Considerations Concerning Social Justice and the Gospel
Attacks on the gospel are relentless, and the most dangerous are those that disguise themselves in culturally-conceived standards of morality and justice that seem to reflect biblical truth. We see this happening under the banner of Social Justice, an ideology that an increasing number of evangelicals believe is an essential element of the gospel. I find this position to be disconcerting and would humbly argue against it.
As the scourge of Marxist Socialism continues to make inroads into American politics, primarily in the progressive left wing of the Democratic Party, it has now infiltrated the evangelical church through the Trojan horse of Social Justice, which is really a clever term. After all, who could possibly be opposed to equal opportunity and equal treatment under the law?
But that is not what the Social Justice warriors want. They demand equality of property, power, and status in the culture, except of course, for Bible-believing Christians. In order to amass a large enough constituency to vote them into power and keep them there, they must maintain a permanent underclass that sees themselves as victims. This requires the enlistment of Social Justice warriors to become their foot soldiers. Their mission is clear: incite class warfare and ethnic tensions.
This is a brilliant strategy of our adversary the devil who rules this world system in opposition to God (2 Cor 4:4). Satan knows how fallen man loves to wear the “victim” badge. In fact, blame-shifting that began in the garden remains man’s default excuse. Just watch how our children respond when confronted on some mischief. By nature, fallen man sees himself as deprived, not depraved; he sees himself as good, worthy of God’s grace, and deserving of man’s praise. Let’s face it: because of our innate pride and selfishness, when someone mistreats us, or disagrees with us, or does not give us what we demand, our knee-jerk reaction is to attack and blame others, then proudly flaunt our victim status.
What we now witness in our postmodern culture is: the more you have been victimized (whether real or perceived), the more power and authority you have to demand Social Justice. The more oppressed, the more deserving you are of special treatment. So naturally, in our self-centered, narcissistic culture, people have become hyper-vigilant in looking for ways to be offended so they can join the ranks of the oppressed.
Now, no one will deny that injustices do exist. People all over the world are oppressed and treated unfairly. We have all experienced mistreatment. We are all victims of discrimination in varying ways by varying groups. Historically, Jewish people are the most despised of all ethnic groups, surpassing the cumulative discrimination of all other oppressed people groups combined, and anti-Semitism is on the rise once again.
As Christians we understand that we live in a fallen world where society is made up of sinful, selfish, self-willed people—the very characteristics of the leaders who govern us. So there will always be injustice in the world until Jesus returns to establish His glorious kingdom. And as Christians we must oppose anything that violates God’s command to love our neighbor. We must show compassion for the poor, the disenfranchised, the fatherless, and the widow.
But, the leftist agenda has now created a culture of victimhood where anyone who is offended by anyone has the right to wear the “victim” badge and demand social justice.
Social Justice Warriors then use Political Correctness to not only silence opposing views through intimidation, but also to demand that everyone, including evangelicals, accept their ideologies and deviant sexual behaviors, or risk social alienation and even legal action.
Practically speaking, once you say social justice is fundamental to the gospel, you must then take up the causes of a culture that hates God. It also becomes a great distraction to the church’s Great Commission to make disciples, and even requires us to favor some over others in an effort to even the scales of power and privilege—a clear violation of Scripture (Ex 23:3; Lev 19:15).
Worse yet, in the political environment in which we now live, this also requires the church to advocate for what is fundamentally Marxist Socialism and embrace a cultural definition of justice that is always changing and has nothing to do with the justice of God. As we see repeatedly, those who refuse to comply are quick to be called bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic, and on it goes.
But the greatest danger in making social justice fundamental to the gospel is that it adds a totally foreign element to the gospel; like adding alcohol to a blood transfusion. Fighting against such a perversion, Paul warned, “If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8). I fear many evangelicals are naïve about this danger and blind to what is really happening in our culture.
Let’s think beyond the agenda of the Social Justice warriors of the political left and consider the culture in general. We live in a Postmodern world ruled by Satan (1 John 5:19). Ours is a culture that does not believe in absolute moral or religious truth; all views must be considered equal, no matter how contradictory—unless, of course, a view disagrees with the Postmodern view which perceives itself to be the only, absolutely truthful worldview. Given this mindset, the Christian church is in big trouble. After all, we believe salvation can only be attained by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
This means authentic Christian faith is now the bull’s-eye of Postmodernism. We see evidence of this in an escalating hatred of biblical Christianity, especially within the Social Justice movement. Today we are being bombarded with disparaging concepts such as male privilege, white privilege, now Christian Privilege—the complaint that since Christians see their religion as the only true religion and want Christianity to dominate the world, Christianity leads to marginalization and discrimination of non-Christians.
Sadly, many evangelicals respond, saying: “Well, we can’t have that. Let’s widen the gate of Christianity so all can enter regardless of belief. Let’s build a bigger tent. Let’s make our message more inclusive, more appealing, more relevant;” hence, evangelical pragmatism.
Once the church demonstrated its willingness to become like the world in order to win it, it is only natural for it to continue down that road by embracing Social Justice ideology and expand the message of the gospel to advocate for it. The implication is clear: the church must now take up the causes of the Social Justice Warriors—some causes are legitimate, most are illegitimate, and many are so sexually deviant as to be considered an abomination to God (e.g. homosexuality [Lev 18:22; 20:13], transvestism [Deut 22:5]; and abortion [Prov 6:17]).
Now, let me be clear: as Christians, we love our neighbor, we naturally desire equal opportunity and equal justice under the law. We agree the world is unfair and unjust because it is depraved. Therefore we pray: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven” (Matt 6:10). But we also understand that the gospel addresses something infinitely more serious than social injustices: it addresses the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the justice of a holy God who will pour out His wrath upon sinners who have violated His law and live in rebellion to His righteous standard. God does not see man as a helpless victim, but as a rebellious sinner who stands condemned before His bar of justice. Therefore the gospel is about the eternal destiny of men’s souls, not about social injustices that will continue until He returns.
Perhaps the greatest unexpected consequence of making Social Justice fundamental to the gospel is that it enables sinners in their delusion that they are innocent victims of other people rather than being responsible for their own sin. Some may even blame a sovereign God for allowing them to be in the situation they are in and therefore want nothing to do with Him. With such a warped understanding, they will never see their sin and their need for a Savior.
The message of the gospel is not about delivering victims from their oppressors, it’s about delivering rebels from the just wrath of a Holy God. It’s about the eternal glory of Christ, not the temporal blessings of man. The Holy Spirit was sent into the world, “to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8), not produce equality of property, power, and status in the culture.
Sadly, the camel’s nose of culture was allowed to enter the tent of the church in the “seeker sensitive” movement, so it should be no surprise that he continues to force his way in completely. Once inside, he will trample the gospel underfoot, destroy all that brings glory to Christ, and exalt himself as the one to be worshipped. This would be Satan’s greatest triumph! What sinful man needs to hear is not how he can be delivered from the social injustice of man, but how he can be delivered from the righteous justice of God! Therefore, we remain committed to one theme, one gospel, and with Paul say, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).
For more information on this subject read: The Dallas Statement on Social Injustice (https://statementonsocialjustice.com), and also hear Pastor Harrell’s sermon: Did Paul Preach Social Justice? (http://www.cbctn.org/sermon/716/Did-Paul-Preach-Social-Justice-.html).