“[Timothy] Keller is a well-known pastor (recently retired), theologian and apologist. A co-founder of the Gospel Coalition with D. A. Carson, Keller has published several books, many of which have value and substance. His doctrinal positions would be more biblical than any of those mentioned above, but within conservative evangelical circles, he is a major leader in the social justice movement. The vision statement at his church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, provides a clear declaration combining both the spiritual and social gospels.”
(Gary Gilley – Think On These Things) As we attempt to evaluate the social justice movement, especially in light of the debates within evangelicalism surrounding the publication of The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel, it would be helpful to trace its roots….
The emphasis on social justice that is now all but omnipresent within Christianity did not appear out of thin air; there are predecessors and forerunners who have paved the way for comingling of the biblical gospel with a social agenda producing a hybrid gospel and mission for the church. In two earlier TOTT papers, “The Social Gospel” Parts 1&2, the development of the 19th century Social Gospel movement which led to theological liberalism was detailed. In those articles, it was documented that German rationalism, higher criticism, Enlightenment and Romanticist thought were interlaced and embraced by first European and later American Protestantism. When the dust had settled, the authority of Scripture had been undermined, all cardinal doctrines had been diluted, and the gospel itself had been lost in the majority of formerly evangelical churches, denominations, seminaries and organizations. In the wake of these theological compromises emerged a “liberal” church which no longer held to the traditional faith of the Scriptures. In its place was a religion wrapped around improving life on the planet by attempting to reduce poverty, aiding the weak and marginalized, and seeking social justice for all people. It was not that the conservative church had not been concerned about these things and had not done much to enhance lives all over the globe through benevolent acts. But the Protestant church to that point had not confused its message or its mission. Its message was one of reconciliation to God through the preaching of the gospel and the discipling of those who had been redeemed by faith in Jesus Christ. Its mission was to focus attention and resources on doing the one thing that the church can do, as no other organization can: taking the biblical gospel of reconciliation to the world. However, the Social Gospel first elevated social needs to equality with the biblical gospel and ultimately replaced it with the social agenda altogether. This has been the pattern throughout church history when social interests begin to eclipse the message of redemption. It is the concern of many today that that pattern is being repeated within conservative evangelicalism and is the motivation for The Statement.