Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why Does Calvinism Matter? - Part 8: Social Ministry

Other Posts in this Series:

The gospel has clear implications for social issues, but Calvinism's salvation theology, gives definite shape to how we should think about social issues.  Many social issues are impacted by Calvinism, but I've chosen to highlight four below.  I might have included others as well.

Homosexuality. This is probably the most critical moral issue in Western culture as evidenced by how hard the secularists are fighting to promote it.  The Calvinistic doctrines of total depravity and irresistible grace have enormous implications for how we approach the question of homosexuality.

Total depravity means that sinful homosexual impulses, like all sinful impulses, are innate and flow from our fallen human natures (Rom 1:26). Homosexuality is not just a choice any more than any sinful impulse is just a choice (Rom 8:7; 7:18). Someone who has same-sex urges cannot simply make a free-will choice to turn off those impulses. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, was wrongly criticized for making this same point. Only the gospel message of Jesus Christ can save people from their sin and misery. But the gospel will only change sinful hearts when God adds His effective blessing to it (1 Thess 1:4-5).

Therefore, laws against homosexual marriage cannot fix the root of the problem. They are good as far as they go because they help restrain the impulses of the sinful nature (Rom 13:1-5). But the only way to address the root of homosexual sin is by loving and patient proclamation of Christ (law and gospel) and by serving those enslaved by this sin.  Homosexuals are guilty, and they are responsible. But they cannot change without God's effectual grace in Christ (Jn 6:44); so, we should not expect otherwise. Let us therefore preach the gospel of free grace to them, pray for them, and become instruments of God's loving mercy to them.

Adoption. Calvinism shapes adoption when adoptive parents pattern their adoptions after the way God adopts His children. God does not ground His adoption of His children on their wisdom, merit, or understanding of the value of their adoption. Instead, God adopts His children unconditionally, and He keeps them unconditionally (Eph 1:5). When God's children sin and act ungratefully toward Him, God never abandons His children or returns them to the orphanage.

Back in 2010, an American family wrongly returned their seven year old adopted boy to a Russian orphanage. But only a spirit of conditionalism, which grounds family relationships on performance could possibly think to do such a thing. Calvinism teaches that God's costly love for us is not conditioned on our behavior, but only on His free and unconditional electing decree (Eph 1:4-5; 1 Jn 4:10). Therefore, as parents, our love for our children, adopted or otherwise, must never be conditioned upon their behavior.

The Poor and Needy. Christians are called to serve the poor, help the needy, feed the hungry, and visit those in prison (Matt 25:31-46). But we are not called to help the needy on the condition that they welcome or accept our help. Many of them will respond to our love with hostility and might even reject us personally.

But Calvinism informs the way we should treat the poor and needy. We should love them, serve them, and provide them blessings, no matter how they respond to us. We should give to them, whether they are grateful or ungrateful and whether they accept us or not because that is how God has treated us in Christ (Lk 6:32-36). He freely chose us, loved us to the uttermost, and did not demand that we change our hearts before He unconditionally pursued us and rescued us. We, therefore, ought to serve the needy responsibly and show them mercy no matter what they do in response, knowing that only God can change them. We must realize that nothing we say or do can change their hearts, and simply serve them, pray for them, and speak the whole truth to them in love.

Street Preaching. I debated as to whether to include "street preaching in the category of “social ministry,” but it is the open-air proclamation of the gospel to society; so, I'm placing it here. Street preaching attempts to influence the human will. It aims at the conscience and summons people to salvation by holding out the free grace of God in the gospel of Jesus.

Non-Calvinism teaches that the human will can't be determined. Calvinism teaches that God uses His Word and Spirit to make people willingly choose Christ. The stubborn fallen human will can be influenced and changed, according to Calvinism. Therefore, open-air street preaching is warranted.  "But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:23-24).

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