Social Justice, Restoring Honor, and Beck vs Sojourners

Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally drew much attention, but it also gave fuel to the on-going feud between Beck and Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, as a big difference between the views of Beck and Wallis surrounds “social justice”.

I also think it would be a good thing to stop attacking people and churches you label as “social justice Christians,” not just because I’m tired of being on your blackboard, but because I think you genuinely don’t understand the concept and how central it is to biblical faith, and how essential to the whole gospel.
http://blog.sojo.net/2010/09/02/an-open-letter-to-glenn-beck/

In case you night think he wasn’t clear he’s said the same thing many times:

You said social justice was a “perversion of the gospel”, and I countered that to assert that, instead, it is at the heart of the gospel and part of the core meaning of biblical faith. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/another-invitation-to-gle_b_497278.html

Social Justice is integral to Biblical faith, it’s at the heart of the Gospel. (MSNBC) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoD0ceZxRH4

… social justice, which I said was at the heart of the gospel and integral to biblical faith. http://blog.sojo.net/2010/05/06/glenn-beck-immigration-and-social-justice/

We’ve covered social justice and the counterfeit gospel before, but for a quick review here’s the definition of social justice:

Social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice

Economic egalitarianism is a state of economic affairs in which equality of outcome has been manufactured for all the participants of a society. It is a founding principle of various forms of socialism, communalism and cooperative economic organization. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_egalitarianism

Social justice encompasses economic justice. … Within the system of economic justice as defined by Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler, there are three essential and interdependent principles: The Principle of Participation, The Principle of Distribution, and The Principle of Harmony … The principle of participation describes how one makes “input” to the economic process in order to make a living … The principle of distribution defines the “output” or “out-take” rights of an economic system matched to each person’s labor and capital inputs … The principle of harmony encompasses the “feedback” or balancing principles required to detect distortions of either the input or output principles and to make whatever corrections are needed to restore a just and balanced economic order for all. http://www.cesj.org/thirdway/economicjustice-defined.htm

Social justice makes a foundational mistake understanding the gospel; if you’re wrong on Jesus and the Gospel, you’re likely wrong on everything else. What is the Gospel? It’s not open for debate, the apostle Paul exactly defined exactly the Gospel:

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures … (1 Corinthians 15:1 NKJV)

In case that’s not clear, here’s the Gospel defined by Paul:

  • Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
  • He was buried.
  • He rose again, according to the Scriptures.

Verses the Gospel according to social justice:

  • Economic justice & redistribution (as a basis for socialism), the duty of Christians and the essence (the primary part) of the gospel.

So who’s right? It’s your choice, but they can’t both be correct.

Social justice does believe in forced income redistribution as that’s the very definition, or “from every man according to his ability, to every man according to his need”, the classic foundational principle of socialism.

That’s sufficient to demonstrate mixing far-left political views with Biblical theology doesn’t work, but consider another attempt at justifying the opinion:

In fact, the end of Jesus’ famous sermon in Luke 4, about proclaiming “the year of the Lord’s favor,” was a direct reference, according to most biblical scholars, to the “year of Jubilee” in the Hebrew scriptures, which called for a periodic freeing of slaves, cancelling [sic] of debts, and returning land to original owners. It was written into the Torah as legal code and not just left up to individual charity. It was about “social justice” and even “redistribution” — two of the least popular words on your show.
http://blog.sojo.net/2010/09/02/an-open-letter-to-glenn-beck/

To determine if social justice really is the essence of the gospel, or if it conflicts with Biblical teaching, we need answers for the following:

  1. Where does Jesus say to use government to forcefully take from one person, and give to another as the government chooses, all in the name of charity?
  2. If charity is forced and not a free choice, can it really be called charity? If not, then aren’t you out of the realm of how the Bible speaks of charity?

Additionally, in the attempt to justify political (not theological) views, vital points have been missed. First, Christianity is freed from the Mosaic law; attempting to apply the Jewish Law to Christians doesn’t make sense. If social justice can be justified by the example of Jubilee (in the OT Law), which parts of the Mosaic Law apply to Christians and which don’t? Can a Christian eat ham? If yes, why does that part of the Mosaic Law not apply, while other parts are enforced? Who gets to make those decisions?

Of course, the issue of the Mosaic Law and Christians was settled early in the first century — perhaps a review of Acts 15 might be in order.

Jesus didn’t speak of government confiscation. Charity remains a private matter and personal choice. If it’s forced via government (or any other) confiscation, it’s no longer charity, by definition. Charity means voluntary giving of resources to others; “Forced charity” is an oxymoron (self-contradictory).

Mr. Wallis says private charity isn’t sufficient, thus the government should step in and force people to be “charitable”, and then make distribution as it sees fit. In other words, income redistribution (commonly called socialism/communism/marxism, etc). However, if Biblical personal charity isn’t sufficient, why don’t social justice pastors teach the flock and organize charitable drives, instead of trying to use the government to forcefully confiscate the resources of some, and give to others? As a pastor, isn’t teaching the flock the primary duty?

As a side note, we wonder if those claiming Christians can’t be against government from Romans 13 held the same view during President Bush’s term. We think not, judging by what appeared in the news during President Bush’s time in office. Of course, that simply demonstrates those with shifting views do not differ from any other political figure refusing to maintain consistency, promoting one view when someone they like holds the office, and promoting the opposite when someone they don’t like does.

All Christians (should) agree assisting the truly downtrodden and needy remains important. However, those claiming Christians must support “social justice” make several large mistakes.

  1. Charity in the Bible exists privately, while social justice proponents frequently state that’s insufficient, and needs forceful government action to “help” God along.
  2. In pursuit of that goal, social justice attempts to make the Bible fit far-left political views, instead of allowing the Bible to form political views. Of course, that’s exactly backwards.

Orthodox Christianity holds Jesus’ taking care of the poor and needy remains an individual and/or church concept, while social justice believes (without Biblical support) Jesus meant forceful government confiscation and redistribution — and even promotes the incorrect idea social justice comprises the essence of the Gospel, in direct contradiction to the apostle Paul.

In the end, the Beck verses Wallis/Sojourners becomes a disagreement over politics (not theology) and thus doesn’t involve any religious issues at all. Both men believe Christians should help the poor via charity. The difference is how — Wallis promotes hard-left political views (income redistribution), Beck does not.

Strange doctrine and fads periodically blow through the church and claim many victims. Whenever you hear something strange, ask the person to Biblically justify their position. If they can’t cite references, their position has no merit — don’t be taken in by the latest deceptive fads.

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