What is Social Transformation?

Historically, the basis for Social Transformation can be found in reformed theology, in the works of Calvin, Althusius and Kuyper, in what is known as Christian politics. Christian politics basically refers to the promotion of an integral development vision based on Christian principles. The Social Teachings of Catholic Church, which put a great emphasis on the concepts of social justice and human dignity, can be considered as the Catholic equivalent for Christian politics. More recently, in evangelical circles, the concepts of holistic ministry emerged, which first began as a vision of social aid as a way to preach the Gospel, but gradually evolved into a vision of social justice as an integral part of the Gospel itself. This understanding of the Gospel became known as integral mission at the Lausanne Congress of 1974.

Social Transformation is a term used to describe a vision of a Church that is relevant to society and that serves through the promotion of social justice.

The point of departure of Social Transformation is the Christian worldview which teaches that we live in a perfect world, created by God, which is affected by sin, but is restored through the work of Jesus. Through His death of the cross, creation is restored on different levels: on the individual level when people when individuals turn from their old ways and allow Christ to transform their hearts and lives, and on the collective level when entire societies and cultures are shaped according to Christian principles.

Very often, Christians stop at the individual level and forget about the collective level of God’s transformational work. In his book Emancipating the World, Darrow L. Miller (2012), criticizes the reductionist interpretation that is commonly given to the Great Commission which limits it to simply making converts. As Miller explains, the Great Commission is also about discipling nations, i.e. about reforming the social structures in these nations.

The Gospel transforms individual lives, but these individuals should then also be engaged in transforming their immediate surroundings and communities. Social Transformation is not only a powerful evangelization strategy; it’s an integral part of the responsibility of a mankind since the creation of the earth to shape their nations and cultures according to the creational order. It’s also more than a Christian development vision. It’s a mindset that acknowledges the present and coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ, a vision to glorify God in our culture, and to bring God’s light into all spheres of society, including government.

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Dennis P. Petri
Dennis P. Petri is Director of Plataforma C, Platform for Christian Politics. A political scientist by training, he specializes in comparative politics with a specific interest in Latin America. He is currently working on a dissertation about religious freedom at VU University Amsterdam.

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