Albert Mohler and Jim Wallis Debate Social Justice and the Mission of the Church

On October 27, Albert Mohler and Jim Wallis debated the question “Is Social Justice an Essential Part of the Mission of the Church?”. If you missed the live webcast, the Henry Center has posted the media from the event:

[pk_icon_link icon=”read_post” icon_type=”dark”]Audio[/pk_icon_link]
[pk_icon_link icon=”read_post” icon_type=”dark”]Video[/pk_icon_link]

In the exchange, Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, argued for the affirmative position – the church must be involved in social justice issues – and Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argued the negative – while granting social justice as a good and important activity for Christians, he contended that social justice is not the gospel. The exchange highlighted many issues under discussion in evangelicalism today – the nature of the gospel, its definition, breadth, and implications – and while the theological approaches of both participants meant they were frequently talking past each other, it is still worth listening to.

For an excellent review of the debate, check out Matthew Lee Anderson’s assessment here.

2 replies
  1. Apollo
    Apollo says:

    Thanks for the links. Mohler did a good job, I thought. Wallis was passionate, but lacked clarity or precision. Also, the way they both argued, and how strongly the Bible featured in their arguments, was telling.

  2. Alan Roebuck
    Alan Roebuck says:

    In this debate Mohler did a poor job (at least before the
    Q&A) of identifying and opposing Wallis’s basic position. Wallis portrayed
    his position as simply that we should do good, and who would want to oppose
    that? But his actual position is this:

     

    Being a Christian requires being a
    do-gooder, and this does not just mean feeding the hungry, clothing the naked,
    visiting the prisoners, etc. It also means fighting to change society in a
    leftward [he would probably say “progressive”] direction: Promoting women,
    minorities, foreigners, and new ways of life, and demoting men, whites, American
    citizens, and our traditional way of life. 
    In other words, Christians are required to fight for leftism.

     

    But are they? The Bible says we should be just, but it does
    not advocate radical social change. Social change may come, and it may be an
    improvement, but the Bible does not require that we agitate for it. As atheists
    are fond of pointing out, for example, the Bible does not demand that we
    agitate to end all slavery, but only that if there are slaves, they be treated
    humanely, and it also says that entire peoples should not be held in bondage (a
    position I think we can infer from the Exodus.)

     

    [Note that I said “…if there are slaves….” The Bible
    portrays slavery as existing, not as good.]

     

    That’s the best that can be said for Wallis’s politically leftist
    program: the Bible does not require it. But we should also say that his sociopolitical
    leftism is destructive of Western society. The left does not just want to make
    life better. Although many rank-and-file liberals think they’re just doing good,
    the leaders of the left want utterly to smash the Western Society that existed until
    the recent past. Leftists disagree with one another over the ideal society at
    which they aim, but they are united in their desire utterly to smash the
    traditional order.

     

    Wallis is also implicitly assuming that the church properly
    proclaiming (and people correctly receiving) the traditional gospel message can
    safely be assumed, so that our real emphasis must be on go-gooderism.  But this assumption is absurd. The gospel is
    being lost in mainstream organized Christianity, through liberalism, the
    Purpose Driven movement, the Emergent Church movement, the Prosperity
    pseudo-Gospel, and so on. Wallis is distracting us from the church’s most
    urgent task.

     

    Wallis is not just distracting us from the actual gospel of
    forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in Christ, he is advocating that
    Christians take up an anti-christian revolutionary attitude. Shame on him.

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