When examining the subject of social justice, it is essential that we clearly define our terms. After all, it would seem that calls for social justice are akin to asking for fairness in all aspects of life. With such an altruistic goal in mind, we would not want anyone to be confused about the importance of such an endeavor or underestimate the serious repercussions that injustice might have on individuals or our society. At the most elementary level, social justice is equivalent to social fairness. According to most sources, social justice is a phrase that refers to giving what is rightly due to an individual or group, team or community.
When your definition encompasses such a lofty sounding objective, who would stand in opposition to such a goal? Does anyone really want to admit being against fairness? When we hear pleas for equity in the public arena, we should ask ourselves, how are those making such pleas deciding what is and isn’t fair? The sad truth concerning the social justice movement is that it is almost entirely rooted in the paradigm of secular humanism. According to the Free Dictionary online, these philosophized notions hold that right and wrong are not absolute values, but are personalized according to the individual and his or her circumstances or cultural orientation. It seems clear that decisions concerning social justice are made on the basis of moral relativism coupled with vague notions of equality.
Those calling for social justice claim that it is all about fairness between human beings based on the universal principles that guide people in knowing what is right and what is wrong. Fair perceptions about race, age, gender, culture, laws, traditions and beliefs are considered a good balance and essential in achieving socially just outcomes. When you peel away the rhetoric concerning unnamed universal principles of right and wrong, and you recognize that right and wrong cannot be determined apart from the existence of truly righteous moral absolutes, the search for social justice becomes more and more an exercise in futility. That is unless you can actually cause people to behave contrary to human nature, thereby limiting deep-seated prejudice and multi-generational bias that usually accompany the human condition. But this is far deeper and more complex problem that can only be adequately addressed through the transforming power of God found in the gospel. This is the power of God’s grace to transform naturally born sinners into supernaturally born-again saints.
Are calls for social justice just a cover for political correctness?
According to those in the know, social justice is really about not doing or saying anything that might be considered negative or detrimental to peaceful and productive relationships. Offend no one and criticize nothing. Offer no biblical insight or godly remedy concerning anyone’s beliefs or the behaviors they might generate. Anything less than an endorsement of a person or group’s lifestyle choices cannot be tolerated, regardless of what their preference might be or the negative consequences that might result for them, their families and the society in which they reside. This mantra is repeated even though one man’s taboo is another man’s personal preference.
Understanding what is at stake, it is fair to ask whether or not calls for social justice aren’t being used as a cover for one person or a group’s views concerning what is considered to be politically correct. Anyone who has taken the time to examine moral relativism can tell you that if morals are relative, than anything can be considered relatively moral. An entire host of behaviors can be seen as acceptable when your moral compass lacks calibration or is in a state of complete disrepair. This begs the question, how shall anyone adjust his or her moral compass without a trustworthy standard?
In the People’s Republic of China, the government has a policy of one child per family. The culture honors males over females. Evidently decades of communism has failed to achieve equality among the sexes. They not only use abortion as a form of birth control (shades of Planned Parenthood), they also condone infanticide resulting in female babies being discarded along with the curbside garbage or drown postpartum in buckets of water in a Red Chinese abortion clinics. I don’t think anyone in the free world should be pointing the finger of condemnation at the Chinese communists. Recently a planned parenthood counselor in the land of the free was taped telling an undercover investigator how to abort an unwanted child based entirely on the gender of the baby. Even though this was not a real pregnancy, the behavior of the Planned Parenthood representative was in many ways a peek into the warped mind of those who are desperately in need of a righteous moral standards.
The founding fathers attempted to protect the God-given rights of the individual American citizens, but the institution of slavery survived their noble efforts. It would seem that the supreme court’s failure to extend Constitutional protection to the pre-Civil War slaves via the infamous 1857 Dred Scott verdict has been followed more than 100 years later by the Supreme Court in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. This time murdering children in the womb (or half in and half out of the womb as in the case of partial birth abortion) is also relatively moral. Both the Dred Scott and the Roe v. Wade decisions could be seen as socially just outcomes when right and wrong is determined without the immutable and righteous standard of God’s Word.
Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
For those who have placed their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we understand that morality is not relative at all. We have the standard of God’s infallible Word, so there is no need to resort to public opinion polls or the latest primer of political correctness. Three thousand years ago, the psalmist of Israel wrote:
The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. Ps. 119:160 NKJV
The Word of God tells us what is true and what is not, what is right and what is wrong. In one of the most famous bargaining sessions of all time, the patriarch Abraham is left standing with the Lord God while two angels have been sent on a rescue mission to Sodom. They are going to save Abraham’s nephew Lot from God’s impending judgment, Gen. 19:24-29. The inhabitants of those cities were involved with wickedness and gross sexual immorality that they evidently considered morally acceptable. As Abraham bargains with God concerning whether or not He will spare the cities he says:
Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Gen. 18:25 NKJV
This is a remarkable statement by Abraham. Because God is gracious and not willing that anyone perish, II Peter 3:9, He sent His Messiah to pay the penalty for the sins of world, John 3:16. Contrary to popular opinion, there is a righteous standard concerning acceptable behavior. It is summarized in the first ten of the 613 commandments recorded in the Torah (Pentateuch). The penalty for transgressing these instructions must be paid. God is holy and humans are fatally flawed, born in a sinful state and unable to love God and their fellow man unconditionally, sacrificially, and intelligently as God intends. God sent His Son, the Messiah, to fulfill the promise of redemption in the New Covenant, Jer. 31:31-37; Ez. 36:26-27; John 3:3. This was eloquently prophesied by Isaiah:
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Is. 53:5-6
The next time someone speaks to you concerning the need for social justice, take the opportunity to tell them about your Messiah and their personal need concerning God’s forgiveness. The Creator has provided the cure for this sin-cursed world; the righteous King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus of Nazareth has paid the price. He has made a sacrifice that fully satisfies our heavenly Father’s wrath against all of our sins. The answer to Abraham’s query, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right” is a resounding yes! God has indeed done that which is right concerning mankind; He has provided justice that is truly righteous, justice that includes forgiveness and new life through His Son.
Dr. Steven Rowitt serves as Senior Pastor of Biblical Alternatives Fellowship, a messianic fellowship dedicated to God’s Righteousness At Christ’s Expense- GRACE. He also serves as the Chief Technical Advisor of the Creation Studies Institute and can be contacted at [email protected].