You’ll have to forgive me, but I am a bit confused. For a while now we’ve heard it said that racial reconciliation is not a gospel issue. That’s been applied more broadly recently. It’s said that doing justice is not a gospel issue.
Essentially the argument is this: Salvation is by grace through faith. Jesus lived in your place. He died to pay for your sin. He was raised from the grave three days later. Repent of your sin and believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. If you add anything to that, you are adding to the gospel.
And all the people said, “Amen!”
I know of no prominent evangelical leader who has rejected any of these fundamental truths. Thabiti Anybwile tweeted out some of his own writings on the topic today encouraging people to compare his writings to the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel. He then said, “I suspect you’ll find that the differences are not theological but practical and political.”
I think that is an accurate assessment. Are there real and substantial differences? Of course there are. But the differences are not theological. They are practical and political differences. These practical and political differences exist even among those who find themselves of the same general mind on this subject. Example: Thabiti voted for Clinton in the most recent presidential election as a way of opposing Trump. I voted for neither as a way of opposing both Trump and Clinton.
But now we have a group led by John MacArthur saying that they are defending the gospel from people who believe the exact same gospel. MacArthur wrote in his blog series, “It’s my conviction that much of the rhetoric about this latest issue [social justice] poses a more imminent and dangerous threat to the clarity and centrality of the gospel than any other recent controversy evangelicals have engaged in.” This tone and language of defending the gospel is present throughout MacArthur’s recently published blog series.
Then you have the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel that was released this week. The introduction equates the disagreement over social justice with the Colossian heresy which was a disagreement over christology. The social justice statement has also been equated to important past statements like the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This comparison also gives the impression that those responsible for drafting the social justice statement believe they are defending the gospel.
But I’m left asking, “Which is it?” Either this is a gospel issue or it isn’t. You can’t say it’s not a gospel issue and then say that you are defending the gospel by opposing any emphasis on social justice.
My intent here is not to minimize the disagreement at all. I think it is a very real disagreement. I think it is a very serious disagreement. But I am tired of orthodox brothers and sisters being accused of heresy because they apply the second greatest commandment differently (and I would argue more holistically) than these self-identified defenders of the gospel.
We would all do well to tone down the rhetoric. We would all do well to listen more than we speak. But if we’re going to do that, the accusations of orthodox believers being a threat to the gospel will have to be set aside.