Brief Note: David Barton and Ronald Reagan’s Pretty Shallow Faith

Photo: David Barton (Left); Eric Metaxas (Right)

In a Wednesday Onenewsnow article about Ronald Reagan’s Christianity, David Barton is quoted as saying:

Reagan’s faith matured over the years from a “pretty shallow” faith early on to more mature understanding of scripture.

While many people did doubt Reagan’s sincerity, Reagan biographer and Grove City College colleague Paul Kengor told me that Reagan never had a shallow faith. While Barton can be credited with acknowledging that Reagan had a faith, Kengor has shown via his many articles and books that Reagan’s faith was important in his life from his childhood.

Barton was asked to comment on a newly discovered letter written by Reagan to his atheist father-in-law. The letter was in essence an evangelistic appeal for his father-in-law to convert to Christianity. Kengor has a commentary on the letter here.

My concern in this post is not about Reagan’s faith. It seems clear to me that he was an imperfect believer as is the case with any believer. In my view, any comparisons to Donald Trump as court evangelical Robert Jeffress attempted earlier this year are faulty because Reagan actually believed in Christianity. In my opinion, Trump is acting the part and giving evangelicals just enough to keep them as a voting bloc.

Rather, this comment from Barton is another illustration of why he can’t be trusted as a historian. There has been a resurgence of interest in Reagan’s faith over the last decade or so. A historian familiar with the literature should be aware that there are good reasons to believe Reagan’s personal faith was meaningful to him and that he maintained those beliefs throughout his life. One might contest various applications of his faith or how consistent his actions were with the faith but to call his beliefs or faith shallow isn’t accurate.

By the way, if you want to get a icy silence from Wallbuilders, ask Mr. Barton about his earned doctorate.

There’s More Than One Side to Every Mark Driscoll Story

In a post at his Patheos blog (how strange to be writing that), former Mars Hill Church co-founder and pastor Mark Driscoll provided an excerpt from his new book, Spirit Filled Jesus (read a review of the book here).

My wife Grace and I have five kids—three boys and two girls. We moved to Arizona for a hard reset of life and ministry after years of feeling like a crash test dummy in a car with no airbags. After about two decades in ministry, I took some time off to heal up before entering the next season of God’s will for our life.

That’s one way of looking at it.

Let’s rewind to August 8, 2014. On that day, the Board of Acts 29 church network made public their decision to remove Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from the network. Here is a portion of the letter:

Over the past three years, our board and network have been the recipients of countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you and what we consider ungodly and disqualifying behavior. We have both publicly and internally tried to support and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when multiple pastors in our network confirmed this behavior. In response, we leaned on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability to take the lead in dealing with this matter. But we no longer believe the BoAA is able to execute the plan of reconciliation originally laid out. Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming.

We now have to take another course of action. Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29.

Then on August 21, 2014, 21 former elders brought formal charges of wrongdoing against Mark Driscoll as pastor of Mars Hill Church. Clicking the link will take you to the charges. Some of those elders felt like crash test dummies.

Then on August 24 2014, Driscoll requested 6 weeks off while the charges were being investigated. According to church by-laws he had to submit to the process of being investigated.

Then on October 14 2014, Driscoll resigned amid the completion of an investigation into the charges filed by former church elders. The Board of Overseers reported:

We concluded that Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner. While we believe Mark needs to continue to address these areas in his life, we do not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry. Pastor Mark has never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.

Later, the elders who investigated Driscoll said he was offered a plan of restoration to return to pastoral ministry but declined to accept it.

So yes, he “took some time off” but his explanation leaves out many important components. It is astounding that he does not mention the name of the church which made him famous.  The elders and members of Mars Hill Church might also feel like crash test dummies. Although several years have passed, the scars run deep, apparently on both sides of the crash.

Gospel for Asia Continues to Raise Money for Flood Relief Without Saying How the Funds Will Get to the Needy

A month ago, I asked Gospel for Asia how they planned to distribute donor funds to flood victims in Kerala, India. In 2017, Gospel for Asia’s comparable organization in India (now called Ayana Charitable Trust) and their ecclesiastical arm (Believer’s Church) lost registration with the Indian government to accept foreign contributions. Thus, these groups can’t accept any of the funds now being raised by K.P. Yohannan from foreign donors. GFA very deliberately is raising these funds on the organization website and on social media. If GFA is giving these funds to another nonprofit in India, why can’t GFA simply inform the donor public about this?

When I asked GFA’s public relations firm, I was told:

GFA has headquarters in Kerala, India. Volunteers are actively rescuing, feeding those affected by flooding and providing other supplies.

However, InChrist Communications did not respond when I asked how those headquarters could accept funds when the registration to accept foreign funds had been revoked.

The later a friend of the blog was told that funds were being sent to Believers’ Church in India. Furthermore, the GFA representative said it could not be guaranteed that the donated funds would actually get to flood victims since GFA has no control over Believers’ Church. Actually, this explanation doesn’t make sense because Believers’ Church cannot legally accept foreign contributions.

Saying One Thing and Doing Another

When Compassion International lost their registration with the Indian government, they left the country. GFA has never addressed their loss of registration, nor why they continue to raise funds to send to India when the organizations they claim to support can’t take them. This is an issue for more than flood support. GFA has continued to raise support for sponsored children, missionaries, and all sorts of activities. GFA is telling the public they are doing something that the Indian government says can’t be done. If GFA is getting donor funds to the intended targets, GFA should disclose how they are doing that.

It is a mystery to me why investigative reporters have not taken up this issue. If there is an easy way around this issue, then why didn’t Compassion International use it? While there may an explanation, given GFA’s size and current legal difficulties, it seems like they should have to be more accountable.

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Image Fair use, GFA Facebook page

Gospel for Asia Suing Insurance Company over Attorney Fees in RICO Case

Gospel for Asia has retained Locke Lord to defend them against the allegations of fraud by Garland and Phyllis Murphy. One of their attorneys is Harriet Miers, former White House counsel to President George W. Bush. Furthermore, GFA has to pay the costs of a Special Master since they were sanctioned by federal judge Timothy Brooks. No doubt the costs are high for all of that.

According to a suit filed by GFA in March, GFA’s leaders (K.P. Yohannan, David Carroll, Pat Emerick, etc.)  hoped to recover those legal fees via an insurance claim with Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company. Although details are sealed, it appears the insurance company declined to fully pay GFA’s claim. Here is a brief statement of the dispute from a recent court document.

1.1 GFA Parties bring this action for Philadelphia’s breaches of its common law duty of good faith and fair dealing and the Texas Insurance Code for unfair settlement practices and for failing to promptly pay covered claims as a result of its wrongful denials and/or wrongful delays in providing defenses in lawsuits against them.

1.2. Philadelphia denies that any reasonable defense fees or expenses remain unpaid and contends that, accordingly, this case should be dismissed. Additionally, Philadelphia denies that it breached its common law duty of good faith and fair dealing or the Texas Insurance Code. Philadelphia contends that it had a reasonable basis for the coverage positions that it has taken and liability was not reasonably clear.

For more detail, see GFA’s original petition.

One crucial court document is sealed and Philadelphia Insurance declined to speak to me. In plain language, it appears that the insurance company has found a reason why they believe they are not liable to pay the claim GFA made. It may be that Locke Lord’s fees are beyond reasonable or that Philadelphia believes GFA is at fault in some way. In any case, the trial is to be by jury in late 2019, probably after the RICO trial.

GFA and Lawsuits

For a Christian ministry, GFA here and abroad, is involved in many legal battles. Aside from the RICO suit, and now the action against their insurance company, GFA has sued the Church of South India for defamation. Back in 2015, GFA threatened Patheos with legal action when I published audio of a staff meeting. I wonder how many donor designate their funds for the legal defense fund.

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Image Fair use, GFA Facebook page

Happy Constitution Day! Still a Rising Sun.

During the summer of 2017, I did a daily series summarizing James Madison’s notes to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Today, I am reprinting the final entry in that series in recognition of Constitution Day. On this day, after a change (tinkering to the end) in the document and a little dissent, the document was signed.

I read Madison’s notes looking for the Christian influence proposed by many Christian nationalists. While many of delegates were affiliated with Christian churches, I found very little interest on the part of the delegates to create a Christian republic.

……………………………………………….

(originally published September 17, 2017)

Today in 1787 the delegates to the Constitutional convention made one last minute change and then most signed the document.

Nathaniel Gorham from Massachusetts wanted to change the number of representatives by changing the ratio of one representative for every 30,000 instead of 40,000.

Mr. GORHAM said, if it was not too late, he could wish, for the purpose of lessening objections to the Constitution, that the clause, declaring that “the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every forty thousand,” which had produced so much discussion, might be yet reconsidered, in order to strike out “forty thousand,” and insert “thirty thousand.” This would not, he remarked, establish that as an absolute rule, but only give Congress a greater latitude, which could not be thought unreasonable.

Mr. KING and Mr. CARROLL seconded and supported the ideas of Mr. GORHAM.

When the President rose, for the purpose of putting the question, he said, that although his situation had hitherto restrained him from offering his sentiments on questions depending in the House, and, it might be thought, ought now to impose silence on him, yet he could not forbear expressing his wish that the alteration proposed might take place. It was much to be desired that the objections to the plan recommended might be made as few as possible. The smallness of the proportion of Representatives had been considered, by many members of the Convention an insufficient security for the rights and interests of the people. He acknowledged that it had always appeared to himself among the exceptionable parts of the plan; and late as the present moment was for admitting amendments, he thought this of so much consequence, that it would give him much satisfaction to see it adopted.1
No opposition was made to the proposition of Mr. GORHAM, and it was agreed to unanimously.

Then the delegates voted with majorities of state delegations agreeing to the Constitution.

On the question to agree to the Constitution, enrolled, in order to be signed, it was agreed to, all the States answering, aye.

However, Edmund Randolph declared his intention not to sign.

Mr. RANDOLPH then rose, and with an allusion to the observations of Doctor FRANKLIN, apologized for his refusing to sign the Constitution, notwithstanding the vast majority and venerable names that would give sanction to its wisdom and its worth. He said, however, that he did not mean by this refusal to decide that he should oppose the Constitution without doors. He meant only to keep himself free to be governed by his duty, as it should be prescribed by his future judgment. He refused to sign, because he thought the object of the Convention would be frustrated by the alternative which it presented to the people. Nine States will fail to ratify the plan, and confusion must ensue. With such a view of the subject he ought not, he could not, by pledging himself to support the plan, restrain himself from taking such steps as might appear to him most consistent with the public good.

Elbridge Gerry also declared his intention not to sign.

Mr. GERRY described the painful feelings of his situation, and the embarrassments under which he rose to offer any further observations on the subject which had been finally decided. Whilst the plan was depending, he had treated it with all the freedom he thought it deserved. He now felt himself bound, as he was disposed, to treat it with the respect due to the act of the Convention. He hoped he should not violate that respect in declaring, on this occasion, his fears that a civil war may result from the present crisis of the United States. In Massachusetts, particularly, he saw the danger of this calamitous event. In that State there are two parties, one devoted to Democracy, the worst, he thought, of all political evils; the other as violent in the opposite extreme. From the collision of these in opposing and resisting the Constitution, confusion was greatly to be feared. He had thought it necessary, for this and other reasons, that the plan should have been proposed in a more mediating shape, in order to abate the heat and opposition of parties. As it had been passed by the Convention, he was persuaded it would have a contrary effect. He could not, therefore, by signing the Constitution, pledge himself to abide by it at all events. The proposed form made no difference with him. But if it were not otherwise apparent, the refusals to sign should never be known from him. Alluding to the remarks of Doctor FRANKLIN, he could not, he said, but view them as levelled at himself and the other gentlemen who meant not to sign.

Madison also records that George Mason didn’t sign the document.

The Constitution being signed by all the members, except Mr. RANDOLPHMr. MASON, and Mr. GERRY, who declined giving it the sanction of their names, the Convention dissolved itself by an adjournment sine die.

Madison showed his literary side by recording the following observation to end his notes.

Whilst the last members were signing, Doctor FRANKLIN, looking towards the President’s chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art, a rising, from a setting sun. I have, said he, often and often, in the course of the session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: but now at length, I have the happiness to know, that it is a rising and not a setting sun.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. Today is the last day of the series since the work of the delegates was done and the Constitution sent on to the states for debate and ratification.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these notes and hope you have benefited as much as I have. To read all of the entries, if you have a few hours, click the following link:

Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)

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Facebook (blog posts and news)
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The Master’s University Board Responds to Accreditation Charges

On the school website, the board of The Master’s University responded to the probation imposed by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The letter was sent to faculty and staff this morning by John Stead, the provost of the college.

You can read the letter. Here is the closing:

In addition, since receiving the report, the full Board has met on three separate occasions to discuss the findings and requirements in the Final Commission Letter and to develop a definitive action plan. As a result of many hours of discussion and planning, including the tireless work of smaller groups and committees, we have made significant progress.

Working with the administration, faculty, and staff, we have created a comprehensive plan—a thorough set of specific action steps to address every concern WSCUC has raised. To ensure that these steps are implemented, we have assigned all of them to specific staff or members of the Board. We have also laid out a clear timeline in order to demonstrate to the Commission that we are making real progress toward meeting or exceeding their recommendations. The Board will thoroughly assess our institutional progress in implementing this plan at our October
meeting.

It is our hope that our resolute response will allay concerns among our University and Seminary family. We recognize the crucial importance of this issue to all our students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, and ministry support partners.

My reaction is that keeping the plan private appears to cut the faculty out of the process. While it may be typical at small schools not to involve or inform faculty, that seems to be part of what the WASC report raised as a concern. I don’t know how hearing that a plan is in the works but not knowing any of the specifics could allay concerns.

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Image: The Master’s University, by Lukasinla [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons 

Tim Clinton Channels Urie Bronfenbrenner with Borrowed Quote

Urie Bronfenbrenner was a legendary developmental psychologist who is best known for his influence on the creation of Head Start and his theory of environmental influences on child development. Family Talk Radio head and Tim Clinton’s boss, James Dobson, thinks highly of Bronfenbrenner. In his book What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women, Dobson said:

Dr. Bronfenbrenner, is in my opinion, the foremost authority on child development in America today, and his views should be considered carefully.

Dobson’s new understudy, American Association of Christian Counselors president and Trump advisor Tim Clinton apparently considered Bronfenbrenner’s views so carefully that he channeled them into a quote he is now claiming as his own.

Bronfenbrenner believed that parenting should be child centered in such a way that children feel secure and significant. Capturing that sentiment is a popular quote attributed to Bronfenbrenner:

Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.

The quote exists in various forms and may never have been used by Bronfenbrenner himself. After an extensive search, I have been unable to find it in any primary source. However, about 1979, the quote began to be associated with him by child psychologist Henry Maier due to his frequent assertion in his writings and talks that every child needs an adult to have an irrational involvement with him or her. Bronfenbrenner often followed that claim by saying: “In short, somebody has to be crazy about that kid!” Several of Bronfenbrenner’s colleagues and followers summarized this sentiment in the now popular quote associated with him.

There is no mistaking that the quote represents Bronfenbrenner’s work to his colleagues and students. For instance, a 2005 obituary published by the International Child and Youth Care Network, concluded with the quote:

We remember Urie Bronfenbrenner for one of the best known and most evocative dictums in our work – that “Every child needs at least one person who is really crazy about him or her”.

Bronfenbrenner taught at Cornell University. The quote is considered a fitting conclusion to a tribute to him published by the college newspaper.

A proponent for the power of family ties to help children reach their full potential, Bronfenbrenner saw Head Start as a buffer against the stress experienced by impoverished parents. Day care would allow parents to spend more time with their children, forming the passionate attachments he saw as a cornerstone of lifelong success.

“Every kid,” Bronfenbrenner frequently declared, “needs at least one adult who is crazy about him.”

It is very possible that Bronfenbrenner said this informally and that it will eventually turn up in a speech or obscure source. However, no published citation which points to the quote actually contains it.

I will provide just one more instance (of many) where the quote is considered a representation of Bronfenbrenner’s work. Larry Brendtro considered the quote Bronfenbrenner’s epitaph.

Urie Bronfenbrenner was a deeply compassionate man committed to the belief that there are no disposable children (Brendtro, Ness and Mitchell, 2005). His vision was rooted in boyhood memories of his father struggling to reclaim cast-off troubled children in an institution. For all of his fame, the spirit of this pioneer is his enduring epitaph: Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.

Brendtro told me via email he never heard Bronfenbrenner say that but the quote was always associated with him because that was exactly what he taught his whole career.

Enter Tim Clinton

Clinton in several places take credit for a quote which, in essence, is the same. Most recently, it appeared on the AACC Facebook page. Perhaps anticipating that attention would come to that quote, someone has removed it from the page. The image which was on the page is at the top of this post.

Clinton takes credit for various versions of the quote (some closer to Bronfenbrenner than others) in notes to his radio show, in a 2008 Christian Counseling Today column, a 2012 book with Gary Sibcy, and a book with John Trent. In a 2013 interview with Tony Wheeler and John Trent, Clinton expressed the quote verbally without giving anyone else credit for it. Here is a tweet from his personal Twitter account:

I did not do an exhaustive search so there may be others.

If there wasn’t a pattern of this sort of thing, one might consider this an oversight. One hears many quotes over a long career and can easily bring something back from training or a lecture and think it came from your own thoughts. I do know what should be done about it and it will be worth watching to see if it happens.

Concerning Clinton’s use of the quote, it doesn’t matter that Bronfenbrenner may not have used the exact words. What matters is that the quote existed for many years before Clinton came along, was attributed to Bronfenbrenner, and was well known to people in the developmental psychological community as representing Bronfenbrenner’s work. There are many sources which Clinton could have cited for the quote. I don’t see how he can blame an intern or employee for this one.

Bronfenbrenner was a giant in his field and a true innovator. I can’t think of any other psychologist who was more passionate about the needs of children and families. His concepts of “irrational involvement” and parents being “crazy about their kids” weren’t new ideas but his manner of expressing them was unique to him.  On the whole, his ecological approach was truly innovative and for many people this quote embodies the Bronfenbrenner approach to children and families.

Because of this, Clinton should do more than remove all obvious signs that he ever tried to appropriate this great man’s work.  This seems more serious than some of the other instances which have come to light previously. He needs to step up and personally explain what happened.

UPDATE:

After I published this post, I ran into a wrinkle. Clinton attributed this quote in the past to Fran Stott who was once the Dean of the Erikson Institute for Advance Study of Child Development. Others have also attributed the quote to her. I wrote to the Erikson Institute who in turn reached Dr. Stott about the origin of the quote. A representative of the Institute said that Dr. Stott said that the quote might have come from Bronfenbrenner (as demonstrated above it has been associated with him since the late 1970s). The representative also said Stott reiterated the quote in her classes, but the “takeaway being that attributing this directly to Fran would be an incomplete/inaccurate attribution.” The earliest I can find anyone attributing the quote to Stott is 1995. Henry Maier attributed the quote to Bronfenbrenner in a 1979 article based on a 1977 Bronfenbrenner lecture.

The fact remains that Clinton has for years borrowed a quote that he knowingly took from another source and has continued to use it as his own. Now others are attributing it to him (see also herehere and here). If his defense is to blame interns or employees, then my next question is: what, if anything, that has his name on it did he actually write?

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Image: Fair use from AACC’s Facebook page. 

Santa Clarita Signal Calls for Changes at The Master’s University

Recently, John MacArthur’s The Master’s University was put on probationary status by The Western Association of Schools and Colleges – the regional group which accredits TMU.  Among other concerns, WASC cited a “climate of fear, intimidation, bullying, and uncertainty among significant numbers of faculty and staff” at the Santa Clarita, CA school.

Now the Santa Clarita newspaper –The Signal — is calling for changes at the school. In an editorial published last Sunday, the editorial board summarized the WASC report and called on the school to take the recommendations seriously. However, the editorial board opined that “there are hints surfacing that indicate those at the top are playing the role of victim” and added:

For example, TMU President John MacArthur, reportedly speaking before a group of Master’s Seminary students last weekend, portrayed the sanctions as an attack on the university and on him personally.

“These are the best of times for us, and we know that because the enemy is working so hard,” he told the group, according to a recording posted online. In the recording, the speaker characterizes it as “a rather orchestrated attack, if not by any human source, then certainly by Satan himself. There was an attack directly on me. And it came in all kinds of forms.”

The op-ed concludes with this admonition:

It’s going to take some major changes to restore faith in TMU and its leadership. Hopefully the right people are willing to look in the mirror and see that TMU’s problems are not the work of the devil, but of human beings.

The Two Faces of TMU

There is a contradiction between MacArthur’s story and what has been told to the press. In a Christian Post article on the subject, the TMU spokesman never refers to Satan. Yet, to his students, MacArthur downplayed the charges and blamed the Prince of Darkness. In light of these mixed messages, it is understandable that the outside observers would question TMU’s leadership.

 

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Nationwide and Arkansas Class Certified in Gospel for Asia RICO Case

In a major development in the RICO lawsuit filed against Gospel for Asia in the Western District of Arkansas, Judge Timothy Brooks certified a nationwide class of people eligible to pursue a RICO claim against Gospel for Asia. He also certified a subclass of Arkansas donors. The specifics are below:

The judge gave GFA until October 10, 2018 to come up with a suitable plan for alerting donors about this action. This will give donors a chance to opt out of the class if they wish. I will report that process when announced here as well. For now, GFA donors can anticipate being contacted.

This is a significant milestone in this case and opens this action up to all donors (with the exceptions as noted in the judge’s order) since 2009. An exception not noted here are former employees of GFA who signed an arbitration agreement with GFA while employees. In another case involving former employees, a federal appeals court ruled that former employees pressing a RICO claim must submit to arbitration if that was a part of their contract. However, for all other donors, the class certification is a major development.

Read Judge Brooks’ Order

In a related development, Judge Brooks appointed a Special Master to oversee the discovery process. This had been anticipated since Judge Brooks had sanctioned GFA over their lack of response to discovery requests from the plaintiffs.

The Special Master is attorney David R. Cohen of Cleveland, OH. He will have freedom to inspect GFA’s documents wherever he believes is necessary to determine compliance.

I expected that GFA would have made an effort to settle before a Special Master was appointed. I suspect this is causing significant stress in Wills Point, TX and somewhere in Kerala, India.

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Image Fair use, GFA Facebook page

Anti-Social Justice Website Says Social Justice Threatens Human Rights, Invokes Hitler and Stalin

I have written recently about John MacArthur’s complaints about Christians who seek social justice. In short, he believes the pursuit of social justice is a hindrance to the purity of the gospel. You can read all about it here.

Last week, MacArthur and some like minded folks released the “Social Justice and the Gospel” statement. To support that statement, the signers posted an article on their website by Samuel Sey.  All at the same time, Sey manages to trivialize the Holocaust, compare ideological opponents to Nazis, and define social justice in a manner that social justice Christians won’t recognize. Here is a sample of the bizarre claims:

Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party were a threat to Jews because social justice is a threat to human rights.

Social justice was the basis for stripping rights away from Jews in the Khmelnytsky Uprising. Social justice was the basis for discrimination against Jews in the Soviet Union. Social justice was the basis for the holocaust in Nazi Germany. Social justice is the basis for South Africa’s initiative to strip property rights from White farmers. Social justice is the basis for stripping a pre-born baby’s right to life.

Bad people have invoked Christianity for evil deeds, should we blame Christianity for their actions?

In fact, actual social justice was not the basis for any of these catastrophes. The impulse to basic fairness that social justice Christians are calling for isn’t the basis for any of these events. If innocent people are being killed, deprived of their rights, or discriminated against, social justice isn’t at work.

Rambling Man

Sey then rambles selectively through social justice history. He mentions the Frankfurt School as leading social justice but fails to mention that the Nazis closed the school down.  Although he does correctly note that a priest is credited with coining the term “social justice,” Sey doesn’t tell readers that social justice has become a vital part of Catholic practice and witness.  One would not be smarter about the subject after reading this piece.

Social Justice Is Awful Until It Isn’t

Most of this article is incoherent. He starts with Hitler, then rambles around awhile on his way to telling us what he favors. However, what he favors in one breath, he disfavors in the next.

When the Bible commands us to “hate evil, love good, and establish justice” (Amos 5:15), it isn’t instructing us to eliminate disparities in society. Instead, it instructs us to identify evil and oppressive laws in society, so that being led by compassion and conviction, we would work to protect human rights for all. In other words, we should be like or support people like William Wilberforce and Francis Grimké, who identified slavery and segregation, respectively, as violations of human rights and worked tirelessly to establish liberty for all.

If we can identify objectively evil and oppressive laws against members in our society today, then we must name these laws. We should not, however, be distracted by perceptions of privilege and disparities. Otherwise, we will sow division into society and division into the church, and thereby threatening work to establish human rights and threatening work to advance the gospel.

First, Sey wants us to be like Wilberforce and Grimke but then he says we should not be distracted by “perceptions of privilege and disparities.” Wilberforce worked to end the slave trade and Grimke helped found the NAACP. Sorry, Mr. Sey, Wilberforce and Grimke weren’t distracted, they were focused; focused on eradicating privilege and disparities in the extreme.

In sum, the bizarre attempt to use Hitler and Stalin as negative examples of social justice fails miserably. One must have passionate hatred for social justice initiatives to bring Hitler and Stalin into the discussion.

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Image: Wikimedia (public domain)