Thursday, August 5, 2010

Social Justice and the Gospel

Over at, they are posting an interesting video interaction between Mark Dever and Jim Wallis on the relationship of social justice (especially racial reconciliation) to the gospel. Here are parts 1 and 2:

Couple of thoughts: 
1. I think Mark Dever does a could job of anchoring his comments in Scripture. I appreciate the diagnostic and evaluative questions he asks just to the hypothetical scenario.

2. Jim Wallis' allusion to his personal story about growing up with elders/church leaders who were racist even though they claimed they believed the gospel, is disheartening.

3. I appreciate Dever comments on Matthew 25. Wallis is right that this is an important aspect of the judgment but it seems to be a red herring to say that 'it wasn't doctrine they are judged for.' He is right that people that claim to be believers are judged for their life (Dever: 'the fruit'). Yet Scripture is equally clear we are judged for what we believe (see for example: John 3:36; John 8:24 {where "I AM" is clearly belief that he is YHWH}; etc.). The say that Matthew 25 is not judgment over doctrine is not the same as saying (or implying?) that no 'doctrine test'. Obviously there will be many people in heaven who showed love to their neighbor (at least humanly) but are not saved--after all Jesus tells us that even sinners, tax collects, ungodly to good things for others (e.g. Matthew 5:47; Matthew 7;11).  

4. It is helpful to think of what we should do just as humans made in the image of God and what is the unique role and effect of the church. Of course, the church doing its job and proclaiming the gospel should led to progressive and practical demonstrations of the renewal of the image of God.

5. I look forward to further videos. At this point, Wallis was a little fuzzy on what the kingdom of God is. He is clear it's already/not yet. He is a passionate believer in its power--but the video leaves it a bit undefined--yet I don't think this is that uncommon in a lot of literature out there. It is easy to get swept up in the lingo, talk about it's ethics, even drop platitudes about the 'reign of God' in a way that are modern shibboleths. You can say a whole lot and say very little. 

6. One minor criticism, I appreciate Wallis' point (in agreement with Dever) about not getting caught up in policy, and room for legitimate disagreement (in terms of the most effective policies) yet I couldn't help but wonder if he and an organization like Soujourners actually live that out in practice. Christians can get swept up by both the right and the left as THEE means to Christian ends. This is not how the Kingdom comes. 

7. One thought I have towards Dever's position, which I would say so far seems closets to my own (if not identical--although he and Wallis have not got to a rigorous contention)--it would be while I agree we must distinguish the gospel from its implications and effects, we need to be careful that we don't minimize a implication so that it can kind of become a sort of 'light attachment' that works for some and not for others. I think all would agree that what little Wallis elaborates of his experience is reprehensible inside the church if 'me-and-my-relationship-to-God' says little about how I (a) treat my true brothers and (b) how I treat those who are his image bearers--shame on me.

8. Ok, one last thought, I promise: how you frame debates and discussions is always important. Dever is just excellent tactically and pastorally when he frames the issues as "rails" between depravity and image of God. Get either side wrong and it's peril. I would say the so-called Christian Right tends to be better on the depravity side at the expense of 'image of God' and the so-called Christian Left tends to be better at image of God and not on the depravity side.

Anyways, I look forward to the rest of these videos.

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