Continuing our Evangelical Documents Study Series, we'll be looking at the fifth section of the Lausanne Covenant, promulgated in 1974 by the first International Congress on World Evangelization. The first portion dealt with the purposes of God; the second portion dealt with the nature and authority of Scripture; the third portion dealt with the uniqueness of Christ as the only savior; the fourth portion dealt with the nature of evangelism; and now the fifth portion concerns Christian social responsibility:
5. Christian Social Responsibility
We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all people. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression. Because men and women are made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, colour, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbour and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.
Once again, I as an Evangelical find nothing objectionable here. I note with pleasure that the Lausanne Covenant carefully avoids certain buzzwords such as "social justice", which sadly is often enough used as code for certain political agendas that it is no longer a fruitful way of expressing a proper Christian commitment to 'works of mercy' in this age. The Lausanne Covenant here denounces all sorts of evils, including those that would deny the dignity of any human being made in God's image. While making sure to distance itself from certain quasi-religious trends such as those found in certain forms of liberation theology, the Lausanne Covenant also affirms the duty of Christians to seek the liberation of all those who are truly oppressed. And, while avoiding any sort of works-based salvation scheme, the Lausanne Covenant notes that those of us who have been and are being saved ought to be transformed in such a way that we will do works fitting for the kingdom.