The Mission of the Church OR Why the Gospel is not "escape from social oppression"

Dr. Albert Mohler and Jim Wallis will be debating each other soon on the question of whether social justice is a necessary part of the mission of the church. It is an important debate because it has direct implications upon the nature of the gospel. Again, the question is not whether it is good for the church to be engaged in matters of justice when it can, but whether it is integral to the mission of the church to do so.

From Denny Burk:

Oftentimes the differences between progressives and evangelicals on this question are not only about the mission of the church, but also about the nature of the gospel itself.

Tony Campolo’s recent critique of the Southern Baptist Convention’s immigration resolution is a case in point. He felt that the resolution did not go far enough and focused too narrowly on “spiritual salvation.” Embedded in his critique, Campolo offers what he thinks the gospel is:

Salvation for the soul is important to Southern Baptists, as it should be for all Evangelicals, but most of us call for a more holistic gospel that not only explains the way of salvation from sin, but also explains the way to escape from social oppression. To simply tell the undocumented immigrants in this country that we want to save their souls, but we have nothing to say about the fears they have of deportation is a cop-out. The Jesus that they love offers deliverance from both spiritual and social oppression, and the Southern Baptists should do the same.

I do not think that Campolo has a fair characterization of the resolution or of Southern Baptists, but that is not the main point here. The item I want to highlight is Campolo’s definition of the gospel. For him it is not merely “the way of salvation” but also “the way of escape from social oppression.” In other words, the gospel is not merely the promise of eternal life rooted in Jesus’ death and resurrection for sinners. The gospel is also the promise of deliverance from poverty, from social inequality, from racial injustice, etc. on this side of the new heavens and the new earth.

Campolo’s view of the mission of the church is decisively shaped by what he thinks the gospel is, and that is why the aforementioned debate is important. We draw our view of the church’s mission in part from our understanding of what the good news actually promises. This no doubt is a part of what the Mohler-Wallis debate will be about.
Read Denny's entire post HERE.