The Social Justice Fault Lines in Evangelicalism

This is the main fault line at the root of the current debate—the epicenter of the Big One that, when it finally shifts with all its force, threatens to split evangelicalism right down the middle. Our problem is a lack of clarity and charity in our debate over the place, priority, practice, and definition of justice.

p. 5

That, in a nutshell, is the argument that Voddie Baucham makes in his book, Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe. Using the earthquake metaphor throughout, Baucham encourages his readers to seriously consider the cracks that the debate over social justice has presented within evangelicalism, cracks that very well could lead to the kind of full-blown split that Baucham describes.

As Baucham labors to make clear, he is not denying the need for Christians to pursue justice; instead, he emphasizes that “we must be certain that we pursue justice on God’s terms” (p. 44). In chapters 4-6, Baucham presents his case that the current notion of social justice is not biblical justice but is, instead, a new religious cult, complete with its own cosmology, priesthood, and canon. Thus, the cult of social justice runs contrary to biblical justice and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, I would agree with Baucham’s assessment that “the million-dollar question is whether CRT is a worldview or merely an analytical tool. In other words, are there worldview assumptions that must be accepted in order to apply the tool” (p. 144)?

And we can apply that question to the social justice movement at large. The dividing question over the whole matter is whether the social justice movement is a helpful means of understanding justice that needs to be addressed or whether it is rooted in an anti-biblical worldview.

But I will refrain from diving any more into that matter since last year I spent over eight hours discussing social justice and the church with my brother, Jase Hammock, as a midweek podcast for our church. You can listen to those discussions here. Instead, I will affirm that I agree with Baucham’s assessment of the potential severity of the divide around this issue. Indeed, what elevates the possible fallout so high is that “both sides of this fault line claim to be 1) passionately pursuing the Gospel and 2) afraid that the other side represents compromise that will undermine it” (p. 137). I share Baucham’s sentiments as he goes on to say:

This is the foundation of both my greatest fear and my greatest hope in this debate. While I am aware that there are extremes at play that threaten to obscure the Gospel, I am convinced that much of what we are seeing today is a disagreement between well-meaning brothers and sisters who are arguing around the margins but holding fast to the center—to the Gospel. However, I must admit that hope is fading fast.

p. 137

He is right to call this both a hope and a fear. It is a hope so long as brothers and sisters on both sides of the social justice topic can still lock arms in agreement in the forgiveness and unity that is only found in Christ. It is a fear because the ugliest fights often happen within families over matters that are most dear to the heart. Indeed, the best of intentions can so easily result in the most blood shed.

I sincerely hope and pray that Baucham’s warnings are blowing things very much out of proportion. I hope and pray that the evangelical break that he anticipates never comes to pass. Sadly, it seems to be increasingly unavoidable.

Whether you agree with Baucham’s argument and conclusions or not, I believe that Fault Lines is a book worth reading carefully and prayerfully.

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