This summer I met with a group of concerned Christian leaders in Dallas, Texas in order to discuss the issues surrounding the in vogue movement known as social justice. As we discussed the issues, it became plain and clear that this is one of the most confusing and potentially dangerous agendas to face the church in recent history. For that reason, we engaged in a project to collectively formulate a theological statement that would address these cultural matters in love and stand for the pure gospel of Jesus.
So, why did I engage in this project and attach my name to it? I would like to attempt an answer to that question.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope for fallen sinners. All throughout history, there have been attempts to redefine the gospel, to malign the gospel, to subtract from the gospel, and to include additions to the gospel. In a time when people have so much access to knowledge—we continue to lack truth for the brokenness of depraved humanity. This pattern of life is not because truth doesn’t exist, but because so many ideas are elevated above God’s truth and people continue to suppress God’s truth leaving broken sinners confused.
Our hope is the clear sounding of the gospel. We must be heralds of truth—not political ideas or cultural trends—faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. If lost and blind sinners will see—it must be through light shining into their darkness. When social ideas and constructions replace truth, it runs the risk leading people into further darkness and oppression. Therefore, we must stand for the gospel of Jesus Christ and deliver the only message that will bring oppressed and broken sinners to a saving relationship with God—that’s the message of the cross of Jesus Christ. We must never forget that even the learned Jews with the oracles of God and the covenants lost the gospel.
The Call to Contend for the Faith
In Jude 3, we find him urging believers to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” The word “contend” carries an interesting meaning. The word is “ἐπαγωνίζομαι” which is connected to “ἀγωνίζομαι” from where we derive the English word agonize. It means to exert intense effort. The idea is to put forth a ready and serious defense for the faith. It’s clear from context that the word “faith” is in reference to the saving faith of Christ through the gospel.
Far too often people are unwilling to stand for the gospel publicly because they are afraid of rebuke, criticism, and the loss of support for their ministry. Many people are willing to work long hours on their ministry strategy in order to protect their brand and their image, but they’re unwilling to subject themselves to heavy criticism that could potentially cause their brand to lose support in the end. Interestingly enough, Jude never says to protect your ministry strategy. The calling for Christians is to contend for the gospel. Jesus never promised us an easy life without trouble. In fact, he promised us much worse.
The Perspicuity and Sufficiency of Scripture
The antiquarian term perspicuity means clarity. In other words, throughout history theologians and scholars have pointed to the clarity of the Scriptures as the Spirit of God makes known to us the meaning of the text. This is brought to pass in the life of the Christian by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Unbelievers are blind and unable to understand the truths of the Scriptures because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).
It has become obvious to me through discussions on social justice that terms like intersectionality, critical race theory, and other relevant terms in this discussion are vague at best and as clear as mud in most circles. When the Scriptures are clear and sufficient for us—why would we abandon the biblical model of hermeneutics (literal, historical, grammatical, and redemptive interpretation) for the political savvy of intersectionality? It seems that we’re living in times when sociology has replaced theology—or theology is being formulated through the lens of sociology. For that reason, we must have a clear call to come back to the Scriptures. We can gain much ground if we will open the Scriptures and reason together rather than becoming champions of social justice.
Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we love the oppressed as Jesus does—as the commandments teach, we will love our neighbor as ourselves. However, as we consider the proper way to love our neighbor, we must not ignore truth and deliver a cheap substitute. The oppressed need the good news of Jesus and the best way to love the oppressed is to apply the gospel to them—serving them in truth without placing an emphasis of social justice above the gospel.
Should we as followers of Jesus stand for justice? Sure, and that flows out of the gospel, but it should never be elevated above the gospel—which runs the risk of creating a social gospel. Where racism exists, it must be confronted. Where women are discriminated against, we must speak up. However, one of the most unloving and patronizing things that we can do is to create a religious version of affirmative action within evangelicalism that flows out of methods of intersectionality in order to satisfy a quota of skin color and gender in specific positions in the local church and denominational life.
It is out of love that we point out error. When victimology has replaced theology, one of the most unloving things a person can do is to remain silent when error is entangling the minds of friends, family, and fellow church members. It’s necessary to engage in this conversation in love and it’s out of love for God that we do so. Sure we love our fellow man and our neighbor, but we love God supremely and for that reason—we must speak up.
For these reasons I have engaged in this project and attached my name to it. I have no desire to attack personalities and create further division. At times people need to be criticized, as I’m quite sure my positions will be examined and critiqued. However, I do not approach such critique without first giving a heavy self-examination and seeking to be balanced and biblical. May the Lord be honored and his gospel be elevated before the eyes of people during this important theological conversation.
If you would like to sign The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel — you can visit the site and sign it here.
If you share it on social media – use hashtag #SocialJusticeStatement