One of The Vital Topics of Our Day
In the foreword for Dr. Jeff Johnson’s book What Every Christian Needs To Know About Social Justice, Dr. Owen Strachan writes these words:
Social justice is not just not the gospel. It is anti-gospel. It is anti-gospel in its principles and its finished convictions; it is anti-gospel in its presuppositions and its animating biases.
Certainly, these are strong and convictional words from one of the faithful theologians of our time. However, Dr. Jeff Johnson proceeds to demonstrate how they are true and why this topic is of utmost importance for our day. In evangelicalism, those who stand against Critical Race Theory are frequently branded as raising a boogeyman. Thus, Dr. Johnson’s work provides the clarity to push back against those promoting these false ideas through the trojan horse of historic terms loved by the Christian church. Marxists and Critical Theorists may utilize words like freedom and equality, but the ideas they are promoting behind these terms stem from a different foundation than Christianity and are antithetical to the biblical truth. Let’s take a closer look at Dr. Johnson’s work.
Examining Foundational Commitments
Dr. Johnson begins by seeking to show how God, His Law, and the totality of His Word are the foundational components for true justice.1 He also points out the social justice movement is launching war upon not only God Himself but also the infrastructure for society He has put into place.2 This point is vital for us to consider for a second. What does Dr. Johnson reference when he mentions the infrastructure of society? He states, “I mean the basic building blocks of society such as the individual, the family, the state, and the church.”3 His point is that the social justice movement attacks all of the societal structures which God has ordained in His Word. When talking about the authority of the family, Dr. Johnson mentions the “patriarchal head” which is a reference to the husband who leads his wife and loves her as Christ loved the church. The social justice movement rejects the idea of the headship of marriage. Just mention the biblical word “patriarchy” or “patriarchal” to a social justice warrior, and you will find this out from the experience. Thus, the foundation for a true worldview is God and His special revelation found in the Scripture. Social justice attacks anything having to do with these ideas.
While discussing the foundation for the critical social justice movement, Dr. Johnson goes through a history of Marxism and demonstrates the Marxist thought within social justice ideology. The book Dr. Johnson has written is of great service to the church, and it is hard to find any flaws or portions which could be improved upon. However, if I had one point, it would be at this venture. Dr. Johnson focuses upon the Marxist foundation for the social justice movement, which is true and needs to be done. Some would say it is inappropriate to talk about Marxism in America, however, I am not one of those. I agree with Dr. Johnson at this point. Yet, he spends less time on the postmodern theories involved in the movement as well.
I agree with everything he asserts, but if I had one critique, it would be that it would have been helpful to dive into this area with an additional chapter in the book. Postmodernism is also a foundation of the modern social justice movement, and a little more time on this point would have made the book even stronger, in my humble estimation. It would have been helpful because, as James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose have pointed out, “For postmodernists any meaningful critique of a culture’s values and ethics from within a different culture is impossible, since each culture operates under different concepts of knowledge and speaks from its own biases.”4 For white men, like Dr. Johnson and myself, to critique the critical social justice movement is then seen as impossible by its proponents because of our background and culture. We are merely speaking from a position of “white privilege” which negates our ability to offer a critique. Going into detail on these subjects would have been helpful. Dr. Johnson mentions the Social Justice movement wanting to remove any objective standard.5 Certainly, the postmodern concepts of the movement are touched on in his work. So, my thoughts here are merely a brotherly suggestion for the second edition of the book to expand on the topic of postmodernism being a foundation of this movement even more than the first edition. From what I have seen, many Christians do not see the postmodern ideas prevalent in the social justice worldview, and I think Dr. Johnson has the skillset to assist in taking the scales off their eyes in this area.
Nonetheless, the chapter dealing with Marxism is quite brilliant, and it shows how this demonic ideology is foundational to the social justice movement. He goes through the ontology (nature of being), epistemology (theory of knowledge), and ethical foundations of Marxism. Interestingly, the Prince of Preachers Charles Spurgeon and Karl Marx both lived in London at the same time. Dr. Johnson traces their story while showing the foundations of Marxism. He shows how Spurgeon opposed Marxism within this chapter, a valuable historic point for pastors to consider. The chapter progresses, and Dr. Johnson demonstrates how the deconstruction of individual rights, the family, and civil authority are all goals of Marxism. Admittedly, when it comes to the Marxist foundations of the social justice movement, Dr. Johnson provides one of the most valuable analysis of this subject I have seen. It is a short synopsis yet very powerful. Able to teach the veteran pastor and layperson alike.
Social Justice Is Unjust
One of the traits I respect about Dr. Johnson is his willingness to speak plainly. Many theologians dance around all of the hot button issues. The need of the hour is men who will stand up and cut straight lines with the sword of the Word of God. Dr. Johnson does not mince words yet never lacks humility in his critique. This combination of courage and humility is something I certainly respect. When using the idea of basketball to show the injustice of social justice, Dr. Johnson says:
In other words, the objective of social justice is not making sure every basketball player gets to play by the same set of rules and is treated equally – this is the old standard of justice. The objective of social justice is to make sure every player has equal playing time and equal points and that no team loses the game. With no losers, everyone gets a participation trophy. The more athletic and skilled the player, the harsher the player must be treated to make things fair for the less athletic and skilled players.6
In the last few pages of the book, Dr. Johnson makes a sharp observation, he says:
Inviting social justice to enter the church is like asking Satan to come and preach and then being surprised afterward that he tried to burn the place down.7
Yes and Amen, Dr. Johnson. Indeed, it is saddening to see so many churches playing with and adopting the ideas of the social justice movement. They follow Marx instead of Christ. Their authority is the wind of popular opinion and not the sufficiency of Scripture. The social justice movement is not a secondary or tertiary issue. We must stand firm upon the Word of God and be willing to go to the stake over this issue if need be. Dr. Johnson provides a valuable service in this book, and it is one I wholeheartedly recommend every pastor and Christian buy and read through to learn. You can find it here (note this is not an affiliate link):
1 Jeff Johnson, What Every Christian Needs To Know About Social Justice, p. 15.
2 Page 16.
3 Page 16.
4 Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories, p. 41.
5 What Every Christian Needs To Know About Social Justice, Page 84.
6 Page 84.
7 Page 120.