On the pursuit of social justice

The folks at Returning Church highlight Jacob Brunton for his attack on The Gospel Coalition as Marxist. Once one wipes up the coffee off the desk. Social Justice is rejected in preference for “charity” which is seen as an emblem of grace.

 if charity is a picture of the grace of God in the gospel, then what message are we sending about the grace of God, and about the gospel, when we preach that charity is deserved? Answer: We are teaching that God’s grace is, likewise, deserved.

What Brunton gets right is that the questions of poverty, and of response to social need are not defined by the person. The act of beneficence is important, but there’s more. Social need can and often is created by relationships, it is invariably political, in fact a matter of justice. This is the reality of power. 

The widow, the poor look to the king to remedy their situation; they are institutionally at the short end, taken advantage of. So the consideration of social justice is less about mercy than about the ruler exercising proper (and righteous) power. The righteous king exercises authority (justice, mispat) on behalf of the poor, the weak, the vulnerable to protect their claims and their standing.

To be trinitarian, the royal office is enabled by the Spirit, made possible by the Son’s sacrifice. The Cross and Resurrection have turned authority into something more ‘provisional’, into something like servanthood. Provisional authority does two important things: it allows us to fail, we can make mistakes; and it removes the absolute or polarized ideas, left and right — this royal authority listens.

The challenge of social justice is too often that we have not thought deeply enough about it, but settled only for the ethical scorecard, a zero-sum of winners and losers. Social justice as a trinitarian action gives a social dimension, of covenant keeping, extending the covenant blessings to others, acting to establish a better model of God’s covenant with us.


Worn Out

Here’s a touchy subject. How many of you feel encouraged or discouraged, hopeful or despairing, about the health and vitality of the CRCNA?

Part of this strikes me as a sort of spiritual warfare. If we’re spiritually serious, conflict is wearing — we know the cost not only for us but for the other side. This weight sinks in, makes it hard to move sometimes. Sure we can stir ourselves to combat on our side, but no, that’s not what we want.

Do I ache for the CRC? Sometimes. Most of the time my yearning is a little more basic: help me to push back against the other dreary parts of my life. Tell me about hope. Help me to persevere. Reassure me. If you’re helping your people do that, live that life of faith — eh, the CRC will take care of itself. That part of our life is in the hands of God.