Social Justice: Modern Roots and Promoters

(Volume 25, Issue 1, February 2019/March 2019) 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...

The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism by Carl F. H. Henry

Written in 1947 by new-evangelism’s most influential theologian, The Uneasy Conscience was a watershed book pushing evangelicals toward social engagement.  Henry believed that Fundamentalists (used interchangeably with evangelicals at the time) had withdrawn from challenging and leading culture. Fundamentalists were concerned, he complained, almost exclusively with individual sins, not social evils (pp. 3, 7, 39). What evangelicals lacked was a developed organized campaign against injustice (p. 11). They needed to reclaim their seat at the table dealing with cultural ills and not leave the efforts to non-evangelicals, and whenever possible, Fundamentalists should unite with non-evangelicals for social betterment (pp. 78-80).  Henry admits that for the most part the non-evangelical had already dismissed the Fundamental voice and reacted with either denunciation or silence (pp. 21, 34).  However, it is time, he thought, to get back in the game and take a front row seat in the battle for justice. To...

Susie, the Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon by Roy Rhodes Jr.

This is only the second biography ever written about the wife of the famed 19th century preacher. Those familiar with Charles Spurgeon are aware that his wife was a semi-invalid, seldom leaving the house for 23 years (1868-1891).  Fewer are aware that prior to her illness she was an energetic, well-traveled young woman.  All that seemed to change with the birth of her twins at age 36.  Some painful physical condition, one apparently never described in the historical record, began at that time.  Two surgeries, and other treatments could not cure her, yet she was not idle in seclusion. She raised the twins, largely in the absence of her husband, and spent most of her ministry time administering a book fund by which she ultimately gave away 200,000 books, mostly Spurgeon’s, to poor pastors who could not afford to purchase them. This and her contributions to her husband’s autobiography...

God’s Glory Alone, the Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life by David VanDrunen

David VanDrunen contributes this excellent volume to “The 5 Solas Series,” edited by Matthew Barrett and written in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  VanDrunen is clear that the Reformers did not actually adopt the five solas as their official mottos, but they perfectly summarize the essence of their theology and distinction from Rome (p. 13).  He encapsulates the solas with this statement: Christ alone, and no other redeemer, is the mediator of our salvation.  Grace alone, and not any human contribution, saves us.  Faith alone, and no other human action, is the instrument by which we’re saved.  Scripture, and no merely human word, is our ultimate standard of authority.  God’s glory alone, and that of no creature, is the supreme end of all things (p. 14). The author believes the revelation of the glory of God is the larger story of Scripture (p. 49) and takes...

Christ’s Call to Reform the Church by John MacArthur

John MacArthur sees the imminent need for the church to reform.  A new reformation, as he understands it, would require a return to the five solas of the sixteenth century Reformation.  Short of such an appreciation and adherence to the solas (pp. 177-194) any attempt for church revival will be superficial and temporal.  Of late the church has gotten sidetracked by any number of things, including social justice (pp. 9-11), attempts to attract unbelievers through worldly means (p. 99), minimizing theology (p. 25), subjectivism (pp. 4, 180-181), the prosperity gospel, and tolerance of the pagan culture (pp. 110-114).  Depending upon the reader’s perspective, MacArthur is either taking the opportunity to ride his hobby horses or is offering insightful application of the text of Scripture.  I choose the latter, fully realizing that these are well-worn themes in MacArthur’s teaching ministry but obviously still pertinent. The author chooses to address his...

Christ Alone, the Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior by Stephen Wellum

Stephen Wellum contributes Christ Alone to The 5 Solas Series, edited by Matthew Barrett and published by Zondervan.  Each volume handles one of the foundational Solas of the Reformation, showing why each is important and detailing the theology behind it.  Christ Alone does not disappoint in its mission.  Wellum, who is a professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sees “Sola Christus as the linchpin of coherency for all Christian theology” (p. 22).  With this in mind “the goal of this book is to learn from the Reformers’ Solus Christus so that we might proclaim the same Christ in our context today” (p. 24).   Wellum divides his book into three parts: the exclusivity of Christ’s identity, the sufficiency of His work, and the Reformers’ teachings on Christ and their relevancy for today.   In Part One the author deals largely with the incarnation and its...

Social Justice

(Volume 24, Issue 6, December 2018/January 2019) Of the hot-button issues circulating right now, in both society and the church, nothing has drawn more interest and debate than social justice. In society at large much unrest and controversy is evident particularly in regards to three areas.  First, there are the interrelation concerns, expressed most clearly in the #MeToo movement, which is an effort directed at the alleviation of sexual harassment and assault, primarily targeting women. Next are the debates involving human sexuality, especially LGBTQ items.  Finally, matters of race and ethnicity have surged afresh in recent years.  As these concerns filter down to the church, to a certain extent the response of God’s people is clear. The Scriptures powerfully condemn all forms of immorality, sexual misconduct, and abuse.  Sadly, the church has not been totally spared the accusations of sexual misconduct, with a number of high profile leaders recently...

Essential Virtues, Marks of the Christ-Centered Life by Jim Berg

Jim Berg, Dean of Students at Bob Jones University, has written a solid book concerning Christian life and virtues based on the text from 2 Peter 1:5-7.  As the Foreword indicates: “This book focuses on Peter’s call to cultivate essential Christian virtues (2 Peter 1)…What Peter urges upon us in 1:5-7, therefore, are virtues essential for advancing our call to Christlikeness (1:4), for assuring us that our relation to Christ is genuine and vital (1:8-10) and for defending us against false teachings that appeals to the mind while seducing the flesh (3:17-18) (pp. vii-viii). The book would be a good resource as an applicational commentary on Second Peter, especially chapter one of the epistle, a personal study to aid in Christian maturity, or a group Bible study with the same aim.  To aid in the latter, an extensive Bible study guide (pp. 215-266) is included. I found Essential Virtues...

Woke Church, an Urgent Call for Christians in America to Confront Racism and Injustice by Eric Mason

Eric Mason is the founder and pastor of Epiphany Fellowship, a megachurch in Philadelphia.  He writes Woke Church from the perspective of a prominent, conservative, well-respected and culturally engaged black pastor who deals constantly with issues pertinent to the African-American community in general and the church in particular.  He has been addressing the issues concerning the Woke Church for several years and would represent the view of many, especially in black Christian circles.   Therefore, whether the reader agrees or not with all of Mason’s views, they need to be considered carefully. Mason defines being Woke as “no longer being naïve nor in mental slavery…it is a term for being socially aware of issues that have systemic impact…it has to do with seeing all of the issues and being able to connect cultural, socio-economic, philosophical, historical and ethical dots” (p. 25).  A tall order to say the least.   Mason sees...

Finally Free, Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace

While Finally Free is focused primarily on the sin of pornography the biblical principles and practical teachings found within are applicable to all forms of enslaving sin.  Unlike some books on sexual sins Lambert draws attention to better themes as well, such as: Christ, the gospel, and grace.  He writes, “This book is about something much better than pornography.  This book is about the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography” (p. 12).  Toward this end the author offers eight strategies around which the book is organized (p. 19), dedicating a chapter to each of the strategies: godly sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, using your spouse/singleness, humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Jesus. A couple of themes developed include the importance of true, godly repentance (pp. 23-25) and grace, by which Lambert identifies two kinds: forgiving and transforming.  Transforming grace, as Lambert sees it, is...