Part 4: Words Matter
The church is the pillar and buttress of the truth. Our happy and high calling, as an assembly of Christ’s redeemed, is to protect our precious gospel so that, if the Lord tarries, our great-great grandchildren will still be able to hear it preached from the Grace Rancho pulpit. It’s an amazing privilege to be enlisted in Christ’s army for this task, and I’m thankful for a church that takes this responsibility seriously. The Bible repeatedly calls us to be vigilant, sober-minded, and alert, like soldiers at the watch. In times like these, we need to be reminded of that.
R.L. Dabney in his book Evangelical Eloquence makes a brilliant observation about how doctrinally sound churches slide into apostasy. He describes three stages. First is the golden age, where “scriptural truth is faithfully presented in scriptural garb.” The second stage is what he calls the “transition stage”: where doctrines taught are still from the Scriptures, but “their relations are moulded into the conformity with the prevalent human dialectics” - that is, the church attempts to speak biblical truth using the language of the culture. This leads to the third stage, where the doctrines themselves morph, following the values of the world.
In our previous articles, we’ve been thinking about a prevailing ideology, often called critical theory, that has shaped the way many people are thinking today. Last week we observed that as secularization increases, self-expression becomes the highest virtue. Powers that suppress self-expression are viewed as participating in oppression. Life is viewed in terms of power and people are categorized into oppressed/oppressor groups.
In this article, we need to see how this outlook has affected our language. The greatest attacks against the truth have always involved an assault on words. Satan is known for twisting and corrupting words so as to deceive and mislead.
In our day, nice sounding words are being used as Trojan Horses to smuggle godless ideologies into the church. Words matter. They are carriers of ideas, and ideas shape minds, hearts, and destinies.
This is why we need to perk up when familiar words begin to be used in new ways. Whenever this happens, it means a new definition has latched on to the old word, implanting ideas foriegn to its original meaning. If you pause and think about it, I’m sure you’d be able to identify several words that have morphed over the last decade: diversity, love, inclusion, and equality are some of the obvious ones. Today, words like oppression, racism, and justice are being redefined as well. Let’s consider these words.
The word “oppression” used to mean “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment.” Now, “oppression” includes being a part of a group that’s not the majority, a group that’s not in power. To be an oppressor now has nothing to do with actually treating someone cruelly or unjustly. Everyone in the majority culture has privilege and is guilty by virtue of their participation in it.
The word “racism” used to refer to the belief, attitude, or action that implies people are inferior or superior because of their race. This is not the case anymore. According to this worldview, all majority culture participants are racist. Racism is the underlying explanation for any interracial conflict or disparity.
The word “justice” has been hijacked as well. Justice used to refer to doing that which is good, right, and just. Today, however, justice is defined in an entirely new way. One proponent of the social justice movement says: “Working towards a celebration of diversity implies working for social justice - the elimination of all forms of social oppression…” (emphasis mine). Did you catch that? Social justice means working against “all forms of social oppression.” What counts as “social oppression”? The nuclear family, traditional gender roles, and even gender itself. Justice, in this sense, means working toward anything that hinders “equality” (another redefined word).
These new definitions implicitly redefine sin, guilt, and repentance, which, inevitably, redefines the gospel. This is why we Christians must not embrace uncritically the modern social justice movement.
A Redefined Gospel
Social justice, as defined by those promoting this godless ideology, is anti-Christ: It redefines sin, which redefines guilt, which redefines repentance, which redefines the gospel. This worldview is not compatible with Christianity.
Dr. Neil Shenvi points this out in his booklet Engaging Critical Theory and the Social Justice Movement. He points out that not only are these ideas incompatible with biblical Christianity, but that this worldview is actually like a religion of its own:
Many people, including many atheists, have noted the similarities between critical theory and the doctrines of Christianity. Just as Christianity teaches that all human beings are stained by original sin, so contemporary critical theory teaches that all people (or at least almost all people) are stained by their membership in oppressor groups. Just as Christianity teaches that we must confess and repent of our sin, so contemporary critical theory teaches that we must confess and repent of our participation in structures of power and privilege. Just as Christianity teaches that sin must be atoned for, so contemporary critical theory teaches that our privilege must be atoned for. Just as Christianity looks forward to a kingdom of perfect justice and righteousness, contemporary critical theory looks forward to a utopian society of perfect justice and equity. But unlike Christianity, “salvation” in contemporary critical theory is achieved not by grace, but by works.
As a church that cares deeply about the gospel, we rise up in protection when we feel it may be threatened. There are real instances of oppression, racism, and injustice today, and to be able to address them, we need to understand them biblically, not through the lens of critical theory. Critical theory, and the social justice movement that flows from it, is a threat to the church and must be recognized as such.