Brief Reflections on the Deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

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“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4 (NASB)


In reflecting this morning on the death of actress Carrie Fisher, and of her mother Debbie Reynolds, who passed away the very next day, I was thinking of their families and the inexplicable grief they must undoubtedly be experiencing during this time.

When you think about it, the degree of grief we feel over the death of those we love is directly commensurate to the degree of our love for them.

You see, the truth is that apart from love there is no such thing as grief. It is the proverbial two-edged sword.

We grieve because we love.

It is the same way with God when it comes to our sin.

God grieves over that which and whom He loves.

“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” – Isaiah 53:3 (NASB)

The depths of grief God feels over our sin is directly connected to the unfathomable depths to which He loves each of us.

Likewise we, too, should grieve over our sin because of our love for Him. God provided tangible proof of His love for us by sacrificing His only Son (John 3:16) so that we, who are innately unlovable, might know what it is and means to be loved by the God who created us and who sent His only begotten Son to die in our place.

Conversely, tangible evidence not only of our love for God but our belonging to Him, is we are grieved in the depths of our heart when we sin against Him.

To those who are truly the redeemed of Christ, grief and love are inseparable with respect to our relationship with Him.

So, examine your own heart and consider, just between you and God, whether or not your professed love for Him also encompasses grieving over your sin.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credit:
vimooz.com

Related:
Yes You Can Die of a Broken Heart – dailymail.com
Grief and Loss (podcast) – The Regular Reformed Guys
Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds to Have Joint Mother-Daughter Funeral – ABC News

A Theology of the Electoral College

Image result for Founding Fathers Electoral College


As I consider that today the United States Electoral College will cast its votes to certify Donald Trump as America’s 45th President-Elect, I am struck by the reality that there actually is much theology to be found within the Constitution.

Please understand that in stating the aforementioned, I am in no way inferring or implying that the United States Constitution is a theological document in and of itself.

I am not saying that at all.

What I am saying, however, is that the protections that are inherent within it are clearly and unarguably rooted and grounded in the doctrine of the sinfulness of human beings.

The Electoral College is but one example of this.

“Every soul has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ. The unregenerate soul is unclean and sinful both in condition and in action.” – R. Stanton Norman, from A Theology for the Church, edited by Daniel L. Akin, chapter 8, Human Sinfulness, p. 434

Regardless if the Founders were deists, theists, agnostics, or even atheists, they clearly had an appreciation (if not an affinity) for the fact that human beings are innately sinful and, as such, are susceptible to the temptations and seductions that invariably accompany positions of power and influence.

So, it is in that sense that I am most thankful to God for the wisdom bestowed upon the Founding Fathers in giving our nation both the Constitution and, conversely, the Electoral College, as safeguards that exist for the purpose of protecting us from ourselves.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23 (NASB)

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

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

Fidel Castro and the Gospel of Grace


‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways!’ – Ezekiel 33:11 (NASB)

Fidel Castro is dead.

Depending on who you talk to, news of the Cuban dictator’s demise is either being celebrated or lamented.

The atrocities committed by Fidel Castro during his lifetime are well-documented; but if Castro is in hell – as many surmise – it may surprise you to know that it is not his atrocities that put him there.

Whatever evil this notorious despot was responsible for during the 90 years he spent in this mortal coil, it was the expected fruit of an unrepentant and unregenerate heart (Romans 2:4-5). In other words, the crimes Fidel Castro exacted against the Cuban people were the evidence of a life that was not born-again (John 3:3; Matthew 3:8).

I say this because of 1 John 3:9:

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His [God’s] seed abides in him; and he cannot [practice] sin, because he is born of God (Cf. John 1:12-13).”

Contrary to popular belief, even among many Christians, it is not a person’s sinful deeds that condemns his or her soul to hell, but unbelief in the One who came into this world to rescue us from the penalty of our sins, namely, Jesus Christ.

It is a doctrine that is clearly established in John 3:18:

“He who believes in Him [Jesus] is not judged; he who does not believe [in Jesus] has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Just as our good deeds are not salvific in themselves, likewise, our evil deeds are not in and of themselves condemning.

Though how we live our lives definitely matters to God (1 Peter 4:1-6), what ultimately condemns a person to hell is not how “bad” they were during their life on earth, but their unbelief in Jesus Christ, the result of which is separation from God in eternity.

We see this in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 where the apostle Paul, speaking of the second coming of Jesus, writes that upon Christ’s return He will be:

“…dealing out retribution to those who do not know God [unbelief] and to those who do not obey [deeds] the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

This incredibly sobering text in the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians provides us with a clear and concise biblical theology of hell.

In short, hell is a state of perpetual and conscious hopelessness.

It is a place where unimaginable anguish is eternally and tangibly experienced, such as that which is depicted in Luke 16:24 and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, wherein the rich man bemoans:

“Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.”

Though it is true that our good and bad deeds do have a bearing on our eternal rewards (Romans 2:6-8Revelation 22:12), those deeds are in no way effectual with regard to our salvation.

The apostle Paul underscores this truth in Romans 10:9:

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

To further Paul’s point, consider the two thieves who were crucified along with Jesus who were condemned to death because of the evil deeds they committed (Matthew 27:38-44; Mark 15:27; Luke 23:32, 39-43).

That one thief went to heaven and the other did not, is only because the one thief confessed belief in Christ whereas the other did not (Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13).

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”Romans 14:12

Had the unrepentant thief made the same confession from his heart, then, despite his sinful deeds he, too, would have been assured of the same glorious promise of spending eternity in heaven with Jesus.

It is a reality that would have been just as true for a murderer like Fidel Castro on the day of his death, as it was to the thief on the cross more than 2,000 years ago.

Conclusion

I was complelled to write this blog post because the death of well-known individuals like Fidel Castro serve as a reminder that there are countless millions of people – Christians and non-Christians alike – who are living under the misconception that their works, for better or worse, play a role in God’s sovereign act of salvation.

This is not what the Bible teaches.

God’s Word is unambiguous that His elect are saved by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”

It is only belief in Jesus that saves us.

It is only unbelief in Jesus that condemns us.

“Morality may keep you out of jail, but it takes the blood of Jesus Christ to keep you out of hell.” – Charles Spurgeon

Despite his many sins, had Fidel Castro only believed on Jesus Christ he would be in heaven today (Romans 6:23).

For the same gospel of grace that applies to “whoever believes” would also have applied to him (John 3:16).

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
What Is the Gospel? – Dr. R.C. Sproul (Ligonier Ministries)
The Final Divide: Eternal Life or Eternal Wrath – John Piper (Desiring God)
What Faith Must Believe – Ligonier Ministries
How Salvation Brings Freedom – Jen Wilkin (The Gospel Coalition)
The Five Solas – Reformed Forum

Image credit: huffingtonpost.com

How Support for Donald Trump by the Right Exposed the Racism of the Left


The question is a simple one.

Does an American citizen who is legally registered to vote have the right to cast that vote for the candidate of his or her choice?

Simple enough, right?

Apparently not, as it depends on who you ask.

The post-election lamenting of the Left continues to garner headlines.

More than a week after Donald Trump became this nation’s 45th President-elect, their collective petulance remains on full display for all to see.

As a conservative who is black, it has been interesting to observe liberals direct their anti-Trump vitriol exclusively at the 81 percent of white evangelical Christians who voted for him.

But in the midst of their targeted rage, they completely disregard the fact that 13 percent of black males also voted for Trump.

Are these voters not equally deserving of their derision and contempt?

As confounding as it may seem to liberals, their willingness to ignore the fact that Donald Trump garnered double-digit support from black voters is a serious commentary on the extent to which they are helping to perpetuate the decades-old stereotype that the so-called “black vote” is monolithic.

Needless to say, it is not.

I, for one, am proof of that.

In the wake of what was unarguably a devastating and, by many accounts, unfathomable political defeat, liberals are blaming everyone but themselves.

But that liberals view the election of Donald Trump as tantamount to an eschatological catastrophe of biblical proportions is not entirely the fault of white evangelical voters.

In fact, it is not the fault of any one particular ethno-religious voting bloc.

Though 81 percent support from white evangelicals is nothing to sneeze at, even more significant is the 8 percent of black voters who backed Donald Trump.

Because although it was widely expected and accepted that white evangelicals – particularly white male evangelicals – would galvanize behind Trump, being motivated in large part by Clinton’s unbiblical positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, no one gave him a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of making even the most infinitesimal strides with black voters.

After all, blacks are monolithic, you know?

We don’t think for ourselves.

We simply do as we’re told.

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That black voters traditionally have been held to a lower standard of political autonomy than any other voting bloc in America, is clearly evidenced by a Salon.com article I recently came across entitled, The Real Reason Black Voters Didn’t Turn Out For Hillary – and How to Fix It.

The title alone is enough to give pause.

That black voter turnout turned out (no pun intended) to be less salvific than Hillary Clinton and the Democrats hoped – as opposed to blacks voting their individual consciences or, perhaps, not voting at all, which is also their right – is apparently a problem that needs to be “fixed” according to many on the Left.

It is a philosophy that warrants translating.

“Fixed” is liberal code for developing targeted strategies to ensure black voters continue to tow the line, and stick to the nearly 60-year old script of voting for only Democrat candidates for president.

“Fixed” is the plantation mentality which holds that black votes belong to Democrats in much the same way that black people once belonged to them.

“Fixed” – as far as liberals are concerned – is the perpetual political servitude of black voters to the Democrat party.

“My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did.” – Condoleezza Rice

It is interesting, if not ironic, that liberals will tout the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for its prohibitions against racial discrimination in voting, particularly with regard to their seemingly incessant claims of voter suppression on the part of Republicans, while tacitly endorsing ideological discrimination in assuming that Hillary Clinton receiving “only” 92 percent of the black vote instead of the anticipated 95 percent is something that needs “fixing”.

The hypocrisy of liberals is that their acceptance of white evangelicals exercising their right to vote as individuals, albeit against their preferred candidate, is offset by their belief that blacks should cast their votes solely on the basis of the interests of the collective “black community”.

Which begs the question to what end was the Civil Rights Movement, especially with respect to black Americans being granted the right to vote as equal citizens, if not the freedom to exercise that right as individuals in voting for the political candidate of their choice?

That liberals appear to believe this ethos applies to every ethnic voting bloc except black voters is telling to say the least.

Ultimately, it is not black voter turnout that needs to be “fixed”.

What needs “fixing” is the stereotypical mindset that black voters are joined together, as if by umbilical cord, to an electoral process rooted in political tribalism rather than ideological individualism.

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

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
The Myth of Black Community
The Truth About Jim Crow (Free PDF booklet from the American Civil Rights Union)

Image Credits:
Top image: npr.org
Center image: nbcnews.com
Bottom image: commdiginews.com

 

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

Image credit: thedailybeast.com


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