The Injustice of Social Justice

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Bert Perry's picture

MacArthur is more or less pins his whole argument on a single out of context tweet of Anthony Bradley.  Otherwise it's all unsupported assertions, many of which make the (again unsupported) claim that it derives from the old social Gospel of the 1900s.  And ironically, a lot of the topics we argue about most vociferously here, and (ahem) where MacArthur largely takes the side of Victorian culture, are indeed things which the old Social Gospel advocates supported.  

I'd hoped for better, but it strikes me that at this point, with some very significant allegations made against TMC, MacArthur and his colleagues just might do better to demonstrate the proper way to deal with such things involving the nebulous "army of SJWs", and then he can write about how he did it right, assuming he does.  But at this point, it's (IMO) the wrong time and the wrong argument.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Shaffer's picture

I'm very frustrated, to say the least. 

In MacArthur's most recent blog post, In defining social justice, he attempts to root the historical beginnings of Social Justice in Gramscian Marxism, when ironically the beginnings of Social Justice was rooted in Catholic Social Teaching in the mid-eighteen hundreds as a critical response (which was sympathetic to free-markets) to primitive forms of Marxism that was emerging in Europe. If he is to be considered an authority on Social Justice, he needs to show it in his writings. I get that he is linking today's secular social justice lingo to Gramscian Marxism-which leads to the post-modern social justice mess of critical race theory, intersectionality, and etc... but Black evangelicals have been talking about social justice since the 1960's and 1970's and the conservative evangelical black leaders soundly rejected Marxism and any other leftist ideology.  For example, Tony Evans' dissertation included a scathing critique of James Cones' Black Liberation Theology (which was influenced by Marxism/leftist ideology), but also explained how the church could create an alternative community of faith that faithfully and aggressively preached the gospel, but also did social action, justice, and compassionate ministry in depressed communities.  Their ministry, the Turnaround Agenda, was the result.   Several of the MLK50 conference black speakers are graduates of DTS and were mentored by Tony Evans such as Eric Mason, Crawford Loritts, and Dhati Lewis.    Black evangelicals such as Tony Evans and John M. Perkins have mainly employed the word "Justice" without the adjective "social" in front of it, but to them, justice always included a social aspect to it.  

Second, he attempts to link Anthony Bradley's comments and "widening of the Gospel" to Walter Rauschenbucsh's Social Gospel because the language seems similar. Anthony Bradley tweeted 17 comments that argued how certain fundamentalists and evangelicals like MacArthur and others who signed the SJS have truncated the gospel. The very last tweet summarized Anthony's belief in what the gospel connecting it to an article he wrote a few years ago, which quoted Tim Keller and Theodore G. Stylianopoulos. Here are their definitions. “Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.” “the good news of God’s saving work in Christ and the Spirit by which the powers of sin and death are overcome and the life of the new creation is inaugurated, moving towards the eschatological glorification of the whole cosmos." I've read several books by Walter Rauschenbusch and studied the heresy of the social gospel extensively and there is quite huge, huge difference between the social gospel of Rauschenbush/social gospel sucessors and those who are Kuyperian Reformed, who emphasize both the individual and cosmic aspects of the gospel. Don't get me wrong.  Bradley has said some things that I believe don not align with Scripture.  But a better critique of Bradley and his Kuyperian allies is their over-realized view of the kingdom (Bradley has admitted that he is a border-line between amil and post-mil), which if not careful, can make mission so broad that it includes everything but the kitchen sink. But then MacArthur chimes in and comes across quite ignorant of both the Social Gospel and Bradley's stripe of Reformed Kuyperian theology when he extrapolated the tweet and connected it to the Social Gospel from the other 17 or so tweets out of context and argued against something that Bradley didn't mean. Strawman fallacy anyone? Contextomy maybe? How am I supposed to take any of this seriously with such sloppy scholarship?   


TylerR's picture



i think a whole lot of people are talking past each other. I think there are some leftist maniacs on the SJW side, and I think many of them are drowning out what more nuanced, solid people are saying. My problem is that I just don't understand who to believe. Bradley seems like a maniac, from reading his tweets. Thabiti seems like a loon, from reading a few of his articles on this. It sounds like they're advocating for a different religion. I suspect eschatology is lurking behind a lot of this rhetoric from the SJW side.

If you ever find the time, I'd love to publish an article from you on what the true issues are here. I trust you. I don't trust Bradley or many of the others. I also don't have the time to read extensively on this topic myself! (sad face).

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

We might first of all infer that doing substantive argument with Twitter can be dangerous business unless you learn to be concise.  That noted, people take a lot of other things out of context as well, so it's not that different, really.

Regarding Bradley, like Joel, I've got some places where I agree with him, and others where I disagree, and in this area, he has something of a very challenging task; to reconcile the experience of the black church with the reality that, being Reformed in his doctrine, he's aligned with guys whose forefathers said things that made some of the nastier stuff out of BJU back in the day seem tame.  Do you say (as I would) that each of us has some major issues we need to work through, including blind spots, or where do you say that when someone does this, their knowledge of the Gospel is defective to nonexistent?  He draws the line in a different place than I do, to be sure, but it would be hasty to call him a "maniac", I think. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

I think a whole lot of people are talking past each other. I think there are some leftist maniacs on the SJW side, and I think many of them are drowning out what more nuanced, solid people are saying.

I'm not following this dust-up closely, but my view of it matches up with TylerR's.  I know, for example, that at least one person rejected both MacArthur's position and the full on SJW position in a post he titled "Why I cannot and will not sign the 'Social Justice and the Gospel Statement'".  Another person wrote an open letter to John MacArthur, making many similar points.

I get MacArthur's concern and desire to address Evangelicalism's faddish rush to "bring justice" to society.  But I am not convinced, however, that it's just a knee jerk fad.  We need to admit and repent (at a bare minimum) to the ways that our movement has sheltered racists and hatemongers under the guise of Christian morality and even doctrine.  In some ways, I feel like this is a similar conversationg to the ongoing discussions via SharperIron about treating and supporting victims of abuse.  All of these issues are violations and sins are against God, and all of them must be repented of and repudiated as the sins that they are.  That doesn't mean, however, than anyone here is necessarily jumping on the "SJW bandwagon" and advocating for socialist redistributions of power and money, nor is it agreement with intersectionality and the like.  It's simply a statement that we have been wrong, that we have sinned, and that we need to do better.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Joel Shaffer's picture

Bradley seems like a maniac, from reading his tweets.

Bradley can be a bull in a china closet for sure, but after rereading his tweets as well as having read many of his books and articles, I believe many of the anti-Social Justice crowd have misread him, especially when MacArthur connects him to Walter Rauschenbusch of all people.  His quote that MacArthur used about Bradley, wasn't even Bradley's perspective.  He clearly stated it was the Black Church's perspective.  It's not Bradley's belief because Bradley is a member of the PCA, which is overwhelmingly white.  Then Bradley quotes several sources from a variety of White theologians to make his point that a Truncated gospel led to several instances of institutional racism throughout the past couple hundred years, including his own denomination-the PCA.  He is trying teach us how the Black Church in general views conservative white churches and why they believe that conservative white churches have a distorted gospel.   But then his answer is not the same answer of the Black church.  His answer is more of a Transformationalist Calvinism as he advocates more of a both/and individual and cosmic redemption rooted in Kuyperian Calvinism.  I have also seen some of his other tweets where he tries to encourage Black churches in general to embrace a more Kuyperian Reformed worldview.    

What is definitely wrong of MacArthur and his tribe is the idea that any of these conservative evangelicals are influenced by Cultural Marxism, Leftist agendas, Critical Race theory, and etc.... The more they make these accusations, the more it shows they haven't done any in-depth critical analysis of the writings of Bradley and others.  Earlier this evening, I came upon an article that Bradley wrote for World Magazine about Social Justice where he explains its Roman Catholic Roots and its opposition to Marxism.  He ends the article with this paragraph. 

Social justice as a concept has not been a problem per se, but rather the problem lies in how it is defined. What we can say, based on historical reflection, is that any Christian articulation of social justice that seeks to hand the poor over to government for dependency and control is antithetical to the concept of justice within the history of Christianity.

What it boils down to is that MacArthur and his group haven't read what these conservative evangelicals have already written about social justice, which many (such as Dr. Bradley) have gone to great lengths to separate and differentiate themselves from the secular social justice advocates.  

Jay's picture

I listen (off and on) to the Quick To Listen podcast, and this last show was about MacArthur's statement and ensuing controversy.  I went into the podcast not expecting much, but a lot of that Thabiti Anyabwile made sense and was well grounded.  I'd encourage everyone to give that podcast a listen, if for no other reason than to understand the actual issue that Thabiti is trying to deal with.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells