Social engagement. Social justice. These phrases can sound scary to evangelical ears. But are these concepts actually foreign to the Bible, as some might assume? Walter R. Strickland II addressed these questions and more in a recent lecture at North Greenville University in Tigerville, SC.
In his lecture, Strickland builds a biblical-theological vision of social engagement and social justice. He explores this topic via the storyline of Scripture, and he explains from the Bible why we do justice, who does justice, and how we do justice.
Watch the lecture above. Here are a handful of key excerpts and an outline of his main points.
On the controversy surrounding social justice.
“There seems to be two groups…. One is scared of losing the redemptive power of the gospel in the lives of people. The other is concerned about applying Scripture and the restorative power of the resurrection in our sin-sick world. In general, these seem to be the two categories that we’re dealing with. But because I think some of the rhetoric is simply a scare tactic to scare us away from diving into the real issues, I want to set the labels aside and to just look at the Scriptures to then analyze the relationship of the Christian to the issue of social justice.
“As with anything, we have to start with Scripture, the storyline of the Bible, which is in essence the story of God making all things new, the storyline of redemption.”
Where does injustice come from?
“The fall in Genesis 3 is the source of humanity’s need for a Savior, yes. Creation’s groanings for redemption and brokenness [are] in the very structures that uphold civilization and society. So, to state it very clearly, where does injustice come from? It comes from sin. It comes from the fall. But the good news is that as far as the curse is found is as far as redemption is found.”
Justice is not an alien word, but a biblical word.
“I’m afraid that many Bible believing Christians have foresworn offering glimpses of God’s kingdom and his character in public life because non-Christians and a few wayward Christians have determined how social justice is understood and applied. So let’s not reject imbibing these characteristics of God and making manifest as much of the kingdom as we possibly can because people have neglected or misinterpreted God’s plan. In the end, God’s desire for his creation is to reflect his character, and the peace and the justice and the mercy and all those wonderful things that we cherish about God will be marking all of creation.
“So that’s sort of this biblical vision, this Genesis to Revelation panorama of what’s going on in with what our participation in God’s plan of redemption — which is working towards justice. This is not an alien word; it’s a biblical word.”
An outline of Dr. Strickland’s main points
- Why do we do justice?
“To participate in God’s plan of redemption through Christ and reflect his character throughout all creation in anticipation of the kingdom to come.”
- Who does justice?
“So who does justice? The righteous. Those who love Christ.”
- How do we do justice?
- Justice involves caring for the vulnerable.
- Justice involves encouraging the rich and powerful to be others-focused.
- Justice involves safeguarding essential liberties like freedom of speech/religion.
- Tips to do justice.
- Do justice with humility.
- Justice should influence your daily life.
- Justice should redefine success.
- Justice defies the social order.