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  • Tom Strode

Thoughts on the Social Justice Statement (part 2)

The original signers of "The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel" make clear in the introduction their desire is "to clarify certain key Christian doctrines and ethical principles prescribed in God’s Word." They profess they count it a privilege to defend the gospel of Jesus -- as should all who have been redeemed by the only Savior.

As I said in my first post on the statement, its affirmation of the gospel is a particularly well-stated expression of biblical truth worthy of commendation.

And yet part of the article on the gospel offers another case -- like the introduction and article on Scripture -- in which readers can potentially and mistakenly surmise all those with whom the signers disagree have moved away from biblical truth.

The denial portion of the article on the gospel says: "WE DENY that anything else, whether works to be performed or opinions to be held, can be added to the gospel without perverting it into another gospel. This also means that implications and applications of the gospel, such as the obligation to live justly in the world, though legitimate and important in their own right, are not definitional components of the gospel."

Agreed, but does this mean all those who hold a different position on social justice have either perverted the gospel or made living justly in society one of the "definitional components of the gospel?" No, that is not my observation.

It's not difficult to figure out the identities of some of the evangelical leaders and teachers this statement is a response to. Certainly, there are some in the social justice movement who do not adhere to a biblical definition of the gospel, but many of those who differ with this statement's signers on social justice are just as sound as they are on what the gospel is.

I have listened to messages and read posts by some of the teachers in question, and they are faithfully focusing on the gospel and not adding to its meaning. They see the application of the gospel to cross-ethnic relations in a country historically plagued by slavery and still plagued by racism. And it's hard not to see the gospel implication and application when you read Ephesians 2. After the great teaching on the gospel of grace in verses 1 to 9, the apostle Paul explains Christ not only reconciled Jews and Gentiles -- those who had been at enmity -- to God through the cross but "made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall" (Ephesians 2:14).

My hope is we, as evangelicals, can declare our theological positions without -- even unintentionally -- giving the wrong impressions about the positions of brothers and sisters. But maybe the kind of document "The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel" is does not lend itself well to such a goal. Maybe this kind of statement was not the best approach to help the church on this issue. I plan to say more about that later.

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