Backgrounds of the Restoration Movement: The Social Gospel, Public Education, and the Fourth Great Awakening

passioncartoonSocial Gospel

As stated in the Wikipedia,

In the late 19th century, many Americans were disgusted by the poverty level and the low quality of living in the slums. The social gospel movement provided a religious rationale for action to address those concerns. Activists in the Social Gospel movement hoped that by public health measures as well as enforced schooling so the poor could develop talents and skills, the quality of their moral lives would begin to improve. Important concerns of the Social Gospel movement were labor reforms, such as abolishing child labor and regulating the hours of work by mothers. By 1920 they were crusading against the 12-hour day for men at U.S. Steel. Many reformers inspired by the movement opened settlement houses, most notably Hull House in Chicago operated by Jane Addams. They helped the poor and immigrants improve their lives. Settlement houses offered services such as daycare, education, and health care to needy people in slum neighborhoods. The YMCA was created originally to help rural youth adjust to the city without losing their religion, but by the 1890s became a powerful instrument of the Social Gospel. Nearly all the denominations (including Catholics) engaged in foreign missions, which often had a social gospel component in terms especially of medical uplift. The Black denominations, especially the African Methodist Episcopal church (AME) and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church (AMEZ) had active programs in support of the Social Gospel. Both evangelical (“pietistic”) and liturgical (“high church”) elements supported the Social Gospel, although only the pietists were active in promoting Prohibition.

In the United States prior to World War I, the Social Gospel was the religious wing of the progressive movement which had the aim of combating injustice, suffering and poverty in society. During the New Deal of the 1930s Social Gospel themes could be seen in the work of Harry Hopkins, Will Alexander and Mary McLeod Bethune, who added a new concern with African Americans. After 1940, the movement withered … .

At the same time, men such as Horatio Alger and Russell H. Conwell preached the gospel of wealth: Christian values and hard work will lead to wealth, which the Christian holds in trust to serve others. Andrew Carnegie, who became one of the richest men in the world through making steel, taught and practiced this, giving his fortune away to many good causes. He wrote,“The man who dies rich dies disgraced.”

The Social Gospel largely died out during the Great Depression because it succeeded so thoroughly that the federal and state governments took over its agenda. Laws were passed banning child labor, women’s suffrage was granted, Prohibition was passed, mandatory, free public education became a right, and the Fair Labor Standard Act set a minimum wage and required overtime pay after a 40-hour work week.

The elements not taken over by the government, such as foreign missions, continued on.

Public education

In the 19th Century, almost all schools were private schools, and education was far from universal. The churches had been providing schooling, but massive immigration and population shifts overwhelmed church resources, causing them to look to the government to take on the massive task of educating all children. The Social Gospel advocates argued that free, compulsory, public education would make better citizens and eliminate poverty and so eliminate crime. By the turn of the century, most states had been persuaded to provide mandatory, free elementary school.

During the 20th Century, public education was expanded to age 16. According to one source,

From 1900 to 1996 the percentage of teenagers who graduated from high school increased from about 6 percent to about 85 percent.

Now, the goals of the Social Gospel movement to provide a free education for all children was laudable, but the Christians did not get what they’d bargained for.Some states actually tried to ban private schools, forcing all children into public schools, leading to the 1925 Supreme Court ruling in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, holding that states could not prevent children from attending private schools at their own expense. Just so, in the 1960’s, the Supreme Court banned compulsory prayer in public schools, leading to the complete secularization of public schools.

The original goal of education — going all the way back to Sunday schools in England — was to teach literacy and the Bible. But once education was taken over by the government, schools were designed to teach literacy and good citizenship — and most certainly not the Bible. The Christian community has been resisting this change ever since, but it’s quite unrealistic to expect the state to pay for religious instruction.

Rather, we now have a system that allows religious instruction in church and at home but not in public schools. However, parents generally don’t provide religious instruction at home, and church-based instruction is often very poor. You see, by the time our children are mature enough to really understand the scriptures — in high school — our youth programs often find it easier to entertain the kids or teach at a 4th grade level. The problem is far more in the homes than in the churches. We’ve not taught parents how to be Christian parents for children who attend public schools.


There are two conflicting approaches to the Social Gospel in modern American evangelical Christianity. First, there are those who see Christianity as purely a private concern. We go to church on Sundays, we have the correct doctrine, we study Bible at home and at church, and Christianity is between us and God. If there are problems in society, the cure is evangelism, and we should seek to evangelize our neighbors. Therefore, if workers are being abused, we just need to persuade the bosses to become Christians.

This view severely compartmentalizes our Christianity — so that Christianity doesn’t apply in the public sphere. When we vote, we vote out of self-interest, not love for our enemies and our neighbors.

The other approach is that if we truly love our neighbors, such as abused workers, we should use the power of government to compel fair treatment of workers. If workers are being underpaid or forced to work in dangerous conditions, the solution is a minimum wage law or OSHA.

However, for most of the 20th Century, those taking this view also compartmentalized their Christianity. The goal was to alleviate poverty and crime, but not to change hearts and bring people to Jesus. The concern was for the needy was real enough, but it was expressed in entirely secular terms. Indeed, Christians of this persuasion could work perfectly well with atheists and other non-Christians to achieve their goals.

And we see this split in American Christianity quite plainly. White, evangelical churches fit in the first camp. They tend to vote Republican, they favor free markets, and they oppose government intervention. However, they are serious about evangelism and believe that Christianity requires a true rebirth. They distrust big government and public schools because they don’t see much Christian about either.

Mainline churches, such as the United Presbyterian, United Methodist, and Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) (not the independent Christian Churches), fall in the second camp. They tend to vote Democrat, they favor government solutions, and they are very weak regarding evangelism and missions. Indeed, these churches can be quite accepting of theological liberalism (even the denial of the incarnation), because the agenda is much more about humanistic solutions rather than being reborn.

You see, the Social Gospel began as an entirely appropriate Christian response to serious problems, but as it got in bed with government, government became the savior. Thus, these churches correctly understand the importance of loving their neighbors, but they tend to see the goal as eliminating financial poverty to the exclusion of spiritual poverty.

On the other hand, the evangelical community tends to deeply see the importance of alleviating spiritual poverty but often has very little concern regarding financial poverty. Indeed, there is often very little difference between the Democratic Party and the mainline denominations, but then there is often very little difference between the Republican Party and evangelical and many fundamentalist denominations. I mean, go to any predominantly white Church of Christ, and you’ll find a building full of Republicans, with any Democrats present keeping quiet about their political views.

This division in American thought traces back at least to the Third Great Awakening, following the Civil War. On the one hand, there were great revivalists converting people by the thousands by promising a personal relationship with Jesus. On the other hand, there were established churches working hard to relieve genuinely tragic social conditions. And both movements had great success — but they were separate movements.

The Social Gospel movement dramatically improved the qualify of life of many people, but it failed to win souls — indeed, by preferring humanistic, governmental solutions, it had the ironic effect of teaching that man and man’s government is the solution to man’s problems.

The revivalistic, Fundamentalist movement helped many denominations escaped the faithlessness coming from liberalism, but often denied that the church has any role in society, focusing almost exclusively on the individual’s relationship with Jesus. And, ironically, this over-focusing on individuality allowed the churches to develop a certain selfishness. In the 1950s, some Churches of Christ actually taught that it’s sin to help non-Christians, even the unbaptized children of Christians!

Social Darwinism

Following the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, Darwinism became the intellectual rage of the age, and many scholars adapting Darwin’s thought to other fields. In particular, Social Darwinism was taught by many, in two different forms.

In economics, it was argued that the freer the markets, the better the markets. Survival of the fittest justified laissez faire governmental policies, which did indeed lead to increased prosperity. However, it also led to abuses, such as child labor, 12-hour work days, and extraordinarily dangerous working conditions.

In sociology, it led to eugenics. As described in the Wikipedia,

The modern field and term were first formulated by Sir Francis Galton in 1883, drawing on the recent work of his half-cousin Charles Darwin. From its inception eugenics was supported by prominent people, including Margaret Sanger, Marie Stopes, H. G. Wells, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Emile Zola, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, John Harvey Kellogg, Winston Churchill, Linus Pauling and Sidney Webb. Its most infamous proponent and practitioner was however Adolf Hitler who praised and incorporated eugenic ideas in Mein Kampf, and emulated Eugenic legislation for the sterilization of “defectives” that had been pioneered in the United States.

[Christian writer] G. K. Chesterton was an early critic of the philosophy of eugenics, expressing this opinion in his book, Eugenics and Other Evils. Eugenics became an academic discipline at many colleges and universities, and received funding from many sources. Three International Eugenics Conferences presented a global venue for eugenicists with meetings in 1912 in London, and in 1921 and 1932 in New York. Eugenic policies were first implemented in the early 1900s in the United States. … The scientific reputation of eugenics started to decline in the 1930s, a time when Ernst Rüdin used eugenics as a justification for the racial policies of Nazi Germany, and when proponents of eugenics among scientists and thinkers prompted a backlash in the public.

Now, the modern Republican Party is heir to economic Social Darwinism, as evidenced by the attitudes of the Bush II administration toward anti-trust enforcement, environmental regulation, and the financial industry. It was the Bush II administration that reduced the capital requirements for finance firms such as Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, which is part of what caused their bankruptcies and helped trigger the current recession. (I’m very much in favor of free markets, but no so free that our key financial institutions can so over-borrow that they destroy the economy.)

But the modern Democratic Party is heir to the eugenics movement, in its support of abortion on demand, and the efforts of many within that party to use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. Of course, some favor abortion not because of eugenics but rather to have the freedom to avoid the consequences of irresponsible sex — hardly a Christian perspective either.

The Fourth Great Awakening

Some argue that we are in the midst of a Fourth Great Awakening. That may be true. It’s certainly not true that there have been huge increases in the number of American Christians in the last few decades. Most denominations are in numerical decline, and have been since the late 1960s. Some, such as Southern Baptists, grew rapidly for a while but are now in decline. However, there is a dramatic rethinking of what it means to be a Christian and the church of Christ. And it’s a much-needed rethinking.

The key is to get away from Adam Smith and Charles Darwin and return to Jesus of Nazareth. That means we find our values and solutions in Holy Writ rather than the platform of either political party. And that means the church doesn’t form coalitions with evil, such as the pro-choice lobby or the grossly-irresponsible deregulation lobby. We have no business being a special interest group within either party.

You see, both parties are coalitions, and both parties include groups that are very anti-Christian in their worldviews. These groups carry enough political clout to push their parties in very unhealthy directions. Hence, we have the choice of being unconcerned with the environment (Republicans as a party) or pushing for some genuinely extreme positions (Democrats as a party). Where’s the middle ground? Well, we don’t even go looking for a middle ground because we’ve allowed our values to be defined by the Karl Roves and James Carvilles rather than Jesus Christ. We just assume that we must pick one or the other. But we don’t have to pick either one.

As American Christians look to find a truer, less secular, less compartmentalized, less compromised way of being God’s people, we have to realize that both parties are smart and want to push the church to become a part of their coalitions. The first step, therefore, is to leave both parties and therefore to leave behind the desire for secular power, being content with God’s power.

“My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9)

And this means we’ll sometimes agree with one party or the other, and often disagree with both. We can be passionate about the environment without worshipping the environment. We can be passionate about raising the poor out of poverty while insisting that we must also let Jesus lift them out of spiritual poverty. We can be passionate about free education while insisting that children who don’t know Jesus aren’t really educated. We can be passionate about free enterprise while insisting the enterprise should not be free to oppress the weak.

We can look for solutions entirely outside the government or in coordination with the government, so long as we never ever see the government as the solution. Jesus is the answer, and there is no other.

The Fourth Great Awakening, if there is to be one, will come from combining the best of both elements of the Third Great Awakening — a revivalistic fervor for Jesus combined with a desire to help both spiritual and material needs, and seeing the government as a necessary element of the solution, but not the solution. We must never again allow Christ’s church to be a puppet of the politicians or compromise God’s principles in order to have secular power. Rather, we must combine the best of both elements of the Third Great Awakening, see Christianity as about individual salvation into a corporate church given a mission to the world that meets both spiritual and physical needs — serving both the poor (Luke 6:20) and the poor in spirit (Matt 5:3).

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink.
My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.

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28 Responses to Backgrounds of the Restoration Movement: The Social Gospel, Public Education, and the Fourth Great Awakening

  1. Absolutely super. When humans are given two choices, they tend to pick one. If Christians will pick answer "C" (Christ), the Kingdom will come.

  2. Randall says:

    Thanks for a very good post that makes a number of important points.

    In the post it was said:
    "Rather, we now have a system that allows religious instruction in church and at home but not in public schools. However, parents generally don’t provide religious instruction at home, and church-based instruction is often very poor. You see, by the time our children are mature enough to really understand the scriptures — in high school — our youth programs often find it easier to entertain the kids or teach at a 4th grade level."

    If there is a significant differnce between the education of the children and the parents I have failed to observe it. Indeed, theology is a dirty word among many adults in leadership positions in the CofCs. We generally educate the parents on a fouth grade level as well as our children.

  3. Alan says:

    How many of us, when we paid our taxes last spring, decided to send in some extra money because we feel moved to help the poor? OTOH, how many of us took every legal exemption and deduction to minimize the amount of money that we provided to the government for its programs?

    Delegating care for the poor to the government has nullified the biblical role of American Christians in meeting the needs of the poor. It leaves taxpayers feeling resentful rather than compassionate. It appeases the consciences of Christians without them ever encountering a needy person, without them ever exercising compassion face-to-face.

    Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for nullifying the command to honor father and mother, by calling Jews to give that money to the synagogue instead. We do the same thing when we hire the government to do our benevolence.

  4. Jay Guin says:


    I think you're right in many but not all churches. The more conservative the church, the more stereotyped the teaching. That is, the most conservative churches cover the same bad arguments over and over — comforting the members that they have all the answers right.

    But in my experience, more progressive churches often have robust Bible classes, because the teachers have freedom to expand their learning through all the incredible resources we have today. In progressive churches, classes are taught based on everything from Dallas Willard to Max Lucado to Howard Yoder to N. T. Wright. And even a little Barton W. Stone and Thomas Campbell.

  5. Randall says:

    I pray you are right about the level of teaching in some of the more progressive churches. I attend a large CofC that regards herself as one of the more progressive churches on the coast. I believe close to half the congregation has some kind of formal degree beyond the BS/BA level and at least 75% of the adults have a BS/BA. The level of teaching in the Sunday school would not challenge the thinking of a regular (not advanced) high school student. To make it worse, I have never heard the subject of Systematic Theology mentioned from the pulp[it except for about three occasions when it was mentioned to deride or ridicule the subject. I am also familiar with a number of CofC congregations in Texas (Dallas area) and I never saw much truly adult level study there. But still, I have been out of the country for a while and I really hope your assessment is more accurate than my own.

  6. Larry Short says:

    Most of the loosening of the financial strings was Democrat desires to make things, especially home buying more available. The first big push was allowing investment banks to enter other business lines done during Clinton administration. In the final, oversight is the problem, Madoff & Stanford were illegal all century but overlooked.

  7. Rich says:

    I try to let morals trump economics in my voting selections. I find it unfortunate that the U.S. political parties have polarized themselves on moral issues.

    As an example, I personally don't see size of centralized government as a biblical issue but it seems to go along for the ride with the moral ones.

  8. Larry Short says:

    I rarely see clear moral issues in voting, especially at national levels (rep. senator, president). The most effective moral vote is on the local races. My county commission and school board has had some lousy people. On the national level, letter writing, news attention etc. are more effective to sway attention on moral issues.

  9. Jon says:

    Your historical information was useful and helpful, but your own politics are showing. Two points or I'll never get to bed tonight:

    "We can look for solutions entirely outside the government or in coordination with the government, so long as we never ever see the government as the solution. Jesus is the answer, and there is no other."

    This is entirely the problem with government solutions. There is no coordinating with it. Jesus wlll not be allowed to be the answer if the government is involved.

    My wife is a doctor. Her long-term plan was to work in a federally-qualified health clinic–to intentionally take a lower-paying job in order to help the less fortunate both physically and spiritually.

    She could not minister to people spiritually and legally follow federal rules. Instead, she and two other partners in their practice refuse Medicaid, take limited Medicare, and provide charity care on their own terms.

    Continued government encroachment may take even those options for charity–and outreach–away from us.

    "The key is to get away from Adam Smith and Charles Darwin and return to Jesus of Nazareth."

    True. But if you ever actually read up on Adam Smith, you'll find that he sounds awfully Biblical.

    @Alan. I take every deduction available on my taxes in order to help pay for my wife's medical mission trips. Amen to the rest of your comments. Working with the needy here and around the world has been an enlightening, frustrating, and wholly uplifting blessing–that forced me into the view that we should have less government care and more Christian care. This world really is Hell without God.

  10. Alan says:

    There is no better medicine for the heart than serving the poor and needy, face-to-face.

  11. Zach Cox says:


    Why do you place economics in a different category from morals?

  12. nick gill says:

    She could not minister to people spiritually and legally follow federal rules.

    Do you mean to say that the federal government prevented her from going to someone's home, or inviting them to yours, or meeting them @Starbucks, et al, and ministering to them?

    But if you ever actually read up on Adam Smith, you’ll find that he sounds awfully Biblical.

    Not sure which Bible you're reading, my friend. Smith's general thesis is that when an individual pursues his self-interest, he indirectly promotes the good of society: "by pursuing his own interest, [the individual] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he intends to promote it." That really doesn't sound very much like the Sermon on the Mount to me.

    we should have less government care and more Christian care.

    Amen! But what about in the meantime?

  13. Rich says:

    Hey, Zach:

    Good question.

    I place heavy weight on objective issues like abortion, promotion of religion, promotion of Christianity, family values, etc. These are clearly in alignment with scriptural values.

    Issues on the economy seem more subjective. These include: size of government, regulation/deregulation, free trade vs tariffs/taxes, interest rate control, etc. I don't have as strong an opinion on the correct answer in these areas. The answers to these seem to be more situational rather than universal.

    For example, my business experiences tell me that when in expanding markets, decentralized organizations provide more flexibility to meet changing needs. Whereas, in contracting markets, centralized organizations reign because of improved efficiencies and economies of scale.

    Looking at the U.S. as one big mega-business in our global economy, it makes sense to deregulate during times of GDP growth. It also makes sense to allow more centralized control in our current time of shrinking GDP (recession).

    The social issues seem between the moral and economic issues mentioned above. Poverty, education, and human rights resonate with both biblical issues and economics. For example, the churches made some minor improvements in literacy through the Sunday Schools, but the issue wasn't truly resolved until the federal government took on public education. On the other side, several posts here make a good case for churches to take care of the poor in the name of Christ rather than the government.

  14. JodyB says:

    Nick, I think there is much to be said regarding simple ministry as you pointed out in your example of simply visiting someone. I think this is probably the most neglected part of our ministry as a church. My wife and I constantly make efforts to do this among brethren and non-brethren alike.

    However, I also see Jon's point as well. Adam Smith could have well been addressing "gifts" when he speaks of pursuing one's own interest. I can't practice medicine, but I can encourage. Jon's wife may be poor at teaching, but she can practice medicine.

    The church does a poor job overall in total ministry because of the focus placed on worship as being central to our identity vs. service to others. I think that Isaiah and a few of the other prophets had a LOT to say about vain worship. Yes, I believe sound teaching should not be replaced by a social gospel. However, sound teaching isn't sound at all without it.

  15. JodyB says:

    In continuation, imagine if we involved the talents of everyone within our congregations to solve various issues of spiritual and material importance instead of placing this job in the hands of one or two ministers on staff.

  16. Jay Guin says:


    I agree in the sense that typically both national parties have moral problems. There is rarely a clear choice. I also agree that standing for God's will is far more valuable that supporting the right candidate. The candidates will support the right positions when God's people tell both parties what's required to get their support. Normally, that is, the candidates follow the voters rather than the other way around.

    If the Christians were to refuse to become either party's voting block and instead simply stand for God's will year after year, the parties would have to move in that direction.

  17. Jay Guin says:


    I agree that there is no pure government solution. However, there are times we can't achieve Jesus' goals except by working with government. For example, suppose the government were to tax the poor at higher marginal rates than the rich. There's no cure for that injustice other than to petition the government to reform itself. Only the legislature can change such an injustice.

    There are also times when private charity can't handle a task alone. If the people of a nation on our enemies list suffer a natural disaster, we may not be able to legally get private charity to them without help from our government. And in the case of a Katrina, rebuilding efforts would be beyond the abilities of any private charity. Nonetheless, the church should in Washington seeking help from the government that is just and righteous.

    For that matter, sometimes a law is needed so that no business gains a competitive advantage for unrighteous practices. If a manufacturer can make its product more cheaply by polluting (or using child labor, or paying bribes), it does little good to prevail on the Christian-owned companies not to pollute. When they clean up their pollution, they'll go broke from price competition with the sinners — especially in a commodity market. The only way one business can clean up and stay in business is if the government requires all businesses to do the same.

  18. Jay Guin says:


    I'd agree that many economic issues don't carry much moral weight, but many do. Taxing the poor at higher rates than the rich, for example, seems immoral to me. Imposing impossible debts on our children and grandchildren to subsidize our standard of living today is a moral issue. Often it's a judgment call. In such a case, the role of the Christian community is, I think, to educate the electorate and politicians on the moral considerations. We sometimes need to remind people that Christians aren't called to generous in the church building and selfish in the voting booth. But we may well disagree over which course of action is the most loving for our neighbors.

  19. Terry says:

    "But we my well disagree over which course of action is the most loving for our neighbors."

    Jay, I like that quote because it makes the point that we can approach politics with the motive of loving our neighbors. We do not need to approach politics with selfish motives. Our judgments may differ on complicated pieces of legislation, but we can be involved in politics with good motives and good judgment. I believe your responses to other comments on this issue have been excellent. You have shown that we can be responsible Christians while engaging in politics.

  20. With all due respect, this is the Lord who feeds 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. "Can't" is not in His vocabulary. God underwrites His projects, but first He stretches us: "You give them something to eat." He doesn't mean, figure it out practically (the apostles tried that), He means, "You have power because you're with me. Use it!"

    Candidates, in general, lie. The parties are completely corrupt. Leaders ignore the people. What do you do when the government doesn't follow its own rules? What will you do when Christians are discriminated against? It's better to say, "There are times when the government, for whatever reason, lines up with what God is doing. But we never rely on that being the case."

    Corporations that cheat get ahead because Christians purchase from them. If we had any reputation in the world, then one of us could say, "I'm not buying from them," and the craze would sweep the nation. It's telling that we don't lead the culture, at least privately.

    The poor have to shop cheap because we all have three TVs, cable service, jewelry, spinners on our Geo Metros, and other things that have taken precedence over people. Look at our homes, buildings, and lifestyles. There is enough money in the church. God won't give us any more because we're using it improperly. We still think it's a zero sum game, but He owns the cattle on a thousand hills! We give a car, we get two more, so we an keep giving! That's the way it's supposed to work.

    This is why God says to Israel in 2 Chr 7 "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." If God's people will live under His command, and walk by His very Word (step here. now step there…) God will do the fixin'. THAT is our God, worthy of praise, and glory, and power, and honor!

    I'm not angry with anyone here, or any of the remarks. I AM angry with the enemy for making God look incapable next to the problems we face around the world. God should get all the glory He deserves! He is Almighty, 100% pure, holy and perfect, all-powerful, most-high, walk-on-water, feed-the-hungry, death-can't-keep-Him-down, sin-eradicating, guilt-destroying, love-inducing God! Worthy of ALL of our faith! Not just the part we can figure out.

    Let's ask God what He thinks about what we're saying. Then listen. Then repent. Then do what He says. Then let's come back next year and talk about this again, and see if our opinions are still the same.

  21. nick gill says:

    I guess Timothy and Trophimus didn't live under his command and walk by His Word, since He didn't do any fixin' for them.

    I find it ironic that you say "can't isn't in God's vocabulary" but you clearly believe that government and candidates are so corrupt that God can't redeem them, despite the overwhelming testimony of Scripture that says that the people of God have a prophetic role towards government.

    How dare that dumb ol' Nehemiah work with government to restore Jerusalem??? Clearly he had no faith.

    The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations, in the garden-temple-city of Revelation 22. Notice that the new creation is not merely another garden — it is a city. God can, and will, redeem even the frailties of human governments.

  22. nick gill says:

    "simply" visiting someone? I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I thought there was anything simple about visiting someone. I believe it is tremendously important — I believe the most important ministry Christians do occurs where people live.

    And you're absolutely right — most churches have such a heavy focus in "getting Sunday morning right" that ministry gets relegated to an optional add-on to the Christian life.

    And there's no way Adam Smith was referring to gifts — 1) because he was at best a Deist, child of the Scottish Enlightenment, and 2) getting gifts and self-interest mixed up was precisely the problem at Corinth. Many of the Corinthians were merely pursuing their own interest, and using their gifts to please themselves (which Paul prohibits and Adam Smith encourages).

  23. nick gill says:

    I'd add, "Allowing foreign countries to be crushed by impossible debts in order to maintain our Western standard of living."

  24. Jody B. says:

    I didn't mean to say it was simple Nick. Sorry if it came out that way. I agree with your assessment of visitation completely.

    I certainly don't think that Jon's wife was using her gift for her own satisfaction though. When each of us use our own interests (i.e. talents and abilities) in service to others, we are truly happy because we are using what God has given us to accomplish his purpose. It's a bit of a stretch to see how Smith's philosophy can be related to church work, but that's how I saw it. I think we'd all agree that pursuing our own interests with regard to "what's in it for me" is a wicked thing.

  25. Nick,
    You sound a bit sarcastic for some reason? Happy to discuss, but let's try and focus on the subject at hand.

    Can't speak for what God did or did not do for Timothy or Trophimus. Never looked.

    Where did I say that anyone was unredeeamable? I was once completely corrupt. I am now redeemed. Same for you.

    My question is quite practical: What do you do when you believe 1)some things only work well with the government and 2) the government has ceased to function? This is where we are, so how do you handle that? Why would you join the Kingdom to corruption to get something done that could be done differently without them?

    The role of prophecy in government (and our role inthe Kingdom in general) is best illustrated here:

    Nehemiah was not under the Kingdom rule. His assignment was different, and He obeyed the Lord. In Solomon-ese, we would say there is a time for joining, and a time for conquering. Had we been obeying the Lord with Nehemiah's conviction, America would not currently be dead.

    I am in total agreement that God will redeem the governments. Let's also be wise about the conditions of that redemption. It doesn't have to wait until the end to be redeemed. But to be sooner, God's people have to do some repenting. The track record of the American church speaks to this. One of these items is partnering with the government to do things that we can't imagine being done any other way. That partnership may make it easier in the short run, but look at where the Social Gospel got us with Public Schools for example. Whenever we "partner" with the government, Christians typically abdicate their role in that partnership because they've accomplished their social goal. It's simply not a good long-term idea.

    When the governments collapse, God and our mission will still be the same. Governments should look to Christians for solutions, not the other way around.

  26. Jody B says:

    Here's a good example: the school at which I worked last year was started by a couple heavily involved in inner-city ministry. However, it is a public school which is government funded and therefore, subject to federal non-discrimination laws. Lo and behold, they hired an openly gay prinicipal first thing off. Now tell me how that was supposed to work. They wanted to bring glory to God, yet the administration of the school was corrupt from the get-go. Social justice, yes! Moral integrity…well,

    Jesus was phenominally apolitical for his day (even ours). The ultimate reason for His rejection is that he refused to play by the rules of the world to accomplish God's ends, which the Jews thought was a creation of a military and political machine. Constantine tried it and we got a pope, an emporer, inquisitions, immolations… Conspiring with government does not accomplish God's work. Never has, never will.

  27. Larry Short says:

    Since Adam Smith got a lot of comments above, I'll remind folks of major changes in the economic structure of our day. Major corporations, businesses with world wide impact such as major manufacturers, comodity producers (oil, chemicals, etc.) were not in Adam's formula. Usually if an individual or small group tried to improve their lives, that was good for all. Very different if a pesticide producer makes a poisionous product used worldwide for shareholder's profit.
    By the way, corporations, patents, etc. which create "too big to fail" key economic pieces, are government creations therefore require government laws & regulations. If all the world was single owner Adam's anarchary would work better.

  28. Larry Short says:

    It's not above but very important to the discussion above, on economics the Bible is anti debt. Most Biblical financial studies will give dozens or verses, for one of the oldest check

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