PCA pastor, Peter Lillback, invoked J. Gresham Machen the other night on the Glenn Beck show to clear up the host’s confusion about social justice and the churches. Beck, of course, thinks “social justice” is code for liberalism, big government, and Obamanian tyranny. But Lillback, who belongs to a communion where social justice in the form of “word and deed” ministry are prevalent, thinks a better, kinder, gentler, orthodoxer version of such justice exists. And on the show he did so by turning to, Machen, the most articulate defender of the doctrine of the spirituality of the church. Unfriggingbelievable!
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
BECK: OK. I wanted — let’s start at the beginning.
And, Peter, maybe you can help me. Just on — first of all, never happened — this is not in any founding document, social justice or any of that stuff, right?
LILLBACK: The phrase “social justice” cannot be found in Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.
BECK: OK. It also isn’t — it’s not found in the Bible.
Mr. Snerdling, stop the tape. God is not found in the Constitution, nor is Jesus Christ mentioned in George Washington’s deistical piety, but does that prevent folks from attributing Christianity to America’s founding documents and fathers?
BECK: OK. Give me the origins of social justice.
LILLBACK: Well, let’s start in the context of Westminster Seminary. The man who started the school where I’m the president, J. Gresham Machen, wrote a book that revolutionized the 20th century. It was called “Christianity and Liberalism.”
And basically what he said is, is that liberals claim to be Christians, they use all kind of Christian vocabulary, but they give them different meanings. And that Christianity and liberalism are two different religions.
And that is the core of what you deal with now, really, a century after Dr. Machen started Westminster Seminary. The words are Christian, but they have been redefined. . . .
LILLBACK: Well, let’s put it this way: Going back into the late 1800s, there were others that were wrestling with social problems.
LILLBACK: And we think of the name Washington Gladden or Walter Rauschenbusch. These were great theologians that were trying to address problems of orphanages and lack of education.
Stop the tape again! Gladden and Rauschenbusch, the leaders and theorists of the Social Gospel were “great” theologians? If so, in what class does that put Warfield and Hodge?
LILLBACK: And there have always been social problems that need to be addressed and they were calling the church to do it.
But what had happened is that they begin to lose focus in the truth of the Bible. They stopped believing — as you called it — the individual character of salvation. Instead of one coming to the cross to find Jesus Christ as a crucified, buried and risen savior, the one who saved sinners, they started to turn to society. And they said salvation is when the society feeds you, when it gives you clothes, when it gives a better hospital.
LILLBACK: When it keeps your house from burning.
Now, all of those things were good, but that’s not the gospel. Those are implications of the gospel.
And what liberalism did is that it said, we no longer can believe in Jesus as God or Jesus crucified and risen and coming again. We can’t believe that. So, what we’ve done is we kept all the language and we’ve changed its meaning.
And that is social justice thinking: It’s liberalism in the cloak of Christianity. That was Dr. Machen’s fundamental insight.
This is a very confused reading of Machen, Christianity, and liberalism, and we shouldn’t fault the Mormon Beck for not being able to raise the right questions....
You have to read the rest of the post in order to get why Hart criticizes Lillback. Look for a later post from me on how this relates to the American Founding.