On March 6, 2019 a tempest in a conference tea cup broke out at John MacArthur’s popular Shepherd’s Conference (“ShepCon”). The buzz hasn’t died down yet. “Wretched” personality Todd Friel (who seems like a great guy!) called it “painful” and “awkward.” The storm erupted at the panel question and answer session, hosted by MacArthur’s assistant Phil Johnson, with Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson and John MacArthur. The issue was “social justice.”
Last September John MacArthur, with Johnson and others, spear-headed “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” (“the Dallas statement”). Of the men on the panel, notably none of them, except MacArthur himself and his aide, signed on to it. None, like in no one. The moderator, Johnson, decided that was a good opportunity to ask why. The gentlemen on the panel didn’t answer.
Herein lies the tempest: some immediately demanded an answer, protested that their unwillingness to explain themselves is some kind of moral cowardice, that they are MIA in our newest front in the culture war, the front against the social justice/cultural Marxist/victimology/”intersectionality” leftist ideology they claim is infiltrating even stalwart evangelical institutions and, like commandos dynamiting bridges behind enemy lines, bringing them down. Evangelicalism is about to collapse, they claim, because of the insurgent social justice warriors. But they are bravely stepping up to counter these insurgents. They are Social Justice Contras.
That siren warning spiked at the end of that same week (March 9) when Reformed apologist James White, himself a leading drafter of “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel,” tweeted, “Social justice/cultural Marxism/intersectionality/victimology thinking has taken over Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary” (SEBTS), the Southern Baptist seminary at Wake Forest, North Carolina. This is a remarkable claim for an official seminary of a conservative, evangelical denomination; a seminary that not only requires its professors to adhere to the conservative Southern Baptist Faith and Message (the denominations’ creed) but also the “Abstract of Principles” (the same statement of faith originally drafted for the conservative Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky); also the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (that precisely defines belief in the Bible as without error), the complementarian Danver’s Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that asserts Biblical principles in contrast to feminist ideology and a seminary that bills itself as committed to the Great Commission.
In spite of what appears to be an impressive and strictly conservative set of regulating articles of faith and commitments, James White charged that SEBTS is now overcome with “cultural Marxism.” Indeed, he stated, “This is a given.” His evidence: SEBTS’s “Kingdom Diversity” program. That program exists, according to SEBTS, for “equipping groups who have been historically underrepresented on our campus to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission.” Part of it offers scholarships to minorities so that they can take part in short-term mission trips. That may sound innocent enough to most but to White it’s incontrovertible evidence that SEBTS has fully succumbed to leftism, to “cultural Marxism.” Since SEBTS has already fallen, he said on a “Dividing Line” program the same week as ShepCon, and Al Mohler is now wobbly, as he supposedly demonstrated at the Q & A, then Mohler’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary may soon fall too and with it the entire Southern Baptist Convention.
If he and those now denouncing Dever, Mohler, and Duncan sound like Chicken Little, please don’t insult panicked chickens by associating them with such hysteria. What’s going on?
I believe it is Social Justice Contras striking back. It’s true that some evangelical Christians have gone too far in their embrace of “social justice” concerns, picking up catch-phrases, if not whole arguments, pregnant with unbiblical, perhaps out-right leftist, philosophies. They sound much like their secular “Social Justice Warriors” (SJWs), constantly harping on racism like Uncle Tom’s Cabin was current events, while conveniently ignoring abortion and either silently complicit with the LGBTQ agenda or even embracing it. Evidence: Sojourners. We’ve always had a problem with worldly Christians who are swept along by the current cultural trends.
But the temptation in response is to be defined by what you’re against and react to the leftist extremists with extremism of our own, to fall into the error that if movement X says something wrong, then everything from movement X is wrong and anything contaminated with anything shared from movement X is thoroughly wrong. The Nazis built good roads therefore good roads are evil and anyone who wants them is a Nazi. Or, Wescott and Hort (famous 19th century pioneers of modern textual criticism) were somewhat liberal therefore all textual criticism is a capitulation to liberalism. They studied the occult, therefore they were practicing occultists and everything they did is a product of the occult. (The truth was they studied it for academic reasons and never believed it.)
Now, the Social Justice Contras are telling us, the social justice movement says we need to intentionally go out of our way to include people of neglected minorities; the social justice movement is built on Marxist (therefore atheistic) ideas and so anyone who wants to intentionally include neglected minorities is a cultural Marxist and ideologically atheistic (whether they know it or not). The technical, academic term for that line of thinking is “nonsense.”
Social Justice Contras (SJCs) are getting as loud, as shrill and as dogmatic as their leftist mirror images. They are upset that Dever, Mohler and Duncan wouldn’t frankly respond to Johnson’s inopportune question and embrace his statement. They’re right that the gentlemen were evasive. Johnson poked, “Are you not offended at the liberalizing drift?” Mohler retorted, “I’m not going to be forced into a twitter conversation of 140 characters about these issues.”
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Source: Christian Post