George Lawson has penned a piece on the Social Justice movement that’s posted over at The Cripplegate blog. Those who’ve been following the heated controversy are aware that the arguments from hard-core social justice (progressive) Christians regarding “race reconciliation” are subjective not objective. Lawson’s view is that the debate completely ignores biblical truth. “People are being encouraged to ‘share their story’ rather than ‘proclaim God’s truth.’” The waters have become so muddied on this issue and the debate so fierce that Dr. John MacArthur decided to step into the fray. Not surprisingly, his announcement that he planned to write a series of articles on Social Justice “Christianity” ignited a huge debate. Lawson addresses this in his post.
So – is social justice an essential part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as some evangelicals argue? Lawson tackles that and a whole lot more and reminds us of “Biblical Truths that no Blog Post can Change”
Sadly, it seems like no matter what you say about the current debate over social justice and racial reconciliation, you’re already wrong. Somehow it’s believed that unless you share the same perspective and a similar experience as the one you are speaking with, that’s proof enough of your ignorance, insensitivity or insanity. In so many words: “If you don’t agree, it’s only because you don’t understand.” Oddly, many of the same people who speak the loudest about prejudice have already sized you up, labeled you, and dismissed what you have to say before you’ve even had a chance to finish speaking (or writing)!
I understand why this is true in an unbelieving context, because unbelievers begin their discussions from so many diverse and contradictory points of origin. I have to confess that I struggle at times to understand why this confusion is true in the church. Aren’t we all reading from the same book?
Unfortunately, much of the debate around race and justice and reconciliation completely ignores biblical truth (which is objective) and rather centers its arguments around: experiences, feelings, assumptions, suspicions, perceptions, hurts and conjectures (which are all subjective). People are being encouraged to “share their story” rather than “proclaim God’s truth.” Instead of “understanding the biblical context,” they are celebrated for connecting with their “cultural context.”
Personally, I praise God that The Master’s Seminary and its president trained me to focus my attention on the central and eternal realities of Scripture and its theology, rather than attempting to offer some particular approach for reaching a certain ethnic group. I never expected my seminary training to focus on social reform, political activism or the civil rights movement. Why would I?
I recently came across a slanderous and unsubstantiated charge that somehow Dr. MacArthur is guilty of being “partial, inconsiderate and unbiblical” because he rejects the idea that social justice is an essential part of the gospel (https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180813). Surely this is evidence that he doesn’t consider the circumstances of anyone other than upper middle class, republican-leaning white men, isn’t it? But to impute those motives to him would be a violation of 1 Corinthians 4:5, which warns us against judging the motives of men’s hearts. It is also demonstrably false. MacArthur’s posts never mentioned anything about being white, upper middle class or Republican.
If I have gained nothing else from my time at The Master’s Seminary and from our President, I have gained an appreciation for the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God, which sits above ethnic, political and class distinctions. Frankly, that’s the reason I applied to Seminary in the first place. If my goal for attending seminary was to learn more about my cultural heritage, I had many other options for that. That’s not why I applied to seminary. My goal was to accurately handle “the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and the seminary training I received was committed to that. For some, that is perceived as a reason to criticize the training or even become sorrowful, frustrated, or angry about it.
I have personally experienced the pain of racial discrimination. I get it, and I am sincerely sorry for whatever your experience might have been. But I am saddened to learn that some of my brothers, who received the blessing of a curriculum that was designed to produce faithful expositors, would judge their books “by the color of their contributors, rather than the content of their pages.” There is the notion that unless you can find your ethnic group represented in the books you’ve been assigned to read, it is part of a conspiracy to convince people that your ethnic group made no significant contributions. Really?
Truth doesn’t have a color, or does it? Would I receive the truth of Scripture differently if it was written by Gentiles instead of Jews? Should my wife reject the writings of the New Testament because they were all written by male authors? Furthermore, can Paul or Peter or James really have anything relevant to share with me, if they didn’t share my personal experience as an African-American? Would I breathe a sigh of relief if my Greek-Grammar textbook was written by an Asian? Is the truth of Scripture universal for the entire church or does it have to be “shaded in” first to match my skin tone before I can receive it?
I have the privilege today of shepherding a multi-ethnic congregation in the city of Baltimore. Often people will ask me, “What did you do to a create such a diverse church?” I always tell them the same thing: “I didn’t do anything. God did the work, I simply preached the Word.” I didn’t come to the city of Baltimore with some kind of multi-ethnic strategy. My mandate as a pastor is clear, “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). I don’t have a “plan B.”