An Open Letter To John MacArthur About Social Justice
This article first appeared on the author’s personal blog site. Click here for the original and more great content!
You don’t know me, but I have been aware of you for years as a well-known evangelical pastor, radio personality, and an author. I’ve listened to “Grace to You” and read your fierce defenses against anything you’ve deemed a distraction to the gospel with appreciation for your convictions, even if not in complete agreement with your conclusions.
You recently took aim at what you believe is the most dangerous heresy you’ve ever faced: the growing Christian advocacy for “social justice.” I read your string of posts making the case that the Church is being lured away from the gospel message and down a road that leads to destruction with great interest and greater disappointment.
As an African-American pastor who has studied and experienced this issue personally, I believe your post, and the Statement on Social Justice launched in tandem with it, are the actual dangers to the Church in this moment. I have taken the time to respond with as much detail as I can because I, too, love the universal Church. I also believe in this particular moment, she is in danger of falling away from a clear understanding of the gospel in the United States. We need to talk more and do more about social justice — not less. I’ll explain with specifics.
I am convinced the only long-term solution to every brand of ethnic animus is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Christ alone are the barriers and dividing walls between people groups broken down, the enmity abolished, and differing cultures and ethnic groups bound together in one new people. The black leaders with whom I ministered during the civil rights movement shared that conviction.
To demonstrate your historic concern and the shared convictions between you and “black leaders,” you invoked your ministry partnership with a leader I respect deeply, Dr. John Perkins. You described experiencing discrimination firsthand, and your awareness of the injustices in our nation. You also acknowledged that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution to resolve “ethnic animus.” What is unclear is how you think we are to apply the gospel to the social injustices you personally witness. We know your friend’s view through his own writing on the subject:
Justice is any act of reconciliation that restores any part of God’s creation back to its original intent, purpose or image. When I think about justice that way, it doesn’t surprise me at all that God loves it. It includes both the acts of social justice and the restorative justice found on the cross.
― John M. Perkins, “Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win”
For Perkins, “social justice” and “the cross” go hand in hand. Indeed, he has fought for social justice based on gospel-based convictions as an outspoken activist, minister, and organizer. He founded the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) to facilitate a holistic gospel proclamation and demonstration.
Would you agree with Dr. Perkins’ assessment and approach to ministry? If not, how are your readers to understand your reference to him in your post? Perkins appears to put forward a drastically different understanding of social justice and the Christian’s responsibility to promote it than you do.
You also inserted your appreciation of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but King was a pastor who famously rebuked white evangelicals for criticizing his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. While he languished in jail, he wrote one of the most compelling letters known in modern times to Christian leaders who castigated him for proclaiming social justice.
It is strange to value the gains of Dr. King’s activism and the tragedy of his assassination, yet still criticize those who walk in his legacy to continue exposing injustice today such as the broken criminal justice system, discrimination in hiring policies and cultural bias within the evangelical church. Do you think King was wrong for using his pulpit and ministry to protest social injustice? If he asked you for advice on how to write his “I Have a Dream” speech, would you have told him he should just preach a gospel devoid of social justice? Where would our country be now if he had?
I resonated with the tragic observation you made regarding the painful history of this nation’s systemic injustices that King’s sacrifice confronted:
A hundred years passed before the federal government banned segregation in public places and began in earnest to pass legislation safeguarding the civil rights of all people equally. Until then, freed slaves and their descendants in Southern states were literally relegated by law to the back of the bus and frequently treated with scorn or incivility because of the color of their skin.
Clearly, you see the Civil Rights legislation King fought and died for was a good thing, but why don’t you seem to support the activity of those responsible for it, especially when they were operating from Christian convictions? You were active in ministry in the 1960s. What did your understanding of the gospel lead you to say to the white churches that largely supported the unjust status quo? What did it lead you to do? What did you say to politicians, pastors and entrepreneurs in the Church who opposed King’s message of integration while most “gospel-centered” preachers remained silent?
The troubling truth is that the Fundamentalists who opposed King’s integration followed the lead of their founders a generation before. You harshly criticized what you see as the evangelical Church’s current emphasis on social justice, but what do you think about the Fundamentalist emphasis on social injustice which catechized racism in churches and shaped the worldviews that antagonized efforts of social equality? You seem more concerned with speaking out against advocates for social justice than you are about the social injustice they are responding to. The history of your own movement has much to rebuke.
In “Doctrine and Race,” Mary Beth Swetnam Mathews chronicles the racism that characterized the Fundamentalist Movement from the beginning with striking detail. In one account close to home for me as a pastor in Brooklyn, New York, she recounts a Fundamentalist pastor who announced his plan to segregate his church:
The Reverend William Blackshear, a white Texas native who was the pastor of St. Matthew’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, announced his plan to exclude African Americans from his congregation. The black denominational press (and secular press) immediately seized upon his words as an example of how far astray Christianity was heading in the segregated United States. [Mr.] Kelly Miller [African American journalist] argued that Blackshear was not an outlier but representative of white ministerial racism, stating that “what he did in the open, nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand white ministers believe and practice by overt or covert contrivance.”
One of the striking things about this account is the statement of how widely spread ministers perpetuated injustice. Similar to today, the Black Church (and even the secular press) see the “social injustice plank” in the white evangelical eye. As Jesus stated in his often quoted (and misinterpreted) teaching on hypocrisy, clear insight to correct another is only possible when you “first take the plank out of your own eye” (Matthew 7:5).
According to Jesus’ principle, until the racist and socially unjust foundations (the “planks”) of the white evangelical church are acknowledged, it will not be able to see its own hypocrisy. Pastor A.C. Dixon wrote the title and much of the content in The Fundamentals, the published series of essays that gave the Fundamentalist Movement its name. As Evangelicalism is a present-day re-branded version of Fundamentalism, it contains remnants from its founders.
Dixon was the proud son of a member of the Ku Klux Klan. His brother, Thomas Dixon, whose book, “The Clansman,” became the inspiration for the violently racist and revisionist film, “Birth of A Nation,” and caused the KKK’s resurgence. Dixon stayed true to his racist roots within his ministry. His resistance to the Social Gospel was not solely theological. In “Doctrine and Race,” Mathews recounts his sermons, and other notable Fundamentalists to demonstrate their approach to race:
In making his case for racial separation, Dixon drew on a classic dichotomy of southern whites: the distinction between political rights and “social privileges.” For such proponents, the ballot was a political right, but equal and integrated accommodations were a “social” concern, one that the US Constitution had no control over. In language that would be echoed by Texas fundamentalist J. Frank Norris and Arkansas Baptist Ben Bogard in 1928, Dixon told his congregation that “a man may demand his political rights, but, if he comes demanding social rights, he will find that what he claims as a right, others regard as a privilege, and if he persists in his demand even privileges are apt to be withdrawn.”
How have you reckoned with the racism in evangelicalism’s past and present? Racist attitudes openly expressed in the past are gaining traction in the present and the threat of normalized discrimination is on the horizon. The last twelve months alone have exposed that seminaries have discriminated in their placement practices, ignored black scholarship, alienated black artists, and caused a quiet exodus of blacks leaving Evangelical institutions. Are you concerned about the discrimination within evangelical institutions that harkens back to the origin of Fundamentalism, Dr. MacArthur? It doesn’t seem like it. In fact, you seem to blame people of color for division over race in the Body of Christ when you write:
It is a startling irony that believers from different ethnic groups, now one in Christ, have chosen to divide over ethnicity. They have a true spiritual unity in Christ, which they seem to disdain in favor of fleshly factions.
In light of the examples of discrimination within evangelical institutions I just gave, I must ask how a commitment to unity can be expected when racism grows dangerously close to policy. As a former student at Bob Jones University (which banned interracial relationships until 2000, only lifting the ban after public pressure), did you ever publicly criticize the sinful policy the way you are pushing back against the idea of social justice initiatives within the Church now? You wrote:
Evangelicalism’s newfound obsession with the notion of “social justice” is a significant shift—and I’m convinced it’s a shift that is moving many people (including some key evangelical leaders) off message, and onto a trajectory that many other movements and denominations have taken before, always with spiritually disastrous results.
I’m confused by the assertion that social justice is a “newfound obsession.” You previously referenced Dr. John Perkins, who has been incorporating social justice in his gospel-based ministry for decades. Perkins reflects the tradition of a major contingent of evangelicals who have fought for social justice—the Black Church. The historic Black Church has been a consistent defender of evangelical faith and social justice for centuries. Mathews, observing the Black church in the 1920s and ’30s, writes:
For black evangelicals, using the message of Christ to achieve equality was to do justice, and love mercy, so that they could walk humbly with God. The command was thousands of years old, not new, and its interpretation was not an innovative understanding of the gospel for them. It was, for them, the plain truth.
Do you consider your friend Dr. John Perkins and the millions representing the largest black denominations in the world as “evangelical”? If so, how could you ignore our contribution to evangelicalism and our engagement in social justice issues? If not, why not?
Who have you asked to define what they mean by “social justice?” I ask because your definition is so foreign to me. In one of your posts, you wrote:
“Social justice” (in the world’s usage of that term) entails political ideas that are deemed sophisticated—namely, identity politics, critical race theory, the redistribution of wealth, and other radical or socialist policies. Those ideas were first popularized and propagated in the secular academy, where they are now regarded as received wisdom and have become a dominating part of popular culture. Evangelicals who are chasing the culture are latecomers to the party of those who advocate “social justice.”
Your definition claims our concept of social justice derives from what many of our detractors refer to as cultural Marxism. Terms like “redistribution of wealth” and “radical, socialist policies” are words meant to invoke the red herring of Communist influence. You claim that evangelicals are “chasing the culture” either knowingly or unknowingly. But is this true?
A basic study of the Scripture reveals the fundamental flaw of attributing Christian concern to social justice. Joe Carter’s recent post on The Gospel Coalition explains the origins of the term and its present use by evangelicals. Carter writes:
Jesuit priest Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio coined the term in the 1840s and based the concept on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas.
D’Azeglio used the term years before the Communist Manifesto was published, widely read, and over fifty years before the Frankfurt School (usually credited with the development of “cultural Marxism”) had developed. In fact, according to Carter, there are over 125 years between the time Christians first used the term social justice and the way you framed it in your post. Carter adds:
It wasn’t until the 1970s and the publication of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice that the term became widely associated with liberal secular political philosophy, particularly with changing social institutions.
Most words have a semantic range, being understood differently at various points in history. Are there those who would include the concepts you listed (i.e., “radical socialist policies” and “redistribution of wealth”) in their meaning of “social justice”? Yes, but it is false to lump all of these concepts under the use of the word. For example, the word “hot” has a wide semantic range. It could mean having a high temperature, involving intense emotions, a description of someone who is attractive or some new trend that is popular, etc. Context determines how to understand the word and the phrase “social justice” needs context, as well.
In the same post, Carter summarizes Pastor Tim Keller’s writing on the topic:
As Keller says, when the two Hebrew words tzadeqah and mishpat are tied together—as they are more than three dozen times—the English expression that best conveys the meaning is “social justice.” Social justice, then, would be not only a biblical concept but also a subset of biblical justice.
For the follower of Jesus, social justice is simply applying the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Requirement (Micah 6:8) to people as well as institutions. You identified social injustice by referencing the history of slavery, segregation, and exploitation of African-Americans in this country. But what do you suggest as the remedy to present discrimination? You defined social justice in a way most evangelicals do not, then you rebuke Christians committed to social justice based on your mischaracterization.
Social justice is the legacy of the Church–and more specifically–the gospel itself. While D’Azeglio is credited with using the term in the 1840s, Jesus gave him the impetus when Jesus charged his followers to proclaim and demonstrate the kingdom of God “on earth as it is in Heaven” (Luke 9:2). It should come as no surprise then that the earliest testimony of the church is one in which their witness challenged and changed unjust systems and social structures of the time.
Hardly “latecomers,” black Christians have been the pillars of the social out-workings of the gospel. Frankly, social justice made up an intrinsic part of the historic Black Church while white evangelicals primarily supported the racial status quo through either vocal support or silent consent. W.H. Jernagin, President of the National Baptist Convention, emphasized the gospel-centric nature of social justice in 1935 (35 years before the “secular academy” would take up the phrase) when he wrote:
Jesus enunciated the doctrine of human brotherhood, social justice, spiritual regeneration, and human transformation.
Lastly, Dr. MacArthur, your misrepresentation of Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile’s Gospel Coalition post reveals an important need to listen and learn from those who have been directly impacted by social injustice. You summarized his post by stating “a person’s skin color might automatically require a public expression of repentance.” Anyabwile’s writing reflected on his personal ambivalence over the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination because many evangelicals fail to acknowledge and wrestle with the past. He also explicitly contradicted your conclusion when he wrote:
I don’t need all white people to feel guilty about the 1950s and 60s—especially those who weren’t even alive. But I do need all of us to suspect that sin isn’t done working its way through society. I do need all my neighbors—especially my brothers and sisters in Christ—to recognize that no sin has ever been eliminated from the world and certainly not eliminated simply with the passage of time and a willingness of some people to act as if it was never there.
Anyabwile goes on to say that repentance is marked by an acknowledgment of what has happened. Days after publishing this post, he wrote another post expounding on what he meant by repentance. How could you misread his words so drastically? Perhaps it was the assumption that Pastor Anyabwile’s idea of social justice is the same as the secular academy you deride?
Unfortunately, the failure to identify the sins of the evangelical Church’s past of social injustice has obscured your vision from seeing the need for present correction. Do you realize that racial minorities such as Perkins, Anyabwile and many more (including me), experience social injustice in predominantly white evangelical churches as frequently as we do in “the world?” Do you see that failure to recognize the Black Church’s historic commitment to orthodoxy and orthopraxy is part of the problem?
A holistic approach to history that takes all factions of the Church into account will support insight into the social justice implications of the gospel today. Our country is currently fraught by a broken criminal justice system acknowledged by both parties, driving while black, swimming while black, going to Starbucks while black and, yes, even going to seminary while black—traumatizing and mobilizing the present surge of social justice advocacy in evangelistic spaces. In the meantime, your opposition to such advocacy does little to help the Church to live out the gospel and instead reinforces injustice within evangelistic spaces as the coordinated “Statement on Social Justice” gathers widespread support.
Fortunately, you are not alone in your passion for protecting the power and truth of the gospel. There are many of us who share a drive to contend for the faith. Rejecting that Jesus would have something to say about civil rights, or social injustice, dims the glory of God from shining in every facet of the gospel’s implications; that’s why we challenge the gospel reductionism presented in your posts.
We hope, for the sake of the gospel, that the social justice impetus laid out by our Lord Jesus Christ will mobilize the whole Church to proclaim the whole gospel in times like these when they are desperately needed. And we hope you join us.
The Bridge Church
27 thoughts on “An Open Letter To John MacArthur About Social Justice”
“… driving while black, swimming while black…“, KKK, …
These are straw-man arguments. Yes, there are in equities. There are in equities that have built up over time.
The answer remains the same. We treat each other equally, in person and before the law. We address problems realistically, individually.
Trying to force “equity“ and or reparations is a mistake. It also reinforces victimization. It encourages animosity against anyone whom you would deem to be some sort of oppressor. Envy and covetousness by Black people or people of color against white people is an evil in itself.
Get over it. Love one another as much as possible. Help one another. Work to fix problems.
Macarthur’s Charlottesville remarks were crazy.
And some of the original page signers of that anti social justice statement are very pro Confederate white nationalists like Douglas Wilson who wrote a book glamorizing American slavery and said that rape hardly ever happened.
Kenneth Talbot who told me personally on the phone that he doesn’t believe in the 14th amendment that made former slaves American citizens
Several pro Confederate white nationalists signed that anti social justice statement
We need to be clear that the Gospel is defined by one thing 1Corinthians 15: 1 “Now I would remind you, brothers,fn of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,
2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 ¶ For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,”
The Modern term for Social Justice used as part of the Gospel is adding something that scripture never teaches. The Gospel makes clear that Christ died for sinners in which brings all people to the same place, the need for forgiveness, anything else added to that truth is not the Gospel. It is the internal power of the gospel in the lives of people that will only bring oneness and peace Ephesians 2: “ 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”
It is the blood of Christ and that alone where we all come equally with no distinctions.
I have seen with my own eyes the gospel bring whites and blacks together in oneness of relationships without Social constructs that man in his fallen state tries to manufacture.
The Evangelical church is sadly blurring the transforming message of the Gospel into a Social man attempting process that will never work, because man has no power to change the heart where the problem exists.
Thank you so much for this letter to J M. As a white follower of Jesus, his pronunciation left me feeling very confused. I have not always agreed with his interpretations, but they were not essential doctrine as far as I knew, so I did not doubt his walk with Jesus.
But, then to hear social justice spoken of as heresy, and such strident proclamations of communism, liberal Christianity that would lead to accepting LGBTQ, etc,I could only wonder what I was missing. To label The Gospel Coaliton and associated pastors such as John Piper and David Platt as false preachers flabbergasted me. Because of his proclamation, there are all sorts of people now proclaiming David Platt as a false preacher, who will have liberal Christianity coming through the back door, and that his preaching is works based as he guilts people with social justice.
His statement is the most divisive thing I have seen in the church, as i think it leads directly to the further politicization of the American church. It justifies for many people not only the oppression and exploitation of blacks, but overall the capitalistic system unhindered as we are currently experiencing it, throwing open the doors to greed run rampant.
You particularly expressed my thoughts perfectly when you stated, “You defined social justice in a way most evangelicals do not, then you rebuke Christians committed to social justice based on your mischaracterization.”
He has particularly connoted every liberal secular philosophy and belief to the term social justice, so that to try to have a rational discussion is to become entangled in a web of false accusations.
This is not the work of someone who is carefully guarding the spirit and faith of the body of Christ, much less the honoring of God’s name in the unity of the brethren in Christ’s body.
In the last days there will be a great falling away, and I fear I am witnessing the beginning in his statement because the implications and ramifications on the blurring of Jesus’ gospel message are huge.
Thank you for your clarity. It would be great too wrote a statement on social justice truly based in the Bible without any political or cultural influence.
This is a very well written letter. A lot of so called Christians use the excuse of not standing against injustice when it relates to blacks. One has to remember that John MacArthur attended a Bible college where blacks were hated and banned. The belief at Bob Jones was that marrying blacks made white Christians a part of bringing in the New World Order. He felt compelled to speak out against people saying “black lives matter”, but never spoke against the hatred against blacks of the school he attended. I think that we really need to consider the source when hearing John MacArthur speaks against standing against injustice, especially when that. How could we have ever thought a man who calls himself a Christian, but was not willing to speak against black hatred at Bob Jones university while he attended, or in recent years, when the school continued to practice and train their students to be racist against blacks. GCC actively recruited ministers in training from a university that they new discriminated against blacks and taught heretical doctrine to support their racist teachings. Please look at this interview with Bob Jones to get a better idea of the type of heresy John MacArthur never specifically denounced and the types of ministers he recruits for training at his church.
This is a very well written letter. A lot of so called Christians use the excuse of not standing against injustice when it relates to African Americans. One has to remember that John MacArthur attended a Bible college where blacks were hated and banned. The belief at Bob Jones was that marrying blacks made white Christians a part of bringing in the New World Order. He felt compelled to speak out against people saying “black lives matter”, but never spoke against the hatred against blacks of the school he attended. I think that we really need to consider the source when hearing John MacArthur speaks against standing against injustice, especially when that. How could we have ever thought a man who calls himself a Christian, but was not willing to speak against black hatred at Bob Jones university while he attended, or in recent years, when the school continued to practice and train their students to be racist against blacks. GCC actively recruited ministers in training from a university that they new discriminated against blacks and taught heretical doctrine to support their racist teachings. Please look at this interview with Bob Jones to get a better idea of the type of heresy John MacArthur never specifically denounced and the types of ministers he recruits for training at his church.
Pastor, you offer many objections to MacArthur’s view of social justice but offer no solutions yourself. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and love for the Lord, but you end up giving nothing but empty rhetoric. In 2016 there approximately 2,900 black homicides in the United States. Roughly 2,600 were black on black. That my friend is an astronomical number of deaths. In the years 2017, 2018, 2019, and now 2020 the numbers are basically the same. I don’t hear you or many black ministers of gospel speaking out against such atrocities. Only when a police officer especially if he or she is white, kills a black person in the line of duty does it receive unrelenting media coverage….almost always negative for the police. Look MacArthur is right. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ preached without compromise can change a person from the inside out. I believe you know that. I see weak ineffective churches with weak ineffective pastors in most of the evangelical world including our black communities preaching a social justice message that only enflames the human heart to committing acts of law breaking and uncivil disobedience. I’m sure you don’t agree with this but that’s okay….we still live in a relatively free nation (for now).
The same God will want to know why you skipped over issues that affected black people to vote for gun rights and decrease in taxes for the wealthy.please make it make sense.we vote our value system when we go to the poles…..are you saying black people aren’t of enough value to fight for?
The LORD God did not create races, man did. Are you going to stand before The LORD in judgment and say, “Lord, Lord, my people were oppressed, I worried about the things of the world to help my people?” I hope not, because the only thing The Father is going to want to know is “what you did for his Son!” Please don’t be like everyone else and put the color of your skin above the WORD of God.
The comments section is giving me a migraine. There are far too many people calling themselves Christians and throwing up all manner of legalistic and semantic arguments for why they don’t have to practice social justice–even though Christ commanded it as salvation in Mark 10:17-18, and especially in Matthew 25:31-46. Some folks in here are Pharisees.
Thank you. I think this is an important debate to come out in the Church. I was trying to read through John MacArthur’s perspective with an open mind, but felt like what was supposed to be the unleavened bread representing the passover and hope found in freedom through Jesus, was tainted with yeast. One must throw out too much scripture to seperate Grace from Social Justice nd Social Justice for Grace.
Thank you for this.
Richard since MOST school shootings and mass murders are done by WHITE MALES should we address that as a culture run amok? Since 2/3 of all crime are committed by WHITE MALES 18-45 is that CULTURE?? What you have stated is not fact but lies given to you by FOX NEWS! DO SOME RESEARCH and not perpetuate racist stereotypes.
Nicely written, Rasool!
Daniel H Benson
Clearly this is in it’s foundation and principle the current “Catholic Liberation theology” movement. Just look at South and central America home of the origins of this movement and look at the mess they are in, Nicaragua. Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, but I digress; This all started at a time when the Pope had re-instituted the Jesuits (early 1800s) as a tool to bring back the power of the Catholic Church. Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio a Jesuit did coin the phrase social Justice, but also differentiated between inherent equality of all men (mankind) but inequality as to skills ability, talent and intellect. That these people with God given abilities should be allowed to lead. The mid 1800’s was rife with winds of change, these same winds effected the Jesuits as well as Marx. These ideas were formed by these open political and social winds of change; so in context they are connected, drinking from the same well. As it states in the Book Animal Farm, when the pigs overthrow the humans who run the farm, but strangely start living like the humans, but not so for the rest of the animals on the farm. The pig’s response is “we are all equal but some of are more equal than others.” This is the plague of man in his attempt to be like God. We can’t do that so we need some help. In context this is an argument that the Catholic Church with it’s rich traditions and being the only true interpreter of Biblical History are the ones to lead the world and it’s institutions to remake them and form a Biblical world of true justice and save the planet. Catholic theology describes the Catholic Church as the physical representation of Christ on earth. Not the body, but the institution itself. Recently the Pope reached out to Kenneth Copeland’s Word of Faith movement telling them that in order to create a just world the church can no longer be divided, that it’s time for all protestants to come home to the Catholic Church. We need to put our dogma issues aside. We are all on a path to heaven and God will sort out the dogma issues when we all get to heaven. This is the foundation of the coming universalism of the cross of Christ a third wave. They sayThe Old Test. the 1st. wave in the law and the Jews. The 2nd in Christ, the cross and the Church and the 3rd wave where all the benefits of the cross is revealed as a new secret for all people of faith in their journey to find God. That we must respect their journey since Jesus died for the salvation of all, it’s time to see as quoting Aquinas, that we need to see God in all things including other religions they all have the spark of god in them. In the Book about Mother Theresa, “A Chosen Path” she openly states that all paths (religions) lead to God (eternal life). That other regions coming under the umbrella of the supremacy of the cross/ Catholic church but keeping their religious traditions earn grace for salvation. In 1981 Pope John Paul II stated, “In the Holy Spirit, every individual and all people have become, through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, children of God, partakers in the divine nature and heirs to eternal life. All are redeemed and called to share in glory in Jesus Christ, without any distinction of language, race, nation or culture. The Good News which Christ proclaimed and which the Church continues to proclaim, in accordance with the Lord’s will, must be preached “to all creation” and “to the ends of the earth”.
But now add what Pope Francis is saying Dogma doesn’t matter anymore. Mother Theresa taught that bringing justice to the world healing the sick, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry care for the dying, is the Gospel itself and by doing these things they receive grace for salvation despite what they believe about God. In her mission to Hindus and Buddhists they never converted anyone to the Catholic faith ,they “allowed the sick to die in their own faith belief systems”. Again dogma about salvation via the finished work of Jesus on the cross is evolving to more love, more hope more grace, more forgiveness, more mercy. Who can argue against that? The book and movie “the Shack” the movie “Silence” promote these very revolutionary ideas about the Cross of Christ. It’s the institutionalized western social (tribal/race), political (nation state), economic (capitalism) and religious structures (divided church) need to be broken down and changed to bring about a true biblical world that especially here in the west, we have lost. Thus our world must reflect what is in heaven in universal righteousness and justice and this can only be done by breaking down the current structures and the things that divide us. You must remember the Catholic church sees itself as “the” major player in the coming globalist system. They are attempting to bring about a universal just world and someone has to run it, who will that be? Father Malachi Martin an Ex-Jesuit priest left the Jesuits because of the evil secrets that are driving the Jesuits in their agenda. Reading his 1st hand accounts are eye opening and frightening. It’s all about a massive deception. Any of his novels are great especially the non fiction “Keys of this Blood”
Even Jesus warned us in Matthew 24;
“…For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray”… “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray”…”For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect (real miracles but not of God) In rev 13 he even raises from the dead and the world will run after him. In 1John we are told this deception comes out of the church; “you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.”
The final warning is in Rev. 10 Where a global covenant is given and eaten by John and it is “AS SWEET AS HONEY IN THE MOUTH” but in the stomach it turns bitter” but Psalm 119 says, How sweet are your (God’s) words to my taste, SWEETER THAN HONEY to my mouth! In Psalm 19, God’s, Laws, Testimony, Precepts, commandments, Fear of the Lord and rules are sweeter than honey from the comb. This is a time that calls for the perseverance and discernment of the elect.
So let’s address the reason that black men are being profiled shall we….. Let’s also address how the media portrays black men 90% of the time. This is no attempt to escape accountability rather a way to hold black makes and those who precieve them based off media coverage alone. If I were to look at CNN 24 hours a day I would be inclined to believe that all white police officer are racist and all conservatives are racist, mysogonist,homophobic greedy bigots. I don’t believe that that is the case at all. I choose to believe what the Bible says about each individual person. I CHOOSE to value each human being according to how the Bible instructs me to. If people would stop allowing media outlets to educate them about an entire race of people, we would respond to social issues biblically…….
I guess I am having a hard time understanding why we need to define “the secular “definition of social justice. We don’t do that with other social justice issues like abortion. Many conservative evangelicals hide behind the pro life movement while understanding that pro-life extends beyond the womb. Part of American evangelicals issue arise from segregation mentally that translates into the pews on Sunday mornings. Race relations in America is very reflective of how Americans have become cultural pro-life,american flag worshiping,
gun toting christians.it disheartened me to see Christian schools like liberty disassociate themselves with Nike due to political affiliations and beliefs, but ascribe to MacArthur’s views on “social justice”goapel.it seems as if there is a scapegoat being created as a way to remain silent and dismissive of social issues that effect black and brown people. The same pastors that use Bonhoeffer in their sermons are the same pastors that choose to be silent about civil rights issues…..all while participating in the 30 days of life campaign
I appreciate your reply on this. I believe the major difference in this biblically, and in using your analogy, is that if YOU feel you should respond that way, and it is on your heart to restore someone maligned by an ancestor of yours, then you should do so. But this should not be because I or anyone else coerced, guilted, or shamed you into doing so. You at this point haven’t sinned, thus owe no repentance, and thus it would not be restitution, but by charity in which you go to help someone.
Your analogy is to the individual. You have a clear infraction. This isn’t the problem. The problem is the blanket, generality of demanding an ambiguous line of repentance, and supplemental ambiguity in what exactly is meant by “restitution”.
We all benefit in some way by some other sin, family members sin, or ancestors sin. When the Bible talks of going to your brother to conflict their sin against you, it doesn’t add a stipulation of demanding restitution.
Placing a burden on specific demographics who, by-and-large, have not responded to our ambiguous demands is dangerously legalistic. And you can see the outfall of the extreme/unbiblical side of “social justice” in South Africa recently.
At the end of the day, Adam has to stop blaming Eve, and Eve has to stop blaming Adam. That’s what we’re to do when we’ve been hurt by someone else, whether they repent, restore, or not, but forgive.
I agree. I think that happens to all of us these days in our discussions too. We talk past each other. We tie our beliefs to our value, and thus any criticism of our view is often responded with deflection, strawmen, ad hominem, or worse.
Thanks for these comments! I appreciate reading a fine discourse from people seeking God’s guidance. Pastor Berry I so appreciate your insightful comments. I want to leave a thought that I was reminded of in a conversation with other brothers who have a heart for “Gospel Justice”. We agreed that most of the people of the community we serve would say; “John MacArthur who?” Though this conversation is important, it really is not relevant to those God has called us to serve and love through the Gospel. Imo do my thang. If other Christian leaders are comfortable on the pew with those fine clergyman from Birmingham of 55 years ago, I’ll leave that in God’s hands. His Spirit is way more transformative than my words can be.
I think the argument over sharing in some kind of “responsibility” for the sins of past generations sometimes misses the point. The more important reality is for whites to recognize how we have benefited from the sins of past generations, and to realize that this privilege is hardly a neutral thing just because we didn’t personally choose or construct it. Its rather myopic for whites to focus on the personal responsibility issue in regard to the original action, when the real issue is the unjust results which persist today, allowing whites to reap advantages that they choose to ignore or feel no sense of responsibility to change or fix because they didn’t originate them. This is what John MacArthur misses in focusing too much on individual culpability – or lack thereof – and not dealing with the benefits that continue to accrue to whites because of the sins of the past.
To give a crude analogy – if my grandfather robbed another man of $100,000, was never punished, and used that $100,000 to invest in home/land/business that I inherited and now own and benefit from, what is my culpability? I certainly am not morally responsible for the robbery he committed decades ago. But if I am benefiting from the results of that, can I claim complete innocence either? If I see that the family of the man robbed is living in poverty because their grandfather was unable to provide the investment in them that my grandfather provided to me, do I just say, “Oh well, tough for you, not my problem”? Or do I have some responsibility to make something right here? That is the real question before white American Christians today – and maybe we would rather avoid that question.
It is of course to our advantage to say, “hey some awful things got done in the past – not by us – but some other less enlightened white people, maybe even sinful white people – but it’s the past – we’ve changed some laws so that the same things that happened in the past don’t happen now in the same way, and we can all start fresh and just each do our best with what we have.” But white people have a lot more to work with now, and it seems fundamentally unjust to reduce that reality to luck of the draw and willfully ignore how it got that way. An extremely eye-opening work on this is “ The Color of Law” by Richard Rothstein documents how federal housing policy segregated African Americans for decades and prevented them from living in good neighborhoods and building wealth through home equity. The ramifications of this policy of a previous generation continue today. https://www.npr.org/2017/05/03/526655831/a-forgotten-history-of-how-the-u-s-government-segregated-america
A challenging response to MacArthur. But I don’t think Berry seems to appreciate the muddle that is present. Again, and this goes back to my own blog post on this, there isn’t a sort of clean relationship between the secular social justice movement and the evangelical understanding of the social justice movement (as Berry details that in his post — w/ reference to the historical evangelical Black church). The progressive Christians I know who are advocates of *social justice* are radically committed to the cultural-Marxist version w/o apology. I think there is a muddling of reference points in the mix that Mac, this author, Berry, et al aren’t fully acknowledging as they attempt to speak back and forth online.
Hello. Have you yet been able to watch the Netflix documentary “The 13th?” It was so helpful for me in understanding how the current criminal justice system is set up in such a way as to propagate ongoing systemic injustice. Blows one’s mind to see how it sets up in particular men of color in our country to be disproportionately destined for incriminations. So much there to chew on and mull over.
I appreciate the civility and sincerity with which Pastor Berry wrote his column above. I also think Thomas W.’s comment on September 10 was an exceptional critique of what Pastor Berry wrote, and I thank them both for sharing their insights.
I would like to add, though, that I strongly believe Pastor Berry underestimates the extent to which secular versions of social justice and identity politics have infiltrated American Christianity, including this website. I could list many examples (and would be happy to do so if needed), but I will sum them up by noting that, repeatedly, authors at The Witness use ethnic/racial identity as their intellectual starting point rather than using their spiritual identity in Christ as their intellectual starting point. Hence, many (though certainly not all) of the articles here provide long discussions about what white-skinned people have or have not done, lamentations about what white-skinned people are merely suspected of doing, calls for separation from whites, and, recently, praise of something called the “Black Church.”
The latter concept was particularly prominent in Tamara Johnson’s July 12 article “For Those Who Stay,” but it surfaces here too. In the words of Pastor Berry, “the historic Black Church has been a consistent defender of faith and social justice for centuries.” The problem is that no such church ever existed. Spiritually, we Christians all (regardless of ethnicity) belong to one Church, with Christ as its head. In our fallen world, however, we are also members of individual church institutions. In the institutional sense, many thousands of black churches have existed, and many of them have had and still have pews filled with giants of the faith who stayed loyal to Christ even when white oppression gave them numerous temptations not to do so. But, even so, there is no single “Black Church” institution. Historically, some black, professing Christians were faithful; others were not. Black churches, like all other types of church institutions, have sometimes been infiltrated by heresies and charlatans. We humans are all sinners prone to err.
Pastor Berry’s attempt, therefore, to conjure up an ideal “Black Church” as juxtaposed against the sinful white evangelical church, is misguided. More to the point, such an effort is the very essence of postmodern identity politics, which pits men against women, old against young, and ethnicity against ethnicity. John MacArthur may be wrong on many things, and he may have been too reductionist in his discussion of social justice, but he is right to sound the alarm on the extent that identity politics has affected the thinking of even the best of us.
Why not address the main reason black men are profiled. As a culture in America, they make up an astounding majority of criminal and violent acts. They are not profiled because of race, per se- but because of the black culture’s present day culture, not history. Dare to be honest with this one fact, and you will change the entire foundation of your problems with profiling black men in America. However, I don’t think you will.
Here’s a simple question to ponder: Why didn’t pastor MacArthur invite pastor Anyabwile to assist him in drafting the statement ?
I appreciate seeing a response to the recent statements/blog posts by MacArthur here. However, I think this letter struggles with the same problem we’ve faced not only in modern culture, but in conversations across the table.
1. MacArthur’s history is that he wasn’t simply working with John Perkins for years, but was one of the first to be present when Medger Evers was shot and killed, and he spent time working with MLK, Jr too while others weren’t. At least that’s my understanding. In other words, I’d say he’s pretty above reproach for the time and his efforts to help change things along racial fronts from the evangelical side. The repeated challenge to his credentials ignores the arguments and especially the Statement they presented, in which you did little to address in this letter. And by my reading is a solid foundation that we all agree on.
2. I think it’s important to pull out of this that we’re arguing over the definition of “social justice”, rather than finding the common ground by which we can agree. If there is truth in how the “world” has co-opted the term, which is what Johnny Mac is clearly arguing against, then would it not be better to acknowledge MacArthur’s definition regardless of when it started or how? Would it not be better to recognize there is truth to some (especially pagans) using the term in that fashion by their words and actions? Does that influence our worldview on the matter? Is it creeping in?
I think MacArthur could have done a better job of differentiating, esp as it’s not surprising to see responses like your letter here which majorly question an ambiguous bar on his personal race reconciliation history and challenging the historicity of the term, rather than simply recognizing how many are using or seeing that term used today. He needed to give better credit to those who don’t use the term in that facet.
3. Anyabwile – I think you are right here that the context could have been missed. However, I think it hinges largely on Anyabwile’s context in his original article where when he says:
“My white neighbors and Christian brethren can start by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering a man who only preached love and justice.”
This statement violates his own definitions that you referenced in his subsequent article on “hijacking repentance” for extortion. Of course this is how some white christian’s will take the above statement that they must repent ON BEHALF of their parents/grandparents. Zaccheus, in his first example under extortion, repents and provides restitution for his own abuses of power without coercion. Luke 13 is an example of being wary of final judgment to come, not a command by Christ to repent on behalf of Pilate, the Galileans, or themselves as if they are complicit in that tragedy, or must make amends on behalf of either. They are to be wary of their own judgment to come, and should repent from their own sins.
Anyabwile says this in his final comment on the subsequent article:
“Some think that pointing to the sins of other generations and calling this generation to suspect problems of their own amounts to hijacking repentance. But it’s not. Naming sins and calling onlookers to tragedy to repent is entirely consistent with biblical strategy.”
In this context he is right, but the above quote i referenced does not reflect that. It comes across as a requirement for white people to repent of their ancestors sins, not to be wary of current sins. Anyabwile’s explanation implies wariness of our own generation and culture by seeing the failures of past cultures. That’s perfectly fine. However, the former statement of complicity will be interpreted by many white christians as asking one generation to repent of another generations suspected sins by which most will have little to no knowledge of what their parents or grandparents, participated in or not. Broadly accusing silence as content and thus sin is a mind reading fallacy by which our judgement is judgmental and not right.
And this is the pressure that white christians are being charged with. Even here at the Witness, charges of sin and guilt have been placed on white evangelicals for who they voted for, what their grandparents were doing when they weren’t alive, etc, and going as far to advocate for segregation and a breaking of christian fellowship by this community. But have white christians by and large, acknowledged the wrongness of the past? YES. That MLK, Jr was a tragedy, a loss, and a murder that should never have happened? Yes. Acting like they haven’t because they don’t meet our ambiguous standard of acknowledgement or actions isn’t enough to keep us apart from one another.
In conclusion, I honestly believe you, Anyabwile, and MacArthur all desire the same foundation of biblical justice. Your intent and biblical truth, all appears to be on the same grounds at least. So why not talk about the Statement, acknowledge or reject its biblical foundation if so, and address the common ground, rather than attack the person or ignore the potential of how culture has co-opted the term? If there is danger from us ignoring the sins of our ancestors, isn’t it also a danger that we ignore how the world is using the term “social justice” now?