Injustice and Social Justice
We are in a time of significant social instability. Large segments of our society have demonstrated, even rioted, for the cause of “Social Justice”—an enigmatic phrase meaning different things to different people. In general, those demonstrating for Social Justice are working to free the oppressed. Most are sincere; they want a better future more just society for all. Every true evangelical should share these ultimate goals.
But are the major currents of today’s Social Justice really just? Is their view of justice compatible with Christianity? The answer to these questions begins with a definition of justice.
Justice is the distribution of punishment and reward based upon an ethical standard. Yet except for our mutual abhorrence of racism, the standards used by Christians and organizations such as Black Lives Matters are miles apart. Alongside ending racism, Black Lives Matter lists among their “guiding principles” the termination of the nuclear family (i.e. a father and mother raising children) and the fostering of a “queer-affirming network.” The organization’s founders also affirm that they are “trained Marxists,” while local chapters such as Black Lives Matter DC include the ending of capitalism as one of their key objectives.
Needless to say, the abolition of the family does not conform to God’s standard, nor even the abolition of capitalism. Material inequality in itself is not a sin; God has gifted each of us with different abilities and opportunities for wealth generation. True, there are times in a capitalist society when wealth inequality is the result of oppression and injustice, but this is far from the rule. Some will always be wealthier than others, and as long as that wealth is not gained or used sinfully, it is not a biblical problem.
But this is not how many proponents of Social Justice understand economics. They assume that wealth inequality is inherently oppressive and always wrong. If you have more, you are, by definition, an Oppressor. You deserve to have your wealth taken and given to others.
God’s standard is his law. It reflects the beauty of his moral holiness, and by that standard God will judge us all. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” wrote the great apostle, “that everyone may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). On that Day, God’s law, expressing his holiness, will be the “measuring line” by which divine, eternal justice will be measured out to everyone—no exceptions. In that courtroom we would all stand condemned, were it not for the grace of our righteous Judge.
Moreover, God’s standards are immutable; they cannot be changed, but are transcendent and eternal. This matters because without an unchanging, transcendent standard, justice is a moving target. Apart from God, the standards of right and wrong will vary depending on the time and place. Ultimately, this means the collapse of the concept of justice itself.
Because culture is downstream of the individual human hearts that comprise it, the individual is the subject of God’s justice. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Therefore, God’s primary concern is with individual hearts, not social structures. Culture and its structures only change as the individual hearts that make up that culture change. “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:10).
Therefore, all social change starts with me, not others. I can’t blame my sins on oppressive social structures external to myself. There are times when systemic reforms are necessary, but only God can change human hearts—a miracle which he works through regeneration.
Many currents of Social Justice, on the other hand, assume that the individual is innocent and that society’s structures—racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, patriarchy, nuclear family, etc.—are the problem. They do not look inward to the self, but arrogantly begin with others. But if I assume that I am innocent, and the people around me are the problem, true, godly change never occurs.
This delusion (moral innocence) has a long history. It began when the Serpent whispered to Eve, “You shall be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) amplified it when he taught that people are born innocent but that civilization's structures corrupt them. Tragically, Rousseau’s assumptions, not the Bible’s, are foundational to much of modern Social Justice.
Although proponents of Social Justice are often well-intended, they operate under assumptions and principles that have historically led injustice and suffering on a massive scale. Revolutions in France, Russia, China, Cuba, Cambodia—these all were driven by principles that many current Social Justice platforms share. Such revolutions terminated in the enslavement, death, or impoverishment of millions. If those who advocate for Social Justice continue to ignore the lessons of history, they will achieve similar ends.
We should care about justice, and about fostering a just society. But the further we move away from biblical principles, the less real justice Western society will experience. Ultimately, God’s justice is the only justice that matters. And we are all on a collision course with it:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done (Revelation 20:11–13).
This justice is at the heart of the gospel. The cross demonstrates God’s passion for justice; it shows us the Savior who took the penalty for sin upon himself, satisfying God’s justice for all who believe.
We are all called to live justly and walk humbly before our God (Micah 6:8). Yet in the end there are only two kinds of people: Those who trust in the Son of God, or those who reject him and receive the justice they deserve. This is the justice that should preoccupy the Church, and which we should preach to everyone—including our Social Justice friends.
William P. Farley is a retired pastor and church planter. He has been married to his best friend, Judy, since 1971. They have five children and 22 grandchildren. Bill is the author of seven books, including Gospel-Powered Humility (P&R), Gospel-Powered Parenting (P&R), and Marriage in Paradise (Pinnacle), Secret to Spiritual Joy (Cruciform), Outrageous Mercy (P&R), and Hidden In the Gospel (P&R). He blogs regularly at www.WilliamPFarley.com.
"Reformation 500, Social Justice and the Gospel" by Jon Payne
"The Statement on SJ&G Explained: Article 3, Justice" by Phil Johnson
"Final Justice" by Philip Ryken
Amos by James Boice
 Since writing this post, BLM removed these goals from their website. You may still access the page via the Internet Archives here: https://web.archive.org/web/20151004200336/http://blacklivesmatter.com/guiding-principles/ .
 See: https://www.blacklivesmatterdmv.org/about/ . As writer Brad Polumbo has pointed out, it is important to recognize that many BLM supporters do not hold to all the principles of the organization [ https://fee.org/articles/is-black-lives-matter-marxist-no-and-yes/ ].