Complementarianism in an Egalitarian Age

We are living in a moment of gender confusion. Both in society and the church, the roles of men and women are distorted by egalitarianism and the social justice movement. In this message, Dr. Josh Buice unpacks the root of gender confusion in the fall and demonstrates how the gospel of Jesus Christ renews and restores the relationships of men and women.  In recent years we have a growing concern about “social justice.” What is meant by that phrase, however, varies widely among those who use and promote it. What is too often missing—even in the calls for “social justice” coming from Christian leaders—is a clear understanding of biblical justice. Justice exists because God is just and righteous. He is the One who defines justice and He has revealed what true justice is in the Bible.

**Used with permission from Founders Ministries.

All One in Christ – Galatians 3:28

The gospel breaks down barriers that too often separate people and even make them enemies. To be in Christ is to be united to others who are in Christ. In this message, Dr. Josh Buice shows how the gospel brings people together into true unity, all because of Jesus Christ. In recent years we have a growing concern about “social justice.” What is meant by that phrase, however, varies widely among those who use and promote it. What is too often missing—even in the calls for “social justice” coming from Christian leaders—is a clear understanding of biblical justice. Justice exists because God is just and righteous. He is the One who defines justice and He has revealed what true justice is in the Bible.

**Used with permission from Founders Ministries.

Article 6—Gospel: Explanation by Josh Buice

WE AFFIRM that the gospel is the divinely-revealed message concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ–especially his virgin birth, righteous life, substitutionary sacrifice, atoning death, and bodily resurrection–revealing who he is and what he has done with the promise that he will save anyone and everyone who turns from sin by trusting him as Lord.

WE DENY that anything else, whether works to be performed or opinions to be held, can be added to the gospel without perverting it into another gospel. This also means that implications and applications of the gospel, such as the obligation to live justly in the world, though legitimate and important in their own right, are not definitional components of the gospel.

Within the evangelical culture today marketing tactics often employ keywords as a means of increasing sales. There is no greater marketing term in our day than the word gospel. Many people believe that if they can somehow attach the word gospel to their product as a descriptor it will bring instant success. It’s not uncommon to see people talking about gospel books, gospel marketing, gospel people, gospel diet, gospel music, and gospel issues. In the controversy on social justice, people are insisting that it’s a gospel issue. In the same way that everything we disagree with isn’t heresy, everything that we do agree with isn’t a gospel issue.

The New Testament Greek word for gospel (εὐαγγέλιον) literally means “good news.” While many have objected to “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” as being unaware of cultural evils and misinformed of how to approach the depravity of our culture, it really becomes a heated discussion when we insert the gospel. Some consider social justice a gospel issue while others would say that it’s something that is acutely affected and influenced by the gospel. This is why implications, applications, and illustrations must be handled with precision and care. In most cases, both groups (woke and non-woke) evangelicals would agree on the gospel, but the real controversy comes in how the gospel is applied to a culture. In this case, the controversy is centered primarily in the denial of Article VI.

Defining our Terms

Paul made a definitive statement in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as he penned his letter to the church in the city of Corinth. He provides a summary statement of the gospel by writing, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” In Romans 1:16, Paul stated that he was not ashamed of the gospel. Robert Haldane comments on Romans 1:16 by stating:

This Gospel, then, which Paul was ready to preach, and of which he was not ashamed, was the Gospel of God concerning His Son. The term Gospel, which signifies glad tidings, is taken from Isaiah 52:7, and 61:1, where the Messiah is introduced as saying, “The Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings.” [1]

The glad tidings of God (gospel) involve the glorious mystery of God’s mercy and saving grace that is granted to fallen sinners through the blood sacrifice of Jesus. What better message could we be identified by and what better message could stand at the heart of our ministry? God the Son took upon himself human flesh, lived a sinless life which the first Adam failed to do, and then was crushed by the Father on the cross in the place of ruined sinners. The message of the gospel points to the fact that Jesus proved his sovereign power by the resurrection and we cling to his work alone by faith for the remission of sin. His unconditional grace is granted to all who believe–regardless of the color of skin, economic status, sex, or intellectual capabilities of the repentant sinner.

Affirming our Denial

Any statement containing affirmations and denials will bring heat in the area of what the document is intended to oppose. In the case of the gospel, while social justice is not a “gospel issue” in the sense that it’s not a definitional component of the gospel–it’s quite possible to insert social justice into the gospel and thereby create a specific brand of heresy (Gal. 1:6-9). In the denial, the Statement reads:

We deny that anything else, whether works to be performed or opinions to be held, can be added to the gospel without perverting it into another gospel.

Within this debate on social justice, some people are suggesting that if you’re not performing works of social justice (admitting systemic racism, oppression, and other injustices while working toward a solution) that you are not a true follower of Jesus.

Thabiti Anyabwile, in his sermon, “Preach Justice as True Worship” made the following statement:

“We preach and we do justice because we wish to be like our Lord and we wish to see his righteousness fill the earth. The pursuit of justice and equity does not take us from the heart of our Savior. The pursuit of justice and equity takes us deeper into the heart of our Savior. If we know God in Jesus Christ whom he has sent, then we have been instructed by wisdom. And indeed if Christ has been made to be wisdom for us, then as the proverbs say we ought to understand justice completely. We ought to understand that doing justice is essential to that worship that pleases God our father.”

When I hear a statement such as this, I find so much with which I can agree completely. In fact, if you look at the whole article which comes from his sermon that’s linked on the same page, you see a reference to Romans 12:1-2 and the call to becoming a “living sacrifice.” If by “doing justice” Thabiti Anyabwile means that we should stand in opposition to sinful behavior, live righteously, and love our neighbor–I can agree with such a statement. If, by chance, Thabiti Anyabwile intends that we become socially and politically engaged while embracing the ideologies of white privilegesystemic racism, and the systemic oppression of women within our culture and specifically evangelicalism–I would reject his understating of worship. We can’t teach Christians to assume the gospel and to emphasize justice and expect a good outcome.

Bishop Rudolph McKissick, Jr. recently posted a clip of a sermon where the following statement was made:

Social justice is a biblical issue…it’s not a black issue, it’s a humanity issue. It’s not a hood issue, it’s a global issue. And until we understand that Jesus himself said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach liberty to the captive, to set free those who are oppressed.” If that ain’t social justice, I don’t know what is.

Not only is that a misguided approach to biblical hermeneutics–it misses the point of Luke 4:16-30. A clear contextual reading of that account of Jesus in Nazareth will demonstrate that God often does the unexpected. Furthermore, the emphasis is placed upon the spiritual poverty and slavery to sin and how Christ delivers people from spiritual poverty rather than the social needs of individuals.

It is critical that we are crystal clear about what we believe the gospel to be, the basis of biblical worship, and the mission of the Church. If a person is not careful, mission drift can lead the local church and the local pastor off into the world of cultural Marxism and fairly soon the pulpit which was once the focal point of Christian worship is transformed into a political stump where humanitarian “do-gooder” talks are delivered to socially motivated people in the name of Jesus.

We are slaves of righteousness as children of God and we must live justly in a fallen world. However, how we live (for good or evil) has nothing to do with the definition of the gospel. How we live will be shaped by the gospel as James rightly articulated the point that “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). We must not celebrate sin nor tolerate injustice–especially within the ranks of evangelicalism. Such an acceptance of evil would be the height of hypocrisy.

Tim Keller has recently spoken out against “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel,” stating the following:

It’s not so much what [the statement] says, but what it does. It’s trying to marginalize people talking about race and justice, it’s trying to say, ‘You’re really not biblical’ and it’s not fair in that sense…If somebody tried to go down [the statement] with me, ‘Will you agree with this, will you agree with this,’ I would say, ‘You’re looking at the level of what it says and not the level of what it’s doing. I do think what it’s trying to do is it’s trying to say, ‘Don’t make this emphasis, don’t worry about the poor, don’t worry about the injustice, that’s really what it’s saying.’ Even if I could agree with most of it…it’s what it’s doing that I don’t like.

What exactly is the Statement seeking to do with its words? Is the document really seeking to marginalize people who genuinely care for the poor and mobilize relief efforts to care for such individuals in the name of Christ? Is it really true that the Statement is seeking to marginalize people who oppose racism?

The Statement does have several goals and one is to separate the gospel from social justice. In fact, it would be really helpful to drop “social” as a descriptor of biblical justice altogether. It’s the gospel that changes the heart of fallen depraved sinners (2 Cor. 5:17). Only through the power of the gospel can a dead sinner be given life. This is a work of God’s saving grace and we must remember that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).

How Does the Gospel Produce the Fruit of Righteousness and Justice?

The mission of the gospel is to bring depraved sinners into reconciliation with God (2 Cor. 5:17-6:2). Reconciliation only happens through the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16). Preaching justice will lead people to fear the sword in the hand of the government (Rom. 13:1-7). Preaching the gospel will lead people to fear God who is bigger than the government (Rom. 3:182 Cor. 5:11).

When Amy Carmichael went to serve in India, she was no jewelry-laden prosperity preacher nor was she a low-beam humanitarian aid servant. She was a high-beam bright light in India who served children and broken women with the gospel of Jesus. Yet, as she witnessed the Hindu suttee and heard the cries of women being burned alive (Hindu people believed that women should want to die when their husbands died, so as they burned the body of the widow’s husband, they would place her on the funeral pyre of her dead husband) she engaged in the pursuit of justice for these women and labored to stop this practice. Her engagement was motivated by her gospel mission in India.

John Paton was convinced that the gospel had the power to change the heart of even the hardest sinner. As he penned his autobiography, he wanted to prove his point to the sophisticated Europeans who had a low view of the power of the gospel. As he recounted what he had witnessed in his ministry, he penned the following account of the conversion of Kowia, a chief on Tanna. When he was dying he came to say farewell to Paton.

“Farewell, Missi, I am very near death now; we will meet again in Jesus and with Jesus!”…Abraham sustained him, tottering to the place of graves; there he lay down…and slept in Jesus; and there the faithful Abraham buried him beside his wife and children. Thus died a man who had been a cannibal chief, but by the grace of God and the love of Jesus changed, transfigured into a character of light and beauty. What think ye of this, ye skeptics as to the reality of conversion?…I knew that day, and I know now, that there is one soul at least from Tanna to sing the glories of Jesus in Heaven–and, oh, the rapture when I meet him there! [2]

When Jim Elliot and his missionary partners never called out on their radio after their encounter with the savage Auca Indians in the jungle of Ecuador, the wives of these men feared the worst. After a search team was sent into the jungle to locate the men, they found their bodies. They had been attacked and killed by the Indians as they sought to reach them with the gospel. Less than two years later Elisabeth Elliot (the wife of Jim Elliot) and her daughter Valerie along with Rachel Saint (Nate’s sister) moved to the Auca village. The once savage people were transformed by the gospel and today they are a friendly tribe. It was a commitment to the gospel that radically changed the Auca tribe even resulting in the change of their name to the Huaorani tribe.

As the local church is committed to the gospel (from preaching to discipleship)–hearts are changed and it results in a more just and equitable society. The Church of Jesus is committed to doing justice, but justice can’t change a person’s heart and biblical justice cannot be disconnected from the gospel. While justice is not the gospel, true biblical justice is connected to our God and you can’t have the gospel without God. Social justice leads people toward humanitarian work and social engagement while the gospel leads the Church to put their faith into action. When the gospel changes a person’s heart it will lead them to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly for the glory of God (Micah 6:81 Cor. 10:31).

1. Robert Haldane, An Exposition of Romans, electronic ed. (Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1996), 55.

2. John Paton, The Autobiography of the Pioneer Missionary to the New Hebrides (Vanuatu). (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2013), 160.

Social Justice is an Attack on the Sufficiency of Scripture

The Reformation was a recovery of God’s Word. For ages, the Bible had been lost in the darkness of Roman Catholicism. Once the Word of God was unleashed upon the people—light entered the scene. When talking about church history, people often ask what Martin Luther’s great accomplishment was in the work of the Reformation. Some point to his Ninety-Five Theses while others point to how God used him to reintroduce singing into corporate worship. Without a doubt, his greatest accomplishment was the translation of the German Bible. This project unleashed light into a world of darkness and was the fuel of the Protestant Reformation. When people lack a sufficient Bible they lack a guiding light.

We have seen this pattern work its way into evangelical circles in the past. With the rise of theological liberalism, it was more than the Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886–1968) and German theologian Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) who were permeating the ideas of an insufficient Bible. Theological liberalism ran through seminaries and local churches and major denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention. The Conservative Resurgence was a return to the Bible and anytime in history where there is an awakening—the Bible is at the center. That reality presupposes the fact that for darkness to prevail, people must be led away from the Bible. That was the pattern in the pre-Reformation era and it was the same pattern in the days prior to the Conservative Resurgence.

Make no mistake about it, the Word of God is sufficient and the very moment that we take a step away from the sufficiency of God’s Word we take a step into darkness. Let me begin by stating that while I disagree with the social justice agenda and believe it to be a dangerous movement, I likewise believe that we can be guilty of talking past one another and at times—misrepresenting one another in this debate. We need to deal with the issues, the terms, the definitions, and connect the dots to the problems while at the same time seeking to represent people properly. We all have blind spots in this area, and for that reason, I open myself up for correction where necessary, but I do not apologize for standing in opposition to the social justice movement.

What is social justice? In short, it’s a movement that positions itself to aid the oppressed within a group or a society. That could be a society as a whole or a group within a society. The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel was not framed to address the secular culture’s version of social justice. It was formed to speak into the culture of evangelicalism itself and to point out the inaccuracies of the evangelical version (which is connected to the secular movement too). Some people may be asking why it’s wrong to aid the oppressed? A better question would be—who is truly oppressed within evangelicalism and how are we seeking to help them? Is there really an evangelical system that’s committed to holding specific people back from serving God? Is “White privilege” really alive and well within evangelical circles preventing gifted Black brothers and sisters from serving God?

When we do find oppression at any level (individual or systemic), is it through political strategies like intersectionality that we need to engage or is it through the sufficient Word of God and the power of the gospel? That’s the issue, and that’s why I feel the need to engage at this point. Is the Word of God sufficient or have we arrived at a juncture where we must employ other tactics and trendy political strategies in order to reach the pinnacle of unity and to further fuel a God-glorifying mission?

Social Justice Has an Incorrect Beginning and a Flawed Conclusion

Social justice has a really bad starting point. Rather than beginning in the Word and seeking biblical justice—social justice by its very definition begins in the social environment and imports ideas from sociology, politics, and a wide array of disciplines into the Scriptures. This is why you hear gifted theologians talking about justice through the lens of intersectionality and systemic racism as opposed to James 1:27.

In many ways, the starting point of social justice likewise denies a key hermeneutic that goes beyond the presuppositional apologetic—it actually denies the literal, grammatical, historical approach to biblical interpretation. This is clearly put on display by what one preacher recently stated in a sermon:

Social justice is a biblical issue…it’s not a black issue, it’s a humanity issue. It’s not a hood issue, it’s a global issue. And until we understand that Jesus himself said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach liberty to the captive, to set free those who are oppressed.” If that ain’t social justice, I don’t know what is.

Aside from the obvious support of Nike, Bishop Rudolph McKissick, Jr missed the point. The clip above was a quote from Luke 4:16-30, where Jesus preached in the synagogue on what was one unforgettable Sabbath. Jesus read from Isaiah’s scroll and then proclaimed himself to be the fulfillment of that prophecy. When the people of Nazareth pressed upon him to do in his hometown (miracles, signs, and wonders) as he had done elsewhere (as if they deserved some special privilege) he explained that God’s ways are sometimes illogical. While many widows were present in Israel during the days of Elijah, he was sent to one widow in the land of Sidon. Jesus continued by explaining that there were many lepers in Israel during the days of Elisha, but he was sent to none of them. Instead, he was sent to Naaman the Syrian.

Ultimately Jesus was pointing to the wideness of God’s grace and mercy that extends beyond the Jews, but the ultimate fulfillment is that Jesus came to release those who were oppressed by sin and to give sight to the blind by setting the captives free from the prison of human depravity (John 8:32). Social justice focuses on the social needs (and sometimes the wants that supersede genuine needs) rather than the need of the soul. If we want a picture of true justice, we must look to the Scriptures rather than sociology books.

Social Justice Allows Victimology to Replace Theology

It must not be understated that one of the central problems with the social justice agenda is its fascination with victimology. In many ways, the evangelical version of social justice is following in the footsteps of the secular version. Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback in the NFL, was unsuccessful as an athlete, but eventually became the face of the National Anthem protest that was greatly controversial. Although he was unsuccessful as a professional athlete, Kaepernick has become the face of a movement and is now one of the leading faces of the Nike corporation. How did Kaepernick receive a lucrative contract from Nike? It wasn’t because of his performance on the football field, it was because of the fact that he took a knee as a victim to “systemic racism.”

There is power in victimhood, and many women have come to recognize that reality. Following closely behind racism is the oppression of women. Within evangelicalism there has been a sudden surge among women who want to have their voices heard too. More than that, they expect absolute equality of roles and position across denominational lines. This trend for women under the banner of social justice was fueled by Beth Moore who wrote an article titled, “A Letter to My Brothers” at the beginning of this summer. In the article she complained of mistreatment and systemic oppression within the evangelical community.

Her letter resulted in a flood of support from major evangelical leaders and a massive tidal wave of support from her fans across evangelicalism. Thabiti Anyabwile responded with an open apology letter titled, “An Apology to Beth Moore and My Sisters.” In his letter Thabiti Anyabwile writes:

I do now commit to being a more outspoken champion for my sisters and for you personally. Not that you need me to be but because it is right. I hope, with God’s help, to grow in sanctification, especially with regards to any sexism, misogyny, chauvinism, and the like that has used biblical teaching as a cover for its growth.

Dear Beth, and all my sisters, I hope you will forgive me.

Just like that—a new wave of “women empowerment” and “women equality” was fueled. It was one more example of how to use victimhood as a means of moving forward into greater success. I’m not at all suggesting that people haven’t mistreated or misrepresented Beth Moore in person or online, but the victim card is the new method of instant success. Beth Moore’s move was one that not only helped her, but it added a great deal of momentum behind conversations regarding how women should serve in evangelical conferences, in denominational positions, and within the local church. Suddenly, a large percentage of people within evangelical circles are rethinking the historic position of complementarianism.

Other groups are quickly following behind seeking to get a seat at the social justice table as well. One such group is the “LGBT Christian” group who claims to be oppressed within evangelicalism and is demanding that we redeem queer culture (the language used in the recent Revoice conference) and embrace them as brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no avoiding the issues in the social justice agenda—and it quickly becomes a slippery slope that leads to disaster. Many different voices are claiming to be oppressed and are demanding an apology for their victim status.

Social Justice claims to run to the aid of the oppressed and the victims of discrimination, racism, and other evils of society. What Christian doesn’t want to help the oppressed? What Christian wants to turn their back upon the evils of discrimination and racism? The problem with the social justice movement is that it leads to oppression rather than liberation. Social justice fuels the idea of victim status while promoting false ideas of systemic racism and systemic oppression of women within evangelicalism. Finally, social justice often uses political methods and cultural ideas as the answer to these problems rather than the sufficient Word of God.

In the early church, they courageously stood on God’s Word and turned the world upside down. During the days of the Reformation, Luther, Calvin, Knox, and others wrote, published, and relentlessly preached the Word of God. In the days of the Downgrade controversy, Charles Spurgeon relied upon God’s Word to expose false doctrine. During the inerrancy controversy (the Conservative Resurgence) in recent history, faithful men brought us back to the inerrant Bible. Sadly, while we embraced the inerrant Word, we have apparently turned our backs upon the sufficiency of the Bible. I conclude with the words of Spurgeon:

This weapon is good at all points, good for defense and for attack, to guard our whole person or to strike through the joints and marrow of the foe. Like the seraph’s sword at Eden’s gate, it turns every way. You cannot be in a condition that the Word of God has not provided. The Word has as many faces and eyes as providence itself. You will find it unfailing in all periods of your life, in all circumstances, in all companies, in all trials, and under all difficulties. Were it fallible, it would be useless in emergencies, but its unerring truth renders it precious beyond all price to the soldiers of the cross (Sermon: Matthew 4:4).