Book You Should Buy: Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth
I don’t make a lot of book recommendations but I would like to recommend this one for your consideration. Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice by Professor Thaddeus Williams is a sound critique of the popular social justice movements from a biblical perspective. He distinguished between what he calls Social Justice A, which is a view of justice founded on Scriptural principles, and Social Justice B, which is founded on secular philosophies. Social Justice B is not only a phenomenon of secular culture, but it is increasingly being adopted by professing believers.
In my estimation, Williams is right that our diagnosis of social problems and our ability to address them rests first on assessing what is true. If we make false assumptions about the nature of truth, justice, inequality, sin, human nature, and the role of the church, then what we call “justice” will inevitably lead to actual injustice. In short, our pursuit of justice (an important biblical mandate) needs to be informed, shaped, and guided by the truth of God’s Word. Otherwise, we go off-course. I thought this book took a well-balanced approach to discussing these distinctions.
One aspect that makes this work unique is the inclusion of personal stories from twelve other contributors. Each one shares their experience of having a warped view of social justice originally to embracing a healthy and healing version that is shaped by the gospel. These stories add a personal element to the work that helps drive home the point that issues of social justice aren’t theoretical. They affect real people in the real world in real ways, for better or worse.
Here are some teaser quotes from the book. Consider purchasing a copy and digging in for yourself.
The problem is not with the quest for social justice. The problem is what happens when that quest is undertaken from a framework that is not compatible with the Bible. Today many Christians accept conclusions that are generated from [worldviews] with very different presuppositions about reality than those we find in Scripture. We shirk God’s commands and hurt his image-bearers when we unwittingly allow unbiblical worldview assumptions to shape our approach to justice.
The doctrine of human depravity swings like a wrecking ball, leveling any ideology that says, “My gender group, my ethnic group, my economic group makes me good, and their group is evil.”
Paul told the truth that being “in Christ Jesus” is a new identity that transcends other group identities.
Here are some clues that we may have been taken in by an anti-Spirit ideology: Instead of being love-filled, we’re easily offended, ever suspicious, and preoccupied with our own feelings. Instead of being filled with joy, we’re filled with rage and resentment, unable to forgive. Instead of striving for peace, we’re quarrelsome—dividing people into oppressed or oppressor groups instead of appreciating the image-bearer before us. Instead of having patience, we’re quickly triggered and slow to honestly weigh our opponents’ perspectives. Instead of being kind, we’re quick to trash others, assuming the worst of their motives. Instead of showing gentleness, we use condemning rhetoric and redefined words to intimidate others into our perspective. Instead of showing self-control, we blame our issues exclusively on others and their systems, not warring daily against the evil in our own hearts.
When we automatically assume damning explanations for unequal outcomes, we not only lock ourselves in a prison of never-ending rage but also dull our senses to the point that we will be useless for the sacred task of recognizing and resisting the real racism, real sexism, and other real vicious isms around us.
…if we don’t bother to distinguish between inequalities that come from sin and those that don’t, then we are well on our way not to a fictional dystopia but to repeating the bloodiest mistakes of modern history.
How would Christians ever show the tribalized world what real unity looks like if they got swept up in such a never-ending game of grievances—treating one another as exemplars of their ethnic groups rather than their shared identity in Christ?
The Tribes mindset trashes not only any meaningful relationship with that person but also any hope of meaningfully thinking about that person’s perspective. In short, it makes us both closed-hearted and closed-minded.
If we care about ending actual sexism, then we should welcome the question of how much of the gender pay gap can be laid at the feet of actual sexism. Otherwise, we aren’t fighting the real problem, but shadowboxing our own ideological projections. The extent to which we shadowbox our ideological projections of the problem is the extent to which we trivialize the victims of real sexism and racism. By diverting our finite injustice-fighting energies in every direction all at once, Tribes thinking unintentionally marginalizes the already marginalized.
…caring about justice requires a commitment to truth. We can no more separate truth from justice than we can subtract one side from a triangle and still consider it a triangle. The extent to which Tribes thinking predetermines answers to hard questions is the extent to which it obscures truth and unintentionally leaves more people broken.
Given the political polarization of our day, seeing our side as caring about others and the other side as cruel is easy and self-serving. But it is not so black-and-white. Often the left and right simply have different “others.” If we are shaped by Scripture instead of the culture wars, then we will not become the priests and Levites galloping past bodies on the side of the road. Christians should be known less as culture warriors and more as Good Samaritans who stop for battered neighbors, whether they are black, white, brown, male, female, gay, straight, rich, poor, old, young, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, atheist, capitalist, socialist, Republican, Democrat, near, far, tall, short, or smaller than a peanut.
There is often a big difference between feelings and facts, between lived experience and objective reality. That difference matters, and we should take both seriously if we want our quest for justice to lead to real justice.
Do arguments magically become true or false by putting them in someone else’s mouth? No. Writing off someone’s viewpoint because of their melanin levels makes us actual racists. Dismissing someone’s argument because of their gender makes us actual sexists. Silencing someone’s ideas because of their sexuality, their economic status, or any other quality of their lives rather than the quality of their ideas does not make us a voice of justice for the marginalized; it makes us actual bigots.
By downplaying the depth of human corruption, socialism becomes a counterfeit gospel. It relies on corrupt human authorities with no room for God’s heart-regenerating grace. Socialism seeks Christ’s kingdom, minus the Christ, and becomes a destructive parody of God’s shalom. The harder it tries to create heaven on earth, the more hell it unleashes, particularly on the poor whom Scripture commands us to love.
Gender distinctions are a gift from God to be celebrated, not obliterated. Men can’t simply replace women, or women replace men, without something exceedingly beautiful being lost. When we get swept up in Social Justice B, our understanding of sexuality comes less and less from Scripture and more and more from the ideological architects and ancestors of the sexual revolution.
Notice that “the gospel” is “of first importance.” And what is that gospel? It is the good news of free salvation by trusting in the sin-atoning death and bodily resurrection of Jesus. It shouldn’t surprise us that Paul understands the gospel this way, since he received it directly from Jesus. Unlike toppling social and economic systems through social activism, this good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ is what Jesus proclaims to poor in the red letters. It is what the earliest missionaries declare with astonishing saving results throughout the book of Acts. It is the same good news declared throughout the New Testament epistles.