Can evangelicals pick up the fragments in a constructive way?

Professor Paul Ramsey’s Who Speaks for the Church?, just detonated by Abingdon Press as somewhat of an ecumenical bombshell, has much to commend it. But this critique of ecumenical ethics also confronts the evangelical community—for which Ramsey is an uncomfortable spokesman—with the task of fixing its own perspectives in regard to social justice.

The Princeton professor calls upon the churches to “return to the fundamentals of Christian social ethics” and to rectify their message to the world. He rightly deplores the optimistic identification of the Church’s outlook with the secular city’s autonomous decisionmaking. He also insists that the Church has no divine revelation or special competence in specific policy formulation. He is equally concerned—as all of us ought to be—that Christianity not become a spiritual cult lacking a pertinent social outlook, as well it might through pious disregard of urgent secular problems.

Evangelicals, who have much to say about the primacy of evangelism and missions, ought to take this opportunity to consider what they may properly say to the world about social justice. The Christian community is called to proclaim God’s full counsel. That counsel, of course, is first and foremost the evangel, the good news that redemption is offered in Christ’s name. But the Church is also to declare the criteria by which nations will ultimately be judged, and the divine standards to which man and society must conform if civilization is to endure. Surely the present hour of social lawlessness and unrighteousness is one in which both law and Gospel need to be vigorously published. All that the scriptural revelation says about the nature and role ...

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