In response to what has been perceived as a dangerous fixation by some on issues of social justice, a group of evangelical pastors recently released what they dubbed a “Statement on Social Justice”. Not that it has nothing good to say, but there are too many false dichotomies, reductionistic platitudes and contradictory statements for me to able to sign it in good conscience.
Generally speaking, there are two main ditches people fall into on this issue.
1) Getting in the “pursuit of justice car” and throwing the law of God in the backseat or out the window.
2) Regarding anyone who gets in the car at all as distracted from authentic Christianity.
This statement falls into the 2nd ditch.
//WE AFFIRM that the gospel is the divinely-revealed message concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ—especially his virgin birth, righteous life, substitutionary sacrifice, atoning death, and bodily resurrection—revealing who he is and what he has done with the promise that he will save anyone and everyone who turns from sin by trusting him as Lord.//
Reductionistic. Where is mention of the Gospel of the Kingdom? A kingdom which is characterized by righteousness and justice? A kingdom which has authority now over heaven and earth? The Gospel is not only about the atonement, it’s also about the Kingdom. This Kingdom authority is the very basis of the Gospel. It’s the very basis of why the nations are called to repent and believe in every area of life wherever the idols may be.
//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.//
If identifying sin (idolatry) in the culture (statism for example) as Paul did and repudiating it on the basis of the authority of Christ in the Gospel of the Kingdom is not part of the Gospel message than what is the Gospel? Scripture specifically connects the obligation of civil rulers to live justly with the arrival of the kingdom of the Messiah. Again, the arrival of the Kingdom and the authority that goes with it is the very basis upon which the nations are called to repent.
//WE AFFIRM that the primary role of the church is to worship God through the preaching of his word, teaching sound doctrine, observing baptism and the Lord’s Supper, refuting those who contradict, equipping the saints, and evangelizing the lost. We affirm that when the primacy of the gospel is maintained that this often has a positive effect on the culture in which various societal ills are mollified. We affirm that, under the lordship of Christ, we are to obey the governing authorities established by God and pray for civil leaders.
WE DENY that political or social activism should be viewed as integral components of the gospel or primary to the mission of the church. Though believers can and should utilize all lawful means that God has providentially established to have some effect on the laws of a society, we deny that these activities are either evidence of saving faith or constitute a central part of the church’s mission given to her by Jesus Christ, her head. We deny that laws or regulations possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts.//
I cannot affirm this in its totality. Why the false dichotomy between the great commission (the mission of the church) and political and social activism? Whether calling individuals or groups of individuals in their civil, familial or ecclesiastical functions to repent, the point of activism is to identify sin and idolatry and call towards repentance. Teaching the nations to obey in every sphere is part of the great commission. It will not happen without regeneration, but the identifying of sin wherever it lies and the call to repent on the basis of Christ’s authority is indeed part of the mission of the Church.
//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.//
Another false dichotomy. Why in the world is the Church’s influence in discipling the culture in righteousness according to God’s law (economics, law, art, education, business etc.) put at odds with the exposition of scripture and the preaching of the gospel (gospel of the *kingdom*, not just the gospel of the *atonement*). The exposition of scripture is not at odds with social issues! The exposition of scripture is to be applied to social issues!