We have been in a battle for a while now about mission and mercy, welfare and faith, witness apart from Christ. We had this argument with some years ago about not giving a Christian witness or offering a prayer when helping people get out from the effects of natural disasters and tragic circumstances. We argue about a Christian witness without any acts of mercy at all. We argue about witnessing to Jesus and not trying to bring people into the Lutheran church, as if these people can develop a faith apart from the church in which the spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies. When God calls someone to faith He calls them into fellowship with Christ and with a community of faith.
Carl Braaten was a powerful churchman and teacher years ago. He was a professor at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. He wrote a book called “Eschatology and Ethics” in which he made this prescient remark. Remember he wrote this in 1974.
“It is necessary to warn against a careless disregard for all the Christian character of the churches involvement in welfare activity. The spirit of the times is dictating a self-defeating kind of tolerance which makes the church and easy victim of secularism. It is at work in all the churches auxiliaries, including it’s colleges and agencies. According to the spirit the church is guilty of discrimination and zealotry if it insists on Christian commitment and articulateness on the part of those who represent its services in the world. I am ashamed to see how often Christians, even in high posts of leadership, are themselves ashamed of the implications of the gospel truth they profess to believe and have to declare. There will be a trend for the infiltration of the ranks of the army of Christian social workers by fifth columnists who mean to do good and serve people who do not share the faith of Jesus Christ. This will bring about it a further weakening of Christian witness in the world, an erosion of faith, a diminishment of the sacrificial spirit, because people will be in it for a job. And the job is a job. It is exchangeable for another job, a better job. No vocation, no calling.”