On the Desire to Be Honored by God

A short follow up to my last post on the reciprocal nature of honor, and how God honors us.

While we’ve been conditioned to feel that no one should care what others think of them, because “how you see yourself is all that matters,” that’s really not what the Bible teaches. The Bible affirms that one’s reputation and social honor (that is, the community’s view of your integrity and moral excellence) is actually very important. The problem is not in caring about image, reputation, honor, having a good name; the problem is in having the wrong standards, and the wrong social context in view. The social context we ought to have in mind is Christ’s kingdom; and God consistently turns the world’s standard on its head.

We ought to seek the name and recognition that comes from God in return for faithful service to him. We ought to long for that commendation, “well done, good and faithful servant.” And we ought to yearn to please the Lord to such a degree that the desire for eternal and God-given honor outweighs any real concern for the opinions of the world. But none of that means honor doesn’t matter… quite the opposite.

This article was also brought to my attention as pertinent to what I’m discussing here. The whole series may be a helpful place to start to gain a fuller perspective on the matter of honor and shame in the biblical worldview. However, as per usual, be wary of overstatements and whatnot as you peruse the site. Still, a helpful resource it may well be.

1 Sam. 2:7–8; Psalm 58:11; 62:7; Prov. 21:21; 22:1, 4; Luke 14:12–14; Rom. 2:6–10; 2 Cor. 5:9–10; Eph. 6:8; 1 Pet. 2:6–7,12; 1 John 2:28; Rev. 22:12

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Two More on Social Justice

Two more issues in the whole matter (I mentioned before another crucial distinction) are the definition of justice and the direction of obligation. The definition of justice is not what progressives would have us make it, and this is crucial in understanding the whole conversation. Justice is rendering to each person that which he is due. It’s unjust to murder you because you have a God-given right to life, for lack of a better term (“rights” has been grossly misunderstood and misused of late). You can’t appropriate my iPhone without my permission, because it’s mine, and I have a right to my own property. But do I have a judicial obligation to send $20 to a village in Africa to help provide them with clean water? Well, no; but it would be kind. That’s not justice, that’s charity. The social justice movement has so conflated the two that when they speak of “justice,” they almost unswervingly are referring to a matter of charity, or of skewed equity, but rarely matters of actual justice and injustice.

By “direction of obligation,” I simply mean that to argue that caring for the poor is not a matter of justice in the strictest sense, is not to say that we have no obligation in that area, only that our obligation is not to man, but to God as someone who calls on us to have compassion.

This article explains well the necessary distinction between justice and charity, or, to use another biblical word, between justice and grace. This, in fact, has serious implications for our understanding of the gospel itself, and that’s exactly why this distinction is so imperative.

Giving your money to the poor is not justice; it’s mercy. Taking other people’s money by force (whether through the government or any other means) and giving it to the poor is neither justice nor mercy; it’s injustice.

The folks at Cripplegate have made this crucial distinction before, and they say it again in this article critiquing those who claim that the SJ&G Statement is opposing the poor, with an excellent point about the validity of a “preach the gospel” approach to social change.

Tim Keller is one of the primary leaders of Christian social justice compromise, even though he seems to be oblivious to the fact that he’s one of the men the SJ&G Statement is specifically addressing. He recently responded to a question about his opinion on the statement. He danced around for a few minutes spewing nonsense, and this critique of his comments is well worth reading through.

Here are a few other articles of note:

Races Don’t Reconcile, Hearts Do

Does the Bible Require Wealth Redistribution and Equalization?

The Theological Problem with Tim Keller’s So-Called Social Justice


 

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My Philosophy Summarized

If I were to try to summarize my socio-political philosophy at the level of first principles in one (long) sentence, it would look something like this. I’ll probably have to return to this with a few more posts to unpack it practically, but here it is at the highest level.

I believe that neither individual nor society can long maintain a peaceful and quiet life—which ought to be the aspiration and pursuit of all men (1 Thess. 4:11-12; 2 Thess. 3:12; 1 Tim. 2:2)—without seeking to cultivate, within both themselves and others, wisdom and virtue, which are inextricably tied to and derivative of a firm belief in absolute, transcendent standards of truth, goodness, and beauty.

What is the Church’s Social Responsibility?

I believe the primary mission of the local church to the lost is to provide not material, but spiritual relief by proclaiming the good news of eternal life by grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In times of crisis, our primary mission as the local church is to offer comfort, hope, and biblical counsel to help people respond to trials and suffering in a way that glorifies God and helps them grow to better know, love, and follow Christ.

This position is rather unpopular in our current climate, especially in light of the recent conversations surrounding social justice and the gospel. One of the issues that I’ve seen rise to the surface in the midst of the vitriolic attack, debate, and defense of the SJ&G Statement, is a failure to distinguish between an individual Christian’s responsibility and interaction with the world, and the local church as a corporate body holding the keys of the kingdom. That distinction is crucial in understanding our role in the community, culture, political sphere, and world.

It’s challenging to sort through the various factors at play in seeking to understand the church’s social responsibility, and especially difficult to articulate this position, for a number of reasons. I encourage you to prayerfully consider this list of resources as you seek to understand the church’s responsibility, our responsibility as individual Christian citizens, and the relationship between evangelism and material aid.

The Social Responsibility of the Local Church and the Mission of Missions

Series on Christians, the Church, and Culture

Are All Biblical Commands Corporate?

My Church Loves the Poor, So I Don’t Have To

Discontinuity, Israel, and the Church

Mercy Ministry is not Kingdom Work

Responding to Tragedy by Giving Money (practical steps)

The Call to Minister to the Poor

Dispensationalism, Keller, and the Poor

Biblical Pillars of Mercy Ministry

Examples of Mercy Ministry

What’s Wrong With the Recent Evangelical “Social Justice” Movements?

“Churches” or “Christians” and Culture?

How Christians and Churches Prioritize Going About the Doing of Good

Transforming Culture with a Messiah Complex

The Social Responsibility of the Church (PDF by Benware)

Problems with Social Action in Missions (Cripplegate Series):

Missions: Ecclesiology with a Passport

2 Problems with Social Action in Missions

8 Problems with the Theory of “Social Action” Missions

8 Problems [part 2]

So, What is the Mission of Missions?

More Than You Wanted on Social Justice

The recent Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel has sparked an abundance of articles both in praise and critique of the statement at various levels, and from various angles. Allow me to point you toward some of the notables for those who are following this conversation or would like to understand the issue in more depth.

First, Tom Ascol wrote (on the day the statement was released) some short reflections on his involvement with the conception of the document.

I must also begin by recommending the articles being put out by the SJ&G website itself. Primarily from the original team involved with the statement, there are some excellent articles on the site addressing different aspects of the social justice controversy in more detail. So far, they have published some good articles on things like the nature of division and unity in the church, the problem with being “woke,” and the sufficiency of Scripture. You can find all the articles here.

And don’t forget about John MacArthur’s recent series on the fallacies of social justice.

Toby Sumpter has given a simple, but thoughtful and very helpful defense of the statement in this post—correcting the detractors, but being careful not to make the statement more than it was meant to be.

There has, of course, been a tsunami of articles attacking the statement. I’m going to, for the purposes of this post, ignore the responses that have come from those who are precisely the ones the statement is addressing. I’ll also leave out those responses that are simply unreasonable. However, there have been a few articles that have reasonable and helpful critiques that are worth being aware of.

Here is the first article I saw, in which Steve Hays explains why he decided not to sign the statement.

T. Neil Daugherty gives some thoughts from a Christian Libertarian perspective here.

Michael Bird also offers some critiques of the statement here. As I’ve said before, Bird is one of my favorite theologians (of those with whom I often disagree). His critiques are worth reading, but again, he falls into some of the same traps as other “balanced” voices. For example, Bird notes that salvation includes good news for the marginalized and oppressed. Of course, the problem in this whole conversation is that most of the players seem to be running on established assumptions concerning the definition of “marginalized,” the identity of the “oppressed” groups, and the kind and severity of the oppression. That’s precisely what Aniol and others would like to challenge.

Bird also mishandles Luke 4:16-21, but it’s a common interpretation he goes with. There, and several other times in the article, Bird betrays a faulty hermeneutic that leans postmillennial. He also suggests that any attempt to pursue true justice necessarily entails the approach and philosophy of the social justice movement.

To quote James: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27 NIV). To do that kind of stuff requires a social justice approach!

Not quite. Again, Bird misunderstands the SJ&G Statement’s very point of contention—that a genuine pursuit of justice does not mandate the methodology and “approach” of the social justice craze, and that, in fact, we may radically differ on our definitions of what justice will even look like for various individuals and groups.

That being said, Bird then has some quite helpful criticisms of Union Seminary’s radical progressivist response to the SJ&G Statement. Even when I disagree with his stance, I’ve always appreciated Bird’s ability to honestly push against both sides and look for the balance.

In this post, the author addresses two of the more prominent negative responses to the Statement, and explains why she decided to sign it.

Along that vein, Doug Wilson has also responded to McDurmon’s critique with some helpful thoughts of his own here, here, and (a valuable and insightful addition to the discussion) here.

Josh Buice explains his involvement with the statement here, and writes on feminism, liberation theology, and the sufficiency of Scripture, here.

And I’ll end, for now, by directing you back to an article on the SJ&G website again.

Some find The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel unhelpful and behind the times. “It is not sensitive to the present moment” they say. “It is not strategic” is the word on the street. But our Lord did not tell us to go into all the world and “be strategic.” He told us to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all his commands. A rebellious world has always found that commission distasteful.

Can Christians be unnecessarily combative? Of course. But the fact that some have leveled that claim against the careful and measured statement on social justice and the gospel warrants what theologians in days gone by have called the hearty horse laugh. — Jared Longshore

I’m sure I’ll come back around to the topic a few more times. But what about you? Have you found any of the discussion surrounding social justice and the SJ&G Statement helpful? Frustrating? Enlightening? What are some other articles, authors, and pastors that you’ve found to offer valuable wisdom?

 


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