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.