Substituting the Social for the Spiritual

I’ve been perusing an old periodical, The Christian Worker’s Magazine (Nov 1919), published by the Moody Bible Institute. In an article titled “Christian Education: Its Relation to Modern World Life” the author Rev. Robert Russell marks out “five distinct lines of modern apostasy [that] stand out in world thought” where apostasy is substutited for the Christian faith. The fourth substitution Russell identifies is “Social Reform for Individual Regeneration.”

The substitution of the social by-products of Christianity for the main product of individual conversion, is a marked feature of modern church policy. It is now claimed that the main effort of the church should center on the thought of better homes, better industrial conditions, better roads, i.e., the bettering of the conditions of the natural man, rather than individual conversion and the building up of a true social order through the securing of regenerated units. The present cry is for a great “get together” movement, forgetful that the great “get together” movement of Noah’s day ended in Babel and the confusion of tongues; while the movement which is to save the world began with the age of promise, when Abraham, the lonely pilgrim, “built an altar unto the Lord.” Instead of “get together,” the modern cry should be “Get to God,” for through union with Him there can alone be the unity of the race.

Sadly the substitution of social reform for individual regeneration has not abated in the near century since Russell penned these words. Since that time apostate Protestantism continues this program, and nearly all evangelicalism adopts “social reform/activism” to some degree.

Social Gospel Again

“Again,” referencing an earlier post I made about social efforts by churches.

Today’s is from the National Council of Churches’ letter to President Obama, urging him to cut poverty in half–

There is no greater concern among the churches of Christ than for those in this nation who live in poverty. This could hardly be otherwise because Jesus himself lived among the poor: loving them, eating and drinking with them, healing them, and speaking words of justice and assurance that God’s own love for the poor is unsurpassed.

Really? No greater concern?

I suppose this does become a church’s greatest concern when they deny the gospel and a host of doctrines fundamental to Christianity. But I’ve addressed this week already too.🙂

A Social Mandate?

What role should the Christian church have in helping the poor and downtrodden?

This pastor says that it is a “biblical mandate” to spend our lives helping the poor, regardless of their response, for these reasons:

  • The OT clearly expects it, Deut 15:7-8
  • “The sin of Sodom was their lack of concern for the unrighteous poor, and the result of this sin was God’s judgment on both the rich and poor alike”, Ezek 16:49
  • Jesus expects His followers to serve “even the least of these,” Matt 25:40
  • Doing so is the best way of reminding yourself of the gospel

Thus, helping the unrighteous poor is something that should be done for its own sake, not even with the pretext of establishing a “bridge” for evangelism. This is what many evangelical churches, schools, leaders, books, websites, and radio stations hold to and promote.

However, I believe that there is no “social mandate” as described above, for the following reasons:

  • Social action for “pre-evangelism” is unbiblical for it ignores the depravity of the human heart and denigrates the power of the gospel
  • Appeals to the OT for explicit commands to social action ignore the dispensational differences between Israel, the Church, and the Kingdom of God
  • The Bible never commands the church to be involved in social issues
  • The Bible only commands the church to be involved in “social action” toward fellow believers

Go to Mark Perry’s article here for more detailed discussion on this matter.

This is yet one more reason why ministry fellowship with “conservative evangelicals” should not be pursued. I’m not calling their salvation, commitment to moral purity, devotion to missions, or anything like that into question (so don’t start that, please). I am saying, “how can we have working fellowship with those with whom we have fundamental disagreements over essential beliefs of Christian life and ministry?”