Social justice according to MacArthur

3 years ago Triangle 0

Written by: Nathan Ecarma, Editor-in-Chief

John MacArthur is under fire for being what he believes to be a stalwart in defense of false doctrine and of the Gospel.

He, along with 13 other men, gathered in Herb’s House coffeeshop in Dallas, Tex. on June 19 to establish a defense against what they believe to be “an onslaught of dangerous and false teachings that threaten the Gospel.”

They wanted to address the “in vogue movement known as social justice,” wrote Josh Buice, one of the men.  

The 14 men met at that coffee house in response to Josh Buice, a pastor from Georgia, who called the meeting. Buice knew these men had a similar perspective on the threat of the movement, and so, they all compared notes to review what they saw as a troubling movement.

Phil Johnson of Grace to You and Michael O’Fallon of Sovereign Nations facilitated the conversation. The conservation included James White, Voddie Bachum and John MacArthur.

Tom Ascol, one of the 14 men and a pastor from Florida, said, “We discovered that several of us had described the errors of this movement as the most serious threat to the Gospel that we have seen.”

The men studied and prayed before deciding to “make a public stand” with a “succinct, balanced statement.” They hoped their stand would serve as a warning.  

MacArthur wrote the initial draft. Buice edited and added to it, and then the rest at that coffee house reviewed it, some making several suggestions and others none. After, they sent the statement to a wider audience who reviewed it. Then, final revisions were made with the input of other respected theologians and pastors.

What they wrote out and signed is now formally called the Statement on Social Justice but is informally called the Dallas Statement.

It was published on September 4.

The statement has 9436 signatures, including, Douglas Wilson, Chris Larson and Joseph Pipa.

The stated intention behind the statement was not to call out people and organizations but to “address ideas and doctrines.” However, they made the statement acknowledging that people will be called out: “We grieve that in doing so we know we are taking a stand against the positions of some teachers whom we have long regarded as faithful and trustworthy spiritual guides.”

They even hope that their statement provokes a conversation that ends in unity.

But other evangelicals see their intention in another way.

Timothy Keller sees the intent of the statement as an attempt to marginalize those who fight against social injustices. He said, “It’s not so much what [the statement] says, but what it does. It’s trying to marginalize people talking about race and justice.” Keller said he agreed with 80% of it, and he thinks that most could, but he did not want to sign it because of how it contributes to the polarization of this country. He said, “Even if I could agree with most of it…it’s what it’s doing that I don’t like.”

Keller is not the only one who refuses to sign it. Even Albert Mohler, MacArthur’s friend, refused to sign it, and has allegedly forbade his faculty at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to sign it. MacArthur and Mohler often stand together. But this time, Mohler did not stand with MacArthur.

Like Keller, Mohler admitted that much of the statement is consistent with what he believes, but it lays out the complex issues in a different way then he would.

He continued to explain how much of the language around social justice conversations is confusing. He said, “There has been some loose talk here.” He goes on describing the confusing nature of the notion of “gospel issue.” He said, “I would warn that we should not say without explanation that this is a gospel issue.”

“I did not sign the statement because I simply could not express my own understanding of this, [which has been] hammered out over nearly four decades of life, with the language that was used there.”

“There are parts of the statement that are undeniably true. There are some other statements in it that I don’t understand and that I certainly couldn’t affirm as I see them.”

He also disagrees with assertions of the statement. He said, “For instance, the question of victims and the recognition of real victims. The statement itself uses language like ‘entitled victims’ of social structures.”

Mohler argues that while the radical left has exaggerated pointing to everything as oppression and victimhood, there are also “real victims, who are really victims. There are victims right now of social oppression.” Mohler denies that acknowledging oppression and victimhood robs others of the Gospel.

Another prominent leader Thabiti Anyabwile would not sign the statement. He explained how vague the terminology of the statement was: “They’re so imprecise in the terms that are used and defining those terms. What exactly is meant by social justice? What are we talking about when we talking about reconciliation or intersectionality or critical race theory?

Sophia Lee, a World Magazine writer, explained the context of this statement:

“The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel comes in the wake of the deaths of Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, Black Lives Matter, the 2016 election, and Charlottesville. It also comes in the wake of various churches and leaders attempting to address racial reconciliation, such as publicly confessing sins of racism, preaching about racial reconciliation from the pulpit, and holding an MLK50 conference to discuss the state of racial unity in the church.”

The lines have been drawn. Prominent evangelicals stand across from each other on the aisle. Evangelicals who have stood together no longer stand together in the issue of social justice.

Nathan Ecarma is a senior who studies Bible, language and journalism.