Social Justice vs. Justice




We are now fully immersed in the whole battle and debate that is taking place in our nation regarding the role of racism in the history and current reality of Americans.


All of this purports to be an outgrowth of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In places such as Portland and Seattle there have been rioting for the last 50+ days, though the major news outlets are working as hard as they can to downplay it.


Last episode we dealt with Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, and basically said that they are biblically bankrupt and should not be a basis for Christians to have a so-called conversation. If you have not heard it then go listen to it.


Today we want to focus on the idea of what is called “social” justice as opposed to justice.


This may sound a bit strange to some but there is a lot of stuff that gets put into the meaning of “social.” And when you begin to unpack it you may find that it is a bit more slanted and contorted than you are comfortable with.


Honestly, being comfortable is not the issue. The real one is does the ideas being pushed within the social justice world have a place for Christians? Are these biblical issues? Or to use the cool term, are they “gospel” issues?


We were talking the other day how this whole thing is creating a real division within the visible church in America. It is not allowing for much of a middle ground. For pastors this is especially true, as they find their church members wanting some sort of position and clarity on the subject.


Well, as many of you know, we are pastors and that is the primary focus of these podcasts; to equip our church members in sound doctrine, and to be able to sniff out poor and false doctrine, hence the name of the podcast, Faith and Fable.


So, today we will not try to conquer the whole problem, because we can’t. Frankly, it is a constantly changing target that is evolving as fast as videos and articles can be published. 


Rather, we want to bring a bit of clarity to it by considering biblically what justice is all about, and to expose some of the errors that this movement is promulgating.


So what is social justice?


We started with CRT and Intersectionality on purpose, because these are engines that drive the social justice movement. 


They create new categories that are not consistent with biblical theology about sin, salvation, and man.


Instead of one human race with various ethnicities - we now have multiple races. One of the vile lies of this movement within the church is a counter racism that occurs.


Whites, especially white males, are racist simply because they are white. 

Flip that around, and you can see it easily. All blacks by virtue of the fact they are black prove that they are inferior. A Christian must reject that, but sadly right now many will not reject the lie when it is placed upon the so-called white man.


So this whole movement seeks to make illegitimate any thought or term that removes race from the picture. Therefore, you prove you are racist when you claim to be color blind, or if you refuse to be made guilty of past sins of this nation. So if you ask, "How am I being racist?" they simply brush you aside because they claim it proves you to be racist.


The great need of humanity is to deal with oppression from other humans. 

So sin is not longer primarily an infinite offense against a holy Creator.

Sin is now any perceived oppression against a self-proclaimed minority. 


So the argument shifts from a Creator-creature relationship, to a human-to-human relationship.


Now these are, in themselves, not mutually exclusive categories. But there is an order of priority. You love God with all your heart, and second, you love your neighbor. You must get the first one right before the second one can be done. And doing the second one is a way to show your love for God, as you love His creatures.


The rub comes when you think through what the bible would call “love.” Again in this movement it gets some radical redefining to mean showing equity and the elimination of anything that creates so-called oppression.


So if the problem is not sinners under the wrath of God, but a perceived equality of outcome between humans, then the solution is now changed.


The solution becomes one that is primarily social. 

You have to change the social norms and destroy systems that are supposedly in place that promote this oppression.


So courts should change how they punish law-breakers. Police should change how they make arrests and patrol. Schools should change how they grade children and what is expected to be learned. Public policy should reflect the desires of the minority, rather than the majority. And so on…


No longer is it “repent from your sin and turn to the living God.” No longer is it to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved from His wrath. No longer is it to go into all the world and preach the gospel calling people everywhere to repent.  In fact, that is white oppression and is evil.


So, what is social justice?


In one sense we really don’t know. There are so many different ideas thrown around out there but we have a few definitions that help paint a picture.


The UN says this, “Social justice may be broadly understood as the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth.” It also says this, “Social justice is treated as synonymous with distributive justice.” They go on to show how the term justice evolves depending on what adjective you put before it. So social justice becomes economic justice, and so on.


If you wonder what distributive justice is, then just do a search on it - and then prepare to melt your brain.


It is essentially arguing that a nation’s policies and laws create a system, whereby, whatever situation you are born into captures you and prevents you from improving your situation. This theory argues for a change in the systems so as to move people into a better life situation.


So here is another definition: “Social justice encompasses economic justice. Social justice is the virtue which guides us in creating those organized human interactions we call institutions. In turn, social institutions, when justly organized, provide us with access to what is good for the person, both individually and in our associations with others. Social justice also imposes on each of us a personal responsibility to work with others to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development.”


“Social justice is the equal access to wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.” (source)


Social justice, once you strip it down, becomes a framework in which Marxism can be realized without calling it Marxism. It is a redistribution of wealth and power.

What is a biblical sense of justice?


Biblical justice does not necessarily equal social justice. 


As we briefly showed already, Social Justice is primarily interested in the distribution of wealth and opportunities for personal advancement for those who are considered under privileged or marginalized, and breaking down those unspoken, but present privileges given to one group of people. 


Built into this, there is the belief that everyone must have equal rights and access to social, political, and economic opportunities. Not merely the freedom to pursue them, but to actually possess them. 


Now, even if you want to argue that that is an American value, that is fine, but it does not necessarily follow that it is a biblical value.


Again, there are a lot of assumptions at work in statements like these; where we simply presume that systems of equality are somehow biblical justice. Also, understand that this is a definition that is very hard to pin down as it tends to change for the purposes of suiting each unique situation.


In fact, some of this (i.e., the concept equality of opportunity and outcome), is egalitarianism, plain and simple.


In other words, “Equality is what equals justice.” But this is not correct or true, from a biblical perspective.


Remember, there is not equality even within the Trianitiarian Godhead.

All three persons are equally God, just as we could say that all people are equal image bearers of God. But not all three members of the Trinity share an equality of roles or function.


If we are going to presume that equality is what equals justice, then there is injustice within the Godhead. 


The term “justice” is not an empty vessel to be filled with whatever we wish it to mean, and one of the great fallacies in bible studies is the lexical fallacy.


You do a word study and you look up the term and find the root meaning, and you assume it is the meaning in every use, especially over time. Or you do the opposite and assume that all the possible meanings are present in any given instance.


For a more scholarly review of this concept you can read this article by Dr. Wallace.


Justice is a term that carries various meanings in the bible. And the context in which it is written helps bring that out. 


What we’re going to try and show here is that the biblical term (and idea) for justice is one that centers around doing what is proper, right, and fair. Again, the bible does not use the term “equality” in the manner that our culture is currently defining it.


We see the social justice movement confusing equity (or “fairness) with equality. But again, “Equity/fairness” does not mean “equality.” 


So we are to function with “equity and fairness,” even if the system is not inherently producing “equal outcome.” 


In fact, it is very important to note that in the OT people suffered setbacks and poverty. People were in vulnerable positions such as widowhood. But, never, is that seen as somehow unjust. Nor was it required that the rest of Israel was to fix that for them.


Rather, the law said that they were to be treated justly. That is, they were to be cared for, and not taken advantage of.

However, nor were they to be shown preference either.


Instead, biblical justice is giving a person what is due to them, but in light of what the facts reveal. Biblical justice is focused on NOT showing partiality and preference in deciding what is right. And inherent to this, are the laws and courts, and making judgments whether it is at home, in the business world, in the courts and political world.

Essentially, the underlying principle, here, is that what is right is far more important than what is expedient, or profitable, or produces equality of outcome. 


In light of that, the context of the passages that deal with justice generally center around some sort of decision-making body, like a court, but also, on occasion, can refer to an individual doing what is proper and right.


Example: "You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute. (Exod. 23:6)


Here it speaks not of welfare or reparations or open borders. It is speaking of the fact that when a poor person comes to the court, then you should treat him no differently than anyone else.  He is equal in the sight of the law.


Example: "This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 26:16)


Here the word for “ordinances” is the same term used for “justice.”

It refers to God’s laws that were given by Him and therefore they are just. They were to do them. In other words, they were to obey them and if they did, then they practiced “justice.


Example: “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)


Now, we see this and think all sorts of things, but it is a passage that is speaking to Israel (an explicitly covenantal community under Mosaic Law), and so it is speaking to a people who had the law of God. That is very important to keep in mind.


The nation was living in rebellion to the ways of the covenant they had through Moses. This was a covenant that included very specific laws. So, in that sense, then, to “do” justice, is to go back and become obedient to those particular (and explicit) laws of Moses, and in doing so, you treat people fairly.


Additionally, not one of them had to wonder what it meant to “do” justice. It simply meant to go back and obey what God has already told them that they were to do.


Remember, they were living in a theocratic nation, in which justice was objectively determined for them; and so, all of them were operating from the same source and standard.


In other words, there was no debate as to what justice was, and by what standard justice was determined and measured.


This is also why it is difficult for us, now, to use these OT passages. We don’t live under the Old Covenant in a theocratic nation, where everyone is operating from the same objective source (and principles).


So what would be some, modern-day application of what we have said so far?


The principle is that we should not be making laws that benefit one group of people over another, and this is where things get a bit adventurous.


We certainly have seen this partiality in our history. 

In fact, A shameful part of our history was the “separate but equal” doctrine, which basically established that you had a nice school for the whites, but a poorly made and maintained school for the blacks. You had nice water fountains for the whites, and ones out back for the blacks. 

And so, this sort of law, for example, is the direct opposite of what a biblically just law would look like.


But how about hiring quotas, affirmative action, and such? If partiality for one people group is wrong, then what about these kinds of laws? And before we jump to the conclusion that this is different because we are trying to make up for lost ground, does the bible ever make it right to be partial over one group for the other?


This is just one example of how the idea of injustice can change in our eyes depending on how we describe it and place it in a different situation. If it is unjust to require different ethnic groups to drink or eat in different places, then it is also unjust to require different standards and benefits to different ethnic groups.


The standard of justice doesn't change, simply because there is a history of injustice.


We would also say, Biblical justice is bound up in God, unlike social justice. It begins and ends with Him.


This has various components, but what is most important is to know that God deals with people justly. We think that this is good, but if you are not found to be doing what is right and good in the sight of God, then you will face justice. 


At the present time this justice of God is via His ordained points of authorities; the government, the parents, the employers, and the elders are examples in their specific spheres. 


But, what is most important to understand is that it looks to the end of time when all of humanity will be judged.

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” (Ps. 1:5)


On the day of judgment, the wicked will not stand before God.

The wicked are those who break God’s law.


"Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven." (Col. 4:1)

Now, it is worth noting that slavery was not condemned here, nor approved. It simply addressed how a master is to be, if he is a Christian.


But the implication, nevertheless, is that you can, in some way, have a master-slave relationship, and still have justice and fairness. So, here is a system with unequal outcomes, and where some have a greater advantage. Yet, God’s only concern, here, is that a person functions properly within that system.


In other words, it has nothing to do with changing the system, itself, under the presumption that equality of outcome is what is just. But rather, what is just is how a person lives while under that system.


In other words “right” is always “right” and “wrong” is always “wrong.”

But the key point, for our purpose, is to notice how the basis of this command, is that the master also has the ultimate Master, who will bring justice upon him in light of how he deals with his slaves. And again, this is done in the final judgment.


Biblical justice is frightening when it is understood in light of God. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus, no person has hope. We are all guilty and would find true justice at the hands of our rightfully angry God.  Hell is that final place where justice is found. Because God is just, and can only and ever do what is right.


Many who are arguing and protesting for justice will find on that final day of judgment that justice will be served by the true Judge. And they will be found guilty of the highest of crimes and shall suffer eternal consequences.


Why should Christians reject it?

This whole movement shifts authority for the Christian away from the bible.

Once you buy into the SJ movement then all of the non-biblical and unbiblical arguments become yours to obey.


-You have to push for reparations as a way to repent and redistribute wealth.

-You need to step down from your privileged position to give it to one of those in the oppressed categories.

-You need to help dismantle so-called systems of racism within the society, whether that is in politics, education, or even the church.


No longer can you simply ask, what does the bible say about this issue because you have abandoned the sole, final authority in your life, the Word of God.


This is why in so many of the books we read there is little in the way of biblical exposition. To be sure we see the “justice” passages sprinkled about but you don’t get any type of serious exegesis of those texts. Instead you get a lot of anecdotes and finger wagging but not serious biblical truth.


So now it is the words of MLK or DeBois or Marx or whomever that becomes the authority. This movement creates a new hermeneutic to interpret the bible.


This is simply the reality. SJ is a lens through which you view reality and that includes interpreting the bible.


So, now the bible is against slavery. But in reality slavery is not rejected wholesale in the bible, and in the NT Philemon becomes the standard text for slavery even though it never condemns slavery.  Paul appeals, rather than orders Philemon to free Onesimus. 


When you look at the rest of the NT you see overt commands and they are not ones condemning slavery, but rather living differently within the categories of slave and master.


Jesus now becomes an immigrant who is oppressed by those in power and ultimately killed. All of this is a new hermeneutic.


This movement downplays the injustice of sinners living without a fear of God.

The bible is refreshingly objective when looking at humanity.  Before the justice of God we are all guilty and worthy of His eternal wrath.  It is that simple. So our cultural position and experience changes nothing in your position with God.


When considered ontologically, we are all image bearers of our Creator.

When considered in light of the gospel we are all forgiven, children of God and one in Christ.

When considered in worship we all come to the same Lord’s Supper and drink of the same cup and eat of the same bread.


But the SJ world makes this to mean little or nothing. Christians who buy into the SJ world turn all of this on its ear. It seeks to focus on external differences of people rather than the radical sameness found in being “in Christ.” It is a sick form of partiality.


This movement denies the reality of the new relationship and position that is found in Christ. Colossians 3 speaks of how all who come to Christ have laid aside the old man and taken up the new man that is in Christ. 


So we take our only true identity in Christ.

“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:9-11)


The Christian SJ movement cannot survive when Christians live in a biblical view of one another in Christ, primarily because the SJ movement is all about distinctions and races and categories. But the bible makes one, “in Christ.”


This movement makes any forgiveness of sin essentially impossible.


In the push for generational guilt of the white person there is no way you can really be forgiven.  You are told you are guilty because you stand in the systems of racism built by your racist forefathers. So it does not matter what you do specifically, because you benefit from these systems of oppression of which you are guilty.


An example is in Divided by Faith on pages 57-58 where a letter to Christianity Today is written. It is a white person and is addressed: “Dear Black Person:” it goes on to say that she was ignorant of the sins perpetrated against the blacks and that now that she knows of it, she seeks forgiveness. She has already sought the forgiveness found in Christ and now seeks to educate herself.


Sounds fine, but it is not; at least not according to the author.  Because she is seeking an individual forgiveness and she is admitting an individual guilt.


But she failed to admit to a collective guilt that requires a collective forgiveness.

That is where the evil lies. Forgiveness is nowhere to be found. It is not enough to confess and repent of this sin before God.  It is not enough as an individual to seek to change one’s life and actions. And it is not enough to seek a specific person or persons who you may have sinned against in this way. 


The reason is that you still belong to the collective whole called “white” and therefore you are still guilty. And no matter how many times you repent you will never receive forgiveness because forgiveness cannot be granted by an undefined collective. You are chasing after the wind.


God hates partiality within the church and within the systems of justice. He takes note and it will not be missed. But justice always cuts both ways. Do not be deceived, when you demand justice for a person you determine to be innocent in some way, and you do it by demanding no justice for the presumptively accused, you are an unjust person.

When you show partiality you are denying the gospel.


Hear James 2: “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? 8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”


Notice how there are external differences pointed out by James. You have the rich person and the poor person. You treat the rich man with favoritism and you treat the poor man as a piece of furniture. James is not pretending like there are not these social distinctions.


But, James makes it clear that though the society makes these distinctions, the Church cannot and must not. 


Your faith in Christ cannot result in favoritism. If it does then you have lost sight of what Christ saved you from.


You have made distinctions between brothers in Christ that Christ does not make.

And the result is that you are wicked and guilty of breaking the whole of the Law.


But the SJ system does just this. We must make distinctions. We cannot practice “color-blindness.”


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We simply say this about the whole SJ movement:

- It is born out of an atheistic worldview rather than a biblical worldview.

- It is counter to the gospel’s true message that all are guilty before their Creator and only through faith in Christ alone can one find forgiveness.

- It denies that very forgiveness that is found in Christ and perpetuates a works-righteousness as defined by whoever is the so-called oppressed.

- It promotes division  in the church rather than heals it. 

- Its salvation is not found in the end of this age when God brings about true justice; but somehow it is found in this fallen age that is defined by injustice.

- Sin is shifted from individuals before God and individuals to an undefined collective that has no power to grant forgiveness.


So as pastors we reject it and within our churches we will push back against it as a dangerous interloper that has no place at the table.

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