It’s with much respect I write these words to my friends who are fellow co-belligerents against the Social Justice juggernaut in
To make the case for a different strategy from the one I’m now seeing employed, I’ll point your attention to a rather fine article by Tom Buck written at Sovereign Nations. It’s with no disrespect to Tom or Michael O’Fallon that I make a case-in-point out of that recent post.
THE STRATEGY DU JOUR
In An Open Letter to Russell Moore, Buck writes to the ERLC president and encourages him to repent of using the recent sex abuse scandal (which was hardly anything but news) in the SBC to impugn those of us cautious of the Social Gospel, or as so many have come to call it, Social Justice.
Buck is right in all of his assertions within the post. It was shameful for Moore to tacitly suggest that those opposed to radicalized social religion are somehow complicit in the abuse of children. I’m positive that any of the drafters of the Dallas Statement would promote such penalties for sexual abuse (or its coverup) that would seem downright draconian to most. There simply isn’t a connection between sex abuse and the redistribution of goods, which is the Marxist carrot that leads the Democratic donkey through our evangelical neighborhood. The only way “justice” is connected to sex abuse is, perhaps, Moore’s recent fixation on criminal justice reform, which would no doubt lessen the penalties for sexual crimes rather than strengthen them.
My issue is not that Buck wrote the post. My issue is not that Buck addressed his letter to Russell Moore. My issue is that it seems that Buck addressed his letter to Russell Moore in the charitable and optimistic hope that Moore might somehow relent of his famously leftist worldview and apologize for anything ever (unless it’s for the sins of his ancestors or the collective guilt of Southern Baptists).
In fact, Tom Buck is one man I can think of who has criticized Russell Moore at least as long as Pulpit & Pen (although ERLC research fellow, Karen Swallow Prior, received a few odd passes). Good on him.
Rather, my contention is that the strategy of the Gospel-centered group opposing social religion (which includes everyone from myself to Buck to O’Fallon to John MacArthur) has seemed thus far to be centered on
Echoing out longer and louder than other questions in this debate are:
Where does Albert Mohler stand? Why does he say the right words but seem to be promoting social religion with all his vigor?
Will Mohler and Dever successfully change the mind of Dr. MacArthur in the ShepCon green room and win him over? What will the consequences of that be for the movement?
Why does every single Gospel Coalition board member seem sold-out to wokeness and what does it mean for the rest of us?
How can we get 9Marks, TGC, T4G, and the ERLC to stop promoting such bad theology or how can we get prominent Christian leaders to stop promoting these organizations if they do not?
The social media peanut galleries all contain conversations over this issue that sound like an evangelical game of Pokemon.
I’ll trade you a John MacArthur for an Ligon Duncan. Throw away that Tim Keller card, it’s worthless. Where’s Alistair Begg at? Does anybody have a Begg card or know where he stands?
The Dallas Statement itself was born out of this mentality, for better or worse, as it awaited publication until it could get John MacArthur’s signature and allow him to gear up to address the issue from the pulpit and in blog form. The excitement of the Dallas Statement was almost entirely related to the celebrity leaders who signed it.
John MacArthur. Phil Johnson. Voddie Baucham. James White.
To be clear, praise God for all those men. But what seemed to be a strength of the document – the gravitas of certain signers – soon became its problem. Names missing from the signatory list actually are more resounding than those on it.
Paul Washer signed it and then took his name off? Yikes.
Where’s Mohler’s name? Where are all of our favorite preachers?
BROTHERS, GO TO THE PEWS
Although not everyone on our side of the aisle is a Baptist, many of us are. I am. I’m Baptist born, Baptist bred, and when I die I’ll be a Baptist dead.
We don’t have synods. We don’t have presbyteries. And I sure don’t know how parachurch ministries fit into that equation. We are people of the local church.
It does indeed seem that the ‘woke’ crowd has the institutions. Despite Mohler’s recent words, social religion has Southern Baptist Seminary. Social religion sure-as-sunshine has Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. It has Reformed Theological Seminary. It has Westminster Seminary. Social religion has firm control over the Southern Baptist Convention’s current leaders. Social religion has the ERLC. It has 9Marks. It has The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. It has publications like Christianity Today and Relevant Magazine. Social religion is even spewing out of the Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals and the White Horse Inn.
If there is any hope among our contingent to regain control of any of these institutions, let it go. It will not happen. James Riady is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into RTS, Westminster Philly, and TGC. Soros is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the ERLC and its various progressive-pushing sub-organizations like the Evangelical Immigration Table.
Furthermore, while it may seem possible to win over influential evangelicals who appear to be riding on the fence – like Mohler or Kevin DeYoung – I’ll remind you they’re on the board of The Gospel Coalition. These men promote “gay Christians” like Sam Allberry and animal rights leftists like Karen Swallow Prior. Whatever nuance they’ve intentionally left in their positions for political posturing is betrayed by their affiliation with this organization that is bought and paid for by James Riady and the Democratic left.
Brothers, we don’t need these leaders and we sure don’t need their institutions.
If these institutions oppose that which is pure and undefiled religion, then damn those institutions.
Yes, I wrote it. Damn them.
Jesus did not die for evangelical parachurch ministries. He is not going to split the heavens open to
We have no stake, no reason, no purpose in saving institutions any more than Jesus came to save institutions. Jesus did not come to redeem 501(c)3 groups, and we are wasting our time trying to redeem them with our open letters or secret green room conversations at ShepCon or G3 or by private emails with their leaders. These organizations will all be part of that which is wrapped up by Christ like a dirty garment in the eschaton and discarded. We should let them go.
I believe that even the good guys on my side of the aisle have been a little star-struck by the celebrities involved. This has inhibited us from doing what we ought to have been doing all along…going straight to the pews.
As Baptists who believe in local church autonomy and the priesthood of the believer, if we want to change the church we need to go straight to the church. And by “church,” I mean the ecclesia, the called-out group of people who regularly assemble each Lord’s Day in local congregations.
The devil has used these massive institutions to infiltrate the evangelical mind and corrupt our pulpits. Our enemy has used subversive theology taught by subversive professors and change agents to push out Social Justice Warriors like water from a tap. I believe that we have misguidedly sought to imitate the devil’s approach, seeking to regain control of the institutions and the “influencers” in an attempt to fight fire with fire. The devil uses this method.
Damn the devil.
TAKE IT TO THE CHURCH
What does our Lord instruct us to do when someone sins against us? We are not told by the Lord Jesus to take it to the elders (many Reformed churches need to remember this). We are told by Jesus to take it to the sinner and, if not won over, to take it to the church.
Baptist polity joyfully recognizes the congregation – yes the individual members in the pews – as the highest jury on Earth. While James MacDonald’s errant ecclesiology left discipline completely up to a few elite men, we saw the demise of James MacDonald this week. We Baptists who hold to historic Baptist polity understand that it is the congregation – and not the elders – who have ultimate oversight and the ultimate fiduciary responsibility to maintain discipline and order in the church.
Let us go straight to the people.
These social religion advocates, particularly those who are pastors, can withstand all the social media pressure under the sun. They can withstand open letters on websites. They can withstand our pleas to reason in social media. But mark my words, these pastors (like David Platt, for example), can not withstand churches full of dutiful members who are willing to defend the Gospel by the means of firing their pastor. The majority of these social religion warriors are sunshine patriots and summer soldiers. They are leading the SJW parade because their churches are largely silent and ill-informed.
We must inform them.
I said on Twitter many, many moons ago that if pastors don’t educate their members in polemics, we will go over them or through them to do it. Although it was received with criticism (as always), that has been our strategy and it has worked.
The only check-and-balance provided for the pulpit in Scripture is the pew…not other pulpits. Pastors and leaders must ultimately be held accountable by the people.
To state my thesis as clearly as possible, we shouldn’t be reaching out to the leaders of the social religion movement. That strategy is a non-starter. Rather, we need to be reaching out to the followers of the social religion movement…the pew-sitters, the tithers, the Bitter Blue Bettys and the Church Curmudgeons in MAGA hats. We need to go to Christ’s sheep directly and warn them to put a stop to their own pastor’s theological drift.
The vast sum of the Evangelical Intelligentsia are comprised not of pastors, however, but by institutional leaders and the directors of parachurch ministries. Russell Moore, for example, will never be fired by the SBC because the SBC doesn’t run the ERLC. It is operated by trustees who are – by and large – hand selected by Russell Moore. Like the federal bureaucracy, the ERLC is funded by money that comes without oversight of any managing agency. So long as people pay their taxes, or their tithes – and so long as pastors aren’t good stewards of what is given – it will fill the coffers of the run-away entity.
The solution to this problem is for well-discipled church members to firmly put their foot down and say, “No more.”
No more to the offering plate until the church assures us it’s not funding liberal organizations. No more social justice sermons on white guilt; preach the Gospel. No more watering down the atonement by talk of reparations. No more besmirching the New Covenant by talking about generational sins. Enough of all of it.
That must become the attitude of the Universal Church, as fleshed out and lived in its local manifestations.
We do not need highly sophisticated politicians on our side who diplomatically (and naively) try to shift the opinions of nefarious actors. Rather, we need an all-out media blitz to get good theology paired with a Biblical worldview directly into the pews…even if we have to go through or around the pulpits that are filled by men fresh out of seminary with a degree in virtue signaling.
Let’s put our brains together and figure out how to take this to the church. If we’re Baptists, we should trust that God the Spirit will lead his people to the knowledge of truth.
So let’s give them truth.
[Editor’s Note: Contributed by JD Hall]
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