“Enter the renewal of “the Social Gospel” movement now combined with Marxist ideas of class consciousness, where every group seeks to position itself as the victimized proletariat (promised by Marx to be the winners in historical pinball game of history). As in the early 20th century, Christians are once again invoking the Reformation doctrine of threefold office of the church to call the visible, institutional church to take up its social responsibility in our new age.”
(R. Scott Clark – Abounding Grace) It is not difficult to find calls for the church to be “prophetic” especially toward the end of “social justice.” Of course we should favor social justice since nature and Scripture (e.g., Rom 13:1–7) both teach us that it is the function of the civil magistrate to enforce just laws….
By implication, it is the duty of citizens in civil society to seek justice as far as lies within them. Yet we have yet to define “social justice.” It is evident in current discussions in the USA that there is not a shared definition nor is there a shared vision of how to achieve and maintain it.
How We Got Here
One of the underlying reasons for these differences is eschatology. Arguably, through the 18th and 19th centuries, most Americans did not expect to achieve an earthly utopia through political or concerted social action. The pursuit of “happiness” of the Declaration of Independence was assumed to be relative. Even the Deists who founded the American Republic had some idea of an other-worldly heaven. Most Americans assigned their utopian hopes to the life after death. The higher critical (i.e., theologically liberal) movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries undermined among social elites confidence in the Scriptures and in historic Christianity. In the 1920s and 30s orthodox Christianity was exiled to the margins of society. Witness the denominational splits and the leftward theological and social movement of the “Mainline” Christian denominations.