Today marks the one-year anniversary of the release of the “Statement on Social Justice.” While there is much we could say about it, I would like to use this historic occasion to celebrate one more bitter I-told-you-so.
I would like to draw attention to a less-discussed aspect of the Statement, but one that is by no means of less importance. In fact, it is of great importance—perhaps even the key to it all. It is the Statement’s direct affirmation that laws must be established to correct injustice that is imposed through prejudice, and that these laws must indeed be based upon Scripture.
As I said at the time, the document as a whole gave nothing but lip service to justice both in general and specifically. It showed no promise to caring about it in actuality. That much has proven true, as we shall see.
The Affirmation of Justice
As I read through the affirmations and denials for the first time last year, a few stuck out to me, but one in particular provoked me. It reads, “We affirm that societies must establish laws to correct injustices that have been imposed through cultural prejudice.”
“Yeah, right,” I grunted to myself.
At that moment, I resolved to test their sincerity. When, I thought, has any single one of these leaders ever uttered a word against cultural prejudice, especially when it comes to actually establishing laws or correcting injustices imposed because of it? I have been familiar with the works of most of these guys, certainly all of the major ones, for well over a decade, and cannot recall a single instance.
(Before anyone stops to correct me saying that John MacArthur marched with the Civil Rights leaders, Phil Johnson, his ghostwriter and right-hand-man, went out of his way to distinguish that MacArthur certain did not march with the protestors, but was there to preach the gospel among them.)
So, what about now, after a full year of these issues being aired, argued, and forged in the crucible of social justice debate? What examples of this claim, or what expressions of it have they offered?
Answer: not a single thing. Not a peep. Not an utterance. Not a single suggestion as to what Christians ought even to advocate let alone work for in terms of establishing laws to correct injustices imposed through cultural prejudice.
I searched the past year of sermons, articles, shows, and posts of as many of these key players, and others, as I could. I am talking about John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Michael O’Fallon (Sovereign Nations), James White, Voddie Baucham, Tom Ascol, Josh Buice...all the ring leaders and key figures, you name it. In the intervening year since they released that Statement containing that affirmation, not one of these guys has made good on it. Not one has even lifted a finger.
(I will, of course, be happy to be corrected on this, if I missed something. Feel free to send me the links, or post them in the comments.)
There has not been even so much as a peep from these guys recognizing that there are any injustices imposed through prejudice. There is not a mention of any need whatsoever, let alone what laws need to be established to fix it, or what Christians ought to do about it.
It would be so much more consistent of them if they did stop there; if they did completely ignore that such injustices exist today. Denial would be much more preferable to what we do get from them. The Statement does not give us denial, but recognition. The problem is, the only recognition we seem to get in practice from them is a twisted one. They see cultural prejudice and alleged racism on the part of those they criticize: the blacks, the alleged leftists, alleged “cultural marxists,” etc. These are the people our lip-servers cannot seem to quit accusing of racism and prejudice themselves.
Understanding the Silence
Now this problem can only have so many logical rationales. The statement could be sincere in its claim, but perhaps no real injustices have occurred, and thus there was no need to preach on necessary laws or changes, or issues. Or, possibly, there were such injustices, but every one of these guys were just prevented from engaging for some reason.
The first of these possibilities we all know is nonsense. The second is so unlikely that we all know it is not the problem.
That leaves two possibilities. Either the statement means what it says, but some kind of pietism or radical two kingdoms influences are in play, or else the affirmation is lip service—a fraud.
I do not think the affirmation is undermined by mere theological commitments, however. The reason for this is that it provides its own theological foundations, and they are quite robust.
Two aspects of the relevant affirmation and denial make this clear. First, it says that justice in the world is directly related to both the nature of God, his law (i.e., “requires”), and our nature as bearing the Image of God. It says, “since he is holy, righteous, and just, God requires those who bear his image to live justly in the world.”
Second, the companion denial to this goes even further. It says that no human standards of justice can ever have the same authority as those “derived from Scripture.” This, of course, assumes that Scripture does indeed contain standards of justice and that we can derive them. But the denial adds more: “We further deny that Christians can live justly in the world under any principles other than the biblical standard of righteousness.”
These denials, then, strengthen the affirmation greatly: God requires justice of us in this world, Scripture provides the most authoritative standard of justice, and in fact, no standard other than Scripture can provide justice in this world.
When we go further and realize that the context of this statement, from the affirmation, is the establishment of civil laws about injustice based on prejudice, then we have a very bold statement indeed. The Statement on Social Justice is actually saying that we are required to derive civil laws from Scripture in order to correct injustices in the civil law system that have arisen because of cultural prejudices. It says we must do this and that we must derive these laws from Scripture.
This makes the absolute silence on this score in the intervening year all the more devastating.
The logic of the possibilities leads me to assume the last one discussed. There is plenty of work to be done, and these guys are capable of doing at least some of it. There is nothing preventing them, and they have poured out so much literature and media since then that we know it is not a problem of productivity. It is not a can’t problem, but a won’t problem.
In fact, I believe they never intended to move a finger to help with the burden from the beginning. I felt this from the beginning, but I waited for a year to see if they would do or say anything to prove that suspicion wrong. They have not. It seems unavoidable to me that the claims in the “Justice” affirmation and denial are nothing short of good old-fashioned lip service.
The Statement on Social Justice is actually saying that we are required to derive civil laws from Scripture in order to correct injustices in the civil law system that have arisen because of cultural prejudices. — @JoelMcDurmon
So, what now? I am not saying you should completely write these guys off, though I largely have. I think they are beset by warped ideals and priorities, a warped sense of the application of God’s law in society and what that must look like in real, practical terms, and that they do not intend to change in the least bit. Their problems will, as I have said multiple times now, leave them on the wrong side of history the same way the conservative, Bible-defenders of ages past mostly fell on the side of slavery, Jim Crow, against woman suffrage, etc. But this does not mean their gospel and some of their applications cannot have limited utility.
The real exposé here is that these guys have now long confessed that we need to establish laws that combat prejudice, but they have spent the full year since turning their nose, averting the eyes, and stopping their ears from even considering it. Worse, they have spent the year tearing down anyone who had even an inkling to try. They have spent the year blanket-labeling any attempt to discuss social justice issues from the standard of Scripture as “cultural Marxists,” “leftists,” “emotional,” another Gospel, and a variety of other labels that are either negative or they think are negative.
As we have also said from the beginning, the entire endeavor on the part of these guys has been one of division and tribalism. The constant undefined and broad labels and attacks are designed to polarize the discussion, demonize those they see as enemies of the gospel, and circle the wagons around the sheep they have manage to frighten with all their alarm.
Now is the time to start pushing back on this very point: their own words about establishing laws to remedy injustices from cultural prejudice. I encourage all readers, on whichever side you find yourself in this unfortunately and unnecessarily polarized intramural debate: challenge each and every one of these leaders specifically on this point. What laws do we need, or need to remove, or to change, to correct the injustices imposed by cultural prejudices? And why have you been neglecting this discussion for the whole year while you attack everything about it?
If no answer is forthcoming, you can be sure they never had any intention of addressing the injustices, and probably never intended to. It was a falsehood meant to head off an anticipated criticism; like, “We’ll say this so they can’t accuse us of not caring about justice.” They may also try to dodge. They may say, for example, that there are no such injustices, or all the ones offered are actually either fake or not unjust, or that the real injustices are all by those liberals over there. They may try to say that it is far more important to preach the gospel and use all their time reminding us of the LGBT agenda and the central evil of abortion. These, they may say, trump all other social problems and consume all their time.
But this will only cement the fact that their “Justice” section was all lip service to begin with. They never intended to do what they affirmed that God requires of us.
Don’t fall for the excuses. Push them to live up to their own promises. And if they don’t, be prepared and bold enough to hold them accountable for it.