Justice Glossary

Social justice: You get to blame males, whites, Christians, and heterosexuals for all the evils of the world, while depicting everybody else as their victims.

Economic justice: You get to legally steal money from people wealthier than you while wrapping yourself in a robe of disinterested morality. 

Sexual justice: You get to commit any consensual sex you want and everybody else must publicly approve of you.

Racial justice: You get to fulminate against whites and Asians as systemic racists and get special privileges for other races while being immune to any charges of racism yourself.

Environmental justice: You get to force everybody else’s business to lose money or close up shop so that other people will fawn over how truly caring you are.

Reproductive justice: You get to legally murder your preborn baby. Your born baby too.


Make Christianity Great Again

Christians  are quick to blame secularists and neo-pagans for the cultural marginalization of our Faith, but much of it is due to our own timidity, compromise, and cowardice.  Before he ascended, our Lord charged the first Christians to disciple the nations (Mt. 28:18–20). It was a bold charge that demands a bold life and message. At the first post-resurrection Pentecost, a radically reenergized Peter, transformed from a craven Christ-denyer to a fierce Christ-proclaimer (Ac. 2), declared to thousands of Jews: “[K]now assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). This is the basic message of the NT and the primitive church, and it is the first Christian creed: Jesus is Lord.[1]

This message has impelled Christians whenever the Faith has advanced in the world. Despite relentless persecution, the primitive church marched boldly in that message. Finally, even the Roman emperor Constantine had to bow before him. Gradually Christian culture pervaded the West. In fact, Western civilization became roughly synonymous with Christian civilization.[2] The Reformation sought to correct severe theological abuses in the medieval church, but it did not oppose Christian culture. Far from it. Its English-speaking heirs, the Puritans, believed that all society should be governed by God’s law in the Bible. England’s American colonies each had established churches or Christian establishment of some kind, as did every one of the first United States. [3] 

Faded Glory

This Greatness Christianity of former days is now in retreat everywhere. The 18th century European Enlightenment ripped away the miraculous. Romanticism eroded all objective Christian standards, like the Bible. Darwinism reduced man to an amoral higher animal. More recently, postmodernism depicts man as an inventor of himself and of his own conceptual and moral universe. Christianity is now largely confined to isolated family life and to Sunday church. Christian schools and colleges dot the landscape, but many are caving in to the spirit of the age,  particularly same-sex-“marriage.” Everywhere the Lord’s Day is dishonored. A robust, full-bodied Faith is in full-scale power-down mode.

The Appeasement

Unfortunately the erosion has been championed by Christians themselves. David VanDrunen of Westminster Seminary-California argues against any Christian culture outside the church, thereby denying the Lordship of Jesus Christ in most of life.[4] For Willie James Jennings of Fuller Seminary, the problem is the Christian culture of the West itself.[5] Samir Selmanovic, an Emergent church leader, writes that for too long Christianity has been influential in the West.  He writes:

Christianity gave us the dignity of the human person, the university, political liberty, modern science and medicine, a purified sexuality, the exaltation of women, transcendent music, and the abolition of slavery.

Looking back nostalgically to the times when Christianity was an empire, we tirelessly monitor our power, our growth, our numbers, our financial success, our political strength.  Maybe the time has come for Christianity to lose.[6]

This is the pious goop of spineless religion. This appeasement reinforces the cultural irrelevance of Christianity and has become the unintentional ally of secularists and pagans. 

Restoration of Greatness

Christians are required to be humble about themselves, but never about their God. If we boast, we must boast in the Lord (2 Cor. 10:17). Our Lord is a great God. He is the cosmic sovereign (Eph. 1:20–23). He rules the universe. His gospel brings sinners to repentance and saves them by his matchless grace. If there is to be a restoration of Christianity’s greatness, there must be a retrieval of these convictions that made Christianity great in the first place. The first apostles spoke the word of God with boldness. They were witnesses of our Lord’s resurrection. They heard with their own ears the Great Commission. They knew the Lord promised that hell’s very gates would not prevail when the church came attacking (Mt. 16:18).

The claims of King Jesus are not options. He commands all men everywhere to repent (Ac. 17:30) and this means to trust him for salvation, and bow to his authority. The entire world is subject to God’s law (Rom. 3:20. The Great Commission is to disciple the nations with the glorious, love-drenched, obligatory gospel.[7] This gospel transforms lives and cultures. To say the gospel transforms lives but not cultures flies in the face not only of abundant historical testimony[8] but also, and more importantly, the Bible itself. In whatever Christians do, they are to do for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31). Jesus came to subordinate all enemies, not just non-cultural enemies (1 Cor. 15:20–27). This command extends far beyond church and private devotions.


Whenever the church has marched with this message, she has gained ground. She has routed the forces of Satan, death, and hell, and gradually produced a Christian culture. Christianity gave us the dignity of the human person, the university, political liberty, modern science and medicine, a purified sexuality, the exaltation of women, transcendent music, and the abolition of slavery.[9]  These were not bequeathed to Western civilization by the Greco-Roman world, ancient paganism, Islam, or secularism.  They’re the fruits of Christianity. The West has come to take these fruits for granted, and assumed it can uproot the tree and still get the fruit. This is a dangerous illusion. As our civilization turns from God, it will gradually lose the great blessings that have made it what it is.

Meanwhile, Christians must recover their triumphant boldness, proclaiming the slain Lamb who is the Lion, ruling from the heavens.  We must not gently suggest that Jesus is the best way. We must trumpet that he is the only way, and all other ways lead to individual, cultural, and eternal destruction. True greatness is found only in our great king of Kings and Lord of lords. To lose him is eventually to lose everything, everywhere. To have him is eventually to have everything, everywhere.

[1] Oscar Cullmann, The Earliest Christian Confessions (London: Lutterworth Press, 1949), 23.

[2] Christopher Dawson, The Formation of Christendom (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1967), 287.

[3] M. Stanton Evans, The Theme is Freedom (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1994), 275–279.

[4] David VanDrunen, “Calvin, Kuyper, and ‘Christian Culture,” in Always Reformed, R. Scott Clark and Joel E. Kim, eds. (Escondido, California: Westminster Seminary California, 2010), 135–153.

[5] Willie James Jennings , “The Fuller Difference: To Be a Christian Intellectual,” Fuller, issue 4, 50–53.

[6] Samir Selmanovic, “The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness: Finding Our God in the Other,” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt, eds. (Baker Books, 2007), 198.

[7] Stephen C. Perks, The Great Decommission (Taunton, England: Kuyper Foundation, 2011), 20.

[8] Christopher Dawson, The Historic Reality of Christian Culture (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1960).

[9] Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence, How Christianity Transformed Civilization (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001).

Learn more about how to make Christianity great again:

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God Doesn’t Hide Behind Jesus Christ

If we want to know more about the Father than we can learn from the Son, we’re on a fool’s errand. Once a young woman who had suffered degrading sexual abuse as a child and had been battered by evil men and was living in squalor and poverty finally made her way as a last resort to a faithful church on her block. After the service, the pastor greeted her and asked her about her life. In great sorrow she summarized her harrowing history and declared that this church was her last attempt at life. She had given up on God and was almost hopeless and was contemplating suicide.

The pastor immediately related the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, about how on the Cross he died after being beaten and battered by wicked men. He told her that if anybody knows and understands her great agony and shame and loss and humiliation, it is Jesus Christ.

She thought for a moment and then slowly she uttered in timid, broken words, “I imagine that if I could believe that God were like Jesus, I could believe in God.”

“Well,” the pastor responded, “I have the most wonderful news in the world for you. God is exactly like Jesus, and if you want to know God, simply trust and give your life to his Son. In Jesus you will learn everything about God that you need to know.” 

God doesn’t hide in Jesus Christ. God manifests himself most plainly in Jesus Christ: “God was manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). Not hidden. Manifested. And manifested most, perhaps, at the Cross.


Is Marginalizing the Family the Latest Evangelical Idol?

The family is a Christ-created cosmic norm

Just in time to catch the cresting wave of our secular culture’s anti-family crusade, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, chides Christians for championing the family. He’s not the only one. In the 80’s and 90’s, evangelicals perceived the family as under cultural and legal assault: abortion, homosexuality, divorce, pornography, and the Equal Rights Movement. This perception was a major impetus behind the Moral Majority. In an abrupt about-face, today’s evangelicals increasingly warn about idolizing the family, despite the fact that the family is under more intense attack today than 20–30 years ago. Moore writes:

The dark powers would have us idolize ourselves and by extension our families, by which usually we mean the image we’ve cultivated of ourselves and our families.

Before we evaluate whether today’s evangelicals are actually family idolaters, perhaps we can consider a time when the family was incontestably idolized — during the ancient Roman republic:

The head of the family was not merely father, judge and protector; he was also priest. The traditional religion of Rome was scarcely more than an extended spiritualization of the high points of family life: birth, marriage, and death. Nothing violated the religious, any more than the legal, autonomy of the family. The father was the supreme priest of the private gods of the family and its hearth, the Lares and the Penates. No child was ever born into a family; he had to be accepted, following birth, through the religious authority of the house father.[1]

Until the recent century and the incursion of Western (Christian) ideas, this divinization of the family almost equally shaped Asian cultures like China and Japan; ancestor worship is a logical practice when the family is divinized. This ancient Roman pater culture and traditional Asian ancestor worship, however, are far removed from the alleged idolatry Moore is criticizing:

[O]ur suffocating grasp on our family — whether that’s our idyllic view of our family in the now, our nostalgia for the family of long ago, our scars from family wounds, or our worries for our family’s future.

Even were this an accurate description of modern Christian devotion to the family, it’s far from the idolatry of the family, to put it mildly. Moore argues that this idolizing the family is partly the result of the church’s trying to be relevant — answering pressing questions the world is asking:

The outside world is interested in order and stability. In that sense, the world can see the value, in most cases, of “The Family” [note the scare quotes and derisive caps] in a way that it would not see the value of, say, the doctrine of justification by faith. Churches can talk about the family, then, in ways that seem immediately relevant even to their most metaphysically disinterested neighbors. 

I’m not sure what world Moore is living in. Certainly not the West of the 21st century. This “outside world” is interested in autonomy and rebellion, not order and stability. Indeed, at the heart of our postmodern moment is a reaction against order and stability, not craving for it.[2] Since God’s central institution of order and stability is the family, postmodernity is at war with it: porn, ideological feminism, sexual egalitarianism, children’s “rights,” same-sex “marriage,” androgyny, gender neutrality, “toxic masculinity,” cheap no-fault divorce, and on and on. If uniquely serious members of the “outside world” are anxious over the loss of “order and stability,” why shouldn’t the church counter with the family? In fact, if any other institution should champion and protect and nourish the family in our poisonously autonomous age, it’s the church.

Jesus, Enemy of the Family?

But for Moore, to exalt the family in our incontestably anti-family society is to diminish the message of Jesus Christ, who came to divide the family. He cites these statements by our Lord to prove that Jesus’ message necessarily assaults family loyalty:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple,” he said (Luke 14:26).

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. . . . I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Matt. 10:34–36).

To the man who said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father,” Jesus responded without any apparent empathy: “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:59–60).

When another prospective disciple of Jesus asked to “say goodbye to my family,” [Moore writes] Jesus would have nothing of it. “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God,” he said (Luke 9:61–62). Again, if anyone but Jesus were to say this, it would sound at best harsh and at worst evil.

When Jesus said, “Follow me,” the fishermen-apostles immediately dropped their nets and came with him. James and John, Mark recounted, stopped mending their nets and “left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:20). Jesus’ hearers would have understood this as a repudiation of the family.

This catalog would seem to close the argument once and for all: Jesus came to lead people away from the family. But Moore’s is a strategy of swift de-contextualization. Just what families was Jesus dividing? Moore seems to be under the impression that Jesus’ audience were just good old-fashioned, Jehovah-honoring, Torah-observing, Messiah-searching Jews, and their Old Testament commitment to the family was what Jesus was overturning. But anybody who reads the Gospel accounts (particularly John’s) knows how erroneous this assumption is. Again and again he chides the Jews (and not just their leaders) of not believing or understanding the Old Testament (Jn. 5:46), of not adhering to the Genesis creational norms (Mt. 19:8), of not being Abraham’s children (Jn. 8:39). Moore conveniently fails to mention identification of Jesus’ own blood brothers with darkness (Jn. 7:1–7). Jesus’ was not quite a “happy Christian family.”

Jesus, then, did not come to divide the family, the institution that he himself created. He did, of course, come to divide the rebellious, apostate family of Israel at the time. Russell Moore seems not to make this distinction.

Here’s how the angel described the future ministry John the Baptist to Zacharias his the father: “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord [Jesus Christ]” (Lk. 1:16–17, emphasis supplied). John was to turn the hearts of parents to the Lord Jesus so that he (John) could turn those same hearts to their children in preparation for the Messiah. A parental heart turned to the Lord is a heart that can be turned to one’s children. Jesus indeed came to divide families — apostate and unconverted families. He did not come to divide the family as an institution.

Moore’s assault intensifies: “But Jesus was no hypocrite. He not only taught these things [attacks on the family] but also lived them. He was never married and never had children. He seemed to disrespect at almost every turn his immediate and extended family.” But Jesus’ singlehood, as I noted in my article “The Evangelical Singleness-Celibacy Paradigm Is Wrong,” was wholly unique. Jesus does have a metaphorical bride, the church, and he does have metaphorical children, Christian believers. Had he taken a literal bride (a nearly unthinkable scenario), he would have been obliged to abandon her to untold grief at his agonizing death and subsequent departure to heaven. He knew he could not (and should not) fulfill earthly husbandly obligations to a physical bride. The fact that Jesus did not marry and sire children in no way whatever suggests he assaulted the family as an institution.

Junking Creation

But Moore’s most pernicious assertion, the core of his argument, is here:

In fact, Jesus seemed out of step with the entire thrust of the Bible. The biblical story starts with a family — a man and a woman charged with being fruitful and multiplying across the face of the earth (Gen. 1:28). God’s promise was that he would make Abraham the “father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5), that his descendants would be as numerous as the sands of the shore and the stars of the sky (Gen. 15:5). God’s promise to David is that God would establish a royal dynasty for David, that one of his sons would sit on his throne forever (2 Sam. 7:4–17).

Moore sets Jesus against the family by setting Jesus against creational norms. The fact that Jesus himself is the mediator of creation (Heb. 1:1–2) — that Jesus himself established the family — seems not to have entered Moore’s calculation. His marginalization of the family is rooted in his hermeneutic of discontinuity.[3] He can more easily marginalize and deprivilege the family by lopping off the creation account. But Jesus didn’t come to undo creation. “God does not make junk.” [4]  He came to redeem and enhance creation, not junk it. Moore sets redemption against creation, the Jesus of Nazareth against the eternal Son of God, and the New Testament against the Old Testament. He sunders what God has joined, and in so doing truncates the biblical worldview.

Fighting Today’s Battles Today

Contrary to Moore, the church’s great present need is not a revival of preaching on justification by faith alone. This is not the most important doctrine in the Bible, even in soteriology (salvation doctrine). Still, the Reformation was forced to highlight it because the mediaeval church had obscured salvation by grace under a blanket of sacramental works-righteousness. But while that error is not less pernicious today, it is less pervasive, and giving that doctrine the emphasis it had from 1517–1660 is a mistake. The impetus behind that mistake can be either hidebound traditionalism or cultural cowardice — sometimes both.

The great threat today is the attack on creational norms like male and female created in God’s image as distinct kinds of human beings, and the related issue of marriage. That attack comes in the form of same-sex “marriage,” sexual fungibility (interchangeability of the sexes), and the exaltation of singlehood as autonomy. Recovering biblical creational norms is more important than preaching justification by faith alone, not because it’s optional (it isn’t), but because creational norms provide the context in which justification can have any meaning at all.

It’s no idolatry to champion the family and creational norms at the very time they’re under assault both in the culture and the church.

But it might be a tiptoe toward idolatry to slink away from the heat of battle over a misguided traditionalism, a faulty Old Testament-New Testament hermeneutic, or plain old garden-variety timidity. The longing for comfort without controversy and battle might just be the idolatry we have most to fear.

For further reading on this topic …

The Christian Sexual Worldview

[1] Robert Nisbet, The Social Philosophers (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973), 37. Christopher Wiley pointed out in his gracious prepublication review of this post: “I think the negative aspects of Roman household life can be oversold. See Xenophon’s On Household Management and you will find many supposedly modern attitudes about working with servants and your wife.”

[2] David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1995), 3–65.

[3] Paul D. Feinberg, “Hermeneutics of Discontinuity,” in Continuity and Discontinuity, Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, John S. Feinberg, ed. (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway, 1988), 109–128.

[4] Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985, 2005, second edition), 48.