Douglas Wilson’s Letter From America

In the Sunlight of Our Deliverance

One of things we should notice about the drive for “social justice” is that the theory of the thing contains a soteriological contradiction right at the heart of it.

This is what I mean.  In true evangelism, the unbeliever is being called from a state of condemnation into a state of no condemnation. This is why the message that accomplishes this is unambiguously good news — Jesus was crucified and is risen, and the sinner who believes in Him is set free. This is a true evangel.

But in the world of social justice, what is the task? What is the mission? It is precisely the reverse of this. It is to get the weak and oppressed from a condition where God identifies with them into a state where they (allegedly) come under His judgment. Advocates of missional social justice identify with the poor and they sneer at middle class values. But this is like a lifeguard identifying with the drowning and sneering at the beach.

We are supposed to minister to the poor, but what does that mean? Does it include actually helping them, so that they are no longer poor? But if we do that, we are moving them out of the realm of God’s favor. If we deliver them out of poverty, we are setting them up for a visiting speaker a generation from now who will come to their church and say that God identifies with the poor — and not with you. You used to have it good when you had it bad, but not any more.

I have noted before that the poor are a cash cow for those who want to have a steady income based on helping the poor. But there are other factors in play as well. The guilty white social worker needs the poor to remain poor for emotional reasons as well. If they stopped being poor, they would stop needing him, and he would have to stop being patronizing. Moreover, they would cease being his friends, for they would have become middle class, the kind of person he has been trained to hold in contempt. They would have been successfully “evangelized,” which means that they now lie under condemnation. Therefore there is no justification for those who are in . . . who, exactly?

But true mercy ministry is effective, which means that it actually shows mercy. It means that it works. It means that the grandchildren of the drug addict you helped out thirty years ago are now growing up in an intact home with two parents, are getting fed every day, are going to sleep warm every night, are receiving a good, Christian education, and so on. According to the theology of social justice, does God identify with them anymore? Nope — they were delivered . . . into condemnation.

If the poor are not to be rejected by God, then, we have to keep them right where they are. So we have created a ministry for the permanent underclass, and a theology to keep them that way. This gives the bureaucrat dispensing the favors of the state a steady job, and it gives sob sister Christians an emotional security blanket (made out of people), who must not be allowed to turn into the middle class enemy.
An entrepreneur who offers a poor man a job has more love in his little finger than the entire man has who creates a job for himself off of that same poor man. True capitalism — not crapitalism, mind you, not crony capitalism — is love. The sooner we learn that, the sooner we will grow up into love.

I say all this knowing that the Bible is very clear that God does identify with the weak. He uses weak and feeble instruments to accomplish great things. But we err seriously when we make weakness an end in itself, instead of understanding it for what it is — a left-handed way of getting to the victory.

Be strong in grace (2 Tim. 2:1). Be strong in the Lord (Eph. 6:10). Be men, be strong (1 Cor. 16:13). These verses should no more be pitted against the many passages on the glory of weakness than the passages on weakness should be pitted against these. For when I am weak, that is when I am strong (2 Cor. 12:10). The argument is not that weakness is ethically better, and too bad it always loses. It is that weakness conquers.

And when that weakness conquers, and the mighty have been thrown down from their high places, and the lowly have been lifted up, what then? When we were released from our captivity, we were like those who dream, and we stopped our mouths at the goodness of God. For the wicked were dispersed like smoke in a gale, and we lifted up our heads because of the redemption that came to us. And after we walked around in the sunlight of our deliverance for a few years, overflowing with gratitude, one day a man came to us, claiming to be a prophet. He said that we were deeply compromised, having accepted some gifts we had quite plainly accepted. How can we escape condemnation, living the way we were living?

Blessed are the poor, he said, for they shall stay like that.
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