Sneakers & Evangelism

Did Colin Kapenick influence Nike’s decision to pull the Betsy Ross themed new sneakers? Some say yes, including CNBC, Wall Street Journal, and just about every news outlet on the planet.

The WSJ reported:

“Nike Inc. is yanking a U.S.A.-themed sneaker (the “Air Max 1 USA”) featuring an early American flag after NFL star-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick told the company it shouldn’t sell a shoe with a symbol that he and others consider offensive.”

One Radio Station reported that:

“Nike Pulls Shoes Featuring Betsy Ross Flag Over Concerns About Racist Symbolism”

Here is Nike’s first official response:

“Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured an old version of the American flag,” Nike told CNBC in a statement.

Given the reports of the world’s news outlets, only a very few people (those with ‘asparagus’ level intellects?) will buy Nike’s first official response. Later in the day yesterday Nike responded again:

“We regularly make business decisions to withdraw initiatives, products and services. NIKE made the decision to halt distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.

Well, Nike, CK and news outlets aside, I couldn’t help but think about how interesting it would be to write a similar article about much of today’s Christian evangelism. It could be titled,

“Evangelical Leaders Remove ‘Sin’ and ‘Repentance’ from the Gospel Message Because the Terms Might be Offensive”

Although there is a general similarity in the theme that something that might “offend” someone in both cases (sneakers and the gospel), there are significant differences between the two.

1. Nike made its decision just this week and received a ton of backlash. Evangelicalism’s removal of ‘sin’ and ‘repentance’ in the gospel message is nothing new, and can be traced back to the late ‘80’s, if not further in the past.

2. Due to the removal of ‘sin’ and ‘repentance’ from the message of the gospel occurring sometime in the past (a book by noted psychologist Carl Menninger “Whatever Became of Sin?” was published in 1988), whatever backlash that might have been received is mostly in the past.  There might have been strong opposition early on, but slowly the thought that we could win people to Christ just talking about how much he loves us became firmly entrenched in modern evangelical thought.

3. Finally (for now), the genuine gospel message IS a matter of offense to the unbeliever!

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)

Because sinners love their sin and darkness (and all of us are sinners), it takes a sovereign act of God to open a sinful heart to pay attention to the gospel message that addresses man’s sinfulness. But since God is really good at opening hearts to hear the gospel (see Acts 16 and the story of Lydia). Hearts ARE opened, the true gospel is preached, and sinners are saved!

And that’s what the whole Nike/Colin Kapernick/Betsy Ross sneakers issue got me thinking about.

My question to you is this:

“What’s worse, caving in to cultural demands for inoffensive sneakers, ot sending people to hell with a false gospel?

Food for thought……………………………

‘Jesus, His Life’ History Channel Series – One Blogger’s Observations

‘Jesus, His Life’ was a History channel multiple episode look at the life of Jesus, as told by the people in his life who were closest to him. Eight episodes were aired leading up to Easter told by Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Caiaphas, Judas, Pilate, Mary Magdalene, and Peter.

 

I’m not going to reiterate all of the personal comments contained in the reviews we posted, but share three observations and try and answer one question

 

Observation 1

Pastor Gabe Hughes, whose review of the first episode strongly suggested that this series would miss the true message of the gospel – that Jesus died for the sins of His people, was right. There were only two significant mentions of sin in the series, at least that I could see, and I watched every episode. One commentator, Adam Marshak, told us, “John’s (the Baptist) message is simple; repent of your sins, receive Baptism, receive purification, and you will be saved.” Was he teaching ‘baptismal’ regeneration? If the answer is yes, he was presenting a false gospel, repudiated in both the Old and New Testaments. The second reference to sin was actually an excellent comment.  “There is nothing more important in Christianity than the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus defeats death, so he defeats sin, and his being raised to new life is about the promise to Christians that they too will be raised on the last day.” (Mark Goodacre)

 

Observation 2

The ‘gospel’ message presented was that Jesus was sent by God to save/fix everything that is wrong with the world, over and over again, by multiple commentators. In a word, ‘social justice’ is the gospel message delivered to the viewer. While matters of justice in society are addressed in the Bible, they are the natural result of Salvation, as believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and by that Spirit are urged to love & care for others in a myriad of ways.

 

Observation 3

In the episode covering the Last Supper, Jesus says, “This is my blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many.”, using the Mark 4:24 reference. The Matthew 26:28 passage says, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Probably not a really big deal, but certainly a missed opportunity to include the specific reason shed his blood.

 

Summary Observation

So from beginning to end, this film series completely MISSED presenting the gospel message that actually saves sinners – that Jesus died for the sins of His people, the very message the Angel bought to Joseph before the Savior’s birth.!

 

The Question: WHY?

 

Why do these sorts of films keep failing to share a message that can actually save sinners?

 

First of all, let me say that I completely understand why secular film makers, who are not themselves believers in Christ, would miss the true gospel. The Bible I read tells me that all unbelievers are lost and in bondage to sin, living in darkness, and in rebellion against their creator. I get that. Such a message won’t generate a large audience, or sell many tickets at the box office.

 

But why do professing believers keep failing to share the gospel that is about the problem of sin? Well I know why some do (Think Joel Osteen, the series producer). He told Larry King, during an interview, that he never dwells on sin. After all, we all know we sin and it’s not really necessary. In the same interview Joel said he sees himself as more of a life coach than anything else (like a biblical preacher?)

 

The series was full of commentators who were ordained ministers or, connected to Christian institutions. They didn’t share the genuine gospel either! This series doesn’t stand alone in that regard. The other productions mentioned at the beginning of this post were exactly same. This missing the gospel trends is also a prevailing characteristic of most offerings from Pureflix. I watched a fair amount of Pureflix offerings and finally stopped. They were too painful to watch.

 

I suspect this trend is based partly on the thought that if we just tell people how much Jesus loves them – wants to bless them in every way materially, and how special they are (God can’t even imagine heaven without us), they will find it really hard NOT to give their lives to Jesus, ask him into their hearts, walk an aisle, or repeat a special prayer, and all by making own ‘free will’ decision. In all fairness, there are many that believe that this is the BEST way to share the gospel. There was a time when I believed it myself. That was a LONG tome ago, before I read the Bible a few more times, and feel in love with the soul humbling doctrines of Sovereign grace.

 

The Apostle Paul tells us the true gospel is offensive to unbelievers, in their ‘natural’ state. The bad news about sin is deeply offensive to those who love their sin (all lost people). Paul also told us not to remove the natural offensiveness of the gospel (Gal 5:11, 1 Cor 1:17), yet we do, over and over again. Paul also proclaimed that he was NOT ashamed of that gospel (Acts 1:16). This offensive message is THE message that has the power to save sinners!

 

I see only two possible reasons for not sharing a gospel message that hits to the core problem we all have – SIN.  We might have been taught that we just need to ‘attract’ people to Jesus and talking about sin could drive them away. Or, perhaps we are just ‘Ashamed of the Gospel’, as John MacArthur’s book of that name presents to us so clearly.

 

Again, I’m not trying to be unduly harsh with the makers of this, or any other of today’s popular Christian film offerings. But for this this old soldier, if I fail to share the true gospel, and trust in the sovereignty of God to save His own, just as the Angel promised Joseph, I am either ashamed of the gospel, or I have a very low view of God.

 

As for this, and many other “Christian’ offerings from the entertainment industry, most are nothing more than ‘adventures in missing the point.’ It was true of the other Bible based offerings we have reviewed here at The Battle Cry. And it it’s true of most Pureflix offerings. It was true of every single one that I watched some of their productions.

 

A bit of advice. 1) Pray for God to open hearts to receive the ‘bad news’ and the ‘good news’. 2) Pray that He send His gospel to the hearts He opened to hear it. 3) Be ready to be the messenger and share the whole gospel, with gentleness and love. Take the conversation to the ‘bad’ news first, followed by the good news.

 

“He WILL save His people from their sins.”

_______________

In you didn’t have the opportunity to read an old guy’s reviews of the series episodes, here are the links:

 

Jesus, His Life, Episode 1: Joseph: the Nativity – Pastor Gabe Hughes
Jesus, His Life, Episode 2–John the Baptist: The Mission
Jesus, His Life, Episode 3: Mary, The First Miracles
Jesus, His Life, Episode 4: Caiaphas: The Raising of Lazarus
Jesus, His Life, Episode 5: Judas: The Betrayal
Jesus, His Life, Episode 6: Pilate: The Trial
Jesus, His Life, Episode 7: Mary Magdalene: The Crucifixion
Jesus, His Life, Episode 8: Peter: The Resurrection

 

The Injustice of Social Justice

Here is the fifth in a series of blog posts by Dr. John MacArthur concerning the social justice movement and its relationship to the the Gospel, posted at GTY. Here are the links to the first four posts.

Social Injustice and the Gospel by John MacArthur

The Long Struggle to Preserve the Gospel, Part 1

The Long Struggle to Preserve the Gospel, Part 2

Is the Controversy over “Social Justice” Really Necessary? by John MacArthur

On to The Article:

The Injustice of Social Justice

by John MacArthur

Friday, September 7, 2018

The besetting sin of pragmatic, style-conscious evangelicals has always been that they shamelessly borrow fads and talking points from the unbelieving world. Today’s evangelicals evidently don’t believe the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God (1 Corinthians 3:19). Virtually any theory, ideology, or amusement that captures the fancy of secular pop culture will be adopted, slightly adapted, perhaps cloaked in spiritual-sounding language, propped up with specious proof texts, and peddled as an issue that is vital for evangelicals to embrace if we don’t want to become totally irrelevant.

That’s precisely how evangelicals in the mid-twentieth century became obsessed for several decades with positive thinking, self-esteem, and “Christian psychology.” After that, it was marketing savvy and promotional strategies. By the beginning of the twenty-first century it was postmodernism, repackaged and aggressively promoting itself as the Emerging Church movement.

Today, critical race theory, feminism, intersectional theory, LGBT advocacy, progressive immigration policies, animal rights, and other left-wing political causes are all actively vying for evangelical acceptance under the rubric of “social justice.”

Not every evangelical leader currently talking about social justice supports the full spectrum of radical causes, of course. Most (for the moment, at least) do not. But they are using the same rhetoric and rationale of victimhood and oppression that is relentlessly employed by secularists who are aggressively advocating for all kinds of deviant lifestyles and ideologies. Anyone who claims victim status can easily and effectually harness the emotional appeal of a plea for “social justice” both to gain support and to silence opposition.

Indeed, as social justice rhetoric has gained currency among evangelicals, just about every cause that is deemed politically correct in the secular world is steadily gaining momentum among evangelicals. It would be folly to pretend the social justice movement poses no threat whatsoever to evangelical conviction.

Evangelicals seldom explicitly define what they mean by “social justice”—possibly because if they gave an accurate definition of where that term came from and what it means in the secular academy, they might lose a lot of evangelical support. Countless critics have pointed out that the rhetoric of “social justice” is deeply rooted in Gramscian Marxism. For many decades, “social justice” has been employed as political shorthand by radical leftists as a way of calling for equal distribution of wealth, advantages, privileges, and benefits—up to and including pure Marxist socialism.

The rhetoric has been effective, and nowadays the typical social justice warrior is convinced that equal opportunity and equal treatment under the law are not sufficiently just; we haven’t achieved true social justice until we have equality of outcome, status, and wealth. That’s why we hear so much about income comparisons, racial quotas, and other statistics suggesting, for example, that systemic oppression by a male oligarchy is conclusively proved by the dearth of women who pursue careers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Marxists, socialists, anarchists, and other radicals purposely use such arguments to foment resentment, class warfare, ethnic strife, tension between the genders, and other conflicts between various people groups, because in order to restructure society to fit their ideologies, they must first break down existing societal norms.

All of that is true, and the connection between Marxism and postmodern social justice rhetoric is surely a valid and important point. But it is even more vital that we as Christians employ the light of Scripture to scrutinize and evaluate the ideas currently being promoted in the name of social justice.

No Justice but God’s Justice

The Bible has much to say about justice. In the English Standard Version of the Bible, the word is used more than 130 times. It is never preceded by an adjective, except in Ezekiel 18:8, which speaks of “true justice.” It is occasionally paired with possessive pronouns. God Himself speaks of “my justice” twice in Scripture. Twice in prayers addressed to God, we read the expression “your justice.”

The point? There are not different flavors of justice. There is only true justice, defined by God Himself and always in accord with His character.

It is a fact that the Bible puts enormous stress on the charitable aspects of justice—goodwill toward all; compassion for the underprivileged; assistance for the fatherless and the widow; love for foreigners; and care for the poor, especially providing needy people with the necessities of life (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 140:12; Ezekiel 22:29).

But biblical justice is not a one-sided affair, showing partiality to the poor or disenfranchised in an effort to even the scales of privilege. In fact, Scripture expressly condemns that mentality as unjust (Exodus 23:3; Leviticus 19:15).

Justice in Scripture is often paired with the words equity and righteousness. Equity means equal treatment for everyone under the law. Righteousness signifies that which is consistent with the demands of God’s law—including punishment for evildoers (Jeremiah 5:26-29); obedience to governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7); penalties that fit the crime and are applied without partiality (Leviticus 24:17-22); and a strong work ethic, enforced by the principle that able-bodied people who refuse to work shouldn’t benefit from public charity (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Those aspects of true justice are conspicuously missing from the recent evangelical dialogue touting “social justice.” Instead, what we hear is an echo of the same accusatory rhetoric and political slogans being shouted by secular social justice warriors. That fact ought to awaken the Berean urge in every Christian.

Widening the Gospel

Even more troubling are statements that have been made by certain evangelical thought leaders who claim that anyone who doesn’t advocate for social justice is preaching a truncated gospel. Some say that those who reject their social justice ideology don’t have any gospel at all. Anthony Bradley, Chair of Religious and Theological Studies at The King’s College, recently posted this remark online:

“Here’s the problem (and this will be hard): from a black church perspective, evangelicals have never had the gospel. Ever. Read the book Doctrine A[nd] Race. Here then is the actual Q: When will evangelicals embrace the gospel for the first time ever?”

Those who say such things typically bristle when critics compare their views to Walter Rauschenbusch and the social gospel. But the argument and most of the rhetoric are identical. Rauschenbusch was an early twentieth-century liberal theologian and author of a book titled A Theology for the Social Gospel. He taught that Christians need to repent not only for their personal transgressions but also for “social sins.” Like most of today’s evangelical social justice advocates, Rauschenbusch insisted (at first) that he had no agenda to do away with any vital gospel truth; he just wanted to widen the focus of the gospel so that it would encompass social evils as well as the issue of individual sin and redemption. But soon Rauschenbusch was saying things like this:

“Public evils so pervade the social life of humanity in all times and all places that no one can share the common life of our race without coming under the effect of these collective sins. He will either sin by consenting in them, or he will suffer by resisting them. Jesus did not in any real sense bear the sin of some ancient Briton who beat up his wife in B.C. 56, or of some mountaineer in Tennessee who got drunk in A.D. 1917. But he did in a very real sense bear the weight of the public sins of organized society, and they in turn are causally connected with all private sins. [1] Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (New York: MacMillan, 1917), 247 (italics added).”

Several of America’s largest mainstream Protestant denominations eagerly imbibed Rauschenbusch’s ideas. All that did quickly drifted even further into liberalism until they had abandoned any commitment they might have had to the authority of Scripture. By then they had long since lost the gospel completely.

Why? Because those who let the culture, a political ideology, popular opinion, or any other extrabiblical source define “justice” for them will soon find that Scripture opposes them. If they are determined to retain their perverted idea of justice, they will therefore have to oppose Scripture.

Furthermore, every attempt to widen the scope of the gospel will ultimately put the gospel so far out of focus that its actual message will be lost.

The message of social justice diverts attention from Christ and the cross. It turns our hearts and minds from things above to things on this earth. It obscures the promise of forgiveness for hopeless sinners by telling people they are hapless victims of other people’s misdeeds.

It therefore fosters the works of the flesh instead of cultivating the fruit of the Spirit.

Let Us Not Provoke One Another or Envy One Another

Christians are the last people who should ever become offended, resentful, envious, or unforgiving. Love “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Corinthians 13:5). The mark of a Christian is turning the other cheek, loving our enemies, praying for those who mistreat us. Christ is the example whose steps we are to follow: “While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).

Hatred, envy, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, hostility, divisiveness, bitterness, pride, selfishness, hard feelings, vindictiveness—and all similar attitudes of resentment—are the self-destructive works of the flesh. The beneficial fruit the Spirit produces are the exact opposite attitudes: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  The NIV translates 1 Corinthians 13:5 this way: “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs.”

Such qualities, frankly, are in short supply in the rhetoric of those advocating for social justice.

Doing justice (i.e., biblical justice, not the secular substitute) together with loving mercy and walking humbly with God are all essential virtues. Those are the chief practical duties incumbent on every believer (Micah 6:8). Constantly complaining that we are victims of injustice while judging other people guilty of sins we cannot even see is antithetical to the Spirit of Christ.

As Christians, let’s cultivate the fruit of the Spirit, the qualities named in the Beatitudes, the virtues outlined in 2 Peter 1:5-7, and the characteristics of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13. Any notion of moral equity that omits or minimizes those righteous qualities has no right whatsoever to be called “justice.”

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Is the Controversy over "Social Justice" Really Necessary? by John MacArthur

Here is the fourth  in a series of blog posts by Dr. John MacArthur concerning the social justice movement and its relationship to the the Gospel, posted at GTY. Here are the links to the first three posts.

Social Injustice and the Gospel by John MacArthur

The Long Struggle to Preserve the Gospel, Part 1

The Long Struggle to Preserve the Gospel, Part 2

On to The Article:

Is the Controversy over “Social Justice” Really Necessary?

by John MacArthur

Monday, August 27, 2018

I do not relish controversy, and I particularly dislike engaging in polemical battles with other evangelical Christians. But as my previous posts in this series demonstrate, when the gospel is under attack from within the visible church, such controversy is necessary. And if it seems fierce disagreements within the church have been the rule rather than the exception, that’s because relentless attacks on the gospel from people professing fidelity to Christ have come in an unending parade since the very beginning of the church age. There has never been an extended period in church history when it has not been necessary for faithful voices to mount a vigorous defense of one or more cardinal biblical principles.

None of the controversies I’ve described in my previous posts sprang up suddenly. The lordship controversy, for example, was a conflict many of us saw coming more than a decade before I wrote The Gospel According to Jesus. The twisted gospel of the prosperity preachers has its roots in the Pentecostal movement going back to the early twentieth century. Normally we can see storm clouds brewing and anticipate where the next major assault is coming from.

But occasionally a new threat to the simplicity or clarity of the gospel seems to erupt with stunning force and suddenness. The current controversy over “social justice” and racism is an example of that. Four years ago, I would not have thought it possible for Bible-believing evangelicals to be divided over the issue of racism. As Christians we stand together in our affirmation of the second great commandment (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”—Leviticus 19:18). We therefore stand together against every hint of racial animus.

Racism is a stain on American history that has left shame, injustice, and horrible violence in its wake. The institution of slavery and a costly civil war left a deep racial divide and bred bitter resentment on every side. No sensible person would suggest that all the vestiges of those evils were totally erased by the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. Civil rights legislation now guards the legal principle of equal rights for all Americans, but no law can change the heart of someone who is filled with prejudice or bitterness.

Thankfully, however, much progress has been made. Racial relations in secular America are not what they were even fifty years ago. The American attitude has changed. White supremacy and all other expressions of purposeful, willful, or ideological racism are almost universally condemned.

As Christians we know that the human heart is evil, so undoubtedly there are still people who secretly harbor animosity against ethnicities other than their own. But any open expression of acrimony, ill will, or deliberate antagonism across ethnic lines will be scorned and emphatically rejected across the whole spectrum of mainstream American life today.

Of course, people everywhere still tend to be oblivious to or inconsiderate of customs, traditions, community values, and ethnic differences outside their own culture. Culture clash is a universal problem, not a uniquely American quandary—and it’s not necessarily an expression of ethnic hostility. But Americans’ contempt for racial bigotry is now so acute that even accidental cultural or ethnic insensitivity is regularly met with the same resentment as blind, angry racism—and even a simple social gaffe is likely to be treated the same as bigotry. There are people—increasing numbers of them—so obsessed with this issue that they seem able to find proof of racism in practically everything that is said or done by anyone who doesn’t share their worldview.

I understand when fallen, worldly people filled with resentment lash out at others that way. I don’t understand why Bible-believing Christians would take up that cause. I thought the evangelical church was living out true unity in Christ without regard for race. That has certainly been my experience in every church I’ve ever been part of, and it’s also what I have seen in the wider evangelical world. I don’t know of any authentically evangelical church where people would be excluded or even disrespected because of their ethnicity or skin color. Just last Sunday night—as we do every month—we received about a hundred new members into Grace Church. It was another testimony to God’s love crossing all ethnic lines, as the group was composed of Hispanics, Filipinos, Chinese, Ugandans, Nigerians, Mongolians, Koreans, Ukrainians, Armenians, Lithuanians, Russians, Austrians, people of Arabic descent, as well as black and white Americans.

As Christians we are reconciled with God and united with Christ. To understand that doctrine is to be reconciled with one another. This is a major emphasis in all the Bible’s teaching about forgiving one another as God has forgiven us. Christians should not be the ones dividing over race in a racially charged environment. We are the peacemakers and the lovers of all men. We don’t seek vengeance. We forgive seventy times seven.

And yet, as the issue of racial division has become more and more a focus in the secular academy and in the news media, evangelicals eager to engage the culture have taken up the issue. Unfortunately, many who have spoken on this issue have simply echoed the wisdom of this world rather than addressing the issue in a truly gospel-centered way. As a result, rancorous discourse over ethnic differences has eclipsed the gospel and divided the church—even among those evangelicals who might be most likely to self-describe as “gospel-centered Christians.”

It’s quite common these days for Christian leaders addressing this issue to call for people who have never harbored a racist thought to confess the guilt of racism because their ancestors may have been racists. Expressions of repentance have been demanded of white evangelicals for no actual transgression, but because they are perceived to have benefited from “white privilege.” Supposedly, their skin color automatically makes them culpable for the racism of the past. One influential evangelical leader, in an article titled “We Await Repentance for Assassinating Dr. King,” suggested that racial reconciliation in the church cannot even start until white Christians confess their parents’ and grandparents’ complicity in “murdering a man who only preached love and justice” (meaning Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).

So by this view of “social justice,” a person’s skin color might automatically require a public expression of repentance—not merely for the evils of his ancestors’ culture, but also for specific crimes he cannot possibly have been guilty of.

There’s nothing remotely “just” about that idea, and certainly nothing related to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The answer to every evil in every heart is not repentance for what someone else may have done, but repentance for our own sins, including hatred, anger, bitterness, or any other sinful attitude or behavior.

As Christians committed to the authority of Scripture and the truth of the gospel, we have better answers than the world could ever give to the problems of racism, injustice, human cruelty, and every other societal evil. We have the cross of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit who grows and leads us in all love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

In the days to come, I want to discuss those answers, and specifically how Scripture says we should respond when we suffer wrongly at the hands of unrighteous people, corrupt governments, or hostile persecutors. The New Testament’s answer to that dilemma is not the least bit obscure or mysterious.

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Does the Bible speak to the issue of ‘racism’?

Recently the topic of ‘social justice’ seems to be a priority among evangelical Christians, some of whom are very prominent in the evangelical community. In fact, at a recent conference one such prominent leader, with tears in his eyes, confessed to not seeing ‘race’.

Being ‘colorblind’ used to be an admirable trait, but these days it’s just the opposite in some circles. One publication said “When you say you ‘don’t see race’, you’re ignoring racism, not helping to solve it.” Another published an article titled “7 Reasons Why ‘Colorblindness’ Contributes to Racism . . .”. Those are just two of many examples.

Now we are told that if we are true Christians we will ‘see’ race, acknowledge our guilt (if we are a majority ‘color’) and even owe ‘reparations’ to oppressed groups, who are incapable of being ‘racist’ due to their minority status.

So what does the Bible say about all this? Well, for starters, Paul, in speaking to two different groups of believers, told them:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:28

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Col 3:11

The Apostle much of being “in Christ” and makes it crystal clear that everyone, regardless of ethnic origin, gender, or social status that ALL believers are united “in Christ”. At the same time, while Scripture declares believers “one” in Christ and doesn’t describe in terms of ‘race,, it also recognizes that there are differences between people groups. Scripture uses the term ‘ethnos’, from which we get ‘ethnicity’.

“But who can deny that racism exists?”, you might ask. “No one in their right mind.” Would be my answer. Racism exists in one form or another all over the planet. It is NOT restricted to any certain people group, as some would have us believe. ‘Racism’ (focus on ‘ism’) is a sinful attitude of the heart and I don’t care if you are white, black, brown, yellow, blue, green, or purple. Furthermore, the capacity to be ‘racist’ exists in all of us, whether we remain lost in our sin or can be truly found ‘in Christ’. So what’s the Biblical answer to the problem of racism?

The answer is simple. It’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ who died for our sins, was resurrected, and now lives in us through the Holy Spirit. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer that can convict us of our ‘racism’, cause us to repent, and which brings lasting change from the ‘inside out’, rather than the ‘outside in’.

The Bible does speak to racism! It’s a sin, and Christ is the answer!

The Long Struggle to Preserve the Gospel, Part 2 by John MacArthur

Here is the third in a series of blog posts by Dr. John MacArthur concerning the social justice movement and its relationship to the the Gospel, posted at GTY. Here are the links to the first two posts.

Social Injustice and the Gospel by John MacArthur

The Long Struggle to Preserve the Gospel, Part 1

On to Part 2:

 

The Long Struggle to Preserve the Gospel, Part 2

 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Monday’s blog post focused on some of the past few decades of conflicts within the evangelical movement that have provoked me to preach and write in defense of the gospel. It wasn’t an exhaustive list—that would be tedious, I suspect. Evangelicals as a group have shown an unsettling willingness to compromise or unnecessarily obfuscate all kinds of issues where Scripture has spoken plainly and without ambiguity.

For example, despite the clarity of 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man”), leading evangelicals have been debating for several years whether women qualify to be elders or pastors in the church. Many capitulate to cultural preference rather than submitting to biblical authority on this and other similar issues. Some have tried to redefine the role and proper functioning of the family. Others seem to want to deconstruct—or simply ignore—what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage.

More disturbing yet, over the past few years some evangelicals have begun to borrow moral rationalizations from secular culture in the wake of America’s sexual revolution. For years there has been a slow but steady softening of evangelicals’ stance against sex outside of marriage. More recently, and more ominously, several vocal evangelicals (including some in positions of leadership or influence) have been tinkering with novel ideas regarding gender fluidity, sexual orientation, transgenderism, and homosexual marriage. Those are issues that generations of believers would never have dreamed of putting on the table for debate or redefinition in the church. But at this very moment there is a burgeoning campaign to reconsider and abandon the church’s historic stance on LGBT issues under the banner of “social justice.”

Why have so many evangelicals openly embraced such compromises? The answer is very simple. It’s the next logical step for a church that is completely ensnared in efforts to please the culture. For decades the popular notion has been that if the church was going to reach the culture it first needed to connect with the style and methods of secular pop culture or academic fads. To that end, the church surrendered its historic forms of worship. In many cases, everything that once constituted a traditional worship service disappeared altogether, giving way to rock-concert formats and everything else the church could borrow from the entertainment industry. Craving acceptance in the broader culture, the church carelessly copied the world’s style preferences and fleeting fads.

In my book Ashamed of the Gospel, I warned that this was a slippery slope, because the world would not be content for the church merely to reflect its style—it would demand to dictate the substance as well. And the seemingly endless parade of evangelical compromises bears that out. Many believers have long been convinced that they first have to give the world what it wants in order to have any opening for the gospel. Evangelical style coaches have heedlessly followed wherever the world leads them. Having thoroughly absorbed the world’s methods, the church is now being forced to adopt the world’s message.

The common link in those continual compromises is pragmatism*, driven by a desire to reach the world and win its support and admiration by utilitarian means. Evangelicals of our generation seem pathologically addicted to the sin of desiring the praise of men. Indeed, that is precisely the brand of pragmatism that I fear points people down nearly all the paths of departure from the gospel mentioned in Monday’s post. Today it has penetrated deep into the culture of the church, and the end effect is disaster.

Every one of those deviations from sound gospel doctrine has been driven and advanced by evangelicals seeking acceptance in the broader culture. Some of the errors I have singled out (seeker sensitivity and the explosive growth of the charismatic movement) have been promoted by evangelicals who think that whatever attracts the world must be the right doctrine or strategy. Other errors (the embrace of psychotherapy, the ecumenical drift away from Protestant principles, and—yes—the recent rhetoric about “social justice” reflect a fear of being thought unsophisticated or out of step with contemporary “wisdom.”

“Social justice” (in the world’s usage of that term) entails political ideas that are deemed sophisticated—namely, identity politics, critical race theory, the redistribution of wealth, and other radical or socialist policies. Those ideas were first popularized and propagated in the secular academy, where they are now regarded as received wisdom and have become a dominating part of popular culture. Evangelicals who are chasing the culture are latecomers to the party of those who advocate “social justice.”

And I’m convinced the dominant motives are pragmatic.

In ministry, success cannot be measured numerically or by popular opinion. “It is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2, ESV)—not “famous,” “fashionable,” “filthy rich,” or whatever. If attendance figures are someone’s gauge of effectiveness, there’s literally no end to the crazy schemes that person will try to legitimize—as long as the schemes are successful in drawing appreciative crowds. That idea has been injecting poison directly into the evangelical mainstream for decades. 

Consider this: The maestros of missionary and church growth have been telling church leaders that they need to survey the unchurched people in their communities, find out what it would take to get them interested in their churches, and then give that to them. Let opinion polls tell the church how to preach, what to teach, and what not to say or do.

Is it any wonder that the unchurched world now expects to be able to tell the church precisely what she should believe and how she should function and teach?

And is it any wonder that people who grew up through several decades of evangelical pragmatism and have now come into leadership positions in the church are absolutely convinced that it is essential for Christians to both heed and parrot the world’s wishes?

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*Pragmatism, quite simply, is the notion that the truthfulness or value of any strategy, idea, or truth claim is determined by its practical results. If a tactic produces the desired effect, it is deemed good. In the realm of church growth and gospel ministry, pragmatism as a guiding philosophy is severely flawed—even dangerously detrimental—for a couple of reasons that should be fairly obvious.

Number one, pragmatism alone cannot define what “the desired result” ought to be. If the goal is bad and the strategy works, it’s a bad strategy. In fact, if the desired end is evil, the strategy used to achieve it is by definition evil.

Second, and more to the point, raw pragmatism is unbiblical. God’s Word itself is the only reliable test of how good or bad anything is.

Name This Heresy

Here’s the screen capture of real tweet  from  a student at Wake Forest Divinity School:

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There seems to be an interesting syllogism here that goes something like this:

Major premise: Reparations is an expression of repentance.

Minor premise: Repentance is part of salvation.

Conclusion: Where there is no reparations, there is no salvation.

Then we are told that this the “Bottom line.” If reparations are not made to those who have been oppressed, there is NO  salvation.

I remember John 3:16 telling us that all those who believe in God’s Son will have eternal life (salvation). II t doesn’t say that those who believe in Christ ‘and pay reparations’ will have eternal life.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that  making reparations for wrongs done is never warranted. The Old Testament has at least 6 references to making reparation (See Numbers  5:7-8; Numbers 6:12; Numbers18:9; 2 Kings 12:16; and Proverbs 14:9).

In the New Testament, a tax collector named Zacchaeus, upon meeting Jesus, vowed to pay back what he had  wrongly taken from taxpayers, with interest. That’s making reparation.

So clearly, making reparation can be a very good thing to do. Note the DO part. The tweet from Me. Hughes just as clearly tells us that the ‘bottom line’ to obtain salvation is something that we MUST DO.

Can you name the heresy yet? Here’s a hint:

”O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?   Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?   Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?   Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—  just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? “ (Gal 3:1-6) (ESV)

OK. . . . .that was a bit more than a hint. Mr. Hughes is guilty of what has been called ‘The Galatian Heresy”. He has added works to faith for salvation.

Sadly, making reparations is being called a ‘gospel’ issue by many evangelicals today. But is it? that’s the question. Did Christ die for our sins, or did he die for wrongs done to some members of  our society by other members of our society?

Is social  ‘justice’ a gospel issue, or is the gospel the answer to all forms of social ‘injustice’?

Thoughts? Comments?