Today we want to introduce our plan to begin speaking into the conversation about Social Justice as it relates to the church.
There are a lot of ways we could go with this, but we thought an introductory episode, where we lay out our plan, might be helpful to set the playing field.
Basically, the point of this episode is two-pronged:
(1) We want to give you the road-map we planned out for the next 10 episodes or so.
But most importantly, (2) we really want you to write in and let us know what is on your heart.
We want to hear the questions on your minds.
What are the pressing issues and questions that you have?
If it doesn’t fall under any of the topics that you will hear us give in a few minutes, please let us know. We want to address all that we can.
Let us begin by saying that addressing social justice has not been an easy or fun decision, nor is it something of particular desire for us. Neither of us has a personal interest in this.
In fact, as we have said multiple times, we have purposely chosen to remain silent on this issue for multiple reasons.
First, it is very undesirable to speak right now, as any statement you make will put you in one of two lanes. The conversation has become increasingly bifurcated.
That is to say, you are simply on one side or the other. Depending which “side” you are on, it also means that you are, therefore, overtly against the other.
That is just fact, and the state of the debate.
There is very little nuance. There is no true conversation.
Everyone is talking loudly, and past each other; and if you don’t agree, you are the enemy.
(And this is not just in reference to the culture at large, but increasingly so, a statement of the church.)
Second, very few people are seeking clarity, or are interested in thinking thoughtfully right now.
(I would say that there was a much better attempt to think thoughtfully earlier on, but much of it has simply dissolved into anger, and reduced to attacks at this point).
Most people are listening, reading, and seeking to acquire a vast amount of knowledge and thought on these issues, but merely so that they can find more ammunition to bolster the arguments for the side that they already agree with.
And so, honestly, we are living in a culture of Prov. 18:2 - “A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.”
The word for mind, there, is “lev.” It means, heart, or inner-desire.
This is not only evident in the greater culture, but increasingly so within the church.
We live in a proverbial tank of fools right now, because very few seem to be seeking a true understanding-- and this is true, in large measure, on both sides.
And that is very disheartening.
We have chosen to remain silent because it is nearly impossible to speak thoughtfully into something so toxic. We’re not certain how helpful this will truly be, or if it will simply add fuel to the fire. But we’re going to attempt to speak, nonetheless.
Third, in light of the current state of our culture, and how the conversation and issues keep morphing with such rapidity, it has been a challenge just to keep up with.
The conversation changes almost daily, and so it seems that there is a new “big” issue almost weekly.
A new event takes place somewhere in the nation.
A newest must-read book gets published.
A celebrity Christian leader makes a statement.
A mayor seeks to introduce a new policy.
And the list goes on.
So, with it being such a broad topic that has many facets, and tentacles, and aspects, and foci, the request for us to speak into this has been less than desirable.
Nevertheless, we understand that there is still value in speaking.
The reality is that most people have made up their minds, but there is still a small segment of people who have not.
In our conversations, it is not that they don’t want to make up their mind, rather it is just that they are not certain how to think on these issues as a Christian.
People are hearing many words, seeing many memes, seeing a lot of anger, seeing a lot of passion, but there has been little clarity for them.
Our simple hope is to try and bring a reasoned approach.
Now there are many good resources out there. We are not claiming to be the first, or only, or best resource on any of this.
We do know that we can help function as a stomach to process some of the issue, to help make it somewhat digestible. Further, we are pastors, and so we do have a responsibility to our own people. And so we want to speak as pastors.
In light of this, we have been amassing an arsenal of videos, articles, blogs, and statements that only we share with each other. The goal has to help us keep up with the current issues, and interact with the many voices that are being looked to by the culture and the church.
On top of this we have started reading the many books that everyone is claiming that everyone must read. These are books written by both Christians and secular people.
In fact, these are books, that unless you read, you are not allowed to speak… so they say.
We have begun reading them very carefully and critically. But more on that later.
The Basic Road-Map
(Defining and explaining key terms)
Before you talk, it is important to define the terms.
The fact there is so much angst, anger, and talking past each other, is proof there is not a lot agreement on the meaning of the terms.
As a result, if you don’t have common agreement on basic definitions, then the simple reality is you are not talking about the same thing. The final result is anger, frustration, muddier waters, and no solutions.
Some of the terms we want to define and discuss:
- Marxism/Cultural Marxism.
- Social Justice.
- Critical Race Theory.
- Prejudice, racism, and systemic racism.
These are not the same things, but many use them interchangeably. There are technical definitions to these, but when we get sloppy with our terms and definition, it simply perpetuates the confusion.
Social justice vs. biblical justice?
Are these the same thing, is there overlap, or are they two very different things?
What are the presuppositions at play?
What is the place of general revelation in this discussion? (i.e., how much, if at all, can we go outside the bible to let it inform our understanding of justice and what the church is supposed to be and do?).
Race, ethnicity, Imago Dei, and culture.
Again, these are not the same things, yet many keep using them interchangeably, muddying the discussion.
Public, Private, and Semi-private Education.
We understand that this is the proverbial elephant-in-the-room in many churches.
We want to explore this concept, and try and bring some observations and judgments to it from a pastoral perspective.
What is the role and function of education?
How does it work?
To whom has this responsibility been given, biblically?
We should be asking ourselves why so many of the young people in our culture are pushing for the same changes? The point in common is usually their education.
So we want to explore certain questions, such as:
- Is the battle for public education lost?
- Should Christians keep seeking to try and reform the current structure, or should it be abandoned?
- Beyond pre-adult education, what about post-high school education (e.g., public universities?) Is it even right or wise anymore for a Christian to pursue these things?
- Is higher education an evil indoctrination machine?
- If so, what is the Christian’s responsibility?
- Is it permissible to keep feeding the machine the thousands of dollars every year that it requires to keep it alive? Or does the Christain have a biblical duty to help starve it?
We also want to interact with key proponents on the “other side.”
We want to deal with the major writings and influences right now:
- Jamar Tisby : Color of Compromise.
- Michal O. Emerson and Christian Smith : Divided by Faith.
- Eric Mason : Woke Church.
- Robin DiAngilo : White Fragility.
- MLK50 conference as a watershed moment.
There are many others, and it might change and morph as we go along.
Facts versus feelings and perception.
We want to address police shootings.
How should we think about them as Christians, and what is really happening when we see these.
There are feelings, but then there are facts.
We want to speak to the inconsistent argument that we see in the BLM movement.
Is it permissible for Christians to support the movement?
Can/should we make a distinction between black lives mattering, and the Black Live Matter movement?
We want to make some observations regarding this trope of elevating criminals up as martyrs and heroes. This is not a police issue for us. This is a deeply biblical issue.
Along with this, we also want to address a massive concern, where we see Christians being led by non-Christians in their worldview and goals.
A brief review of recent history (i.e., past 200-300 years) will show the churches propensity to radically swing with the times and culture-- using the bible to support their positions.
In light of that, we want to talk about the overtly counter-cultural nature of the church.
In many ways, that is to be her expected identity. Matt. 5 means something.
What does it mean to be the light of the world, a city set on a hill?
How can you be salt and light to a broken, fallen world, if your salt and light looks, feels, and tastes exactly like the culture?
In light of this, we want to talk about how, what, and where should the church lock arms with the world?
This plays into marching, protests, and activism.
What is the responsibility of the church in all of this?
We also want to talk about the SBC and Social Justice.
This is a personal one for us because we are SBC. There have been recent statements, hiring of professors, and new standards.
How should we think and respond to these?
Along with that, there are a whole host of Social Justice “texts” that are being used.
These are the commonly quoted bible verses that the Christian social justician will go to.
In fact, we made a statement in a previous episode about how there is very little biblical exposition being done of the various passages that are being quoted, yet they are being recited all the time. So we want to deal with them.
A survey of the various passages are:
Built into this conversation will be the issue of how one’s hermeneutic affects the interpretation of these passages-- especially the Old Testament ones.
So how should the Church (a New Covenant community) understand and apply passages that were given to Israel within an Old Covenant, theocratic context?
When Jesus references the OT, how was He using those passages?
Along with the commonly used passages, we also want to bring out what we see to be the key, guiding texts for a believer on these issues.
So will be addressing in various ways:
Col. 3/Eph 6
All of these are important and very relevant to the discussion.
So that’s a basic road map, and the plan that we have worked out.
Again, our main goal with this episode was to try and show how multi-faceted this discussion is. What we really wanted to do was let you hear where we are coming from, but so that you can give us some feedback and write in with the questions and concerns on your mind.
We really do want to be of help, but we can only help where we understand the questions?
So please let us know what is on your mind:
Your questions can be as broad or narrow as you’d like.
If you don’t think we are going to hit on your questions, based on what you just heard our plan to be, then do let us know.
So that is our plan, and Lord-willing, next week we will dive in.