Social Injustice and the Gospel by John MacArthur

This is the first of several articles Dr. MacArthur plans addressing an important issue concerning the evangelical church.

Social Injustice and the Gospel

by John MacArthur

Monday, August 13, 2018

Scripture says earthly governments are ordained by God to administer justice, and believers are to be subject to their authority. The civil magistrate is “a minister of God to you for good . . . an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:1–4). But it is also true that no government in the history of the world has managed to be consistently just. In fact, when Paul wrote that command, the Roman Emperor was Nero, one of the most grossly unjust, unprincipled, cruel-hearted men ever to wield power on the world stage.

As believers, “we know . . . that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), so worldly power structures are—and always have been—systemically unjust to one degree or another.

Even the United States, though founded on the precept that all members of the human race “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” incongruously maintained a system of forced slavery that withheld the full benefits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness from multitudes. Many generations of people from African ethnicities were thus legally (but immorally) relegated to subhuman status. According to the 1860 census, there were about four million in the generation of slaves who were being held in servitude when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Civil War and the abolishment of slavery did not automatically end the injustice. A hundred years passed before the federal government banned segregation in public places and began in earnest to pass legislation safeguarding the civil rights of all people equally. Until then, freed slaves and their descendants in Southern states were literally relegated by law to the back of the bus and frequently treated with scorn or incivility because of the color of their skin.

I got a small taste of what it felt like to be bullied and discriminated against in the American South in the 1960s. I spent a lot of time traveling through rural Mississippi with my good friend John Perkins, a well-known black evangelical leader, preaching the gospel in segregated black high schools. During one of those trips, as we drove down a dirt road, a local sheriff—an openly bigoted character straight out of In the Heat of the Night—took me into custody, held me in his jail, and accused me of disturbing the peace. He also confiscated (and kept) all my money. He ultimately released me without filing charges. I suppose he considered the money he took from me an adequate fine for doing something he disapproved of.

In those days any appeal to higher authorities would have been fruitless and possibly counterproductive. All I could do was try not to antagonize him further.

I was again ministering in Mississippi with John Perkins and a group of black church leaders in April 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. One of the men leading our group was Charles Evers, head of the Mississippi NAACP. (His brother Medgar had been killed in 1963 by the KKK.) When news of Dr. King’s murder broke, we drove to Memphis—and literally within hours after Dr. King was assassinated, we were at the Lorraine Motel, standing on the balcony where he was shot. We were also shown the place where James Earl Ray stood on a toilet to fire the fatal shot.

I deplore racism and all the cruelty and strife it breeds. I am convinced the only long-term solution to every brand of ethnic animus is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Christ alone are the barriers and dividing walls between people groups broken down, the enmity abolished, and differing cultures and ethnic groups bound together in one new people (Ephesians 2:14–15). The black leaders with whom I ministered during the civil rights movement shared that conviction.

The evangelicals who are saying the most and talking the loudest these days about what’s referred to as “social justice” seem to have a very different perspective. Their rhetoric certainly points a different direction, demanding repentance and reparations from one ethnic group for the sins of its ancestors against another. It’s the language of law, not gospel—and worse, it mirrors the jargon of worldly politics, not the message of Christ. It is a startling irony that believers from different ethnic groups, now one in Christ, have chosen to divide over ethnicity. They have a true spiritual unity in Christ, which they seem to disdain in favor of fleshly factions.

Evangelicalism’s newfound obsession with the notion of “social justice” is a significant shift—and I’m convinced it’s a shift that is moving many people (including some key evangelical leaders) off message, and onto a trajectory that many other movements and denominations have taken before, always with spiritually disastrous results.

Over the years, I’ve fought a number of polemical battles against ideas that threaten the gospel. This recent (and surprisingly sudden) detour in quest of “social justice” is, I believe, the most subtle and dangerous threat so far. In a series of blog posts over the next couple of weeks, I want to explain why. I’ll review some of the battles we have fought to keep the gospel clear, precise, and at the center of our focus. We’ll see why biblical justice has little in common with the secular, liberal idea of “social justice.” And we’ll analyze why the current campaign to move social issues like ethnic conflicts and economic inequality to the top of the evangelical agenda poses such a significant threat to the real message of gospel reconciliation.

I hope you’ll see that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25)—and that’s never more true than when we are talking about the strategy God has chosen for the spread of the gospel and the growth of Christ’s kingdom.

Source

Robert Gagnon: Concerns With the upcoming Revoice Conference and “Spiritual Friendship Folk”

This article is courtesy of Pulpit & Pen

Concerns with the upcoming Revoice Conference and Spiritual Friendship Folk

By Dr.Robert Gagnon

While I am glad for the fact that persons at the upcoming Revoice Conference (July 26-28, St. Louis, in a PCA venue) and those who align with the “Spiritual Friendship” program want to refrain from engaging in same-sex intercourse and thereby uphold this part of the orthodox witness, I have seven consequential concerns about their views.

1. Inadequate engagement with the need for “renewal of the mind” as regards homosexual desires. Is there any asking of: “What is the false narrative that gives these impulses particular strength? Why am I viewing a person of the same sex as a sexual complement or counterpart to my own sex? Why am I aroused by the distinctive sexual features of my own sex, by what I already have? Am I thinking of myself as only half of my own sex? What kind of strategies for renewing my mind can I use to counter this false narrative beyond ‘washed and waiting’?” Instead, the benefits of a generalized “gay” perspective (minus the sex) are celebrated or lifted up. Even if one’s attractions may not change with such an evaluation, they can be disempowered by exposing the lie that lies behind attempts to gratify same-sex desire or (for “transgenders,” so-called) to deny one’s biological sex altogether. There is more to be addressed here than refraining from homosexual sex.

2. The adoption of terminology for self-identity that cannot be sanctified and inevitably brings in the whole “LGBTQ” baggage (“sexual minority,” “gay,” “transgender”). This terminology is normally associated with self-affirmation rather than sin and switches the obligation of the church from a call for repentance and restoration to a call for inclusion and diversity that celebrates what should be mortified. The fact that evangelical proponents of the “sexual minority” language are unwilling to use it of those with a pedophilic or polyamorist orientation should tell us all something.

3. A greater focus on a victim mentality than on the need for disengagement with the LGBTQ agenda (hence their refusal to sign the Nashville Statement). It is more important for them to say that the church has treated persons with same-sex attractions in an ungodly way throughout its history (painting with a broad brush) than to say that those who promote homosexual practice and transgenderism in the church are committing heresy. Indeed, they usually reject the heresy charge and any arguments made from Scripture that homosexual practice is a particularly severe violation of God’s standards for sexual ethics. Many cast entering into homosexual unions not as egregious sin but rather as something less than the maximal “flourishing” that God has for us. Self-critique generally doesn’t go further than a non-moral disability model. This in turn often leads to favoring church membership (without church discipline) even for self-professed Christians actively engaged in homosexual relationships.

4. Support for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” laws that lead to the persecution of Christians and the erosion of the church’s own standards (since indoctrination in the sphere of the state affects the views that people carry into the church); even general support by some of, or at least strong sympathy for, “gay marriage.”

5. An apparent aversion to any thought of developmental influences on any homosexual attraction and discouragement of any who seek help for reducing the intensity and direction of same-sex sexual attractions. Indeed, the idea of some Christians who shift on the Kinsey Scale in the direction of less homosexuality is viewed as a virtual betrayal of the benefits of being “gay” and a threat to those who have not experienced any orientation change. They not only assert that such change is not possible for them but also appear to want to close the door for all others. Granted, a change in the experience of same-sex attractions is not requisite for being a strong Christian; God can declare “my grace is sufficient for you” without removing said attractions. Yet doesn’t God also at times remove or significantly ameliorate the deprivation or difficulty (see numerous Gospel miracles)?

6. A formulation of spiritual friendship that looks an awful lot like marriage minus the sex: viz., a promise of lifelong commitment to one person of the same sex viewed as one’s “significant other.” 

7. A greater affinity to “gay Christians” who are in, or looking to be in, a committed homosexual union (the Justin Lee “Gay Christian Network” type) than with Christians involved in Restored Hope Network who operate with ex-gay transformation ministries (Stephen Black of RHN had his registration money for the Revoice Conference returned and his attendance revoked) or even with Christians such as Rosaria Butterfield who are not big fans of reparative therapy. Does this show that their “gay” identity means more to them than their Christian identity? That they really do feel a deeper partnership (koinonia) with those violating Scripture’s teaching on homosexual practice?

A good distillation of quotations from key figures in the Revoice Conference can be found here.

Many Christians of younger generations are now turning to this “LGBTQ-lite” movement as a way of running for cover against charges that they hate “gays” and “transgenders,” as though this were the only show in town. A bit more critical reflection is in order. It is just possible that the Spiritual Friendship people can learn something from those who have gone before them and who have had a longer track-record of being faithful to the cause of the gospel. 

I do not say that they are “heretics.” They are brothers and sisters in the Lord. However, I do believe that they have significant room for correction. I also think that a number of their views will be used by other Evangelicals, now and in the future, as a transitional stage for a much greater embrace of “LGBTQ” ideology and agendas. Those leaders in the group experiencing same-sex attractions may even be putting themselves at higher risk, through multiple accommodations in theology and behavior, of taking the route of others (like Julie Rodgers) into full departure from orthodoxy and orthopraxy. I trust that they would argue that the exact reverse is the case; my concern remains. Let us pray that they will be firm in the faith, not deceived by ungodly notions emanating from a desire to legitimize same-sex attractions and gender identity confusion and benefiting from the insight of others beyond their close-knit circle.