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“Biblical Justice, Part 6:
Keeping a Christian Perspective on Problems, Solutions, and Other People”
September 26, 2021
Faith Presbyterian Church – Evening Service
We return again this evening to our “parenthetical” series on biblical justice, in the middle of our larger series on the Book of Micah.
We will have just three more sermons on Biblical justice in this series, including tonight. I know I’ve said that before … maybe a couple times before … but this time I really mean it.
We have, in many ways, sketched a theology of Biblical justice, which I hope can help us as we approach the topic of societal injustice as it comes up in the Scriptures – especially here in the Book of Micah.
But before we move on, I think we need to talk about a few ways we can lose our way when it comes to this topic – a few ways we can wander from a Biblical perspective to a more secular perspective – whatever form that may take, whether it’s a postmodern critical perspective, an individualistic libertarian perspective, or something in between.
Usually the way we get off-track is not by a frontal assault – usually it’s not by someone directly convincing us of a humanistic worldview regarding society. Instead, it’s more often by us being drawn away from a Christian perspective on some aspect of humanity or society or justice … which then leads us further and further astray. And so these last three sermons will be about keeping a Christian perspective on aspects of societal justice, where we may be tempted away from a Christian perspective.
Tonight we’ll talk about keeping a Christian perspective on problems, solutions, and our relationships to other people.
Next week we’ll talk about keeping a Christian perspective on ourselves – that sermon will be on the call to humble listening. And then the following Sunday evening we’ll talk about keeping a Christian perspective on action, change, and witness.
And then, after that, we’ll get back to the rest of the Book of Micah!
So, tonight, our focus is on keeping a Christian perspective on problems, solutions, and our relationships to other people.
With that in mind, we will hear again from Micah to get us started.
You have before you chapters two and three. But as our focus tonight is the temptation to drift from listening to and speaking biblical truth, we will focus on those aspects of this text, hearing from Micah chapter two, verses one, two, six, seven, and eleven, and then chapter three verses five through twelve.
With that in said, please do listen carefully, for this is God’s word for us this evening.
2:1 Woe to those who devise wickedness
and work evil on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it,
because it is in the power of their hand.
2 They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance.
6 “Do not preach”—thus they preach—
“one should not preach of such things;
disgrace will not overtake us.”
7 Should this be said, O house of Jacob?
Has Yahweh grown impatient?
Are these his deeds?
Do not my words do good
to him who walks uprightly?
8 But lately my people have risen up as an enemy;
11 If a man should go about and utter wind and lies,
saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,”
he would be the preacher for this people!
3:5 Thus says Yahweh concerning the prophets
who lead my people astray,
who cry “Peace”
when they have something to eat,
but declare war against him
who puts nothing into their mouths.
6 Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,
and darkness to you, without divination.
The sun shall go down on the prophets,
and the day shall be black over them;
7 the seers shall be disgraced,
and the diviners put to shame;
they shall all cover their lips,
for there is no answer from God.
8 But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of Yahweh,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.
9 Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel,
who detest justice
and make crooked all that is straight,
10 who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with iniquity.
11 Its heads give judgment for a bribe;
its priests teach for a price;
its prophets practice divination for money;
yet they lean on Yahweh and say,
“Is not Yahweh in the midst of us?
No disaster shall come upon us.”
12 Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.
This is the word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God.)
So tonight we want to consider three things: When it comes to seeking justice in our society, we need to keep a Christian perspective on problems, keep a Christian perspective on solutions, and keep a Christian perspective on our alliances.
Keeping a Christian Perspective on Problems
First, we need to keep a Christian perspective on problems.
And a Christian perspective on the problems of injustice might be summed up, at a basic level, with the statement that Christians believe in the sinfulness of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
That might seem pretty straightforward and hard to argue with. And yet, when it comes to discussions and debates and thinking about societal justice, it is remarkable how quickly we can be tempted to push those basic truths aside.
The Flesh: The Sinfulness of the Individual
Let’s begin with he flesh: Christians believe in the sinfulness of all individual people.
That is a basic Christian belief. As Presbyterians and Calvinists we have an even stronger way of putting it – we say that we believe in “total depravity.” That doesn’t mean that we believe that every human being is as evil as they possibly could be – what it means is that every aspect of every human being remains tainted by sin in this life, and will continue to be tainted by sin unless God intervenes.
At conversion we believe that God frees us from slavery to sin, but still our sinfulness remains in all areas in this life. As our doctrinal standards put it: by the sin of our first parents, all human beings have become “wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body” and even after our conversion, our best works remain “defiled” and “mixed with so much weakness and imperfection.” [WCF 6.2; 16.]
Christians believe in the sinfulness of all individual people.
And yet, discussions and debates about societal injustice often tempt Christians to deny this basic belief.
Let me give just two examples.
An obvious one is found in postmodern critical theory. Postmodern critical theory argues that all inequalities are the results of structural factors and structural injustices. No fault ever lies with individuals. While critical theory may be helpful in revealing real structural injustices, Christians using it can be tempted to minimize and then even deny the role that individual sin and sinfulness plays in inequalities in this world, thus denying a core Christian belief.
But that tendency is not limited to postmodern critical theory. Interestingly, it is also often seen in its supposed opposite: in libertarian theory. Libertarian theory sees injustice as the result of a lack of freedom. Built into this claim is usually the belief that if people were free to do what they thought best, society would vasty improve and justice would increase. This means that the advocate of the libertarian theory of justice usually ends up claiming that people are basically good.
That might seem an obvious contradiction to Christian belief – a contradiction that no thoughtful Christian would miss. But you’d be surprised.
I was amazed at one point in 2020 as I saw multiple Christians posting, liking, and sharing memes that, in variety of ways, made claims about how 99% of people were really good, and 99% of people want what’s best for others, and 99% of people aren’t racist, and the real problem is people looking for evil in others, not the actual presence of evil in others.
I watched sincere Christians, Reformed Christians, post, and like and share nonsense like that online. Now, I’m not talking about one person here. I’m not targeting any individuals. A bunch of people from this congregation did that.
And I was baffled. Suddenly the same people who decried such an optimistic sentimental view of humanity when it was made by secular liberals, were making such claims themselves, denying the doctrine of total depravity … and the best explanation I can come up with to understand it is that their secular theory of societal justice demanded it. Just like that, their libertarian theory of justice got them to make the exact statements that progressive liberalism had tried to get them to make for years, and they didn’t even seem to put up a fight.
I don’t think they saw the temptation coming. But still it came. We need to be intentional about keeping a Christian perspective on the problems of this world, and that means maintaining our view of human sinfulness, whether the attack on that doctrine comes from the postmodern left or the libertarian right.
Christians believe in the sinfulness of all individual people.
The World: The Sinfulness of Society
Second, Christians believe in the sinfulness of the world. Christians believe in the sinfulness of all human society and social structures.
This too is not a shocking Christian claim. The Bible tells us that it is not just individuals who are sinful, but when sinful people come together, the communities, and cultures, and institutions, and social structures they create are also fallen and sinful – and therefore always to some extent unjust.
Sometimes that injustice is intentional – people intentionally build injustice into the rules or the customs of their communities or their society or their nation.
Other times it is unintentional. We don’t even think about most of the sins we commit – after all, sin comes naturally to fallen human beings. The same is true of our social structures. We don’t have to try to make them sinful. To the extent that they reflect the fallen humans who make them, they too will be sinful, even if no one tried to make them that way.
Third, the sinful injustice of the world and its social structures can often be inherited. Just as sinful patterns can unintentionally be passed down from one generation to another in the culture of a family, so sinful patterns can be passed down from one generation to another in a society – both in its informal culture and in the formal structures that support and sustain that culture.
Again, none of this should be surprising to a Christian. This is part of what the Bible means when it treats the “world” and the “flesh” as two separate things: – the flesh is the sinfulness of individuals. The “world” is the sinfulness of groups, either in their informal culture or their formal societal structures.
This seems obvious. And yet, it is again a Christian truth we can be tempted to deny when it comes to the topic of societal injustice.
Let’s consider two forms of such a denial. One form tries to exclude some social structures from the category of fallenness. We might, for example, see a progressive version of this that places inordinate trust in the state to overcome human sinfulness. Or we might see a conservative version that places inordinate trust in the marketplace to overcome human sinfulness. Either way, that is one form of denying the pervasive sinfulness of the world: we say that every social structure is sinful except for one.
Another form of denying this is to claim that social structures suffer from all kinds of sinfulness, except for one kind of sinfulness. The most prominent form of this among Christians lately has been to say that while lust, and greed, and power-mongering, and all sorts of sin were rampant in government and in society … the sin of racism is the one sin that’s been pretty much completely overcome in our social structures. Society is in many ways going to hell … but this one sin we had pretty much licked somehow.
A Christian perspective knows that there is no social structure that is immune from sin, and there is no sin that is fully overcome in this world – especially in a culture that has largely rejected the gospel. On one level we know this. But when we begin to gravitate towards secular theories of justice, we are soon tempted to deny this Christian perspective on the sinfulness of the world.
The Devil: The Deceptiveness of Sin
Third and finally, Christians believe in the sinfulness of the devil. And we could say a lot here, but I want to focus on just one thing: because Christians believe in a real and personal devil, they believe that sin is deceptive, and can trick us.
The Apostle Paul wrote that “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” [2 Cor. 11:14-15]
Christians believe that Satan will seek to deceive us by presenting sin to us as if it is righteousness. And Satan is good at deceiving. And so we should be on guard.
Again, this is an obvious Biblical teaching.
And yet when debates begin about justice and injustice in our society, it is amazing to hear Christians, just like the non-Christians around them, insist that they could not be deceived. At an initial glance, they do not see injustice here or there, and so there must not be any. And they are often unwilling to honestly entertain that they could be wrong – that they could be deceived.
Christians believe in the devil, and so they believe that sin – including the sin of injustice – can be deceptive and can disguise itself as justice and righteousness. And so Christians are to be willing to consider that they might be wrong – that they might be deceived … even if it seems implausible to them at first.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we uncritically accept every claim that we have been deceived when it comes to matters of justice. But it means we are always willing to hear out and sift such claims. Only a secular perspective of evil and injustice – only a view that denies the deceptiveness of sin and the wiles of the devil – only that secular view would deny that possibility.
And so, contrary to secular theories of justice, Christians believe in the sinfulness of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and one of our callings is to maintain those Christian perspectives, even when secular theories of justice tempt us away from them. We need to keep a Christian perspective on the problems. That is the first thing we need to do.
Keeping a Christian Perspective on Solutions
And that brings us to the second thing we need to do: We also need to keep a Christian perspective on solutions, and their possible sources.
Now that can mean a lot of things, so let me be more specific. Ultimately, the solution is always the work of God. That’s important, but not what I am focusing on here.
What I am focused on are the human solutions: the human means by which we try to bring about justice in society.
The discussion of societal justice in our culture is not just about what injustice is and what justice is – it is also often a debate on what the best ways are to increase justice in society – what the best human solutions are for dealing with injustice.
And on that question, we need to intentionally keep a Christian perspective. And I have at least two things in mind with that.
First is that Christians believe that they can agree with non-Christians about solutions to injustice. Second is that Christians believe they can disagree with other sincere Christians about solutions to injustice.
Let’s consider each of those.
Christians Can Agree with Non-Christians
First, Christians believe they can agree with and learn from non-Christians about the best human solutions for addressing societal injustice.
This is, in many ways, an application of a broader point that Christians have argued for centuries: that God has blessed and gifted non-Christians as well as Christians to discover truth in this world, and all truth is God’s truth.
In his work titled Teaching Christianity, Augustine writes at length about how Christians should approach the ideas developed and truths discovered by pagan thinkers.
“If those, however, who are called philosophers happen to have said anything that is true, and agreeable to our faith, the Platonists above all, not only should we not be afraid of them, but we should even claim back for our own use what they have said, as from its unjust possessors. It is like the Egyptians, who not only had idols and heavy burdens, which the people of Israel abominated and fled from, but also vessels and ornaments of gold and silver, and fine raiment, which the people […] appropriated for their own, and indeed better, use as they went forth from Egypt; and this not on their own initiative, but on God’s instructions, with the Egyptians unwittingly lending them things they were not themselves making good use of.
“In the same way, while the heathen certainly have counterfeit and superstitious fictions in all their teachings […], which everyone of us must abominate and shun as we go forth from the company of the heathen under the leadership of Christ, their teachings also contain liberal disciplines which are more suited to the service of the truth, as well as a number of most useful ethical principles, and some true things are to be found among them about worshiping only the one God. All this is like their gold and silver, and not something they instituted themselves, but something which they mined, so to say, from the ore of divine providence, veins of which are everywhere to be found. As they for their part make perverse and unjust misuse of it in the service of demons, so Christians for theirs ought, when they separate themselves in spirit from their hapless company, to take these things away from them for the proper use of preaching the gospel […] [turning] them into aids to the worship of the one God, by which the futile worship of idols would be extirpated. But they gave gold and silver and fine raiment to the people of God as they went forth from Egypt, quite unaware how the things they were giving would be restored to the allegiance of Christ (2 Cor 10:5). All that happened in the Exodus, after all, was a kind of acted parable, pointing in advance to all this.” [Augustine, Teaching Christianity (De Doctrina Christiana), II.40,60-61 (p. 170-171)]
Augustine distinguishes between the gold of Egypt and the idolatry and bondage of Egypt. And though those three things could all be bound up together, the calling of God’s people is to separate them, to flee from the idolatry and bondage, and to repurpose the gold and the raiment for use in the kingdom of God. Specifically, Augustine’s point is that there are pagan philosophical thoughts and pagan ethical reflections and pagan institutions and practices which Christians can indeed take and make proper use of in service to God and his kingdom.
And such an approach is not limited to Augustine. Calvin writes: “Those persons are superstitious, who do not venture to borrow anything from heathen authors. All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God.” [Calvin, Commentary, 300-301]
Elsewhere he says more – he writes: “Whenever we come upon these matters in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts.
If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God.” [Calvin, Institutes, II.2.15]
All truth is God’s truth, wherever it comes from, wherever it is found, whoever its proponents may be. Though they may reject God himself, they may still possess some element of his truth, by his grace, that we should learn from. For they are made in his image, and they possess the gifts he has given them, which can find and identify truth in his world.
Again, on some level most Christians would agree.
But then … when we begin to talk about specifics in societal justice, they can begin to forget.
You see this all the time where one person quotes a thinker on a subject of societal injustice. And then a Christian chimes in with something like “Well, you know he also believes X, which is pretty problematic.” Or “Well you know he also did Y which is pretty immoral.”
Those claims may be true or false. But the only way they would dismiss the original claim is if we believe, contrary to Augustine, Calvin, and many Christians through history, that pagans and wicked people cannot find and reveal truth to others. But would any of us claim that? Would any of us claim that there is no piece of philosophy, or technology, or science, or insight into human life that has ever been discovered by a non-Christian? That’s absurd.
Christians can agree with and learn from the insights of nonbelievers and even wicked people.
And we might even go a step further and say that even as we see the flawed worldviews of some people, their insights can be helpful to us.
Consider two examples. A secular, unbelieving, strict libertarian may have a flawed worldview as he looks over society. He may attribute a lot of problems to a lack of liberty when that’s not really the issue. But he is unlikely to miss instances where a lack of liberty is causing injustice. We need to sift his insights, that is for sure, and we may need to discard much. But at the same time, he can help us see things we might otherwise miss.
But if that is true for the secular libertarian, then it is also true for the secular advocate of postmodern critical race theory. Keller explains – he writes: “Can a Christian use Critical Race Theory as a tool? On the one hand, [Critical Race Theory] can’t be used merely as a tool apart from its worldview assumptions, because the underlying worldview in many ways is the tool. [Critical Race Theory] […] sees all racial disparities and inequalities as due to structural factors—period. Like all non-Christian theories, it is reductionistic. That is its fatal weakness, but it can also be a strength. There is an old saying: ‘If your only tool is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.’ [Critical Race Theory] will think that many things are ‘nails’ (that is, systemic, structural injustice) that are not. However, it will not likely miss any real nails. And since our biblical worldview does understand that there is corporate responsibility and structural injustice, then [Critical Race Theory] thinkers may show Christians some things that our own sin and cultural blinders have [caused us to miss].” [Keller, “Justice in the Bible”]
And Christians can not only agree with, but learn from, non-Christians when it comes to identifying and considering solutions to societal injustice.
Christians Can Disagree with Christians
Second, Christians can also disagree with other Christians about the best solutions for societal injustice, without it being a question of the orthodoxy of their theology or the sincerity of their faith.
When I first became a Christian, in high school, I got really into this series of evangelical Christian fiction about the end times. And it was pretty over the top, and totally dispensationalist, but I didn’t really know any better at the time, and I haven’t looked at it in almost twenty years, but here’s my general memory of one scene that stuck with me. You see, the main character is a guy who became a Christian after the rapture, and he’s a pilot, and he gets assigned to be the private pilot of the politician who turns out to be the antichrist, which is pretty convenient for the plot-line, and then this thing happens where God puts a mark on the foreheads of all the Christians that identifies them as Christians, but only other Christians can see it, so that in this terrible apocalyptic world the Christians can all identify each other, but the non-Christians don’t see it, and the main character is up to something that is secret, but which the bad guys would be upset if they knew about it, and working on it quickly, and hoping no one sees, but then suddenly he hears someone coming, and before the main character can hide what he’s doing another guy comes in and sees him. But the other guy has the mark – he’s a Christian! So the main character is all relieved. But the other guy looks at him and says, “What are you doing?” And the main character points to his forehead and he’s like “Hey, it’s okay, see – I’m a Christian too.” And the other Christian looks at him and says “Yeah … okay … but just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you’re not an idiot. So tell me what you’re doing.”
For all the oddness in the book, maybe it was worth it for that one line: “Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you’re not an idiot.” It was something like that. And on one level it’s really obvious … but on another level, it’s something we can easily forget.
Because we’re all idiots at something. In fact, we’re all idiots at a lot of things. For most of us, there’s just a lot we don’t know. And on an abstract level we’d usually say that yes, of course, being a Christian – even a devout Christian – even being a Christian who knows the Bible really well – that does not mean you’re not still an idiot on a whole range of other subjects. We know that. And yet … we can easily forget it.
And we can do this at the celebrity-Christian level or the personal level when it comes to all sorts of matters, including matters of justice.
Sometimes we appeal to a celebrity pastor or theologian on a topic that they’re not really an expert in. That celebrity Christian leader may be very sincere in their faith, and they may be very learned in theology … but they may be speaking about an area of law, or history, or medicine, or society, or justice that they have actually done very little real study in.
Now, I don’t mean that everyone needs an advanced degree to speak on a subject. But real study is required for someone to be an expert. And being an authority in one area (like theology) doesn’t make someone an expert in another area (like economics). And being sincere in your faith doesn’t make someone an expert either. And yet, Christians are often drawn to such Christian celebrities to treat them as authorities in areas where they’re not … and they can be tempted to treat anyone who disagrees with them as if they are questioning that well-known Christian’s faith or orthodoxy.
Other times this comes up on a more personal level. One person might claim that a certain system in society, or a certain past culture was unjust in one way or another. Another person might reply that their grandfather was a part of that system or that society, and he was a sincere Christian, so that system or society couldn’t have been unjust in that way.
You hear these kinds of arguments from Christians. And yet, a little thought shows how problematic they can be. We all miss things. We are all blind to things. We are all ignorant of some things. Even those we admire are idiots about some things. Even they can be wrong about whether some system or society leads to just or unjust outcomes, even if their faith is sincere and they want to be just in their own conduct.
One thing this means is that we can disagree with other Christians about solutions for injustice without questioning each other’s faith or orthodoxy. Two Christians can agree that they want more economic opportunities for the poor and more racial equity for the marginalized. And then they can completely disagree on the best solutions for bringing about those increases in economic opportunities and racial equity. They can disagree strongly. But their disagreement doesn’t have to mean that one of them is duped by the world and on the slippery slope to unbelief. It doesn’t have to mean one of them must be on the road to Marxism or that the other must be on the road to anarcho-capitalism. One or both of them may be wrong, sure. But it’s not a matter of orthodoxy. It is a matter of wisdom and knowledge and insight. And on such things, Christians can disagree in good conscience.
This means that Christians can be politically engaged and politically passionate as they seek the solutions they think best in pursuing biblical justice in society, while resisting the partisan temptation to assume that anyone who disagrees with them is motivated by evil, and anyone who agrees with them is motivated by good. They will be able to disagree with other Christians without falling into such patterns, because they know Christians can be sincere and orthodox in their faith and still be wrong about such things. They’ll know that is possible for others, and they’ll remember that it is possible for themselves as well. So they will hold such disagreements loosely.
As we consider that Christians can agree with non-Christians about the best ways to pursue justice in different areas of life, and they can disagree with Christians about the best ways to pursue justice in different areas of life, that brings us to our final point.
Keeping a Christian Perspective on Allegiances
We are called to keep a Christian perspective on our allegiances as we pursue justice.
And here we can be brief. Simply put: Christians believe that their union with other Christians outranks every other allegiance in this life.
Again, that may seem obvious. But we can be tempted away from it. As we discuss or work for justice in society – as we pursue the solutions that we think best – we can begin to see those who agree with us on the details of such solutions as being closer to us than other Christians who disagree with us on such matters … even if those we are working with are not Christians themselves.
This results in two patterns that pastors around the country have been noticing. One is that within the churches, Christians are more and more sorting themselves politically. Rather than first looking for a church that agrees with hem doctrinally, Christians are seeking out churches that agree with them on the best political solutions for our culture. And so a church has to be more and more intentional if it wants to hold together a congregation with any diversity in political perspectives. Which is a sign that many Christians are seeing political allegiance as outranking doctrinal or denominational allegiance in their own minds.
That’s one issue. A second that many Christians feel a closer kinship with their political allies than they do with their spiritual allies. And that indicates a deeper problem, and a greater loss of a Christian view of our alliances.
The Apostle Paul wrote that in Christ “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” [Gal 3:28] He wrote “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” [Col. 3:11]
Paul did not mean that these sorts of distinctions are obliterated in Christ – what he means is that all those distinctions are relativized in Christ: none of these identities is as important as our identity in Christ, and none of these connections to other people is as important as our connection to other Christians through Christ alone.
So when it comes to politics, and when it comes to working for justice, how then do we think of these distinctions? Here, Francis Schaeffer’s categories of “allies” and “co-belligerents” are helpful as we think about the hierarchy of such relationships.
Schaeffer explained it like this – he said: “I have two words which I would recommend to anybody … and they are ‘ally’ and ‘co-belligerent.’ An ally is a person who is a born-again Christian with whom I can go a long way down the road … now I don’t say to the very end, because I’m a Presbyterian and I might not be able to form a church with a strong Baptist … but we can go a long way down the road – and that’s an ally. A co-belligerent is a person who may not have any sufficient basis for taking the right position but takes the right position on a single issue. And I can join with him without any danger as long as I realize that he is not an ally and all we’re talking about is a single issue.” When answering a follow-up question, Shaeffer clarified that this “absolutely” meant that he could at times be working with co-belligerents against his allies on a specific issue. [Duriez, 192]
Those two categories are helpful. A co-beligerent is not a Christian, but they agree with you on a specific issue in society. An ally may not agree with you on a specific issue, but they share the fundamentals of your Christian worldview and priorities.
You will have co-belligerents as you dive into issues of justice and politics in society – you will have non-Christians whom you agree with on certain issues, and work with. That is not a bad thing.
But those co-belligerents will never be cosmic allies to you. They should never be seen as outranking or superseding your connection to other Christians, even if those Christians are your political opponents.
To deny that is to deny our baptism – it is to deny the power of the gospel, and we must not do that.
We must fight the secular tendencies of our society when it comes to working for justice, and we must keep a Christian perspective of our alliances, knowing that our union with other Christians, in Christ, outranks every other union and every other partnership.
As we seek to engage the world on the topic of justice in society, temptations await. On one level this is unavoidable – because refusing to engage in these issues is often its own temptation to an overly-narrow view of how the kingdom of God is to operate in the world.
But when we enter the ring – when we decide we will try to engage in the issues of justice that the Bible calls us to care about, the temptations that come are often not the ones we expect.
We often identify one set of temptations. And we can then set ourselves up as the watchman for those temptations – warning others of that one set of temptations – whether that set we warn about is postmodern critical theory, secular libertarian theory, or something else.
But often, those temptations we focus on are not the ones that will get us. It’s the one behind us that we are at risk of falling into. As we engage and learn from other perspectives, this temptation is unavoidable, but it is not one that should take us by surprise.
Instead, we need to be intentional about maintaining a Christian perspective on all things, and we must resist the pull of false worldviews around us that would tempt us to deny aspects of the pervasiveness of sin in the world, the flesh, or the devil … or that would tempt us to deny the range of solutions we could consider within a Christian understanding of truth … or that would tempt us to deny the gospel proclamation that Christ unites us more with others than any other allegiance can.
That is what we must do if we are to pursue justice without being deceived.
This sermon draws on material from:
Augustine. Teaching Christianity (De Doctrine Christiana). Translation and Notes by Edmund Hill. Edited by John E. Rotelle. The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1996.
Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Translated by William Pringle. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005 Reprint.
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Know Press, 1960.
Duriez, Colin. Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.
Keller, Timothy. Generous Justice. New York, NY: Penguin, 2010.
Keller, Timothy. “A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory.” Gospel in Life. Special Edition 2020. August 2020.
Keller, Timothy, “Justice in the Bible.” Gospel in Life. Quarter 3 2020. September 2020.
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