Let the reader keep in mind, this book was met with rave reviews, a fact as important as anything written in it. D. A. Carson went so far as to pronounce it ‘the best’ book on the subject by way of ‘sensible definitions, clear thinking, readable writing, and ability to handle the Bible.’ And Horton declares it ‘the kind of biblical sanity we need at this moment.’
To which I will add, this book is trash. Utter trash. And the reviewers praising it to the skies? Madmen.
In chapter 1 we are told that in order to define the mission of the church, we must first acknowledge it as a “deceptively complex and potentially divisive” (p. 16) question. So much so that many have followed David Bosch’s conclusion: ‘Ultimately, mission remains undefinable.” (p. 19) To which the authors reply with the rhetorical question, “What was his [Jesus’s] mission, anyway?” And when I call it rhetorical, I mean they did not answer it. It was a stand-alone statement, its own conclusion. In context of Bosch’s agnostic statement, they imply Christ’s mission may be unknowable.
But they tell us these subjects somehow immediately beg the question, “What should be the church’s role in pursuing social justice?” (p. 16) How one implies the other is not explained. Neither is the fact that they treat the word ‘mission’ as some indecipherable cuneiform which must be agonized over, but presuppose the meaningfulness of the term ‘social justice’ without question.
Heck, they identify the three “key concepts” of Christianity as kingdom, gospel, and social justice (p. 16), the shalom of God (p. 27). Note, if someone defines the essentials of the Faith with concepts unknown to Scripture and the historic Church, he has zero credibility.
But returning to the question of the mission of the church, we are pleased to see them introduce the Reformed answer early on — ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But this they simply dismiss as unworthy of consideration! (p. 17) Too old and stodgy for these hipsters, I guess.
They here outline some thoughts on missional thinking:
1. They identify the first problem to be overcome is that we should “speak of living as citizens of the kingdom, rather than telling our people that they build the kingdom.” (p. 21)
Of course, this is a distinction without a difference, but they insist that by stating it this way, they have repudiated any Cultural or Dominion Mandate. (p. 21)
2. They take for granted that all Christians desire foremost to focus on human trafficking, AIDS, and improving public education (I kid you not)! And grant that all these are Christian objectives! But they identify a need therein to turn all oughts into cans. They want the church to feel for their gifts in these areas and act as they feel led, but without any mandate. A call for everyone to pursue whatever Leftist objective they desire, basically. (p. 21)
3. They fear that in all the focus on urban renewal and social problems, that the churches typically forget about making disciples of Christ. (p. 22)
They then describe the problem of defining the church’s mission as a seemingly insurmountable dilemma between retreat from the world on one hand, and Social Gospel on the other. (pp. 22-24) Heretofore they have not clarified whether we’re speaking of the church as an institution or as the identity of believers, but if it is the latter, they rule out in advance the only solution to the dilemma — the Lordship of Christ over all areas of life; to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The orthodox position is simply not entertained.
But by the end of the first chapter they announce that they’ve strung us along long enough; they are ready to disclose the mission of the church: the Great Commission is the summary of the Church’s mission on earth. (p. 26)
Chapters 2 through 4 form an overview of salvation history and grapple agonizingly with questions like — how many gospels are there, really? Yes, they tell us the reason Christians have always been so confused as to the mission of the church is because they are confused as to the nature of the gospel. Which they elaborate by analogy to a zoom lens vs. wide-angle lens: the “gospel of the kingdom [vs] the gospel of the cross.” (p. 106)
Which is really just a rehash of the distinction between justification and sanctification, though they strangely deign never to address it in these terms. In spite of their plodding and laborious approach, the fact that they scuttle all traditional terminology with respect to these things, only serves to obfuscate and confuse the matter unnecessarily.
But every step of the way, their discussion of ‘wide-angle lens’ and ‘kingdom gospel’ is treated under the umbrella of that most spurious concept — ‘Social Justice’.
Chapter 5 opens with Gilbert relaying that he never heard talk of the Kingdom until he went to college, and that all discussion of it was from theological liberals with the agenda of broadening social services and the welfare state. (p. 115)
They endorse Inaugural Eschatology and describe it as novel idea conceived first by George Eldon Ladd. (p. 117) Which is weird because IE was always and forever the base presumption in church history. It’s the basis for the B.C./A.D. demarcation in the Christian calendar, for Pete’s sake. Our entire history is based on this assumption of a now and not yet manifestation of the Kingdom.
In spite of this IE stance, however, they yet find a way to shoehorn that into Pessimillennialism, concluding that things will always be terrible here until Jesus returns, and any thought to remediate or ameliorate the evil is misguided. At least, evil if it is done in the name of a Dominion or Cultural Mandate. They even go so far as to argue that the Apostles had no inkling of building the Kingdom, only waiting for Jesus to do it all without them! (pp. 131-132)
Never mind that this flies in the face of the Great Commission itself, which is the spreading (growing or building) of the Kingdom on earth; as well as the Lord’s Prayer, that “as we forgive our debtors” things would come to “be done on earth as they are in heaven”; as well as the parable of the stone which grows into a great mountain covering the whole earth. Don’t even get me started on the fact that Revelation describes the saints ourselves as living stones and pillars in the Kingdom. Clearly, we are, by our very lineal fecundity, extending, manifesting, and therefore building the Kingdom. All DeYoung and Gilbert’s dissembling on this point is semantical. And it is a very weak semantic, at that.
Denial of the saints’ part in the expression of the Kingdom is to miss the fundamental fact that whatever proximate good the Christian does, it is not he, but by virtue of the gift of Grace, Christ in him (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27). If all Scripture is God-breathed, it neither negates nor diminishes the role played in its manufacture by the hand of apostles and prophets. They are confluent. So too with the means by which the Kingdom comes to maturation.
Chapter 6 is wholly dedicated to this alien value of ‘Social Justice’. To this end, they divine several mandates from Lev. 19:9-19 as involving loving others…
1) with our possessions
2) with our words
3) by our actions
4) in our judgments
5) in our attitude
In the 4th section of which they turn to a common refrain: “Justice means there should be one standard, one law, for anyone and everyone, not different rules for different kinds of people.” (p. 147) This really is a shorthand encapsulation of the overall egalitarianism of the work.
Trouble is, it is false on its face. The Scripture everywhere dictates different laws and standards to different kinds of people according to their stations and identities. Not just anyone qualified as a Kinsman Redeemer. Levites had ceremonial offices and temple rights specific to their tribe. Foreigners were disallowed by law from positions of government, buying land, loaning at usury to Israelites (while Israelites could do so to foreigners), and marrying Israelites. Even now, no one with a scintilla of conscience would deny that fathers have special rights with respect to their own children, or unique conjugal rights to their own wives.
And most amazingly, DeYoung and Gilbert immediately set about proving my point, acknowledging that inheritance was according to tribe, and that property was restored to separate families at the Jubilee (p. 148), that slavery was licit and tiered, and that there were different laws governing its practice according to ethnicity. (p. 149)
Thankfully, they dismiss the notion that the Jubilee was a Marxian scheme of wealth redistribution. (p. 149) But when they lay out their five excuses for why the Jubilee cannot be observed today, every one of their arguments (pp. 149-151) prove entirely false:
1) “We aren’t an ancient, agrarian society.”
Clearly, the term ‘ancient’ is a biased embelishment meant only to paint agrarianism as fitting for backwards rubes. In other words, propaganda.
As their own statement presupposes, agrarianism is the biblical model of society, so dismissing aspects of God’s law on the grounds that we dismissed more of God’s order beforehand is no argument. It’s just liberalism and antinomianism.
Besides which, no matter how far into industrial artifice we stray, all societies are ultimately dependent on agriculture. To repudiate agriculture is to forswear food. So the alternative to Jubilee law proves to be death.
2) “Our property has not been assigned directly by God.”
All our Christian fathers saw it otherwise. Our Presbyterian and Puritan fathers alike waxed long on the conviction that as a people covenanted to God, He had prepared our lands and allocated them to our folk specifically (Acts 17:26). So much so, in fact, that the Puritans granted land by allotment to clans, and the homesteading norm in early America was presumed to be the same — allodial titles on land. And foreign nations were not at liberty to buy up swaths of our people’s country. For this reason too were Blacks, Indians, Chinese, et al. precluded from any option to buy American soil, because they were not and could not become Americans. They could only rent, so that our folk might never be displaced from their ancestral allotments. In national political vernacular we called this allodial principle protectionism.
And the fact that a nation fallen into apostasy no longer observes it is no argument against it, but rather, indicative of our need for repentance.
3) “Our economy is not based on a fixed piece of land.”
It was, and ought be still. The present turn to globalism and ethereal markets and abstractions is no argument against biblical prescription. It is grounds for rebuke and reform of the present system.
4) “Modern nations are not under the Mosaic covenant.”
Ceremonial laws notwithstanding, with respect to the moral and civil dimensions of the law, they most certainly are. Ever essential to Christendom, that the nations of the Gentiles are now in the same relation to God as Israel of old. Because the nations are being discipled (Matt. 28:19) and are Israel now.
5) “Most of us are not Jews.”
This is a complete non sequitur. Jews have no relation to God except as Christ’s foremost enemies. If, on the other hand, they mean to say ethnic Israelites, this would be a true statement. But still irrelevant to the question of whether or not God’s law pertains to the nations of Christendom. For the Great Commission itself assures us that they do.
But immediately on the heels of all those non sequiturs, the authors seem to refute themselves in a section titled “Now What?” Therein we read, “The land of Israel was owned not by the state, but individuals, families, clans, and tribes. . . . There are few factors more crucial to economic prosperity than . . . a strong rule of law to protect that right.” (p. 152)
Thus extending the Jubilee law, at least by general equity, to the nations of Christendom. Trouble is, it’s a total repudiation of his previous five arguments against the continuance of Jubilee law.
More bizarrely, they surmise, “A text like this might be used to support modern bankruptcy laws and prisoner rehabilitation. It would certainly support the existence of a social safety net — by the state, some might argue, but certainly within the family and the covenant community.” (p. 152)
So, you want to dismiss the the Jubilee on one hand because we aren’t Jews, but then use it as justification for prisons and rehab programs? If I rolled my eyes any harder they’d roll out of my head.
And what conclusion do they come to with respect to Isaiah 58? “Clearly, caring for the poor, the hungry, the afflicted is not just a liberal thing to do. It is a biblical thing to do. We must allow this uncomfortable chapter to discomfort us a bit. Those of us in conservative circles can get all sorts of religious ritual right, but it counts for nothing and less than nothing if we do not love our neighbors as ourselves.” (pp. 155-156)
Yes, after all their tedium elaborating so many points, the authors smuggle in an entirely unexamined assertion — megastate liberalism is, at core, the Christian position. No exegesis to prove such an interpretation is even considered. It is simply taken for granted.
Nevermind that the Liberals whom they here praise are renowned for their lack of private charity. Even wealthy Liberals give far less to charity than their Conservative counterparts whom DeYoung and Gilbert condemn as having missed the core of the faith in exchange for ‘religious ritual’.
Adding to the insult to our intelligence, they have the temerity to cite Calvin on charity (p. 156) as if it were a posthumous endorsement of the Welfare State they’ve taken for granted.
But swinging back the opposite direction again, they state, “Christians who do not cheat, swindle, murder, accept bribes, defraud, and hold back agreed-upon wages are probably doing justice. Christians guilty of these things are probably not Christians at all.” (p. 158)
Yeah, those two ‘probably[s]’ — pretty vague for a work which purports to run only on solid exegesis. And really, these things do not at all define ‘Social Justice.’
Moreover, all the foregoing acquiescences to and endorsements of big-state Liberalism and default embrace of spurious concepts like ‘Social Justice’ indict the authors of all these very things: cheating, swindling, murder, bribery, fraud, etc. are essential components to the Liberal order they endorse by default.
Turning to Amos 5, they note that God’s first indictment against Israel is “hating one who speaks the truth” (v. 10). But in a surreal turn of Liberal virtue signalling, they cite MLK Jr. as having once referenced the same passage in Amos. Yes, they somehow imagine it gilds the lily to note how one of the most prodigious liars and blasphemers of the past century bent the same text to his nefarious ends. And Amos’s emphasis against the suppression of truth is apparently lost on them completely.
They note Amos’s condemnation of doing ‘justice’ for the highest bidder, but they entirely ignore the obvious — that the highest bidders buying justice today are the banking cartels, international corporations, Hollywood, government agencies, minority special interest groups, the Federal Reserve, and Zio-elite. All of whose goals the authors seem to take for granted as virtuous.
So too do they acknowledge Amos’s condemnation of arbitrary, excessive taxation on the poor to benefit the rich (5:11), but without any apparent cognizance of its contradiction with their own pro-nanny state politic, which does this very thing.
They interpret Micah 6:8 as a rebuke of “land-grabbers, taking what they did not own … in violation of the eighth commandment and in opposition to the stipulations about safeguarding a family inheritance.” Which sounds quite Kinist, frankly, but they’d deny it. They must mean something entirely different by those words, but they give no hint of what. They indict themselves, regardless.
They tell us Mathew 25:31-46 implies “increased government spending, increased concern for ‘social justice,’ or a genuine shame over not doing enough” and, according to them, these things are “obvious from the text.” (p. 162) Which is hilarious because I can find no historic exegetes who agree with them here. Increased government government and social justice weren’t ‘obvious’ to the thinking of Calvin, Henry, or anyone else I know of.
They do dispel any notions that caring for ‘the least of these’ (Matt. 25:45) equals a mandate of indiscriminate socialism, but jump to an unusual ecclesiocentric and auto-soteriological conclusion: “if we are too embarrassed, too lazy, or too cowardly to support fellow Christians at our doorstep who depend on our assistance and are suffering for the sake of the gospel, we will go to hell. We should not make this passage say anything more or anything less.” (p. 165)
In spite of their italicized enthusiasm, this statement is fraught with problems. Not least of which is that the majority of ostensible Christians on our collective doorsteps are working for the enemy. Of those who claim Christ, the majority have been converted to the nomology and social ethic of the zeitgeist. In most cases, we cannot aid them without aiding the enemy. (Eph. 5:7; 2 Jn. 1:11; etc.) Because all their ‘good deeds’ are actually assaults upon God’s Kingdom.
And in the same passage they note that Jesus was speaking of His ‘brothers’ in terms equally ethnic as religious. But they simply dismiss the former category of consideration because we aren’t Jesus’s physical brothers; and the thought that Christ would be admonishing us to take care of our own physical ‘brothers’ in like manner to Himself, and in accord with 1 Timothy 5:8’s call to take care of our own kin, is simply not on their radar.
From the case of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37), they reach the most absurd conclusion: “We are not to seek to limit who our neighbors might be. Rather, we are to be a neighbor to those whose needs we can meet.” (p. 166)
A conclusion which flies in the face of not only the immigration and ethnic insularity codes of Israel, and the mass deportations under Ezra and Nehemiah, but also the many admonishments of the NT against unequal yokes, and parameters for excommunication.
It even contradicts their previous point out of Matthew 25 about charity belonging foremost to fellow Christians! Meaning, to the exclusion of others at some level.
In consideration of 2 Corinthians 8-9, they offer a very good statement which in part reads, “crucially, . . . Paul goes out of his way to explain that his appeal for generosity is neither a command, (2 Cor. 8:8) nor an exaction (9:5). ‘He has not come to tax the Corinthians, nor impose a redistribution plan. This is not a rigid and imposed equality as in communism.'” (p. 170)
But this is at odds with their previous commentary in regard to Matthew 25, wherein they declare anathemas on any who will not give all to any claiming need under the name Christian.
Chapter 7 is titled Making Sense of Social Justice. Wherein they outline ‘Seven Proposals on Social Justice’:
1) Don’t Undersell What the Bible Says about the Poor and Social Justice.
Here they conclude, “Tim Keller is right: ministering to the poor is a crucial sign that we believe the gospel.” Which we answer — the text does say much about caring for the poor, but it says absolutely nothing about ‘Social Justice.’ That is an overtly Humanist concept which the authors have smuggled into the conversation and made the fulcrum on which their whole worldview turns. But they and Keller are dead wrong. Ministering to all poor in the name of ‘Social Justice’ is not any special sign of true belief. If it were, it would not be the preoccupation of Communists, Talmudists, and Witches. But it is.
And if you minister to the poor in the same manner as all the new age unbelievers do — in terms of ‘Social Justice’ — it’s actually a crucial sign that you do not believe the gospel.
2) Don’t Oversell It Either.
Here it is argued that making social justice the center of the scriptural narrative, or turning it all into a series of mandates, is counterproductive to the achievement of those very goals. Which is to say their objectives are better achieved under the auspices of graciousness than as a command. Which is really a subtle case for utilitarianism like you might encounter in a marketing report. And again, granting the validity of all the revolutionary goals of the heathen Left.
3) Accept the Complexities of the Issue.
Wherein they say, “If you look only at the Old Testament promises of covenant blessing, you’ll end up with the prosperity gospel. If you take the Magnificat and nothing else, you might end up a Marxist revolutionary.”
Beyond obfuscation, this is an attack on God’s Word. Rather than the analogy of faith, they direct us to embrace the apparent contradiction as they have described it, inclusive of prosperity gospel and Marxism, at once making nonsense of God’s Word and life in general.
4) Be Careful with the Term ‘Social Justice’.
Here, after having predicated several chapters on the concept and taking it for granted as one of the ‘key concepts’ of the Faith, they reveal, “we’ve offered no definition of the term [social justice]. That’s because there really isn’t one. We’ve used the term as it is commonly conceived, that is, as something ambiguuously conected with poverty and oppression.We’d rather not use the term at all, but it is so much a part of popular parlance that we didn’t feel we could do without it.”
Talk about following the world! Even into absolute gibberish! This confession undoes the entire book.
5) Appropriate the Concept of Moral Proximity.
I have no idea why they refer to this as an appropriation, because it’s entirely native to the biblical worldview, but they issue a truly wonderful statement here: “the principle of moral proximity has other biblical precedence. In the Old Testament, for example, the greatest responsibility was to one’s own family, then to the tribe, then to fellow Israelites, and finally, to other nations.”
This is just Kinism, plain and simple. Which I would be overjoyed to see were it not buried in the hogwallow of this book.
6) Connect Good Intentions with Sound Economics.
This is a long meandering segment on economics which flouts the premise that the book was supposed to be based on biblical prescription. Blanket affirmation of Capitalism and ‘markets’, vague encouragements toward charity counterbalanced by warnings of unintended consequences, admonishments to help the poor in other countries buttressed by acknowledgement that no one and no earthly entity is qualified to help. Many slogans, many self-negations, no actual point to be found.
7) Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.
They identify the target audience whom everyone intends when they invoke this term, ‘Social Justice’ — it’s “every middle-class Christian who tithes, prays, works hard, deals fairly with others, and serves faithfully in the local church, but doesn’t have time to or be involved in every cause.” White men, basically.
And they advise their readers, “If we want every church to move into the city, drink fair-trade coffee, focus on ending world hunger, and feel like guilty oppressors when we don’t do these things, we’re going to have a hard time backing that up with Scripture.” But it is still obtainable if we encourage “every church to look outside itself, exercise love beyond its doors, and give generously to those in need.”
All of which bespeaks the agenda clearly enough. They believe in most of the Leftist goals, but find when dealing with Christians, subterfuge and high-sounding platitudes achieve these ends better than actually stating the objectives. This isn’t so much a book to persuade the bloke in the pews, but for the churchman who means to manipulate him.
And they round that section up saying, “Don’t be suspicious of everyone who is concerned for ‘social justice.’ We really ought to love everyone, not all in the same way, but when we can, where we can, however we can.”
Don’t “walk circumspectly.” Forget about being “wise as a serpent.” Don’t you dare “test all spirits.” Love everyone. Despite the repetitious admonishments in text to the contrary. (Psa. 139:21-22; 2 Chr. 19:2; Rom. 12:9)
Chapter 8 is titled Seeking Shalom. Much ink is expended in defining this concept. They identify it with resting in the assurance of Providence, the Lordship of Christ, eschatological hope, and God’s order of the world. But in Scripture it is typically translated as ‘peace’.
There is no particular benefit, theologically speaking, to fetishizing this Hebraized word as they do. Unless fetishization is the goal, making of it an incantational stamp as is done in all the schools of propaganda, marketing, and witchcraft — a power word by which any agenda may be hallowed to the mind of the reader.
They include, too, a segment repudiating the Cultural Mandate and Dominion. In the place of which they pitch this odd piece of Pietism — dat shalom, bruh. How this can possibly comport with any ambition of their vaunted ‘Social Justice’ is unclear.
And they cobble together an extremely vague Pessimillennial catastrophist eschatology to cement their argument contra the Dominion Mandate. As if to say, if you have a Rightist perspective, don’t bother ’cause it’s all gonna burn anyway.
Chapter 9 is Zealous for Good Works. This boils down to “we should do good works because…”
1) it proves the Spirit is working in you. And…
2) “to win a hearing for the Gospel.” (yeah, that’s a quote.)
Nary a word, I’m afraid, about the Lordship of Christ, His commandments, or the glory of God.
They state further that “the mission of the church [by which they mean Christians] is best defined not by a charge to engage the world’s social stuctures in an effort to build the kingdom or join God in his work of remaking the world, but rather by the Great Commission…” (p. 231)
Yeah, I know. The Great Commission includes “making disciples of the nations” (the world’s social structures which comprise the Kingdom) and to “teach them all that God has commanded” (remaking the world). Once again, they place the Scripture in contradiction to itself.
Among the philanthropic endeavors they acknowledge as good are the United Nations, Habitat for Humanity, and the United Way. Why? Because those Marxist organizations work toward equal treatment of all (p. 246)!
They continue reiterating the same self-contradiction, as if the redundancy will make it coherent: “We are not called to bring a broken planet back to its created glory. But we are to call broken people back to their Creator.” (p. 248)
In the epilogue they relay a discussion between two pastors, the elder bequeathing sage advice to the younger: “we must allow that good Christian lives will not be identical. People have different callings and will pursue different vocations. The woman ardently concerned about immigration issues may go into the legal profession so she can seek justice in this area. The man who owns the corner grocery store may have different concerns. That’s okay. Resist the urge to make the church body do everything you want the body parts to be doing.” (p. 258)
Framed as it is, this argument does double duty: on the one hand, sanctioning the open borders crusade to flood America with hostile breeds and creeds as a legitimate Christian endeavor; and on the other, admonishing those who would otherwise object to accept it on the grounds that there is no Cultural Mandate.
In this model Leftism is always sanctioned, and all Rightist principle is always subverted or rebuked. Because ‘Social Justice’ is a ‘key essential’ of the Faith, even if it has no definition but the Leftist cause célèbre. And God’s law is inadmissible because Dominion was arbitrarily ruled out from the beginning. And we’ll say something in Hebrew — Shalom — to prove how authentic and biblical this whole subterfuge is.
In spite of all the dithering, DeYoung and Gilbert actually confess that this whole book is a scam when they quote Novak on the subject of this ‘key essential’: ‘[Social Justice] is allowed to float around in the air as if everyone will recognize an instance of when it appears. This vagueness seems indispensable. The minute one begins to define social justice, one runs into embarrassing intellectual difficulties. It becomes, most often, a term of art whose operational meaning is, ‘We need a law against that.'” (Michael Novak, Defining Social Justice, First Things, Dec. 2000)
Social Justice is a blank check for Liberalism, and naught but a pretext to unbridled statism.
But we conclude this review on a positive note. The best point made in the whole book is this:
“To love is to tell the truth … honesty is paramount … Someone’s life could literally be ruined by a simple lie. Love — whether for our neighbors or our enemies — demands that we are careful with our words … (p. 144) Justice is always on the side of the truth …” (p. 146)
And the truth is that whenever someone invokes ‘Social Justice’, it is always a repudiation of biblical Justice, a denial of actual Justice. This book was written for no other purpose than to confuse and undermine Christendom and grant free reign to the Leftist NWO. And all the R2K types who endorsed it are, by definition, Social Justice Warriors (SJWs), following the first Social Justice Warrior, Satan. It’s that simple.