Should the Church Seek to Transform Society?

Question: “How do you respond to those who believe that the work of the church is to ‘transform society’ or to ‘bring in the Kingdom’?

Answer: “First, I say that the coming of the kingdom is not evident in transforming society. As I’ve said, the church through word, sacrament, and discipline is advancing the kingdom of grace, which is hastening the kingdom of glory (I’m using the language of the [Westminster] Shorter Catechism here). And because the church is not called to transform society – she already has enough on her plate – she is not [supposed] to transform society. Individual Christians in their vocations are called to a host of tasks that do, I guess, contribute to social transformation . . . But the church doesn’t transform society nor should she as an institution (in distinction from her members’ callings).

This doesn’t mean that some of the aspects of social transformation, such as government, policy, and legislation are unimportant or ‘worldly.’ They are worldly but in the good sense of the created order and the way that God superintends this world. Society is a good thing and Christians as citizens or in other capacities should be dutiful in their obligations to neighbors and magistrates. But social transformation is not where the kingdom of Christ happens.”

Question: “If cultural transformation isn’t the church’s work, what is?”

Answer: “The work of the church is word, sacrament, prayer, discipline, catechesis, diaconal care and fellowship. It is not sexy and it does not generally attract headlines. But these are God’s ordained means for building his kingdom.”

(Reposted from: D.G. Hart, “The Shelf Life of 2k – Part Two” on the Old Life Blog.)

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