Justified Before God

free-gift

Guest post by Jeff Mindler. [Jeff graduated from Lancaster Bible College in 2014 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies, as well as an M.A. in Counseling. He currently works as the Event Coordinator for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in Lancaster, PA. His wife, Joe’l, and he worship at Grace Baptist Church of Millersville in Millersville, PA where he serves as an elder. He enjoys studying several different disciplines including Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, Apologetics, Church History, and Practical Theology, while having a keen and passionate love for Apologetics and Systematic Theology in particular.]

“Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”[1]Such is the answer to question 37 in the Baptist Catechism, which mirrors the Westminster Shorter Catechism on the subject of justification.

The beauty of a catechism is that it summarizes Christian doctrine and provides a framework for thinking through a subject like justification. Justification is a doctrine that lies at the heart of the Christian faith, but one that is unfortunately often overlooked or misunderstood and that to the detriment of those who do so. Justification was at the heart of the protestant reformation in the 16th century, and is still a topic of vital importance today. With such an important topic, it is critical to have clarity on the subject, and the above catechism does this by providing a brief and Biblical definition that is easy to memorize while also providing Scriptural texts that accompany each question and answer. We would all do well to memorize this question and answer.

In this post I want to highlight one important element regarding the doctrine of justification as outlined by the Baptist catechism question and answer 37, namely that justification is an act of God’s free grace.Justification is an act of God (Rom 5:1, 8:33), not something man works himself to or accomplishes himself. Justification is what God does, not what man does. It is not a process that man undergoes overtime but is a declaration by God that He makes regarding the status of that person: God declares them just. James White elaborates on this more fully in his definition of justification, which includes all of the major elements found in the doctrine:

To be justified means to be declared right with God by virtue of the remission of sins accomplished by Jesus: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, and the believers sins are imputed to Christ, who bears them in His body on the tree. Justification is from beginning to end a divine action, based upon the mercy of God the Father and the work of Jesus Christ the Son.[2]

Pay close attention to the fact that justification is centered upon what God does, not upon what man does. Romans 8:33 states, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (ESV. Emphasis mine) Justification is fundamentally an act of God, a declaration upon sinful man, not a process that man undergoes that can be undone and that therefore he would need to be re-justified. It is a once for all declaration based upon the finished work of Christ on our behalf and therefore results in our being accepted in the sight of a Holy God (Rom 5:1).

May we all pause to consider the great comfort it is to know that we do not earn our justification; rather we are justified before God by His grace alone and receive it through faith alone and therefore, all the glory for our justification belongs to God alone. That is good news indeed!

[1]The Baptist Catechism. Question and Answer 37.

[2]White, James. The God Who Justifies. 74

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Apologetics Curriculum Finished!

victoryI just finished writing a 35-week apologetics curriculum for Positive Action for Christ publishers. This project has taken me three years to complete. I thought I would never finish. In some ways it was harder to write than my doctoral dissertation.

It will be published by 2020 and will initially be formatted for Christian schools. It is written for juniors in high school up through sophomores in college. It will eventually be cut in half and edited for church use in two 15-lesson studies.

Thank you, faithful Father, for strengthening me for this task. I pray that many thousands of people will be equipped and encouraged to engage unbelievers with the glorious gospel of Christ through this study.

I am taking my wife out for dinner tonight to celebrate!

Cancel Christmas?

cancel christmas
A French friend of mine who teaches at a seminary in southern France emailed this today:
“The bishop of Amiens, a city in Northern France, recently published an article calling for support of the people who are in tragic social needs. This support, he offers, could be very simply stated. We should cancel Christmas. No church service, no celebration, no dinner with family and friends. He concludes:
‘The shout of despair throughout France is incompatible with the mystery of Christmas, with the hope of Advent, with the reception of an alien child…’
 
“[But this] is precisely why we must celebrate Christmas. In times like these, to gather together as the people of the coming Savior is the greatest act of protest we can undertake. To celebrate Christmas is to protest the claim that evil is the last word. It is a radical opposition to the forces of despair and injustice. To celebrate Christmas is to be engaged in one of the greatest acts of counter-cultural activity.”
Amen!

Christianity is Not Better than Other Religions

religion

Many Christians labor under the illusion that the way to share their faith is to argue that Christianity is better than other religions, belief systems or worldviews. They generally do this in one of two ways. Some argue from a therapeutic approach—that the Christian God gives better benefits than other deities, such as peace, hope, joy, happiness, or meaning. Jesus can make you happy, healthy, and (maybe) wealthy. He will fix all your problems and make your life better. Others utilize a cultural approach—that a Judeo-Christian foundation establishes better cultures than do non-Christian foundations. We can have a stronger nation and keep our liberties only if we are generally Christian. While some of these things may be true, this is not the way to present the gospel.

Consistent with New Testament practice we ought to argue that Christianity is true and that all other religions, belief systems, or worldviews are false.Why should we take such an approach?

Two reasons.

First, the gospel is a historical claim, and historical claims are either true or false. Contrary to the pontifications of many skeptics and atheists, history is squarely on the side of the central claims of Christianity—that Jesus taught that he was God in the flesh, performed public miracles that validated his claim, that he died on the cross under the authority of Pontius Pilate, and that three days later his tomb was empty because he rose again. The Apostle Paul himself argued that the validity of the Christian faith depended on the historicity of these events. Paul presented a falsifiability test for Christianity, the highest form of epistemic reliability (historical testability). If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then Christianity is not true (1 Cor. 15). No other falsifiability tests are offered in any other religion.

Second, to argue that the Christian faith is better is to argue for an aesthetic preference. The unbeliever hears this claim as your preference or opinion. She hears your claim as no different than, “Chocolate is better than vanilla.” Inner experiences cannot be validated as true or false. The postmodern philosopher, Richard Rorty, argued that religious claims cannot be used as arguments for a proposition’s truth because there is no way to verify them. In response, theologian Michael Horton asked Rorty if the same would go for a case for Christianity based on historical facts. Rorty replied, “That would be a whole different thing. I have never heard Christianity presented in that way.” How sad.

How many people that we try to reach would have to wrestle more with the claims of the Christian gospel if we presented it this way? Certainly, there are many benefits and blessings that come from being united with Christ in salvation. But the unbelieving heart often lives with the illusion that it already possesses joy, hope, and peace. And the danger of the therapeutic approach is that an unbeliever can “pray a prayer” or intellectually assent to the facts of Christ, without truly repenting and believing, just to obtain the benefits. As we know, that is not a genuine conversion. The core of our gospel message cannot be therapeutic.

Further, the danger of the cultural approach is that it “better” is still an opinion. Increasingly, people around the world do not believe that a Judeo-Christian foundation to a culture is better. If a person rejects the gospel because she doesn’t believe in traditional morality, she has rejected it for the wrong reasons. And if we “share our faith” this way, we depart from the New Testament model and find ourselves guilty of spreading a false gospel.

When we present the life and work of Christ as the core of the gospel message, however, the unbeliever is faced with either believing in Jesus or not. He either accepts that he is a sinner or not. He either accepts that the crucified and risen Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God, or he doesn’t. If he does not, we can continue to argue for the gospel on biblical and historical grounds. One thing the historical approach does not often result in is a false profession simply to get the benefits. Rather, the unbeliever responds to the gospel based on its central claims about Jesus.

Jesus is not better than other gods; He is the only true God. Grace is not better than works; it is the only way to be reconciled to God. Christianity is not better than other religions; it is the only true religion.

Can We Trust the Gospels?

Can We Trust the Gospels

Can We Trust the Gospels? The Historical Basis for the Christian Faith

Many Christians are unaware of the unique nature of the Christian faith. Since most world religions are not based on historical events, and their beginnings cannot be anchored in any verifiable history, Christianity is unusual. And among those few religions that are based in historical events, the character of the founder, the manner in which the events supposedly happened, and the lack of verified supernatural signs makes Christianity completely unique.

When someone asks why you are a Christian, your answer shouldn’t be merely because of an experience or a perceived benefit, such as joy, peace or hope. Many adherents of other religions testify of experiences and benefits. No, your answer should be something along the lines of, “I believe that Jesus lived, died, and rose again, proving that he is the Son of God as the Bible reports.” That is, our faith should rest entirely in a verifiable historical event, because that is how Paul explained it in 1 Corinthians 15. If the resurrection didn’t happen then Christianity is not true. If it did, nothing can stand against it.

The historical reliability of the Bible matters. But how does the average Christian learn the historical facts about the Bible, especially the Gospels without having to wade through highly academic works?

A new book by Cambridge University professor, Peter Williams, provides a handy reference for the multitude of verifiable historical facts in the Gospels. Can We Trust the Gospels?(Crossway, 2018) is the distillation of many years of research in New Testament studies by one of the foremost scholars in the world. This little volume of 160 pages will amaze the reader with details he has never noticed before in the New Testament. In addition to explaining the testimony about Jesus from non-Christian sources, Williams displays the many ways in which the Gospels demonstrate that they could not have been written later than the first century in another part of the Roman Empire.

Although we live in an age when we have easy access to advance information about anywhere we go, we still tend to be surprised by aspects of geography and culture whenever we travel. Now imagine if someone asked you to write a story about events in a distant place you had never visited, and you were not allowed to use the Internet for research. Even with the wonderful libraries we have today, you would struggle to get all the information together to write a detailed story that fit what a local person would know. This is because of the many aspects of your destination you would have to get right, and getting only most of them right would not make a story sound authentic. You would have to investigate its architecture, culture, economics, geography, language, law, politics, religion, social stratification, weather, and much more. You would even need to ensure that the characters in your tale were given names that were plausible for the historical and geographical setting of your narrative. All this requires effort and is not easily done.

Right down to details of architecture, culture, economics, geography, language, law, politics, religion, social stratification, weather, and more, the Gospels do not shy away from a full-orbed, comprehensive description of life in first century Palestine surrounding the events on which they are focused. Even the mention of names in the Gospels reveals that only someone who lived in that society at that time would have known the common names of the day. Williams reminds us that there was no internet to look up details of the world of Jesus. Many of the details are never mentioned anywhere else in ancient literature, so knowledge of them would have had to have been from firsthand experience.

Knowledge of the location of tax collectors, local botany, unusual customs, local languages, the personalities of characters in the Gospel accounts, and many other particulars are shown to be still further evidence of the reliability of the NT. Williams presents a kind of cumulative case apologetic to show that criticism of the historical reliability of the Gospels is laughable. It is simply too far-fetched to argue that they were written later and in another place.

This little book will be a tremendous help to the average Christian who wants to strengthen her own faith in the Scriptures and a valuable resource to put in the hands of someone searching for answers. I highly recommend it!

 

Doing Justice and the Gospel, Part 4: Applications

[This is the last of a four-part series on doing justice and the gospel. See parts 1-3 for context here and here and here.]

Application of Justice and Injustice

  • It is unjust to allow some people to break a just law because of their status, whether politicians or immigrants, celebrities, juveniles, or disgruntled citizens.
  • It is unjust to withhold information or tell only part of a story to manipulate the public, as the media often does, or to escape just punishment as public figures often do.
  • It is unjust to circumvent due process or the rule of law because we are outraged at a wrong.
  • It is unjust to convict an innocent person because we want someone to pay for wrongdoing.
  • It is unjust to forcibly take taxpayers’ $ for immoral purposes such as abortion, abortifacients, and sexually immoral causes.
  • It is unjust to include sexual perversion as a human rights issue alongside genuine human rights issues such as racism, persecution, genocide, FGM, human trafficking, etc.
  • It is unjust to bind the hands of law enforcement and then complain that they don’t do enough.
  • It is unjust to ask law enforcement to risk their lives, witness unspeakable horrors on a regular basis, deal with the most wicked, evil, dangerous people, endure constant harassment, hatred, and scrutiny, and then provide them with little mental health counseling and minimal pay, all the while expecting them to always make the right decision in split-second, life-or-death situations that will be scrutinized by millions within seconds of the event.
  • It is unjust to not hold law enforcement to a high standard of integrity, behavior and speech regarding treatment of those they encounter.
  • It is unjust to judge all cases of police discharging their weapons as police brutality before all the facts have been revealed.
  • It is unjust to tolerate corruption in our police, or attorneys, or politicians and to fail to prosecute them when they break the law.
  • It is unjust for men to sexually harass women, to pressure them, to make comments about their bodies, to touch them in an unwanted way, to use sexual innuendos, to intimidate them, or intentionally make them feel unsafe, vulnerable, belittled, demeaned, or objectified.
  • It is unjust for women to do any of the same to men.
  • It is unjust to place artificial standards on a woman who has experienced sexual abuse before she is believed, such as “she should have reported it right away,” she should have stopped it somehow, she should remember all the details of this traumatic event in which she thought she would die, etc.
  • It is unjust to allow our inclination to believe those who report abuse to drift into automatic conviction of the accused on the spot without due process.
  • It is unjust for us to see injustice and fail to speak up about it. God calls us to courage and a prophetic voice in this world.

All this goes to show that JUSTICE IS DIFFICULT AND COMPLEX, because we are not God, who knows all things and who judges impartially. We should continue to pray and advocate for justice whenever we hear of injustices.

Doing Justice and the Gospel, Part 3: Principles to Guide Our Practice of Justice

[This is the third of a four-part series on doing justice and how it relates to the gospel. See the first and second parts here and here.]

church diversity 2

Principles for doing justice and the gospel:

  1. Hermeneutically, we must make distinctions between the combined political/religious institution of OT Israel and the Church today as a counter-cultural entity in a secular nation. The church is given to make disciples, which includes personal transformation leading to social transformation, but the church has not been given the task of cultural transformation apart from the gospel.
  2. Social justice, as the world proclaims it, can divide us from one another by setting types of people against one another, destroying our unity in Adam as fallen, and our unity in Christ as redeemed, where there are to be no more distinctions. In the church, masters stood next to slaves, Jews next to Barbarians, men next to women. At this foundational level, hatred and separation were transformed by their unity in Christ. Identity politics will necessarily continue to fragment until there is no shared experience at all. Feminist v Womanist thought. Feminist v. Transgenders
  3. The gospel frees us from false guilt, such as “You are guilty because you are white, or male, or middle-class, or educated, or tall.” It also frees us from false gospels, which say that you can never escape your guilt, or that you must denounce yourself and make unspecified reparations to make atonement. The gospel does not call us to conviction about who we are or how God made us, but for words, thoughts, and deeds that are clear and specific violations of his commands. The gospel says I am guilty because I have sinned against God and I can be forgiven because Jesus, the just one, was punished on my behalf. If God convicts you of a specific act of injustice, then repent and God will graciously forgive you.
  4. The implication of the gospel is that in my personal life I should be the Good Samaritan who sacrifices significantly and materiallyto help others in need when my life intersects theirs. I should seek out those in need around the world and do what I can individually and as part of the community of the church to do justice and love mercy. This will look somewhat different for each person and church. Exodus 23:4–5 reminds us of our responsibility to love our neighbor: “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates youlying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
  5. Addressing matters of injustice is a powerful means to demonstrate the love of Christ and open doors for the gospel. Churches in America that ignore injustice cut themselves off from reaching their communities! Doing good is mentioned 12 times in 1 Peter as a way to deal with suffering in a hostile culture. One way wealthy, suburban churches can do justice is to support churches in the inner city who are faithfully reaching their communities.
  6. The goal of doing justice is to glorify God by bringing Shalom to people’s lives. As a former pastor in an urban church, I witnessed firsthand the way the gospel transformed, individuals, then families, and even neighborhoods. When God transforms hearts and changes families, communities are blessed as a result. The church is supposed to be a foretaste of the justice, mercy, love, compassion, truth, and care we will experience when Christ returns.
  7. When justice cannot be obtained, Christians must have a robust theology of suffering to be able to live triumphantly (1 Peter). We are called to follow the example of Jesus who suffered the greatest injustice, and yet did not revile his persecutors. If justice cannot be obtained, there is the reassurance that God will eventually bring justice (2 Thess. 1:5-7; Rom. 12:19). We are called to dojustice, but not to bringjustice—only God can do that. Our hope should not be in fixing the world, but in the return of Christ, who will restore all things. God will justly judge every person at the end of time. To do away with Hell, for example is to remove the reassurance of final judgment on the wicked.
  8. Social Justice, as is practiced by those who reject Christ, is almost completely devoid of New Testament Christianity, and has the power to distort the gospel from a deliverance from the guilt of sin through repentance in Christ, to a deliverance from guilt for mere existence through activism. It reduces Christianity to an ethic of ambiguous love, where Jesus is merely incidental. American Christianity walked this path 100 years ago, and it proved impotent and disastrous.

In the final post of this series, I will make some specific statements about injustice in our country and our world today.

Doing Justice and the Gospel, Part 2: Justice According to Leviticus 19

exploitation

[This is the second of a four-part series on doing justice and how it relates to the gospel. See the first part here .]

The laws that God lays down in Leviticus contribute to the overall picture of justice in the Bible. Let’s take a look at one passage that is rich in instruction about doing justice. There are many passages in the Bible that address justice, but Leviticus 19 touches on a number of concepts related to justice that are especially pertinent to doing justice in our world today.

One thing to notice about Leviticus 19 is that it is set in the context of commands forbidding Israel from walking in the customs of Canaan or do as the Canaanites do (18:3, 30 and 20:23). In other words, Israel was not to take its cues regarding justice from the surrounding culture. So, while we may be made aware of social ills and injustices by unbelievers, we will not be able to agree fully on the interpretation, causes, and solution for the problems. The unbeliever’s solution will not contain the gospel, and so will be only partial at best and destructive at worst.

The commands for justice and mercy in this passage are also set in the context of the repeated phrase, “I am the LORD.” Sixteen times this phrase is included to remind readers that the ultimate authority in matters of justice is God. Justice is done by God’s people for Him and according to his revealed directions. Justice is an act of worship to God, just as injustice is an act of rebellion and rejection of God’s authority.

I will focus on five principles of justice in this text, even though there are others. First, justice includes material concern for the indigent (v. 9-10). The poor referenced here were landless people and so had no means of survival apart from the mercy of others. They were not people who refused to work and just wanted a check in the mail. When we talk about issues of justice related to poverty, we must define who are the vulnerable poor.

In the United States in 2015 about 6% of the population had an income-to-poverty ratio that put them in the category of extreme poverty, which is a combination of inadequate food, clothing, and shelter, little or no healthcare, and inadequate education for children. Another 7% were moderately poor, with only slightly better conditions. This amounts to around 42 million Americans who live on less than $17.00 per day. When we look globally, approximately one billion people live on $1.00 per day, and another one billion live on $2.00 per day.

God’s heart for the truly poor is evident in his instructions not to harvest all the produce in their fields or vineyards to give the poor an opportunity to survive. But this act of charity was not a do-nothing handout. The indigent had to work to obtain these resources. They had to go to the fields and vineyards and harvest the remaining food. God does not diminish the created order of work for people in need. Because work brings dignity and fulfills the Creation Mandate to cultivate and subdue the earth, it is a positive and productive requirement for the needy to do what they can for themselves when receiving charity. If a poor person does not like the kind of work required to receive charity, he may be motivated to seek greater opportunities to provide a better life for himself. “The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on” (Prov. 16:26 NIV).

Second, justice requires complete, absolute honesty in every dealing (v. 11-12). Stealing, cheating, and lying were all forbidden. That means that deception, exaggeration, or misrepresentation should not be tolerated in a just society. This is especially true, because those who are weak (socially, economically, and educationally) are the most hurt by dishonesty, as they often have no recourse. Complete honesty benefits everyone, except the deceptive person. All these sins are rooted in greed—they get a person some benefit in an improper way, often by defrauding them. As a teenager I worked for my father who was a stone mason. I remember the fury I felt when we finished a job that took us months, and the homeowner refused to pay the last half of the bill simply because he knew my father couldn’t afford a lawyer to sue for the money. It was nothing more than theft and fraud, and God warns wealthy employers not to withhold the pay of their employees for any reason (James 5:1-6). Such an action is abhorrent to God, and he will exact justice from the wicked.

Another injustice mentioned here is swearing falsely on God’s name (taking God’s name in vain), God is clear that he will not consider a person who takes his name in vain to be innocent (Exod. 20:7). These laws equally applied to government officials, employers, civic and religious leaders, as well as employees, students, immigrants, and citizens.

Third, justice refuses to take advantage of others (v. 13-14). Exploitation, extortion, bullying, manipulation, oppression, and blackmail of any kind are forbidden. Most of us may not consider ourselves to be in a position to do these things to anyone, but there are applications of this principle that are more common. Tormenting, mocking, belittling, and name-calling reveal a cruel heart that does not fear God, and thinks that no one sees or will help. Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian and later Prime Minister of the Netherlands, promoted a robust view of justice when he defined a just society as one that pursues for others security from drastic imbalances of power in their basic relations. Again this is important because the weak are most often exploited in an unjust society. Proverbs 23:10–11 reminds us, “Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.”

Fourth, justice includes judging everyone by the same standard (v. 15-16, 35-36). This is true regardless of their economic, ethnic, educational, gender, or national stations in life. We should never let a person’s social or economic position influence a decision, whether in personal dealings, or in the legal system. No favoritism or partiality is allowed. Further, I should see anyone accused of wrongdoing as a neighbor, not as an enemy. Justice is rooted in love for neighbor, even if the just penalty for his wrongdoing is severe.

Finally, justice requires loving your neighbor as yourself (v. 17-18, 33-34). Hatred of anyone because they are male or female, black, white, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, Native American, rich or poor, educated or not, older or younger, American or foreigner, law-keeper or law-breaker, etc. is forbidden. So is ill-treatment of vulnerable people in society.

Embracing and empowering those who are truly in need and truly vulnerable reflects biblical justice and compassion. Defending those who are harmed by those more powerful is a just act to perform. And there is no greater injustice in society than abortion.

In the next post We will look at 8 principles derived from the biblical teaching on doing justice related to life in the 21st century.

Doing Justice and the Gospel

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The question of the role of social justice and the church is one of the hottest topics of the day among Christians. Recently I had 30 minutes to address the issue in chapel at Lancaster Bible College. In the next four blog posts I will unpack my chapel talk.

Preliminary Statements:

  1. No one can escape their bias regarding these issues, so it is impossible to be neutral. Neutrality implies that I can set aside my personal feelings or experiences. It is, however, possible to be objective. I acknowledge my personal bias and you should too. And anyone you hear, or read, or watch should also acknowledge their bias. Everyone’s desire when addressing a topic as important as this one ought to be objectivity. What I say here today represents my best attempt to address the massive and complex issue of justice like a pizza delivery—in 30 minutes or less. Therefore, the views I express are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the Bible and Theology faculty or Lancaster Bible College.
  2. What God reveals in the Scriptures ought to be for Christians authoritative and definitive for understanding any issue. If we do not have an unchanging and objective foundation for our thought, we can ultimately have no shared meanings or experiences, and what we call evil and unjust today could be considered good and normal next week.
  3. Right and wrong, justice and injustice, are not determined by what I or anyone else perceive to be the quantity of harm done by an action, but rather are determined by God, who has revealed his character and commands, primarily in the Bible. We should not judge ourselves according to how the world evaluates us, but how God evaluates us. The world will often hate Christians and slander us regardless of what we do.
  4. We need to define our terms:
    • Biblical justice is the faithful exercise of power in the community, doing the right thing in relation to other people. This ties justice to mercy and compassion (Rom. 13:8—owe no one anything except love). Justice means treating people equitably, acquitting or punishing every person on the merits of the case, regardless of ethnic, economic, gender, or social status. Justice also means giving people what they are due, whether punishment, or protection, or care.
    • Righteousness denotes virtue, uprightness, moral rectitude—godly character. This message today is primarily about doing justice, rather than “social justice,” which is a nebulous term.
    • When referring to social justice, I will use the definition of Innosanto Nagara, an Indonesian intellectual, author of the children’s book, “A is for Activism,” and founder of the Design Action Collective in Oakland, CA. He writes that “Social Justice Work is work that we do in the interest of securing human rights, an equitable distribution of resources, a healthy planet, democracy, and a space for the human spirit to thrive (arts, culture, entertainment).” While we can sympathize with some of these commitments, they do not correspond to biblical concepts of justice and righteousness. The danger of the gospel of Christ being reduced to a social gospel is a real danger. It happens all the time.
    • More specifically, the U.N. defines social justice as “the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth.” Social justice is not possible without strong and coherent redistributive policies conceived and implemented by public agencies.
    • Michael Novak’s book, Social Justice Is Not What You Think It Is, notes that Social Justice typically refers to: state redistribution of wealth, equality of outcomes, and a collectivist notion of the common good, which becomes an excuse for total state control.
  5. The fundamental reason for injustice in our world is human depravity.
    • Systemic depravity where corrupt governments use power to enrich themselves or treat people unfairly based on any number of factors.
    • Institutional depravity where corruption, greed, discrimination, and exploitation are protected to advance the institution or cultivate a biased ideology.
    • Individual depravity is the source of the other forms of depravity, and is the primary reason for broken families, poverty, violence, ignorance, hatred, greed, etc.
    • The Christian understanding of depravity prevents us from believing what I call the “magic of socialism”—the belief that when individuals act on behalf of the government, they magically become honest and wise, so they can redistribute the wealth of others without greed and corruption.
  6. Many of the concerns expressed under the name of social justice can be shared by Christians who are seeking to love their neighbors as themselves, but too often the interpretation and solution for those concerns are antithetical to the Christian gospel. Therefore, as Christians we cannot naively join with those who oppose the tenets of our faith, if doing so requires our endorsement of unjust and immoral solutions. Proponents are often seeking to establish a social order with no reference to the one true God.
    • For example, “intersectionality” refers to the compounding of experiences that can render some people significantly more vulnerable in society than others. A good example are the Greek widows in Acts 6, who were not only vulnerable because they were widows, but in the early church were overlooked in the care of widows because culturally they were outsiders, compared to the Hebrew widows. The church’s response was to appoint six deacons like them (with Greek names) to make sure they were cared for. Empathy for their situation resulted in a remedy that appropriately corrected the vulnerability. But when the ideology of intersectionality turned toward Freud and the reduction of humanity to feelings, concepts like “dignitary harm” arose, and the concept was corrupted (Rosaria Butterfield, “Gay Rights, Hate Speech, and Hospitality” .
    • The #MeToo movement has rightly exposed sexual harassers and predators, and what has happened so far may just be the tip of the iceberg. My guess is that the vast majority of women have been the recipients of inappropriate statements, physical contact, and more. Yet, the broader culture seems to take no responsibility for the rejection of God’s standards of sexuality 50 years ago that set the stage for widespread exploitation of women. #MeToo can be misused to summarily convict anyone against whom an accusation is made.
    • The concept of “privilege” is indisputable if we take it to mean that in certain circumstances or locations, some people are free from fear, while others are at a disadvantage or in potential danger. The solution, however, is not to heap guilt and blame for society’s ills on people perceived to be privileged. Nor is it to silence anyone who is perceived to be privileged, because they have allegedly “had their turn” or can’t possible speak into a situation they have not experienced. The biblical answer is for people who have “privilege” in any given situation to use their advantage or strength in the service of others. Moses, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, and Paul all had privilege and used it when appropriate.
  7. It is easy to get focused on American issues, when global issues of justice are significantly greater. When we consider the global scene it significantly reshapes our ideas of where the greatest injustices lay.  Human trafficking, corrupt governments, lack of basic healthcare, education, clean water, and food is widespread.
  8. The fruit of the gospel is not the gospel. The implications of the gospel are not the gospel. “Preaching Christ crucified will transform society. Preaching transformed society will transform nothing” (Douglas Wilson, “American Vision and the Word that Justified”). Do you care deeply about justice? Which issues? Only the culturally acceptable issues such as racism, the environment and child labor, or also the unacceptable issues, too, like abortion and pornography? Do you care as much about the message of the gospel and the saving of souls as you do social issues? It is easier to march and demonstrate and protest than it is to tell someone they are lost and need Jesus. Mark 8:36—”For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

In Part 2 we will look at Leviticus 19 to see what it says about justice, and how it can challenge us about our part in doing justice.

3 Final Logical Fallacies to Avoid (and How to Tell When Someone Else is Committing Them)

[This is the final post in the series on Logic and Apologetics]

  1. Begging the Question—assuming a conclusion to be true without proving it. If I am trying to prove that people have lost the ability to distinguish between right and wrong by citing increase numbers of adulterous affairs and abortions, I am assumingadultery and abortion to be wrong, when I should have to arguethat they are wrong. Even though adultery and abortion are wrong, rising incidents of each does not necessarily prove that people have lost the ability to distinguish right and wrong.

How Christians do this:

“I believe the Bible is the Word of God because I just know it to be so.”

“Evolution cannot explain the origin of life on earth, because it is not true.”

How unbelievers do this:

“Science has disproved the existence of God because there is no scientific evidence for God.”

“Jesus cannot be the only way to be reconciled to God, because that would mean all other religions are wrong and most of the world would be condemned.”

  1. Faulty Analogy—making a comparison between two things that are not similar. An analogy allows us to explain one thing by comparison to another. But every analogy breaks down at some point and some things bear no similarity with other things. If I compare the gentleness of a mother with her baby to a nuclear explosion, there is little chance that the analogy will be helpful in any way.

How Christians do this:

“The Trinity is like an apple (or an egg, or water, or a three-leaf clover).”

“If a person is spiritually dead then I won’t bother sharing the gospel with him because dead people don’t hear you when you talk.”

How unbelievers do this:

“Christians used the Bible to support slavery and they were clearly wrong, so when they use the Bible to condemn homosexuality, we can clearly see they are wrongly using the Bible again.”

“Our genetic code is ‘selfish’ and blindly strives to reproduce itself for survival.”

  1. Equivocation—when a word or phrase is used in more than one sense or its meaning changes in the middle of an argument, a dialogue descends into confusion. If I ask my teenager to clean his room and we have two different ideas of what “clean” means, the communication will fail.

How this confusion happens:

Skeptics love to define faith as “belief despite the lack of evidence,” but that is not what Christians mean when they use the word. By “faith” a Christian means trust in God’s revelation. If a skeptic says, “I have evidence and you have faith,” I must correct his erroneous understanding of faith or we will never get anywhere in the discussion.

Similarly, evolutionists often use the word “science” when in fact they believe in scientism(the only things that exist are physical objects and natural, not supernatural, forces guide everything apart from a divine intelligence). If we do not expose the difference, we will find ourselves arguing against science when we have no misgivings about real science.

Hopefully this explanation on logical fallacies has helped you notice some fallacies in your own thinking, as well as building discernment for identifying in the arguments of unbelievers. Skill in detecting logical fallacies takes time and much practice. If you are thinking carefully and critically, however, you will begin to spot fallacies and be able to dismantle them in order to help another person see the truth more clearly.

A Little Note on Logic

Logic is not the final arbiter of all things true, for several reasons. First, flawed and finite people use logic. That means that while logic may help to ensure we arrive at consistency, the premises upon which logical argumentation are built are sometimes disputed. Two rational people can disagree about a premise because even statements of fact are often values-laden. That is, we don’t have a God’s-eye-view of reality without having to interpret what we see. Our own biases, limitations, and errors can creep into our thinking.

Second, logic flows form the character of God. Logic does not stand over God, and therefore some things will not seem logical, even though they are true. 

Conclusion

Christians do not need to resort to logical fallacies, because the Christian faith is the summit of wisdom and rationality. To believe and argue logical fallacies demeans and diminishes the true logic of the gospel. Paul states this clearly in 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 where Jesus is presented as the wisdom of God:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of Godin the face of Jesus Christ.

Everything pursued by the major cultures of the first century Western world was found in Christ. The Greeks sought the light of wisdom, Jews sought knowledge, and the Romans sought glory, and yet each of these is embodied in the message of Jesus. To seek these things apart from Christ is futile, and to claim to have obtained them apart from Christ requires irrationality and contradiction.

Paul also reminds us that the wisdom of God is wiser than the greatest of “human” wisdom that contradicts it (1 Cor. 1:20-25). This does not mean that unbelievers are not or cannot be brilliant in many areas of human achievement. Some of the brightest scientists, philosophers, engineers, writers, and so on have rejected Christ. It does mean, however, that they can never understand the whyof the knowledge they possess. They can never know the purpose for which they and their expertise exist. They can never understand the infinitely glorious spiritual realities of God’s world until they are transformed by Christ. To make sense of the world they must devise strategies and explanations fraught with logical fallacies. These strategies “work” for them, but they are not the truth. Our prayer is that the Spirit of God will give sight to their blind eyes, abandon their resistance to the gospel built on their fallacies, and see clearly the wisdom and rationality that is Christ.