A theft has taken place. Something has been stolen from the church. But this was no violent act of robbery. The doors and windows were left open. In fact, a welcome sign was put out to the thieves. After the first theft, the rest of the goods were conveniently put on the front porch so as not inconvenience the thieves. What was stolen? The church’s calling to be an agent of social justice in the world. Who stole it? The thieves are those who gave up on a supernatural Gospel in exchange for a message of mere social change. Those who reacted to these “social gospellers” didn’t put up much of a fight; instead they freely allowed these modernists to steal the rest of the calling. Then the government, with its cosmic-sized ego, thought it could do the social justice calling more effectively than the church by perpetrating unjust means to take care of the poor. The church abdicated. It rolled over. After all, we are about the Gospel and saving souls, not social justice. Funny, the Prophets and Apostles never thought there was a distinction between justice and grace. In fact, it seemed that they were under the silly notion that true religion manifested itself in taking care of widows and orphans (Isa. 1:16-18; Jas. 1:27). Obviously, they never lived on a cul-de-sac in a suburban neighborhood. What was stolen from us was something which is part of the image of God in us, compassion, mercy and justice. What was stolen from us was a larger vision of righteousness, which fed the hungry, clothed the naked and stood against oppression (Matt. 25:31-46; Jas. 5:1-6; 1 Jn. 3:16-18).
I am very thankful for those who are rightfully taking back what belongs to us, without giving up the treasure of the Gospel. I am thankful for Justice Fellowship, the International Justice Mission, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, among others. I am also thankful for our Community Pregnancy Center and the City of Refuge, which fight against the evil of abortion and fight for life and the truth of the Gospel. I am thankful for Anna, ministering mercy in the Sudan, to bodies and souls.
As I have been studying the problem of evil for men’s retreat, I have realized afresh that the message of God’s grace cannot leave us only interested in a person’s soul. Can we really be indifferent to the physical condition of a 5 year old Cambodian girl who serves as a sex slave in a brothel to western pedophiles? Is it good enough to just make sure she gets a tract? May God help us to recover the calling which has been stolen and hi-jacked by those who do not know the power of God unto salvation. May we be known by what the Lord requires of us, “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” (Mic. 6:8).
Click on the title above and decide for yourself.
In Praise of a 500 Year Old Gift that Keeps on Giving – By Brian Borgman
This is the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth (1509). There will be new publications rolling off the press about Calvin. The Reformation 21 Blog will be studying Calvin’s Institutes this year. Such men as Dr. Derek Thomas will be contributing. Take a look.
Why was Calvin so important? Didn’t he hang unwed pregnant women, drown Anabaptists and burn heretics? The answer to each of the above, contrary to Will Durant’s falsehoods, is no. Calvin was at his very core a pastor. He was a preacher of God’s Word and he trained hundreds of others to preach the Word. He was certainly at the eye of many storms of controversy, but anybody who was making a difference in 16th Century Europe was in the midst of controversy. What makes Calvin so important is not that he invented Calvinism. He did not. Paul did. What makes Calvin so important is the profound and yet simple ways he articulated biblical truth. In his Institutes, Calvin systematized the theology of the Reformation. The Institutes are far from dry, dusty scholastic, speculative theology. Calvin brings theology to life in the Institutes. His commentaries, on the majority of the books of the Bible, are way ahead of their time. He surpasses Luther as a Bible expositor. He is in a class by himself. He actually explains the text and applies it, not with the verbosity of the Puritans, but with the brevity and skill of father teaching his children. Their significant contribution is attested by the fact that nearly 500 years after their publication, they are still in print and still referenced by biblical scholars.
This year, pick up the Institutes. The two volume edition by Ford Lewis Battles is the best. But if you only have limited time, there is A New Compend, edited by Hugh Kerr. There should be some good biographies coming out. John Piper has a brief work, John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God, which was just published.
As 21st Century evangelicals, we cannot afford the error of disdaining our history or heritage. Calvin was a gift to the Church, from Christ. Calvin is one of those unique gifts which keep on giving.