Future History: Part 2

So, continuing, albeit late, from my previous post…

How shall we now live given the dimensions of our culture & faith?  Increasingly I find myself drawn more and more to an essentially conservative approach to faith and life, not that I’ve ever been particularly liberal.  What I mean is that I am beginning to doubt the progressivist agenda of our age, especially the social justice wing of American evangelicalism.

It is not that I reject social justice; indeed, I believe that any reading of the gospels and the totality of holy scripture reveals a deep seated demand for justice to be implemented and to be sought after by the people of God – not just personal, but systemic.

 What I reject is the subtle substitution of such justice concerns for what might be called (and what have been called) fundamentals of the faith.  I do not think we can afford to bend out understandings of scripture to prevailing socio-cultural norms in an effort to be people of justice & mercy at the expense of holiness.

Ah holiness… that elusive word which I hear less and less of in any circle at all, but which is, to me, bedrock to our understanding of God and salvation.  God, it seems, is holy, and has the audacity to insist that we emulate him in that holiness.  Yet often social action, acts of mercy, etc., are substituted for personal holiness which, unlike the kingdom of God, is the one thing we are given sole jurisdiction over.

What do I mean?  Simply this: peace and justice in society are ultimately the purview of God who has promised that perfect peace & justice will not prevail until “the Day.”  What we have been given charge over is our own lives and bodies, which we are to purify and present spotless before the Lord.  Part of that purificaton and spotless presentation is working for peace & justice in the world and in our respective spheres of influence.

As we look towards future history, we would do well to look far enough ahead that we remember that history itself will one day draw to a close, and we will be ultimately evaluated not on the basis of how our sons & daughters remember us, but how our actions and beliefs are remembered by the chief judge.  That will certainly mean acting and believing in ways that will increasingly become unpopular and countercultural.  Just because those who have followed Jesus before us believed some things that we may not think of as being wrong, doesn’t mean that we are right.

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3 thoughts on “Future History: Part 2

  1. Excellent point here, Josh, and it cuts right to the heart of Jesus’ commentary of the Pharisees who were quick to wash the outside of the cup. I think that ironically, ministries are often diverted from doing the real work of ministry. For instance, consider how much overhead each church in the city has, mere utilities, water, property tax, etc. would add up to a fortune in cost and labor. Are we thinking of God’s economics, or our own? Am I seeked to justify my own ministry or God’s? Are we looking at our churces from our current circumstances or the church catholic from God’s perspecitve? Indeed we will have to answer. May we have eyes to live tomorrow’s kingdom in today’s world.

  2. The question is, how do we balance personal holiness and social justice? Should we just stay home and study the Bible while drinking a nice glass of wine all day while the people of Darfur are suffering from genocide? Of course not! I believe that social justice and personal holiness are two inseparable things. When Jesus called us to be his light and salt of the world, he was telling us to be serious followers (personal holiness), he was also telling us to heal the sick, feed the poor, and to free the oppress (social justice). Without either one, this Christian identity isn’t complete. I do agree with you though, blindly accepting the “social norms”, twisting the scriptures to fit this “liberal agenda” are just plain dumb. I will also have to say though, what a lot of “conservative Christians” do, this “end justifies the mean” way of spreading the good news is equally frustrating. We do have to look into ourselves and ask, are we being what we are supposed to be or are we being what we think we are supposed to be?

  3. Ken,
    I agree with you whole heartedly. I believe our biggest temptation is self-deception in that we tend to justify our action or inaction rather easily rather than submitting ourselves wholeheartedly to Jesus’ authority. This happens for both “conservative” and “liberal” Christians.

    An example that comes to mind are some Christian friends of mine whose language and drinking habits violate both the letter and spirit of scriptural instruction to be let all of what we say be full of grace and not offend, and not to be drunk with wine. Yet these same people are many times very vocal, strident proponents of social sction for the sake of the gospel. They seemingly fail to recognize that they have little ultimate control over social justice, but they could certainly stop getting drunk or using foul language all the time.

    On the other hand are those Christian friends who would never drink, smoke, nor curse but mindlessly live very materialistic lives that defy the Biblical norms of stewardship, justice or care for the poor. They fail to acknowledge their own responsibility in light of the gospel to do justice and love mercy in practical ways, because it would impact their own comfort or standard of living.

    It is much easier to be a social activist than it is to be submitted in all things to Jesus’ authority. It is easier to study the Bible than it is to do what it says.

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