Engaging Culture and Common Good

I had to save this short post by Dr. Richard Mouw. His work on public theology and common good has helped me engage the world and see God’s goodness rather than pick sides or create “insider-outsider” dynamics.

Several good folks are offering excellent responses to the recent declaration by John MacArthur and company condemning those of us who advocate for “social justice.” No need for me to add to the well-stated critiques (such as Mike Gerson’s latest in the Washington Post). But I am a bit concerned about those who defend social justice advocacy as long as it draws only on “the Bible itself.” This ties in with those who accuse some of us for being too “accommodating” to “secular culture” on some justice issues–such as gender concerns and the anti-racism cause.

One of the memorable sermons I have heard was from a Grand Rapids preacher, Clarence Boomsma, back in the 1970s, on Jonah on the ship threatened by a storm. He said there was a dispute there between two parties: a prophet of the true God and a bunch of pagan sailors. If that is all the information we had, he said, and we had to choose sides, we would obviously put our money on the prophet. But in this case, he noted, the pagan sailors were speaking truth when they told the prophet he was putting them in danger by his own disobedience. Boomsma’s memorable punchline: sometimes the world preaches important messages to the church. I am happy, then, not simply to reject out of hand what secular activists have to say to us on gender and race matters. It is important to listen carefully lest we miss some good sermons.

– Richard Mouw

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