I don’t often get into political discussions here because this is a website about apologetics for my Christian faith and worldview, but I’ve also practiced apologetics for my political and economic convictions with my kids all their lives. These convictions of course stem from my Christianity, so are an extension of my Christian view of reality. I have sought to persuade my children that they make sense to me, and ought to make sense to them as well. I am convinced my children would no more become left-wing, progressive, liberals than that they would become secularist agnostics or Hindus. Which brings me to Tim Keller and the concept of “social justice.”

Keller is one of my Christian heroes, and has had a significant influence on my thinking and faith. He established a thriving church in the middle of one of the most secular cities on earth (NYC), and made apologetics a vital aspect of his preaching and ministry. He also happened to be teaching at Westminster Seminary where my wife and I met, and was our pre-marital counselor. So I’m not fond of having to criticize him, but criticize I must. According to The Christian Post:

A controversial statement signed by more than 9,000 evangelicals and Christian organizations deploring social justice as a dangerous concept to the Gospel, belittles Christians who talk about race and justice, says Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

You can find Keller’s opinions about this issue more fully explained in a recent New York Times OpEd. You can also read the inimitable Douglas Wilson tear Keller’s arguments to shreds at his Blog and Mablog. There is no need for me to do here what Wilson does so well there, but I will say a few things about the concept of “social justice.”

I read the “controversial statement,“and didn’t find anything in it “controversial” at all (people only attach that word to things they disagree with), especially for conservative, Evangelical Christians. Keller too doesn’t really have a problem with what the statement “is saying, but what it is doing.” For some reason he thinks that affirming and denying certain fundamental biblical principles and criticizing the concept of “social justice” will lead to Christians not caring for the poor and downtrodden, and not take racism seriously. Actually he has it backwards. What it does is show how Christians should do these things but not on the secular, Marxist left’s terms and assumptions. And therein lies the problem.

“Social justice” is not only not a biblical term, it is a profoundly anti-biblical one. The word “justice” is most definitely biblical, being found 130 times in our Bible. How about “social”? Not once. It’s not that we shouldn’t have justice that is social, but what justice means. Inevitably when Christians use terms like “social justice” and those related to it, like “privilege” and “power,” the terms are not informed by biblical assumptions, but by Marxist ones. This is so whether they intend or even know what the assumptions are, or their implications, and whether they use verses from the Bible to justify their use. There is no rescuing these terms from the Cultural Marxists.

“Social justice” is part of what’s known as Cultural Marxism, and Christians are naive, including, as much as it pains me to say, Tim Keller, in thinking they can appropriate its use without the Marxist baggage. I found an excellent historical overview of cultural Marxism from 2007 at American Thinker by Linda Kimball. Read that piece and I think you have to conclude that we should want to stay as far away as we can from any ideas birthed by these Marxist enemies of all things Christian. There are enough exhortations to care for the poor, the needy, and the widows in the Bible that there is no need to appropriate terms used by those who want to destroy Christians and Christianity.

Biblically speaking, justice has nothing to do with changing the material conditions of the poor. If you look at the all the nuances of the meaning of the Hebrew word for justice, mishpat, it means what is supposed to happen in a court of law, fundamental fairness before an objective standard. It’s what a judge should dispense, and how we should treat our fellow human beings. In 21st century American, however, the word justice has been hijacked by the SJWs, or social justice warriors. We’ve seen a bit of what they’re about in these past few weeks in the Supreme Court confirmation of new Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and it has very little to do with justice. It’s best as Christians that we stay away from the term “social justice” and utilize biblical terms for what God commands of our lives in society, just as the writers and signers of the “controversial statement” say.

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