Social Disorder Is Often the Occasion for God’s Reformation of the Church

Written by Mark Farnham

On March 24, 2020

Coronavirus TP

The Cornona virus has brought social disruption on the scale only rivaled by wars and terrorist attacks. It can be for Christians a great temptation to panic and retreat from society, and to circle the wagons to wait out the attack so we can get back to our normal, comfortable way of life and church.

Theologian David Wells, however, calls us to see if God might be doing some house cleaning in the American evangelical church through social upheaval:

It is, perhaps, one of the oddities of God’s providence that reformation in the church’s life, of which the evangelical world surely stands in need, has often been abetted, if not triggered, by social disorder. Before God rebuilds, he often pulls down and plucks up. Unhealthy habits of mind and injurious patterns of life that might have been in the making for long periods of time are often more easily swept away by social chaos than by a preacher’s appeal to conscience.

It was so with unhappy regularity throughout the Old Testament, and it seems to have been so throughout the life of the Church. The moments of deep transformation, such as those that occurred at the time of the Reformation, also seem to happen at times of great upheaval in society.

I believe that we are now living in such times, and though I see many of the omens that would portend a very troubled future and perhaps the disintegration of Western civilization, this is also a moment when, in God’s mercy and providence, the Church could be deeply transformed for good–provided that, unlike the frog, it knows how to jump out of the pot.

David Wells, No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology (Eerdmans, 1993), 91.

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