The Role of the Church in Social Transformation
Though called to partner in God’s holy work of transformation, the church has often responded with resignation rather than hope in the face of a broken, hurting, and violent world.
In Authentic Engagement, Dieumeme and Mirlenda Noëlliste remind us that the church was never meant to content itself with faith in the hereafter. However, to fulfill its God-given role in society, it must know what and whose it is, and situate itself accordingly. The authors explore questions of ecclesiology and establish the theological foundations for social engagement as they examine what it means to be a people defined by relationship with the triune God. Arguing that the church has a mandate to see the world transformed, they suggest a model of engagement that would empower believers to act as agents of transformation in all realms of society, while remaining deeply rooted in their calling as ambassadors of a heavenly kingdom.
This book brings hope and conviction in equal measures as it reawakens the church to a consciousness of its identity, its calling, and its powerful potential to bring change in the here and now.
Authentic Engagement is clear and straightforward, but it is not an easy read. It is truthfully and painfully prophetic, but it is hopeful. It is not an easy read because Noëlliste unflinchingly identifies, describes, and grapples with ways in which the church too often fails to be the church and fails to be the church in the world. Yet it is hopeful because Noëlliste’s vision of and prescriptions for the church are grounded in the reality of the Triune God and are unswervingly shaped by the redemption available to the world in Jesus Christ. When his clear-eyed analysis stings, it is “the wound of a friend,” and when he issues constructive calls to action, they are informed by his own authentic engagement in the life of the global church. Throughout, this is a book of biblically grounded theology – theology about the church, for the church, and for the world.
W. David Buschart, PhD
Professor of Theology and Historical Studies,
Denver Seminary, Colorado, USA
This volume is a clarion call for the church to be all that it was meant to be in and for the world. Biblically thoughtful and theologically thorough, with interaction from an array of global voices, Authentic Engagement argues that the Christian faith has social import: being a constructive agent of social change is necessary for the church’s witness and indispensable to its mission. It has been so from the beginning. This book returns us to this fundamental truth.
M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas), PhD
Scripture Press Ministries Professor of Biblical Studies and Pedagogy,
Wheaton College and Graduate School, Illinois, USA
Professor Dieumeme Noëlliste’s fiercely intelligent, deeply committed, dynamic personality guided the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology from its inception, and his ever-expanding influence on global theological education spread from there. Now, four decades into a notable ministry of preaching, teaching, and cross-cultural leadership, he offers us a bountiful harvest – his biblical and theological reflections on the church’s call to social transformation. While his own life story might be held up as an inspiring example of radical transformation, Dr. Noëlliste deliberately grounds his arguments in Scripture, reason, and the historic teachings of the church. What we see in this book is not Dr. Noëlliste, the Haitian prodigy, but the rich fruits of a carefully disciplined mind that is subservient both to the word of God and to the will of his heavenly Father. Thus, a humble submission to God’s word and will undergirds this prophetic call to Christian social transformation. His partnership in this project with his gifted niece, Dr. Mirlenda Noëlliste, signals the way their message spans genders and generations. Read this and renewyour prayers for God’s will to be done here on earth, as it is in heaven – faithfully, lovingly, justly, and joyfully!
Timothy Paul Erdel, PhD
Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy,
Bethel University, Indiana, USA
Dieumeme Noëlliste and Mirlenda Noëlliste have done it again, this time in English! This is a well-researched and carefully argued volume that demonstrates in a theologically rich fashion how the Christian church can authentically engage with the wider world to bring positive transformation to all. I particularly value how the two authors bring the voices of a wide range of important theologians around the world into the conversation about the church’s role in the world. This is an important and valuable resource for scholars in ecclesiology and theological ethics. It will also work well as a textbook in theological ethics at graduate and undergraduate levels.
Rev. Knut M Heim, PhD
Professor of Old Testament,
Denver Seminary, Colorado, USA
The church endures scathing criticism from both insiders and outsiders. As the church’s ranks decline, many view it as irrelevant. But rather than merely lament the past, and especially the current state of the church’s ineffectiveness in the world, Dr. Noëlliste and his niece show how the church can recapture its Christ-ordained mission. In this robustly resourced, historically nuanced, and theologically informed treatise, they put forward this challenging proposal – the church can advance the cause of social transformation by being authentically engaged with the present social order. Both italicized words are crucial for their project: the church must truly be the church as God’s alternative society (no compromise of its nature and character); and the church must fully engage the world in all its messiness with a holistic and transformational message characterized by its pursuit of righteousness and justice. Here is no unrealistic fantasy, but rather a truly hopeful appeal in a world mired in hopelessness and despair.
William W. Klein, PhD
Professor Emeritus of New Testament Interpretation,
Denver Seminary, Colorado, USA
Social ills are, arguably, the chief ethical and apologetics issues of our time. But American evangelicalism, on the whole, has aligned with political tribes to determine our approach to these problems. Instead of setting culture, we have chosen sides in societal schisms. In Authentic Engagement, Dr. Dieumeme Noëlliste challenges the church to address social matters on the king’s terms. We do not have the privilege of indifference or idleness, but kingdom ethics should determine our participation. God has equipped us with an eternal message that is temporally relevant. It allows us to have hope in tumultuous times. I commend this book to anyone who desires to embody Christ’s kingdom-minded message and mission.
Pastor of Preaching,
Embassy Christian Bible Church,Colorado, USA
Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction: The Transforming Vocation of the People of God
- Part One: Models of Transforming Engagement
- 2 Major Views on the Church’s Role in the World
- 3 Authentic Engagement
- Part Two: Ecclesial Consciousness for Transforming Engagement
- 4 Society of the Triune God
- 5 Ambassador of Heaven
- Part Three: Acts of Transforming Engagement
- 6 Exemplar of a New Order
- 7 Herald of Transforming News
- 8 Catalyst of Human Well-Being
- Part Four: The Stance of Transforming Engagement
- 9 Hope-Filled Realism
- 10 Expectancy
- 11 Prayer
- Subject Index
- Author Index
- Scripture Index