Why President Trump and Jesse Jackson are Both Wrong About Chicago Violence

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A recent CNBC.com article contained an embedded tweet from President Donald Trump that caught my attention.

It reads:

“If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible “carnage” going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!”

In response to this somewhat cryptic presage by our nation’s 45th president, Jesse Jackson, a man who many today still regard as a leader in the cause of civil and human rights, counter-tweeted President Trump, saying:

“We need a plan, not a threat. We need jobs, not jails.”

In reflecting on the conspicuous ideological dissonance expressed in this social media tête-à-tête, I am reminded of the 1959 epic film Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, in which a similarly heated exchange occurs between Sextus, the retiring Roman general, and the young tribune Messala, who is zealous to take over from Sextus and make his own imprint on the military unit he has dreamed of commanding since he was a boy.

Messala has been ordered by Caesar to quash the violence in the Roman-ruled province of Judea, and forcefully restore order to a citizenry that has been in constant rebellion against the occupation.

The exchange is as follows:

Messala: “The emperor is displeased. He wishes Judea made into a more disciplined and obedient province. He has ordered the new governor and me to restore order. I intent to carry out his wishes!”
Sextus: “Yes, but how, Messala?! Oh, you can break a man’s skull, you can arrest him, you can throw him into a dungeon. But how do you control what’s up here [in the mind]? How do you fight an idea?! Especially a new idea?”
Messala: “Sextus, you ask how to fight an idea? I’ll tell you how. With another idea.”

It is clear from this discourse that Sextus realized something Messala did not: that genuine behavior change is a matter of internal transformation not external manipulation (Romans 12:2).

Sextus understood that all rebellion is borne in the heart, and that no use of force or other external influence would result in making Judea into the “disciplined and obedient province” Messala determined to bring to fruition.

Like Messala, what both President Trump and Jesse Jackson fail to understand is that matters of the heart cannot be remedied through government intervention or economic incentive.

Oh, you can send the Feds into Chicago to beat up people, arrest them, and throw them in jail. You can even designate certain areas of the city as Empowerment Zones in the hopes that doing so will reduce unemployment and provide economic relief to poverty-stricken communities.

But how do you deal with someone who, for whatever reason, has made up their mind that they’re going to murder someone else?

Does the threat of arrest in and of itself change the person’s mind?

Apparently not.

And how does simply being employed alter the sinful intentions one might have towards another of God’s image-bearers? Does merely having money in my pockets assuage the enmity and bitterness I harbor in the deepest recesses of my soul?

If so, what happens after the money runs out (Proverbs 23:4-5)?

After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand, there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach and is eliminated?” And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”Mark 7:14-23 (NASB)

None of this is to suggest that the federal government should not do what is Constitutionally mandated to protect us (even from one another, as is the case with Chicago). Nor is it to imply that the government has absolutely no role in helping meet the essential needs of those who truly are poverty-stricken and destitute (Galatians 2:10).

Though I remain convinced that helping the poor is primarily the responsibility of the church (James 1:27), we who are Christians, especially those of us who, like myself, identify as socially conservative, tend to forget that governments are established by God (Romans 13:1) as minsters on His behalf for our good (Romans 13:4a).

So, yes, there in fact is a role for the government in such matters as these.

Not all government involvement in the welfare of its citizens is inherently bad (the operative word being inherently).

Nevertheless, notwithstanding what governments may or may not be able to do at enhancing one’s station in life, one thing it most assuredly cannot do is change a person’s heart.

“The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.” – John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life

At the root of the hundreds of murders committed in Chicago in 2016, is the same issue that compelled Cain to murder his brother Abel many millennia ago (Genesis 4:3-8).

With all due respect to the “reverend” Jesse Jackson, Cain killed his brother not because he didn’t have a job. Both he and his brother were gainfully employed – Abel as a shepherd and Cain as a farmer (Genesis 4:2).

No, Cain murdered his brother because he purposed in his heart to do so.

It’s that simple.

In fact, Cain was so determined to carry out the deed that he completely ignored God’s direct warning against it (Genesis 4:7).

You see, contrary to what Messala might say if he were alive today, what Chicago needs is not “another idea”.

It doesn’t need “the Feds” or “a plan” for jobs not jails.

What Chicago needs is what the world entire is in desperate need of: the soul-liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. For only the gospel can so transform a person that murder – or any other type of violence – is no longer a desire of the heart (Romans 1:16).

Our problem, if we were honest, is we don’t really believe the gospel is what it says it is or that it can do what it says it does.

Consequently, we think more like Messala than Sextus.

One need only look at Chicago to see where that kind of thinking has gotten us.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

A Biblical Theology of the Black-White “Wealth Gap”

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Much is being said today about the so-called wealth gap that purportedly exists among black households and white households in America.

I say purportedly not to deny that such a divide exists – it does – but to highlight that the very term wealth gap is inherently misleading, as it assumes that such imparity is innately unfair – if not immoral – and, as such, should be redressed under the nirvanic pursuit of “income equality”.

The publication The Economist defines income equality as:

the ratio of the share of national income going to the richest 20 percent of households in a country to the share of the poorest 20 percent.

When speaking of the wealth gap strictly in terms of numbers the data are indisputable.

But therein lies the rub.

A study on income inequality conducted by Pew Research found that:

From 2010 to 2013, the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households increased from $138,600 to $141,900, or by 2.4%. Meanwhile, the median wealth of non-Hispanic black households fell 33.7%, from $16,600 in 2010 to $11,000 in 2013. 

On the surface, these numbers appear to paint a rather disadvantageous and inequitable picture in and of themselves. Nevertheless, in today’s politically-correct, hyper-sensitive society, context is more important now than ever.

This is especially true considering that the default milieu in which matters of wealth acquisition and distribution are debated – in terms of race as opposed to socio-economic class – is that any “gaps” that do exist are solely the result of institutional and structural injustices committed by white people against black people.

Notwithstanding the above-referenced data from Pew, the truth is the black-white wealth gap should not be viewed strictly in terms of dollars and cents.

True, there are any number of quantifiable reasons for why such disparities exist, but that they exist does not suffice as a sufficient argument that they should not exist.

In other words, that there is disparity does not necessarily mean there is inequality.

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

There is a fundamental problem with using “inequality” to describe the income disparity between black and white households.

The word inequality intrinsically conveys that the wealth “gap” is a problem to be remedied simply because there is a gap, and that the acquisition of wealth is the only solution to mitigate that disparity under the subjective premise that income inequality is patently “unfair”.

But to assert that income inequality is somehow unfair is to place oneself in the throes of a philosophical dilemma. For to argue that anything is “unfair” is, by definition, to introduce into the conversation the question of morality.

Consequently, one is forced to consider by what or whose standard of morality should income inequality be deemed unfair. Hence, what began as a circular discourse rooted in subjectivity and ambiguity has morphed into a theological exercise on the level of untying the Gordian Knot.

“When people look at questions of income and the disparity, they’re not looking for causes. They’re looking for blame. And those are not the same things.” – Thomas Sowell, from an interview with World magazine, 12/30/2014

A highly popular television sitcom The Jeffersons ran on the CBS network for 11 seasons (from 1975 to 1985).

The Jeffersons followed the lives of George and Louise Jefferson, an African-American couple who relocated from the poverty of Queens, NY to Manhattan, as a result of the success of George’s dry-cleaning business chain.

The theme song from The Jeffersons was titled Movin’ On Up, the lyrics of which celebrate the fact that the rambunctious George, and his beloved wife Louise, had finally achieved their dream.

In other words, they had conquered the wealth gap.

Well,, we’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
To the east side (movin’ on up)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
To the east side (movin’ on up)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta’ tryin’
Just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues
Gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby
There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Well, we’re movin’ on up (movin on up)
To the east side (movin on up)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up (movin on up)
To the east side (movin on up)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

“The rich and the poor have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all.” – Proverbs 22:2 (NASB)

Please understand that I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with an individual endeavoring to achieve the “American Dream” and acquiring their own “piece of the pie”.

But when those pursuits are engaged in solely under the pretense of “income inequality”, a philosophy predicated on pitting the haves of the world against the have-nots, then perhaps the time has come for a re-evaluation of motives (James 4:1-3).

“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.” – Proverbs 23:4 (NASB)

A major fallacy of the black-white wealth gap is it assumes a cause (e.g. systemic racism) without regard to other factors that might contribute to it.

A case in point is a report published by Demos, progressive public policy organization, which found that:

  • 42 percent of African Americans report using their credit cards for basic living expenses like rent, mortgage payments, groceries, utilities, or insurance because they do not have enough money in their checking or savings accounts.
  • African Americans carry an average credit card balance of $5,784.
  • Just 66% of African American households report having a credit score of 620 or above, compared to 85 percent of white households.  
  • 50 percent of indebted African American households who incurred expenses related to sending a child to college report that it contributed to their current credit card debt.
  • 71 percent of African American middle-income households had been called by bill collectors as a result of their debt, compared to 50 percent of white middle-income households.

What no one is talking about concerning the black-white wealth divide is the role human behavior plays in helping facilitate that gap.

It is a universal truth that when, in our self-centered efforts to “move on up” in life, we choose to violate the principles of God’s Word, we should expect certain outcomes as a result.

Scripture is clear on matters of:

This is not to suggest or infer that the black-white wealth gap is attributable solely to a collective disregard for biblical principles on the part of black Americans.

Not at all.

I am not naive to the reality that not all black Americans – nor Americans in general – are believers in Jesus Christ and submit their lives to the spiritual disciplines set forth in His Word.

To be sure, not even we who are believers in consistently abide by His precepts (Luke 6:46).

Nevertheless, the reality is personal responsibility is a major factor in the black-white wealth gap being what it is. It would be disingenuous, to say the least, to suggest that socio-economic factors alone (e.g. unemployment, racism) are at fault in creating this imbalance.

“The measure of our success cannot be defined by what we accomplish here on earth; it has already been defined by the fact that we are in Christ.” – Dr. Ian Duguid, from the January 2017 issue of TableTalk Magazine, p.13

It may not be politically correct to say this, but the truth is not everyone is destined to achieve the American Dream.

The sovereignty of God is such that, ultimately, it is He who determines to what degree we experience success in this world, whether material or otherwise (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 20:4; 118:23-25;  Deuteronomy 8:18; Romans 9:14-16). With this (God’s sovereignty) in mind, as followers of Christ, contentment should be our goal not closing the wealth gap (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

This is not to suggest that one should not aspire to improve their socio-economic station, but that they should do so with the larger picture in mind – eternity.

For, indeed, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, and forfeit their soul (Mark 8:36)?

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credit:
huffingtonpost.com

Related:
Thomas Sowell on the Root Causes of Income Equality – World

The Danger of Viewing Jesus as a Melanin Messiah


As a child growing up in the “black power” era of the 1970s it was imparted to me, and undoubtedly to other black children like me, that Jesus Christ was a white man.

My adoption of this visage of the Son of God was achieved not so much directly, as if through a series of catechismic conversations I had with my parents, but indirectly by virtue of the seemingly ubiquitous paintings, and other such visuals that were present in our home and at the small house-church we attended, that depicted Jesus as a tall, slender, Caucasian male with golden blonde hair, deep blue eyes, and a deftly-manicured beard.

(Perhaps this same visual of Jesus is entering into your own recollection as you read this.)

But though the human appearance of Jesus was consistently represented by such phylogenetic features, I never felt compelled, nor was I ever unduly influenced or encouraged, to formulate a Christology of Jesus through the filter of race or ethnicity so as to view Him as the “God of the white man”.

“For too long Christ has been pictured as a blue-eyed honky. Black theologians are right: we need to dehonkify him and thus make him relevant to the black condition.” – James H. Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation

To whatever extent I had been imbued as a child – primarily through the commingling of accepted societal and ecclesiastical teachings and traditions – with the understanding that the corporeal substance of Jesus was tantamount to that of a white man, it was secondary to my being convinced of my innate sinful condition, and that Christ had come into this world as the propitiation for offenses I had personally committed against a holy and righteous God (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10).

But, be that as it may, there is a sense today in which certain socio-ethno dynamics, such as incidents of police-involved shootings of black Americans are, under the banner of social justice, serve as an impetus for many black Christians, particularly those who are of the millennial generation, to endorse a theology rooted in a racial or “tribal” Jesus.

It is a worldview that simultaneously rejects the traditional orthodoxy and orthopraxy of “white Christianity” or, more specifically, white Christian America, while embracing a dogma that preaches a Christ with whom they can identify racially first and theologically second.

Consequently, many black Christians become attracted to and influenced by the activist philosophy of entities such as Black Lives Matter whose agenda, whether intentionally or not, proves effectual in shaping within them an ethno-centric Christology of who Jesus is.

“For black theologians, white Americans do not have the ability to recognize the humanity in persons of color, blacks need their own theology to affirm their identity in terms of a reality that is anti-black — “blackness” stands for all victims of white oppression. “White theology,” when formed in isolation from the black experience, becomes a theology of white oppressors, serving as divine sanction from criminal acts committed against blacks.” – Dr. Anthony B. Bradley, ‘The Marxist Roots of Black Liberation Theology’, as published by the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, April 1, 2008

None of this is to suggest or imply the existence of an organized effort on the part of Black Lives Matter, or any other social justice movement, to discredit, deconstruct, or otherwise depreciate Christianity as a viable theology for black Americans.

Nevertheless, it must be noted that to the extent that Black Lives Matter, in particular, has served as a clarion call to countless black millennials to rally around the cause of racial and social justice – particularly in light of the numerous incidents of police-involved violence against blacks over the past several months – it has impacted not only their view of the role of politics and government in bringing that justice to fruition, but also their view of Jesus Christ and His church.

It is this activist and confrontational approach of Black Lives Matter in pursuing what is unarguably a gospel-centered mandate, namely, the equitable treatment of all human beings (Genesis 1:27; Luke 6:31-36) – particularly when contrasted with what many black Christians today perceive to be a rather placid and imperturbable attitude of white evangelicals on issues of justice – that often factors into young black Christians becoming increasingly comfortable with inculcating certain tenets of groups such as Black Lives Matter into the traditional Christian worldview handed down to them by their parents and grandparents.

The result of this theological appropriation is a rejection by many black Christians of “white Christianity” – and its “white Jesus” – on the basis of what is perceived to be the egregious passivity of white evangelicals in not being more active in helping to rectify and emend what they observe to be systematic injustices being committed with impunity against people who look like them.

“Historically, white Jesus has been used to oppress and erase the histories of people of color in a way that Korean Jesus or black Jesus has not. While a Korean or a black Jesus might not be historically accurate — just like a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus — people of color have the right to see themselves in their religion, especially after centuries of being taught and forced to worship a God that doesn’t look like them.” – Franchesca Ramsey, as published by The Huffington Post in an article titled ‘Jesus Wasn’t White and Here’s Why That Matters’, December 22, 2015

It is an unarguable fact that, historically, both Christianity and Christianity’s Christ have been leveraged in such ungodly ways as to reduce the humanity of blacks to less than that of individuals who are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

Even Puritan stalwarts like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, men whom we Reformed believers esteem so highly, and rightly so in my opinion, are not without guilt concerning this.

“Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.” – Ecclesiastes 7:29 (NASB)

But notwithstanding this unfortunate yet undeniable reality, the question I have is: How long will black Christians hold our white brothers and sisters – and such they are – responsible for the transgressions of their predecessors?

Is the sin of “hermeneutical homogeneity” – a term I use to describe the historical misapplication of biblical Christianity by white people toward the goal of keeping black people “in their place” – a legitimate reason to hold over their collective heads the wrongs of 400 years of mistreatment and miseducation as if it were the Sword of Damocles?

I think not.

“…while we need to be honest about the sins of our spiritual forefathers, let’s be careful not to view them or portray them as if they were nothing but sinners. Slavery is a big issue, but we should not make it the defining issue in how we view people lest we fall into another kind of idolatry.” – Joel Beeke, from the article ‘Propaganda: Giving the Puritans a Bad Rap’, October 25, 2012

To whatever extent white evangelicalism played a role in fostering an environment of racial injustice toward blacks, is resorting to an ethno-evangelicalism of our own any less sinful?

Or do we not realize that whenever Christianity has been used for an ungodly purpose it is not Christianity – nor Christianity’s Christ – that was to blame, but the innate sinfulness of the human heart that manipulates the Word of God in an effort to concoct such depraved schemes (Genesis 8:21b; Jeremiah 17:9Mark 7:20-23; James 4:1)?

“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals, for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:9 (NASB)

I have long been troubled by the fact that many of my black brothers and sisters, under the guise of “social justice”, have been quick to conjure up – whether past or present – the sins of white people as if to imply that we ourselves are clean.

We are not.

Then, again, no one is (Romans 3:23).

But the question of which ethnicity – blacks or whites – is more worthy to “cast the first stone” is not even the issue (nor has it ever been).

What is the issue is that God did for believers from all ethnicities that which He was not obligated to do.

He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into a world ravaged by sin so that sinners like you and me – of every ethnicity – would be eternally rescued from the wrath of a holy and righteous God (Acts 17:26-27; 1 Thessalonians 1:10Revelation 5:9).

Whatever shade it was, it is not His melanin that makes Jesus the Messiah.

Regardless how Christianity might have been used in the past, or even today for that matter, it is an egregious sin against God to take the One in whose image we are all created and remake Him in our own image.

To do so is nothing more than identity theology.

And identity theology is nothing less than idolatry.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:

The Rage of White, Christian America – The Washington Post
White Christian America Is Dying – The Washington Post
Slavery and Jonathan Edwards – John Piper (audio message from Desiring God)
What Do We Do With Our Slavery-Affirming Theological Heroes? – John Piper
Puritans, Slavery, and Criticizing Heroes – The Heidelblog
The New Black Atheists – Chris Cameron

Image credit:

From the CBS network sitcom Good Times which aired from 1974 to 1979

Why a Hillary Clinton Victory ‘Might’ Have Been Better For The Evangelical Church

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I was hoping Hillary Clinton would win.

Before you jump to conclusions, allow me to explain.

Creatures of Habit

From the standpoint of our respective socio-political worldviews, the former Secretary of State and I could not be more diametrically opposed to one another.

Hillary Clinton’s self-professed admiration for eugenicist Margaret Sanger, founder of The Negro Project – the precursor to what is today Planned Parenthood – augmented with her unabashed support of same-sex marriage, or what progressives like Clinton prefer to call “marriage equality”, are but two examples of where she and I part ideological ways.

Nevertheless, that Donald Trump is now President-elect of the United States has left me feeling somewhat disappointed.

I say this not because of what a Trump presidency might portend for America in terms of domestic and foreign policy, but because of what it might mean in terms of the spiritual mindset and mission of the evangelical church.

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” – Psalm 118:8 (NASB)

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, it has been widely reported that President-elect Trump received upwards of 81 percent support from evangelicals, whereas Hillary Clinton received only 16 percent.

That President-elect Trump can boast that 8 out of every 10 professing evangelicals voted for him may be good news for Trump, however, I would caution against Christians presuming that the same can be said for the Church.

I say this because, historically, we evangelicals have exhibited a rather unique penchant for letting our political guard down, particularly when a supposed “conservative Christian” is occupying the White House.

Taking comfort in this we tend to morph into what I call “La-Z-Boy mode”, assuming that because “our” candidate won that “our work here is done” (as the saying goes).

Accordingly, as if by rote, we assume the position.

We lean back, put our spiritual feet up, and rest in the “blessed assurance” that because the person we voted for is “one of us”, there is no real need for vigilance on our part in holding them accountable to any degree.

“Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” – Psalm 146:3 (NASB)

None of this is to infer or imply that the future of the Church in America, or Christianity in general for that matter, rests in the hands of either President-elect Trump or ours as individual evangelicals.

Nor is it to suggest that President-elect Trump is anti-Church, anti-Christian, or anti-religious freedom.

Not at all.

Waiting to Exhale? 

As followers of Christ, we serve a sovereign God who has promised to build His church despite any worldly or other-worldly forces that might endeavor to oppose it (Psalm 135:6; Daniel 4:35Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 6:12).

In other words, it is an eternally settled issue that the church of God will continue to grow and flourish, as it has for over 2,000 years, regardless who is in power whether nationally or globally.

Nonetheless, after eight years of an administration which, by any objective measure, has not been a friend of Christians, I am somewhat concerned that many evangelicals will view the election of Donald Trump as their “waiting to exhale” moment, if you will, believing we can finally relax now that Barack Obama will soon be out of office.

It is this concern that makes me wonder if it would not have been better for the evangelical Church if Hillary Clinton had won and not Donald Trump.

“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” – Ecclesiastes 7:20 (NASB)

With all due respect, for evangelicals to assume simply by virtue that Donald Trump was elected president and not Hillary Clinton, that the political climate will automatically be more favorable for Christians is to be spiritually naive.

Because although a Clinton administration would undoubtedly have been just as adversarial to the evangelical church as has been the Obama administration, if not more so, it nonetheless might have served as impetus to keep Christians on their toes, or better, on their knees.

“Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?” – Isaiah 2:22 (NASB)

The nature of politics is that it has a way of subtly convincing people that a promise made is tantamount to a promise kept.

A very tangible example of this is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare, and the boastful assurances made by President Obama, among other prominent Democrats, that it would save American households of dollars in healthcare costs but, in reality, has resulted in financial hardship for millions of families who find themselves unable to afford the skyrocketing premiums.

At first glance, the election of Donald Trump as our nation’s 45th president may seem a cause for rejoicing to many evangelicals; a long-awaited answer to prayer after nearly a decade of overt hostility from an administration whose view of Christianity, to say the least, has been less than favorable.

But that is no excuse for Christians to view Trump’s election as some political laurel upon which we can now rest.

“Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.” – John Adams

If nothing else, what should keep evangelicals grounded against being overly exuberant that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton is that, biblically speaking, he is no less a sinner than she is (Romans 3:23).

Though a multi-billionaire with a track record as a deal making power-broker, as President-elect, Donald Trump now has access to more power than even he could ever have imagined.

With this in mind, President-elect Trump will need our prayers perhaps more than even he realizes (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

Conclusion

That a Trump victory might result in many evangelicals becoming passive about matters of significance to the Church is why I had hoped Hillary Clinton would win.

For perhaps then, with an ideological antagonist in the White House instead of an ally, Christians might be more attentive to how those who attain to such positions of power are susceptible to the the temptations and attractions awaiting them, not to mention the potential impacts to the Church when those allurements are yielded to in an ungodly way.

“O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” – Psalm 60:11 (NASB)

If you have read this far, I trust by now you realize that this blog post is not a post-election endorsement of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Quite the contrary.

It is a loving yet cautionary admonition to my fellow evangelical brothers and sisters that now is not the time to relax simply because “our” candidate won.

Evangelicals have been in this position before, you know, with “our people” in charge at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

The next four years will prove whether we have learned from the lessons of the past, not the least of which is to never look to the one who occupies the Oval Office above the One who put him – or her – there.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

So, You Want ‘Social Justice’? Be Careful What You Ask For


When it comes to the matter of social justice context is key.

I say this because when one examines closely the current national discourse on this issue, it becomes abundantly clear that significantly more emphasis is placed on the justice aspect than on the social.

This kind of partitioned accentuation, I believe, is the result of our acceptance of a collective assumption that a community wherein justice is consistently and indiscriminately applied to each individual is the ideal societal construct.

It is an ethos that is especially evident relative to the biblical principle of reaping and sowing (Galatians 6:7), particularly with regard to one’s actions and decisions that might prove harmful or detrimental to others.

But this mindset, in my estimation, raises a fundamental question:

What is justice?

The Definition of Justice

In his book The Gospel for Real Life, the late Jerry Bridges defines justice as: “rendering to everyone according to one’s due. Justice means we get exactly what we deserve – nothing more, nothing less (p.43).”

I consider Bridges’ definition of justice to be a very good one, as it is applicable regardless if the issue of social justice is being deliberated within the context of sociology or theology.

Even so, I am also of the opinion that this definition raises a sobering conundrum, one which, perhaps, not many of us have seriously considered.

The Nature of Justice

When we think of justice, and its broader applications and implications to society as a whole (social justice), we must understand that what we are dealing with is not merely a matter of description (as in Bridge’s definition) but of prescription as well.

Justice is innately retributive.

Its primary purpose is to chasten not to correct, to reprove not to reform, to be a voice for righteousness where unrighteousness is present.

Justice makes absolute demands that must be complied with absolutely.

To fall short of these rigid and inflexible standards, even to the most infinitesimal degree, is to bring into question the integrity of the individual or entity being relied upon to satiate that which justice demands.

Namely, as Bridges stated, that “we get exactly what we deserve – nothing more, nothing less.”

The Duality of Justice

It is this punitory aspect of justice that serves as the impetus for why people who are convicted of crimes, particularly those that warrant significant time in prison, and worse, endeavor to seek out the most competent legal counsel they can find in an effort to ameliorate the exacting discipline they know awaits them.

They comprehend fully that justice, by its very nature, is inherently unmerciful, and that it is uncompromising in its insistence that they – the guilty – pay the “due” penalty for offenses committed against their fellow human beings.

This awareness highlights an almost paradoxical duality in that it is because justice is so fixed and unyielding that those who are victimized zealously pursue its retaliatory remedies, while those who victimize try just as resolutely to avoid them.

The Divine Origins of Justice

The concept that recompense be made when a law is transgressed originated not with mankind but with God.

We are first introduced to this divine dogma in the Garden of Eden where the relationship between precept and penalty, the two fundamental elements of any just and equitable law, are presented by God to Adam in the most unambiguous of terms:

The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat [precept], for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die [penalty].” – Genesis 2:16-17 (NASB)

Contrary to what many in today’s pluralistic and universalistic society believe, the truth is we are not innately predisposed to do good to one another but just the opposite (Genesis 8:21b; Jeremiah 17:9).

It is because of our congenital predisposition to sin against one another that we have laws to begin with, the insistent penalties of which are designed to influence decisions we make to act or not on the innately sinful inclinations that arise in our hearts toward each other.

And therein lies the rub for you and me as it relates to the concept of social justice.

The Demands of Justice

In his exceptional work The Existence and Attributes of God, Puritan theologian Stephen Charnock declares that, “the justice of God is so essential to Him, as that sin could not be pardoned without satisfaction (p. 517).

Charnock’s theology of God is important to note, for to understand that justice is so inexorable to the nature and character of God is the beginning of understanding why justice matters to us who are created in His image (Genesis 1:27).

Justice is as indivisible an attribute of a society composed of those who bear the image of God as it is of God Himself.

Nevertheless, in our search for justice, the universal problem you and I face is that though, even in our fallenness, we reflect the image of God, we are not God.

“When the human mind is focused upon the ineffable purity of God and His unchanging righteousness, it appears to fallen creatures that He no longer smiles—but frowns upon His works. That easy, peaceable disposition—so pleasing to our hearts, so soothing when we feel the stirrings of conscience—in which we contemplate God while considering His goodness alone, gives place to far sterner aspects, and we are made to tremble when He is also seen as an offended Ruler and Judge.” – A.W. Pink, The Justice of God

In our insistence that justice be exacted against those who offend us, we often want to exempt ourselves from that same standard.

When it is we who are facing the rigid and inflexible demands of justice, whether it be for a traffic violation or murder, what we want in that moment is not justice but mercy. But justice is necessitated by an innately holy and righteous God who requires that sin be atoned for.

All sin.

You see, social justice, by definition, is a standard of precept and penalty that is applied equally and absolutely to every person within a given society.

Every person.

In every situation.

Without exception.

Regardless of circumstances.

That truly is social justice.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Justice that is not indiscriminately and objectively applied to everyone is not justice.

If our personal definition of social justice is one that is influenced to any extent by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic standing, or any other conceivable variable, then, what we really desire is not social justice but selective justice.

Remember, social (or societal) justice is that standard of justice that is equally and absolutely applicable to all, so that everyone – without exception or regard to circumstances – receives “exactly what he or she deserves”.

With this in mind, the question we must ask ourselves is:

Is this the kind of social justice we really want?

Conclusion

What I have said in this post is neither to suggest nor imply that lawlessness, regardless the offender, should go unpunished.

Quite the contrary.

I have gone to great lengths in an attempt to exposit biblically on why the concept of justice is essential to any civilized society, namely, because we all are sinners by nature (Romans 3:23).

Nevertheless, that we, as professed followers of Jesus Christ, would be so biased in our hearts as to have our thirst for justice ignited by anything other than that one who, like ourselves, bears the image of God has been unjustly treated, is to commit as egregious a sin as the one who carried out the injustice in the first place.

“All of us have failed miserably to obey God’s Law. We disobeyed in Adam, and we have every day of our lives disobeyed in our own persons. Therefore all of us stand condemned before God’s Law, fully liable to its curse and punishment. But just as Jesus fully obeyed God’s Law in our place, so He suffered its full penalty in our place. In the same way that Adam was our representative in the garden, so Christ was our representative on the cross. He bore the full brunt of God’s justice that we should have borne. He received the full punishment we should have received. Through His representative union with us, Jesus assumed our obligation to perfectly obey the Law of God and obeyed it to the letter. Through that same union Jesus assumed our liability for not obeying the Law and paid that liability to the utmost. He fully and completely satisfied the justice of God on our behalf as our substitute.” – Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life: Justice Satisfied, pp. 44-45

Social justice is unbiased justice.

It is justice that is grounded in the equitable application of God’s objective standard of how we are to live with and relate to one another (Genesis 1:27; Romans 1:19; Romans 3:23).

If the justice we demand is tainted in any way by such characteristics as race or ethnicity, then, I exhort you, my brother and sister in Christ, to search our heart because it is not justice we want but vengeance.

The danger of harboring such an ungodly heart-attitude, is that the standard of justice we apply to others will likewise be applied to us (Matthew 7:1-5).

Call to Action

In our efforts to advance the cause of social justice, we must be ever-mindful that the idea of justice is rooted first and foremost in a holy and righteous God in whom justice is an essential aspect of His nature and character.

Our pursuit of justice should be based solely in the truth that each of us is created in His image and not on the basis of any external attribute or characteristic – such as race or ethnicity – which, by His sovereign will, He determined to bestow upon us (Acts 17:26).

When we truly understand the justice of God, the satisfaction of which mandated the death of His own Son (John 3:16), we might think twice before demanding justice for offenses committed against us by others.

For it is in the atoning death of Christ on the cross that God demonstrates Himself to be the ultimate Social Justice Warrior, by exacting upon His sinless Son the justice that you and I rightfully deserve.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

On Black Lives Matter and the Question No One Seems to be Asking (But Should)


Many questions have been raised – and continue to be – about the movement known as Black Lives Matter and its pursuit of social justice.

But the question no one seems to be asking is one which, in my humble opinion, is the most fundamental of all:

What does it actually mean that black lives “matter” and why should it matter to me?

It is a question that is important to consider because to assert that “black lives matter” (or “all lives matter” if you prefer), is to apply the universal assumption that human life in general is inherently valuable if for no other reason than that it is human life.

But what is it about human life that elevates it to this particular level of appreciation and esteem?

Against whose standard of measure is valuable defined? Is that standard objective or subjective? If objective, then, by what authority are we obligated to acknowledge said standard? And if subjective, who then determines when, if, or how this standard of worth changes and to what degree?

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!” – Psalm 8:3-5 (NASB)

As mantras go, “blacklivesmatter” might make for a good hashtag on social media, but there is more to it than that.

Much more.

For to declare that a thing “matters” – whether it be a human life or a set of collection of antique jewelry – is to ascribe to that thing a degree of significance or worth that is grounded in a preconceived idea of what it means for something to “matter”.

“Man is an exception, whatever else he is. If he is not the image of God, then he is a disease of the dust.” – G.K. Chesterton

Ask anyone you know if a certain person or thing is of any importance to them and not only will you receive a definitive answer but, more than likely, they will give you the reason why as well (whether the answer is yes or no).

And it is the why of this proposition that “black lives matter” that no one seems to be talking about.

I live in a suburb of Atlanta where it is not unusual to see deer roaming about this time of year. Mornings are dark longer now, so I’m more alert than usual when driving into work, as deer have a tendency to dart into the road as if out of nowhere.

Every now and then, not often, I’ll notice a deer carcass lying on the side of the road. In that moment, I may spend a second or two in compassionate contemplation about the events that ultimately led to the animal’s demise.

Questions such as: How was it killed? Did it endure much suffering before it died? What was it doing so close to the road in the first place?

You know, thoughts like that.

But what I do not spend time contemplating is whether I should pull my car over to see if the deer can be revived by performing CPR. I do not think to dial 911 to request an ambulance so that the remnants of the deer can be transported to the county morgue and autopsied. Nor do I bother to contact the animal’s next of kin so that funeral arrangements can be made.

No, the most attention that poor deer will get from me is a passing glance as I continue on my way into the office.

Why?

It’s simple, really.

The deer didn’t “matter” to me.

Not because it wasn’t my deer, mind you, but because it was a deer.

Now, before you go reporting me to PETA or accusing me of being some insensitive, animal-hating conservative nut job, please understand that the previous illustration is neither to suggest, infer, nor imply that animals do not matter.

They do.

In fact, you may be surprised to learn just how much Scripture has to say about how we are to treat animals as the creations of God they are.

For example:

“Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest…” – Exodus 23:12a (NASB)

There are other texts that come to mind as well (Deuteronomy 25:4; Proverbs 12:10; Luke 12:6).

But though it is true that animals are created by God, they are not created in the image of God (imago Dei). Among the myriad creations formed by the hand of God, only human beings can lay claim to this unique distinction (Genesis 1:27).

Which brings us back to the original question, doesn’t it?

“If we ever deny our unique status in creation as God’s only image-bearers, we will soon begin to depreciate the value of human life, will tend to see humans as merely a higher form of animal, and will begin to treat others as such. We will also lose much of our sense of meaning in life.” – Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, p. 450

You see, the truth, when all is said and done, is that you cannot arbitrarily assert that black lives matter without also offering an apologetic as to why. For to declare, as if in a vacuum, that black lives have significance is of no real profit unless the argument is posited within the context of objective truth.

Otherwise, the discourse is reduced to nothing more than subjective opinions and ad hominem conjecture, the result of which is tantamount to running on a philosophical treadmill as the dialogue becomes so circular and unproductive, that it just goes on and on and on getting no one anywhere.

“Christianity is a philosophy – though not a rationalistic one because we have not worked it out beginning from ourselves. Rather, God has told us the answers. In this sense it is the true philosophy, for it gives right answers to man’s philosophic and intellectual questions.” – Francis Schaeffer (as cited in Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended by Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, pp. 241-242)

Any conversation about the value of human life, whether it be with regard to social injustice, abortion, or child slavery, must start with God and with His objective construct of why human life matters.

That the issue of the significance of human life is deemed by many to be worthy of protest in its various and sundry forms, is only because God, who is the Author of all life, has attributed significance to it.

“Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.” – Psalm 100:3a (NASB)

It is the same today as it was thousands of years ago, when God declared holy the ground on which Moses stood as he encountered the glory of God at the burning bush (Exodus 3:5).

Only God could declare sacred and hallowed [קֹדֶשׁ] something as useless and expendable as the dirt that Moses’ worn out sandals had come in contact with in that one extraordinary moment.

Conclusion

Human life matters because, in our humanity, we bear the image of the One who gives life to each of us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

That we, as human beings, are of a particular race, ethnicity, or nationality is of no significance given that even those aspects of our earthly existence are sovereignly ordained by God, so neither you nor I have anything to boast of in ourselves (Acts 17:26).

Not our race.

Not our ethnicity.

Not our individual socio-cultural experiences.

Nothing.

“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” – Galatians 6:14 (NASB)

The question of why black lives matter is indivisible from the annunciation that black lives matter.

It is an attestation that demands an apologetic because, at its core, it is an existential inquiry that invariably points us to God and to His righteous standard of how mankind should relate both to Himself and to one another (Exodus 20:1-17; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Matthew 5:38-48John 13:34-35).

With this in mind, as followers of the God of all life, we must be prepared to respond to subjective philosophical hashtags with the objective biblical hermeneutic that mankind is not, as Chesterton stated, merely a “disease of the dust”.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

John Mark Syndrome: Pursuing Biblical Justice at the Expense of Christian Unity

Image credit: nydailynews.com


For anyone to admit that incidents of police-involved violence is a divisive topic in America today would be an understatement to say the least. Likewise, to deny that this issue is equally divisive, if not more so, among Christians is to be naively oblivious to reality.

Does my saying that surprise you?

It shouldn’t.

There is a sense today in which many followers of Jesus seem to have bought into the notion that Christian “oneness” (1 Corinthians 1:10-17Romans 12:18) is defined solely in terms of being in complete agreement with one another on such issues as this; that obedience to our Lord’s command to “love one another” (John 13:34-35) is evidenced only by the absence of any signs of disunity or friction among those who profess to belong to Him (John 1:12-13, 6:69; Ephesians 4:25-32).

But the truth is there are any number of worldly matters in which followers of Christ are clearly not not united.

Then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah saying, Thus the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’ – Zechariah 7:8-10 (NASB)

The topic of biblical justice is only the latest in a veritable laundry list of discordant socio-cultural issues the evangelical church has had to deal with over the past half century (such as abortion and same-sex marriage).

Not that biblical justice is a new issue, mind you, but rather, as an issue, it is being experienced by an entirely new generation in entirely new ways, not the least of which is through unlimited access to smart devices and social media platforms that bring people face-to-face with incidents of police-involved violence often in real-time.

For the sake of context, I define biblical justice as:

The equitable application of God’s objective standard of righteousness, as revealed in the Bible, toward those who are created in the image of God by those who are likewise created in His image, and who, by virtue of God’s sovereign will, have been placed in positions of authority over them (Genesis 1:27; Proverbs 31:9; Micah 6:8Romans 13:1-7).

It should go without saying that the pursuit of biblical justice, as a gospel mandate, applies to every Christian everywhere, whether individually or corporately (Isaiah 1:17Micah 6:8; Matthew 28:19-20).

Nevertheless, this mandate, though scripturally sanctioned, should not be viewed as the all-or-nothing, by-any-means-necessary proposition many believers make it out to be.

For to hold to such a rigid paradigm of biblical justice is to risk breaking fellowship with others who are believers in Christ (Romans 8:16-17) but who, though equally committed to this mandate, may not necessarily perceive the issue through the exact same theological, philosophical, cultural, or ideological lens.

Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction? – Amos 3:3 (NLT)

Interestingly, if not ironically, these same Scriptures that exhort us toward this pursuit also warn us of how easily such relational disintegration can occur; and how we must guard against allowing even our most well-intentioned efforts on behalf of the gospel to morph into self-centered idolatry.

A Commendable Purpose

In Acts chapter 15, Paul and Barnabas are ministering to Jewish believers in Antioch  (vv. 22-34) who were being wrongly taught that circumcision was still a requisite for salvation (vv. 1-5).

After spending some time there (vv. 33-35), the two apostles mutually agreed that it would be a good idea to “return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are” (v. 36).

That Paul and Barnabas would be so concerned for the welfare of their fellow brothers and sisters is commendable. After all, what is the gospel of Christ if not seeking the well-being of others in the name of Christ, and meeting those needs even if at great sacrifice to ourselves (Luke 21:1-4John 15:13; 2 Corinthians 8:9-15Galatians 6:9-10; James 1:27)?

But, you see, having a right purpose is not enough in and of itself.

It must be accompanied by a right heart-attitude.

A Contentious Disagreement

The brotherly unity exhibited by Paul and Barnabas toward one another was short-lived.

Having addressed the divisive teaching that was being propagated among the Antioch believers, the two missionaries soon found themselves pitted against one another over whether their fellow brother in Christ, John (Mark), should accompany them on their goodwill journey to the other churches.

Barnabas was in favor of the idea whereas Paul was not (Acts 13:13, 15:37-38).

The disagreement over John Mark was of such severity that we are told they “separated from one another” (v. 39).

To truly appreciate the depths of disharmony that existed between Paul and Barnabas, it is important to note that the Greek word separated in the aforementioned verse carries the same hermeneutical connotation as the word divorce.

So it can rightly be said that the divide between Paul and Barnabas was so contemptuous, so profound, so deep-seated as to be on the level of a husband and wife who decide to terminate their marriage (Mark 10:9).

It is a mindset that is often the case with Christians with regard to the issue of biblical justice.

Under the banner that biblical justice is mandated in the gospel, we allow our personal zeal for this mission to become such a point of contention that our own vision of how and by what means this mandate should come to fruition becomes more important than the mandate itself.

Why?

Simple.

We have forgotten whose mandate it is.

A Cautionary Example

Paul and Barnabas divided themselves over a fellow brother.

Think about that for a moment.

Two godly men, faithfully laboring together in the defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ, suddenly determine to separate from one another, not over an unbeliever – which might have been somewhat understandable – but over a fellow believer with whom they would one day share in the glories of heaven forever (Philippians 3:20).

But are you and I any more unified than were Paul and Barnabas?

Are we really any different than they?

No, not really.

In fact, I would argue that believers today are just as willing to separate themselves over the issue of biblical justice as were Paul and Barnabas over John Mark.

The evidence of this is all around us.

Instead of offering a Christ-focused gospel as an appropriate response to the matter of injustice in our society, we partition ourselves into one or more of the following “camps”:

  • pro or anti-national anthem protests
  • pro or anti-Black Lives Matter
  • pro or anti-slavery reparations
  • pro or anti-law enforcement

Consequently, the world comes to know us not for a gospel that addresses humanity’s innately sinful condition – which is at the root of all injustice – but for the infighting that exists among ourselves simply because we happen to not all see eye-to-eye on the various dynamics and nuances associated with this issue.

Such a distorted view of Christians by the world is to be expected when that which is mandated by the gospel becomes more important than the gospel itself.

And that, my brothers and sisters, is something we should never allow to happen.

Conclusion

In our pursuit of biblical justice, we must resist the temptation to become victims of what I call “John Mark Syndrome”.

John Mark Syndrome is what Paul and Barnabas suffered from.

It is taking a legitimate gospel mission and personalizing that mission in such a way that it becomes more about us than about the gospel.

And lest we forget, the gospel is about Jesus.

It is not about you or me.

Remember, the only reason there is a gospel at all is because Jesus, who is God in the flesh, condescended to us not the other way around (John 3:16; Romans 5:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30aEphesians 2:1-9; Colossians 2:9).

It is when we attempt to invert this truth that deep divisions occur and we divorce ourselves from one another to the detriment of our witness for Christ (Ephesians 4:29-32).

When you stop to consider the extent to which the issue of biblical justice continues to divide the church today, especially along racial and ethnic lines, the question we as believers must ask is:

In the broader context of the gospel, namely, that it is a call for people to come to faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their soul (Acts 4:12), is this one issue really worth what it is costing us?

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell