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John MacArthur on Social Justice: It’s Heresy

Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, argues that “when the world sees the church doing justice then the world will get interested in justification. They’ll want to know what changed Christians. The answer will be justification.”

Keller sums up Mark 12:38-40, Luke 11 and James 2 this way, “How do you know you’re really saved by faith? You care about the poor. When you see people without resources, your heart goes out to them. If it doesn’t, maybe you’re saved, but you’re lacking the evidence of salvation. Justification leads to justice. Justice is the sign of justification. It’s all through the Bible.”

Francis Chan has echoed a similar view. Chan questions whether those who fail consider what they can do to help the poor or alleviate racial injustice have actually heard and heeded the words of Jesus.

This is not to say evangelicals aren’t careful to warn against allowing social justice works overshadow the message of the gospel. Greg Stier writes, “If you are totally into feeding the poor (a good thing), don’t forget to share the good news of the gospel in the process (the most important thing). And if you are totally into evangelism, don’t forget the very thing we should be eager to do, feeding the poor. We aren’t here just to preach the gospel, and we aren’t here just to feed the poor. We are here to do both. As a matter of fact, I think that one ‘feeds’ the other.”

What Does John MacArthur Mean by Social Justice?

By “social justice,” is MacArthur talking about—feeding the poor, visiting the widows and orphans in their distress? Scripture seems to be very clear that these are imperatives. Jesus said we must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, and welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:34-46). And when we do that, we have received him. And James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

John MacArthur’s definition of social justice seems to be something else. He writes, “‘Social justice’ (in the world’s usage of that term) entails political ideas that are deemed sophisticated—namely, identity politics, critical race theory, the redistribution of wealth, and other radical or socialist policies.”