The Heart Of God And Social Engagement -- By: Michael J. Anthony

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 176:703 (Jul 2019)
Article: The Heart Of God And Social Engagement
Author: Michael J. Anthony

The Heart Of God And Social Engagement*

Michael J. Anthony

* This is the third article in the four-part series “The Heart of God,” delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 6–9, 2018.

Michael J. Anthony is research professor of Christian education at Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, California.


The previous article examined the heart of God in relationship to his call to conversion, and for some, his call into vocational ministry. It also glanced at the paradoxical manner in which God trains and equips his servants for the vocation of ministry. There is no template for how God calls and prepares ministry leaders, as there doesn’t seem to be any prescribed method in Scripture. Some were called with dramatic methods while others not so much.

You will recall that when we talk about the concept of God’s heart, we are speaking of God’s determined will and pleasure. In one chapter of Hans Wolff’s excellent Anthropology of the Old Testament, he summarizes twenty-six Old Testament passages referring to God’s heart by saying, “They generally attest to His steadfast will and His longing desire—usually in regards to His plans for the future to which His whole will is completely committed.”1 In essence, once God has determined in his heart to do something, whether it be in the present or the future, once God has purposed something in his will, it is set. To do otherwise would undermine the immutability of his character.

This article turns its attention to the heart of God as it pertains to the needs of the world—more specifically, those who are suffering from injustice, intolerance, discrimination, and prejudice. In some situations, we are referring to those who are, as the Old

Testament describes, “sojourners in the land,” while at other times they may be referred to as the downtrodden, oppressed, disenfranchised, trafficked, or exploited.

I am not addressing the topic of social justice, Christian or otherwise, but rather social engagement. The former term has its origins in the writings of Plato in The Republic, a Socratic dialogue revolving around the nature of a just society. Indeed, many of our most conflicting and volatile political debates today—such as those around same-sex marriage, healthcare, Internet privacy, religious freedoms, immigration, redistribution of wealth, racism, and the like—center on disputes about the meaning of social justice.2

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