There has been a lot of controversy lately on whether the Gospel is social justice or not. This is a continuation of positions stated in the 1987 Danvers Statement and the 2017 Nashville Statement. For your consideration, I have included a couple of articles that generally reflect the Episcopal Church’s position on the Gospel as social justice, as well as an alternative point of view, and two articles I have written about social justice. You may not agree with all the stated positions (I have some that I question), but we all should evaluate our stance on social justice and the Gospel, and what the members of the Diocese will do in the future.
Recently a group of Evangelical church leaders released a document called The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel, which has since been electronically co-signed by 7,000 clergy members through America.
Following on the heels of last year’s Nashville Statement, it is yet another attempt by a group of Bible Belt Conservatives to lecture the rest of the nation on how to properly follow Jesus—as if Jesus himself wasn’t fit for the job, as if he needs their help.
I’ll let you read it for yourself, but here’s a spoiler alert:
Like it’s equally pompous brother from Nashville, it too is filled with sanctimony, self-righteous gas-bagging, and all kinds of Bible verse-footnoted religious-speak—designed to serve an iron-clad apologetic of a compassion-free Christianity.
I’ll share with you two revelatory statements that bookend the piece, one from the preamble and another from the afterword.
From the former:
The Bible’s teaching (in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality) is being challenged under the broad and somewhat nebulous rubric of concern for “social justice.”If the doctrines of God’s Word are not uncompromisingly reasserted and defended at these points, there is every reason to anticipate that these dangerous ideas and corrupted moral values will spread their influence into other realms of biblical doctrines and principles.
It’s all there; every Conservative Christian dog whistle, every terrifying fundamentalist sky-is-falling talking point, every familiar hot button Evangelical trope.
And the writers position themselves as authorized by Divinity in these weighty and urgent matters.
But here’s part of the closing, talking about the Genesis of this lofty, anointed, God-ordained proclamation:
Fourteen men met in Herb’s House coffee shop in Dallas, Texas, having all expressed our growing concern with much that was taking place within evangelical circles under the banner of “Social Justice.”
At Herb’s House Coffee shop.
Sounds super spiritual, don’t it?
Sounds like exactly the place to be hearing revelation from the Almighty on matters of equality, sexuality, diversity.
Fourteen (predominately white) dudes over 50, sitting around somewhere in the reddest of red states, bloviating to one another about the evils of the world and imagining themselves qualified to tell tens of millions of Christians they’re doing it wrong.
And here’s the real kicker: these same 14 dudes, are among the most ardent supporters of this President and his Administration.
These 14 supposedly Christian men have repeatedly signed off and supported and defended:
his vile words about women,
his unrepentant serial adultery,
his race-baiting diatribes,
his ignoring the murders of unarmed black men,
his Cabinet filled with supremacists,
his dismantling of healthcare for millions,
his ICE harassment of undocumented Americans,
his separation of families and caging of children,
his incendiary language about Muslims,
his disregard for victims of gun violence.
These men, renting out their pulpits to shill for an amoral predator like Donald Trump, have the absolute brass testicles to declare to anyone, what God would have Christians do.
If these fourteen men were being at all honest with themselves and with us, here’s the real statement that they’d have made this week:
We are terrified.
We are afraid of gay people and Transgender people and brown people and Muslims—in a time when others are rapidly abandoning such fear.
We are white, Conservative, old men, and we realize that we are rapidly dying dinosaurs approaching extinction.
We see the culture becoming more intelligent, more scientifically aware, more connected across faith traditions and borders, and far less willing to be dictated to by white, Conservative, old men—and we are panicking.
We’ve made our bed politically with a man who is antithetical to every word and deed of the life of Jesus in the Gospels, and since we can’t change him or risk severing those ties now—our only option is to rewrite the Jesus story; to retrofit him to the monster we’ve created.
We want a Christianity that secures our privilege, that hordes our power, that doesn’t require us to be at all confronted or inconvenienced by Jesus.
We will do anything to resist equality, curb diversity, and keep marginalized people where they are—even betray the very heart of the Gospels.
I could spend a lot of time here arguing the minutia of the sprawling Social Justice Statement, but I don’t need to.
Jesus has already done that.
Don’t rely on me, see for yourself.
Read the Sermon on the Mount from front to back and see what was happening, what he was calling people to.
Meander on your own through the life and ministry of Jesus in the four New Testament biographies of Jesus.
Go anywhere you’d like: to him feeding multitudes on hillsides, to him railing against the hypocrisy of politically tainted religious leaders, to him sharing his affinity with the hungry and the imprisoned, to him challenging the religious systems oppressing the poor.
I contend you’ll see the same truth these overwrought Evangelicals are doing everything to ignore in their verbose manifesto: Jesus was a social justice warrior.
He was compassionate caregiver and status quo changer.
He was gentle healer and radical activist.
He was wall-destroyer and barrier-breaker and least-lover.
He was shepherd to the people of the street and he was a holy terror to the wolves wielding religion like a hammer against them.
He poured out his life in acts of service and generosity and empathy and sacrifice.
He made selfish, powerful, entitled religious people the most uncomfortable—because he welcomed everyone to the table and declared them equal.
With every breath he preached social justice, with every act he engineered it.
In short, Jesus was everything these fourteen men in a coffee shop in Texas and those like them, despise—and they have no interest in emulating him.
The writers of the Social Justice Statement use a ton of flowery words and religious code language, to simply say, “We don’t want to give a damn about people who aren’t like us.”
I’m sorry, but in the spirit of Christian love—I’m calling BS on it.
If we try and have a Christianity without social justice, we cut out the beautiful, beating heart of Jesus and we are left with only a lifeless corpse of religion to drag around.
‘Justice’ is what Jesus was doing and preaching and demanding of those who would follow him; and that justice is precisely what made the powerful want him dead.
You can draft any statement you want to resist that truth.
In the fourth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus declares his purpose.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
This is the real Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel.
Someone needs to tell these terrified white, Conservative, old men.
Just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day—they’re missing it.
John Pavlovitz, Things that Need to be Said, September 15, 2018
The REAL statement on social justice & the Gospel
When the morning worship service ended last Sunday, a woman whom I had never met before made a beeline for me and stood between me and the aisle. I was trapped in a row of seats. She said she was a guest from out of town, but she seemed to recognize me, and she said she wanted to help me understand the “social justice” issue.
“Despite what you think,” she said, “it is a gospel issue.” “Injustice is everywhere in the world. I am fighting it full time. Right now I have several lawsuits pending against injustice in the health-care industry. Don’t tell me that’s not gospel work. You’re not being a faithful witness unless you’re fighting for social justice. It’s built right into the gospel message: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
I tried to sound as agreeable as possible under the circumstances: “That’s surely one of the most important tenets of God’s moral law, and it does distill the idea of human justice into a single commandment,” I said. “But be careful how you state it. That’s not the gospel. That’s the Second Great Commandment.”
“Oh, right,” she said. “I meant to say the gospel is ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’”
“Well, that’s the First Great Commandment,” I said. “That’s still law, not gospel.”
“What do you mean?” she said. “I can show you those verses in the Bible.”
“Yes, ma’am, I know,” I said. “It’s Matthew 22:37-40. But that’s a summary of the law. It’s not the gospel.”
“But it’s in the Bible,” she repeated. “So it’s a gospel issue.”
I tried to explain: “Gospel and law aren’t the same thing. The law is a prelude to the gospel, not really part of the gospel. The law tells us what God requires of us. But then it condemns us, because it requires perfect obedience and curses anyone who doesn’t obey its every jot and tittle. But none of us obeys so thoroughly. And ‘whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.’ That’s James 2:10. Jesus said in Matthew 5:48 that the standard the law sets for us is God’s own absolute perfection. We can’t live up to that. The law therefore brings wrath (Romans 4:15), not salvation. The law can only condemn us, because we are guilty. All of us.
“Furthermore, suffering oppression doesn’t absolve anyone of wrongdoing. And being privileged doesn’t make a person any more sinful. We all deserve the wages of sin: death. That’s what the law says. Once we understand that, the last thing we need is more law. What we need is salvation from the penalty and power of the law. That’s where the gospel comes in.
“The gospel is the good news about Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Its themes are atonement for sin, forgiveness, reconciliation, and the justification of sinners. It’s the answer to the dilemma of the law.”
She interrupted at that point. “But you can’t preach forgiveness to people who treat other people unjustly,” she said. “That would just compound the injustice.”
“Scripture says the opposite,” I told her. “Christ died for the ungodly. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. Christ, who never committed a single act of injustice, gave his life as a ransom for other people’s sin—the just for the unjust. He paid sin’s price and thus satisfied both the wrath and the justice of God on behalf of sinners, so God can be just and still justify sinners who turn to Christ in faith.
“That’s the gospel. And God’s Word emphatically condemns anyone who proclaims the law instead of the gospel, or mingles the law with the gospel.
“Yes, the law condemns oppression, and it puts evildoers under a curse. But it cannot change hearts, and therefore it can neither free oppressed people from the bondage of their own sin nor transform their oppressors into good Samaritans.”
She cut me short again. “You can say that all you want, but I’m telling you that if you’re not fighting against injustice, you’re not doing gospel work,” she repeated. “Trust me; I know. I deal with corporate injustice all the time. I’ve even got these lawsuits pending . . .”
And we were right back where we started.
I didn’t make up that story. That was the real response of a self-styled full-time evangelical social justice advocate who is incorrigibly convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ alone doesn’t sufficiently address the problem of injustice. That brief conversation perfectly illustrates why alarms go off in my head whenever I hear some progressive evangelical insist that social justice is “a gospel issue.” It is worse yet when that claim is confidently made by bloggers and other representatives from various organizations whose raison d’être is supposed to be the defense and proclamation of the gospel.
Blending the gospel with social activism has been tried many times. (Google “Walter Rauschenbusch” or “social gospel.”) It has always turned out to be a shortcut to Socinianism, carnal humanism, or some more sinister form of spiritual barrenness. The social message inevitably overwhelms and replaces the gospel message, no matter how well-intentioned proponents of the method may have been at the start.
No wonder. “Social justice” (as that expression is used in the secular world or defined by practically any honest dictionary) isn’t really even a biblical theme. Nothing borrowed from worldly discourse should ever become a major theme in the message we proclaim to the world—not philosophy, politics, pop culture, or anything similar. Make any such topic a major theme alongside the simple gospel message and you are going against the strategy of the apostle Paul, who wrote, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Preaching on “social justice” in the manner now being modeled by certain leading evangelicals subverts the duty set forth in Colossians 3:2: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” It encourages people to see themselves as victims, not sinners. It fosters resentment rather than repentance. It is a man-centered, not Christ-centered, message. It begets blame rather than forgiveness. And it points people to the law, not the gospel.
To insist that social justice activism is an essential tenet of gospel truth is a form of theological legalism not fundamentally different from the teaching of those in the early church who insisted circumcision was a gospel issue.
Evangelicals who are being inveigled into making social justice a central theme in their preaching need to consider these things very carefully, ponder the crucial distinction between law and gospel, and recover our confidence in the simple truths about Christ’s death and resurrection. Scripture says those are matters “of first importance.” These truths constitute the heart and the very essence of all true gospel issues: “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
After all, that simple message is what turned the world upside down in the first century.
If the contemporary evangelical movement would get serious about God’s Word; abandon all the silly efforts to exegete popular culture; stop chasing “relevance” in all the wrong ways; eschew the wisdom of this world; and rise up and proclaim the gospel in earnest, with deep conviction, and with confident clarity, that simple message still has the power to conquer the world, vanquish ethnic strife, and heal all the other ills of our culture, even in these postmodern times.
Phil Johnson, SJ&G, September 7, 2018
A Gospel Issue?
In view of questionable sociological, psychological, and political theories presently permeating our culture and making inroads into Christ’s church, we wish to clarify certain key Christian doctrines and ethical principles prescribed in God’s Word. Clarity on these issues will fortify believers and churches to withstand an onslaught of dangerous and false teachings that threaten the gospel, misrepresent Scripture, and lead people away from the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Specifically, we are deeply concerned that values borrowed from secular culture are currently undermining Scripture in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality. The Bible’s teaching on each of these subjects is being challenged under the broad and somewhat nebulous rubric of concern for “social justice.” If the doctrines of God’s Word are not uncompromisingly reasserted and defended at these points, there is every reason to anticipate that these dangerous ideas and corrupted moral values will spread their influence into other realms of biblical doctrines and principles.
We submit these affirmations and denials for public consideration, not with any pretense of ecclesiastical authority, but with an urgency that is mixed with deep joy and sincere sorrow. The rapidity with which these deadly ideas have spread from the culture at large into churches and Christian organizations—including some that are evangelical and Reformed—necessitates the issuing of this statement now.
In the process of considering these matters we have been reminded of the essentials of the faith once for all handed down to the saints, and we are re-committed to contend for it. We have a great Lord and Savior, and it is a privilege to defend his gospel, regardless of cost or consequences. Nevertheless, while we rejoice in that privilege, we grieve that in doing so we know we are taking a stand against the positions of some teachers whom we have long regarded as faithful and trustworthy spiritual guides. It is our earnest prayer that our brothers and sisters will stand firm on the gospel and avoid being blown to and fro by every cultural trend that seeks to move the Church of Christ off course. We must remain steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
The Apostle Paul’s warning to the Colossians is greatly needed today: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). The document that follows is an attempt to heed that apostolic command. We invite others who share our concerns and convictions to unite with us in reasserting our unwavering commitment to the teachings of God’s Word articulated in this statement. Therefore, for the glory of God among his Church and throughout society, we offer the following affirmations and denials.
We affirm that the Bible is God’s Word, breathed out by him. It is inerrant, infallible, and the final authority for determining what is true (what we must believe) and what is right (how we must live). All truth claims and ethical standards must be tested by God’s final Word, which is Scripture alone.
We deny that Christian belief, character, or conduct can be dictated by any other authority, and we deny that the postmodern ideologies derived from intersectionality, radical feminism, and critical race theory are consistent with biblical teaching. We further deny that competency to teach on any biblical issue comes from any qualification for spiritual people other than clear understanding and simple communication of what is revealed in Scripture.
We Affirm that God created every person equally in his own image. As divine image-bearers, all people have inestimable value and dignity before God and deserve honor, respect and protection. Everyone has been created by God and for God.
We deny that God-given roles, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion, sex or physical condition or any other property of a person either negates or contributes to that individual’s worth as an image-bearer of God.
We affirm that since he is holy, righteous, and just, God requires those who bear his image to live justly in the world. This includes showing appropriate respect to every person and giving to each one what he or she is due. We affirm that societies must establish laws to correct injustices that have been imposed through cultural prejudice.
We deny that true justice can be culturally defined or that standards of justice that are merely socially constructed can be imposed with the same authority as those that are derived from Scripture. We further deny that Christians can live justly in the world under any principles other than the biblical standard of righteousness. Relativism, socially-constructed standards of truth or morality, and notions of virtue and vice that are constantly in flux cannot result in authentic justice.
We affirm that God’s law, as summarized in the ten commandments, more succinctly summarized in the two great commandments, and manifested in Jesus Christ, is the only standard of unchanging righteousness. Violation of that law is what constitutes sin.
We deny that any obligation that does not arise from God’s commandments can be legitimately imposed on Christians as a prescription for righteous living. We further deny the legitimacy of any charge of sin or call to repentance that does not arise from a violation of God’s commandments.
We affirm that all people are connected to Adam both naturally and federally. Therefore, because of original sin everyone is born under the curse of God’s law and all break his commandments through sin. There is no difference in the condition of sinners due to age, ethnicity, or sex. All are depraved in all their faculties and all stand condemned before God’s law. All human relationships, systems, and institutions have been affected by sin.
We deny that, other than the previously stated connection to Adam, any person is morally culpable for another person’s sin. Although families, groups, and nations can sin collectively, and cultures can be predisposed to particular sins, subsequent generations share the collective guilt of their ancestors only if they approve and embrace (or attempt to justify) those sins. Before God each person must repent and confess his or her own sins in order to receive forgiveness. We further deny that one’s ethnicity establishes any necessary connection to any particular sin.
Scripture: Genesis 2:16, 17, 3:12,13-15; Proverbs 29:18; Isaiah 25:7, 60:2-3; Jeremiah 31:27-34; Ezekiel 18:1-9, 14-18; Matthew 23:29-36; Romans 1:16-17, 3:23, 5:12, 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 15:3-11; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Galatians 1:6-9; Titus 1:12, 13; Revelation 13:8
We affirm that the gospel is the divinely-revealed message concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ—especially his virgin birth, righteous life, substitutionary sacrifice, atoning death, and bodily resurrection—revealing who he is and what he has done with the promise that he will save anyone and everyone who turns from sin by trusting him as Lord.
We deny that anything else, whether works to be performed or opinions to be held, can be added to the gospel without perverting it into another gospel. This also means that implications and applications of the gospel, such as the obligation to live justly in the world, though legitimate and important in their own right, are not definitional components of the gospel.
We affirm that salvation is granted by God’s grace alone received through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Every believer is united to Christ, justified before God, and adopted into his family. Thus, in God’s eyes there is no difference in spiritual value or worth among those who are in Christ. Further, all who are united to Christ are also united to one another regardless of age, ethnicity, or sex. All believers are being conformed to the image of Christ. By God’s regenerating and sanctifying grace all believers will be brought to a final glorified, sinless state of perfection in the day of Jesus Christ.
We deny that salvation can be received in any other way. We also deny that salvation renders any Christian free from all remaining sin or immune from even grievous sin in this life. We further deny that ethnicity excludes anyone from understanding the gospel, nor does anyone’s ethnic or cultural heritage mitigate or remove the duty to repent and believe.
We Affirm that the primary role of the church is to worship God through the preaching of his word, teaching sound doctrine, observing baptism and the Lord’s Supper, refuting those who contradict, equipping the saints, and evangelizing the lost. We affirm that when the primacy of the gospel is maintained that this often has a positive effect on the culture in which various societal ills are mollified. We affirm that, under the lordship of Christ, we are to obey the governing authorities established by God and pray for civil leaders.
We Deny that political or social activism should be viewed as integral components of the gospel or primary to the mission of the church. Though believers can and should utilize all lawful means that God has providentially established to have some effect on the laws of a society, we deny that these activities are either evidence of saving faith or constitute a central part of the church’s mission given to her by Jesus Christ, her head. We deny that laws or regulations possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts.
We affirm that heresy is a denial of or departure from a doctrine that is essential to the Christian faith. We further affirm that heresy often involves the replacement of key, essential truths with variant concepts, or the elevation of non-essentials to the status of essentials. To embrace heresy is to depart from the faith once delivered to the saints and thus to be on a path toward spiritual destruction. We affirm that the accusation of heresy should be reserved for those departures from Christian truth that destroy the weight-bearing doctrines of the redemptive core of Scripture. We affirm that accusations of heresy should be accompanied with clear evidence of such destructive beliefs.
We deny that the charge of heresy can be legitimately brought against every failure to achieve perfect conformity to all that is implied in sincere faith in the gospel.
Sexuality and Marriage
We Affirm that God created mankind male and female and that this divinely determined distinction is good, proper, and to be celebrated. Maleness and femaleness are biologically determined at conception and are not subject to change. The curse of sin results in sinful, disordered affections that manifest in some people as same-sex attraction. Salvation grants sanctifying power to renounce such dishonorable affections as sinful and to mortify them by the Spirit. We further affirm that God’s design for marriage is that one woman and one man live in a one-flesh, covenantal, sexual relationship until separated by death. Those who lack the desire or opportunity for marriage are called to serve God in singleness and chastity. This is as noble a calling as marriage.
We deny that human sexuality is a socially constructed concept. We also deny that one’s sex can be fluid. We reject “gay Christian” as a legitimate biblical category. We further deny that any kind of partnership or union can properly be called marriage other than one man and one woman in lifelong covenant together. We further deny that people should be identified as “sexual minorities”—which serves as a cultural classification rather than one that honors the image-bearing character of human sexuality as created by God.
We affirm that God created mankind both male and female with inherent biological and personal distinctions between them and that these created differences are good, proper, and beautiful. Though there is no difference between men and women before God’s law or as recipients of his saving grace, we affirm that God has designed men and women with distinct traits and to fulfill distinct roles. These differences are most clearly defined in marriage and the church, but are not irrelevant in other spheres of life. In marriage the husband is to lead, love, and safeguard his wife and the wife is to respect and be submissive to her husband in all things lawful. In the church, qualified men alone are to lead as pastors/elders/bishops and preach to and teach the whole congregation. We further affirm that the image of God is expressed most fully and beautifully in human society when men and women walk in obedience to their God-ordained roles and serve according to their God-given gifts.
We deny that the God-ordained differences in men’s and women’s roles disparage the inherent spiritual worth or value of one over the other, nor do those differences in any way inhibit either men or women from flourishing for the glory of God.
Race / Ethnicity
We affirm God made all people from one man. Though people often can be distinguished by different ethnicities and nationalities, they are ontological equals before God in both creation and redemption. “Race” is not a biblical category, but rather a social construct that often has been used to classify groups of people in terms of inferiority and superiority. All that is good, honest, just, and beautiful in various ethnic backgrounds and experiences can be celebrated as the fruit of God’s grace. All sinful actions and their results (including evils perpetrated between and upon ethnic groups by others) are to be confessed as sinful, repented of, and repudiated.
We deny that Christians should segregate themselves into racial groups or regard racial identity above, or even equal to, their identity in Christ. We deny that any divisions between people groups (from an unstated attitude of superiority to an overt spirit of resentment) have any legitimate place in the fellowship of the redeemed. We reject any teaching that encourages racial groups to view themselves as privileged oppressors or entitled victims of oppression. While we are to weep with those who weep, we deny that a person’s feelings of offense or oppression necessarily prove that someone else is guilty of sinful behaviors, oppression, or prejudice.
We affirm that some cultures operate on assumptions that are inherently better than those of other cultures because of the biblical truths that inform those worldviews that have produced these distinct assumptions. Those elements of a given culture that reflect divine revelation should be celebrated and promoted. But the various cultures out of which we have been called all have features that are worldly and sinful—and therefore those sinful features should be repudiated for the honor of Christ. We affirm that whatever evil influences to which we have been subjected via our culture can be—and must be—overcome through conversion and the training of both mind and heart through biblical truth.
We deny that individuals and sub-groups in any culture are unable, by God’s grace, to rise above whatever moral defects or spiritual deficiencies have been engendered or encouraged by their respective cultures.
We affirm that racism is a sin rooted in pride and malice which must be condemned and renounced by all who would honor the image of God in all people. Such racial sin can subtly or overtly manifest itself as racial animosity or racial vainglory. Such sinful prejudice or partiality falls short of God’s revealed will and violates the royal law of love. We affirm that virtually all cultures, including our own, at times contain laws and systems that foster racist attitudes and policies.
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.
For more detailed consideration of some of the issues raised in this statement, we recommend the following two documents:
PDF Download: The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel
Spanish PDF Download: The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel
History and Formation
By: Tom Ascol
The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel grew out of a meeting that took place on June 19, 2018. Fourteen men met in Herb’s House coffee shop in Dallas, Texas, having all expressed our growing concern with much that was taking place within evangelical circles under the banner of “Social Justice.” Josh Buice organized the meeting, Michael O’Fallon helped facilitate it along with Phil Johnson. Though all of us had relationships with some of those in the room, I don’t think any of us knew everyone.
As a result of a time of study, fellowship and prayer, we decided to engage in the formation of a statement that would express our concern theologically and in a succinct, balanced way. I was given the responsibility to write the original draft, which, upon completion consisted of an introduction and 13 articles containing affirmations and denials. Josh Buice made initial edits and additions to the statement and then it was made available to all fourteen participants for review & editing. Some men made no suggestions, a few made several (for example, Justin Peters submitted the original version of the article on the church). A few other men and women (it is impossible to know how many) read over the statement and made suggestions. Once the latest draft was posted on a password protected website, it was made available in August to a wider group of readers for suggestions, feedback and support.
Final revisions were made along the way with input from respected theologians and pastors before the statement was published September 4, 2018.
The intent of the framers of this statement has been from the beginning to address ideas and doctrines, not people and organizations. Some of these ideas are being promoted from sectors of the evangelical world that we and others have greatly esteemed and respected. We have tried to highlight the views that we find dangerous to and incompatible with the teachings of Scripture by clearly stating what we affirm and what we deny.
The statement makes no claim of any ecclesiastical authority. It is issued for the purpose of calling attention to and clarifying concerns. We have spoken on these issues with no disrespect or loss of love for our brothers and sisters who disagree with what we have written. Rather, our hope is that this statement might actually provoke the kind of brotherly dialogue that can promote unity in the gospel of our Lord Jesus whom we all love and trust.
The statement on social justice
The Gospel IS Social Justice