Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 2

No doubt when it comes to what the Bible has to say about economics and "social justice," many point to the prophets - both major and minor. The prophets witnessed rampant injustice and sins against the poor and marginalize and preached against it. However, often when we limit the message of the prophets to that of social justice, we are missing their central message. The authors of Seeking the City explain:
Overwhelmingly, these true prophets were concerned with the first three commandments of the Decalogue as their chief indictment against Israel, for the people had persistently failed to worship only Yahweh, had filled the land of promise with idols, and had thus taken Yahweh's name upon themselves in an empty display ("in vain"). No examination of the work and writings of the OT prophets can possibly begin without recognizing this fact. (122)
We pause here only to emphasize what Brand and Pratt are arguing. As the authors will argue in the quotes below, the emphasis the prophets laid on what we now call social justice stood in the context of returning Israel to the worship of Yahweh and not to false idols. Returning to true Yahweh worship will lead naturally to a real love of neighbor. The authors go on:
Their primary mission, their pervasive and unending task, was to call God's covenant people first, and through them all peoples, to worship the one true God exclusively and completely. They were not first social and political reformers - they were revivalists and awakeners to genuine faith in God. To the extent that they were on the side of those who had remained faithful to Yahweh in spite of the times, they were comforters of true believers, the "poor" (Isa. 61:1, who are here the "meek" of Isa. 59:20, "those who turn from transgression in Jacob"). But they were decidedly discomforters to the comfortable who were "at ease in Zion." (122)
Again, clarity on the message of the prophets. We do them and the inspired Scriptures a disservice when we label them social and political reformers first. To do so would require hermenteutical gymnastics by ignoring the rest of their writings and ministry. The authors then add:
In the context of this singular mission to call for the true worship of Yahweh as commanded at Sinai, it is surely proper to emphasize the aspects of their message that are what we call "social." What is not proper is to allow this one facet of their overall message to become a rallying cry for "reforms" in a twenty-first-century setting divorced from a call for the worship of the one true God revealed at Sinai and in the Scriptures. The idolatry charge takes precedence over the social concerns because no true benefaction can happen without the clarity of Yahweh worship. . . . This primary call is grounds for every other application of the further demands emanating from the fire on the mountain in the wilderness. They cannot be made to say something more or less than was revealed there. The Torah of God is the text and context for the preaching of the true prophets. (123)
Let us, then, move to our current context. When progressive theologians and social gospelers point us to the prophets with their emphasis on social justice, they are missing one central ingredient of their ministry: repentance. To the prophets, their idolatry was seen in how they treated one another especially the poor and the marginalized and the clear presence of injustice in the cities. The answer, then, is not statism or the social gospel, but repentance. Love God, then you will be able to truly love your neighbor.

Our nation, then, needs a revival of repentance, not a revival of progressivism.

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 2

For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther
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