Can the gospel and social activism co-exist? Should Christians involve themselves in the world by participating in politics, pursue advanced degrees in education, medicine, science and law, produce films on a wide range of subjects, seek careers in journalism, and develop non-governmental programs for long-term social reform based on a well thought out biblical worldview? Or should Christians spend their life in so-called full-time Christian service and reject the world? If every Christian followed this narrow ministry track, who would fund both domestic and foreign missions? If Christians abandon politics and the courts, to name just two “secular” realms that impact us on a daily basis, it’s quite possible that the freedoms that we have to preach the gospel might some day be taken away.
What would happen in today’s world if what’s left of the salt and light of Christianity were withdrawn? Not only can’t a biblical case be made for such a narrow shaping of the Christian worldview, it would be impossible, impractical, and frightening to attempt to defend and implement such a position.
Christian author and pastor John MacArthur argues for a narrowly focused gospel agenda: “We are interested in people becoming saved. That is our only agenda. . . . It is the only thing that we are in the world to do.” The only thing? What about the millions of Christians who work in hundreds of different professions that have no direct relationship to the single agenda of “people becoming saved”? How is this different from being involved in social issues? They both take time away from preaching the gospel. Has he told the members of his church to quit their jobs and head for the highways and byways to get people saved 24/7?
Right after MacArthur tells us that preaching the gospel “is our only agenda,” he adds this caveat: “If we are going to see our nation transformed, it has to be done from the inside out, that’s our agenda.” But how? Can we do it from afar, cloistered behind the walls of the sanctuary? Could the Samaritan who helped the man who “fell among robbers” (Luke 10:30–37) have demonstrated compassion by only preaching the gospel? At the conclusion of the story, Jesus told His audience to “go and do likewise” (10:37).
While some argue that personal acts of mercy are warranted and encouraged by Scripture, being involved in politics is a waste of time, money, and energy when lost souls are at stake. If governmental policies are hurting the poor by making them dependent on the State, how can Christians ignore the political process that reinforces multi-generational poverty in the name of “social justice”? The Bible has a great deal to say about the oppression of the poor by individuals and governments (1 Kings 21:1–16; Eccl. 5:8; Isa. 3:14; 10:2; Ezek. 22:29; Amos 4:1; Zech. 7:10). Saying “it’s the government’s job” to deal with poverty, jobs, and housing is akin to saying “go in peace, be warmed and be filled” (James 2:16). The poor today are oppressed more by government policies than by individual oppression. A Good-Samaritan Faith requires Christians to get involved in politics in order to halt the oppression of the poor by policies that make people dependent upon the State.
. David R. Mains, The Rise of the Religion of Antichristianism (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985) and David Limbaugh, Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War Against Christianity (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2003).
. Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 329; D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994); D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, What If the Bible Had Never Been Written? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson 1998).
. Quoted in Jon Zens and Cliff Bjork, “A Better Society Without the Gospel? The Unbiblical Expectations of Many Christian Leaders,” Searching Together 27:1, 2, 3 (Spring-Fall 1999), 12.
. Gene Mills, “Shepherds, Samaritans, and Standers By,” Perspectives (October 2003), 4.
. Gary DeMar, “Is Social Justice Just?,” Liberty at Risk: Exposing the Politics of Plunder (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2003), 167–174.