More than 7,000 Christians have signed “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel,” a document warning about the influence of liberal identity politics penetrating Christianity. The statement builds on earlier Christian declarations restating traditional biblical doctrine against the tide of the sexual revolution, but focuses specifically on rebutting the claims of Social Justice Warriors.
“We are deeply concerned that values borrowed from secular culture are currently undermining Scripture in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality,” the introduction states. “The Bible’s teaching on each of these subjects is being challenged under the broad and somewhat nebulous rhetoric of concern for ‘social justice.'”
Drafted and originally signed by Grace Community Church pastor John MacArthur, Alpha and Omega Ministries director James White, Rockdale Community Church’s Darrell Harrison, and others, the document puts forth fourteen sets of affirmations and denials regarding scripture, salvation, the gospel, human sexuality, justice, and race.
While the statement admits that God cares deeply about justice, it emphasizes the centrality of the gospel and salvation, and notes that political activism is a secondary concern for the church.
“We affirm that since He is holy, righteous, and just, God requires those who bear His image to live justly in the world,” the statement reads. “This includes showing appropriate respect to every person and giving to each one what he or she is due. We affirm that societies must establish laws to correct injustices that have been imposed through cultural prejudice.”
Importantly, the statement emphatically denies the unhealthy overemphasis on “social justice” rapidly gaining traction in society and in the church. “We deny that political or social activism should be viewed as integral components of the gospel or primary to the mission of the church,” the statement says.
“We emphatically deny that lectures on social issues (or activism aimed at reshaping the wider culture) are as vital to the life and health of the church as the preaching of the gospel and the exposition of Scripture,” the document declares. “Historically, such things tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel.”
Importantly, the statement adds, “We deny that laws or regulations possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts.”
A great deal of social engineering and “social justice” activism has focused on the idea that society fosters injustice, and that if the right kind of laws or rules were put in place, “structural” problems would be solved and human sin would be expunged. Christianity cannot accept this utopian vision.
However, Christians can and should advocate for justice in society, but as a secondary calling and as the natural outworking of loving God and others.
“We affirm that the primary role of the church is to worship God through the preaching of his word, teaching sound doctrine, observing baptism and the Lord’s Supper, refuting those who contradict, equipping the saints, and evangelizing the lost,” the statement reads. “We affirm that when the primacy of the gospel is maintained that this often has a positive effect on the culture in which various societal ills are mollified.”
Importantly, Christianity and the gospel provide a vision of justice that does not change with cultural winds. “We deny that true justice can be culturally defined or that standards of justice that are merely socially constructed can be imposed with the same authority as those that are derived from scripture,” the statement explains.
“Social Justice Warriors” ironically claim that justice itself is fluid, open to interpretation, and socially constructed. “Relativism, socially-constructed standards of truth or morality, and notions of virtue and vice that are constantly in flux cannot result in authentic justice,” the statement declares.
Perhaps the heart of “social justice” is the emphasis on racial inequality. America’s painful history of race-based slavery and segregation must be addressed, and Christians can and do condemn all forms of racism. However, the Social Justice Warriors take this too far.
The Statement on Social Justice insists that regardless of racial differences, all people “are ontological equals before God in both creation and redemption.” As a result, “‘race’ is not a biblical category, but rather a social construct that often has been used to classify groups of people in terms of inferiority and superiority.”
“All that is good, honest, just, and beautiful in various ethnic backgrounds and experiences can be celebrated as the fruit of God’s grace,” the statement insists. “All sinful actions and their results (including evils perpetrated between and upon ethnic groups by others) are to be confessed as sinful, repented of, and repudiated.”
Importantly, the statement denies “that Christians should segregate themselves into racial groups or regard racial identity above, or even equal to, their identity in Christ.” The signers also “reject any teaching that encourages racial groups to view themselves as privileged oppressors or entitled victims of oppression.”
As for self-declared victims, their moral authority comes from a few separate ideas rejected by the statement. For instance, the document rejects “that only those in positions of power are capable of racism, or that individuals of any particular ethnic groups are incapable of racism.”
The statement also balances Christian compassion with countercultural truth: “While we are to weep with those who weep, we deny that a person’s feelings of offense or oppression necessarily prove that someone else is guilty of sinful behaviors, oppression, or prejudice.”
The statement also defends the superiority of cultures rooted in gospel truth, and rejects the idea that evangelical Christian activism is somehow tied to racism or white supremacy.
“We affirm that some cultures operate on assumptions that are inherently better than those of other cultures because of the biblical truths that inform those worldviews that have produced these distinct assumptions,” the statement declares. Even so, all cultures “have features that are worldly and sinful—and therefore those sinful features should be repudiated for the honor of Christ.”
All cultural “evil influences … can be—and must be— overcome through conversion and the training of both mind and heart through biblical truth.”
Throughout, the statement condemns racism, and emphatically denies that “treating people with sinful partiality or prejudice is consistent with biblical Christianity.” The Bible cannot be “legitimately used to foster or justify partiality, prejudice, or contempt toward other ethnicities.”
Central to America’s current political context, the statement also denies “that the contemporary evangelical movement has any deliberate agenda to elevate one ethnic group and subjugate another.”
Instead, the document affirms “that racism is a sin rooted in pride and malice which must be condemned and renounced by all who would honor the image of God in all people.”
The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel also restates traditional Christian doctrine on sexuality — that God created humans male and female and that sex is reserved for a lifelong marriage of one man and one woman. Importantly, it adds that “singleness and chastity” is “as noble a calling as marriage,” an important lesson from 1 Corinthians 7 which many churches often overlook in practice if not in teaching. Marriage is not the only noble calling for a Christian.
The statement also echoes the Danvers Statement, emphasizing the complementary roles of man and woman in church and family.
Importantly, the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel warns against heresy, which it defines as “a denial of or departure from a doctrine that is essential to the Christian faith.” Heresy could also include “the replacement of key, essential truths with variant concepts, or the elevation of non-essentials to the status of essentials.”
The statement warns that charges of heresy are grave and should only be used in extreme cases and with clear evidence, but the warning suggests that many forms of social justice activism in the church could constitute heresy.
This clear and powerful statement is a breath of fresh air for Christians struggling with these issues, and from start to finish, it cites various scripture passages to back up its claims. As “social justice” identity politics spreads throughout business, social media, academia, the culture at large, and even the church, Christians need to be prepared to defend biblical truth against the dubious claims of this cultural moment.
Biblical Christians should look to this statement for guidance, and non-Christians should examine these words to understand why followers of the Bible would hesitate to jump on the “social justice” bandwagon.