First off, I want to thank James White for his gracious address of the Founder’s trailer and his riposte to CrossPolitic on a recent Dividing Line. Second, I want to make clear that I do not have any formal connection to Founders and what I say here is my opinion alone. I love the brothers at Founders and respect them greatly, but I’m not claiming to speak for them. But if they wanted me to speak for them, this is what I’d say to Dr. White and others confused and confounded by the initial inclusion of a brief fuzzy picture of Rachael Denhollander in the midst of a trailer for a documentary purporting to be about the dangers of critical theory and social justice.
Here’s the connection: #MeToo.
#MeToo is the unofficial, unelected sex abuse arm of the Social Justice movement. And for my money, it is likely the strongest and sharpest of the spears in the arsenal of modern ungodliness. You could load your gospel bazooka and blow the main fortress of the Social Justice movement into smithereens, but if you don’t take down the victim-power culture at the heart of it all and specifically in the #metoo movement you will be right back where you started in a few minutes. In fact, the victimhood false-gospel is the seed of the whole Social Justice forest. And the reason why the #metoo flank is perhaps the strongest and sharpest of the spears? Because many in the #metoo movement are genuine victims of real sins and crimes, and Christians (rightly) have soft hearts for real victims. And this is how it becomes the camel’s nose under the Christian tent. But the issue here is the same as the Founder’s documentary title: By What Standard?
By what standard do we evaluate and distinguish sins and crimes? Whose jurisdiction is this? In what scenarios is the family sufficient to adjudicate and minister God’s justice and mercy and truth? In what scenarios ought the church also to be involved, and the church’s ministers and elders are sufficient to adjudicate and minister God’s justice and mercy and truth? And in what scenarios must the civil magistrate also be involved? By what standard do we evaluate the severity and appropriate responses, adjudications, and penalties to attach to the sins and crimes? And if these questions seem absurd, beside the point, or irrelevant, then you are part of the problem and not qualified to be part of this conversation.
The heart of the social justice false-gospel is the holiness of pain, the sacredness of hurt. If you have been hurt, you have been ordained. You are now a priest or a priestess forever according to the order of the Perpetual Bleeding Heart. In biblical justice there are answers to the previous questions. There is a Biblical case law and a long history of (imperfect) but useful western canon law that does not promise perfect justice this side of glory, but true and approximate justice in this world. But all of it is built on the foundation of Christ crucified. This was the sight of the only sacred pain, the only redeeming hurt. But remove the foundation of Christ crucified, and all of our attempts (even the best of them) at approximate human justice will leave you feeling empty, hungry, and eventually bitter and angry. And instead of justice, you will have nothing but virtue signaling followed by mobs, vigilante lynchings, and war.
So there are two essential pieces of biblical justice that underline the connections between the #metoo movement and the critical theory/social justice movement and their failures to deliver real justice: the first is the foundation of Christ crucified for sinners. Here, the justice or righteousness of God is on full display. The perfect, holy justice of God was exacted on the spotless Lamb of God, standing in the place of and fully paying the penalties of sinful men. If you don’t stand at the foot of the cross and glory in that justice, you will not have eyes to see or ears to hear any other sort of true justice. And God really does call us to linger here. Yes, to know Christ is to be concerned with all injustice in the world, but to know Christ is to revel in the fact that here on the cross, the greatest injustice was perpetrated in the history of the world in order to put all things right. Here, on a Roman gibet the only perfectly innocent man in the history of the world was brutally and shamefully abused, oppressed, tortured, and murdered. You cannot rightly care about racial injustice, justice for the unborn, justice for the poor, justice for the immigrant, justice for the elderly or disabled if you do not see the massive injustice of the betrayal and execution of Jesus, and the glorious justice that has been accomplished, revealed, and delivered by the same.
The point is that He was the only truly innocent victim. His blood atones for the foulest sinners because He was pure, clean, holy, sinless, and undefiled. In other words, He is the only High Priest. He is the only One whose victimhood gave Him the right to speak and true authority on every matter. There are other true victims of horrific sins and crimes, but the blood and shame and pain of those victims cannot save a single soul. There is no inherent power in suffering. There is no inherent power in being a victim. And therefore, there is no inherent authority or power or goodness in sharing your story, sharing a hashtag, or joining a social media mob. But this is precisely what the social justice movement is all about. It is about “empowering” the powerless. It sees the world in terms of power disparities, based on race and gender and socio-economic classes. It sees the world broken into systems of privilege and oppression, power and weakness based on material realities: wealth, politics, skin color, sex, physical ability, opportunities, victimhood, etc. And therefore sees justice primarily in terms of redistribution of power. And any remaining power disparities are therefore inherently unjust. But this is fundamentally a stance of rebellion against the Sovereign God who has ordained power disparities in the world according to His wisdom and for our good. That power can certainly be used sinfully and oppressively, but the power and authority is given by the Lord Jesus Himself. And He won the right to give and take all authority and power according to His good pleasure by His death and resurrection. He ordains pastors and parents, judges and husbands, swords and keys and rods, and all of it answers to Him.
This leads to the second essential principle for biblical justice: God’s word defines true justice. In the social justice vision, justice must be reduced to a material balancing act because that’s all there is. The critical race and social justice vision reduces human meaning to materialistic values. The Bible does not deny material factors and responsibilities. It recognizes the inherent dignity of being made in the image of God, the right of private property, the need for restitution, paying back lost or stolen damages to whatever extent possible, and in so doing completely subverts the wicked injustice known as the modern prison system.
But biblical justice only works in a world where there is a Cosmic Underwriter for all our checks and loans. In a world without a sovereign and perfectly just God, all our balancing has to include human risk management as well as an attempt to quantify the hurt and pain of victims. And good luck with that. How do you weigh the pain of sexual abuse? How should that compare with the pain and loss of being born without a leg or an arm? What (if anything) does society owe to an ethnic group that was regarded suspiciously for several generations? Has any injustice been done to a person born in poverty who didn’t grow up with regular meals or consistent health care or even shelter? How do you quantify those things? What are they worth? How do you pay them back? Any attempt by humans to make this up on their own is arrogant hubris and at attempt at divinity. It is a form of fiat currency, an attempt to declare human value based on nothing — which is why the more our justice system buys into critical theory, the less meaningful that justice is. And therefore if we want to actually give answers to these difficult questions, we must constantly begin with the words, “the Bible says…” if we hope to make any progress towards real justice. But then we’ll also find ourselves wrestling with Paul’s letter to Philemon and trying to figure out what he might have written to Robert E. Lee.
As I pointed out in a previous post, the Bible describes the “principalities and powers” as human and angelic authorities in the world, spiritual forces, which in a fallen world are often evil and may even be demonic, but which Christ has superseded, commandeering them all to His own purposes and glory, so that now every authority in heaven and on earth serves Him and must obey Him. This includes Supreme Court justices, angels, presidents, pastors, demons, ideologies, arguments, parents, and individuals thrust into the spotlight providentially, like for example, the Denhollanders’ public involvement in sex abuse cases, beginning with Rachael’s own glorious testimony regarding the Larry Nassar case, but also extending to her troubling pursuit of Sovereign Grace Ministries and now her public critique of Matt Chandler and Village Church. I do not doubt the Denhollander’s good intentions in the slightest. But to the extent that they have taken up with the #metoo movement, abandoning biblical standards of justice, including things like presumption of innocence for the accused, or the prohibition against Christians suing one another, they have unfortunately become part of the whole social justice problem.
And until faithful men are willing to stand up and say so publicly, we will continue to find ourselves outflanked and outmaneuvered. So to James White’s question: what do the Denhollanders have to do with the Social Justice movement?
There you go.