I think however (there I go again thinking), that recent developments only further highlight my original points and my warnings. The problem isn’t not wanting to fight. It’s that how we fight the battle matters if we want to actually fight in order to win. If you come upon a bar fight, bust in the door and just start swinging fists like an unhinged maniac you can count on three things:
So what are those recent developments? Well now we come to #ShepCon2019 and the Cultural Marxism Q&A with Phil Johnson and John MacArthur on the one side and Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan and Mark Dever on the other.
In this discussion, neither side provides much clarity. The social gospel and the social justice movement are not clearly defined or disambiguated and the whole discussion seems totally discombobulated. This is precisely because we haven’t defined our terms properly nor have we drawn the battle lines appropriately or ahem…*thoughtfully* in a principled and consistent manner. We have instead been reactionary and reflexive.
So let’s reset and re-orient before we delve back into the arena to fight. To pan out from this discussion at ShepCon, broadly speaking what we have now in the larger conversation on social justice in the church is a number of different perspectives in this discussion being had.
For starters, we have actual marxists, two kinds of theonomists and two kinds of traditionalists. There are at least 5 groups. From my perspective they are:
Group 1 – The Social Justice Marxists:
Those who call themselves Christians and want a version of justice that is man-made and according to marxist philosophy yet they dress it up as “loving thy neighbor” and an imperative of the Gospel.
Group 2 – The Social Justice theonomists (small t – want God’s transcendent standards as law whether they agree or not with big T – Theonomy):
They hold to a big gospel (atonement and kingdom aspects) and a big great commission (all of life to be redeemed). They want justice in society which is explicitly based on God’s law and is distinctly anti-socialist but which also recognizes that the implementation of justice in the temporal realm is part of the good news of the gospel of the kingdom. They want “social justice” too but define it simply as justice in society according to God’s law. Tactically they differ on whether or not to use the term “social justice”.
Group 3 – Anti-SJW theonomist reactionaries:
Then we have the two groups who were represented in the discussion at ShepCon:
Group 4 – Reductionist, traditionalist reactionaries:
Those who deny that the arrival of temporal justice is a component of the Gospel, who see a dichotomy between teaching on social issues and the call to repentance in the Gospel but also reflexively reject the Marxist wing of what is called social justice. These same people may or may not be ok with some forms of socialism (public schools for example) and so it is inconsistent and unprincipled in some respects. Their opposition is sometimes a kind of “traditionalism” They too sometimes lump in group 2 with group 1 and can’t seem to get the difference.
Group 5 – Reductionist, traditionalist harmonizers:
Those who are the exact same as group 4 but refused to sign the statement on social justice that group 4 created because tactically they don’t agree that it’s the best way to oppose number 1 and they are tonally concerned that sometimes group 4 is not sympathetic enough with the plight of oppressed people groups. By signing on to the statement on social justice they feel the may alienate those they are trying to win, so they don’t take the stand there.
All these groups laid out, there are also those who seem to schizophrenically bounce between these groups, and there may be more groups here to or variations of those I’ve described above. But the point is, we won’t even begin to make progress on advancing the discussion, or winning any battles if we are just throwing confetti bombs across the room hoping it will land on a target we haven’t properly assessed yet.
If we want a lesson in how to address this topic with the appropriate nuance it deserves, check and see how R.C. Sproul addressed it in his own words. He knew how to enter the bar and sort out different kinds of hooligans and smack them both.
Let’s be faithful, let’s be decisive, let’s be courageous, let’s be bold, let’s be schrewd. The words careful, deliberate and charitable need not be obstacles to any of these aims.
In your service, your very own think-boy.
***Editors Update*** 3/9/2019
The aforementioned Q&A section has since been removed by Shepherds Conference Organizers. This is why the link no longer works.
If you’re wondering why: