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A Tale of Two Social Justice Statements
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, September 28, 2018
Alf Cengia

A Tale of Two Social Justice Statements - the ongoing Spiritual Warfare. Attacks on God's Word are as old as God's spoken and written Word.

In all likelihood whenever "fundamentalists" recall the Serpent's original deception in the Garden of Eden, more enlightened, progressive Christians, will shake their heads in pity (or frustration). You see, they don't believe that everything written in the Bible is necessarily so.

This division regarding biblical inerrancy was articulated clearly, recently, within two different statements on social justice. Here's a brief summary of the situation, to put it into context:

The first statement was initiated by people like John MacArthur and James White. They were concerned that the gospel was being compromised by suggestions that one's salvation is also determined by one's attitude to certain Social Justice issues, rather than exclusively faith in Christ (i.e., Social Justice Gospel).

The second statement was a response to the first and generated by Union Theological Seminary. It affirms that the gospel is intrinsically woven into the fabric of social justice. There's a strong inference that some who oppose their statement use Scripture to marginalize certain groups.

As a side issue in the social justice debate - one prominent evangelical bemoans Christian criticism of LGBTQ. Other sins don't receive the same emphasis. He misses the point. Progressive Christian groups are actively campaigning for homosexuality to be accepted as sinless. If they had advocated for adultery, it would get the same attention.

However, I don't want to focus on this debate here. Rather, I want to highlight each statement of biblical inerrancy/errancy. One group states:

WE AFFIRM that the Bible is God’s Word, breathed out by him. It is inerrant, infallible, and the final authority for determining what is true (what we must believe) and what is right (how we must live). All truth claims and ethical standards must be tested by God’s final Word, which is Scripture alone.

It goes on to affirm that Christian belief, character and conduct cannot be dictated to other than the Scripture. It rejects postmodern ideologies derived through modern concepts such as intersectionality, radical feminism and critical race theory.

On a positive note, Union Theological Seminary's response affirms that Scripture proclaims Christ's resurrection without error. But elsewhere it gets murky. For example:

The Living God, through the written Word, commands us to love God and our neighbors, which includes combating injustices such as racism, xenophobia, sexism, misogyny, ableism, transphobia, and homophobia.

There are two obvious implications here: one is that the Bible allegedly doesn't condemn things like homosexuality; secondly, those who advocate against homosexuality are homophobic. The following broad-brush, emotive affirmations really get to the core of things:

WE AFFIRM that biblical inerrancy is theologically untenable and becomes a moral evil when it allows Scripture to be weaponized against women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and people of other faiths. WE REJECT the use of Scripture, which has passed through generations of imperfect human hands, to marginalize other children of God. (Emphasis mine)

In case you still don't see it, check this tweet from Union Seminary:

While divinely inspired, we deny the Bible is inerrant or infallible. It was written by men over centuries and thus reflects both God's truth and human sin & prejudice. We affirm that biblical scholarship and critical theory help us discern which messages are God's.

In other words YOU (the enlightened Christian) decide what's right and wrong. But only when and if you've received all the relevant social justice memos - plus signed off on them!

Tyler Robbins of Sharper Iron nails it:

Union Theological Seminary is not a Christian institution. It's an incubator of leftist ideology and rank unbelief. This clarification, below [see the article link above], speaks for itself. It could only have been written in an echo-chamber of “elitism,” borne out of a worldview entirely disconnected from Scriptural revelation.

According to UTS, fundamentalists want to believe "the Bible is *literally* God’s word" because otherwise "faith becomes a messier affair." They assert:

It’s easier to simply believe that the Bible is a plain record of the divine, that it clearly and concisely states what Christians should believe. In a world that feels so chaotic, biblical infallibility can provide distinct comfort. But comfort and truth aren’t synonymous.

These elitist progressives have their collective fingers on the social justice pulse - in doing so they have to downgrade the Bible. This liberal Christianity is bleeding into mainstream evangelicalism.

They often share tweets from writer, speaker, self-professed progressive Christian teacher, Rachel Held Evans. At time of writing, Evans' latest book is called "Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again."

Despite the auspicious title, Evans' aim is to mock a literal understanding of Scripture. For example, she writes that miraculous of Jesus' healing of the sick and walking on water are hard (for her) to believe (p 176).

Yet why couldn't a God who made all things also work these miracles? We could spend several columns on just this topic alone. One red flag (at least for me) is when Evans opines that too much attention is given to Christ's work the cross, in contrast to the "other things" Christ came to do. She writes:

Jesus did not simply die to save us from our sins; Jesus lived to save us from our sins. His life and teachings show us the way to liberation. (p 155)

While UTS and RHE (hopefully) affirm the resurrection, they are reticent to acknowledge the need for the cross for the Substitutionary Atonement of our sins. Progressives are sending out a different "gospel" message (Gal 1:8-9).

Evans claims that what happened at the cross has been the subject of wonder and debate for centuries etc. However, it's only a debatable issue if one rejects plain biblical statements in favor of self-determination. 

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21

Puritan John Owen has stated that the Scriptures were written to glorify God (Doxology) and the need for, and way to, salvation (Soteriology). Scripture's purpose is to engender faith:

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Rom 10:16-17

I'd add that God reveals His glorious eternal plan for the earth, heaven, Israel and mankind in the Bible. What happens to us if we cannot trust God's Word? One product of this doubting and questioning is atheism. Yet even if it doesn't come to that, Christians stand to lose their solid footing in faith and the wondrous joy and hope found in God's revelation.

The Bible is a road-map for the Christian's navigation through a perilous, fallen world. Think of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Don't let the world navigate you into hell. Trust in God's Word, not man.


Further resources
"The Pastor's Mandate" II Timothy 4:1-4
Scripture Contains God's Word
A Confused Justin Welby

About Alf Cengia 

Last week: On Dead Bodybuilders and Immortality

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