If you follow various major Christian ministry leaders on social media, you know a bit of a rift has opened largely between Reformed believers over the issue of social justice. One side, led by Dr. John MacArthur and Dr. James White assert that while Christians certainly are to treat all people with love and fairness, social justice is not the Gospel. Moreover, they argue contemporary "social justice" is all too often has anti-Biblical roots (i.e., Neo-Marxism, postmodernism, etc.). The leaders of this side released "The Statement on Social Justice" this week, which you can read here →
A point-by-point response by Ryan Burton King (h/t to "Calvinist Batman") can be found and read here → (although I wish he was a little more charitable and a lot more exegetical in his critique).
I have not signed the Statement on Social Justice but I might. I have thought a lot about these issues over the last few decades. My father has a been a minister for nearly sixty years and has spent the last forty-eight as senior pastor of the same church in Portsmouth, Ohio, an Appalachian town beset with poverty, illiteracy and opiate abuse (see the book "Dreamland" by Sam Quinones that focuses on my hometown). I joined that church as a full-time staff minister a few years ago. The church is racially diverse in both its attendance and leadership.
I helped launch a non-profit ten years ago in Portsmouth that, among other things, helped to feed the food insecure, mentored those in rehab, and launched two homes in the center of our area's drug problem as a kind of urban missionary effort. I am not yet convinced that our efforts were very fruitful. In fact, I have too often seen mercy ministries that did little but make those participating in it feel as though they had accomplished something. That doesn't mean I am against compassionate outreach only that I do believe we need to be wiser (see "Toxic Charity" by Robert Lupton, "When Helping Hurts" by Steve Corbett and "Under the Overpass" by Mike Yankoski).
I returned to Portsmouth after years of living all over the country either working or earning a degree. I lived in Southern California, Washington, D.C., Texas, New York and West Virginia before returning to my home town of Portsmouth, Ohio.
I worked in Hollywood and attended rather diverse schools. I then worked in politics including a two-year stint on Capitol Hill as a Congressional Aide, where, among other responsibilities, I helped my employer stay abreast of policy concerning government assistance. I went on to seminary where I worked as an English language minister in a church where at least half the congregation were legal immigrants. I then went to law school where I assisted two professors in their defense of a young man on death row and was first introduced to critical race theory. I then practiced law (including pro bono work) and spent eight years working for a Christian non-profit legal ministry.
That is a long winded way of saying, I've been around this block (or as they'd say in Texas, "This ain't my first rodeo!").
Yet, I have not chosen sides in this family fight. I am reading (including the Delgado & Stafancic text, although I don't think every Christian committed to social justice subscribes to Critical Race Theory, feminism, liberation theology, etc.) and, Lord willing, plan on perusing the various books recommended by Dr. Anthony Bradley (and hopefully hearing more about what he means by a "truncated Gospel"). I also plan to continue listening to Dr. White on The Dividing Line and Dr. MacArthur's latest sermon series. I want to take my experience, what I have learned, what I will learn and then come to a decision that I pray is doctrinally sound. I ask that others do the same. As of today, however, I haven't seen too many committed to doing the same. I see a lot of angry tweets from both sides ready to lob the Monty Python "holy hand grenade" at the other side.
Calm down. Take a breath (as my Apple Watch often reminds me). Read the Statement and Ryan Burton King's response (and I as write this, Dr. White is responding to Pastor King on his show). Listen to the leaders of both factions. Think, read Scripture, and pray. Then go play with your kids or hit the gym or check out The Babylon Bee. Then think, read Scripture and pray again...and again...and again but don't rush into the fray before you truly understand both sides.