about us | contact | for sale   congregations

Evangelism - Myers Mott Maggay Linthicum        
Theology
 

(The following is an excerpt from the National Association of Evangelicals report. This report was co-chaired by Dr. Ron Sider. The entire report may be found at NAE .)

 

For the Health of the Nation:

An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility

An evangelical declaration

 

... The special circumstances of this historic moment underline both the opportunity and the

challenge.

 

ē Although we have the privilege to help shape the actions of the worldís lone

superpower, only half of all evangelical Christians bother to vote.

ē The presence and role of religion in public life is attacked more fiercely now than

ever, making the bias of aggressive secularism the last acceptable prejudice in

America.

ē Since the atrocities of September 11, 2001, the spiritual and religious dimensions

of global conflict have been sharpened.

ē Secular media outlets are taking belated notice of evangelicalsí global

involvement in activities such as disaster relief, refugee resettlement, and the

fights against AIDS/HIV, slavery, and sexual trafficking.

ē Some key American political leaders now conceive of their roles in moral terms.

And they see themselves as stewards of the blessings of representative

democracy, religious freedom, and human rights in a world where many nations

are endangered by the forces of authoritarianism or radical secularism.

 

     Evangelicals will inevitably disagree about policy, but we realize that we have many

callings and commitments in common: commitments to the protection and well-being of

families and children, of the poor, the sick, the disabled, and the unborn, of the

persecuted and oppressed, and of the rest of the created order. While these issues do not

exhaust the concerns of good government, they provide the platform for evangelicals to

engage in common action. ...

 

     Scholars and leaders have inspired us by drawing attention to historical exemplars of

evangelical public responsibility from Wilberforce and the Booths in England to

Edwards, Backus, Finney, and Palmer in America. Our spiritual ancestors did not always

agree on the specifics of governance and the best roads to social reform. Yet their passion

and sacrifice inspire us to creative engagement, even when we cannot fully agree on

policy prescriptions.

     Against this historical background and in view of these common commitments, we offer

the following principled framework for evangelical public engagement.

 

THE BASIS FOR CHRISTIAN CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

 

     We engage in public life because God created our first parents in his image and gave

them dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:27-28). The responsibilities that emerge from that

mandate are many, and in a modern society those responsibilities rightly flow to many

different institutions, including governments, families, churches, schools, businesses, and

labor unions. Just governance is part of our calling in creation.

     We also engage in public life because Jesus is Lord over every area of life. Through him

all things were created (Col. 1:16-17), and by him all things will be brought to fullness

(Rom. 8:19-21). To restrict our stewardship to the private sphere would be to deny an

important part of his dominion and to functionally abandon it to the Evil One. To restrict

our political concerns to matters that touch only on the private and the domestic spheres

is to deny the all-encompassing Lordship of Jesus (Rev. 19:16).

     Following in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus announced the arrival of Godís

kingdom (Godís "reign" or "rule") (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15). This kingdom would be

marked by justice, peace, forgiveness, restoration, and healing for all. Jesusí followers

have come to understand the time between his first and second comings as a period of

"already, but not yet," in which we experience many of the blessings of Godís reign and

see initial signs of restoration, while we continue to suffer many of the results of the Fall.

We know that we must wait for God to bring about the fullness of the kingdom at

Christís return. But in this interim, the Lord calls the Church to speak prophetically to

society and work for the renewal and reform of its structures. The Lord also calls the

Church to practice the righteous deeds of the kingdom and point to the kingdom by the

wholeness and integrity of the churchís common life. This example will require us to

demonstrate Godís love for all, by crossing racial, ethnic, economic, and national

boundaries. It will also often involve following Jesusí example by suffering and living

sacrificially for others.

     As Christian citizens, we believe it is our calling to help government live up to its divine

mandate to render justice (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). From the teachings of the Bible

and our experience of salvation, we Christians bring a unique vision to our participation

in the political order and a conviction that changed people and transformed communities

are possible. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we are compelled outward in service to God

and neighbor.

     Jesus calls us as his followers to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our goal in civic

engagement is to bless our neighbors by making good laws. Because we have been called

to do justice to our neighbors, we foster a free press, participate in open debate, vote, and

hold public office. When Christians do justice, it speaks loudly about God. And it can

show those who are not believers how the Christian vision can contribute to the common

good and help alleviate the ills of society. ...

 

     From the Bible, experience, and social analysis, we know that society is altered as a result of both personal decisions and structural changes. Thus Christian civic engagement must seek to transform both individuals and institutions. While individuals transformed by the gospel change surrounding society, social institutions also shape individuals. While good

laws encourage good behavior, bad laws and systems foster destructive action. Lasting

social change requires both personal conversion and institutional renewal and reform. ...

 

Humility and civility

 

     As sinners who are thankful for Godís grace, we know that we do not always live up to

our civic responsibility. Christians must approach political engagement with humility and

with earnest prayer for divine guidance and wisdom. Because power structures are often

entrenched, perfect solutions are unobtainable. Because cultural changes produce

problems that are often not amenable to legislative solutions, we must not expect political

activity to achieve more than it can. Because social systems are complex and our

knowledge is incomplete, we cannot predict all the effects of laws, policies, and

regulations. As a result, we must match our high ideals with careful social analysis and

critical reflection on our experience in order to avoid supporting policies that produce

unintended and unfortunate consequences.

     We will differ with other Christians and with non-Christians over the best policies. Thus

we must practice humility and cooperation to achieve modest and attainable goals for the

good of society. ...   

 

Just government and fundamental liberty

 

     God is the source of all true law and genuine liberty. He both legitimates and limits the

stateís authority. Thus, while Christians owe Caesar his due (Matt. 22: 15-22; Mark

12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26), they regard only Jesus as Lord. As King of Kings, Jesusí

authority extends over Caesar. As followers of Jesus, we obey government authorities

when they act in accord with Godís justice and his laws (Titus 3:1). But we also resist

government when it exercises its power in an unjust manner (Acts 5:27-32) or tries to

dominate all other institutions in society. A good government preserves the God-ordained

responsibilities of societyís other institutions, such as churches, schools, families, labor

unions, and businesses. ...

 

      Godís prophets call Godís people to create just societies (Isa. 10:1-4; 58:3-12; Jer. 5:26-29; 22:13-19; Amos 2:6-7; Amos 4:1-3; 5:10-15). The prophetic

teaching insists on both a fair legal system (which does not favor either the rich or the

poor) and a fair economic system (which does not tolerate perpetual poverty). The Bible

makes clear that a just social order will do more than simply reward those with superior

ability, who work harder, or who have fortunate connections. Though the Bible does not

call for economic equality, it condemns gross disparities in opportunity and outcome

that cause suffering and perpetuate poverty, and it calls us to work for equality of opportunity.  God wants every person and family to have access to

productive resources so that if they act responsibly they can care for their economic needs

and be dignified members of their community. ...

Return to Homepage

  CSCO, P.O. Box 60123, Dayton, OH 45406; email:cscocbco@aol.com phone:508-799-7726