The Duologue: Social Justice and the Gospel (Part 1) [Biola University Chapel]

The Duologue: Social Justice and the Gospel (Part 1) [Biola University Chapel]

[slow music]>>Last week 20 million
Americans tuned into the hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the charges brought against
him by Dr. Kristina Ford. Now by no means would we
ever go into which side, but it was fascinating media scholars on what the reaction was to how the conversation was happening. One major publication
simply called it grotesque. Another leading American magazine said, this is America at our worst. Overseas, they simply described
it as the supreme ordeal. We’re called to do things differently. Not that Christians
don’t have disagreements, we certainly do, but when people watch
us do our disagreements they better see something different. Do they see truth and love
interacting with each other or do they see what 20 million
Americans just witnessed in the previous week?>>So one of the reasons
that I think things are so polarized is we
didn’t have two categories. When there’s a controversial issue or an issue that confronts us, we tend to think it’s
either an issue of absolutes over which we will fight
or it should simply be a matter of taste about which
we can say whatever who cares. One of the interesting things
when you read your Bible is you’ll discover that isn’t actually a biblical position, it’s missing something. So if you looked at Romans 14, you’d find Paul talking about
some of the controversies and issues that were coming
up in the book of Romans. But he makes an interesting observation. There’s some things that really
are just mere differences. It doesn’t really matter
how you came to Christ, who it was you preached the Gospel to you, or what spiritual gift you have. These things just aren’t things
that should matter to us. They’re matters that
might be beneath dispute. There’s other matters
that are beyond dispute and these are things that
usually simply define what it means to be Christian, a belief in Jesus Christ
as God for example. And so Christians would
share all that in common. But the interesting thing is he identifies a middle category, what he
calls disputable matters. And the interesting thing about those is he’s saying those aren’t
things that are just trivial, they aren’t things that are unimportant. And he actually asks the people in Rome to become fully convinced
about these issues in their own mind, but he also tells them they don’t have to agree with each other. So the really interesting
thing that Paul does is he creates the third category. There’s a category of what you might call
Christian convictions. They are convictions that
all Christians should, and in some sense must hold in common otherwise they wouldn’t
even be Christians. On the other hand there’s
things that simply don’t matter in that regard, matters
of mere difference. In between are matters that we might call matters of personal conviction. We are to be fully convinced
of them in our own mind as Paul says, so they’re
matters of conviction, but we don’t have to
agree with each other. They are matters of personal conviction. In Duologues, the things that
we did both last semester and are doing tonight, are
all about that third category. They’re all about the
idea that there’s things that Christians can hold deeply
as a matter of conviction and indeed convictions that emerge from their shared commitment to Christ but nonetheless they don’t
agree on that exact conviction with the person who might be
sitting beside them in the pew. So Duologue is not a debate where the goal is to convert someone
else to your viewpoint. It’s not an infomercial
where you sit and learn everything you’d like tonight. We’ll be talking about social
justice and the Gospel, it isn’t a time where you
learn eight important facts about social justice in the Gospel. It’s not designed to
be that sort of a thing and it isn’t even an equal time thing like you have the President’s address and then after that you have a message from the opposite political party, so each advocacy group
gets their own shot. A Duologue has a very
interesting intention. It’s shaped around the
idea that you have people who are going to, I wrote this down to get this straight in my own mind. It’s a conversation that’s intended to model a healthy
conversation between people of differing personal convictions, but who have the same core commitments and confessional beliefs. So that’s the goal, is
to bring these people who share common core
convictions and personal beliefs together into a dialogue about a matter that they actually disagree on as a matter of personal conviction. And that’s not an easy thing to do. The goal is not to
convert the other person, but at the end of the time you understand why their conviction emerges from your shared core commitments. The other thing that hopefully you do is refine your own convictions because you hear really good
points from the other side and a little bit of humility rewards you with some substantial growth
and the wisdom and integrity of your conviction.>>So the video that you
saw, the 30 second video, is all four of us getting together at Dr. Langer’s house
to talk about an issue that has arisen on campus
among students and faculty about the uneasy relationship with some between social justice and the Gospel. Does one supplant the other? Does one come from a background that we shouldn’t be embracing, social justice as conceived today by many different institutions, Christians and non-Christians? So what we want to do tonight
is just give you a taste of what you’re gonna get tonight. Tonight at 7:00 in Calvary Chapel, Doctor Williams and Doctor Christerson are gonna have all the time they need to have this great dialogue. What we asked them to do is, let’s do a Ted presentation
where each of them are gonna get up and in ten minutes, they’re gonna talk about hey
this is my take on the issue and I think it will become
a little bit apparent where the agreements are
with the disagreement. So let me introduce Brad Christerson. He has an MA and PhD in sociology from the University of
California at Santa Barbara. He’s been at Biola for 21 years. He teaches courses in
global poverty and inequity, race and ethnicity, and urban society. He’s a prolific author, he’s written The Rise
of Network Christianity. He wrote a book called
Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Live of Teens. He wrote a book, Against All Odds, which at first I thought was the chances of the Detroit Lions
getting to the Super Bowl, but it doesn’t have anything
to do with that Rick. It has to do with Against All Odds, the struggle for racial
integration in religious schools. In addition to his
academics, he’s an activist. He belongs to a group called Matthew 25, which is an evangelic organization working to protect vulnerable immigrants.>>Our other participant
will be Thaddeus Williams and you guys may know Thaddeus
as a professor you’ve had from Theology one or two, some of the classes he
loves to express his passion for helping people enlarge
their vision of who God is and enjoy God more fully. He’s also taught classes
in a secular context on the history of atheism, introduction to philosophy
and biblical literature so he’s well-rounded in that regard. He’s a person who speaks a
lot, has published a lot, and part of why we
invited him here for this is a recent book that he
just published called, just completed writing I think. I don’t know if it’s all
published yet or not, but called The Justice Revolution: Loving the Oppressed
without Losing the Gospel. It includes quite a variety
of stimulating chapters. My favorite chapter title
was It’s Not About Otterpops. So way to keep the eye on
the big stuff there, Thad. The other reason we’ve invited him, he consistently models
gracious interaction amidst a very, very difficult issue and that’s something he’s practiced a lot. So let’s welcome those
two guys on up here. [applause] So our first Ted Talk
will be coming from–>>Should I sit on the right or the left?>>I’ll be left. [laugher]>>That works out perfect.>>Let me invite Dr. Christerson to go ahead and give our first Ted Talk and immediately after
that, Thad you can go.>>Alright, thanks. Thanks for coming out this morning. So when we talk about social
justice, just like anything, we need to root everything
we say and do in Scripture, and particularly in the life
and the teachings of Jesus. And if you look at Scripture, the call to justice is everywhere. From the Old Testament laws is Leviticus to the prophets, to the
life and teachings of Jesus, to the Letters of the Apostles, the call for us to seek
justice for the poor, the marginalized, the immigrant,
the widow, the orphan, it’s everywhere. When Jesus, in Luke chapter four. Can I get my Power Point up here? Alright, no Power Point. Oh okay, here we go. So Jesus made his very
first public statement to launch his public ministry in the synagogue in his
hometown in Nazareth. He got up, he read from the book of Isaiah and this is what he said. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me “because he has anointed me “to proclaim good news to the poor. “He has sent me to proclaim
freedom for the prisoners “and recovery of sight for the blind, “to set the oppressed free, “to proclaim the year
of the Lord’s favor.” Now think about this as an
initial kickoff campaign speech. This is his first statement as he starts his public ministry. And what Jesus is saying here is that the Kingdom of God is breaking into this broken world. And when the Kingdom of God
breaks into this broken world, things like this happen. The lives of the poor are improved, the people with disabilities
get included and get healed, prisoners go free, and the oppressed are no longer oppressed. What he’s saying is
when the Kingdom of God breaks into this world,
the world gets better, especially for the poor and oppressed. Now after he made this kickoff speech, he proceeded to establish
his kingdom on earth for the next few years before he died. And the way that he did that
was he did three things. First of all, he proclaimed
the forgiveness of sins and a restored relationship
with God through Him. John 3:16, Jesus says,
“For God so loved the world “that He gave His one and only son “that whoever believes
in Him shall not perish “but have eternal life “for God did not send
His son into the world “to condemn the world “but to save the world through Him.” And that free offer of forgiveness of sins and restored relationship
and eternal life is central to the expansion of this kingdom, this breaking into the world. The second thing he did was he established loving communities where everyone was welcome. And people ate together, people served each other, people sacrificed for each other. And it’s interesting
throughout the Gospels you see Jesus hanging out with people that nobody else would hang out with, at least the upright religious folks. Sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, foreigners, lepers,
people with disabilities. Those were considered bad
people in that culture. And what we see throughout the Gospels is Jesus eating with those folks and that gave him a really bad reputation because in that culture
if you eat with someone that means they’re your
closest friends and family. That’s your inner circle. And so Jesus created these
communities of love and care and as he did that, people got healed. Prostitutes and tax collectors
changed their professions. The hungry got fed. So this community that he
created changed people’s lives. Now the third thing that Jesus did was he confronted injustice. Jesus showed us that to
love our neighbor as ourself is not just to invite them
into our loving community, but to actually confront the systems that oppress people and harm people. In Mark chapter 11,
Jesus goes to Jerusalem during the time of the Passover and so people from all over Israel were coming to the temple
to pay their temple tax and to sacrifice at the altar. Big deal, the biggest week of the year. First thing Jesus does, verse 15, Mark 11, “On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus
entered the temple courts “and began driving out
those who were buying “and selling there. “He overturned the tables
of the money changers “and the benches of those selling doves, “and he would not allow
anyone to carry merchandise “through the temple courts. “And as he taught them he
said, ‘Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a
house of prayer for all nations? “‘But you have made it a den of robbers.’ “The chief priests and the
teachers of the law heard this “and began looking for a way to kill him, “for they feared him, “because the whole crowd
was amazed at his teaching.” Now think about this, this
is crazy what Jesus did. The temple is packed
with all these pilgrims, biggest, most crowded day of the year. He shows up, the first thing
he did when he got to Jerusalem is he shows up at the temple and completely shuts it down. He flips over the tables,
drives away the merchants. Why did he do this? This was an act of civil disobedience. Jesus, what he did was
confront the leaders ’cause they were exploited
people all throughout Israel through this temple system. The temple system was
a way for the leaders, the priests and the temple administrators, to live a comfortable lifestyle. Do you know that they,
everybody in Israel, had to pay a temple tax? And they actually
charged a full day’s wage for an average worker
just to change the money into the acceptable currency
for their temple tax. And to sacrifice a dove, they had to pay 20 times
what a normal dove would cost outside of the temple. And they took this money for themselves and lived a comfortable lifestyle. When Jesus said, “you made
this place a den of robbers” he’s directly quoting the prophet Jeremiah who also called out the leaders of Israel for the exploitation
of the poor, the widow, the immigrant, and the marginalized. So to summarize, Jesus did three things to establish his Kingdom of God on earth. He preached the forgiveness of sins and restored relationship
with God through Him. Second, he built a loving community where everybody was welcome
and people served each other and cared for each other, especially the poor and the marginalized, and third, he confronted
the systems of injustice of his time that were harming people. So history tells us that
when we, the people of God, do these things, the
Kingdom of God expands and the world gets better, especially for the poor and oppressed. The early church did these three things. They preached the forgiveness of sins and the free gift of
salvation through Jesus and they created loving communities that cared for the poor and the sick. But not only that, they
confronted the injustice and practices of the Roman Empire. They confronted the
practice of infanticide. It was legal in Rome for a
father to kill his children for whatever reason and a lot
of fathers killed their kids, especially ones that had disabilities. The early church also
confronted gladiatorial games. Gladiatorial games took
poor people, slaves, and prisoners of war, and
made them kill each other basically for the entertainment
of everybody else. The early church confronted
that and guess what, as a result of their protests, eventually the Roman Empire throughout it stopped these practices. The Kingdom of God expanded
and the world got better. Now fast forward to 18th century England where followers of Jesus
like William Wilberforce and John Newton, the man
that wrote Amazing Grace, was a former slave trader,
were at the forefront of confronting the injustice
of the African slave trade. Wilberforce had this famous quote, “A private faith that does not act “in the face of oppression
is no faith at all.” Fast forward to 100 years to America, the fight to abolish slavery. Followers of Jesus like Sojourner Truth, Fredrick Douglas, and
William Lloyd Garrison were at the forefront of
the Abolitionist Movement. As a result of their efforts, slavery was eventually abolished and the Kingdom of God expanded
and the world got better, especially for the poor and oppressed. Fast forward to the 1960s. Followers of Jesus like Rosa
Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King were so driven by their desire to expand the Kingdom of God that they called the beloved community, that they confronted the
unjust laws of [mumbles] in the South. Caesar Chavez, driven
by his faith in Jesus, confronted the exploitation
of farm workers in California. Now these people are icons
in our culture, right? You’ve got schools,
streets named after them. But unfortunately our history books downplay the fact that they were driven by their love for Jesus and their tactics of nonviolent enemy love came straight out of
the Sermon on the Mount. Thank you. [laughter] I like that. So, fast forward to now. We have this amazing cloud of witnesses urging us on to expand the Kingdom of God through preaching the forgiveness of sins and eternal life through Jesus, through building loving communities, and confronting injustice. And I’m hopeful because I know when the people of God do
this, the kingdom expands. And I’m hopeful because I
see all of you out here. I see something in your generation that I haven’t seen in
my 21 years at Biola. I see a desire to combine
that desire to connect people with Jesus and pursuing justice. I see the passion for justice burning in many of your souls and
this is exciting for me. This is an exciting
project to be involved in. We get to be involved in
this world-changing movement that Jesus kicked off 2,000 years ago. Well the torch is passed to us. It’s our turn now. Let’s do this. [cheering and applause]>>So this was supposed to be a Duologue, where we’re kind of on
different sides of things but after hearing that, it’s not gonna be much
of a Duologue. [laughs] I 100 percent, absolutely, amen, alleluia, preach it brother, way
to mic drop it for us. And amen to all those scriptures and amen to all of our
brothers and sisters through church history
who rose to the call, the biblical command and not
suggestion to pursue justice, to love the oppressed. That’s not optional. That is an essential, if you’re reading the same Bible as the rest of us. But where I wanna go, is
I wanna ask the question, it’s gonna sound totally
out of left field, but how could you become the most miserable version
of yourself possible? How could you become the
least likable version of yourself possible? And how could the church
become the most irrelevant version of itself as possible? Anybody interested in
how to become miserable, unlikable, and have an irrelevant church? Anybody want in on that? Not really, right? Here’s the secret. If you want to be utterly miserable, spend all your time trying to
make your three best friends, me, myself, and I, happy. If you want to be unlikable to people, spend all your effort and energy getting everybody to like you. If you want the church to be irrelevant, the church should spend all of its time preoccupied with being relevant. Now what does that have
to do with justice? What does it have to do with the Gospel? I’m pointing to this
principle that C.S. Lewis is getting at in a little essay called The Weight of Glory, when he says if we put first things first we get second things thrown in. If you make some second
thing a first thing, you not only lose the real first thing, you lose the second thing too. I know that’s a little bit abstract, but think about it, he’s
onto something here. If you make being liked your first thing, you not only lose the real first
thing, caring about people, you end up unlikable. You make happiness your first thing, you not only miss out
on the real first thing, glorifying and enjoying God, but you miss out on the second thing too, your own happiness. You make the church trying to
be relevant its first thing, it not only misses out
on the real first thing, reverence for God, it misses
out on the second thing too, becomes utterly irrelevant. And so as we thing together
about this question, what’s the relationship
between social justice and the Gospel, we need
to make sure we’re getting the first thing as the first thing or we’ll lose the first
and the second thing. And so when I was looking at
the title of today’s event, it was on a big screen
when I walked into the gym and it said, “The Gospel
and Social Justice.” And that’s exactly right
because that’s getting the first thing as the first thing. When you get the Gospel first, social justice naturally flows from faithfully preaching
the faith once and for all entrusted to the saints. So let’s define that. What do I mean by the Gospel, right? It’s a slippery term, we use it in all kinds of context. Let me define it straight
from the Scriptures for you. This is Paul under the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Here’s what he says. First Corinthians 15, “Now
I would remind you brothers “of” here’s that word,
“the Gospel, the good news “that I preach to you.” What is that Gospel according to Paul? “Which you received in which you stand “in which you’re now being saved “if you hold fast to
the word I preach to you “unless you believed in vain.” And here’s the Gospel according to the Spirit-inspired Paul. “For I deliver to you
as of first importance “what I also received, “that Christ died for our sins “in accordance with the Scriptures “that he was buried, that he
was raised on the third day “in accordance with the Scriptures. “And that he appeared to
Cephas and then the twelve “then he appeared to more
than 500 brothers at one time “most of whom are still alive “though some have fallen asleep. “Then he appeared to James
and to all the Apostles “and last of all, to one untimely born, “he appeared also to me. “And I’m the least of the Apostles, “I’m unworthy to be called an Apostle “because I persecuted the church of God. “But by the grace of God I am what I am “and his grace towards me was not in vain. “On the contrary I worked
harder than any of them “though it was not I” but here it is, “by the grace of God that is with me.” That is the Gospel, that is the good news, that is what we are
commanded, not suggested, to take to the nations. That God saves otherwise
helpless sinners like us, through the substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of Jesus. That’s what we are called
to shout from the rooftops. Amen?>>Audience: Amen.>>And so once you start there, as your first thing, the
Gospel as your first thing, then social justice
has a way of following, biblical social justice. Let me just give one
quick biblical example. It’s so powerful and
Brad referenced it too. In Ephesians one, some of
you have heard this before, Paul is saying praise beith God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He’s called us to be holy and blameless. And that word blameless, it’s
a little Greek word, amomos. And if you were reading
that in the first century, that word would be packed
with meaning for you because as Brad was saying,
in the first century, there was infanticide. There were unwanted babies
who were literally thrown to the human dump and left for dead, to be eaten by dogs, to be eaten by birds, or to be picked up by slave masters and forced into a lifetime of captivity. This was happening in the first century. Now if you were one of
those unwanted kids, if you were an unwanted baby, you would be branded by the culture momos, the Greek word, which meant
basically unwanted or blemished. And so Paul is picking
up on that and saying, praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has called you holy and amomos. You have been called unblemished. Culture is calling you
unwanted and blemished. The God, creator,
sustainer of the universe has renamed you from unwanted to wanted, from blemished to unblemished, from blamed to blameless. That’s the good news, right? It’s 100 percent by the grace of God. Now as the early church, ’cause our brothers and
sisters in the first century were preaching that good news. What did they do? They believed it, they preached it, and they went to the literal human dumps where this social injustice was occurring and they brought these unwanted kids into their homes as cherished
adopted sons and daughters. They had the first thing first and so the second thing,
social justice, followed. Isn’t that a beautiful story? We can be proud of our Christian heritage when you put the Gospel first, look at all the justice it
brings to a broken world. And all the examples that Brad offered, the Harriet Tubmans, the Sojourner Truths, the Fredrick Douglases,
the William Wilberforces, the Dietrich Bonhoeffers of
history, if you look at them, they all put first things first. They started with the Gospel. So where I want to land
to get us thinking about this on a deeper level
and the conversation we’re gonna have tonight, I wanna ask this question with
the two and a half minutes I’ve got left. How can you tell if
you’ve put social justice as the first thing, in which case you lose not only the real first thing, the Gospel, but social justice too, social justice becomes something else, versus how can you tell
if you’ve got the Gospel as your first thing so
you’re actually getting the second thing thrown
in as a beautiful bonus? So in T minus two minutes,
I’m gonna race through this as a little appetizer
of some of the things that we’re gonna dive into deeper tonight. I’m gonna try to get
through a quick list here of some ways you can tell if you’ve made something other than the Gospel, like social justice, your first thing in a way that you could lose the Gospel and social justice. So number one, if by
social justice we mean an ideology that inspires you
guys to get self-righteous, to say I’m not a bigot because I hold these
particular political views or I’m a member of this or
that cultural identity group. And I hope and pray we can agree biblical justice is more humanizing, more God-glorifying, and just. A Christian worldview confronts us with the humbling reality
that our self-righteousness is filthy rags and
Christ is the only ground for our righteous standing. The second way to tell if
you’ve got these things flipped. If by social justice we mean an ideology that inspires in its followers a quickness to be offended, then we aren’t talking about biblical justice anymore. In biblical justice, the Christian worldview
champions a love that is quote, “not easily offended.” Number three, if by social justice we mean an ideology that inspires
us to be suspicious of each other and hostile to each other and inspires factions
and fears and labeling and preoccupation with
our subjective feelings, then I hope and pray we can agree biblical justice is something
better and more beautiful. A Christian worldview offers
us the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control. Number four, if by social justice we mean some ideology that rejects ideas based not on their truth
value or their biblical merit but based on the ethnic or gender identity of the person saying it, then
I hope and pray we can agree biblical justice is better. Christian worldview calls
us in the great commandment to love God with all of our minds and that includes evaluating ideas based on whether they’re
biblically faithful in their truth value rather
than the group identity of those articulating it. Let me offer just one more. If by social justice, we mean an ideology that credits guilt on the
basis of one’s skin tone, condemning people on their group identity, then I hope and pray we can agree biblical justice is more humanizing, God-glorifying, and just. In a biblical worldview,
we are all one in Adam. Dead in sin, lifeless
until the Holy Spirit, like divine defibrillators
jolts spiritual life into our corpses and that is the Gospel, that is the good news,
that is the grace of God that raises us up from the
state of spiritual deadness so that God and God
alone gets all the glory. And when that’s our core identity, how we went from being dead in sin, united in Adam, regardless of gender, regardless of skin color,
regardless of any other category and now we have this new
community united in Christ, it’s with that Gospel realization that real justice happens. So my charge to all of you, my
beloved Biolans this morning is keep the first thing the first thing. Contend earnestly for
the Gospel once for all and trusted to the saints. I love you guys, thank you. [applause]>>So you might be thinking,
well they agree with each other. How is this gonna be a Duologue? This was awesome. Well when we had dinner with them, by the way it was ribs, it was wonderful.>>It was good.>>It started that way as well but then we started talking,
pulled back the layers and said yeah but Brad, what would you say about this and Thaddeus how
would you respond to this and if you had to order this and you had to do this, then it really got to some provocative, interesting, two godly men
who have studied this issue pushing each other, finding common ground, but also saying yeah I don’t
think I can agree with that and I don’t think that’s
what Jesus was getting at. So tonight, you’re gonna see them be able to talk to each other and prod each other and push each other,
speaking both truth and love. But we’ve asked them right now if as you listen to each other what would be one, we
don’t have time right now, but if you can ask one
question of each other, what would be the question
you would ask of each other? And Brad, go first.>>Yeah, I just wanna ask what role does reforming unjust systems play in your view of the Kingdom of God?>>That’s a great question.>>You can’t answer it Thaddeus.>>I know, I want to so bad.>>You cannot answer that.>>This is the teaser Thaddeus. [laughter]>>Thaddeus.>>I guess my question, I mean looking at the political
polarization of the country. You have the right, the left are the categories we typically use, whether they’re helpful or
not is a different question. But I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that me sitting on the right of the couch and you sitting on the left
from our perspective at least. I consider myself more of a centrist. I should probably sit right here, so we get nice and close
and really love each other.>>You’re invading my space man.>>And you’re sitting… I’m in your personal space? This is what the Duologue’s about. We gotta love each other man.>>Right. You didn’t tell me this is
what I was getting into. [laughter]>>So it’s safe to say
that you probably are not only literally, but
politically, to my left. And so I guess my
question for you would be as more and more Christians
care about things, like we should care about immigration and we should care about racism, we should care about
broken corrupt systems, I’d be interested to hear tonight at what point you think
that can go too far to the point where we actually
lose sight of the Gospel? [gentle music]>>Narrator: Discover
who you’re called to be at Biola University, a leading Christ-centered
university in Los Angeles, with programs on campus and online. Subscribe for more of our videos and learn more at

2 Replies to “The Duologue: Social Justice and the Gospel (Part 1) [Biola University Chapel]”

  1. "There is no prosperity gospel; no social gospel. If you add an adjective to the gospel, then you don't have the gospel."
    – Justin Peters

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