Social Justice Perverts the Gospel
I wasn’t really planning on writing about this, but it just seems that I need to say something because it is setting up to blow the Christian church, in the United States at least, wide open.
It would probably be a good idea to say what it is that is driving me to write this post and that would be an post over at Patheos written by Keith Giles, titled “Over 7,000 Pastors Admit They Don’t Follow Jesus”.
That title definitely catches the eye and should, of course, cause some concern until someone reads the actual article and analyzes Giles’ argument.
Giles has walked into the buzzsaw of biblical exegesis before and had to be rebutted by one of the foremost scholars in the field, so it’s not surprising that he dares to define what it does or does not mean to follow Jesus.
Giles is basing his post on an article at Relevant Magazine so it’s doubtful that he actually read what it is that is being discussed. If you haven’t heard about The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel, it would probably be a good idea to go and read it for yourself before proceeding just so that you have the fuller context to understand what is being discussed. Go on, this will be here when you get back.
Okay, I’m going to assume that you have read the Statement and proceed.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the heretical nature of the modern social justice movement in the Christian church and Giles’ evidences that he has fully embraced it. Giles asserts in the opening paragraph of his post that he’s convinced that those who have signed the Statement (note that I agree with and endorse the statement but have not signed it at the time of this writing) are, “making it crystal clear that they do not follow Jesus in any way, shape or form.”
Well, that’s a rather powerful accusation. The question is, what does it mean to “follow Jesus”?
Giles writes, taking time to give a quote that has zero context.
One of the most troubling statements they all agreed to was this:
“We emphatically deny that lectures on social issues (or activism aimed at reshaping the wider culture) are as vital to the life and health of the church as the preaching of the gospel and the exposition of Scripture.”
If that isn’t sad, I don’t know what is.
The interesting thing that should be noted is that particular quote, selectively and suggestively placed in Giles’ article comes from Article XIII of the Statement, which deals with…wait for it…RACISM. The full context of the paragraph is,
WE DENY that treating people with sinful partiality or prejudice is consistent with biblical Christianity. We deny that only those in positions of power are capable of racism, or that individuals of any particular ethnic groups are incapable of racism. We deny that systemic racism is in any way compatible with the core principles of historic evangelical convictions. We deny that the Bible can be legitimately used to foster or justify partiality, prejudice, or contempt toward other ethnicities. We deny that the contemporary evangelical movement has any deliberate agenda to elevate one ethnic group and subjugate another. And we emphatically deny that lectures on social issues (or activism aimed at reshaping the wider culture) are as vital to the life and health of the church as the preaching of the gospel and the exposition of Scripture. Historically, such things tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel. (Emphasis added)
As I said, if you have not read the full context of the Statement, it’s likely that you would be taken in by the misrepresentation that Giles is preparing to engage in, which is key to his argument. Also notice the last sentence in that paragraph, “Historically, such things tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel.” That is a very important sentence that needs to be kept in mind, because Giles indicts the signers of the Statement by writing,
Not only is it disappointing to read the news that 7,000 Christian Pastors don’t follow Jesus, it’s even more disappointing to find out that none of them are ashamed to admit it in public.
Why is that?
Maybe none of them have ever read that Jesus was born into poverty. Or that Jesus blessed the poor. Or that gave warnings to the rich. Or that Jesus cautioned us about the evils of wealth. Or that Jesus equated our love for him with our love for the poor.
I’m sorry…what? What does any of that have to do with the a-contextual quote that you provided?
“Jesus was born into poverty” So was the vast majority of the ancient world.
“Jesus blessed the poor.” He blessed the “poor in spirit”, those who were spiritually impoverished in their sin and rebellion and had come to recognize it.
Every point that he makes is true in one sense, but has a deeper, spiritual relevance that is attached to it. There are warnings that come attached to earthly wealth, just as there are warnings attached to poverty. The material state of life, while important, only has meaning when understood in contrast to the spiritual. It’s this very point that makes the social gospel so insidious and makes it such an easy target for the secular social justice movement.
Maybe those 7,000 pastors – who claim they believe it’s more important to “exposit scripture” than to waste time preaching about God’s heart for the poor […]
Think about that sentence for a second. Ask yourself, how do we know about God’s “heart for the poor”? We know about it through the exposition of Scripture. Giles is clearly oblivious to this because he continues,
[…because they] never actually got around to expositing those verses where Paul told us that Peter, James and John only had one requirement before sending him and Barnabus out as the very first church-planting missionaries to the Gentiles: “To remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10) and they probably also didn’t notice that Paul’s response to that single requirement was this: “It was the very thing I was eager to do.”
I’m almost certainly going to guarantee that in all of his years of preaching that, more than likely that pastors like John MacArthur—who Giles is primarily criticizing—have preached on Galatians 2:10, I mean the man did write an entire commentary on it after all. The question is, what does Galatians 2:10 have to do with anything? Todd A. Wilson,writing in his commentary on Galatians, at this particular verse, notes a particular trap that Giles seems to have fallen into,
The temptation is to see the poor as the problem and the rich as the solution. This engenders pride and in turn leads to all sorts of other attitudinal and practical problems when we try to help those who are materially poor. What they most need is what you and I most need: rescue from spiritual poverty and reconciliation with a loving God (p 61).
Giles’ obliviousness to facts, and evidence of the trap that he has fallen into, is evident when he writes,
It’s hard to imagine the Gospel that Jesus, and the Apostles preached without any mention of the poor. But, I suppose that’s the price we have to pay for living in the world’s most powerful Empire. See, when the Gospel first arrived it was preached to the poor, and the sick, and the outcasts. The people in power resisted it. The weak embraced it.
Who were some of those “outcasts”? One of them was Jesus’ own personally called disciple Matthew the tax collector, who would have been rather well off, after all he had a regular income drawn from the levying and collection of Roman taxes. He was an outcast because he was a Jew working for the Romans. There was also Zacheus, another tax collector. Many of the “outcasts” Jesus interacted with were far from being materially impoverished, however they were all spiritually impoverished.
Skipping down a few paragraphs, Giles makes the bold assertion,
And now, in broad daylight, thousands of Christian pastors are proud to publically proclaim that they have no time to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus taught.
I’m sorry… what? You mean the gospel of the kingdom that commands men everywhere to repent and believe in God?
They have no interest in showing any concern for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the outcast. They’d rather preach sermons about the Bible (while conveniently ignoring all of the hundreds of verses about caring for the poor, the orphan and the widow).
I’m going to guarantee that almost every one of those pastors who signed the Statement has preached a sermon or has a ministry in their church or through their denomination that seeks to care for “the poor, the widow, and the orphan”. Giles is so desperate in his self-righteousness to criticize something that he disagrees with, he simply has to make things up.
Let’s keep in mind that he’s already had to begin his article by misrepresenting where a particular statement is found and what it is in relation to in order to make his argument.
Giles hopes to seal his arguments by quoting a number of Bible verses that he says, “[…]I guess we won’t have to listen to any more sermons about verses like these…”
Pastor Giles—I threw up a little in my mouth thinking that—I guarantee that those pastors not only will preach on those passages, or have preached on them, but would also not violate them in the manner that you do in making application of them, because sound, exegetically-based exposition of the Scriptures can do that which God intends it to do, that being focus on Him and his glory.
I would just like to remind Pastor Giles—yuck, I did it again,
You shall not be partial to the poor…(Leviticus 19:15, ESV)
That’s in the Bible too.
Yes, that’s out of context, but it proves the point: Giles’ argument can be easily refuted by quoting something out of context or through false attribution of motive.