Monday, March 15, 2010

Mohler on Beck, social justice and the limits of political discourse

Dr. Albert Mohler published a very sober and thoughtful essay in response to the comments by Glenn Beck calling on Christians to flee churches that focus on “social justice”, Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Limits of Public Discourse. I think Dr. Mohler strikes the right balance here, does so with a reasonable tone and also provides a very brief introduction to the background of the “social justice” or “social gospel” message. From his essay:

My concern is very different. As an evangelical Christian, my concern is the primacy of the Gospel of Christ -- the Gospel that reveals the power of God in the salvation of sinners through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church's main message must be that Gospel. The New Testament is stunningly silent on any plan for governmental or social action. The apostles launched no social reform movement. Instead, they preached the Gospel of Christ and planted Gospel churches. Our task is to follow Christ's command and the example of the apostles.

There is more to that story, however. The church is not to adopt a social reform platform as its message, but the faithful church, wherever it is found, is itself a social reform movement precisely because it is populated by redeemed sinners who are called to faithfulness in following Christ. The Gospel is not a message of social salvation, but it does have social implications.

Faithful Christians can debate the proper and most effective means of organizing the political structure and the economic markets. Bringing all these things into submission to Christ is no easy task, and Gospel must not be tied to any political system, regime, or platform. Justice is our concern because it is God's concern, but it is no easy task to know how best to seek justice in this fallen world.

And that brings us to the fact that the Bible is absolutely clear that injustice will not exist forever. There is a perfect social order coming, but it is not of this world. The coming of the Kingdom of Christ in its fullness spells the end of injustice and every cause and consequence of human sin. We have much work to do in this world, but true justice will be achieved only by the consummation of God's purposes and the perfection of God's own judgment.

Until then, the church must preach the Gospel, and Christians must live out its implications. We must resist and reject every false gospel and tell sinners of salvation in Christ. And, knowing that God's judgment is coming, we must strive to be on the right side of justice.

Ultimately the Gospel is not about politics and the church is not a political party, either on the Left or on the Right. The Kingdom was not advanced when Barack Obama was elected President nor when George W. Bush was elected as our President. Our charge is to submit to those in governmental authority and to seek to live out our lives quietly and peacefully under that authority. Our charge is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to serve one another in love. Under no circumstances are we called to seize the government or impose a theocracy on America. We are not called to win elections or form political action committees. We are certainly not called to stand shoulder to shoulder, unequally yoked, to unbelievers (like Glenn Beck) no matter how noble the cause.

Does that mean we shouldn’t vote? I don’t think our participation in elections is prohibited at all. Should we not be involved in social change movements? Again no but there is a danger when we spend so much time fighting gay marriage and abortion that we forget to preach the Gospel. I would say that we often place undue emphasis on the political process and ascribe overly optimistic motivations to politicians. We in the church too often have a naive and unseemly faith in politicians. Politicians are by and large politicians because they seek power. That means they will use any means available to gain an advantage, including appealing to religion. I am increasingly suspicious of any man who seeks prestige, titles, power, authority over others because I see the desire for power and the exaltation of self at the heart of those goals. It is dangerous in politics and infinitely more so in the church.

Preach the Gospel. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do good for others in your everyday life. Stand for what is right and proper based on the Word of God. Trust God that He will enact justice in every sense of the word.

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Jeremy Lee said...

I don't necessarily disagree with you or Mohler, but all Glenn Beck meant was that if your church is preaching socialism, you should leave it. Social and economic justice, as Beck said, are code words for socialism.

You and Mohler are correct that we should care for the poor and seek justice for everyone, but caring for the poor and seeking justice does not mean that we are for universal health care, the welfare state, and affirmative action.

Even though Beck is an unbeliever and a Mormon, what he said is still correct. What is sad that an unbelieving, Mormon recognizes that socialism is unchristian while some believers embrace it.

Arthur Sido said...

Beck is a demagogue and an opportunist. I have no use for those replacing the Gospel with liberal, big government wealth redistribution but I also have no use for those who blur patriotism and the Gospel as being one and the same.

Jeremy Lee said...

I think you are being a quite unfair to Glen Beck. But, Amen to the rest of your statement.