Saturday, September 27, 2014

John R.W. Stott on Being Salt and Light

The world is evidently a dark place, with little or no light of its own, since an external source of light is needed to illumine it. True, it is "always talking about its enlightenment," but much of its boasted light is in reality darkness. The world also manifests a constantly tendency to deteriorate. The notion is not that the world is tasteless and that Christians can make it less insipid ("The thought of making the world palatable to God is quite impossible"), but that it is putrefying. It cannot stop itself from going bad. Only salt introduced from outside can do this. The church, on the other hand, is set in the world with a double role, as salt to arrest--or at least to hinder--the process of social decay, and as light to dispel the darkness.
What message do we have, then, for such people who feel themselves strangled by 'the system', crushed by the machine of modern technocracy, overwhelmed by political, social and economic forces which control them and over which they have no control? They feel themselves victims of a situation they are powerless to change. What can they do? It is in the soil of this frustration that revolutionaries are being bred, dedicated to the violent overthrow of the system. It is from the very same soil that revolutionaries of Jesus can arise, equally dedicated activists--even more so--but committed rather to spread his revolution of love, joy and peace. And this peaceful revolution is more radical than any programme of violence, both because its standards are incorruptible and because it changes people as well as structures. Have we lost our confidence? Then listen to Luther: "With his single word I can be more defiant and more boastful than they with all their power, swords and guns."
John R.W. Stott, Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (InterVarsity Press, 1978), pgs. 58-59, 64.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

John Murray on the Cultural Mandate

There is an indication in Genesis 1 and 2 of the variety which would have characterized his labours in a state of confirmed integrity. The other mandates—the replenishing of the earth and subduing it—involved labour also. Even in the genial conditions which would have obtained in an uncursed earth it is not difficult to imagine the labour entailed in geographical expansion and the necessity of making adequate provision for sustenance and comfort in this process of expansion. But more significant in respect of labour is the mandate to subdue the earth. This means nothing if it does not mean the harnessing and utilizing of the earth’s resources and forces. We are not to suppose that the earth is represented as offering resistance to man’s dominion and that the subduing was to be that of conquering alien and recalcitrant powers. But the subduing of the earth must imply the expenditure of thought and skill and energy in bringing the earth and its resources under such control that they would be channeled to the promotion of certain ends which they were suited and designed to fulfil but which would not be fulfilled part from the exercise of man’s design and labour. In the sense in which Jesus spoke of the Sabbath as made for man and not man for the Sabbath, so we may not say that the earth and its resources were made for man and not man for them; he was to exercise dominion over them, they were not to rule over him The earth and its resources were to be brought into the service of his well-being, enjoyment and pleasure.
John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1957), 36-37.