Is John MacArthur Right About Social Justice? (Part 6 of 6)
“If I criticize somebody, it’s because I have higher hopes for the world, something good to replace the bad.” Mort Sahl
At long last we’ve come to my final rant contesting John MacArthur’s sermon series on “Social Justice and the Gospel.”
In this series Brother Mac emphatically claims that any plea for “social justice” is tantamount to socialism and leads inevitably to a faulty “social gospel.” Without disrespecting the brother I’ve tried to debunk his thesis in these posts, citing both his words and the words of Scripture.
As for the phrase “social justice,” I might point out that the term “justice” is used in Scripture almost 200 times. You place the word “social” in front of it as a modifier for clarity that you’re specifying the kind of justice that isn’t just about you, but about us. Social justice then is simply the justice that has social implications.
They say that, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” The Grand Canyon-sized gaps in my own repertoire of theological knowledge notwithstanding, I believe that our esteemed brother is mistaken regarding the importance of biblical social justice in Christ’s vision for a new and better society made up of new and better people, to say nothing about its place in our presentation of the gospel.
One common evangelistic pitch these days is, “Come to Jesus and when you die he will take you to a better world.” I believe that it should sound more like, “Come to Jesus and you’ll come alive. And while you’re alive, help us make this a better world! Then someday we’ll go to the best of all worlds, but for now we’re tasked to make this the best world we can. So, come to Jesus!”
I’ve never heard anyone actually say it out loud that working for social justice in this world is as futile as polishing the brass on the Titanic, but I suspect that is the working philosophy of many Christians including our esteemed Brother Mac. “If it’s all going to burn (or sink as the case may be) then why bother with beating our heads against the wall to improve the living conditions here?” Why bother? Because it’s God’s mission into which he invites us to collaborate!
What kind of world do we want for ourselves and for everyone else on the planet? What kind of world do we want to leave for future generations?
Furthermore, much of evangelical’s “Left Behind Christianity” leaves pre-christians, Millennials in particular, wondering what good is Christianity if all we do is complain about how bad the world is, sing happy songs on Sundays, and preach about how to be prosperous while waiting for Jesus to come and take us out of here!
“The typical evangelical gospel,” says Tim Suttle, “is a gospel built for death. The gospel Jesus preached was a gospel built for life.” Ours is a gospel, not just to die by, but one (the only one there is) to live by!
Since to them it signals an immanent return of the Lord, a lot of evangelicals like Brother Mac seem to be happiest when they observe the world falling apart. Rather than working to advance the mission of God in the earth, they celebrate the advance of the mission of the evil one.
The Lord instructed the Jewish exiles in Babylon to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” to which he carried them into exile. “Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7) In anticipation of their inclination to neglect the improvement of the land of their captors he surprised them with a commission to the contrary. Though exiles, he tasked them with being a blessing to Babylon and Babylonians. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
“My prayer,” said Jesus, “is not that you take them [his disciples] out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17)
Sure, someday he’s going to make everything better. God’s experiment will come to a close. Maybe a better description would be “full circle,” where Eden will burst back on the scene. Jesus will return and fix everything that is broken in this world. It’ll be a better world, the best world. I have no doubt of that.
In the meantime, he sanctifies us with his truth and sends us into this world, tasked with advancing God’s agenda for a more just society.
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In case you’re interested to read my previous thoughts in this series:
- Part 1 Social Justice or Sanctified Socialism?
- Part 2 Doing Justice to Justice
- Part 3 The Full Gospel
- Part 4 “Victims of Injustice Are Just a Bunch of Whiners!” Really?
- Part 5 Is Justice a “Gospel” Thing?
Is John MacArthur Right About Social Justice? No, I don’t think so, at least not in the series against which I’ve been pushing back.
MacArthur fans or not, I’d love to hear your thoughts.