Evangelicalism's 'Newfound Obsession' With Social Justice Is Threat to Gospel, John MacArthur Says

"Over the years, I've fought a number of polemical battles against ideas that threaten the gospel. This recent (and surprisingly sudden) detour in quest of 'social justice' is, I believe, the most subtle and dangerous threat so far," he said. - CPost

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Bert Perry's picture

....between Piper MacArthur and Bradley.  Perhaps the sides know who they are even if we can't readily infer that directly from Piper's MacArthur's rhetoric?

That noted, Bradley serves up something very interesting on his Twitter feed about opposing abortion vs. reconciling churches racially.  My response was "versus?  Why not both?"  He's illustrating, really, the importance of not talking past one another.  

with gratitude for Joel's correction!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

....between Piper and Bradley.  Perhaps the sides know who they are even if we can't readily infer that directly from Piper's rhetoric?

That noted, Bradley serves up something very interesting on his Twitter feed about opposing abortion vs. reconciling churches racially.  My response was "versus?  Why not both?"  He's illustrating, really, the importance of not talking past one another.  

do you mean MacArthur, instead of Piper?

Joel Shaffer's picture

The differences between MacArthur and Bradley can be summarized in this article that Bradley wrote for Acton 5 years ago.  http://blog.acton.org/archives/58497-a-conflict-of-christian-visions-gen...

I see problems with both groups.  With Dr. Bradley, his theology of rooting the gospel Gen. 1 and 2 has led him to embrace a Kuyperian transformationist view of culture (yes I realize that Kuyper's followers took Kuyper's view of culture to a different level) where Bradley has admitted to being on the border of post-mil.  In my opinion, the primary mistake that these cultural transformationists make in their Creation-Fall-Redemption that shapes their thinking is the failure to add one more category that defines the age to come that is radically different from this present age.   As DeYoung and Gilbert have pointed out in their book, What is the Mission of the Church? 

"We should not so emphasize continuity that we wind up denying that there will be cataclysmic end to this age and even to the present heavens and earth.  The transition to eternity will not be a smooth one."

In my experience in Grand Rapids among my of my tranformationist CRC and RCA brethren and urban ministry colleagues who are all about the present age/kingdom and minimize the future age/kingdom to come, there is a temptation among some to combine social justice and the work of Jesus Christ as the "whole gospel" where there develops a haziness between law and grace.   Also, when neighborhoods or cities are not transformed quick enough or if the culture gets worse despite their efforts in both evangelism and cultural renewal, my transformationist brethren can sometimes get quite angry at the present systems and powers in place and lose patience, which can lead to relying more on quicker government solutions than gospel solutions.     At the same time, not all transformationists fall into these distraction traps.  For instance, Tim Keller's "City to City" church planting organization has planted 381 churches in 54 cities since its inception. 

As for MacArthur, I think it is best that I wait until he goes into more detail about social justice and the gospel on his blog before I offer any critique. 

Jim Welch's picture

One week two issues:  1.  BJU supposedly drifing away from the fundamentals of the Faith over dress issues.  2) John MacArthur beginning a debate over the nature of the Gospel because of the social justice movement.  I just find this to be rather interesting.  We as Fundamentalist (& I consider myself to be one) arguing over standards; and them (Evangelicals) debating on the essence of the Gospel.  

Some issues are worth fighting for while others are not.  

TylerR's picture

Editor

This contrast illustrates precisely what is wrong with so much of Baptist fundamentalism. It's a movement which, in certain quarters, has lost its way and its original sense of mission. As Bro. Golden mentioned on the BJU thread, that aspect of the Baptist fundamentalist movement is not worth saving.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Joel, the question that comes to mind for me is given that both are in the Scriptures, shouldn't we be trying to apply...both?  Now granted, you've got some differences between covenant and dispensational theology that will be at least a "hard nut to crack", but I've got a huge question of "why on earth just pick one or the other?"

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry Nelson's picture

Jim Welch wrote:

Some issues are worth fighting for while others are not.  

Short, incomplete lists:

1. Examples of things worth fighting for/about:

  • Virgin Birth
  • Literal, physical resurrection
  • Deity & sinlessness of Jesus
  • Creationism (as opposed to Naturalism)
  • etc.

2. Examples of things NOT worth fighting for/about:

  • Date of Creation
  • Music styles
  • Dress codes (e.g. "suits & ties")
  • Abstinence vs. moderation (alcohol)
  • etc.

Fundamentalists in the early 20th Century fought for the things in List #1, against Modernism & Liberalism.

Fundamentalists in the early 21st Century fight about the things in List #2, against each other.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Yes, yes and yes!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

My first response to Larry was "I'll drink to that", but in an attempt to actually be a little bit serious here, it strikes me that even the "not worth fighting for/about" list can be useful if only one attempts to discuss them Biblically--it's a training exercise if nothing else. 

Or, to be fair to Larry, if discussed as usually discussed, it can be an injury exercise.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry Nelson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

My first response to Larry was "I'll drink to that", but in an attempt to actually be a little bit serious here, it strikes me that even the "not worth fighting for/about" list can be useful if only one attempts to discuss them Biblically--it's a training exercise if nothing else. 

Or, to be fair to Larry, if discussed as usually discussed, it can be an injury exercise.  

A century ago, Fundamentalism was unified (more or less) against external groups who opposed essential Biblical Truths. 

Today, Fundamentalism has fragmented into internal factions that argue ad nauseum about non-essential, disputable matters. 

Bert Perry's picture

...and no quibble with your first point, really.  My point is simply along the lines of medieval monks debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin--the point wasn't the answer as much as it was learning how to find an answer.  You shake up the topics so those learning rhetoric don't get too bored.

Or, as too often happens with internal factions of fundamentalism, it becomes a way of training people how NOT to indulge the art.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Shaffer's picture

The debate for Bradley is over the starting point of the gospel.  Does it start with the Fall (Genesis) or does it start with Creation (Genesis 1 and 2).  For Dr. Bradley, by starting with Creation (Genesis 1 and 2), which emphasizes what it means to be God's image and what we humans were created to do (Cultural Mandate),  redemption in Christ from the fall includes restoring all of creation as well (Col. 1:20).  Therefore, social justice is either a vital implication of the gospel or is part of the gospel.  I need to do more research to discover which one Bradley believes (I personally hold to it being a vital implication of the gospel).  As much as I believe in rooting mission in the doctrine of creation and that the cultural mandate is a necessary aspect of being human, I think Bradley and the Kuyperian strand of Calvinism overemphasizes how the cultural mandate is fleshed out in redemption.  In Bradley's tweets, he has emphasized that MacArthur isn't truly Reformed because he is only Reformed when it comes to Soteriology, but not Reformed in their Cosmology and their Theology of Culture.   Again I am withholding judgment until I read more of what MacArthur has to say.   

Andrew K's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:

The debate for Bradley is over the starting point of the gospel.  Does it start with the Fall (Genesis) or does it start with Creation (Genesis 1 and 2).  For Dr. Bradley, by starting with Creation (Genesis 1 and 2), which emphasizes what it means to be God's image and what we humans were created to do (Cultural Mandate),  redemption in Christ from the fall includes restoring all of creation as well (Col. 1:20).  Therefore, social justice is either a vital implication of the gospel or is part of the gospel.  I need to do more research to discover which one Bradley believes (I personally hold to it being a vital implication of the gospel).  As much as I believe in rooting mission in the doctrine of creation and that the cultural mandate is a necessary aspect of being human, I think Bradley and the Kuyperian strand of Calvinism overemphasizes how the cultural mandate is fleshed out in redemption.  In Bradley's tweets, he has emphasized that MacArthur isn't truly Reformed because he is only Reformed when it comes to Soteriology, but not Reformed in their Cosmology and their Theology of Culture.   Again I am withholding judgment until I read more of what MacArthur has to say.   

Just a note for those who may not be up on all of the above. The other Game In Town when it comes to Reformed (and Lutheran, as well as early Baptists) views on culture and eschatology can broadly be described as "Two Kingdoms," which likewise has its moderate and radical proponents. I would place myself in the moderate camp.

2K-ers see transformationalists as applying the cultural mandate in unhelpful ways when it should, properly speaking, be applied only to Christ, since we blew it in Adam. I.e., we're the redeemed, not the redeemers. While we can and should try to enact good here and now, massive social projects are viewed somewhat askance, since culture is ultimately transformed by Christ in the eschaton.

The emphasis falls more on God's people as a pilgrim people, seeing that paradigm as more Scriptural than that of culture-transformers. And instead of Calvin in Grand Rapids, think Westminster--esp. in Escondido, California.