Racism and Critical Race Theory Part 5 Social Justice vs. Biblical Justice

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Volume 27, Issue 5, May 2021

What Christian would deny the importance of justice? Justice is a divine attribute (Deut 32:4) and a central feature of our obligation to those who live among us.  Micah 6:8 reads, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” In Isaiah 1:17 the Lord instructs His people to “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” For these reasons, when Christians begin to discuss their affirmation of justice it would appear to be a no-brainer.  But as it is so often the case, when it comes to critical race theory, different definitions of vital words are being used. Standard dictionaries will define justice in terms of fairness, conformity to the facts, treating people with equity. Unfortunately, God’s definition of justice, and in fact, the common understanding of justice by most in our society, is not the same as that used by critical race theorists. As a result, we find ourselves speaking past one another, making inaccurate accusations, and misunderstanding the whole discussion.

In the previous four papers on racism and critical race theory (CRT), I have often referred to social justice, but it is time to distinguish social justice from biblical justice. Some, in attempting to make this distinction, have offered modifiers to provide clarity.  For example, Scott David Allen adds the adjective “ideological,” while Voddie Baucham supplies “critical” before the words “social justice.” These modifiers are used to elucidate that a unique definition of justice is at work in the modern social justice movement—one not found in most dictionaries, at least not yet.  Before we examine the differences between biblical justice and social justice we need to back up and uncover the origins of social justice and critical race theory.

Origins

Voddie Baucham, in By What Standard?  links critical race theory and critical social justice directly to Cultural Marxism.  In contrast to Classical Marxism, he writes, which is an economic ideology that leads to an uprising of the masses to overthrow capitalism,[1]  Cultural Marxism is concerned with cultural injustice. Cultural Marxism can be traced to the Frankfort School in the 1930s, which divided people into two groups: white heterosexual males and everyone else.  The goal of the Frankfort School was to infiltrate the educational system to mobilize all other groups against the hegemonic power that white males had.  CRT is the grandchild of Cultural Marxism.[2]

With CRT we are left with racism without a racist since all white people are racist merely because of their whiteness.[3] Baucham believes such a philosophy leaves our society with no meaningful way for improvement.[4]  Cultural Marxism however does offer a solution of sorts. Its promoters see “The great problem to overcome in society [as] the unjust and unequal distribution of power and wealth.”  The way to eliminate this perceived ‘evil’ is by replacing capitalism with communism, according to Jeffrey D. Johnson in his book What Every Christian Needs to Know about Social Justice.[5]

Distinctions

Scott Allen is president of the Disciple Nations Alliance which exists “to equip the church to rise to her full potential as God’s principal agent in restoring, healing and blessing broken nations.”[6] Allen’s goal, in his book Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice, is to demonstrate that social justice, or what he terms “ideological social justice,”[7] is not the equivalent to justice as Scripture identifies it.  The author describes biblical justice as living out the Ten Commandments in our everyday relationships,[8] while ideological social justice “is based on the belief of dominant groups who create systems and structures which marginalize others and promote their own interests.”[9] Allen offers the following distinctions between ideological social justice and biblical teaching, which I will summarize below:[10]

  • Social justice adherents maintain that groups to which we belong define us, while Scripture agrees that such groups while shaping us, do not determine our identity.
  • Social justice teaches that our problems are “out there” and we are victims of oppression, while the Bible is clear that our problems lie in our sinful hearts and that we are responsible for our actions and behavior.
  • Social justice rejects progress and transformation and looks to revolution while the Bible says that spiritual regeneration and living according to God’s instructions instead provide the solution to our problems.
  • The fundamental problem human beings face, according to social justice, is white, heteronormative males who have established power structures to oppress women, people of color, and sexual minorities. Scripture maintains that humanity’s great problem is sin and rebellion against God, which has resulted in broken relationships both between us and Him, and us and other people.
  • Social justice sees revolution by the oppressed as the solution to what ails the world, while Scripture offers the gospel which opens the way for reconciliation for all broken relationships.
  • Salvation under the social justice paradigm is allusive because oppressors can never be fully pardoned. The Lord, by contrast, offers complete forgiveness to those who call on Christ.
  • Objective truth, along with reason, logic, evidence, and argument are mere tools to keep victims suppressed in the social justice system, but God’s Word is the source of truth in the biblical worldview.
  • Social justice teaches that ultimate authority resides in the claims of victims based upon their subjective experiences and must be believed without question. The biblical worldview rests in the final authority of Scripture.
  • The definition of racism has been changed by social justice ideologues from “the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”[11] to “prejudice plus power that only applies to white people.”[12] It is a short step, Allen believes, once this alternate definition is accepted to agreeing that a “toxic brew of capitalism, ‘whiteness,’ traditional marriage, (‘the patriarchy’), the male-female binary and moral convictions” are oppressive and the reason for racism and, therefore must be stamped out.[13]
  • Social justice teaches that equality means equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity so that diversity results in sameness, not uniqueness, and bad outcomes are never blamed on personal choices.[14]

Tom Ascol demonstrates in By What Standard?  that Scripture calls for personal responsibility, hard work, and diligence. “That, under social justice and critical race theory ideology, white privilege is viewed as the original sin.”[15]  Yet he reminds the reader of the obvious, that majorities who create and lead any culture do so in ways that benefit themselves.[16]  That includes ancient Israel and modern-day China and Japan, yet no one complains while visiting Beijing that everyone is speaking Chinese because of Chinese privilege.  CRT encourages blacks to see themselves as victims instead of taking advantage of the opportunities that have been afforded.[17]

In the same volume, Baucham defines and then dismantles the popular concept of Ethnic Gnosticism—the idea that ethnic minorities automatically have insight into all things racist—implies that white people do not have. Baucham questions how people who cannot even know their own hearts (Jere 17:9), can claim the same insight to know the hearts of others.[18]

Erwin Lutzer is clear that the SJM wants to squash freedom of speech because it allows capitalists to stay in power, and therefore it cannot be tolerated. [19]

 Social Justice’s Infiltration into Evangelicalism.

In this paper we have tried to mark out the differences between social justice and biblical justice, and yet despite these obvious distinctions social justice ideology and CRT is creeping into evangelicalism, dividing friends, churches, and denominations, and drawing battle lines that will have to be faced soon. Voddie Baucham, in his newest book, Fault Lines, boldly named names, documents situations, and pointed to the dangers of evangelicals embracing critical social justice.  He pinpoints two major concerns:

Sufficiency of Scripture:

Baucham’s discussion of racial reconciliation within Christianity is also on target as he accuses evangelicals who are leaning toward CRT of developing a new hermeneutic and a new canon that denies biblical sufficiency.[20]  While many would challenge Baucham at this point, claiming that they can embrace CRT and at the same time believe in biblical sufficiency, Baucham counters that, by adding books expressing sociology and CRT worldviews to help us understand human nature and deal with racial conflict, the sufficiency of Scripture is being denied.[21]  Baucham goes further in his newest book, Fault Lines claiming the woke canon carries the underlying assumption that the Bible is not sufficient to address issues of race and justice.[22] “The general theme of the current CRT movement within evangelicalism,” Baucham writes, “is a covert attack on the sufficiency of Scripture.”[23]  The CRT crowd within evangelicalism “is proclaiming that sources outside of Scripture have brought them to a new, better, and more complete understanding of God’s truth on race” (p. 126). By contrast, Baucham proclaims the Bible as the Word of God, which is profitable for instruction concerning all issues, including race, and is thoroughly sufficient.[24] Evangelical social justice is not therefore a movement drawn from the careful exegesis of Scripture but emerges from the new woke canon of CRT.

The Gospel

Those on both sides of the fault lines raise CRT and critical justice to a soteriology level. Ibram X Kendi, a leading advocate for CRT and Liberation Theology, contrasts his position with what he calls “Savior Theology” (or the biblical gospel of redemption). He tweeted, “We are not here to see people delivered from the penalty and power of sin. . . The job of the Christian is to liberate oppressed people from their oppressors” (p. 28). Jarvis Williams, professor at Southern Seminary claims, “Race and racial reconciliation are soteriological issues” (p. 87). Unless one is preaching antiracism at the same level as preaching the gospel they are apparently preaching no gospel at all (p. 87).

By contrast, Baucham writes:

Our greatest need is not for the church to get distracted trying to reorganize society to help people overcome the injustice committed against them.  Our greatest need is for the church to remain vigilantly committed to proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.[25]

Summaries

Chad Vegas in By What Standard? offers some good balance to consider as we bring this article to a close.

Just governments are good!  However, a more just government does not answer the eternal condition of the soul.  Our priority is not to transform the government or justice system; “Making America Great Again” should not be our primary concern as followers of Jesus.[26]…What my neighbor—and the world—need most is not the American Constitution but the Word of God.[27]…However much we may have suffered, our greatest problem is not being a victim of injustice.  Our greatest problem is that we are wicked, law-breaking offenders against our Holy God.[28]

Allie Beth Stuckey in You’re Not Enough (and That’s Okay) nicely wraps up the differences between social justice and biblical justice. She states: “Social justice is concerned not with equality of opportunity but equality of outcomes.  Equality of outcome is never possible without government force.”[29] She is correct when she writes, “God’s justice doesn’t judge people based on their identity groups.  Biblical justice is concerned with righteousness, not with an arbitrary calculation of how to hold back one group and lift another to achieve equal outcomes. Biblical justice works to replace hate with peace and injustice with justice.”[30] Stuckey continues: “Christians don’t view people through the lens of their collective grievances.  We view people as individuals, made in the image of God…Christians do not need ‘social justice.’ We have the Word of God as our guide to what causes to care about and how to fight for them.”[31]

Voddie Baucham titles his recent book Fault Lines because of the close similarity he sees between the geological fault lines that result in physical earthquakes and the social/political/ecclesiastical fault lines that have been developing within our society for decades and which are now erupting in numerous ways. Baucham is not writing in hopes of avoiding the looming trouble—nor does he see avoidance as desirable.[32] Further, it is unavoidable at this point.[33] Rather his goal is to expose two competing worldviews: Critical Social Justice and biblical justice,[34] in hopes that his readers will understand the issues and can be on the right side of the fault line.[35] That is my hope in writing these five articles on CRT and social justice.

 

[1] Voddie Baucham, By What Standard, God’s World… God Rules, “Cultural Marxism” edited by Jared Longshore (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2020), Kindle e-book, pp. 32, 88.

[2] Ibid., pp. 168-170.

[3] Ibid., p. 37.

[4] Ibid., p. 62.

[5] Jeffrey D. Johnson, What Every Christian Needs to Know about Social Justice (Conway, AR: Free Grace Press, 2021), p. 45.

[6] Scott David Allen, Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice (Grand Rapids, Credo House Publishers, 2020), p 250.

[7] Ibid., pp. 3-4, 38, 43-44.

[8] Ibid., pp 23-24.

[9] Ibid., p. 38.

[10] Ibid., pp. 56-69.

[11] Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.

[12] Ibid., p. 186.

[13] Ibid., pp. 113, 119.

[14] Ibid., pp. 100-101.

[15] Tom Ascol, By What Standard, God’s World… God Rules, “White Privilege” edited by Jared Longshore (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2020), Kindle e-book, pp. 56.

[16] Ibid., p. 60.

[17] Ibid., p. 63-64.

[18] Voddie Baucham, By What Standard?, pp. 115, 123, 175-176.

[19] Erwin W. Lutzer, We Will Not Be Silenced (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2020), p.109.

[20] Ibid., p. 138.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Voddie Baucham, Fault Lines, the Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe (Washington D. C.: Salem Books, 2021), p. 124.

[23] Ibid., p. 125.

[24] Ibid., pp. 126-127.

[25] Voddie Baucham, By What Standard?, p. 156.

[26] Chad Vegas, By What Standard, God’s World… God Rules, “Gospel Privilege and Global Missions” edited by Jared Longshore (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2020), Kindle e-book, p. 149.

[27] Ibid., p. 150.

[28] Ibid., p. 156.

[29] Allie Beth Stuckey, You’re Not Enough (and that’s Okay), Escaping the Toxic Culture of Self-Love (Sentinel: 2020), p. 86.

[30] Ibid., p. 87.

[31] Ibid., pp. 89, 90-91.

[32] Voddie Baucham, Fault Lines, p. 2.

[33] Ibid., p. 138.

[34] Ibid., p. 2.

[35] Ibid., p. 224.

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