IV. EVANGELIZATION AND SOCIAL JUSTICE8
our traditions have approached the linkages between these two
subjects in such different ways we have decided to have each
side elaborate the connection in its own way before we show
our convergences and differences.
Pentecostal Reflections on Evangelization and Social Justice
churches believe that they have been called by God in the "last
days" (Acts 2:17) to be Christ-like witnesses in the power
of the Spirit. One of the major contributions of Pentecostals
to other Christian communities is an understanding of the Church
as a Spirit-filled missionary movement which not only founds
communities but also cultivates them, while the Holy Spirit
empowers them with the charisms.
Pentecostals have sometimes been accused of emphasizing evangelization
to the exclusion of helping people in their practical needs.
The sense of urgency which Pentecostals have concerning witness
and salvation of the lost, like that of the early church, is
not inconsistent with love and care for one another and for
others. There are many examples of their sacrificial care throughout
the world. The hope in the imminent coming of the Lord has sustained
Pentecostals during persecution, harassment, imprisonment, and
martyrdom during this century. They have consistently taught
that the Church must be ready for the coming of the Lord by
means of faithful witness and holy living. They have taught
that all will have to give account to the righteous Judge for
those things which have been done or left undone.
Pentecostals have a great concern for the eternal salvation
of the soul, but also for the present welfare of the body as
is readily apparent on the high priority they give to the doctrine
of divine healing. In addition, they have had a real concern
for the social as well as for the spiritual welfare of their
members, especially in the third world. Theologically, the rebirth
of a person by the Spirit is the anticipation of the transformation
of the cosmos (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; Rom 8:21). This is why
conversion and incorporation into the community of faith cannot
be seen apart from the transformation of society The person
filled by the Spirit of God is impelled by that same Spirit
to cooperate with God in the work of evangelism and social action
in the anticipation of the new creation.
With their increasing numerical strength and upward social mobility,
Pentecostal communities are now confronted by greater challenges
for the kinds of social justice and human-rights concerns which
the Catholic dialogue partners rightfully voice. Pentecostals
continue to believe that intense hope has been and will continue
to be necessary for endurance, healing and engagement of the
forces both social and spiritual which oppress and
it seems to Catholics that Pentecostals have reflected too little
on problems related to social structures, Pentecostals suggest
that social conditions under which they existed during early
stages of their corporate experience be kept in mind. They had
no access to structures of power by which they could influence
public policy directly This has meant that:
Most Pentecostals do not give priority to systematic reflection
on problems related to social structures. They place more
attention on the ways people experience those problems in
their own lives and communities.
B. Pentecostalism, for the most part, has not existed until
recently among "well educated" people who are able
to reflect more systematically on structural dimensions of
C. Pentecostals do not read the New Testament as placing high
priority on structural change; rather they read it as emphasizing
personal conversion and commitment to the communities of faith,
and through that process they effect social change.
perceived lack of stress on structural change does not, however,
imply a lack of interest in social issues. Pentecostal conversion,
while being personal, is not simply an individual experience,
but also a communal one. In the life of the community, Pentecostals
have found a new sense of dignity and purpose in life. Their
solidarity creates affective ties, giving them a sense of equality.
These communities have functioned as social alternatives that
protest against the oppressive structures of the society at
large. Along with some social critics, Pentecostals have discovered
that effective social change often takes place at the communal
and micro-structural level, not at the macro-structural level.
have continued to speak and act on behalf of those victimized
by abortion, pornography, violence, oppression, etc. They have
been concerned with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked,
and providing emergency disaster relief. They have expanded
their educational efforts and have begun to address issues of
social-structural evil more explicitly. They are discovering
their responsibility for those structures and their ability
to influence them for good. This awareness was particularly
fostered in situations of political and economic oppression.
their earliest existence, Pentecostals have been active in missionary
endeavors in the so-called "Two/Thirds" world. The
churches established there have opposed social evils from the
pulpit and on an interpersonal level in the oral fashion typical
of the non-literary culture of Pentecostals. This concerns evils
such as the Caste-system in India, polygamy in Africa and the
Pacific and genital mutilation in some African countries. Here
exists a difficulty of perception. For older, more literary
publics, only what is written and documented is perceived as
having real existence. Pentecostals have begun to document work
being done on these kinds of social issues in which they may
have participated for many years.
recent years and in various parts of the world, there have been
a number of attempts to formulate Pentecostal social ethics
which address the issues of structural change. Some Pentecostals
have used the category of the new creation/Kingdom of God with
its characteristics of justice and peace to develop criteria
for structural change. This has been connected with passages
such as Luke 4:16-18 which demands the liberation of the oppressed
in the power of the Spirit. Other Pentecostals speak more in
terms of principalities and powers, of demonic forces which
are present in the structures of the oppressive systems (cf.
Eph 6:12; Col 2:13-15), that need to be fought with prayer and
even prior to these efforts, Pentecostals sometimes consciously,
but usually unconsciously, have long used a number of significant
theological criteria for taking social responsibility More specifically,
the ongoing narrative or story of Pentecostal communities has
functioned to move people from their experience of the biblical
witness to serious and often successful attempts to solve social
problems. Likewise, ethical concerns about matters of justice
and peace have developed in Pentecostal communities as they
have correlated specific biblical injunctions with the reading
of the Bible as a whole.
summary, the emphasis Pentecostals place on personal evangelism
and incorporation into Christian communities as a means of cultivating,
pursuing, and even propagating social structures may differ
in method or emphasis from other Christian communities. Certainly
as these relatively young churches continue to grow and mature,
they will need to grow also in their capacity to address social
issues on the societal level from their own perspective and
identity Nevertheless, up to this point these emphases in Pentecostal
ministry have not been without impact, and not just in terms
of generating and supporting acts of mercy. All this being said,
however, we would anticipate that the Pentecostal style of engaging
in justice will continue to differ from that of other Christian
Catholic Reflections on Evangelization and Social Justice
tend to view the questions of societal change, church and state
relationships, and human rights, from the perspective of a complex
and rich Catholic social teaching which is more than a century
old in its development. It has its roots in the Scriptures,
reached its highpoint at Vatican II, and continues on in the
Pontificate of John Paul II. For example, two of these documents
from Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the
Modern World and the Decree on Religious Liberty put the
Catholic Church on record as representing legitimate pluralism,
religious liberty, and the rights of people to be politically
and civilly self-determining. It furthermore holds that they
have socio-economic rights. It sees the human person as the
inviolable subject of these rights, which include religious
liberty. Human freedom is the condition not only of civil liberty,
but is fundamental to accepting the Gospel in the first place.
The Synod of Bishops of 1971, which focused on the question
of justice, spoke of the way in which the quest for justice
is an important part of the mission of the Church in these words:
"Action on behalf of justice and the transformation of
society is integral to the mission of the Church and the preaching
of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church's mission for
the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every
oppressive situation" (Justice in the World, introduction).
believers are called by God to engage in works of charity and
to strive for social justice. According to the Decree on
the Apostolate of Lay People of Vatican II, the laity, within
the church as a whole, led by the light of the Gospel and according
to the mind of Christ, are called to renew the temporal order
as their own special obligation (Decree on the Apostolate
of Lay People, 7). The Decree points to the need to change
unjust structures, stating that " the demands of justice
should first be satisfied... Not only the effects but also the
causes of various ills must be removed. Help should be given
in such a way that recipients may gradually be freed from dependence
on others and become self-sufficient " (Decree on the
Apostolate of Lay People, 8).
transforming power of the Gospel on individuals, communities,
and society is the grace of God, especially as mediated through
Word and Sacraments. It is in the prayer of the Church, (i.e.,
in the Eucharist, in the other sacraments, as well as in the
daily prayer of the people) that we are united to the transforming
prayer of Christ. He taught us to pray for the coming of the
Kingdom (Mt 6:10), which by its very nature is God's gift and
work. We do not construct the Kingdom but rather ask for it,
welcome it, and rejoice in its growth within us. Prayer empowers
us, in fact, demands that we strive for just and loving relationships
among people, in family, in community and in society. These
are all included in Christ's redemptive work.
account of modern Catholicism's efforts in these matters of
evangelization, education and social justice would be incomplete
if it did not mention men's and women's religious communities.
Many of these religious congregations view their doing works
of justice and faith as intrinsic to their particular calling.
Many of their members live out this vision at great sacrifice
even of their lives.
speak of the "Kingdom of God" is to speak of the ultimate
will of God for the whole of creation. The symbol of the Kingdom
conveys not only what we hope for but also a sense of urgency
about our present responsibilities to be about the work of justice
and the ministry of reconciliation between individuals, social
classes and racial and ethnic groups. It also furnishes criteria
for promoting social well-being on personal, communal, and structural
Our Common Views Regarding Faith and Justice
and Catholics agree that the Word of God is the foundation of
both evangelization and social justice.
In the Old Testament there is a strong insistence that the people
whom God has freed should live justly (e.g. Jer 21:12 and 22:3;
Amos 5:7-12; 8:4-6; Mic 6:12). One OT passage about justice,
in particular (namely Is 61:1-3), is quoted by Jesus to characterize
His own proclamation (Luke 4:18-21). The fact that we find in
the Gospel both the Great Commission to evangelize the nations
(Mt 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18) and the Great Commandment to love
God and one's neighbor (Mt 22:34-40; Mk 12:28-34; Luke 10:27-28)
suggests that there is a continuum between the two.
as lived by the early Christians (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37) had
social implications. Their communities did not act from a concept
of social justice. The concern they showed for the poor, widows,
and strangers was not seen as an entirely separate activity
but rather as an extension of their worship.
evangelization and love for one's neighbor are intrinsically
connected and that basic to
this love is active work toward social justice;
even as we engage in evangelization, we need to give due
attention to the social welfare of our neighbor.
both Pentecostals and Catholics need to resist reductionism,
anthropocentrism, and politicization of Christ or the Gospel;
and the privatization of the Kingdom and individualization
of society. Here we see a point of strong convergence.
Clearly, any striving for social justice in which our faith
communities engage needs to be rooted in the life of God-Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit. God the Father, who blessed the creation
and called it good, commands us to look for justice for our
neighbor, particularly orphans, widows, and foreigners (Jer
the Son, the Redeemer, who accomplished the work of salvation
for the whole world, calls us to imitate His compassionate
ministry of preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, healing
the sick and feeding the hungry (Luke 4:16-21). In fact, He
identifies himself with them (Mt 25:31-46).
God the Spirit, who gives life, empowers us to witness to
the world in word and deed (Acts 1:8). Life in the
Holy Spirit, energizes Christians to engage in evangelization
and to work for justice in society. Transformed people are
compelled by the Spirit, the Creator and Sanctifier, to transform
the world in the light of the in-breaking Kingdom of God.
Things We Have Learned Together Perceptions and Convergences
and Catholics exhibit strengths and weaknesses in their understanding
and practice of evangelization and social justice. Pentecostals
believe that Catholics do not appreciate the social impact of
Pentecostal ministry. Though Pentecostals may lack a formal
social doctrine, Pentecostal evangelization has arguably a powerful
social impact on individuals, on family life and the whole community.
have come to realize that Pentecostals and Catholics have much
to bring to one another with regard to social justice. While
Catholics believe in the importance of personal faith, they
also put great emphasis on the power of the Gospel to change
societal structures. Pentecostals, on the other hand, have traditionally
pursued social change at the individual and communal levels.
Catholics wonder whether the Pentecostal theology of evangelization
leaves them ill-equipped for engaging in social justice. Pentecostals,
believe that Catholics should take more seriously the importance
of personal and communal transformation for promoting societal
realize that in some predominantly Catholic regions of the world
there are places where the Gospel does not always appear to
be effectively proclaimed and/or lived out in daily life.
believe that Catholics tend to minimize the impact of the power
of the Holy Spirit when it brings concrete changes on the level
of the individual, family and community. Pentecostals realize
that in the past they were often not sufficiently aware of the
implications of the Gospel for social systems.
and Catholics agree that the regrettable division among Christians
is a counter-witness to the credibility of the Gospel and a
hindrance to the effectiveness of promoting justice in the world.
Some non-Christians have used this division as a sign of God's
favoring of their own particular faith.
the work of evangelization and social justice, we believe, as
we have said above, that our communities are currently undergoing
a form of convergence. While the Catholic Church is in a process
of renewal in evangelization and pastoral formation, Pentecostals
are growing in an awareness of their responsibilities in the
matter of structures and social systems.
and Catholics believe Jesus Christ to be the Lord of the Kingdom
He came to proclaim, and in our preaching and understanding,
the Kingdom of God and social justice should not be separated.
Churches should strive to be faithful to the demands of the
Kingdom of God. Scandal is given when the churches, in their
social and historical existence, grow slack in pursuing the
divine purposes of the Kingdom.
differ in our emphases on the sources of evil, specifically,
as to what extent they are human, natural, and/or supernatural
origin. We also differ in the ways in which to recognize and
deal with them. This is an area in which both traditions have
much to learn from one another. We see the need to explore together
the theological nature of power and its appropriate or inappropriate
meditations. We need to ask how our spiritualities, explicitly
or implicitly, empower people to bear witness in evangelization
and social justice.
done for this section were by John C. Haughey, sj of Loyola
University, Chicago (Evangelization and Social Justice:
An Inquiry Into Their Relationship), and by Murl O. Dirkson,
Ph. D. and Karen Carroll Mundy, Ph. D., (Church of God) of
Lee University, Cleveland, Tennessee, USA (Evangelization
and Social Justice: A Pentecostal Perspective).