Thursday, February 7, 2019

5 Point Social Justice Warrior

Some Up-Front, Honest Caveats

It is hard for me to write on social justice, mostly because I’m not a good writer. I’m slow, I sit at the screen staring at nothing for far too long, and I am not a wordsmith either by vocation or inclination. Strike one. I also use my blog as a scratch-pad to develop my ideas (and clarify my thinking), and as a result good writing is nothing more than an accidental byproduct of my panning for gold—strike two.
Strike three is that I’m getting wiser as I age, and wise people don’t feel the need to say everything they think. The more I observe the damaging second order effects from bad decisions the more I want to make no remark at all, which itself may be a bad decision. I was maximally impulsive as a Pelagian, attempted restraint as a Baptist, and am now among theological heavyweights that cause me to think I’d better not say anything at all so people don’t realize I’m out of my depth on pretty much everything.
Additionally, with each theological improvement I have undergone a change in values and thinking that has upgraded my ability to handle complex ideas and ability to draw Scriptural conclusions. When you’re in the small walled garden of Pelagianism the truth can be small and therefore comfortable, and so long as everyone else says the same things life is pleasant. But what I once thought was error (such as infant baptism) I have now come to see simply as my own childishness, and the things I once ridiculed I now value. Own a mistake or two and pretty soon you're leery of making a definitive value judgment that will later turn out to be wrong.

So for these reasons I’ve wanted to ignore the issue and pretend it’s a debate that’s not happening. On the other hand men I respect say this is a gospel issue, and more than anything I want to be faithful to Christ. That means it’s time to roll up my sleeves and deal with this nagging sense of unease the Social Justice Warrior (SJW) ideas makes me feel. Is it Biblical or am I merely a child in this arena? If it is Biblical, then how Biblical? That’s what I’m going to work out, and the place where I’m going to start is the claim that social justice is a re-tread of Liberalism. 

A Very Brief History of Theological Liberalism

In the early 1900s—for whatever reason—it was decided that miracles were stupid and nobody should believe in them (and no, don’t take that at face value, I actually do understand the Transcendentalism movement giving way to the Romantic notion of man as the rational creature etc. etc, I just don’t think the elimination of Christianity necessarily follows). Europeans decided in large numbers that supernaturalism was an evangelical hindrance that needed to be discarded rather than an essential component of the faith to be defended, and in response God sent a World War on them. Their tinkering hadn’t added sophistication to the Scriptures, it removed the heart out of it, for rather than create something that could win people to Christ the liberals had simply poured strychnine into the medicine and salted the ground. Their God was now a God without wrath, bringing men without sin, into a kingdom without judgment, by ministrations of Christ without a cross. Once they all agreed that Christianity must compromise it was all over, take as proof the beautiful empty cathedrals of Europe.

America weathered the collapse pretty well because we’re an industrious and happy people, not a brooding and intellectual one, so it wasn’t until Norman Vincent Peal championed a sunny and optimistic heresy about the power positive thinking that we bought into the great lie of liberalism en masse. Although liberalism wore a different skin for us, the substance was the same, for when Christians struck a compromise with the spirit of the age to win people over, the spirit of the age paid them back by emptying their churches. The mainline protestant churches that accepted the bargain have now nearly finished dying. Liberalism has a short half-life.
Skip ahead to the 1990s and Liberalism looks like Rick Warren lecturing us on how to have our best life now. Christianity is a God who’s cool with everything, a religion without sin (we call them slips or oopsies), a bloodless journey through magical rainbow clouds until our sanctuaries are peopled and we all have houses full of material wealth. Christ Himself is less a person who died to save us and more of a way to add value to our lives. There’s no need to meet with a bleeding savior, no discussion about how God had put on human flesh, there’s only seven tips for highly effective people to apply the latest psychology breakthroughs to their work sphere.

The next iteration was even emptier brand of moral therapeutic deism championed by Joel Osteen, and I don't think anything else needs to be said about that. Then came the openly blasphemous name-it-and-claim-it word-of-faith movement to pile on, and nothing more needs to be said about that being rank infidelity either. But the more interesting thing was the pushback against these seeker sensitive movements that demanded a more sacrificial commitment to faith called the Emergent Church. The Emergents were dedicated to authenticity, openness, and correcting the previous errors, but they had no interest in orthodoxy, and while it looked really strong and attractive on the surface their brand of Christianity wouldn’t last the decade. In the beginning Donald Miller and Rob Bell spoke out against dogmatic doctrines that straightjacketed true faith, and a young Barak Obama delighted America with his practical exposition of the beatitudes. Today none of them are Christian. Worse, I personally witnessed the apostasy first hand when God forced them to choose between orthodoxy and the emergent distinctives. For this I will never forgive Liberalism. 

Don’t conflate with Post-Millennialism

Liberalism insists that it is no more or less than progress, that as things go on we’re progressing and getting closer to the truth, thus making liberalism an inevitability. Our doctrine is getting better, our understanding of Scripture is getting sharper, and as time has gone on we’ve gotten better at stripping away the dross of our faith. And really, apart from the idea that liberalism is progress, the claim is true. God has been walking us forward into His kingdom, and He’s used a wide variety of ideas, cultures, and peoples to get us here. This is a good thing. Because of this diversity God’s glory is going to be sung by 13th century Hungarian peasants and 21st century Wall Street bankers together, each emphasizing a particular aspect of His greatness. It’s a coming to fruition of what He promised in Daniel when the rock that struck the feet of the statue grew until it filled the whole earth. So there’s no reason to be pessimistic or inherently biased against progress, as the Lord God superintends all that takes place.

But there is a good reason to be suspicious that that same seed of unbelief is hiding under the guise of progress, and there is absolutely every reason to think Liberalism is even now lurking among us; as it does in every age. With every new cultural trend comes the same commitment to watering down the faith, almost as if every time God sows a seed Satan is there to throw in weeds with it. It behoove us then to know what liberalism looks like.

Which Brings us to The Present Time

American popular culture views the world through the lens of two categories: Progress & Regress. Either we progress into a more compassionate, hopeful, or tolerant society, or we stand against it and attempt to turn the clock back to a more unjust age. We used to keep slaves, then we abused people with slavish working conditions, then we began to treat them humanely by calling for an end to sweatshops. First we learned to love foreigners, then we learned to love divorced people, then homosexuals, then everyone. The arc of history bends toward justice and all that. The social justice movement, or the Woke movement, or however you want to call it, is driven by this Progress/Regress model that I’m convinced is itself a corruption of Biblical post-millennialism. And according to John MacArthur this is the same liberalism in a new mask, putting its head up for another go-round; the same plague that wiped out huge swathes of Christianity from before. It’s the original lie. It’s the serpent’s smooth words, “You shall be improved by this act of disobedience.” It’s the Sadducees wanting to compromise with the Greeks and Romans and succeeding at taking total control of the Temple. But Jesus rebuked them with the words “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

Now, that took a long time to say very little, but I believe I’m ready to build on that foundation and make some real forward progress in the next post.

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