Last week, a statement on social justice and the gospel was released by prominent Christian Leaders including John Macarthur, Voddie Baucham, and Phil Johnson. The statement holds standard biblical truths such as the unique roles of men and women, and heterosexual marriage. I like what it has to say about justice, salvation, Heresy, and gender roles. The statement also draws a hard line in the sand particularly on the issue of social justice and racism. You can find the statement here:
But I have major problems with this statement, and my main aim through this blog post is to start a conversation about this statement. Some of it needs some tweaking, and we as the church need to come to an understanding of how we should be bringing about God’s kingdom in the world. I think it is good that the Church is having this conversation, and so I encourage everyone to comment, respond and talk to your own local church about the topic.
“Although families, groups, and nations can sin collectively, and cultures can be predisposed to particular sins, subsequent generations share the collective guilt of their ancestors only if they approve and embrace (or attempt to justify) those sins.”
I agree with this statement. However, I believe what is missing is that we cannot deny the fact that White Christians have been complicit in performing acts of racism and going even farther back, participating in slavery. Today we reject racism, and we have come a long way. BUT it would be foolish of us to think that our structures, our systems, and our attitudes throughout the generations have not in some way been affected by our predecessors. We should at the very least, be asking ourselves, what are our cultural/racial blind spots? What about my church, association, or family has been affected by racist attitudes/bias? I think that is a question we are just now beginning to ask well.
WE DENY that anything else, whether works to be performed or opinions to be held, can be added to the gospel without perverting it into another gospel. This also means that implications and applications of the gospel, such as the obligation to live justly in the world, though legitimate and important in their own right, are not definitional components of the gospel.
Certainly, we may not add anything else to the gospel. But the Bible does address the issue of identifying what saving faith looks like. James Chapter 2 clearly states that “faith without works is dead” (vs. 26). While this may not be a definitional component of the gospel, it is a definitional component for true faith. Good works are the proper application and fruit of our faith.
WE DENY that political or social activism should be viewed as integral components of the gospel or primary to the mission of the church.
First of all, I agree that political and social activism is not the primary mission of the church, but should not the application of the gospel touch all areas of life? Furthermore, it really depends how you define political or social activism. Should pastors preach to their congregation that they should advocate for pro-life candidates only in elections? I think so. All churches are made up of people who have political and social aspects to their lives. Isn’t addressing political and social issues with the truth of the gospel at least part of the mission of the church? We have very real issues in or country socially and politically. What we need to know is how the church needs to address these issues, in a way that is in line with the truth of the gospel. In the midst of confusion and chaos, Jesus followers need to be the ones stepping into the most broken places of society to provide the presence, compassion and healing of Christ.
We reject any teaching that encourages racial groups to view themselves as privileged oppressors or entitled victims of oppression. While we are to weep with those who weep, we deny that a person’s feelings of offense or oppression necessarily prove that someone else is guilty of sinful behaviors, oppression, or prejudice.
Once again, I see what they are getting at here, but I don’t really understand why this needs to be clarified. Obviously, just because someone is offended doesn’t mean that you actually said anything genuinely offensive. Everything is offensive these days to everyone. What matters is that we can look back on history and even the present day and deduce that racism has been a societal problem. An outcry of oppression doesn’t mean there is oppression, but we should certainly stop and listen to these voices with compassion and empathy. There may actually be oppression occurring, or we could help that person to understand they perceive to be oppressed when they are in fact not. Shouldn’t we at least seek to understand why hundreds of people are marching down are streets holding “Black Lives Matter” signs? Why do they feel that others think Black lives don’t matter? The reality is, although we ourselves may have not been oppressors of decades past, the oppressed still remember. Even if they themselves were not the victims, they have heard their grandparents and parents tell the stories and that un-forgiveness has been there for many years. That bitterness has been boiling down the family line. We at least need to recognize that the hurt and pain exists, and help people move forward from there, in forgiveness and repentance.
And we emphatically deny that lectures on social issues (or activism aimed at reshaping the wider culture) are as vital to the life and health of the church as the preaching of the gospel and the exposition of Scripture. Historically, such things tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel.
Certainly, lectures on social activism are not on the same level of importance as preaching the gospel and expositing Scripture. But as you exposit Scripture, aren’t you going to run into the question of how the Scripture affects life today? Why does it have to be one or another? We can NEVER abandon the preaching of the gospel to focus only on activism. If we are doing that, then we will abandon the faith. The gospel always must be central. But again, why do we have to abandon all social and political aspects of application? The gospel has an answer for every problem of life. Just because we preach how the gospel can overflow into our communities does not mean we need to depart from it. I think Matt Chandler does a great job of doing that in his sermons. He has a great talk on this issue that can be found here: https://vimeo.com/263229171. Galatians 2 describes an instance in which Paul calls out Peter for harboring racism in his heart, and throughout the new testament we see believers wrestle with the divide between Jew and Gentile. Shouldn’t we face racism head on too? I think we have a solid biblical model for this. The danger is that if you do not address issues like racism directly in a congregation then there is a danger that sin will go undetected.
Overall, the church needs to be on the front lines of social and political brokenness. We are the salt and light of the earth. Furthermore, we are commanded in Scripture to care for the poor, hurting, and most vulnerable in society. In fact, our negligence in this endeavor has probably caused some of the current societal issues we are facing. We have to take up the call as God’s people, and instead of absolving ourselves from responsibility, we should lean in to listen to these disgruntled voices in order that we may ask how we can bring the truth of the gospel into their lives.
If you would like to respond to this post or have a comment, you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.