Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Much Ado About Something

As of late there have been many discussions on the internet in regards to transformational Christianity.  Much of the discussion has been circulating around comments from renowned Church historians and theologians such as D.G Hart, Carl Trueman, and Anthony Bradley over the consequences of ministries such as Tim Keller's in New York.  

Truly, something as esoteric and academic as this seems all much ado about nothing.  All of them have their points.  Hart and Trueman speak in terms of what is called 2-kingdom theology.  And yes, Bradley has his reasons to critique this view and I empathize with his bias against the likes of Hart and Trueman.  But what is really going on here?  

It seems to me everyone here is fighting over scraps.  The 2-kingdom people are made out to be caricatures of cold hearted Presbyterianism while Bradley is seeking to defend his PCA brethren with warm and socially conscious Presbyterianism.  And I'm here to say they're both a little wrong and a little right.  They're pushing and pulling around the X-factor in both their ideologies... human sin.

Hart and Trueman call for the church to cease and desist from pursuing this desire to "transform culture" on the basis of church identity.  The church is not a civic institution nor should it be run as such.  Social justice should be mitigated by the fact that the true nature of the church is spiritual, not physical.  

Bradley on the other hand feels that the distinction does not exist in such a robust manner.  In fact, he takes it a step further to say that if it were not for organized Christian movements in culture devastating repercussions may have been allowed in society.

But for any serious 2-kingdom minded individual it should be recognized here that both sides nick the mark without hitting it.  Our citizenship is a dual citizenship.  We live in this world though we are not of it.  We are physical corporeal beings that knows there is a spiritual reality.

And it's by simple virtue that the spiritual has an affect on the physical by which we pursue justice in the world, though the degree of change is subject to the limitations of the flesh.  

Kuyper had to step down from the pulpit to step up to reform Amsterdam.  Also it wasn't the church that stopped the slave trade, it was a Christian man in England convicted of his conscience.  It was a coordinated movement by God through the spiritual and sovereign force of His will.  It is no different than today's widespread movement towards social justice by Christians.

For example, I know of an organization (hereby: "X") which seeks justice and the social well being of North Koreans who are refugees trying to escape in China.  They are Christians, but they cannot simply call themselves a Christian organization.

Why is that?  It's partly practical as much as it is a spiritual witness to Christ.  They can't do it themselves.  They need help.  And it's because of this precious gift of common grace that those of saving grace can work together to better society along side of those who do not love Christ as we do.  

In fact, it's not just these figures of history either... there are many Biblical figures of which this is true.  Joseph and Daniel, among others are among the believers of history which worked with secular people and secular institutions to better society.  And that should answer Hart and Trueman's gripe about the affects of transformationalism for it points to the need of Christ in so many ways.  We are fallen creatures who live and die.  Christ is eternal and though the measure of justice here is nominal, it is a shadow of that which is to come from Jesus.  

Likewise, Bradley should recognize that these weren't organized movements by man's will, but rather common grace.  For when these movements of positive cultural change take mass effect religion becomes neutered.  The gospel will eventually take a back seat to social justice itself.  And then, as we sinners often do, we will lose our way from the purpose of our reforms.  Hence the trap of seeking an over-realized eschatology.

I was in fact discussing these issues with a friend of mine today and he's right to say there needs to be more work done in the realm of academia towards understanding common grace.  For in it we will never be satisfied... and that's kind of the point.  For the Kingdom of God is the greater spiritual and corporeal reality (prophetically speaking) we look forward to.  So I say seek it... however you're led by God to do so.

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