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Social Justice as the “new monasticism?” NO!


For a while now I’ve kept this article from Christianity Today on file as an example of Christians engaged in the community development level of social justice (for better and for worse) and who exhibit the high discipleship required to live for justice. These Christian community development efforts are kin to the CCDA organization we have talked about.

However, this article also causes me great frustration as it is a prime example of what is fundamentally wrong with the mainstream church’s perception of such efforts. (Don’t even get me started on the insinuation that these noble causes are for the single, the radical, or the sexually confused).

While I am in the mood to express my aggravation with the author (Rob Moll) and CT I am no way trying to take away from the examples used in the article. Nor am I saying that Christians are called to “œcommunes.” Give the article a read and then consider these words of admonishment from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“…Thus monasticism became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity and the cheapening of grace. But the Church was wise enough to tolerate this protest, and to prevent it from developing to its logical conclusion. It thus succeeded in relativising it, even using it in order to justify the secularization of its own life. Monasticism was represented as an individual achievement which the mass of the laity could not be expected to emulate. By thus limiting the application of the commandments of Jesus to a restricted group of specialists, the Church evolved the fatal conception of the double standard — a maximum and a minimum standard of Christian obedience. Whenever the Church was accused of being too secularized, it could always point to monasticism as an opportunity of living a higher life within the fold, and thus justify the other possibility of a lower standard of life for others.”

I would like to write on this more in the future, but for now I’m content to let the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer speak for me. Really, is it any wonder why our first goal must be to place the ideals of justice back into the center of Christian life and practice where it belongs?

The new monastacicm? NO! Could you get it any more wrong? Let me know what you all think and tell me if I’m venting unreasonably.

  1. Tim

    Paul in his exhortation to Timothy (2 Tim 3) lists several types of people to not “get involved with”. One could find it interesting that he list some pretty slimy characters and then what is his final punch…those who pretend to be godly?

    KJV really sums it up well…a form of godliness but no power behind it. I am afraid that this might apply to more Christians than anyone would care to admit.

    Are we insulting God by denying the power of the Holy Spirit that lives INSIDE us?

    Or is the two-fold Wesleyan doctrine of Salvation and Sanctification an easy explanation?

    Or do the Calvinists describe it better when they say you only have your fire insurance against hell?

    The God I read about in the Bible and the one I experience is one of power. Acts Christians spoke and acted with BOLDNESS. Christ’s followers were in His day instructed to heal the sick just as He did. One could continue with examples of how we are to respond WITH RESULT to God’s calling.

    The challenge is two fold:

    1) Responsibility – The church (universal) is afraid to teach action because salvation is a gift not requiring works. While this is true, the teaching of Salvation (Greek: Sozo), is far short of what it actually means. The church (universal) preaches fire-insurance not all encompassing wholeness and restoration (NT: Peace; Hebrew: Shalom). This gift come with POWER and with power comes responsibility. People by nature don’t want to be responsible or in charge of tackling problems – personal or otherwise. Question is, why would we not accept responsibility to act when we are God indwelled? You know…the one who spoke the world into being…that God is the one who lives literally inside you.

    2) Results: If we teach the above responsibility can we do so without expecting results? I say not. Again, how powerful is your God? Faith is all about doing and trusting God for the results. (We sow, God grows, we harvest.) Again, the mainstream church (universal) is afraid to teach result oriented faith because they don’t want to sound like the “name it-claim it” preachers. You know the ones, the ones on TV who go around saying God can actually make a difference in your entire life. That He can restore you spiritually, mentally, physically, and financially. Sounds a little like Sozo or Shalom. The best definition for Shalom is “nothing missing – nothing broken”.

    Final thoughts.

    Christ came to RESTORE us. This would imply a prior state to be restored to. Namely, the Garden -when there was “nothing missing and nothing broken.”

    If we are committing constructive acts of social justice are we not bettering others spiritually, mentally, physically, and financially? So it is ok if we help others but we ourselves cannot be helped?

    Christians should quit ignoring the power of God and put it to use! We are God’s ability on this earth. Get up off your ‘blessed assurance’ and out of your ‘godly boy’ recliners and show some boldness and power.

    I look forward to the following scenario…

    On a busy city street a man falls to the sidewalk. People gather and determine he is having a heart attack. As the crowd grows larger someone yells, “Is anyone a doctor?” Others pick up on this and yell up and down the street, “We need a Doctor!” and “Someone, call an ambulance!” Suddenly a man runs from across the street, he starts separating the crowd so he can get to the stricken man lying on the sidewalk. As he approaches and leans down to the sickly man someone asks, “Are you a doctor?” “No,” replies the man, “I am a Christian.”

    But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon (the magician) himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. Acts 8:12-13


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He has shown you what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah 6:8