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” (p. 250). Allen’s goal is to demonstrate that social justice, or what he terms “ideological social justice,” (pp. 3-4, 38, 43-44) is not the same thing that Scripture describes as justice. It is important, the author maintains, that we use the same dictionary if we are going to be able to communicate (p. 1) and, unfortunately when it comes to social justice, that is often not the case. The author describes biblical justice as living out the Ten Commandments in our everyday relationships (pp. 23-24), 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” (p. 38). (A helpful chart outlining numerous contrasts between biblical and social justice is found on pp. 56-58.)
Allen maintains that social justice adherents maintain that groups to which we belong define us. On the other hand, Scripture agrees they shape us but they do not determine our identity (p. 63). Social justice teaches that our problems are “out there” and we are victims of oppression, while the Bible is clear that our problem is in our hearts and we are sinners (p. 68). The Bible says that spiritual regeneration and living according to God’s instructions provide the solution to our problems, while social justice rejects progress and transformation and looks to revolution instead (p. 69).
Why Social Justice covers many interrelated topics including intersectionality, postmodernism, Marxism, the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ agenda, cancel culture, and racism. The author demonstrated that the definition of racism has been changed 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” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, p. 143) to “prejudice plus power that only applies to white people” (p. 186). It is a short step once this alternate definition is accepted to believing 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 (pp. 113, 119).
At war in our society are two radically different narratives (pp. 144-159). The Preservation Narrative, which “affirms the goodness of America’s founding principles and seeks to preserve them while desiring to continually improve our systems and institutions to more perfectly reflect these principles” (p. 146). The Revolutionary Narrative “holds that existing social, cultural and economic systems and institutions are so corrupted by racism that there is no possibility for reform. They need to be torn out, root and branch, to make way for a new order” (p. 144). The Revolutionary Narrative flows out of neo-Marxism (pp. 47-49) which is “built on the notion that the world can be divided into the basic categories: evil oppressors and innocent victims” (p. 48). In Marxism 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 (pp. 100-101). As a matter of fact, oppressed groups cannot be perpetrators of injustice (p. 120) under The Revolutionary Narrative.
Allen corrects many false claims about the causes of racism, especially in the black community. He demonstrates that increase in crime and fatherless homes (72% of black children are born out of wedlock – p. 147), and the resulting problems can be traced to the welfare programs initiated under the Great Society Programs of the 1960s and the breakdown of the family, schools and churches (pp. 152-157). Also, the propaganda that racism resides in the Republican Party, and is largely not evident among Democrats is thoroughly debunked (pp. 153-157). However, these facts are normally dismissed in our “cancel culture,” which no longer believes in free speech (p. 189). Even black leaders who reject Critical Race Theory are cancelled with comments such as “We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice” (p. 105). Reasonable discussion and debate have become increasingly problematic because, following the tenets of postmodernity, narrative replaces objective truth (p. 84), feelings and emotions have replaced reason and logic (p. 82), and the social justice premise that the more one is oppressed the more insights into reality and truth claims they have (p. 82).
The author addresses the Black Lives Matter movement, pointing to a neo-Marxist foundation (p. 14), which opposes everything the Preservation Narrative holds dear (pp. 157-158). Allen also documents how BLM, and social justice, is infiltrating evangelicalism, primarily by looking at Eric Mason and his Woke Church book (pp. 160-165). The LGBTQ agenda also comes under scrutiny. LBGTQ is now a group of supposedly oppressed people, and homosexual behavior and desire is no longer seen as a choice, but an identity (p. 61). America as a whole has increasingly accepted homosexuality, growing from 46% acceptability in 1994 to 70% today. Same sex marriage was supported by 27% in 1996 and by 73% now (pp. 76, 139). In addition, 51% of millennial evangelicals endure some-sex marriage (p. 139). Four overarching goals of the LBGTQ agenda are identified: change how they are portrayed, remove moral choices as a reason for homosexuality, stigmatize and challenge those who disagree as hateful bigots, and equate LGBTQ rights with civil rights portraying the community as victims (p. 139).
Why Social Justice is a useful book with much valuable material. I was surprised, however, when Allen turned to Dallas Willard (pp. 2, 51-52, 74), Tim Keller (p. 23), Eric Metaxas (p. 133), and N. T. Wright (p. 184) as supporting voices. These choices began to make sense when he blamed fundamentalism for the social justice crisis America faces today. As Allen sees it, when the social gospel divide materialized in the early 20th century, all fundamentalists walked away from cultural engagement and left America to the secular wolves. Ultimately, as the fundamentalists busied themselves with winning souls and building churches, American society was captured by ideological social justice and moral decay. The author accuses fundamentalists of the error of gnostic dualism which separates reality into higher and lower categories and concentrates on the former (p. 135). What was lost, the author repeatedly says, was the seamless link between evangelism and discipleship and social justice (pp. 136, 168). He believes modern fundamentalists, such as John MacArthur, and the recent Statement on Social Justice (pp. 169-173), have fallen into the same error. I disagree with Allen on two fronts. First, his stereotyping of fundamentalists’ cultural involvement is without merit (see Jim Owen’s excellent book The Hidden History of Historical Fundamentalists 1933-1948 and my review https://tottministries.org/?s=The+Hidden+History+of+Historic+Fundamentalists). Coupled with this first objection, while I agree that fundamentalists made it their priority to evangelize, disciple and build the church, beginning in 1949 the evangelicals’ chose to elevate social issues to the level of these biblical priorities (something Allen does as well – pp. 182-187). Now, 70 years later the fundamentalist stands by the same priorities. It is the evangelicals who are being infected with social justice and, given that they are a bigger and far better funded movement, it is obvious that their efforts to engage culture have failed while at the same time diluting the gospel, discipleship and the church. It is the fundamentalist approach that has proven, through time, to be best.
Secondly, while Allen claims culture engagement and biblical discipleship have been the seamless historic approach of the church, he does not substantiate this with Scripture. He turns to certain Christian heroes from the past but he uses no biblical texts to support his view. That is because the so-called seamless approach is not found in the Word of God and has no support (see my e-booklet: A Primer on Social Justice, available through Amazon). Thus, in this reviewer’s opinion, while this volume has much to commend it, the author has sadly opened the back door to allow the same Social Justice errors that diluted the gospel and the church in the past to “creep in unnoticed” (Jude 4). Except for this final and significant flaw, Why Social Justice is an excellent contribution to the social justice discussion.
Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice, An Urgent Appeal to Fellow Christians in a Time of Social Crisis, by Scott David Allen (Grand Rapids: Credo House Publishing, 2020) 250 pp., $17.00
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher at Southern View Chapel