Reformed Theology and Social Justice

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Left-leaning Christians in the U.S. like throwing around that term, but I'm not entirely sure how it's defined, Biblically or otherwise.

I'd be interested in a good exposition of the Old Testament about justice for the widows, orphans and strangers.

How is social justice defined? What are we to think of left-leaning approaches? Why do they stress this aspect so much? What are good solid reformed works on social justice? And some principles to guide us?
 

smhbbag

Puritan Board Senior
How is social justice defined? What are we to think of left-leaning approaches? Why do they stress this aspect so much? What are good solid reformed works on social justice? And some principles to guide us?

Leviticus 19:15

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

Social justice: equality for all men before good law.

The aims of helping the poor, the widow, and orphans cannot rightly fall under the word 'justice,' for all men great and low deserve death and hell. Feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and helping those in need are not acts of justice; they are acts of love.
 

biggandyy

Puritan Board Freshman
"Social Justice" is double talk for confiscation of wealth\property\liberty via government force. It has no place in Christian circles for in fact the word "justice" doesn't mean what the Bible defines it as, but as the much more nebulous term "fairness". And we all know that what is just often isn't "fair".
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
"Social Justice" is a misnomer if it's being used as leftists do...if by "social justice" one means a biblical outworking within the socio-political sphere...I'd read Rushdoony...I used to think he was a whack-job...but mostly because of some of the people I met online that were into his writings (many of them were Kinists)...now that I've actually read some of him, I'm amazed at the breadth of his work. Christianity and the State may be a good place to start. I also read The One and the Many...amazing book.
 

satz

Puritan Board Senior
I'd be interested in a good exposition of the Old Testament about justice for the widows, orphans and strangers.

To be honest, I think the Old Testament offers limited guidance as to how national social justice should look like in the New Testament.

Acts 7:38 tells us that OT Israel was the "church in the wilderness". Hence, the NT application of the various OT verses speaking of care for the poor/widows etc is to tell christians how to operate within the church, not within the nation.

If we look at Acts, which shows us how the NT church behaved, I do not believe there is any mention of charity generally to the poor of the nation. Collections are frequently made and distributions made to the poor, but it is always to poor saints whether in the same church, or in churches in different areas.

Christians should be charitable to even those outside the church when God in his providence causes their paths to intersect, as in the story of the good samaritan, but I don't see any indication of a NT duty for christians to seek board "social justice" on a national scale.
 

Robbie Schmidtberger

Puritan Board Freshman
Tim Keller is the go to guy on this. He really launches from the Prophets and develops an optimistic theology of the city. I find him very convincing. Others who argue this would be Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making. Sadly the majority who do this are left leaning... or at the least accused of being liberal and positing a social gospel. Herman Ridderbos in The Coming of the Kingdom strongly denied such an idea, saying the a gospel for the welfare of all people is thoroughly consistent with reformed theology.

The reformed gospel of Jesus Christ celebrates His exaltation, but often at the expense of the incarnation. Having a robust Christology propels us to engage the culture seeking to glorify God. The two men I mentioned, along with Mark Driscoll, argue that the church's primary responsibility is the preaching of the word and the ministry of sacraments. But let us not forget the missionary calling of the church as well. John Piper wrote, "missions exist because worship does not." The two are intrinsically connected.

When Christians fight for social justice we are not abandoning the gospel of Christ... for it is a gospel of the coming kingdom. Social justice by definition for the Christian, this is off the top of my head, is to seek the welfare of all people. Look at Daniel and Esther for instance. Daniel seeks the welfare and blessing of the pagan ruler Nebuchadnezzer. The word commends him for that. Social justice as an end to itself is folly, look at the conclusion of Esther where taxes rise, for this is a sinful world. But we as Christians are to seek the welfare of all people, for the glory of God. Shallom will only come with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Shallom can only be demonstrated within the open, loving family relationship of the church.

But what does this look like? Satz is right.. the OT does not spell that out for us, instead it is left to our discernment. Abortion rings in my mind. As does euthanasia, infanticide, sex trafficking, the OT condemns poverty as it is an earmark of sin and the fall, inequality, and classism. These are only a portion of the social injustices to fight.

Look at Tim Keller, Francis Schaeffer, Herman Ridderboss, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Mike Horton and Tim Chester, who has a blog and wrote several books, for resources.

On the note of Horton the doctrine of the 2 kingdoms is helpful. It does not matter, before the throne of God, if one is politically left, right, or centrist. Christians are to fight social injustice, not because that is the party line, but because if glorifies God. And in some way when we do this a glimmer of heaven is seen through "the glass darkly."
 
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