The Scriptures call God’s people to do works of justice. The prophet Micah declared, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
The prophet Jeremiah adds, “This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow…” (Jer. 22:3).
Then quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus declared his assignment “to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” (Luke 4:18-19).
Social Justice or Biblical Justice. Aren’t they the same?
Social justice and Biblical justice desire the same end—the hungry fed, orphans rescued, racism banished, injustice eliminated, oppression ended.
While these two ideologies may desire the same outcome, the beliefs undergirding them could not be more different. These differences have massive implications to one’s worldview, even resulting in devotion to a false gospel.
With any false gospel(s) in mind, the Apostle Paul declared, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).
I’m pastor of a church who has done much social justice work in our communities and beyond, and given hundreds of thousands of dollars to meet desperate needs locally and globally. I’ve sought to live my life and pastor our church in light of the Biblical worldview which brings the best hope for justice. I’m convinced the Biblical worldview guides us to true justice and is the only hope for humanity.
Yet it is absolutely critical to understand the difference between doing social justice ministry, and adhering to “Social Justice ideology.” The former is simply being the hands and feet of Jesus, even living as a prophetic witness in our culture. The latter is embracing teaching contrary to the Biblical Gospel itself.
Context and Terms
Where social justice and Biblical justice part ways is when justice is “undertaken from a framework that is not compatible with the Bible, [thereby] hurting the very people we seek to help” (Dr. Thaddeus Williams).
Within the unbiblical framework of Social Justice ideology, you’ll find liberation theology, wokeism, and critical theory to name a few. You’ll hear terms like “identity politics,” “political correctness,” and others.
Ideologies that are unbiblical yet make up much of the social justice worldview/ideology today often fall into the “Critical Theory” category. This includes Race Theory, Gender Theory, Queer Theory, Intersectionality, and more.
In its simplest form, the unbiblical framework comes down to works-based salvation. In other words, true Christianity is social justice (instead of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ). Salvation then is the oppressed’s deliverance from or overthrow of an oppressor. Put another way, salvation by revolution.
It all comes down to ideology and worldview—the social justice ideology (worldview) versus the Biblical worldview. How do we discern and discover the true gospel?
I recently came across an interview with Sean McDowell and Dr. Thaddeus Williams that explores the topic of Social Justice and Biblical Justice. Check it out HERE.
In this post, I’ll hit the highlights and statements from their interview and include my additional thoughts. However, I encourage you to read the original post. You’ll find it helpful.
Here are seven ways to discern between the social justice ideology/worldview and Biblical justice worldview (taken and adapted from Dr. Thaddeus Will):
1. The Social Justice ideology blames all evil on external systems of oppression while ignoring Scripture’s assertion that all human hearts are filled with sin and evil (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
The Biblical worldview agrees that there will inevitably be injustice in specific systems that must be confronted and eradicated (Jer. 22:3). But there’s more. Sinful hearts created injustice in systems (Gen. 6:5; Pro. 14:12; Jer. 7:24). The human heart’s evil and madness is the problem (Ecc. 9:3; Mark 7:20-23). Social justice activism will not cure it. Therefore, any justice will not last unless human hearts are redeemed, transformed, and lavished with the love of God through the gospel (Eph. 2:8-10).
2. The Social Justice ideology deconstructs relationships into hierarchies and “power differentials.” Justice then is to expose all hierarchies as evil and do away with all power differentials in the name of equality.
The Biblical worldview fully condemns abuse of power (Ex. 22:21; Pro. 16:12; Jer. 22:3). However, human abuse in these areas should not warrant destroying these relationships outright. In an imperfect and chaotic world, order and leadership are needed making “power differentials” part and parcel of reality and human flourishing (2 Sam 23:3-4; Rom. 13:1-6). The same can be said for hierarchies. In Scripture we see hierarchies of parent and child, teacher and student, pastor and congregation, boss and employee, and more as part of God’s design for order and flourishing (Acts 6:1-15; 1 Tim. 5:1; Eph. 6:1-9).
3. The Social Justice ideology sees all truth and reason in light of group identity (i.e., race, gender, sexuality, etc.). Truth and reason outside group identity are deemed constructs of the oppressive class, thus making views valid, accepted, or dismissed strictly based on one’s skin color, gender, and/or orientation.
The Biblical worldview holds that our identity is in Christ alone (Gal. 2:20). We are a people redeemed to be one family from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language (Rev. 7:9). In Christ there is “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Moreover, our thinking is anchored in loving the Lord our God with all our mind (Matt. 22:36-40). We are to have a mind transformed to Christ and not conformed to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:1-2), that evaluates ideas and stances based on their Biblical legitimacy and truth-value, and not based on group identity (2 Cor. 10:5).
4. Social Justice ideology is motivated by rage and resentment toward specific groups of people.
The Biblical worldview calls us to love our enemies (Matt 5:44), pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44), overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21), not retaliate when insulted, or threaten revenge (Is. 53:7; 1 Peter 2:23). Rage and resentment rarely change anything or anyone’s minds, but rather entrenches. If there is any change, it tends to be unhealthy and unsustainable because it was gained through emotion and tone, and not dignity and Truth.
5. Social Justice ideology divides people into group identities, breeding a spirit of suspicion, hostility, offense, labeling, victimhood, and obsession with one’s feelings and desires.
The Biblical worldview champions Biblical love. It’s a love that holds Biblical Truth above subjective feelings (Eph. 4:15; Phil 4:8; 2 Cor. 10:5). A love that unites through patience and longsuffering (1 Cor. 13:4-7); and by rejoicing in Truth and not wrongdoing (1 Cor. 13:6). A love that bears the fruit of the Spirit—joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
6. The Social Justice ideology seeks to force behavior modification through different tactics such as pressure and intimidation, speech codes (speech that is disagreeable or contrary to the group identity), and a demand to be re-educated ideologically to align with the offended or outraged group.
The Biblical worldview seeks heart redemption and life transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18), Scriptural Truth (John 8:32; 2 Tim. 3:16-17), and the local church community (Acts 2:42, 44, 46; 2 Cor. 10:5). Instead of seeking behavior modification as the hope for human flourishing in our world, the Biblical worldview’s mission is for believers to be salt in the world to preserve society from rotting away into evil (Matt. 5:13), and light in the world to expose injustice and bring hope (Matt. 5:14-16), and to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission to reach the world for His glory and the joy of all people (Matt. 16:18-20).
7. The Social Justice ideology holds that one’s meaning and purpose is defined by himself/herself, thereby making anyone who differs an oppressor.
The Biblical worldview teaches that one’s meaning and purpose is defined by our Creator God (Gen. 1:26-28; Gen. 2:24; Phil. 2:12-13; Rom. 8:28). The refusal to live according to God’s meaning and purpose actually recoils on us bringing oppression, bondage, confusion, and chaos upon our lives and those around us (Gen. 3; Prov. 14:12; Rom. 8:5-12; Rom 1:18-32; Eph. 2:1-3). Ultimate reality is not defining ourselves and following our desires. Instead, God (through His Word) defines us and gives us His heart to follow. It means dying to ourselves and carrying our cross (Matt. 16:24-26). God brings true liberation and authenticity in our lives.
True justice is Biblical justice. Any other ideology and/or worldview will ultimately fail to bring justice and joy to all people, especially to the oppressed. In fact, instead of freedom, comes bondage; instead of justice, comes chaos.
Compared to the Social Justice ideology/worldview, the Biblical worldview is dignifying, respectable; glorious and beautiful. And powerful. The Biblical worldview ultimately brings the freedom, healing, and flourishing that we long for (Psalm 1; Num. 6:24-26).
Let Us Pray
God help us, as Christians and the church, to not just believe the Biblical worldview, but to live it out and to apply it in loving service to the glory of God, our good, and other’s joy (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17).
God move us to pray. Pray, knowing that “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
God give us courage. Keep us mindful that “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
God empower us to love Truth and stand for Truth (1 Cor. 13:6). Jesus called Satan “the Father of lies” (John 8:44) who disguises himself as an angel of light to deceive, delude, kill, steal, and destroy (2 Cor. 11:14; John 10:10). Help us discern the enemy’s messages of “light” and seductive schemes. Lord God, give us valor to hold the line. (1 Cor. 15:58).
God break us. Break our hearts to love and weep for our culture, and not deride it (Jer. 29:7). To love our culture enough to be voices of Truth and love crying out in the cultural wilderness pointing to the glory, wisdom, beauty, and hope of God in Christ.
In Jesus’ Name.
If there was ever a time to stand firm on the Truth of the Bible, it’s right now!! Now, more than ever, the Church needs to plant the flag of righteousness on to the fertile but fragile ground we tread on. Let’s put feelings and emotions aside and unite as an audience of one to live out our assignments. To lead people to the Holy One, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!!
Amen, brother. Amen.
Thank you for this. I’m constantly needing to check my emotions and thoughts in regards to justice-whether it’s getting caught up in unbiblical ideologies, or being apathetic to injustice.
I hear you, Dylan. Same here. In fact, that’s what motivated me to pen the post. I just needed clarity, and a clearer understanding of the context and terms and how they differ, and where the gospel could be clearly seen. I hope the post accomplished my goal for others. It helped me to write it out. If it helps you and others then, win! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much for this. I will read the references you supplied. Numbers 6 and 7 really clarified what I am seeing around me. I am so grateful for this. Keep it coming!
The modern predominantly white American evangelical church seems to have taken the shift away from social justice from other eras. People like the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. showed us how people of faith march, rally, and work tirelessly for social change. I see a lot of the motivation for that in Matthew 25. Too often the white American evangelical church focuses on the heart and nothing else. People will be more receptive of heart change if they are treated with respect, equality, and status.
Thank you, Pastor! So well said and such an important message for such a time as this.
And hello, Jon! I haven’t viewed any of the references yet which Pastor gave us, but that’s okay, because I felt I needed to give a response to your statement and I wanted to keep it simple. It’s so good to search….so many mysteries in Scripture and so much we don’t know! But sometimes all that studying overshadows simple Truth.
I am certainly in favor of peaceful assembly which we are blessed to have in our First Amendment although so many people today are distorting this privilege and trying to abolish it. When we look back on history and “…people of faith…” showing us how to “….march, rally, and work tirelessly for social change….”, what does it REALLY look like when we take a closer look? Are people STILL struggling and crying out for change? Many good men and women (including white American evangelicals) have lived and have fought hard for what they thought was right. Many are doing it quietly today without calling attention to themselves. Many are prominent because of their good work and I applaud them all. With the internet and a few reliable news sources, they can be found by anyone who wishes to listen. But as for me, I follow no human for we are ALL flawed. The Only One I choose to follow is the One Who is spoken of in Isaiah 42:2 – “He will not shout or cry out, or raise His voice in the streets.” While He responded in righteous anger in John 2 driving people and animals out of the temple courts and turning over their tables, was this not an exception to the way He normally conducted His life? He spoke to crowds many times not wanting to call attention to the miracles He had just performed. He met them one-on-one – the brokenhearted, used and confused woman at the well. The lonely and desperate crippled man sitting by the pool for 38 years. Mary Magdalene who needed to know that she was worthy of a man’s love while wanting to wash clean what the river could not. This Man from Heaven in the flesh, never shouted or cried out or raised His voice in the streets. Yet this Man alone changed the course of the entire world forevermore. Not only that, but in so doing, verse four of Isaiah 42 goes on to say, “He will not falter or be discouraged till He establishes justice on earth.” So please be encouraged. Follow HIS example. No one else’s. We will do what WE are called to do, but hopefully we won’t try to get in the way of the Lord doing HIS part and He WILL see that justice is done.
Romans 10:10 says that it is with our HEART that we believe and are justified. We can prosecute people for hate crimes. They may be convicted and serve much time. But will that change their heart to stop the hate? We can legislate and pass powerful laws outlawing injustice and legislating the good. But will THAT change anyone’s heart or renew anyone’s mind? No, the only thing that will stop hatred, violence, racism, and evil is a change of heart through Jesus Christ alone. So kudos to that “….predominantly white American evangelical church.” They’ve got it right.
And lastly, people of many colors and nationalities have achieved great status. Most of them have WORKED HARD for their accomplishments. If being a doctor or lawyer or President of the United States is your dream, that’s good. If you’re a great mom or dad, that’s a high achievement in MY eyes. Finances may hold some people back; for others, it’s not a problem. But for what God calls us to do, He will provide the means, the grace, and the open doors if we do our part.
God made them male and female and thank God for that for they complement one another. Hopefully women are getting equal pay in this day and age and have laws to protect them, and racially, we are no longer separated at water fountains, swimming pools, etc., and not even in marriage unions. We’ve had the first black president – not once, but twice.
As for respect, we all need to earn it generally, but of course, as Christians, we need to show love even in difficult situations – especially then. But all in all, Jon, I hope you do have that respect in your heart for the “white American evangelical church” – the same respect that you are hoping to receive. We all reap what we sow.
Please give it some thought, Jon, and may you and your loved ones be well during this difficult time.
I appreciate your words, brother. Thanks for sharing. I agree that at different times in history (except for the early church who risked their lives to serve people during the plagues and otherwise) there has been an over-emphasis on the heart more than the action, on faith and not works. However, I have witnessed a major shift from that over the last ten years specifically. Churches more than ever have been proponents of social justice stances and work. In fact, I’ve witnessed a pendulum swing to mostly messages about “Achieving your dreams” to social justice stances and labors; all to the detriment of the Truth about sin, sinful hearts, the need for forgiveness from God, salvation by grace through faith alone, redemption and transformation, and the like. It’s been a wide swing from the theology of grace to the ideology of works.
We need balance. Today, we need the gospel and the Biblical worldview (and preaching it) from which the good works come. And of course, then carry out of the actual works locally and globally. That’s who we are as GCC. And by God’s grace, we’ll continue with that balance.
Well said, Jarrod; thank you for sharing this clear and refreshing perspective, brother. The Church has a higher and much more beautiful, deeper calling and mission than “politics.” And if a church, evangelical or otherwise, denies evident facts and plain truth in deference to the politics of the day – then it is time to re-calibrate lest we miss the opportunity to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Are we not meant to be on an arc of constant change; becoming more and more like Christ in our thinking, and embodying His unconditional love to our every neighbor? No small order, that.
Thanks, brother. And Amen!
Thank you for this timely post about what seems to be overtaking many congregations. It’s heartbreaking to see the deception, destruction, and rise of self righteousness in congregations that once proclaimed the Gospel due to the zeal of leaders proselytizing their flock in “social justice.” May God grant you grace and truth as you hold the line.
As my family and I wrestle with letting go (or staying) of our community as we see it being transformed by this ideology, we are thankful the church of God will prevail, because the Gospel is true and truth always does.
Thank you, sir!
Thank you! And amen!
Thank you for your article (blog). I appreciated the scope, the Biblical foundation, and the ‘non reactionary’ feel to it.