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Is social justice a Christian doctrine?

My friend, Don Hank, had a column published by Worldnetdaily today entitled “Is social justice a Christian doctrine?

Recently, Christian Left leader Jim Wallis recently said:

Christians across the theological and political spectrum believe that social justice is central to the teachings of Jesus and at the heart of biblical faith.

Actually, not only is there no consensus on this issue, but in fact, Jesus did not speak of such a concept as it is understood today.

Further, Jesus said that there would be false teachers coming in his name. Paul, arguing for strict traditionalism, steeled future Christians against heresy by writing:

Therefore, Brethren, stand fast, and hold to the traditions which ye have been taught. …” (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

While any Christian can agree that the first Christians held all things in common and virtually forbade owning any personal property, we find no mention that a theocracy should be established by Christians to enforce this socialism on others. And those who insist that Christian socialism must be enforced by political means are in fact endorsing a form of theocracy not less rigid than that of Muslim countries.

Read the rest of the column.

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    • Kathleen on March 31, 2010 at 10:56 am

    This reminds me of 2 Corinthians 9:7:

    “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”.

    I tire of Christians taking a single scripture (ie; loaves and fishes) and making a doctrine out of it. I am not sure about traditional or denominational churches but this occurs frequently in some non-denominational churches.

    • Terry on April 2, 2010 at 12:20 am

    I just love the way people will use a scripture in an attempt to “counter” or “trump” someone else’s (but if it’s necessary for me to name one, then I’ll offer three: Mathew 25:40, Deuteronomy 15:7, or 1 John 3:17).
    Social justice equals socialism? Come on, are you kidding me? To say that social justice is the same as socialism is like saying capital punishment is the same as capitalism. That is just taking a root word and bending it for your own purpose. While one could argue that social justice promotes a welfare state, I would completely oppose anyone saying that is the focus of social justice. Social justice isn’t simply about providing for or donating to or giving to. It’s about compassion and love for all people. Jesus didn’t have to mention “social justice” for me to feel compelled to participate in it. He didn’t have to say it because his life awesomely illustrated it.

    • Anthony on April 2, 2010 at 8:09 am
      Author

    you’re missing the point, Terry.

    All of your own passages counter your own claim.

    Do you recognize the basic difference between, “I will help my neighbor” and “You will help my neighbor”?

    None of the passages you cite support the principles embodied in the term ‘social justice.’ The clearest example of the three is Matthew 25:40 which reads: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

    Your reading seems to be: “I tell you the truth, whatever you can make someone else do for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

    Jesus did not ever say anything about being generous with other people’s money in the name of ‘social justice.’

    You said: “While one could argue that social justice promotes a welfare state, I would completely oppose anyone saying that is the focus of social justice.”

    Why? Are you the spokesperson for the social justice movement? Do you know the hearts and minds of all those advocating ‘social justice’? Still, this is maybe not the important part. You concede that it may promote a welfare state but deny that that is the intent. So? Because you have good intentions you can do harm to people? You believe you will have clean hands and will be righteous before Christ when you say, “Yes, I pushed for a system that ended up reducing human dignity, reduced opportunity, and created a cycle of dependency whereby tens of thousands of people came to think that the government is the solution to all of their problems and they passed this on to their kids, and their kids to their kids, so that eventually most of them figured there was no need for God, because the Government would take care of them. Yes, I know this happened, but we intended only their best.”

    Yea, that will fly.

    • Chuck on April 2, 2010 at 8:44 am

    There are a couple of things I would like to point out about this article. First is this statement:

    “While any Christian can agree that the first Christians … virtually forbade owning any personal property”

    This is just flat wrong, and a plain reading of the Book of Acts will show it. In fact, Peter told Ananias, concerning the land which he sold, and then lied about the proceeds of the sale, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?”

    This short period of time when the Christians “held all things in common” was an historical anomaly, and it had a very good explanation – which I won’t go into here.

    He goes on to say, “..we find no mention that a theocracy should be established by Christians to enforce this socialism on others.”

    What the Christians were doing there in Jerusalem after the day of Pentecost was not Socialism at all. There was no economic or political process in place whereby wealth was forcibly redistributed in order to make everyone “equal.”

    There is a lot more I would like to say about the Bible’s treatment of Social Justice, but I have to run. Maybe I’ll come back later and add some more comments.

    • Anthony on April 2, 2010 at 9:57 am
      Author

    Hi Chuck,

    I agree with you about your assessment there and I am pretty sure that Don doesn’t actually believe what it sounds like he said there. I haven’t asked him to be certain, but I’m pretty sure he just communicated poorly on that point. I think he overstated it, and the passage about Ananias springs to my mind too.

    I think you are also right about how what the Christians were doing was not ‘socialism’ or even ‘communism’ strictly speaking- ie, an economic or political model or process- but I think his use of the term in this context is within the cultural range for it. Unfortunately, most people won’t read these terms in their ‘strict’ sense and would misunderstand if they were offered in that sense.

    A good case in point is the previous commenter talking about ‘social justice.’ This has a definite meaning, historically speaking. He seems to think that it’s just any attempt to seek justice within society- and how could that be bad?

  1. Hi Anthony, Hi Chuck,
    First, Anthony, thanks for linking this to my site. I didn’t actually realize WND ran my article until I saw your link to this site. (They don’t usually let you know).
    Yes, Chuck, I guess it could be argued that the first Christians didn’t all share everything in common, but when a couple decided to keep a little of what they earned from the sale of their home, you may recall how that ended for them. Yes, a rather modest piece of real estate with a tombstone over it.
    In one sense, though, maybe you could say that socialism isn’t socialism unless it is of and by the government.
    These definitions vary from group to group and person to person.
    I strongly recommend Shafarevich’s book “The Socialist Phenomenon,” which is downloadable for free on the net. If gives one a sense of the heresies that ended in oft-times violent and sexually promiscuous socialist societies. The parallels with much of today’s West are astounding, and also very sad!
    In case anyone still wonders, I not only do not advocate socialism, I devote a lot of my waking time fighting it tooth and nail.

    • Anthony on April 2, 2010 at 6:26 pm
      Author

    I think the problem is the sense of your paragraph which implies that private property was ‘virtually’ forbade. I think the point is that they willingly gave up their stuff, not that there was any command.

    And for Ananias, a close reading of that passage shows that their problem was not that they kept a little bit from the sale but that rather they told the disciples they were donating the full sum of what they had received, presumably to gain popularity in the eyes of the people rather than out of a truly generous heart. Peter tells them that they could have done whatever they wanted with the money, which I think is in direct opposition to the idea that the money was ‘virtually forbidden.’

    You know of course that I don’t doubt your opposition to socialism at any point. 🙂

    • sheriffjim on April 3, 2010 at 8:42 am

    The words of Jesus: “For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you will you may do them good: but me you have not always.”

    Clearly He was not advocating for social justice, nor was He allowing that in this fallen world there would ever be social justice.

    He is simply saying that He is the way, the truth, and the life and as such is the key to eternal life in His perfect Kingdom where His justice will prevail

    • Earle on April 6, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    I agree with Don with a few clarifications. The public arena is won by those who give the impression of holding the moral high ground. The (pseudo) liberal side (who do not liberate) has been much better at that than the (pseudo) conservative (who are unable to conserve anything).

    Socialists and Communists do not really hold the moral high ground, but they are better at pretending. And the conservatives do not seem even to be aware of the moral problem. We argue about our *rights*, but say little about our *responsibilities* — to feed the poor, visit the sick, etc. That IS a mandate from Jesus. We talk much about our gun rights, but little about what Jesus clearly holds dear — as in Matthew 25, the Last Judgement. God holds the moral high ground, and the best way of convincing others that we hold it is in fact to be standing there with Him.
    .
    God is not asking anyone to be charitable at gunpoint, which destroys charity. But we are indeed required to be washing each other’s feet, feeding the poor, etc., out of our obedience to God and our own compassion for the needy. Not many conservative pulpits seem to make that a theme, which is our fault, not anyone else’s.

    Orthodox Christianity will begin to win again in the public arena when we become truly orthodox in this matter. Winning will bring more persecution, but that will help cleanse the churches.

    The Christians won Rome because they were perceived to love one another, and to love the pagans as well. (See Rodney Stark’s book, “The Rise of Christianity”.

    Let’s not give social justice away to those who want it at gunpoint.

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