I watched the Glenn Beck show on Fox News yesterday. His topic was how churches that are using the term, "social justice" are misinterpreting scripture in order to spread Marxism. Now I don't want to say that in some cases this might be true, but to provide a wide-spread brush stroke of all uses of the term social justice to be Marxist and in no way biblical is a major blow to true evangelical theology.
One of the hallmarks of evangelical theology is the authority and centrality of scripture. The scripture is full of Kingdom mandates from God that call for a justice that goes beyond individualism. For those that don't believe this is the case, they have to wrestle with the Exodus story as well as the book of Esther and the words of Jesus in Matthew 25, beginning with verse 31. This mission of God in the world includes salvation, which is individualistic in nature, but also includes what the corporate church should do concerning the widow, the poor, the orphan, the stranger, and the sick in society. The society makes up the social structures. This isn't a political ideology, nor Marxist philosophy, this is the Word of God.
Glenn Beck's show on social justice and the church included guests from Liberty University and Westminster Theological Seminary who stated that the gospel is individualistic in nature. The guest from Liberty University even said that the parable of the talents (which just happens to come before a parable about feeding the hungry and visiting the sick and those in prison) is about free market enterprise. So the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the opinions of the guests are rooted in individualism and capitalism. It is about a person, as an individual, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and then investing their resources into the marketplace.
This is a very limited and unbiblical view of salvation. Salvation itself is communal because it includes the community of the Trinity and in many cases the community of the person that God used to bring the person to Christ. This is why the evangelical church has a strong history of global missions. If the gospel is rooted in individualism, we should shut down every department of world missions in every evangelical denomination. Read the Old Testament and the gospel letters and it won't take you long to realize that justice in society is a biblical theme presented as an act out of the overflow of an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ, as well as a significant part of the mission of the church. The church is called by God, through scripture to be about the whole mission of God, which includes evangelism, discipleship, mission, compassion, mercy, and justice. The church is called to make disciples and to do justice and love mercy.
Let the Word of God drive the evangelical church and its theology, not a political talk show host.
Efrem Smith is the senior pastor of The Sanctuary Covenant Church, with the vision to be an urban, multi-ethnic, relevant, holistic, and Christ-centered community. He has held leadership positions in organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of America and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and is the author of numerous articles and books, including The Hip-Hop Church.