Social Injustice and the Gospel

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Joel Shaffer's picture

I am really interested in the future blog posts that  John MacArthur will be doing about social justice and the gospel.  I had forgotten that he was involved with John Perkins in the 1960's during the civil rights era. To quote MacArthur:

I got a small taste of what it felt like to be bullied and discriminated against in the American South in the 1960s. I spent a lot of time traveling through rural Mississippi with my good friend John Perkins, a well-known black evangelical leader, preaching the gospel in segregated black high schools. During one of those trips, as we drove down a dirt road, a local sheriff—an openly bigoted character straight out of In the Heat of the Night—took me into custody, held me in his jail, and accused me of disturbing the peace. He also confiscated (and kept) all my money. He ultimately released me without filing charges. I suppose he considered the money he took from me an adequate fine for doing something he disapproved of.

In those days any appeal to higher authorities would have been fruitless and possibly counterproductive. All I could do was try not to antagonize him further. 

I was again ministering in Mississippi with John Perkins and a group of black church leaders in April 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. One of the men leading our group was Charles Evers, head of the Mississippi NAACP. (His brother Medgar had been killed in 1963 by the KKK.) When news of Dr. King’s murder broke, we drove to Memphis—and literally within hours after Dr. King was assassinated, we were at the Lorraine Motel, standing on the balcony where he was shot. We were also shown the place where James Earl Ray stood on a toilet to fire the fatal shot.

I deplore racism and all the cruelty and strife it breeds. I am convinced the only long-term solution to every brand of ethnic animus is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Christ alone are the barriers and dividing walls between people groups broken down, the enmity abolished, and differing cultures and ethnic groups bound together in one new people (Ephesians 2:14–15). The black leaders with whom I ministered during the civil rights movement shared that conviction.

What is interesting is that John Perkins has written several books on urban ministry and social justice  ( ) (  and has been the single most influential evangelical in the past 50 years when it comes to justice and racial reconciliation within the evangelical church, including the MLK50 conference     

An interesting side note:  John Perkins named the ministry he started in both Mendenhall Mississippi and Jackson Mississippi Voice of Calvary Ministries after John MacArthur's father's national radio ministry.  And at least 3 of his kids (along with several students from their ministry) in the late 1960's/early 1970's went to Los Angeles Baptist College (which then was a GARBC approved college but later became the Masters College in the 1980's) and were some of the first to integrate the college.  

Bert Perry's picture

....but no "discernable strokes".  That is, MacArthur doesn't mention specific cases where advocates of social justice have gotten out of hand.  I have little doubt that there are such cases, but a lack of specificity is going to be tough on his thesis, and will most likely lead to a lot of meaningless strife.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim Welch's picture

If I remember correctly, didn't SI post a Phil Johnson article that introduced concerns with the WOKE movement?

I am looking forward to reading what John MacArthur has to say about the issue.  The 2019 Shepherd's Conference should be interesting.

josh p's picture


Thanks for the information about the connection between MacArthur and Perkins. I hadn’t heard that. On your recommendation I read Perkins’ book, “One Blood” and I’m glad I read it. I think I was in about 95% agreement with it and will probably pick up another of his at some point.