Is Social Justice a Gospel Issue?

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Bert Perry's picture

James 1:27 comes to mind as I read the FBFI statement, as well as the many healings that our Lord did, and of course Luke 4:18.  Now we can quibble that such goals of the real Christian don't fit easily into a "four spiritual laws" booklet that we can hand out after lunch at Applebee's on Sunday (or Mango's in Winona in my case, highly recommended), but it doesn't change the fact that if we simply say "keep warm and well fed", Scripture does indeed have a rebuke for us.

And certainly it doesn't endorse everything labeled "social justice"--we need to evaluate each with Scripture--but again, it does tell us that if we don't have a certain concern for our neighbor, people ought to doubt the sincerity of our commitment to Christ.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

FBFI: 

John MacArthur produced a statement on social justice on the issue that Al Mohler and Russell Moore are refusing to sign

Comment: To "not sign" is different than "refusing to sign". Mohler gave his reasons in the link above

FBFI: 

While it looks like the primary issue is the relationship of social justice to the gospel, what many are failing to notice is that it is differing hermeneutics and theological systems that inform the varying views. How you view the Old Testament, the Church, and the Kingdom makes a difference. The hermeneutic that allows you to see the Church as the replacement for Israel, de-constructing the Abrahamic Covenant, allows you—if you desire—to allegorize the first six chapters of Genesis. It also conflates the national requirements of Israel with the Great Commission and makes social justice—a human government responsibility—a mission of the church. TGC seems to be close to a split on this and the core issue is a differing hermeneutic.

In a chapel service at SBTS, Al Mohler described it as a difference between “conversionists” and “transformationists.”  He characterized John MacArthur as a “conversionist” rather than one who sees the gospel as transforming the culture. This difference in thinking is the result of differing views of the relationship of the Church and Israel, and the nature of the Kingdom.

Comment: Does Mohler view "the Church as the replacement for Israel"? Does Mohler " allegorize the first six chapters of Genesis"? I don't think so!

Don Johnson's picture

First, Mohler is well aware of the document, he analyzed it, found it wanting for various reasons, and therefore refused to sign it. I also have refused to sign it, probably for different reasons, and certainly with far less impact! It is one thing to not know about a thing, and not sign it. It is another thing to know all about it, and not sign it. The first is ignorance. The second is a refusal. It is no slam to call something what it is.

Second, you are conflating two paragraphs in the piece and trying to make the case that everything in one paragraph applies equally to everything in every other paragraph of the piece. That's just not logical, Jim. (Ha!) But seriously, you're misreading it and I think it is quite obvious you are misreading it.

Not a fair conclusion to make.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

You said: Comment: Does Mohler view "the Church as the replacement for Israel"? Does Mohler " allegorize the first six chapters of Genesis"? I don't think so!

You are inferring that the criticism is meant to suggest that Mohler allegorizes Genesis. No such inference was made. You are better at reading than that.

You also said: Comment: To "not sign" is different than "refusing to sign". 

I think my argument stands. Mohler refused to sign. It is not a slam to say so.

I am not saying that we are not criticizing Mohler, we are. Or Kevin is, and I agree with him. But you are criticizing us on the one hand for saying something that is true and on  the other you are criticizing us for something we didn't say.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jim's picture

  • Mohler "refused to sign"
  • The compromise of allegorization and replacement theology
  • Mohler again
  • The "purity of the gospel is at stake"
  • This was not an accident!

Don Johnson wrote:
I am not saying that we are not criticizing Mohler, we are. 

  • There has to be a bunch of FBFI guys who didn't sign the statement. Mohler at least gave his reasons
  • If you (FBFI) aren't criticizing for the "blue box" stuff ... why the organizational structure of the piece
CAWatson's picture

Jim wrote:

Comment: Does Mohler view "the Church as the replacement for Israel"? Does Mohler " allegorize the first six chapters of Genesis"? I don't think so!

1. Mohler is well-known for his normative reading of the early chapters of Genesis, and his promotion of young-earth creationism. 

2. Mohler rejected supercessionism back in 2002 (see link, start around the 42 minute mark). That doesn't mean that his position hasn't shifted in the past sixteen years, however. 

"Just the facts, Ma'am!" 

http://digital.library.sbts.edu/handle/10392/650

CAWatson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

...I read the FBFI statement...

It isn't an FBFI statement. FBFI "statements" are technically in the form of "Resolutions" or "Positions," and formally exist at the link provided below. Proclaim and Defend is a blog which includes articles written by people in the FBFI (and the near circle). This is an opinion piece by Kevin Schaal - the current president of the FBFI, and a long-time pastor and church planter. It isn't an "official position" or "statement" by the organization itself. 

https://fbfi.org/positions/

Bert Perry's picture

It's a blog article, not an official statement.  Would like to hear your opinion on it.  My take is that it falls into the trap of vaguely defining a problem movement , and then ignoring some passages that would seem to support at least a portion of that vaguely defined movement.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

CAWatson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

It's a blog article, not an official statement.  Would like to hear your opinion on it.  My take is that it falls into the trap of vaguely defining a problem movement , and then ignoring some passages that would seem to support at least a portion of that vaguely defined movement.

Full disclosure: I was introduced to fundamentalism (and was baptized as a teenager) in Kevin Schaal's church - and I still consider him a mentor to this day. 

From his article: 
"How you view the Old Testament, the Church, and the Kingdom makes a difference. The hermeneutic that allows you to see the Church as the replacement for Israel, de-constructing the Abrahamic Covenant, allows you—if you desire—to allegorize the first six chapters of Genesis. It also conflates the national requirements of Israel with the Great Commission and makes social justice—a human government responsibility—a mission of the church. TGC seems to be close to a split on this and the core issue is a differing hermeneutic." 
Me: If this is the major difference, it isn't obvious to me. The progressive covenantalism or progressive dispensationalist hermeneutic (and they are different in one respect that I do not have time to get into here) do not necessarily lead to a social gospel. Reading the New Testament back into the Old does not necessarily lead to the social gospel (e.g. Douglas Wilson - https://dougwils.com/books-and-culture/s7-engaging-the-culture/still-not...). So it isn't really a hermeneutical issue per se, although hermeneutics might have something to do with it (I have a tendency to think it is more of an issue of a desire for relevance - and I think that the desire for relevance has been major source of most doctrinal error since Schleiermacher). Also, I do not see social justice as a human government concern - I see it as an individual concern - to "do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith." 

From his article: 
"The moment you add anything to the gospel, you have begun corrupting it—no matter how good that thing seems to be. Fundamentalists have long claimed that there is NO social gospel."

Me: Yup. 

From his article: 
"The social gospel demands that churches feed the poor, fight for race equality, and a myriad of other issues in addition to the Great Commission—and not just as a means of getting an opportunity to share the gospel or meeting the needs of its membership. In fact, TGC, in its founding documents (Theological Vision for Ministry, Article V, Section 5), considers these activities part of the Great Commission. Once you do this, you change the fundamental (and biblical) mission of the church."

Me: The evidence from TGC's documents are indisputable, in my opinion. 

From your statement: "It falls into the trap of vaguely defining a problem movement." 

Me: It really doesn't. It mentions specifically TGC, as well as gives specific citation (and links to) of TGC's position. There is no vagary here. The section of TGC's statement that Pastor Schaal cites is as follows: 
"God created both soul and body, and the resurrection of Jesus shows that he is going to redeem both the spiritual and the material. Therefore God is concerned not only for the salvation of souls but also for the relief of poverty, hunger, and injustice. The gospel opens our eyes to the fact that all our wealth (even wealth for which we worked hard) is ultimately an unmerited gift from God. Therefore the person who does not generously give away his or her wealth to others is not merely lacking in compassion, but is unjust. Christ wins our salvation through losing, achieves power through weakness and service, and comes to wealth through giving all away. Those who receive his salvation are not the strong and accomplished but those who admit they are weak and lost. We cannot look at the poor and the oppressed and callously call them to pull themselves out of their own difficulty. Jesus did not treat us that way. The gospel replaces superiority toward the poor with mercy and compassion. Christian churches must work for justice and peace in their neighborhoods through service even as they call individuals to conversion and the new birth. We must work for the eternal and common good and show our neighbors we love them sacrificially whether they believe as we do or not. Indifference to the poor and disadvantaged means there has not been a true grasp of our salvation by sheer grace."

Your statement: "then ignoring some passages that would seem to support at least a portion of that vaguely defined movement." 

Me: The article wasn't intended to thoroughly explain their side (he assumes the reader understands)- but simply to offer a critique. But let me quote some things from his article to show you that he isn't ignoring certain things.
 

"Christians as individuals and in partnerships with others should being doing these things out of love for their neighbor. New Testament Christianity does demand social and civic responsibility.  But that is an outworking of the gospel, not the gospel itself."

"While most of us are products of that imperfect heritage (and remain thankful for the generations who preceded us) we have also rejected imposed segregation as a practice not only inconsistent with scripture, but condemned by it (James 2:9)."

"Fundamental Baptists today would repudiate prejudice, racism, or imposed segregation.  Such practices (and thinking) are inconsistent with the ethic of New Testament Christianity, do not reflect of the image of God in man, and are not an acceptable model of God’s design for society and human government (Romans 13). For anyone to regard himself (or herself) as superior to another person because of race is sin. We would also consider social justice (as a true biblical idea, and not in the Marxist sense so popularly espoused today) as a consequence of the gospel to be manifested in the life of a believer as he or she functions as an individual and citizen, and not a Great Commission responsibility of the local church as an institution."

 

Where I disagree with him is in his statement about Mohler and Moore - I don't know if I would say that they refused to sign it (I haven't read/heard Moore's position on it). Mohler didn't refuse - but was hesitant. Mohler and Moore are more politicians than theologians. They are looking beyond the actual words of the statement (with which even Thabiti has even said to agree) at the optics of the statement.