Reformation: Can the Roman Catholic Gospel Get You into Heaven? by Eric Davis

Tomorrow marks one of the most important dates in church history. October 31st commemorates that titanic movement of God whereby he unleashed the Bible and gospel of Jesus Christ upon a world in which they had been largely hidden under Roman Catholicism for centuries. This year is the 502nd anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Among other things, the Reformation occurred as people discovered the true way of salvation from the Scriptures. The Bible had been obscured for centuries in Latin. Most then could not read Latin, thus, few understood the free gift of God’s salvation to sinners in Jesus Christ. But that changed quickly. As the Bible was translated, preached, and unleashed, so was the power of God. Contrary to Roman Catholicism, Protestants observed that salvation is a gift granted by faith alone in Christ alone through grace alone.

This Reformation season, let’s look objectively at a critical question. Can anyone get to heaven through the Roman Catholic gospel? If so, how? If not, why not?

We will allow for Roman Catholic doctrine to speak for itself:

From the Council of Trent, 6th session, Canon 30:

If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporary punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.

In other words, you are damned if you believe that God’s grace in justification renders a repentant sinner righteous, with no remaining punishment or condemnation.

Canon 12 on Justification from Trent reads similarly:

If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.

In other words, you are damned if you believe that trusting alone in God’s mercy through Jesus Christ puts a sinner in right standing with God.

One more in case we are not convinced:

If anyone says that the justice [or justification] received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema (Council of Trent, 24).

Put another way, if you believe that, by faith alone in Christ alone, all of your sin—past, present, future—is completely forgiven, with no guilt or punishment from God remaining, with the result that you stand satisfactorily righteous before God, then you are damned. And if you believe that works are not efficacious towards justification, you are damned.

However, the gospel of God’s word teaches the very thing that Rome condemns:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Rom. 3:28).

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9).

[A]nd may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Phil. 3:9).

Our gracious God could not be more clear: justification is by faith alone in Christ alone. Right standing with God is a gift of his grace granted by means of faith alone. Standing permanently and perfectly righteous before God is a gift granted in God’s grace on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Hallelujah and glory to God! In our natural state, we stand before God as moral mendicants, filthy in sin, condemned, and justly heading to an eternity of conscious torment (Rom. 3:10-12, Gal. 3:10). More than committing sin, our nature is sin (Eph. 2:1-3). Thus, we can no more do meritorious good works than a snake can jump to the moon (Rom. 3:20, Gal. 3:11). However, God the Father was moved by his own glory to shower wretches with mercy (Eph. 1:3-6). Consequently, he sent his impeccable Son; his only Son to rescue us (John 3:16-17). God the Son took on human nature to himself. Being truly God and truly man, he lived in the weakness of human flesh, facing every temptation as us (Phil. 2:6-7, Heb. 4:15). However, in the glory of his Person, he responded to unholiness with holiness; to hate with love; to frustration with compassion; to temptation with submission; to the cross with obedience (Phil. 2:8, Heb. 4:15); and to death with victory (1 Cor. 15:4). At the cross, God the Father unleashed the full, unhindered fury of his just wrath due us (Matt. 27:46, 1 Pet. 2:24, 1 John 4:10). Every drop of punishment was quenched in Christ at the cross for all who put faith in him alone. Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Guilt is remitted. There remains no temporary punishment; no purgatory; no outstanding divine penalty for any sin ever (Rom. 8:1). All who simply cast their confidence and put their trust in Jesus Christ alone are forgiven of all sin and instantaneously declared in permanent and unchanging right standing with God. That is the good news of God’s gospel.

Tragically, however, Rome’s gospel could not be more different than God’s. The Roman Catholic gospel is the photo-negative of the true gospel. What does God say about such things?

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Gal. 1:8-9)

Rome’s requirement of works for justification is of catastrophic consequences. The difference between the gospel of Christ and that of Roman Catholicism is eternal. Rome pronounces a curse on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Scripture pronounces a curse on any gospel that differs from that of the Bible. Therefore, the Roman Catholic gospel cannot save anyone. No one can be made right with God through Rome’s gospel. Not one individual will be reconciled to God by trusting in Rome’s way of salvation. Because it teaches a gospel by faith plus works, nobody will ever get to heaven by embracing the Roman Catholic gospel (“…a man is not justified by the works if the law…”, Gal. 2:16). Today, at this moment, there is not one person in heaven due to having embraced Rome’s gospel, and there never will be. This is not to say that no person who professed to be Roman Catholic will be in heaven. If they read the Bible and embraced the biblical gospel, they would. However, such an individual’s entrance into heaven would be in spite of Rome’s blasphemous gospel, not because of it.

Much more could be said regarding the erroneous nature of Rome’s gospel. The word “gospel” means “good news.” But in Rome’s case, it’s only bad news; bad news of a damning, unsavable system emptied of grace. Thus, Rome must repent of her heretical gospel and embrace the biblical gospel of God’s grace in justification attained by faith alone in Christ alone. This Reformation season, let us pray to that end.

Why I’m Not Overly Excited About the New Christian Movie ‘Overcomer’

I remember when I started seeing advertisements here and there about the Kendrick brothers’ new movie ‘The Overcomer’. I didn’t have the obligatory “I’ve GOT to see it!” feeling then and I don’t now, for reasons that might become clear in this article.

Please don’t hate me,

This morning I saw on Facebook a post from a friend and one of the Chaplains who serves at the chapel we attend here n Colorado. It was a link to an article from The Christian Post titled  ‘”Overcomer’ opens in top 3 at box office, grosses $8.2M”. I read it and clicked the link to a previous CP article about the movie called “’Overcomer’ doesn’t water down the Gospel, still appeals to nonbelievers, filmmakers say”, which I had previously read. There a few bits from both articles I found interesting that I will share with you.

First of all, let me be really clear that I am not condemning the film,, it’s admirable production value., the churches taking busloads to see it, or any individual who  pays to see it on the big screen, especially non-Christians who watch it and become interested in knowing more about Jesus Christ and saving grace as a result.

On to the subject of my  lack of excitement . Also bear in mind that I have not watched the film yet, a cardinal sin worthy of a certain level of condemnation from some of my Christian brethren. At the same time, the fact that a few remarks from these articles caught my attention just might mean that I have been paying attention while engaged in reading the Bible and studying its doctrine.

Since the article about box office results after the grand opening was the first article I read this morning, Keep in mind that I often read these sorts of articles about Christian film productions with the question “Did it/will it present a clear message of the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

The movie’s theme centers around a basketball coach in a manufacturing town who loses his tem when the plant sits down and a lot of people leave town. He ends up coaching a sport he doesn’t even enjoy  and  ends up realizing that his true identity is found in Christ, not in his own accomplishments. The ‘gospel’ moment in the article was this:

“As previously reported, the film does not shy away from the Kendrick brothers’ Christian message and centers around the message of Ephesians 1 and 2, which focuses on identity. The movie includes a scene where the sinner’s prayer is spoken and touches on things like learning how to pray and how to know God.”

That the sinner’s prayer is spoken could be a good thing, if what precedes the praying is an accurate discussion of WHY it needs praying – that all of , until God saves us, ‘dead in our trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ , as we are told in the first few chapters of Paul’s  letter to the Ephesians, which seems to be the source of the film’s argument that our true identify is in Christ, not our accomplishments.

The article tells us this:

“As previously reported, the film does not shy away from the Kendrick brothers’ Christian message and centers around the message of Ephesians 1 and 2, which focuses on identity. The movie includes a scene where the sinner’s prayer is spoken and touches on things like learning how to pray and how to know God.

“Satan loves to convince people that they’re the opposite of what Ephesians 1, 2 and 3 say they are,” Alex Kendrick told The Christian Post during a sit-down interview with CP earlier this month. “

While I agree with the above sentiment,  it is nowhere found in the referenced Ephesian text. The actual text focuses on our natural state without Christ , (‘dead in our trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ .  Then we wee in the text of Ephesians what are perhaps the most important words in all of scripture “But God……”, followed by a beautiful description of God’s complete sovereignty in the salvation of men, It is God who raises up dead men, makes them alive in Christ , and gives them a new identity.

This new identity in Christ is very real, and the result of God’s intent to save all of his people, through the shed blood of his only Son.. Does ‘Overcomer’ address the ‘dead n trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ pieces of the puzzle?

On to the second article, ‘Overcomer’ doesn’t water down the Gospel, still appeals to nonbelievers, filmmakers say, which preceded It preceded report of the film’s opening by a few weeks.

While it provided a more detailed description of the movie’s theme and story line, it also said this:

““There’s a temptation to water down the truth, and the whole time we’ve been very overt and open about what we believe,” Stephen Kendrick said. “This story doesn’t water down the Gospel, and it’s embedded with the truth. We believe, now more than ever, that the Church needs to hear overt truth.”

Stephen Kendrick tells us that ‘there’s a temptation to water down the truth” (very true), and that ““This story doesn’t water down the Gospel”. (It doesn’t?)

“But we also understand the need to go to nonbelievers and communicate biblical truth in like a parable format as Jesus did. We try to package truth in an inspirational story that anybody can relate to. Everybody’s going to be touched by marriage difficulties at one point or another, or the trials that come with losing your identity. So regardless of what you believe, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll enjoy the movie, even if you don’t know the Lord. We try to include the Gospel in all of our movies so that a nonbeliever will hear it and hopefully come to Christ as a result of it.”

We are told that we all have marriage difficulties and trials that come with losing our identities, which is also true,  Then comes the most troubling tidbit (at least for this guy):

“We try to include the Gospel in all of our movies so that a nonbeliever will hear it and hopefully come to Christ as a result of it.”

Doesn’t the Bible tell us that the unbeliever hates God and cannot please Him (Romans 8:7-8),or even understand  spiritual things and considers them foolishness (which the gospel is) (1 Corinthians 2:14)?

Lastly, no unbeliever truly  comes to Christ to ‘rediscover their identity’. There is one, and only one reason to embrace Christ – for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus died  to fix our sin problem, not our identity crisis. ‘Overcomer’ might be a good movie fort hose who are already believers (like the movie’s main character) and having identity issues, but if it doesn’t discuss the issues of sin and repentance from it for the forgiveness of sins, it’s weak in the proclamation of the gospel. The ‘gospel’ that says Jesus died to solve your identity crisis (or any other temporal problem) can’t save anyone, but it might point them in the right direction.

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!