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Baptist Beliefs: The Christian and the social order

Jesus told the disciples that we are “the salt of the Earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt 5:13-16). He gave us the reason and the priority for this teaching in the Great Commandment, “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and the second command that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37-39).

Our efforts to obey these commands should lead us to active involvement in society as servants of the true and living God and our fellow man.  This active involvement holds to an ideal that, “Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of truth, and brotherly love and …with all men of good will in any good cause.” (BF&M Article XV)

Baptists believe genuine change for good in society comes from the transformed lives of people who have experienced the forgiveness and salvation of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Gospel. (Article XV) At the same time, we believe the world was created by God, and everyone bears His image, inherently possessing dignity and value with a conscience and a capacity for moral conduct, whether Christian or not.

Involvement in our society is a part of our faith and living out of the demands of the Gospel. We hold that life has an intrinsic moral dimension, and conduct must be given standards and limits for the good and sake of all in society.  Laws do not change someone’s desire to commit a sinful or unlawful act, but laws that reflect principles of righteousness and lawfulness do have an impact on human conduct for the good of all.  We do legislate moral conduct in our society. As citizens with constitutionally protected religious liberty, Baptists and other Christians as responsible citizens seek both to speak and to act toward that goal, through law, policy, and our societal structures.

Baptists have historically sought to bring good to our society through acts of compassion and through political involvement. Our lives, our resources, and our voices must help those in need, like the widow, the orphan, the poor, the abused, the aged and unborn children who cannot defend themselves and are killed by abortion. We also must oppose racism. Even though we are the most racially diverse denomination in the U.S. we still fall far short of our ideal. Unfortunately, we are often not effective opponents of greed and materialism.

Baptists advocate sexual morality as an important virtue and moral standard for our society. Our confession holds that “Christians should oppose . . . all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.” (Article XV) Needless to say, this presents a challenge! Our  society is not overly concerned about adultery nor pornography despite the destruction it is causing to the lives of individuals, families, and society. Further, governing authorities have begun to hold there is no religious liberty for Christians to act upon their Christian faith in regard to increasing homosexual demands of Christians to change or compromise their faith or pay the consequences of being in violation of the law  (as evidenced by the recent New Mexico Supreme Court decision). It will take faith, hope, love and courage to be salt and light in our world, but we must.

The late Southern Baptist leader and author, Chuck Colson, ended his wonderful book on the church, titled Being The Body, with this exhortation, “If faith is at war with fear, if catastrophe can turn from death to resurrection, if hope can triumph over despair . . . if there was ever a time for the church to be the church, it is now.”

 

Mark McClellan

Author: Mark McClellan

Mark McClellan is the Dean of the Hershel H. Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry and professor of theology and missions at OBU.

View more articles by Mark McClellan.

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