Thursday, February 13, 2014

The KLICE position

A month or so ago I had a comment on Helm’s Deep, on KLICE and its Director's advocacy of  ‘social transformation’. The Director of KLICE responds here. I am happy to have been put right by Jonathan regarding the institutional position of KLICE. I don’t think I said or implied that KLICE speaks for the TF, which is purely a research fellowship in which various views jostle side by side. But KLICE is, I now understand, free-standing within the UCCF and with overlapping interests with one research group of the Tyndale Fellowship, and otherwise devoted to its own research and advocacy. I am sorry to have got things not quite right.

Jonathan says KLICE also has an opinion page or pages, which do not speak for KLICE, though obviously a piece by the Director of KLICE carries more than ordinary gravitas, and later on in his reply, he makes no bones about this. This was my original concern.  KLICE does not only foster research, but takes a strong line on Christian ‘social transformation,’ the very area in which they research.

Otherwise,  the remarks in Helm’s Deep were not far off the mark. The Director of KLICE tells us that he is an impatient advocate of ‘the good news that God is, in Jesus, in the business of reclaiming the whole of his rebellious and broken creation as his own and that this in-breaking, transforming Kingdom is already present now, in Christ himself and in his Body’. Such a man is not going to have much time for diverging views, whatever he may say.

Nevertheless it is important to note that there is another position, (as he acknowledges). another view of the church and of the scope of Christian ethics, nearer, I say, to both the spirit and letter of the New Testament. The church is an exclusively spiritual body, spiritual both in her concern for the spirits of men and women, and as a chief locus of the regenerating and sanctifying work of God the Holy Spirit. She is formed of those who, relying on divine promises, are in this life pilgrims and strangers, who look for a city which has foundations, whose maker and builder is God. Through the churchly means of grace they are being helped to put on the whole armour of God in their daily fight against the principalities and powers.

Do such people have obligations to others?  Most certainly they do. They are ‘to do good to all men, especially those who are of the household of faith’, to their fellow Christians and to the wider community. Their influence should be manifest in the family, at work and at play and through the part they take, or may take, in voluntary societies, and so on. But how they meet such obligations, in their competition with other obligations they have, is largely up to them. The idea that the church might have social programmes for 'transformation' of society is not part of this outlook, for their clamour can easily drown out the good news of salvation through the cross of Christ, in rather the way the Judaizers compromised the gospel in apostolic times. One thing is needful.

As far as I can see no Christian group in history has thought that what they were about was fostering the ‘in-breaking, transforming Kingdom’ in the sense that Jonathan has in mind. Not the medieval Papacy, not the Anabaptists at Munster, not Wittenburg or Geneva or Canterbury, not English Dissent. Not until the advent of the social gospel did churches acquire the ambition of establishing the kingdom of God on earth. So a good question is: Where did the idea of the Christian Church being engaged in societal and cultural transformation as an essential outworking of the Great Commission come from? Perhaps the Director of KLICE would consider the idea of supporting a PhD student or two to look into things?