At De Regnis Duobus the other day, JJS was meditating (with Ecclesiasties) on “The Pointlessness of Philanthropy”. Now, I get his point that “earth (however you describe it), when divorced from heaven, is vain” (JJS has this habit of getting point across best in the comment trail!), but the discussion left me wondering: where do those in the Confessional Outhouse draw the line between Works of Mercy, and dreaded Transformationalism? I’ve always felt that, if things were done right, then Welfare would be a job not for the Kingdom of Man, but for the Church.
But if you get right down to it, wouldn’t a strong W2K’er hold that, just as there are no “Christian bakers”, there are no Christian Soup Kitchens? (Soup is created from soup ingredients the same way, regardless of whether it is bait for an offer of the gospel.) Thus, what business does a church have running a Soup Kitchen?
This may seem a little tongue in cheek, but I am honestly wondering: when does diaconal ministry cross the line into social gospel? Isn’t that the issue over which J. Gresham Machen determined that the PCUSA had just become too liberal — allowing missionary work to slide too far into works of mercy, at the expense of the gospel? How can the Kingdom of God meddle with improving the Kingdom of Men without becoming Joel Osteen?