Monday, January 28, 2019

John Murray on Church and Culture

A topic that has received a bit of attention in recent years is the mission of the church, especially the church as an organization. Some would restrict it to the proclamation of the gospel, narrowly defined, while others seem to broaden it to the point where the church is responsible to do a little bit of everything in society. John Murray (1898-1975) wrote an article “The Church – Its Identity, Function, and Resources,” found in the first volume of his Collected Writings. The article does an excellent job articulating the church's uniqueness without unduly restricting it. Here is what he had to say about the how the church's ministry of the word connects with culture:
“The second aspect of this proclamation is the declaration of the whole counsel of God as it bears upon every sphere of human activity. The church is not to discharge the functions of other institutions. It must not invade other spheres. But the church is charged to define the functions of these other institutions and the lines of demarcation by which their spheres are distinguished. It would be a travesty, for example, for the church to discharge the functions of the civil magistrate either locally or nationally. But the functions and duties of the civil magistrate do come within the scope of the church’s proclamation in every respect in which the Word of God bears upon the proper discharge of these functions and responsibilities. When the civil authority trespasses the limits of its authority, it is the duty of the church to condemn such a violation. When laws are proposed or enacted that are contrary to the Word of God, it is the duty of the church in proclamation and official pronouncement to oppose and condemn them. And it is also the obligation of the church to inculcate respect for and obedience to all enactments of civil authority that are the legitimate exercise of its function. It is misconception of what is involved in the proclamation of the whole counsel of God to suppose or plead that the church has no concern with the political sphere. The church is concerned with every sphere and is obligated to proclaim and inculcate the revealed will of God as it bears upon every department of life.” (John Murray, “The Church – Its Identity, Function, and Resources,” Collected Writings, vol. I, p. 241) 

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