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.
“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.