tests, irrespective of their background or who they know or what accent they have?

          • Inspector General

            or the social justice of Catholic adoption agencies having to close, and the social justice of placing an innocent child with two homosexual men…

          • DanJ0

            Those agencies closed themselves.

          • Inspector General

            Victims of social justice, just like bakers and BB owners.

          • DanJ0

            Presumably like companies which get fined for operating pay scales based on gender rather than aptitude?

          • Inspector General

            None of us can define what social justice is, so even you can see how easily it can be hijacked by the unscrupulous for their own selfish ends.

          • DanJ0

            I think there are principles one can establish with a bit of thought, irrespective of the details of particular instances.

          • Inspector General

            Impossible. The concept is tainted. Social Justice is whatever the beholder says it is. It’s that bad…

          • David

            A most perceptive and true comment.
            Bye the way, Inspector, Good evening to you.

          • Inspector General

            And a good evening to you David. One can say this is the first night the Inspector has detected that high summer be over…

          • David

            Indeed, kind Sir.
            Today, unusually, I caught an early train from Suffolk up to North Yorkshire, returning by car. It was jolly nippy waiting on York station for my Scarborough bound connection. For the autumn is fast approaching. So let us enjoy that fair season. Summer is often disappointing and over-rated, I feel. Nothing exceeds the crisp early morning autumn or winter day.
            I bid you, a very Good night !

          • No, don’t reinforce his cynicism. Social Justice and the Common Good require thought and contingent application . They remain valid concepts.

            “Sometimes the common good is misunderstood to mean simply the common desires or interests of the multitude. But the common good, as Pope John Paul II noted, “is not simply the sum total of particular interests; rather it involves an assessment and integration of those interests on the basis of a balanced hierarchy of values; ultimately, it demands a correct understanding of the dignity and the rights of the person” (Centesimus Annus 47). The common good, in other words, is not simply what people happen to want, but what would be authentically good for people, the social conditions that enable human flourishing.

            Human flourishing is multifaceted because the human being as such has many dimensions. Human fulfillment includes a physical dimension of health and psychological well being. If a country does not have sufficient pure drinking water, nourishing food, and a relatively toxin-free environment, human beings will not be able to achieve their full potential. Moreover, human flourishing has an intellectual dimension that can be helped or hampered by educational opportunities or the lack thereof. Finally, each of us bears an ethical or moral dimension that will be frustrated without the avoidance of vice and the cultivation of virtue. The common good includes all these elements, the loss of any one of which can hinder our seeking of fulfillment.

            However, the common good, as important as it is, is not the greatest good. The ultimate fulfillment of every human person can be found only in God, but the common good helps groups and individuals to reach this ultimate good. So, if social conditions are such that people are inhibited or deterred from being able to love God and neighbor, then the common good has not been realized.”

            http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/seven-principles-of-catholic-social-teaching

          • David

            Hmm !
            The Christian concept of the Common Good is noble, true and totally worthwhile. Yes, I agree, wholeheartedly.
            But few approach it from that direction, Jack. Most “social commentators” are not Christians. It is, I suspect, to that latter group that The Inspector is addressing his remarks. But obviously, he can speak for himself.
            But that’s how I take his comments.
            The Christian concept, I like you, totally support.

          • Inspector General

            Ignore Jack, David. He’s an old Communist Party member. In the old days, the party knew what was right. Today, he views life through God, although he still has his CP intolerance about him…

          • David

            None of us are perfect, especially me.
            We all haul bits of our past “experiences” about with us. Jack’s a good chap.
            Fear not, and sleep well – just had a wee dram myself !

          • Inspector General

            Indeed. He is a saved rotter. If God loves a wretch like him, then it’s easy meat for the rest of us…

          • David

            Thou art incorrigible !
            Let God be the judge, nor thee or me !
            Have an extra whiskey.

          • Inspector General

            Already there, old chap.

          • David

            Splendid !
            An Edinburgh malt or something dark, mysterious and
            peaty ?

          • Inspector General

            Aberlour 10 years. On the subject of old things, has Blowers been around of late?

          • Anton

            I don’t find that The Glenlivet or MacAllan are quite what they were 25 years ago. Auchentoshan and Highland Park remain glorious.

          • Inspector General

            Highland Park is a blend, sir. Very popular with the Japanese one understands…,

          • Anton

            Are you confusing it with something of similar name? I refer to the single malt from Orkney:

            http://highlandpark.co.uk

          • Inspector General

            Duplication of name!

          • You remember the taste of whisky (or Irish whiskey) that far back? Goodness.

          • Anton

            I remember which were the best single malts then and know which they are now.

          • Jack considers the best malt to be the one in front of you.

          • Well, it’s all a bit of a haze to Happy Jack.

          • Anton

            My tastes in some things are catholic…

          • David

            Very good, I’m sure.
            Blowers ? No, there’s a worrying silence..

          • Inspector General

            He was coming to the end, God bless him.

          • The Explorer

            The problem is, if he has he can’t tell us.

          • David

            Yes. He will receive God’s peace, I am sure.

          • The Explorer

            Been wondering about him myself.

          • God loves us all, Inspector. Do we love Him, is the real question. And Jack does not regard himself as “saved”, wretch that he undoubtedly is.

          • DanJ0

            Another general example. If we believe that society should be based on a meritocracy then, as a matter of social justice, we should be creating equality of opportunity. More contentiously, one might even argue that we should be actively encouraging people to fulfill their own potential.

          • Phil R

            ” one might even argue that we should be actively encouraging people to fulfill their own potential.”

            You never give up. Every comment designed to salami slice your own personal desires one mm further forward

            Place your own personal struggle for acceptance alongside whoever you can whether they agree with you or not is irrelevant it seems.

          • DanJ0

            Oh feck off, you evil bigot. That’s nothing to do with me, or what you imagine.

          • Phil R

            Oh dear
            i have been called a bigot.

            Don’t answer then just insult, with the trump statement of our age

          • DanJ0

            What is there to answer, other than your evil bigotry? You misrepresented my comment based on your bigotry and I’ve pointed out what it was actually about. Google “positive liberty” and you’ll see the truth of that. Feel free to apologise afterwards, then resolve to be less bigoted. But I doubt you’ll have the integrity to do that.

          • Phil R

            There is a scale of Bigotry now is there.

            Different scale. Is it numeric? You can then give grade for different bigots based on different posts and come to an average

            the point about attaching your cause to unrelated past discrimination is valid and well documented.

            As is moving the argument forward your way in minute steps

          • DanJ0

            Your lack of intregity or sense of decency comes as no surprise. Bang your drum, you vicious bigot.

          • Phil R

            Your favourite group to claim equivalence is the black people’s struggle for equal rights

            the fact that black people do not agree with this equivalence claim bothers younot at all if it moves the argument 1mm further forward in your favour

          • DanJ0

            Carry on banging your drum, you bigot. You know you’ve fecked up but can’t bring yourself to do the decent thing.

          • Phil R

            Thanks for the link

            Frankfurt School Theory. We could have guessed

          • DanJ0

            Oh f’god’sake, like most bigots you’re ridden with confirmation bias. Also, I see you’re tried to side-step your obligation to do the decent thing by trying to argue about my statement now rather than your bigoted use of it in an attack to serve your own ends. You have no sense of shame.

          • Phil R

            Listen to yourself

            if a bigot actually exists it is you

          • DanJ0

            Hey, I was just arguing from a liberal perspective about social justice in general and in context until you showed up with your bigotry, trying to turn it into some else that you’d rather bang your own drum about.

          • Martin

            Phil

            The answer of those religionists who can accept no disagreement.

          • The Explorer

            Actually wouldn’t you get fined today for making aptitude your criterion, rather than gender? Certainly true in the States. Affirmative action rules ok.

          • Anton

            That’s exactly what my mother and others did until Labour pulled the plug on the grammar schools.

          • Cressida de Nova

            The dismantling of Grammar Schools was a deliberate decision to diminish the threat of an intelligent society. It is much easier to control stupid people.

          • Anton

            It was certainly a mistaken decision, but can you prove your assertion?

          • James60498 .

            My dads dad died when he was three years old. His mum did two or more jobs to keep them in the basics but he was clever enough to go to a Grammar School do well and later go to University.

            As Anton says below he wouldn’t have been able to do that now, he would have been sent along to the local Comprehensive to fail like most of his fellow poor pupils.

          • Anton

            That was my mother, actually.

          • James60498 .

            You know what I mean. I think.

          • Anton

            Of course! But it was a statement about me that wasn’t true; I had to correct, gently.

          • James60498 .

            I mentioned you because I was agreeing with your Statement about Grammar Schools, but the “he” referred back to my previous paragraph about my dad, who was one of the others that you mentioned.

            It didn’t relate to you.

            However, I can see your point now. Apologies.

          • Anton

            Got it!

          • Phil R

            Ah but some groups did not get the grades and so for some the pass marks were lowered. So now it is easier for some to get into top universities if they come from a particular social group or area of the country

            Social Justice mean we are all equal but some are more equal than others

          • Cressida de Nova

            It is. In fact it is anti Christian to support this blatant discriminatory justice. If a woman is doing an identical job as a man she deserves the same pay rate. There is no reasonable argument against it.

          • James60498 .

            If they do the same job, then yes.

            But how do you define comparable jobs? Would you say, eg, that a school dinner worker is the same as a refuse collector?

    • You question God, Inspector? According to the faith you claim membership of, God loves us all and offers sufficient grace to us all to make it through this life ready for Heaven (after a spell in purgatory).

      Here’s the relevant section from the CCC on Social Justice – though as a well read, loyal and faithful Catholic you will, of course, already be familiar with this.

      http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c2a3.htm

      And here’s a definition of Social Justice:

      >i>”The virtue that inclines one to co-operate with others in order to help make the institutions of society better serve the common good. While the obligation of social justice falls upon the individual, that person cannot fulfill the obligation alone, but must work in concert with others, through organized bodies, as a member of a group whose purpose is to identify the needs of society, and, by the use of appropriate means, to meet these needs locally, regionally, nationally, and even globally. Implicit in the virtue of social justice is an awareness that the world has entered on a new phase of social existence, with potential for great good or great harm vested in those who control the media and the structures of modern society. Christians, therefore, are expected to respond to the new obligations created by the extraordinary means of promoting the common good not only of small groups but literally of all humanity.”

      • Martin

        HJ

        God doesn’t love everybody, else no one would end up in Hell and:

        As it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.
        What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
        (Romans 9:13-18 [ESV])

        • This where Jack parts company with you, Martin.
          God loves us all but wants us to freely love Him. For millennia the Church has been faced with the seeming paradox of a Sovereign Creator who wants all men to be saved and yet permits them to be damned. It’s a mystery and the Calvinist ‘solution’ distorts God’s perfection.

          • Martin

            HJ

            So God isn’t allowed the freedom to save whom He will in your view? The Potters isn’t allowed to make of the clay what He wants to make. God must dance to your tune, unlike the landowner who may pay his workers as he sees fit with his own money.

            It’s not just me you’re parting company with.

          • God, who loves us all as His children, and who died that we all might have eternal life, gives us all the freedom to love Him or to rebel and reject Him. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp, Martin.

          • carl jacobs

            No, it’s not a difficult concept. It’s just not a biblical concept because it puts the wise free agency of man at the center of his own salvation. Why does one accept and another reject? Because the former is wise and the latter is foolish. Therefore praise the wise man for his wisdom, for he can most certainly boast of it.

          • CliveM

            Carl,

            One doesn’t follow the other. We don’t praise one for accepting, but you do welcome them into fellowship. It’s a false argument.

          • It is a biblical concept – it’s just not spelt out. It remains shrouded in mystery.

            On the one hand you have those who say God alone predetermines salvation and redemption and man plays no part at all in it. On the other, you have those who say it is down to man to freely decide whether he accepts God’s offer or not. The truth rests somewhere between these extremes. It is God’s free gift of grace that saves but man is given room to refuse.

            Jack’s coming the view that God knows before creation how each of us will respond to His offer and places us in situations and circumstances where this response will be forthcoming and where His plan for human history will be materialised. It’s the same with the damned. Again, He places them in situations where all the offers and graces are freely there for salvation. Yet, they decline them. Why? Who knows but God. The grace is sufficient but is missing something. God permits them to refuse and then turns their evil to His own purposes. Judas is a good example of this.

            The wisdom of the wise comes from God, Carl. That’s why there can be no boasting.

          • CliveM

            If man isn’t free to choose, what is the purpose of the Cross ? And you are right God loves all of his creation, he’s just not very happy with it.

          • Phil R

            Man isn’t free to choose because he never will choose God without God first choosing him.

            If man is free to choose God without intervention by God. Then man is in part responsible for this own salvation. He saves himself. It appeals to modern man so he wants it to be true. However, if we save ourselves we don’t owe God anything and so do not love God and keep his commandments.

            God is neither happy or unhappy with his creation. The price of sin is paid

          • CliveM

            You know the thing about Calvinism, is that if you exclude Christ and the Cross it’s perfectly rational.

          • Phil R

            If you are saved because of your effort then you don’t need the Cross. In effect you are telling God to save you because of your efforts. Salvation is by works even if it is just one thing.

            If you are chosen by God. You need Jesus you need the Cross.

          • CliveM

            If my wife makes a wonderful Sunday Dinner and sets out the table, uncorks a nice wine and sits me down and says “do you want to eat?”, when I say yes, I wouldn’t believe I was being fed by my efforts. So when someone says to me “when you say you accepted Gods willing and loving offer, you are saying you are saved by your own efforts” I say no that is a false argument. It is still Gods loving Grace that saves me, he simply gives me the opportunity to say no, or yes.

          • Martin

            HJ

            No, God does not love us all as His children.

            As it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.
            (Romans 9:13 [ESV]

            That makes it quite clear.

            And did God love the Pharaoh whose army God destroyed in the sea? And what of the people of the land that Israel destroyed? No, God does not love us all.

          • CliveM

            “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life”

            The whole world, not little bits of it. And clearly it’s not talking about the clod of earth we stand on. With a free response.

            God is wonderful he loves all his creation, don’t limit him into being a mirror image of mankind. Your God loves and hates like the world does.

          • Martin

            Clive

            Of course God loves His Creation, but did He love Pharaoh, who was drowned in the sea? Did God love Joab, Ahab, Belshazzar? Did God love the priests of Baal who Elijah slew? Was Judas loved by God?

            What do you mean by love if you can consider those in Hell to be loved by God?

            Those who are saved are those who believe, in whose heart the Holy Spirit has infused life. They are loved of God.

      • Inspector General

        Thank you Jack, but the Inspector first needs to decide what social justice is. From what he has deduced so far, it is grim…

        • Then spend time learning about the richness and depth of Catholicism and leave your other ‘studies’ for a while. Priorities, Inspector.

          • big

            jack the inspector is a closet goose stepper he doesnt do love, hope or anything nice

          • Now, now. The Inspector has his faults, as we all do, but we are called to assist him, not abuse him. He lacks political finesse, ’tis all.

          • big

            unfortunately the inspector is beyond help.

          • Cressida de Nova

            Yes..agree !

          • Inspector General

            Surely not?

    • michaelkx

      social justice is a humanist idea, but it is or should be the Christian one. We ‘do’ good works not because we have to, but because we can. That is the grace which our Father gives us so generously, and we pass it on to others.

  • Anna

    A very good post. Appreciate all the trouble taken to do it.

    “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality… Do not be
    proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be
    conceited… If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something
    to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

    The Christian perspective on social justice is given in Romans 12, the chapter that shows us how to live out our Christian faith (and specifically in verses 13,16, 20) by loving and serving.

    This is hard to practise on a daily basis (rather than occasionally) because the poor do not always seem deserving: they can be ungrateful, selfish and prone to complaining (just like us). Often, it seems as though they ought to do more to help themselves. We tend to hold them to a higher standard because we see them they as recipients of ‘our’ kindness.

    If we saw ourselves, rather, as cashiers in a bank – handing out money that does not belong to us (and being paid to do it), then we would not resent the ‘sacrifices’ demanded of us.

    The act of giving is somehow diminished when imposed by the government; but it is the role of the church to show us how to give wisely. Paul praised the Macedonians for giving beyond their ability and for doing so with a willing heart. 2 Corinthians 8

    • Good post, Anton.

      The problem with state imposed charity it that it takes Christian love out of the equation and any sense of personal giving or receiving. It becomes an obligation for one and an entitlement for the other and diminishes both giver and receiver. it also invariably comes with strings attached.

      Here’s what Dorothy Day had to say:

      “We believe that social security legislation, now balled as a great victory for the poor and for the worker, is a great defeat for Christianity. It is an acceptance of the Idea of force and compulsion. It is an acceptance of Cain’s statement, on the part of the employer. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

      • The Explorer

        Anton?

        • Ah …. thought it odd that Jack agreed with him. Time for Specsavers!

          • The Explorer

            You’ll know the Inspector needs Specsavers when he starts agreeing with Martin or DanJ0.

        • Anton

          Here I am. Jack and I probably agree about most things apart from the Reformation and its consequences.

          • Hmm …just minor differences.

          • Anton

            Yes, actually; we are both Christians.

          • Well, Jack wouldn’t argue about that.

      • CliveM

        I agree, but isn’t charity towards others an obligation?

        • A personal obligation that one freely accepts, Clive. Bit different to having 50% of your hard earned dosh taken at source or paying over the odds for petrol.

          • CliveM

            No argument there!

  • chiefofsinners

    As Shadrach Fire said in the first response to this post: “A response to true evangelism produces a genuine social concern. Period.”

    To put it another way: Pentecost is the spiritual fulfilment of the year of jubilee.

    Presumably Cranmer’s kids have gone back to school today, as he’s got so long to spend stating the bleeding obvious.

  • David

    The relationship between genuine faith and being the good neighbour is straightforward.
    A true believer, contrite of heart for past sins, accepting of Christ as their Saviour, reborn through baptism and their desire to belong to, and serve, God, will want to be a good neighbour.
    He or she, once converted, will not be a saint, or even godly, but their behaviour will modify, slowly, with effort, faith and prayer, over time. But we all start off from different points, so some Christians will present as less of a good neighbour than some who are not saved Christians. But the Christian will be on the path leading to God, whereas the non-Christain will not be on the path to God. Full stop.
    Our salvation comes through faith in God, in Christ as our redeemer. No quantity of good works makes us acceptable to God unless we first, approach Him, through our faith in His Son, as our Saviour.
    God arranged this so that ordinary people could understand and accept his gracious offer of salvation to us. It does not take a great intellectual effort to grasp this point.
    First faith, then good works. Amen.

    • And yet …. some will be moved towards faith God by the very act of recognising another’s need and helping that person. Or, they will be drawn to God by receiving help from another person. This is why the welfare state has to have limits and the ‘obligation’ to give and the ‘entitlement’ to receive is so corrosive. God’s ways are mysterious.

      • David

        Maybe yes.
        But it is the act of will of trusting in God, in telling The Father, or The Son, that you are a sinner, who seeks forgiveness, that leads to faith – although possibly precipitated by the actions you describe.

        Yes God works His mysteries in wonderful ways.
        All praise, and Honour and Glory, Be to God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Amen.

        • Indeed, it is an act of the will to confess our sin and our helplessness before God. This is the one step we are required to take – over and over and over …..
          In Jack’s experience, there is no one path to this but the process is one that is provoked and prompted by the Holy Spirit working on our God given consciences in situations we find ourselves in. And the very response is fuelled and caused by grace. For some, it may be an initial fear of damnation which then progresses into a genuine contrition for offending our God who hung and died for our sake.

          • David

            Yes indeed. It is the same with me. It is very good that we humble ourselves, at intervals that are not too long, before Almighty God confessing our weaknesses, our sins known an unknown, and seek forgiveness for them.
            Fear can be the beginning of the route to God, but the believer soon learns to love Him. There are, as you say, many routes to Him.

      • Martin

        HJ

        No one is “moved towards faith” until God changes their heart, until they are born again.

        • And you know this? How, Martin? Like childbirth, the process of sanctification is not set in stone.

          We are moved to God by His freely given grace and He sends it repeatedly in different ways to all of us. The heart can change slowly over time; or suddenly. In ways we do not understand, this sufficient grace becomes efficacious saving grace for those foreknown to God.

          If you don’t mind Jack observing, Martin, sometimes your faith comes across as too formulaic. Within each of us their is a damaged propensity to love God, to love our neighbour and to love ourselves. We are transformed because the Holy Spirit works on this nature, as fallen and sinful as it is, and perfects it with our cooperation – a cooperation which itself is reliant on grace.

          • Martin

            HJ

            How do I know it?

            But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
            (Ephesians 2:4-10 [ESV])

            From Scripture, that’s how.

            For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
            (Romans 8:29-30 [ESV])

            And as others have seen in Scripture:

            XVII. OF PREDESTINATION AND ELECTION

            PREDESTINATION to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

            As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination, is a most dangerous downfal, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

            Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

            So it isn’t just me.

          • None of those quotes resolve the paradox at the heart of our faith – the Sovereignty of God and the freedom of man. Indeed, as Article XVII says, it is “secret to us”. Who knows how He chooses to give efficacious grace to? It remains a mystery.

          • Cressida de Nova

            I think God does choose to give efficacious grace to everyone. Whatever sparks it or in what form it takes is a mystery.It is then an individual’s decision to accept or not. They may not even be responsible for rejecting it. Too many intelligent minds are hampered by science degrees and are indoctrinated into believing that there is no other way to the discovery of truth.They are narrow intellectually, have no understanding or given exposure to the great canon of philosophy, literature and history and therein lies the problem.The state education system fosters a one dimension cultural marxist approach to learning and ultimately entrenched views.

          • If it was “efficacious” given to all then everyone would be saved. It is “sufficient” grace for all to be moved towards salvation but some other ingredient is needed for it to cause us to keep going to the end and enter Heaven.

            You say this here: “Whatever sparks it or in what form it takes is a mystery.It is then an individual’s decision to accept or not.” Jack believes it’s an offer we have to accept every day of our lives and then struggle to allow it to come to fruit. The sacraments of the Church are means of infusing sanctifying grace and strengthening our souls.
            Our post-Christian culture is blinding minds to eternal truths that pre-Christian cultures and philosophers knew.

          • Martin

            HJ

            There is no such thing as your sufficient grace.

          • Phil R

            You are always free to chose God Jack

            Except you never will desire to chose him on your own or through your efforts

          • Martin

            What freedom of Man? we are dead in our sins, the slave of our sins, we have no freedom. And we do not know who God will save, that is the secret, we don’t know who is elect.

    • Philip___

      Agree with this, except we’re not reborn through baptism, if you mean baptism in water. New birth is an inward miracle by God, one response to which is baptism in water.

      • David

        I agree. The early Christians, following the example of The Baptist, which in turn is based on the Jewish purification rites, used the total immersion as the outward sign of the inward “new birth”. It is this inner conversion that God sees and desires in us, and not getting us merely wet.
        But symbols can be important, to the human bystanders. Those wishing to become accepted, by the very early churches, as Christians, went through a very thorough two year process of teaching and explaining the creeds, making them their own; indeed The Creeds are understood to have originated, before their endorsement at the Great Councils, as teaching, tools for affirming the new convert’s faith.

  • preacher

    Dear Dr Cranmer. Firstly thank you for taking the time to respond to the frustrations felt by myself & others with reference to social action & Evangelism.

    To clarify my own position & it seems that of many others, I believe that the so called ‘Social’ gospel has in many ways overshadowed the preaching & teaching of the gospel of Christ.
    As a result the welfare of the poor & suffering has taken precedence over their need for salvation.

    This should simply not be the case. In truth I have seen many good people of other faiths who have operated relief programmes for generations that would make some of our efforts pale into insignificance, but have the recipients heard of the love of God, shown by Christ on the cross for their salvation ? – No!.

    The Christian message is unique & we, if we are truly followers of Christ are the ones entrusted & commissioned to share it.
    Our works flow from the inner faith & love of the Lord, not from the need or desire to be vindicated or to lure unbelievers to the Christian faith by the deception of our ‘good deeds’

    It’s much easier in this fallen World to attempt to win followers by Philanthropy rather than by sharing the gospel with them & if they reject it, that is their choice. But whether we love them a care for them before we share the gospel or after we’ve done so is not relevant, we love them as Christ loves us & cares for us – in the matter of sharing His gospel, we have no choice.

    Blessings. P.

    .

    • chiefofsinners

      Exactly so. Not a difficult position to comprehend, one would have thought. You, David and dannybhoy seem to have been deliberately misunderstood to make a straw man for this article.

    • Answer Jack this. Does a follower of Christ have an obligation to help a person who rejects the Gospel? Does a follower of Christ have an obligation to promote ways of living that are in conformity with the love of God for everyone, even if the society in which we live rejects God?

      • preacher

        I would have thought that I had made my position clear in the above Jack. But to answer your question, IMO a true Christian is not obliged to fulfil either of the above. But we do help all who need it, not by obligation but because of the love of God that is with us & in us. Whose love & concern for them leads us to do whatever we can. Hopefully this reveals the love that the Lord has for them & they will recognise the truth & respond to it.
        Are we obliged to share the gospel ? No, there is no need to feel under any obligation, – we do it because the Holy Spirit gives us His love & desire to see the lost redeemed in the only way that God has made.

      • Cressida de Nova

        The answer is YES !

        • Indeed Jack believes it is too, Cressie.

      • Anton

        Of course.

  • grutchyngfysch

    Hmm. Generally I’d say the difference between those pursuing social justice howsoever defined and those who pursue the Gospel (and its particular and specific exhortations towards fulfilling God’s will in how we live our lives and relate to one another) is that the former generally have some sort of utopian spirit about them, whereas the latter know that true peace will not reign until Christ does visibly.

    It all gets sticky when the argument turns into “what should we do” – partly because all sides will have fairly similar ideas on most points (though not the culturally critical ones where sex, procreation and death are involved), but also partly because unless you’re sitting in a meeting where you are in fact trying to decide how to allocate funding, endlessly arguing over social justice is a largely useless exercise that has more to do with conspicuous moral signalling than it does actually getting out and doing something – anything – to assist someone in need.

    Really the difference is not so much over methods – there is more than enough need in the world that most available methods are worth a shot – but over the concept of humanity which lies behind the motivations. The social justice message conceives of mankind fundamentally as good, and therefore longs for the day when mankind will administer its own moral good, by its own strength, under its own guidance. At some level, it envisions a day when mankind is sufficiently well organised or well-enough educated that no man will starve. The Gospel expounds the unflattering truth that we are not as moral or as kind as we make ourselves out to be. That the full stomach will not save the soul, and that a man may starve himself of salvation in sole pursuit of earthly bread.

    The social justice adherent will see human society as the means by which man may be saved. The Gospel declares that man can only be saved through the Cross. That’s where the incompatibility lies: the Gospel puts paid to any Babel-tower of utopia precisely by drawing attention to man’s sinfulness, and it is man’s sinfulness which ensures that the world will not see an end to poverty or starvation. You want to see Paradise? Repent and turn to Christ.

    • carl jacobs

      This post makes an excellent point, but I don’t think our host is advocating this concept of social justice. What you are describing is the reason I instinctively react against the word. I see “social justice” as the task of freeing men to pursue their authentic desires on the assumption that those desires are good. What I wonder about however is the extent to which the concept of “social justice” presented in this post is in submission to the Gospel as opposed to syncretically mixed with the Gospel.

      • grutchyngfysch

        I agree that in practice and in theory, “social justice” is a phrase used by everyone and denied by no-one (rather like the putative rights of humans), and so becomes about expanding available freedoms rather than establishing justice (which requires moral imperatives and a non-relativistic standard).

        John Wesley, who engaged in a lot of activities that could fall under the umbrella of “social justice” made it clear that the aim of the church was to be “social holiness” – pursuit of holiness, by very definition, being set apart from the world, manifested in the ekklesia, and thus socially constituted with the elect by the sanctification of God. William Wilberforce – again with plenty of strings to his social activism bow – wrote a whole book challenging contemporary dilution of Christianity.They insisted on the pursuit of holiness through Christ, and the indivisibility of faith in Him from temporal and spiritual salvation.

      • Phil R

        The Bible speaks many times of social injustice.

        Injustice l would say God defines as those with power using that power to take away from the poor those things that he has given them to enjoy.

        It I the rich and powerful using their power unjustly for selfish reasons.

        The Bible is full of examples of injustice and they all seem to have this common theme

  • IanCad

    Quite the three pipe post here YG.
    Perhaps the term “Social Gospel” would be better described as the social “Dimension” of the Gospel – for, truly, the spiritual and fleshly realms cannot be separate – at least as far as I understand the Word.

  • dannybhoy

    This is such a great blog, and one of the ways our faith shines through is that we can challenge each other’s perspectives on the big issues without wishing to score points or ridicule each other. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen in ‘the world’ too, but as saved sinners we have humility because we know what our sins and failings are.

    Then as children of God, as apprentice saints we make manifest the fruits of the spirit in our lives and extend that love to all men, but especially the household of faith.
    As John says in his first letter, chapter 4..
    God Is Love
    7 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

    I was hors de combat yesterday, preparing for a colonoscopy this morning, so felt the need to stay close to the loo rather than follow my blogs. (They give you some form of ‘Draino’ to clear out the plumbing and (presumably) avoid the camera lens getting smeared…) I was therefore somewhat embarrassed to see my name associated ‘with fuming.’

    Anyway, let’s look at some of the great saints who were involved in ministering to the poor and needy, like …

    George Mueller, 1805-1898 http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/george-muellers-strategy-for-showing-god

    William (General) Booth. 1829-1912 http://www.gospeltruth.net/booth/boothbioshort.htm

    Lord Shaftesbury 1801-1900 http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/lord-shaftesbury-friend-of-the-poor-11630562.html

    Dr. Thomas John Barnardo 1845-1905 http://infed.org/mobi/thomas-john-barnardo-the-doctor/

    There are many more similar examples, but if you read those brief summaries you will see that each of these man were evangelical Christians with a strong passion for sharing and preaching the Gospel whilst ministering to the needs of the poor and needy.

    THAT’s the Gospel! The social concern springs out of their experience of salvation and concern for their souls as well as their bodies.

    What I was getting at is underlined by Shadrach’s first post

    “A response to true evangelism produces a genuine social concern. Period”

    Anton: “Yes, Your Grace, the social gospel is scriptural. I think that some of your regulars are fed up that it is the only part of the gospel which the CoE seems to preach nowadays. And that is perhaps because it is feeling the contradiction of being an Established church in a secular society…”

    My concern is that I think the established Church has become increasingly pressured to play down the moral and evangelical components of the Gospel in order to fit in with an increasingly secular humanistic State that seeks harmony, equality diversity and inclusion for its multicutural society. It believes that all faiths are of equal value, and that to say “No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” is anathema.

    So in order to fit in, the Church has had to emphasise the social aspects of the Gospel and downplay the need of repentance and the new birth..

    Any Christian should seek to love all men, to meet needs and render assistance. But Jesus Himself said, “Man shall not live by bread alone” quoting Deuteronomy 8:3

    “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you
    did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know
    that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

    John 6:51(ESVUK)
    “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

    The meeting of the physical needs of people without the preaching of the Gospel is a humanitarian act rather than a Christian one, Because the Scriptures teach,
    “17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
    Colossians 3:17 (ESVUK)

    Finally let’s take a look at the Statement of Faith of a very import charity Christian Aid…

    “ChristianAid is a Christian organisation that insists the world can and must be
    swiftly changed to one where everyone can live a full life, free from poverty.

    We work globally for profound change that eradicates the causes of poverty, striving to achieve equality, dignity and freedom for all, regardless of faith or nationality. We are part of a wider movement for social justice.

    We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance where need is great, tackling the effects of poverty as well as its root causes.

    Our vision
    Poverty is an outrage against humanity. It robs people of dignity, freedom and hope, of power over their own lives. Christian Aid has a vision – an end to poverty – and we believe that vision can become a reality.
    From April 2012, Christian aid’s work will be focused around the goals and objectives identified in our corporate strategy, ‘Partnership for change – the power to end poverty’ .
    If you’re doing all this in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, and proclaiming the Gospel of Salvation as the motivating force for your caring, the that is the Gospel.

    • chiefofsinners

      Your comments bring a tear to my eye, in more ways than one.
      I spent my childhood with people who had known Barnardo, Muller and Shaftesbury. Their times are still not so far away and their example is there to be followed if we will.

      This is a great blog, but perhaps we should stop saying that now, otherwise it might need a colonoscopy just to find itself.

      • dannybhoy

        Lol. They left an example of a life of faith in the Lord that still inspires today. There are churches about today that reach out to various groups. I think our Lord is beginning a sovereign work of purification in the Church now, and we are going to see more manifestations of His holiness and power. Alleluia!