New Evangelical Statement Against “Social Justice” Distortions of the Gospel Causing Controversy

New Evangelical Statement Against “Social Justice” Distortions of the Gospel Causing Controversy September 6, 2018

Controversy in the church. It’s not a new thing, but a new statement declaring the dangers of the concept of “social justice” to the pure Gospel message is getting a lot of attention.

The statement, simply titled, “The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel” was issued by theologian and pastor, John MacArthur and a host of other evangelical leaders, who acted as initial signers.

It begins:

“Clarity on these issues will fortify believers and churches to withstand an onslaught of dangerous and false teachings that threaten the gospel, misrepresent Scripture, and lead people away from the grace of God in Jesus Christ,” the statement explains in an introduction.

“Specifically, we are deeply concerned that values borrowed from secular culture are currently undermining Scripture in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality. The Bible’s teaching on each of these subjects is being challenged under the broad and somewhat nebulous rubric of concern for ‘social justice,'” it continued. “If the doctrines of God’s Word are not uncompromisingly reasserted and defended at these points, there is every reason to anticipate that these dangerous ideas and corrupted moral values will spread their influence into other realms of biblical doctrines and principles.”

Having read the statement myself, I’m going to go ahead and say that there’s nothing inherently wrong with social justice, as it applies to caring and fighting for the oppressed. What the statement seems to be pointing out, however, is that under the guise of “social justice” the Gospel message and the inerrant Word of God is being distorted to satisfy man, rather than remain true to the faith.

The issued statement walks through 14 points, noting those areas where social justice and its defenders among the progressive “Christian” set are screwing up.

“WE DENY that true justice can be culturally defined or that standards of justice that are merely socially constructed can be imposed with the same authority as those that are derived from Scripture. We further deny that Christians can live justly in the world under any principles other than the biblical standard of righteousness,” the statement says. “Relativism, socially-constructed standards of truth or morality, and notions of virtue and vice that are constantly in flux cannot result in authentic justice.”

This is truth. I would point to that last line, particularly, about notions of virtue and vice in flux, as I think of all the evangelicals who allowed their standards to bend during the 2016 election.

But I digress…

They also addressed human sexuality, and the bizarre, anti-science belief that gender is choice.

“WE DENY that human sexuality is a socially constructed concept. We also deny that one’s sex can be fluid. We reject ‘gay Christian’ as a legitimate biblical category. We further deny that any kind of partnership or union can properly be called marriage other than one man and one woman in lifelong covenant together,” the statement argues.

Indeed. You can’t claim to have Christian faith while supporting gay marriage, when it was God who created the concept of marriage, affirmed by the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 19.

I’ve heard many argue that the Bible does not address gay marriage, and they are correct. That is because it is a settled matter in the kingdom of God.

No matter what the laws of man say, marriage is not in the hands of men. Father God has already set the parameters. Anything outside of the holy union of man and wife is illegitimate in the eyes of God. For Christians, it is not our job to challenge that, in order to make the world more comfortable with us.

Do same-sex couples need some sort of legal protections? Sure, but don’t call it marriage.

“We further deny that people should be identified as ‘sexual minorities’—which serves as a cultural classification rather than one that honors the image-bearing character of human sexuality as created by God,” it adds.

The statement also addressed racism and segregation.

“We deny that systemic racism is in any way compatible with the core principles of historic evangelical convictions. We deny that the Bible can be legitimately used to foster or justify partiality, prejudice, or contempt toward other ethnicities. We deny that the contemporary evangelical movement has any deliberate agenda to elevate one ethnic group and subjugate another. 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,” the statement notes. “Historically, such things tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel.”

Indeed, the Word is clear.

Galatians 3:28 NASB – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

There’s a real need within the Body of Christ for believers to stop looking at their outward selves and focus on the same Spirit that inhabits all those who have received their salvation.

Still, not everyone is going to agree with the statement or its purpose.

The pastor of Grace Baptist Church in the United Kingdom, Ryan Burton King was invited to sign on to the statement, but declined.

“The statement remains in my view a cynical, misguided document that has been pitched by the wrong people, at the wrong time, in the wrong way, and with wrong ideas and understandings in the background,” King argued.

“Purporting to address an alleged shift in evangelical circles away from the biblical gospel towards a false social gospel, the new Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel is driven by people I would like to believe are well-meaning but frankly not at all ‘getting’ what those whom it primarily addresses are saying. That is at best. At worst, it represents a toxic agenda to discredit and undermine godly men and women crying out for biblical social justice, national and ecclesiastical repentance, and meaningful reconciliation. I certainly hope that this statement will not become a litmus test for orthodoxy, as if those who don’t sign it should be written off as ‘not sound’,” he said.

I have to point out that I believe Pastor King has misunderstood the purpose of the statement. I don’t think there has been a “shift in evangelical circles away from the biblical gospel.”

Evangelicals – actual evangelicals, not the political version – hold more traditional, conservative views and tend to embrace more spirit-filled solutions to the world’s problems. There has been a shift, however, from what is biblical truth to a more world-friendly, progressive version of Christianity.

They are the living epitome of 2 Timothy 3:5 (CEB) – “They will look like they are religious but deny God’s power. Avoid people like this.”

King also seems to feel simply calling out “social justice” Christianity is giving a green light to racism.

It’s not, and as noted, the statement specifically notes that racism and segregation are against what is taught in the faith.

You can read the statement, which now has over 4,400 signatures, for yourself and make your own determination here.

 

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  • Polarbearpapa

    It appears they were merely stating what the Lord put forth in his word…

    6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who leads an undisciplined life that is not in keeping with the tradition you received from us.

    2 Thessalonians 3

  • chemical

    From Susan:

    No matter what the laws of man say, marriage is not in the hands of men. Father God has already set the parameters. Anything outside of the holy union of man and wife is illegitimate in the eyes of God.

    This is a violation of freedom of religion, and I’m surprised you didn’t see it. You have to consider other religions, because that’s guaranteed in the 1st amendment. You cannot make a religious argument to determine secular law. We have a word for that: Sharia. When you claim “God has already set the parameters”, you’re not considering all the people who aren’t worshipping your god. Only about 70% of Americans are Christian! So, Hindus aren’t allowed to get married now, because they don’t worship Yahweh? What about Buddhists? What about a Christian man who wants to marry a Jewish woman, and neither his church nor her synagogue will perform the marriage?

    Basically, there is a compelling government interest to define marriage and the benefits that entitles, because otherwise you will have Christians not recognizing a Buddhist marriage, Jews not recognizing a Christian marriage, etc. It would be absolute chaos.

  • RebeccaSusanWright

    I think you’re really twisting yourself to find something to complain about, here.
    Are the Buddhists married man and woman? THAT is the parameter of marriage set by God for mankind, even if the couple are married in a Buddhist ceremony, Hindu, Taoist, etc… as long as it follows God’s plan for man and wife.
    Marriage is the union. You’re talking about the legal aspects that are man made.

  • I can’t even begin to take this statement, or your post about it, seriously when no one involved seems to have a basic understanding of what sex and gender are. This is like declaiming about theology without knowing the difference between Jesus and Paul. (And I’m not even touching the other utter failures of this statement)

    Sex is not gender. Gender is not sex. The terms cannot be used interchangeably.

    Please learn before you comment.

  • guy

    I appreciate your review of the statement. My concern is that there is not enough clarity in it to allow a full assessment of the motives and intent. It would be some work, but incredibly informative to know what percentage of the total the 4,400 signatures represent. is there support across specifc denominations? Are detractors clustered are spread across denominations? Is there varied support within a congregation? I suspect, that there will be another statement at some point that those who refused to sign might formulate. Also, is the statement impromtu or the result of a planned effort/scheduled statement? I am most interested in the social justice references that have to do with responses to systematic violations of Christ-centered diversity, namely ethnic diversity.

  • chemical

    You’re talking about the legal aspects that are man made.

    Yes! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. But since you also refuse to call a gay marriage a marriage, well, that’s the thing I have a problem with. Because being married has certain legal aspects to it, like taxes and health insurance, for example.

    So if you’re saying that your church shouldn’t perform gay marriages, well, then that’s none of my business because I’m not a member of your church. If you’re saying that the government shouldn’t recognize any marriage law, then I’m criticizing that as a terrible idea. Sorry if I’m straw manning here, and I’m misinterpreting what you’re saying.

  • guy

    Given the timing , I’d suspect that this might be a campaign add for the mid-term elections.

  • Alan Drake

    There is an apparent contradiction between this proclamation and the Words of Christ Himself in Matthew 25:31 et al.

    That contradiction appears to show that the signers are “goat Christians”.

  • RebeccaSusanWright

    Nope. Marriage is a religious construct. Property division, partner benefits, etc… even divorce are all things courts or the legal system have to work out.
    And I’m not saying MY church shouldnt perform ‘gay marriages,’ I’m saying no one professing to be a Christian should, but I know there are some that like to pretend to be Christian churches, who sanction ‘gay marriages.’ That’s the point of how liberal sensibilities twist Scripture to fit the world, rather than working to draw the world to the truth of Scripture.

  • chemical

    Oh, OK, so we are talking past each other here. I was concerned with the secular aspects and you’re concerned with the religious ceremony. We’re talking about two completely different things here.

    That’s the point of how liberal sensibilities twist Scripture to fit the world, rather than working to draw the world to the truth of Scripture.

    I could say the same thing about conservatives. A good chunk of the New Testament talks about how the rich man will not go to heaven, sell everything you own and give it to the poor, welcome the stranger, etc. which conservatives ignore. The Bible is a Rorschach test; people see what they want to see.

  • IllinoisPatriot

    I think you are still twisting the Word of God to attempt to force-fit your own secular notions of social-justice and popularism into Jesus’ mouth so you can claim to be a “Christian”.

    It was VERY clear from Susan’s article that she was only talking about Christianity and how the Christian “evangelicals” have abandoned the Word of God for their own versions – versions that are REALLY bad translations made by those that seem to only speak in terms of secular values.

    Christianity is based on and defined as following Christ and doing so by obeying his word. Not just the parts that comport with secular sensibilities but ALL of Christ’s word. Not the parts of the Old Testament that were superseded by Christ’s word, but Christ’s words as recorded in the Bible.

    Christianity is about how Christians live and what Christians should believe – not about what laws should or should not exist, not about whether or not gays should have legal protections. Christianity states that marriage is between one man and one woman regardless of what Atheism or Ancestor-worship may claim. Christianity does not condone child molestation regardless of what the Catholic Church may claim nor does Christianity recognize the “lesser-of-two-evils” in politics regardless of what Trump may claim (Christianity calls for Christians to NOT follow corrupt, unholy men – but to adhere to those that follow and honor the Word of God).

    Your argument is an attempt to put a square peg (secular political policy) into a round hole (Christian belief) using a hammer and jig-saw to “square the corners” of the round hole so you can fit the square peg of secular belief into Christianity instead of rounding the corners of secular policy to fit the round hold of Christianity.

    Christians have the Constitutional right to practice our religion just as Atheists, Humanists, Muslims and Catholics do as long as we do not deny the same rights to others. There is no such conflict with Christianity which is all about a personal relationship with Jesus. Where there is conflict with Atheism, Humanism or Islam, both must be constrained in their efforts to dictate what faiths others are allowed to practice or what religious values they must believe in. For Atheists and Humanists (and others that worship government and the culture of man), that constraint is embedded in the US Constitution’s 1st Amendment’s guarantee of the free practice of religion. For Muslims, it is too often necessary to forcefully prevent the more radical believers from committing secular crimes or to be sure that no benefits accrue to breaking our secular laws against violating the rights of others to life and liberty.

  • chemical

    I apologize, allow me to elaborate on what I mean by “the Bible is a Rorschach test”. There are around 40,000 versions of Christianity being practiced in the US today. You defined Christianity pretty clearly here, and I’m not here to argue about whether that interpretation is the correct one. What I am saying is that in the case I decide to convert to Christianity, I have 40,000 versions to choose from, and can just choose the version that matches my current beliefs the best. The thing is, everybody makes that choice when they convert.

    Also, atheism isn’t a religion, and atheists don’t worship the government or human culture. Besides, have you seen the government right now? Who would worship that? Atheism is merely the belief that no gods exist. I’m curious how you define “religion” and “worship”. I define religion as a set of beliefs that holds a particular entity as an absolute authority above all, and is beyond criticism. This absolute authority doesn’t have to be supernatural, but in Christianity’s case, it is (absolute authority is God). Atheists would recognize the government as the highest law in the land (and if they didn’t they should be in prison), but see government as fallible. Very, very fallible. Since it isn’t beyond criticism you can’t say it’s being worshiped.

  • captcrisis

    “I’ve heard many argue that the Bible does not address gay marriage, and they are correct. That is because it is a settled matter in the kingdom of God.”

    You deserve credit for admitting that the Bible doesn’t address gay marriage. But if it’s because it was a settled issue, well . . . the Bible doesn’t address slavery either, or equal rights for women, or separation of church and state.

  • IllinoisPatriot

    Choose any dictionary and look up the definition of “religion”. You’ll find that it is (paraphrased): “a set of beliefs held in common by a group of people”. That definition varies slightly from dictionary to dictionary but in no case does it require a belief in a supreme being. On the contrary, Ancestor Worship as practiced by the Japanese does not involve a supreme being – just the veneration of one’s ancestors and praying to them for guidance and help in troubled times.

    In the case of Atheism – as you say – the belief is in government. This leads to a belief that government can solve everything since government needs and desires supersede those of the individual. This belief is contrary to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution where governments are instituted to serve men – not to control them or to rule them.

    As to the definition of Christianity, there is no other. Many denominations will claim to practice “Christianity”, but like the Catholic Church, ALL denominations (Baptists, Lutherans, etc) have built a man-made hierarchy that determines who qualifies to be a priest in their sect, how often communion is offered, any requirements for membership in their denomination, voting on Church Membership, etc.

    Christ says to repent, believe, confess your sins and be baptized (not sprinkled with water) in order to receive salvation. His words do not include any vote by church membership as to whether or not you are to be allowed to be a member. No man has authority to deny what Christ has offered so freely to those that hear him and obey. No man has authority to build a hierarchy of saints or to determine which men or women qualify to become new saints worthy of being prayed to alongside Christ himself. Christians understand this. Many churches and denominations will attempt to deny these fundamental statements. Do not be deceived. The Bible warns us about false teachers and false prophets and following false teachings.

    If you are considering converting to Christianity your one and only source of information is the Bible. Anyone that tries to say they believe the Bible “as interpreted by…..” might as well be selling “Truth as interpreted by Donald Trump”. Anyone that uses the Bible as their reference and can give you specific scripture references for every point they make is potentially a source of honest Truth, provided that you verify the source scriptures and read at least one chapter before AND after the verse(s) quoted to you (if not the entire book being referenced) to insure you get the correct context of the verse since a lot of false teachers love to take Bible verses out of context, claiming they say one thing when they actually say the opposite when considered in context.

    As to your statement that there are 40,000 “versions” of Christianity to choose from, I would say there are not. There is ONE version that adheres to the Bible and to the words of Christ 100%. there may be 39,999 versions that have made some modification to what Christ says in the Bible about salvation, about who to follow and who will lead you astray, or about topics of interest to social-justice “warriors”. These “adjustments” are all variations of “false teachings” whether they modify what Christ said or did or whether they simply add additional “religious ritual” to Christ’s message of and formula for salvation.

    Take for instance the ongoing challenges within the Catholic Church: The Pope (a man that has been elevated so high that Catholics are taught he speaks “for God” when he sits on his throne in the Vatican) is a proponent of same-sex marriage ( a sacred union that Christ says is a life-long bond between one man and one women that fuses them into one union that is indivisible by man (no divorce) as it is blessed by God). Another example would be the priests that molested young children yet have been moved from parish to parish and allowed to continue representing the Catholic definition of “God’s will on Earth”. …Or the concept of a “priest” (ordained otherwise) – a position NOT found in the Bible – nor is there any criteria or allowance for “ordination” of priests – a process that effectively exalts one man above others, giving him the illusion of being somehow more holy than the laymen with power to forgive sin ( a power that Christ tells us is reserved exclusively to God alone ).

    I hope you DO convert to Christianity, but not if it means you randomly select some form of false teaching that closely resembles your political, sexual, or worldly belief system. The ONLY way to salvation is through Jesus Christ (So says Jesus Christ) – not through Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam, Atheism, Agnosticism, Judaism ( Jews do not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and still live (basically) by the Old Testament – still waiting for the arrival of the Messiah ), or any other variation that claims the title of “Christianity”. Indeed the “Christ” in “Christian” is a reference to those that we follow and “Christian” indentifies us as followers of Christ Jesus.

  • Ivlia Blackburn

    Can’t find the verse I’m after, in the car no Bible, but I know that there is a verse where Jesus states that all, slaves, Jews, non-Jews, men, women, are as one implying that being a slave puts you in the same group with every other human being. He may not have stated specifically that slavery was illegal but given his beliefs on other things it is almost certain that he did. Equally though, 2000 years ago male was male and female was female. Things argued against here weren’t a problem back then, though homosexuality was known and practice’s and generally seems to have been accepted by the Romans if not the Jews in general.

  • guy

    For a response from Russell Moore’s that address the error in the statement as well as MacArthur’s assertion that social justice is heresy listen to his analysis here:

    https://www.russellmoore.com/2018/09/07/the-gospel-and-social-injustice-part-1/

  • Alan Drake

    I am NOT an Atheist – but you misrepresent the atheist position. Many (most ?) atheists do not believe that government is the answer beyond law & order, just courts, ethical behavior by individuals, etc. Many atheists are basically a version of libertarians.

    BTW, reread John 16:12 et al where Christ Himself refutes that Scripture is all of His Message.

  • Dan Dupree

    As a former Christian I applaud your honesty about the Death Cult of Constantine and it’s brutal, primitive god .
    Please spread the word and hasten the demise of this failing human experiment of mind control by fear.
    Fortunately this Nation does not have a state religion however much religious leaders insist and our Constitution neuters your hateful agenda .

  • GotMyLoveGlassesOn

    You’re still clinging to politics. The entire piece is about this statement that was put forth, and condemnation of secular influences on God’s Word.
    There are those calling themselves ‘progressive Christians’ now, and all that really means is that they’ve determined that God’s Word needs their help to apply to the changing morals of the world.
    For Christians, we’re not supposed to be chasing the world. We’re supposed to be giving the world something to be drawn to, so that they might be saved.
    We dont water down what God has said, and that’s what progressive/social justice ‘Christianity’ is doing.

  • GotMyLoveGlassesOn

    Because God created marriage, and because Jesus affirmed it, not to mention the condemnation of homosexuality, I think we can safely say that we’re given what we need to make the determinations about right and wrong on the subject, without having to be told, specifically, that there can be no such thing.
    And everything else you mentioned can be wrapped up in the teachings of the Bible about how to treat each other.
    OH… separation of church and state? Mark 12:17 – “Render unto Caesar…”

  • David Brown

    MacArthur’s Statement is not scripture. It is not even “scriptural” (how ever one defines that). It is a philosophical construct which uses statements from the Bible to justify its rationale. Many if not all of the scriptural references are used out of context to fit this particularly narrow definition of the Christian faith. True, it might be a tightly argued philosophical construct, maybe even internally coherent. But that does not make it the be-all-and-end-all of theological statements on the nature of the Christian faith. Rather, it is as as culturally conditioned as what it purports to address. Sad.

  • NorrinRadd

    Actually, it *does* address slavery and equality for women.

    Both topics are addressed most concisely in Gal. 3:28.

    They are also addressed in the domestic codes in Col. 3-4, Eph. 5-6, and Philemon.

  • NorrinRadd

    As a Pentecostal-Charismatic Arminian Egalitarian believer who appreciates informal, non-liturgical worship with a bit of Psa. 149-150 flavor, I often have issues with J-Mac and his crew, and this case is no exception.

    Obviously the stark “Complementarian” section alone is enough to warrant my rejection of the document.

    Also, under “Affirmation and Denial” point V, “Sin,” the “age” part in this — “There is no difference in the condition of sinners due to age, ethnicity, or sex. All are depraved in all their faculties and all stand condemned before God’s law.” — has “babies burning in hell” implications that are utterly unacceptable.

    Those were the only points that really jumped out at me in a negative way, and they did so with such clarity that for me, the rest of the document pales. (FTR, I have a general disdain for SJW-ism, and tend to regard “social” justice as often being the opposite of “actual” justice.)

    At the risk of being cynical and judgmental — IOW, at the risk of being who I am — I suspect that J-Mac and crew would sort of like to get a bunch of signatures and use them for clout, but might be even more pleased to get only a tiny few relative to the total number of professing Evangelicals, so they can pat themselves on the back for being the righteous remnant.

  • Vince Juarez

    This is why people shy away from religion. Using your religious beliefs to take away rights from some group of people but want those same rights. Let God be the judge and on judgement day its between God and man .We are suppose, above everything else, love your neighbor as you would yourself. Why is that so hard to do. Its really easier than you think.

  • Barros Serrano

    This is a very weak argument which does not work even if Matthew 25 isn’t in the Bible.

    It seems to be mostly the “sexually” oriented “social justice” issues which bother you. Help the needy, and all that, that’s ok. So I suppose a “real Christian” as judged by you could support an increased minimum wage, I hope that wouldn’t be too “worldly”, but not gay marriage.

    “Social justice” is by definition a good thing. If the founding fathers had thought of that term, they’d likely have used it. How it is construed of course varies between interest groups.

    But to pretend that “progressives”, who largely support the teachings of Matthew 25, are somehow in opposition to “christians”, who in their rightwing iteration reject Matthew 25, ignores that the Christians actually following the teachings of Jesus are not conservatives!

    Opposition to abortion and gayness does not make you a conservative. Those are the carrots with which the corporate-dupe GOP politicians entice you to vote for them; but their agenda is not “social” in that respect, it is purely economic, it is utterly pro-corporate, and therefore by definition militates against social justice!

    I was raised Methodist and nowhere in the Bible was it revealed that Jesus wanted supply-side economics, neo-feudalist corporatism running the government, or bigots running amok claiming to be “Christians”. And, folks, I’ve seen nothing lately on Faux News which looks remotely “Christian”.

    Snark, social apathy, reactionism, bigotry and intolerance are not the messages we Methodists were getting from the Bible.

    I’ll vote for the candidates who can answer YES to “I was hunger, did you feed me?”, “I was homeless, did you shelter me?”, “I was oppressed, did you fight for me?”

    The goats can go on voting GOP.