I hadn’t planned on saying any more any time soon on the gospel and social justice. After 3 posts explaining why I don’t believe anything we do, whether we call that social justice or not, is part of the gospel’s content — the most substantial of which is here — and 1 post nevertheless explaining why I believe social justice is a necessary implication of the gospel, I was sort of done. But commenter Daneil is suggesting today that I am advocating the social gospel, which should be a surprise to those of you who in my previous posts suggested I’m advocating a truncated gospel which leads to ignoring care for the poor, etc. Guess I can’t win.
But today Kevin DeYoung shares an interview with Tim Keller on Keller’s upcoming book Generous Justice. I found this exchange on the definition of justice quite helpful. We must reject the social gospel; but the concept of justice in society is thoroughly biblical. Keller explains why:
I’ll start with the million dollar question, what is justice and what does it mean to do justice?
Doing justice means giving people their due. On the one hand that means restraining and punishing wrongdoers. On the other hand it means giving people what we owe them as beings in the image of God. Nick Wolterstorff says that, as a creature in the image of God, each human being comes into your presence with ‘claim-rights.’ That is, they have the right to not be killed or kidnapped or raped. Of course there is plenty of room for disagreement on the specifics of these things, but that’s my basic definition. Doing justice, then, includes everything from law enforcement to being generous to the poor. (I believe Job 29 and 31 include generosity as part of a just life.)
Why are you so passionate about this issue?
I read the Bible and I’m overwhelmed with the amount of Biblical material that expresses concern for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien. My main gifting is evangelism and I’ve never had extensive experience in a poor community or country. So I reason—if I can see all of this in the Bible, despite the fact that I’m not especially oriented to do so—it must be important to God. I’m passionate about it because I’m passionate to be shaped by the Bible.