Pentecostal Social Concern And The Biblical Mandate Of Social Justice

Pentecostal Social Concern And The Biblical Mandate Of Social Justice

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Pentecostal Social Concern and the Biblical Mandate of Social Justice

Murray

W.

Dempster*

Recognition

is expanding in Pentecostal circles that the church’s mission and

ministry of evangelism

should be augmented to include a commitment to social

justice.

“The

Gospel

cannot be

proclaimed fully,”

observes Manoel de Mello, “without

denouncing injustices committed

by

the

powerful

In this

challenging statement,

the Pentecostal founder of “Brazil for Christ” verbalizes the conviction of a growing number of Pentecostal leaders: the church’s

evangel- ism efforts need to be authenticated

by

a ministry of social action that

puts

into

practice

what it preaches.

Although recognition

of the need for the church’s social involve- ment has increased

significantly among

Pentecostals over the

past two

decades,2 very

little serious

theological

work has been devoted to the

development of a pentecostal

social ethic.3 As a consequence, current

engagement

in social

ministry among

Pentecostals seems to depend

more on the individual conscience of influential leaders and the time-bound

exigencies

of politics and culture than on

broadly- shared

theological agreements concerning

the nature of the church and its moral mission in society. The

pentecostal community

is still sorely

in need of a social ethic to

inspire,

direct and validate its ministry

of

promoting

and

instituting

social

justice.

In constructing a pentecostal social ethic, church leaders will find it

necessary

to look to the Old Testament moral tradition to discover the biblical

injunction

for God’s

people

to

pursue

social justice. Social justice

is not an explicitly articulated ethical

category within New Testament moral

theology, although

it is

certainly implied

in the New Testament as we shall see in the

concluding reflections of the article. But it is the Old Testament that

presents social justice

as the will of God

for society

and mandates the

people of God to

pursue

it.

The

purpose

of this article is to

identify

five ethical

principles from the Old Testament moral tradition that can

instigate

and nurture social concern in the

pentecostal community.

These five basic features of Old Testament social ethics are its theocentric foundation,

its

concept

of the

Imago Dei,

its

portrayal

of the covenant

people,

its

prophetic

tradition of social criticism, and its Jubilee

teachings.4

After

developing

these Old Testament ethical principles

and

suggesting

their relevance for

pentecostal

social concern,

the article concludes with a hermeneutical

argument

1

130

indicating

how the Old Testament

conception

of social

justice

can be

integrated

into a distinctively

pentecostal

social ethic

grounded in the Luke-Acts

interpretation

of

Spirit baptism.

Old Testament Social Ethics and its Theocentric Foundations: The Platform of Social Justice

A dominant feature in the biblical

portrayal

of Jewish life is the theocentric orientation of the Jewish

people.

God was at the center of all Jewish life-its social,

political

and economic

practices

and institutions. Their social life modeled their view of who God was and what God did. This theocentric orientation is crucial to understand the basis of Old Testament social ethics. “The

character, will,

word and work of

God,” according to Professor

Walter C. Kaiser,

“supply

the

determining principle

and central

organizing tenet of Old Testament ethics.”5 Thus, from its theocentric orient- ation,

a fundamental moral axiom came to dominate Israel’s life: “What God is in his character, and what God wills in his revelation

defines what is fight.”6

To determine what is morally good, therefore,

requires

the

prior theological

determination of who God is. For God and the

good

are inextricably

linked

together. Every theological

statement describ- ing

God’s character and action

simultaneously

is an ethical imperative prescribing

who God’s

people ought

to be and what

they ought

to do. As God

is, so

God’s

people

should be. As God

acts,

so God’s

people ought

to act. This

principle

of the imitation of

God, according

to T. B. Maston, “is the nearest

thing

we have in biblical ethics to one

unifying

theme or motif.”7

Against

this theocentric foundation which links

theology, ethics, and social life together, the

unfolding

of the revelation of God in the history

of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament takes on crucial significance.

As Israel came to a more

complete understanding

of God’s character

through

the

mighty

acts of God’s

self-disclosure, their

conceptions

of the moral foundations of their

political, economic and social life expanded and

deepened.

R. E. O. White, in his

study

of Biblical

Ethics, provides

an overview of Israel’s progressive

revelation of God and the

corresponding

ethical implications

which Israel

perceived

in God’s revelation for its social life.

White shows that in its early

history,

Israel vicwed Yahweh as a deity

who related to them within the context of its tribal life. While the Canaanites had Baal as their God, the

Israelites

had Yahweh Sabboath-Yahweh of the Hosts-as their defender

(I Kings 18:17-40).

On the basis of this

early

view of God’s character as Israel’s vindicator, Israel

developed

a corresponding ethical view to structure its nomadic life

grounded

in moral instincts such as

.

2

131

jealousy, revenge

and

pity. Clearly,

God’s self-disclosure

through

mighty

acts in Israel’s

history provided

a matrix within which

Israel’s

perception

of the divine character was progressively shaped .

to include ethical

qualities.

On the basis of this

unfolding

revelation

of God’s moral character, Israel

developed

a corresponding ethical

view

by

which to

judge

the

quality

of its social life

grounded

in

moral

principles,

such as justice, loving kindness

(f¡esed), mercy

and holiness. The

pinnacle

of this

theological-indicative/ethical _ ‘ imperative

development

occurred in Isaiah 40-66 when Israel came

to understand God as the One,

Only

True God. Israel came to the

theological

conviction that there were not true

gods

and false

gods

as it had believed earlier. There was

only

One True God whose

will,

word and character defined what was

morally right

for all

people.

On the basis

of

this

theological development

from Yahweh as

Israel’s national defender to God as the One True

God,

Israel’s

corresponding

ethical

development

can be charted from a

provin-

cial ethic

(God’s

will defines what is morally right for

Israel)

to a

universal ethic

(God’s

will defines what is

morally right

for all

peoples).8

The

importance

of White’s

analysis

for a developmental under- ‘

standing

of Old Testament social ethics can

hardly

be overstated.

As Israel’s view of God’s character

expanded,

its view of

morality

deepened

and with this ethical

development

a

platform emerged

from which

prophets

and

sages

could

appeal

for social

justice

in its

corporate

life.

Thus,

“Old Testament

ethics,”

as Walter Kornfield

states, “is … inseparably

connected with Old Testament

religion

and

fundamentally

aimed at

making

human behavior conform to

the will of Yahweh.” “The more

clearly

God’s

personal

will is

recognized

in its authoritative claim

upon

all

spheres

of

life,”

Kornfield

concludes,

“the more exalted does the ethical

message

become … God’s will is the

highest

ethical norm.”

The basic theocentric character of Old Testament social ethics .

provides

a

compelling

rationale for

pentecostal expressions

of

social concern. Social concern is nurtured in individual believers

and the

corporate

Church in the same

way

it developed in the Old

Testament. It is

brought

into existence and

kept

alive

by

a

deep

moral conviction that acts of

charity

and the

pursuit

of social

justice give tangible

witness to God’s own ethical character and to

God’s will for

society.

In this

sense,

the character and

quality

of

social concern in the

believing community

is no more and no less

than a reflection of its view of God. The moral vision of God’s

justice provides

the unshakeable

platform

for the

community

of

believers to involve itself in the

pursuit

of social

justice.

The Old

Testament not

only provides

a platform for social

justice

in God’s

own

character, however,

but it also establishes the

parameters

of

social

justice

in it doctrine of the

Imago

Dei.

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132

Old Testament Social Ethics and

the Imago Dei: Social Justice .

The Parameters of

in the

The creation of humanity in God’s own

image,

as portrayed Genesis creation narratives, is a

key ingredient

in the Old Testa- ment

conception

of social

justice.

Genesis 1 :27 declares, “and God created man in His

image,

in the

image

of God He created

them; male and female he created them.” Thus

humanity-the

“man” of Genesis 1 :27-was

distinquished

from the rest of created life in that only

Adam and Eve were created in God’s own

image.

Because

humanity

is the divine

image-bearer,

each

person possesses

a

unique

value to God. As a

consequence,

the Old Testament teaches that a

person

should treat with

respect

and dignity

other human

beings

who are also made in the

image

of God. Accordingly,

Genesis 9:6 prohibits murder

precisely

on the grounds of the

Imago

Dei. That

is, the act of murder

is such an egregious act of social

injustice precisely

because it violates and devalues the human

being

as bearer of the

image

of God.

Commenting

on the connection of the

image

of God in Genesis I and Genesis

9, Norman W. Porteous writes:

The manner in which the creation of man is introduced in

I :26 and the fact that the passage 9: I-7 implies that human

life has a

greater sanctity

than animal life and that this

difference is linked with the

image

of God

imply

that the

writer intends

by the phrase “image

of God” to express in

some way peruliar

dignity.1U fit

.

.

Implicit

in the

concept

of persons

being

created in the

Imago

Dei is the view that all human

beings

are of

equal

value to God and should be treated

fairly

and

equitably.

Social

justice

is rooted deeply

in this basic

assumption

that all men and women are bearers of the divine

image. “The

doctrine of creation

provides

a universal- istic base and

potential

for the ethic of the Old

Testament,”

as Dennis F. Kinlau

rightly

observes. I This universal base in the ethic of the Old Testament extends the

parameters

of social

justice beyond

the dominant

contemporary philosophical conceptions

of our time which

typically

determine

justice

on the basis of

merit, work, need, rank or

legal

entitlement.12 In contrast to such philosophical views,

the Old Testament teaches that

persons

are entitled to just treatment on the basis that

they

are

persons

created in the divine

image, nothing

more or nothing less.

Although

the rule of

practice governing

the administration of justice may need to adapt pragmatically

to the concrete

possibilities

of

practical life, the formal

principle

of

justice

in Old Testament social ethics is grounded

in the essential

dignity

of all human

beings by

virtue of

4

133

their

relationship

to their Maker. In the Old

Testament, therefore, the

parameters

of

justice

extend to all

people, including

the displaced

farmer,

the

widow,

the

orphan,

the

alien, the stranger,

the hired servant, the debtor, the

poor

and the

needy (Ex.

22:21-27; 23:9- I 1;

Deut.

10: 18; I 5:1-2; 23:19-20; 24:14-22; Lev. 19:9-34;

25 :2- 7).

Based on the

concept

of the

Imago Dei,

the

sage

could write, “He who

oppresses

a poor man insults his

Maker,

but he who is kind to the

needy

honors him”

(Prov. I4:31).

If the his in this text means that the

oppressor

insults the

poor

man’s Maker, then “there is an implied recognition

of a common

humanity-the needy

man is not merely

an

object

of passing sympathy, he is respected as a creation of the divine wisdom. “1.1 The

personal

worth of all human

beings who share in a common

humanity independent

of their

varying economic status in life is similarly stated in Proverbs

22:2,

“The rich and the

poor

have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all.” As C. H.

Toy points out,

“There are social differences

among men-but all men, as creatures of God, have their

rights,

and their mutual

obligations

of

respect

and kindness.”‘4

The fourth commandment of the

decalogue

also links the doctrine of creation to a social concern. The admonition to

.

“Remember the sabbath

day,

to

keep

it

Holy”

has a ceremonial

aspect

since a fixed

day

is set aside for rest and

worship (Ex.

20:8-1 Oa).

But there is a moral

aspect

to this commandment as well

which liearkens back to the creation narrative

(Ex. 20:1 1). As

God

worked for six

days

and rested on the

seventh, so people are

to do

likewise. The commandment to

incorporate

a day of rest into the

work week extended not

only

to the heads of households and sons

and

daughters,

but it included male

servants,

female servants and

even the

sojourner

who was a house

guest.

The law which instituted

the sabbath rest

explicitly

included those who

might

otherwise be

exploited by

an

unreasonably

hard taskmaster.

Although

the Old Testament social ethic is theocentric and not

anthropocentric

in its basic

foundation, the doctrine of humankind

as God’s

image-bearer provides

universal

parameters

in the

appli-

cation of social justice. Because all human

persons

are brothers and

sisters in the flesh due to their common

origin,

David

Moberg

claims that “social concern is irrevocably linked with the essential .

nature of man.”15 This doctrine of a humanity who is created in the

image

of God has a special relevance for a world-wide

pentecostal

movement in touch with millions of

people

on a

daily

basis. If it

shared a common social concern informed

by

the Old Testament

understanding

of human

origins,

the

pentecostal

church with its

global presence

is already

strategically

located to advance the cause

5

134

justice justice

of race, creed,

status or gender.

of social

of justice for all people independent

The Old Testament

provides

these universal

parameters

in its doctrine of the

Imago Dei,

the

platform

for social

in its theocentric

orientation,

and as we shall now

explore, the

principles

of social

justice

in its

concept

of the Covenant.

Ethics and the Covenant

Old Testament Social

individuals

(Gen. 21:27, 26:28;

11:4).

People:

The

.

.

Principles

of Social Justice

The

concept

of covenant is one of the

unifying

themes that link the

Law,

the

Prophets,

and the

Writings together.

T. B. Maston notes that the Hebrew word

berit,

translated

“covenant”,

is used to describe

agreements

of

many

kinds within Jewish life-between

1 Sam.

18:3),

between a husband and wife (Mal. 2:14), between tribes

(Ex. 23:32; Judg. 2:2),

between monarchs

( K. 20:34)

and between a monarch and his

people (2 K.

But the most

profound meaning

of berit refers to the covenant of God with his

people. It.

Walter

Eichrodt,

noted Old

says

that the idea of covenant “enshrines

fundamental

conviction, namely, its sense of a unique relationship

with God. “17 God was the one who entered into

with Noah

(Gen. 9), with

Abraham

(Gen. 17) and

with the chosen

people

at Sinai

(Ex. 19:2-6; 24:7). Referring specifically the Sinai covenant, Maston identifies the

significant

features of

Testament scholar, Israel’s most

covenanl

be .

to

God is always the initiator of the covenant; it is not a contract between two people of equal or near-equal standing. This means that

although

there are two

partners

in the covenant-God and Israel-it was

really

unilateral rather than bilateral. God alone stated the conditions of the

ing

.

covenant-giving

.

covenants behavior on Noah

God’s

.

.

in Israel’s life. The earlier

of

covenant; the people could not negotiate with God regard-

the covenant nor

change

its conditions.

They

could

either

accept

or reject it. Once

they accepted

it they could

not annul it, although they could violate its conditions or

break it. God alone had the power to dissolve the covenant;

a

power

He never used. He is revealed not

only

as a

but also as a covenant-keeping God. 18

The Sinai covenant was

unique

with Noah and Abraham laid no

specific obligations

or Abraham. The rainbow for Noah and circumcision for Abraham were

signs

of the covenant.

By contrast,

covenant at Sinai laid

specific

behavioral

obligations

on His people.

Obedience to the

principles

of the covenant was the

sign

of the covenant. It is within the context of covenant,

that the Ten Commandments

are to be

properly

understood as a list of

obligations

by

his

people

therefore,

interpreted.

and the law codes of Israel The Torah or law should not be

in

prohibitions

or a

legalistic

6

sense; instead

as Ellen Flesseman sion … of God’s covenant.

Flesseman’s

.

135

lt

points

out, “it is an expres- shows what it means to live as observations are borne out

by

words

ronomy

4:13 reiterates, commandments.” Further, ronomic

God’s

people….”’19

the biblical text. Exodus 34:28

says,

“he wrote on the tablets the

of the covenant-the Ten

Commandments,” and Deute-

“he declared to

you

his covenant,

in both the Exodus and the Deute-

brought you

The Ten Commandments the

second

20:12-17).

exercised

God should

20:15),

the ten

the Ten Commandments

are

forms of the

decalogue,

introduced

by

the covenant refrain. “I am the Lord

your

God, who

out of the land of

Egypt….” (Ex. 20:2,

Deut.

5:6).

are

comprised

of two

major

divisions;

first mandates

right

relations with God

(Ex. 20:3-11 );

the

mandates

right

relations

among people

within

society (Ex.

These “two tables”

always belong together.

No

duty

toward God alone can fulfill the duties that one

person

owes to all other human

beings

within

society. Right

relations with

be translated into dutiful obedience to the

principles

of the

sanctity

of the family

(Ex. 20:12),

the

sanctity

of life (Ex.

20-.13), the

sanctity

of

marriage (Ex. 20:14),

the

sanctity

of

property (Ex.

the

sanctity

of

legal justice (Ex. 20:16),

and the

sanctity

of pure

motivation

(Ex. 20 :17).20

Three

major

law codes-Ex.

book of

Deuteronomy-testify

the moral laws of the Covenant into concrete rules of practice that

in everyday life.:!1 A few examples from the materials of the law codes will illustrate this concrete

application

of social

justice.

As the covenant

people

of God, Israel was to have a social concern for the fair treatment of the hired servant, the

promoted

social justice

.

by day

I justify

for

stranger,

20:22-23:33; Lev. 17-26; and the that Israel

attempted

to translate

.

stranger,

the widow, the

orphan

and the

poor.

A hired servant who

was

poor-whether

a Hebrew or an alien-was not to be oppressed

the

withholding

of wages; the servant was to be paid on the same

the labor was

performed.

The covenantal refrain, “and

you

shall remember that

you

were a slave in the land of Egypt, therefore

am

commanding you

to do this

today,”

is the reason

given

to

this

practice (Deut. 24:14-18).

A stranger was not to be oppressed or wronged. The justification

this rule of

practice

is

grounded

in God’s

mighty

act which

established the

covenant,

“…

you

know the

feelings

of a .

for

you

were

strangers

in the land of

Egypt” (Ex. 22:21,

23:9).

The

stranger

was not to be

wronged

in

judgment,

in

of

weight

or

volume,

but was to receive the

just

The reason for this just treatment of a

is rooted in the covenant, “I am the Lord

thy

God, who

out from the land of Egypt”

( Lev_ 19:33-36). Similarly,

measurement

balance and

the just weight. stranger

brought you

7

136

the widow and the

orphan

were not to be afflicted.

Echoing

back to a time when God heard lsrael’s

cry and brought judgment

on

Egypt for its

injustice,

the reason

given

not to mistreat the widow and the orphan is,

“If

you

afflict him at

all,

and if he does

cry

out to

Me,

I will surely hear his cry”(Ex.

22:22-23).

But God

required

more than simply prevention

of harm for the

orphan,

the widow and the alien God wanted

justice

executed for the

orphan

and the widow and hesed

for the alien

expressed by giving

food and

clothing.

The justification

is found in a familiar covenantal refrain, “for

you

were aliens in the land of

Egypt” (Deut. 14:18, 19).

Likewise,

the

poor

were the

objects

of social concern. The presence

of the

poor provided

a constant

opportunity

for Israel to demonstrate its

loyalty

to the

covenant,

“For the

poor

will never cease to be in

your midst;

therefore 1 command

you saying, you shall

freely open your

hand to your brother to your needy and

poor in your land” ‘

(Deut. 15:7-I 1).=1 The poor

were due

justice

in the courts, false charges and bribes

were forbidden because such practices perverted

the cause of the

just (Ex. 22:25-27).

The Levitical code also underscored that the

poor

were not to be charged

interest on the

money they

borrowed but added that the poor

man was to be received as a house

guest

in the same manner in which

hospitality

was

given

to a sojourner. Further, the

poor

man was to be fed without

charge ( Lcv. 25:35-38).

Although

the Book of the Covenant in Exodus and the Levitical Code both

appeal

to the covenant to justify this fair treatment of the

poor,

each tradition does so in its own

unique way.

In

Exodus, the instruction

begins,

“If

you

lend

money

to

My people,

to the poor among you… ,9t

it continues

with

the

prohibition against charging

interest which

may

be oppressive and concludes with the warning,

“And it shall come about that when he cries out to

Me,

I will hear

him,

for I am

gracious.”

The obvious allusion in these verses is to the earlier account recorded in Exodus when God heard

the

cry

of the children of Israel in

Egypt

and delivered them and brought

them to Mount Sinai to

give

them a covenant. Now the oppressor may

be Israel itself which will not include the

poor- . whom God identified as

“My people”-within

the circle of the covenant. In Leviticus, the

prohibition against charging

interest for r money

and the

admonition

to care for the

poor

is followed

by

the preface

statement of the covenant: “1 am the Lord

your God,

who brought you

out of the land of

Egypt….”

The

logic

of the social ethics of the covenant is evident in these biblical materials. God first

designated

Israel as “My people,” not at Mount Sinai, but

during

Israel’s

Eyptian bondage.

It was in Egypt

where God heard the

cry

of “His

people… God brought

these

.

8

137

people

out of

Egyptian slavery by

God’s own

mighty

act of

liberation. In the Exodus account, God liberated all these

people,

including

the

slave,

the

servant,

the

widow,

the

orphan,

and the

poor.

At Mount Sinai, God established the

principles

of the

covenant-the Ten Commandments–within the framework, “I am

the Lord

your

God, who out of the

brought you

land of Egypt, out

of the house of slavery”

(Ex. 20:2;

Deut.

5:6).

The rules of practice identified in the three law codes fleshed out

the concrete

meaning

of the covenant for Israel’s social life as God’s

people. Repeatedly throughout

the law codes with their concern for

the

socially

and

economically disadvantaged

was the same cove-

nant theme, or same variation of it, which introduced the deca-

logue,

“1 am the Lord

your God,

who

brought you

out of the land of

Egypt,

out of the house of slavery.” The covenant

required

that if

God demonstrated such a deep social concern in the

mighty

act of ‘

liberating

the

oppressed,

then God’s covenant

people

should also

incorporate

into its social life an intense concern for the alien, the

,

poor,

the

hungry,

the widow and the

orphan.

These covenant

principles

of Old Testament social ethics have

profound significance

for

pentecostal

social concern. The New

Testament church as God’s new covenant

people

is the “fulfillment”

of the biblical

promise

rooted in the Old Testament

conception

of

Israel as God’s covenant

people (I

Cor. 11:25; 11 Cor.

3:6).

The

church that is empowered for witness

by the coming

of the

Spirit

in

Acts 2, therefore, is more than a voluntary association which seeks

to witness to “the

good

news” on an individual basis. Instead, the .

church is a new social

reality brought

into existence and

empow- ‘

, ered for mission by the

covenant-making

God of the Old and New

Testaments. Thus, the church is empowered by the

Spirit

to provide

a visible demonstration of what all of life should look like in the

new covenant established in Jesus Christ which “fulfills” the Old

Covenant.

Accordingly,

social

justice

should be

proclaimed

as

God’s will for the

global community,

and most

significantly,

it

should be modelled within the

pentecostal community

as a social

witness to the

power

of the

Gospel.

“The

primary

social structure

through

which the

gospel

works to

change

other structures,” as

John Yoder has stated, “is that of the Christian

community.”23

The

covenant

concept

of

providing

a social witness as a

signpost

of

being

God’s

people

and as an

agent

of

change

is crucial for a

pentecostal

social ethic

designed

to institute

good

news within a

world marked

by deeply

entrenched division and alienation.

In summary, the Old Testament identifies the

principles

of social

justice

in the

concept

of the covenant

people,

the

paramenters

of

social

justice

in its doctrine of the

Imago Dei,

and the

platform

for

.

‘ .

.

.

_

9

138

social

justice

in its theocentric foundation. These basic features of Old Testament social ethics also

provide

the

proper

framework in which to understand the

pleas

for social

justice

embodied in the prophetic

tradition.

Old Testament Social Ethics and

Prophetic

Criticism: The Pleas for

Social Justice

The social ethics of the Old Testament

prophetic

tradition24 is

more

closely

associated with the Law and the covenant than is

sometimes

supposed.

The biblical text

clearly

indicates that the

moral law and the

principles

of the covenant

provided

the

prophets ‘

with the criteria for their

judgment

of

specific

national sins and

served as a basis to call Israel and Judah to repentance.

“Prophetic ,

morality,”

as Yehezkel Kaufmann

rightly argues,

“is rooted in that

of the Torah as is its culmination.'”-5

Although

the

prophets

grounded

their ethical

pronouncement

in the

Torah,

the

prophets

grounded

the Law and the covenant itself more

deeply

in the

revelation of God’s ethical character. “The word of the Lord”26

which came to the

prophet

was a revelation of the character of the

God

who spoke

the Torah and established the covenant with God’s

people.

The

prophets’ message brought

this divine revelation of

God’s character to bear on the moral conduct of the nation.

_

This

“exegesis

of existence from a divine

perspective”27

marks the content of the

prophets’ message

in at least three

ways. First,

it gave to the

prophets’ message

a ring of powerful moral conviction in its indictments

against

the

unjust practices

of the covenant com- munity. Second,

it gave to the

prophets’ message

a particular moral insight

into the

political,

economic and social institutions and practices

which

promoted

and

perpetuated

the social

injustices within the covenant

community. Third,

it

gave

to the

prophets’ message

a passionate desire to induce God’s

people

to see afresh the moral character of God. The

prophets

seemed sure that if God’s people

would understand the nature of God and were

right

in their relations to

God,

then

they

would reform the

unjust

conditions of their

society

in order to have

right relations

with each

other,

an idea rooted in berit but raised to a new level of ethical consciousness

by the

prophets.

The

prophetic tradition,

it is generally acknowledged, reached its ethical

highpoint

in the

eighth-century prophets-Amos, Hosea, Isaiah,

and Micah.28 Amos is selected for examination in this section because he

explicitly

identifed

justice

as a fundamental moral

quality

of God’s character.

Although

all the

eighth-century prophets

called for

social justice

in the nation’s

life,29 Amos was the

.

10

context carried

139

of of

ministry

was and

military

neigh-

.

prophet

who

grounded

his

message

to Israel in the

conception God’s

justice.

To understand the

meaning

and

significance Amos’

prophecy,

we must hear it within the historical and social

in which he proclaimed it.3″ Amos’ prophetic

on under Jeroboam

11,

a

strong political

leader.

By exploiting

the

vulnerability

of its

war-ravaged

Jeroboam

brought

Israel into an

unprecedented period

of

clout and economic

growth. During his

reign,

Israel

successfully managed

to

gain

control of the

major trade routes of the

eighth-century

world.

bors, territorial

expansion,

political

.

which

brought

Israel into a

.

This new commercial renaissance of prosperity of the nation. primarily

commercialism, central

marketplace. economy gave became

within

social

associated

cism of

meaning

At

expansionism

also

brought

a shift in the social structure

Prior to this

period

of

expanded

trade, Israel was

a rural culture. With the

dominating

influence of the new

the nation’s

economy gradually

shifted to the

This shift from a rural to an

emerging

urban

rise to an

entrepeneurial

class of merchants who the

power-brokers

of the

developing

economic order. It is the

consolidating

influence of these

political,

economic and factors in Israel’s life-and the

practices

of social

injustice

.

through displacing landless

poor.

Amos’

prophetic

criti-

.

°

with these

developments-that

the

society

and his

pleas

for social

justice

take on concrete

and

significance.

the heart of Amos’

prophetic

criticism is his indictment of those members of Israel’s rich urban class who

gained

their wealth

their calculated

exploitation

of the

poor, particularly by

small farmers and

turning

them into a new class of the

He makes the

charge:

Hear this;

you

who

trample

the

needy,

to do

away

the

humble of the land,

saying,

“When will the new moon be

over So that we may buy grain, And the sabbath, that we

the wheat

market, To

make the bushel smaller ..

and the shekel bigger, And to cheat with dishonest scales So .

as to buy the helpless for money And the needy for a of . sandals, And that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?”

pair

may open

(Amos 8:4-6)

of exploi- oppressed

the

poor.

down on the size

.

First,

of the

purchased

less

grain illegally

6).

grain

the merchant to

In these

verses,

Amos identified a twofold

technique

tation

by

which the merchants

systematically

the merchants

rigged

their scales

by cutting

bushel and

increasing

the weight of the shekel so that the

poor

at greater cost

(v. 5). Moreover,

the

poor paid

inflated

prices

for “the

refuse,” the

lowest

quality

wheat

(v.

Often this

practice permitted

the merchant to

place

the best

on the

export

market for sale to the

highest bidder, allowing

make

greater profits by his exploitation

of the

poor

11

140

through selling

them low

quality grain.3′

This first

plank

of

systematic unjust profiteering

was an

especially

lucrative

way

to

exploit

the urban

poor

or those who travelled from the

nearby

country

to

buy grain

in the

city.

A second

plank

in the merchant’s

system

of

exploitation

was to

drive the small farmer

into greater

debt so as “to do

away (with)

the

humble of the land”

(v. 4),

or as the RSV translates

it, to “bring

the

poor

of the land to an end.” Since the Jewish law allowed for .

debt-ridden

people

to be sold into

slavery

or to become a hired

servant, foreclosing

a debt was a

legalized way

to

pilfer

the land

from the small farmer. In the culture of the Near

East,

the transfer

of real

property

was

accompanied by

the transfer of footwear.

Thus, in condemning

the merchants for

buying

“the

helpless

for

money

and the

needy

for a

pair

of sandals”

(v. 6),

Amos was

condemning

the merchants for the foreclosure of debt in order to

gain legal

title to the

poor

farmer’s land.32 What was

particularly

repugnant

to Amos was the

greed

that motivated the rich in this

land

“rip-off”

scheme. So insatiable was their

appetite

for more and

more wealth that

they

could

hardly

wait for the

sabbath,

or for such

special holidays

as the festival of the new

moon,

to end in order for

them to

begin

another business week to execute their scheme of

oppression (v. 5).

As a consequence of their success in victimizing poor farmers, a

new economic class of landless

peasants

came into

existence,

whom

the rich merchants could

exploit

even further for

greater profit.

The

displaced

farmers could now be hired as tenants to work the farms

and

vineyards

for the urban merchant. Because a tenant would

often be required to

pay

the

major part

of the

crop

as a land use

fee,

the merchants were able to build

large

estates on the labor of the

poor.!;

On this scheme of oppression, Amos

pronounced judgment:

Therefore, because you impose heavy rent on the poor And exact a tribute of grain from them,

Though you have built homes of well-hewn stone, Yet you will not live in them: You have planted pleasant

vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine. (Amos

5:1 1)

.

Not

only

did the rich

exploit

the

poor by systems

of oppression, according

to Amos, but

they

were insensitive to the

suffering

on which their luxurious

life-style

was based.

Aiming

at those who drank wine

by

the basin full in their cultic

banquets

while possessing

no

grief

that their

opulent life-style

was sustained

by their

oppression

of the

poor,

Amos delivered his

prophetic

woe:

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion Those who recline

on beds of

ivory

And

sprawl

on their

couches, And eat

12

141

.

lambs from the flocks And calves from the midst of the

stall,

Who

improvise

to the sound of the

harp,

And like David have

composed songs

for themselves, Who drink wine from sacrificial bowls, While they anoint themselves with the finest of oils, Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.

(Amos 6:1, 4-6)

_

.. .

In

,

his indictments of the

inequitable system,

Amos hammered

home the

point

that

oppression

was made

possible by

the

compli-

city

of

powerful groups

who

mutually

benefitted from the

exploi-

tation. The bankers were

complicit

in the

system

of

injustice

for

without their

cooperation

it would have been

impossible

to

rig

the

scales.34 There was the court which

perverted justice by granting

foreclosures on the farmers’ land.

Speaking

to these court

judges,

Amos

boldly

declared his

repulsion

for their evil deeds: “You who

distress the

righteous

and

accept bribes,

And turn aside the

poor

in

the

gate;” i.e.,

the

place

where court was held

(Amos 5:12).

Along

with the bankers and the

courts,

Amos

singled

out the

priests

and the

perverted religious ideology

which

provided

a _ religious

sanction for this

system

of

oppression.

In his encounter

with

Amaziah,

the

priest

of

Bethel,

Amos declared

boldly

that he .

was not intimidated

by

the threat of banishment from the

priest.

Amaziah directed Amos to do

his.”prophesying”

in Judah because

Bethel was a “sanctuary of the

king

and a

royal

residence.” Amos

responded

that he was not a prophet, nor a son of a prophet, but a

fig

farmer with a God-inspired mission for social

justice,

so he did ‘

not

plan

to leave the

country.

He concluded the verbal

exchange

with a word of prophetic judgment

against

the

priest

and the nation

as a whole

(Amos 7:10-17).

The

priesthood

as a whole,

however,

was

implicitly

indicted

by

Amos’ condemnation of Israel’s ritualistic

religion

devoid of ethical

content. For under the cover

of religiousity,

Amos

charged

that the

affluent were

engaged

in idolatry of the worse sort. The urban elite

ritualized a false God who reinforced

injustice. Amos,

with a word

of the

Lord,

cried out for these

self-indulgent

rituals to end and for

the

pursuit

of justice to

begin:

I hate, I reject your festivals Nor do I delight in your solemn

assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt

offerings

and your grain

offerings,

I will not accept them; And I will . .

not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take .

away

from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen

to the sound of your

harps.

But let justice roll down like

waters. And

righteousness

like an stream.

.

ever-flowing

(Amos 5:21-24)

13

142

Thus,

Amos’

prophetic

criticism was aimed not

only

at the individuals and the

groups

who

exploited

the

poor

but also the social

system

which made

injustice self-perpetuating.

As Jack Nelson

says,

Merchants formed alliances with bankers, members of the

court took bribes, and the

unjust prosperity

of the urban

classes spilled over into the coffers of the temple. The result .

was a mutually beneficial and cozy alliance,

complete

with

economic rewards and

religious ideology,

which under-

mined the well-being of the poor.35

Amos’ prophetic call,

therefore,

was for the reform of the social conditions which

perpetuated injustice.

Israel must

pursue

social justice

because

they

are God’s covenant

people.

He reminded the children of Israel that God was the one who

brought up

the

people from the Land of

Egypt (Amos 3: I ). But

he

emphasized

that the God of Israel, the maker of the covenant, is a God of justice and therefore Israel must “let

justice

roll down like waters and righteousness

like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos

5:24).

Israel must “hate

evil,

love

good

and establish

justice

in the

gate,”

and then Amos

says, “perhaps

the Lord God of hosts

may

be gracious to the remnant of

Joseph” (Amos 5:1 S)..

The

prophetic

tradition of the Old

Testament,

and Amos in particular, provides

a great legacy for

building

a social conscience within the

pentecostal community.

The

prophetic

tradition stands as authoritative

testimony

that the social concern of God’s

people requires

a prophetic

cutting edge

in its engagement with

society.

It challenges

toward an authentic social concern rooted in the character of God which has

enough courage

to unmask the

unjust social

systems

which

perpetuate oppression. Taking

clues from Amos, many pentecostal groups-with

their

heritage

of status

quo quietism,

or their new found alliance with

right-wing political agendas-also

need to heed the

warning

that Christian faith can be transformed into an

ideology

that

may unwittingly

serve the cause of oppression. Based on the

reality

of the Old Testament

prophetic tradition,

a pentecostal church

empowered

for mission in a world divided between the “haves” and “have-nots” must learn anew the systemic implications

of

confessing

Jesus as God’s

prophet

who announced his

ministry

in the tradition of the Jubilee

year (Luke 4:16-21),

and

taught

his

disciples

to

pray

for the

forgiveness

of the debt,

not the foreclosure of land

(Matt. 6:12).

Thus, Old

Testament social ethics

provide

a plea for

social justice in its

prophetic

tradition the

principles

of social

justice

in its concept

of the covenant, the

parameters

of social

justice

in its doctrine

of humankind

as God’s

image-bearer,

and the

platform

for

14

143

.

social

justice

in its basic theocentric orientation.

Finally,

we must examine the Jubilee

teachings,

and other relevant

parts

of the law codes,

to uncover the

paths

to social

justice.

Old Testament Social Ethics and the Jubilee

Teachings:

The Paths to Social Justice

.

The social ethics of the Old Testament

promotes

a

special concern for the

alien,

the

widow, and orphan and the poor. Because of this social concern, the

prophets engaged

in social criticism which unmasked the

systems

of oppression

against

the

poor

and the disadvantaged.

Because of this social

concern,

the Old Testament also mandated God’s

people

to

engage

in social action to create mechanisms and institutions to give concrete

positive expression

to the

pursuit

of social

justice.

Four

institutions,

in

particular,

were mandated in the law codes which created the

paths

to social

justice for the

people

of God. The institutions of the Jubilee

Year,

the Sabbath. Year, the law of

tithing

and the law of

gleaning

were established to

guarantee

a path toward

justice

for the

poor

and the needy.36

The institution of the Jubilee Year,

among

other

things, provided a mechanism whereby

all land was to return to the

original

owners without

compensation every fifty years.

God dictated the

original distribution of the land in roughly

equal plots,

and in Numbers

26, God established the

principle

of patrimony by which inherited land was real

property

meant to be held in perpetuity. The function of this institution of the Jubilee Year,

therefore,

was to maintain the egalitarian

nature of the ideal covenant

community. Commenting on this

egalitarian

function of the Jubilee

principle, Stephen

C. M ott

writes,

.

.

‘ ‘

.

.

.

The

provisions

of the Year of Jubilee

exemplify

biblical

justice. Among

its stipulations is the

provision

that after .

every fifty years all land,

whether sold or foreclosed, is to be ‘

. returned to the family whose heritage it is (Lev. 25:25-28).

The effect of this

arrangement

was to institutionalize the

relative

equality

of all

persons

in the landed means of

.

production.

It was a strong egalitarian measure and a far-

reaching

means of redress. When the number of sufferers

becomes too large, private charity cannot

cope with the ills love then

of society; requires structural measures

to achieve

social justice.37

After Israel and Judah were taken into

captivity,

the

prophet

Ezekiel outlined a new land distribution scheme for the time when

the

people

of God would be restored to

stewardship

of their own

land. In contrast to the

unjust system

which

brought

the nation into

exile,

Ezekiel

proposed

an

egalitarian

land

system

based on the

original

distribution of

plots.

He also

incorporated

into his

.

.

.

_

15

144

redistribution

plan,

the

concept

of landed

patrimony along

the lines

of the Year of Jubilee

(Ezek. 45:8-9; 46:18).

The Jubilee

principle

of

land

equalization

was still

recognized by the prophet

as one

way

of

correcting past wrongs

and

oppressions

and of

providing

all

members of the

society

with the

necessary

means to obtain

food,

clothing

and shelter.38

The

theological justification

for the Jubilee institution is found in

Leviticus 25:33: “The land shall not be sold in

perpetuity,

for the

land is

mine,

for

you

are

strangers

and

sojourners

with me.”

Echoing

back to the notion of the covenant in which God delivered

a

group

of

strangers

and

sojourners

to the

promised land,

this justification

for the Jubilee institution

emphasized

Israel’s steward-

ship,

rather than absolute

ownership,

of the land.

In addition to the Year of Jubilee, the Sabbatical Year was

another institution

designed

to establish social

justice

in Israel’s

common life. The Sabbatical Year

provided

a mechanism to

institute the

path

of

justice

for the Hebrew

slave,

the Hebrew .

debtor,

the hired

servant,

the

poor,

and the alien

(Ex. 21:2-3;

23: (0-1 l; Deut. 15:1-18;

Lev.

25:2-7).

For the Hebrew

slave,

the

Sabbatical

ordinance

brought

release from

mandatory

servitude

and a gift of livestock,

grain

and wine as a basis for the released

slave to

begin

his free life

(Ex. 21:2-3;

Deut.

15:12-18).

For the

Hebrew

debtor,

the Sabbatical Year

brought

the cancellation of

debts

(Deut. 15 :1-6).

For the

poor,

the

slave,

the hired

servant,

and

the

alien,

the Sabbatical Year meant that the land was rested and

that

they

could

gather

the food that

grew

of its own accord

(Ex.

23: I O-I l; Lev. 25:2-7).

The institution of the Sabbatical Year was to

remind Israel that it was a covenant

people

which should

incorpo-

rate the Torah into the

very

fabric of its social life

(Ex. 20:8-11;

Deut.

5:12-15)

for

they

were the aliens and the

poor

whom Yahweh

delivered out of

Egypt (Deut. l5:15).

The law of tithing was another mechanism instituted to care for

the

disadvantaged.

The Levitical ordinance reads: “At the end of

every

three

years you

shall

bring

forth all the tithe of your

produce

in the same

year …

and the Levite … and the

sojourner,

the

fatherless,

and the

widow,

who are within

your towns,

shall come

and eat and be

filled,

that the Lord

your

God

may

bless

you” (Lev.

19:2, 9-10):

The Deuteronomic ordinance also instituted

tithing

as a

mechanism to care for the needs of the

Levite,

the

alien,

the

orphan,

and the widow but

emphasized

that this ordinance was instituted so

that these members of the covenant

community’may

also know that

the Lord God

brought

them into a “land

flowing

with milk and

honey” (Deut. 26:12-15).

16

145

.

The Law of

Gleaning

was also established to institute social

justice

for the

poor,

the

alien,

the

widow,

and the

orphan.

The law

of

gleaning

is

part

of the Holiness code of Leviticus 19:1-8. The

exhortations in 19:9-18 are

grouped

into five

major pentads,

each

pentad containing

five principles. The first

pentad

institutes the law

of gleaning (vs.

9-10).

When you reap the harvest of your land,

( 1 ) you shall not .

reap your

field to its

very border, (2)

neither shall

you

gather

the gleanings after

your

harvest.

(3) And you shall ‘

not strip your vineyard

bare, (4) neither shall you gather the

fallen grapes of your vineyard;

(5) you shall leave

them for

the poor and the sojourner: I am the Lord

your

God.39

The Deuteronomic code likewise instituted the law of

gleaning

but added that the

gleanings

should be “generous” and included the

widow and the

orphan along

with the alien as the beneficiaries of

the law. In

Deuteronomy,

the law of gleaning is justified by their

remembrance that

they

were “a slave in the land of

Egypt” (Deut.

24:19-22).

,

.

far .

Although

these four ordinances of social

justice may

not

go

enough

in

instituting justice

for all,

they

do institutionalize a

concern for the social welfare of the

economically disadvantaged.

These laws demonstrate that God’s

people

were commanded to

establish social mechanisms and structures to give cocrete institu-

tional

expression

to their

special

concern for the

poor,

the

widow,

the

orphan,

and the alien. The codes demonstrated that biblical

justice

is biased toward the

poor

and the

needy,

and therefore, the

first

step

on the

path

to social

justice

is to institute

systems

of

distribution for the correction of

oppression.4°

Pentecostal minis-

tries, especially

in Third World

countries,

have been at the

vanguard

of instituting programs to

promote

the social welfare of

the

poor.

Wholistic ministries in

Haiti, India,

and the countries of

Central America have been

developed

to announce God’s

reign

through

their

kerygmatic proclamation

and to institute a visible

expression

of God’s

reign through

their social

programs.4′

The

Pentecostal church in First and Second World countries has much

to learn about social action from their brothers and sisters in the

Third World.

To be

sure,

not all of the institutions of the Jubilee transfer

readily

into a pentecostal social ethic for

today’s

world. The idea of

the

patrimony

of the Jubilee

Year,

for

example, may

have been an

effective

way

for the covenant

people

of God to institute social

justice

within a Hebrew

agrarian society.

This

particular

institution

may

no longer have the same universal relevance in the context of a .

global community

structured

by

international law. However, the

conviction s-hould remain firm that a

pentecostal

social concern

. ‘

.

.

.

.

.

17

146

informed

by the moral authority

of the Old Testament should find creative

ways-relevant

to the conditions of our own times-to institutionalize its care for the

poor,

the

widow,

the

orphan,

and the alien.

The Old Testament Moral Tradition and Pentecostal Social Ethics: A Constructive

Theological Proposal

From the

perspective

of Christian

dogmatic theology,

an

analysis of the Old Testament moral tradition to determine its

abiding principles

for inclusion into a

comprehensive

social ethic is required by

the church’s doctrinal confession that the Bible provides

the authoritative rule for faith and

practice.

In its attempt to

identify

the

enduring legacy

of Old Testament ethics for Christian moral

existence,

the

pentecostal

church shares in a common

theological

task with other Christian

communions,

Protes- tant,

Roman Catholic and Orthodox. I believe, however, that the primary methodology

shifts from the canons of

dogmatics

to the canons

of exegetical theology

when the

following question

is posed: What are the

rudimentary principles

of a distinctively pentecostal social ethic?

The reason for this shift to

exegetical

method is a

simple

one. Pentecostals

distinguish

themselves from other Christians primarily

in their claim that the New Testament teaches that

Spirit baptism

and the

pneumatological ordering

of the church can still be experienced today

and are normative for Christian life and church practice

until the

parousia.

All other

aspects

of Christian doctrine within

pentecostalism

are shared with one or another of the various communions of Christian faith.42 In short, a distinctively

pente- costal

starting point

for

theological

reflection on moral existence- not differences in the moral traditions held in common with other Christian believers-is what should mark a

distinctively pente- costal social ethic.

Starting points

in theological reflection are not

merely

different ways

of

getting

started on an identical

journey,

however.

They

do have a

way

of

influencing

the

particular angularity by

which Christian claims are viewed and

interpreted

as

hermeneutically fundamental or as subordinate to other more fundamental

organ-

izing principles.

The

starting point

of Spirit

baptism-of

the God who

empowers his

people

for

mission-provides,

I submit, such an

angular

vision for a social ethic

designed

to

promote

social

justice

in a divided world. In his

provocative study,

The Charismatic

Theology

of St. Luke, Roger

Stronstad

presents

a thesis

concerning

the

coming

of the

Spirit

at Pentecost that has

profound implications

for inte- grating

the Old Testament

conception

of social

justice

into a

18

147

.

distinctively pentecostal

social ethic. Stronstad declares:

The Pentecost narrative is the story of the transfer of the

charismatic

spirit

from Jesus to the

disciples.

In other

words, having

become the exclusive bearer of the

Holy

Spirit

at His baptism, Jesus becomes the giver of the Spirit

at Pentecost….

By

this transfer of the

become the

Spirit,

the

disciples

heirs and successors to the

earthly

charismatic

ministry

of Jesus; that is, because Jesus has

poured

out the charismatic

Spirit upon

them the disciples

will continue to do and teach those

things

which Jesus

began

to do and teach.43

.

.

.

.

This thesis that focuses on the transference of Jesus’

ministry

to the

disciples by

the

coming

of the

Spirit

at Pentecost

provides

a highly .suggestive organizing principle

for a

distinctively pente- costal social ethic, the contours of which I will

briefly

delineate in

.

the

remaining paragraphs.

A social ethic

starting

with the

principles

inherent in the

story

of

the Pentecost festival of Acts 2 is tied,

by the logic

of Luke, back to

the

ministry

of Jesus as the One anointed

by the Spirit

to inaugurate

the

Kingdom

of God in human

history.

“Those

things

which Jesus

began

to do and teach”

(Acts I:I)

are included within the central

theological concept

used

by

Luke in his

gospel

to describe Jesus’

mission and

ministry:

the

Kingdom

of God. A

pentecostal

social

ethic

grounded exegetically

in Luke-Acts,

therefore, is a Kingdom

ethic made

operational

within the charismatic

community by

the

empowerment

of the

Spirit.

It is not a charismatic ethic but a

Kingdom

ethic transferred as the moral substance of Jesus’

ministry

to the charismatic

community by the coming

of the

Spirit

at Pentecost.

Furthermore,

Jesus

self-consciously placed

his

proclamation

of ‘

the

Kingdom

of God in direct

continuity

with the

expectations

of ‘

the

people

of God in the Old Testament. Luke

emphasizes

that the .

.

inaugural

sermon of Jesus’

public ministry

was the fulfillment of

.

Isaiah’s servant

songs (Luke

4:16-21 cf. Isa.

61:I-2)

and he

places

Jesus’

Kingdom proclamation

in

relationship

to the Law and the

Prophets (Luke 16:16).44

The

reign

of God which Jesus claimed to

inaugurate

in his

ministry

was the fulfillment in human

history

of .

Old Testament

promise. Accordingly,

the ethical

principles opera-

tive in the

reign

of God established

by Jesus cannot

be fully grasped

without

interpreting

them

against

the Old Testament

conception

of

social

justice

which

is ministry brought

to

completion. Thus,

the

Old Testament

pursuit

of social

justice

is

part

of the Jewish ‘ .

religious

Sitz im Leben in which the

Kingdom

claims of Jesus

should be

interpreted.

.

..

.

. –

.

.

.

.

..

19

148

This hermeneutical line of

continuity

which

digresses

from the charismatic

community

in Acts 2 back to Jesus’

Kingdom

ethic in Luke, and

the other

synoptic gospels,

and then back to the Old Testament moral tradition

provides

the

linkages

between

Spirit baptism

and social

justice.

The transference of Jesus’

ministry

to the

disciples

at Pentecost-within the context of its fulfillment for the Law and the

Prophets-also explains

the role

played by

the Holy Spirit

from Acts 2

forward,

in

structuring

the

Apostolic community

as a visible demonstration of justice. Even

though

the category

of

justice

is not utilized

by Luke,

the

Holy Spirit

is presented

in the Acts as the One who

empowers

the church to overcome within its own

community

the entrenched

gender, economic,

cultural and

religious

barriers of a divided world. This establishment of a

just community by

the

Holy Spirit

is used apologetically by

Luke to demonstrate that the church was established

by

the ‘ exalted Jesus Christ

(Acts 2:33, 4:32-37,

10 :34- 48).

Luke

highlights

his portrayal of the charismatic

community

as an expression

of

justice

structured

by

the

Spirit’s power

in the following

manner. In Acts 2, the

gender

distinctions of male and female were overcome

by the empowerment

of the

Spirit.

In Acts 4 and

5,

the economic distinctions between rich and

poor

were overcome in the economic koininia established

by the power

of the Spirit.

In Acts

10, the

cultural distinctions between Jew and Gentile were overcome within the Christian

community by

the

coming

of the

Spirit.

In Acts

19,

the

religious

distinctions between the disciples

of Jesus and the

disciples

of John the

Baptist

were overcome

by

the

power

of the

Spirit

to

instigate

the first Christian ecumenism.

By the

time the

story

of the Acts

concludes,

the

gospel had

gone

unbounded

throughout

the world

by

means of the

Spirit- empowered apostolic community.45

And as the gospel went unbound- ed it had the

power

to establish the

Kingdom

ethic of Jesus which completed

the Old Testament

longing

for

social justice

to

reign,

and instituted it into the life and

practice

of the church.

In the

coming

of the

Spirit

at Pentecost,

therefore,

the

long story of God’s will for

justice

found an

empowering dynamic. Spirit baptism

enabled the charismatic

community

to break down the middle walls of partition between men and women, rich and

poor, Jew and Gentile, and even demarcations of

religious backgrounds within the Christian

community

itself. Thus

by

the conclusion of Luke’s

story,

the charismatic

community

of the Acts

presented within its own social structure the visible

signpost

of the future Kingdom age.

It was liberated

by

the

Spirit

from its

deeply entrenched biases and differences to experience

right

within its own koininia a taste of the social

justice longed

for

by prophets past.

20

149

For the

contemporary pentecostal

church in search of a social ethic faithful to its own

theological convictions,

the Lukan hermeneutic of

Spirit baptism

holds

great promise.

Luke-Acts

provides

a biblical framework for

theological

reflection on church mission and

ministry

that links the God who

empowers

for witness with the God who liberates and

reigns in justice.

.

*Murray

W.

Dempster,

an ordained minister with the Assem- blies of

God,

is Professor of Social Ethics at Southern California College

in Costa

Mesa,

California. He holds the PhD in that field from the

University

of Southern California.

‘Robert

Barbosa,

“The

Gospel

with Bread: An Interview with Brazilian Pentecostalist Manoel de Mello,” eds. Gerald H. Anderson and Thomas F.

Stransky,

eds. Missions Trends No. 2:

Evangelization, (New York: Paulist

Press,

and Grand

Rapids, Michigan:

Wm. B. Eerdmans

150-151.

Publishing Company, 1975),

2For a brief delineation of the signs of an awakened

pentecostal

social

conscience since the late 1960’s, see the introductory section of

my paper,

“Soundings

in the Moral

Significance

of Glossolalia,” which was presented

to the

Society

of Pentecostal Studies at the 1983 Annual

Meeting

in

Cleveland,

Tennessee and

printed

in Harold D.

Hunter,

ed. Pastoral . Problems in the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement

(Pasadena,

CA:

Society

for Pentecostal

Studies, 1983).

3Both the

evangelical

and ecumenical movements have a

volume

generated

considerable of theological work in the area of social ethics, much ‘

of which is very compatible with a pentecostal

understanding

of the church

and its mission and ministry. Larry Christenson’s A

Action

Charismatic Approach

to Social

(Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1974) was the first .

book-length attempt

at

identifying

the charismatic features of a

pente-

costal social ethic.

Although

Christenson’s book falls short due to its

“spiritualizing” strategy

to deal with unjust social structures, his

of identifying the features of a

objective

distinctively

charismatic

approach

to social

action remains an important

project.

See Richard

Quebedeaux’s

The New .

Charismatics

II (New York:

Harper Row, 1983) for bibliographic

infor-

mation on the subject of

amount

Spirit baptism

and social change. In addition to a .

considerable of charismatic social action cited

throughout

his

study,

see 170, n. 96. Most of the works referenced in

the charismatic

Quebedeaux’s study ‘

are pleas for renewal movement to involve itself in social

action, although

some of the works cited deal with the theoretical issues

pertinent

to a pentecostal social ethic.

4These Old Testament moral materials were first

developed

for a

“The Old Testament Foundations of Christian Social

paper

Concern,”

which I

read at the Latin America Child Care Conference,

May 20-26,

1985 in San

Salvador,

El Salvador. A revision of the paper,

into Spanish

substantially

edited and

translated

by Floyd

Woodworth was published in Conozca as

a three

part study

for distribution to missionaries and national leaders in

_

,

21

150

Latin America. See “Fundamentos en el

Antiguo

Testamento de la

Inquietud

Social Christiana,” Conozca Ano

12, Numero I (Enero-Marzo

1986), l0-1 1, 13; Ano 12, Numero 2 (Abril-Junio 1986), 5, 14, 16; and Ano

12,

Numero 3 (Julio-Setiembre

1986), 12-13.

5Walter C. Kaiser, Toward Old Testament Ethics

(Grand Rapids,

Michigan: Zondervan, 1983),

38.

6Kaiser,

Toward Old Testament Ethics, 3.

B. Maston, Biblical Ethics (Waco, Texas: World

Books, 1967), 282.

8R. E. O. White, Biblical Ethics

(Atlanta, Georgia:

John Knox

Press,

1974),

14-30.

9Walter

Kornfield,

“Old Testament Ethics,” Sacramentum

Mundi,

ed.

Karl Rahner

(New York: Herder

and

Herder, 1969), 280.

ION orman W. Porteous,

“Image

of God,” The

the

Bible,

ed. G. A.

Buttrick,

4

Interpreter’s Dictionary of

vols.

(Nashville,

Tennessee:

Abingdon .

Press, 1962), 2:683.

”tennis F. Kinlau, “Old Testament Ethics,” Baker’s

Dictionary of

Christian Ethics, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker

Book House,

1973), 471.

12For a clear discussion of the similarities and differences in the

competing philosophical conceptions

of justice, see Chaim

Perelman,

The

Iclea of Justice and the Problem

of Argument (Atlantic Highlands,

New

Jersey:

The Humanities Press, 1963), 1-60.

H.

Toy, Proverbs,

Samuel Rolies

Driver,

Alfred Plummer and

Charles A. Briggs, eds.

(ICC,

New York: Charles Scribner’s

Sons, 1904),

299. Toy points out that the “his” in this Proverb

may refer to the oppressor

or to the poor, but notes that “in either case the familiar

duty

is based on

religious grounds;” i.e.,

the insult or the kindness is to God.

‘ 4Toy, Proverbs,

414.

15David O.

Moberg,

Inasmuch: Christian Social

Responsibility

in the

Twentieth

Century (Grand Rapids, Michigan:

William B. Eerdmans

Publishing Company, 1965),

33.

16Maston,

17

Biblical

Ethics,

14.

Walter Eichrodt,

Theology of the

Old Testament, trans. J. A. Baker

(Philadelphia:

Westminster Press,

1961), 1:17.

‘ 8 M as t o n , Biblical Ethics, 16.

‘9Elien Flesseman, “Old Testament Ethics,” Student World 57 ( 1964),

222.

2″For an ethical

analysis

of the

Decalogue

see Kaiser, Toward Old Testament Ethics, 81-95.

2[John T. Willis, “Old Testament Foundations of Social Justice,” in Christian Social Ethics, ed.

Perry

C. Cotham

The

(Grand Michigan: Baker Book House,

1979), 32-34.

materials in this Rapids, section on the law codes are identified and treated

by Willis; however,

Willis does not tie the moral

casuistry

of the codes to the covenant refrains found in the biblical materials

along

the lines developed in this article.

. 22This text in

Deuteronomy 1 5: 1 I , no doubt,

is the one Jesus

quoted when his disciples criticized the woman for pouring expensive perfume on his head

(Matt. 26:6-13;

Mk. 14:3-9; John

12:1-8). While some Christian believers have used Jesus’saying to argue, “See Jesus himself said, there is

22

151

.

surely Deuteronomy

no point in helping the poor because the poor you always have with you,”

this

misrepresents

Jesus’ intent. Jesus’

15:11 within it in to

say,

“the response incorporated order

poor you always

have

with you and therefore

you must always respond

to their

needs; however,

this woman has anointed

my body

for burial

by her action.” Therefore, , Jesus’

saying

on the

poor

should be viewed as his attempt to

clarify

the ‘

theological

intent of the woman’s act. The act of

pouring expensive .

perfume

was a theological act of preparing his body for burial and it was

not intended, therefore, to be an ethical act

dealing

with the merits of

caring

for the poor. Thus, Jesus said in essence, the poor are always here,

and good should be done for them as you wish for it in your criticism

(the

ethical)

but I am not always

here, therefore,

she has done a good deed

by

anointing

me for burial

(the theological).

Mark

captures

this nuance of .

meaning

in his account of the

story (v. 7).

.

23John Yoder, The Politics

of Jesus (Grand Rapids:

Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Company, 1972) 157. For an excellent

discussion of the church

as a counter-community, see Stephen Charles Mott, Biblical Ethics and

Social

Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 128-141. Cf.

Jim Wallis, AgendaforBiblical People(New York:

Harper& Row, 1976).

24The tradition consists of the “early prophets”

(Nathan

and

Elijah);

the prophetic “eighth-century

prophets” (Amos, Hosea,

Isaiah and

Micah);

the “transitional

prophets”

of the seventh and sixth centuries

(Zephaniah,

Nahum and

Habakkuk);

the “prophets of exile”

(Jeremiah

and

Ezekial);

the “prophets of the restoration”

(Haggai,

Zechariah and

Malachi);

and

other “miscellaneous

prophets” (Daniel, Joel,

Obadiah and Jonah). This

classification,

with slight modification, is abstracted from Maston, Biblical

Ethics, 35-70. Although such classifications, Maston warns, may distort

the overlapping of periods in some of the prophets’ ministries-Ezekiel, for

example,

whose prophetic

warnings

occurred both

prior

to Judah’s exile as

well as after it-these

groupings provide a preliminary working

framework

in which to locate the

prophetic

literature

historically.

zsYehezkel Kaufmann, The Religion of Israel, trans. Moshe

Greenberg

(Chicago: University

of Chicago

Press, 1960), 316.

z6lsa. 6:8; Jer. 1:2; Ezek. 1:3; Hos.I:I;Joell:I;Amos 1:3;Jon.I:I; Mic.

I:l; Zeph. 1:l; Hag. 1:l;

Zech. l:l and Mal. 1 : all include the same basic

form of prophetic literature, “The Word of the Lord came ….” Other

prophets

either base their

prophetic authority

on

being

“an oracle” or

having

a “vision” which mediated to them the authority to say, “Thus

says

the Lord.”

27Abraham J. Heschel, The

Prophets (New

York:

Harper

and

Row,

1962), xvii.

28See,

for

example, Maston,

Biblical Ethics, 44-58, and

White, Biblical

Ethics, 14-16, 22-25,

as well as the scholarly sources which they cite.

29Amos 1:6-8; 4:1-3; 5:4-7, 10-15, 21-24;

8:4-10;

Hos.

4:1-3; 10:11-15;

12:5-9;

Isa. (of Jerusalem)

l:16-17, 21-23; 4:8-15; 5:7; 18-23; 9:1-7; 10:1-2;

11:1-9; 16:1-5; 25:1-4; 26:7-10; 28:16-17; 30:18; 32:15-18; 33:15;

Mic. 3 :8-

12 ; 6:6-8.

3uThe material in this section on the historical and social context of

Amos’ prophetic message depends largely on the study

of Jack A. Nelson,

.

23

152

Hunger for

Justice: The Politics of Food and Faith (M aryknoll, New York: Orbis

Books, 1980). In addition, many

of the

insights

into the

systemic nature of Israel’s

oppression

which Amos addressed were also gained from Nelson’s

study.

31 Nelson, Hunger for Justice,

3.

32Nelson, Hunger for Justice,

3.

33Nelson, Hunger for Justice,

2.

34Nelson, Hunger for Justice,

4.

35Nelson, Hunger for Justice,

5.

36The insight that these four ordinances

represent

institutional struc- tures in Israel’s life to care for the

poor originally

came from

the

reading

the chapter,

“Economic

Relationships Among People

of God” in Ronald J.

Sider,

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

(Downers Grove,

Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977), 87-112.

37 motet,

Biblical Ethics and Social

Change,

68.

38Mott,

Biblical Ethics and Social

Change,

68-69.

39This form

analysis

of the law of gleaning is from

Maston,

Biblical Ethics,

26-27. ,

4°Mott,

Biblical Ethics and Social

Change,

71. For a

thoughtful discussion on the principle of redress and the bias of biblical justice in favor of the oppressed, see 65-72.

41in

Haiti; feeding programs

for the

poor

have been established in conjunction

with the national church

through

the missionary ministry of Ron

Hittenberger.

In India, the “Mission of Mercy” established

by Mark Buntain cares for the

poor through feeding programs,

educational programs,

and a full service missionary hospital facility. In Latin America, “Latin America Child Care” established

by

John Bueno and

Doug Petersen, institutes programs

via child sponsorships specifically designed “to break the chains of

poverty”

for children in slum areas

through building

school facilities for educational

programs

as well as providing for clothing,

food and medical attention. All these ministries, and others that could be cited,

incorporate

these social welfare into

outreaches within a wholistic

understanding

of programs

evangelism

the church’s mission. 42The following

description

from a Norwegian

pentecostal highlights

the commonalities and the distinctiveness of pentecostal theology within the Protestant tradition: “On the question of Justification by Faith

they

are Lutherans,

on

Baptism Baptists,

on Sanctification

early Methodists,

in their work of winning souls Salvationists; but with regard to Baptism with the

Holy Spirit they are Pentecostalists,

as

they believe and preach

that it is possible

to be baptized in or filled

by the Holy Spirit

as on the

day

of Pentecost.” Cited

by Einar Molland,

Christendom

(New

York: Philo- sophical Library, 1959),

303. As this

quotation suggests,

Pentecostal theology

is a

collage

of doctrines and

practices

woven

together

from various Christian communions. When in the case of the Assemblies of God congregational

church

polity,

a Pietist

spirituality,

and a Reformed understanding

of sanctification are also thrown into the

theological mix, pentecostalism

almost becomes an ecumenical conference of one. 43Roger Stronstad,

The Charismatic

Theology of St. Luke (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers,

1984), 49.

.

.

,

24

153

44 In addition to Luke’s theology, the other

synoptic gospels also support the claim that

Jesus’ Kingdom ministry

was the fulfillment of the Law and the

Prophets.

Most

explicitly,

Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount includes the saying of Jesus: “Do not think that I come to abolish the Law and the Prophets: I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill”

(Matt. 5:17).

Both Mark and Matthew

present

the announcement

of Jesus’ public ministry

as “fulfillment” of the Old Testament

expectation

of the

Day of the Lord: ” … Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying,

the time is fulfilled, the

Kingdom

of God is at

hand; repent and believe in the gospel” ‘ (Mk.

1: 14-15 = Matt. 4:12-17).

45Frank

Stagg, commenting

on Luke’s

portrayal

of the

Spirit in Acts, makes this following provocative

suggestion: “There may be significance

in the fact that it is in the three chapters in which tongues are mentioned that the gospel breaks

through

to a new group:

Jews, God-fearing Gentiles,

and followers of John the

Baptist

who had not followed Christ. This

agrees with Luke’s theme of tracing the progress of the gospel across barriers of nationality

and race,

struggling

to be

preached

unhindered

(28-31).” “Glossolalia in the New Testament”, in Frank

Stagg, E. Glenn Hinson,

and Wayne

E. Oates, Glossolalia:

Tongue Speaking

in Biblical, Historical, and Psychological Perspective (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1967),

34.

.

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