SES recently released a rather lengthy statement outlining our specific take on current racial tensions and social justice issues. After two months of national unrest over these issues, why release a statement now? Hasn’t everything been said from a Christian position that needs to be said? Those are fair questions. It would seem that it should be obvious what an Evangelical institution’s position would be on these matters. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
One may think it would go without saying that an Evangelical institution or Evangelical leader would be against racism in any form, stand for the inherent value of all human life, and seek to promote truth, goodness, love, and prudence in all situations. That is certainly where SES stands, and that is where most Evangelicals would place themselves.
Sadly, over the last two months we have seen school after school and many well-meaning Evangelical leaders promote dangerous ideologies, in the name of “love” and “social justice,” that are false and ultimately destructive.
Too many believers are being taken in by these ideas, and too many relationships are being destroyed for us to remain silent. We will ultimately see many believers’ Christian convictions shattered by the end of it all. We must speak up.
Emotionalism and Platitudes
Undoubtedly, racism still exists in America, and of course we should do everything we can to combat it. However, the arguments we’ve seen being used by many well-meaning Evangelicals in support of “white guilt,” “white fragility,” other “woke” ideologies, and even things like mobs tearing down monuments are the very same types of emotionally-charged arguments we’ve seen other professing Christians use to support things like homosexual behavior and transgender lifestyles. Rather than taking a step back, understanding terms (ex. “love,” “good,” or “justice”), investigating evidence (both for and against any particular accusation), and being prudent in our judgments, a vast number of Evangelical leaders have accepted current narratives without question, rushed to judgments, encouraged their followers to the do the same, and tripped over themselves with virtue signaling less they be accused of being too “unloving” or something worse. In our experience, Christians who go down this path are one step closer to abandoning historic Christianity for a caricature of the real thing. Tragically, many Christians who accept such a caricature soon enough discard the faith altogether. We must speak up.
Unsurprisingly, many conversative Christians doing their best to offer biblical responses to current issues do little more than quote Bible verses and say exactly what one would expect a conservative Christian to say (at least prior to the days of cancel culture and mob rule). Needless to say, for most people engaging with these issues, quoting Bible verses means little or nothing as they don’t accept the Bible as authoritative. Moreover, why does God say the things that He says about morality or human rights? These biblical appeals, while true, often become Christian platitudes with very little substance behind them. When Christians have no substance behind their platitudes they are more easily persuaded to give way to emotionally charged rhetoric and either buy into the false ideologies, continue reciting their shallow platitudes to deaf ears, or disengage altogether for fear of having nothing more to say (or simply not knowing what to say). Edward Feser notes,
“[Forsaking a good because one cannot endure the associated difficulties] is rife among modern churchmen, who seem to fear controversy above all things, and especially controversy that might earn them the disdain of the secular liberal intelligentsia. And for most of the last few decades, the worst they would have faced is some bad press. The way Western culture is turning now, they will probably face far worse than that in the not too distant future – and will face it precisely because they did not speak and act boldly and consistently enough when bad press was all they had to fear. Appeasement only ever breeds contempt among those appeased, and spurs them to greater evil.”
We must speak up.
Truth and Goodness
As our statement outlines, the robust natural law foundation from which SES operates enables us to help those who are still able to listen to understand properly what concepts like “good,” “love,” and “justice” actually mean.
Natural law morality is biblical and provides a solid foundation from which to make moral judgments in the public sphere with both believers and unbelievers. This is actually the moral theory that undergirded much of the civil rights movement.
As Feser ironically observes,
“The currency of the term ‘social justice’ originated in Thomistic natural law social theory. … It has to do with the just or right ordering of society as defined by strong families and cooperation between husband and wife in carrying out their respective roles for the sake of children and elders, solidarity and cooperation between economic classes and other social groups, and scrupulous attention to subsidiarity in the state’s relationship to the ‘little platoons’ of society.”
We know of no other Evangelical institution who holds such a strong natural law position and who is better suited to address our current challenges. We are an institution dedicated to equipping students to proclaim the Gospel, engage the culture, and defend the truth. These turbulent times are the most divisive many of us have ever seen. We will have failed in our mission if we do not equip our students, and anyone who will listen, to engage this confused culture.
Our Christian convictions undergirded by classical natural law reasoning compel us to fight real racism wherever it is found and to stand for truth, justice, natural rights, and the freedoms they secure. That is why SES is committed to equipping students with the philosophical and theological tools necessary to engage these cultural issues head-on. The current popular understanding of “social justice” is the opposite of the good all humans should pursue and is anything but just. We cannot love our neighbors well and lead them to the Gospel if we sacrifice truth and goodness on the false altar of “wokeness” ideology.
We must speak up.
One Final Note
We are currently in the process of organizing a graduate level course for our Fall Module 2 that will run Oct. 19-24, 2020. The class will focus on the themes of Christian theology, racism, and social justice. This will be a team-taught class, with Dr. Land as the lead professor, that brings together our own professors and other experts in these areas to offer both an academic and practical treatment. More details will be available soon. This is one way we can prepare others to speak up with grace and truth.
See our complete statement on racism and social justice HERE.