John MacArthur started a series calling out the “social justice” movement in evangelicalism.
Brad Mason’s recent response to the first installment in that series is most disappointing, to say the least.
Mason claims “there is not much substance in this particular piece, as it is only the first salvo in a series of blogs he intends to write on the subject.” While MacArthur is clear more is to come, Mason too quickly dismisses the substantive elements of the MacArthur post. Not only does MacArthur take a clear stand against the heinous sins of racism and systemic injustices, he also posits “the only long-term solution to every brand of ethnic animus is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” He writes, “In Christ alone are the barriers and dividing walls between people groups broken down, the enmity abolished, and differing cultures and ethnic groups bound together in one new people (Ephesians 2:14–15).”
Over against MacArthur’s biblically warranted thesis are those supposed solutions offered by evangelicals to the effect of “demanding repentance and reparations from one ethnic group for the sins of its ancestors against another,” “the language of law, not gospel,” the mirroring of “the jargon of worldly politics, not the message of Christ,” division within the Body along ethnic lines with the formation of what MacArthur calls “fleshly factions,” and the movement along a “spiritually disastrous” trajectory as proven in denominations that followed the same path. MacArthur thus offers at least five major concerns he has with the “social justice” movement in evangelicalism.
By way of reply, Mason immediately equates “the fray of Racial Reconciliation (RR) discussions” with “social justice,” even though Mason claims that he, along with those from whom he seeks acceptance, rejects the use of that terminology. One would think it obvious, although it is apparently not obvious to Mason, that in hurriedly writing a response to MacArthur based on some perceived sleight in MacArthur’s post about the “social justice” movement, Mason lends credence to MacArthur’s use of the term to describe Mason’s position. Otherwise, why would Mason care so much as to begin a series of responses to articles MacArthur has not yet written?
Nevertheless, Mason musters enough zeal, though without knowledge, to describe MacArthur’s use of the phrase “social justice” as annoying, per his remark, “I also intend to muster enough strength to not be thoroughly annoyed by his consistent assumption that evangelical leaders are pushing ‘social justice’—a phrase I really only hear opponents using to align RR advocates against ‘Biblical justice.’” Sadly, Mason’s derogatory parenthetical reveals either extreme ignorance or dishonesty on his part. Why?
Mason claims he only hears “opponents” of racial reconciliation (notice here that Mason wrongfully numbers MacArthur among the opponents of racial reconciliation!) use the phrase “social justice.” Perhaps Mason considers the folks at Desiring God opponents of racial reconciliation, even though the most noteworthy figure of their ilk, John Piper, has published on the topic. Or, perhaps Mason wishes Russell Moore were as concerned about the issue of racial reconciliation as Mason. And “Jemar Tisby” or “Michelle Higgins,” are they enemies of racial reconciliation? Do you see the problem? And I could go on and on and on.
Now, Mason may respond that it is just plain wrong to pick his post apart over a complaint that appears in a mere parenthetical remark. However, Mason remains every bit as responsible for having penned this somewhat snotty shot at a faithful pastor as he does for having penned the remainder of his post. Moreover, Mason cannot escape the fact that his remark clearly reveals one of two things about Mason, neither of which leaves Mason in a very good position. Either Mason is almost completely ignorant regarding the very topic upon which he writes, or Mason is dishonest. Either way, we probably should not be promoting Mason as an expert on this topic (even if we overlook the shameless self-promotion of his work on racial reconciliation, which some do, admittedly, find annoying). Mason undermines his own credibility when he either ignorantly or dishonestly attempts to both deny and defend the “social justice” movement in the same breath. Yes, Mason may claim this worry is a mere semantic affair, but this claim does nothing to remove the horns of the aforementioned dilemma. Regardless, MacArthur is clear about his hatred for racism and his desire to see “the barriers and dividing walls between people groups broken down, the enmity abolished, and differing cultures and ethnic groups bound together in one new people.”
Mason appears to miss what he shares in common with MacArthur, choosing instead to misrepresent him and attack the resulting straw man, writing, “From the very beginning of the movement, RR advocates were concerned about white evangelicals’ willingness to condemn personal prejudice yet unwillingness to take action toward ameliorating the widespread social consequences of 450 years of racialized subjugation.” Mason quotes Carl Ellis, Jr. as though he differs from MacArthur (he does not) on “dealing with the systems and the structures that are devastating African-American people.” Mason also quotes from John Perkins as supposedly against MacArthur (he is not) before quoting Perkins again, this time in reference to affirmative action. But MacArthur does not mention any worries about affirmative action in his post. MacArthur’s concerns run much deeper. Yet somehow, from two quotes that are actually in agreement with MacArthur’s words and actions, and one quote about affirmative action, Mason concludes, “To be perfectly honest, I believe that Pastor John MacArthur—and probably the majority of white Americans—has bought into the notion of a post-Civil Rights color-blind America,” which is a non sequitur. Mason seems at least subconsciously aware of his error, as evidenced by his use of “To be perfectly honest” and “I believe” prior to his unsubstantiated concluding statement.
Mason continues his diatribe against a “majority of white Americans,” writing, “Once, in their minds, equality of opportunity had supposedly been restored, legal segregation and overt discrimination outlawed, the principles of abstract liberalism guarantee that any serious disparities are to be laid in the lap of African Americans themselves.” So far from MacArthur stating anything like what Mason ascribes to him here, MacArthur affirms the opposite when he writes of his current hatred for racism, the current need for a long-term solution to racism (found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ), and “worldly power structures [which] are—and always have been—systemically unjust to one degree or another” (emphasis mine). MacArthur is not in disagreement with Ellis, Perkins, or Mason, at least with respect to the aforementioned points, so Mason finds himself arguing against a straw man which, unfortunately, constitutes another fallacy.
Making more false assumptions, Mason writes, “This story we tell ourselves fits nicely with our evangelical politically conservative commitments.” He continues, “As Tony Warner put it, ‘White evangelicals are more willing to pursue a white conservative political agenda than to be reconciled with their African-American brothers and sisters. It raises a fundamental question of their belief and commitment to the biblical gospel.’” The problems with this quote are so many and so serious one struggles to understand how Mason could have missed them. Nothing says a “white conservative political agenda” must preclude the recognition of or the work toward resolving racial concerns or systemic injustices. MacArthur’s post neither mentions nor implies any “white conservative political agenda,” but following Warner’s faulty logic, one would think MacArthur, given his noteworthy battles against systemic injustices, is not a white, political conservative, even though that conclusion need not follow. What is more worrisome is Warner’s belief that white evangelicals are “more willing to pursue” what he calls a “white conservative political agenda” than “to be reconciled with their African-American brothers and sisters.” Again, this is a false dilemma. Both can be true. Evangelicals can be both politically conservative and be reconciled with African-Americans. Notice, for some reason, Warner appears to assume one is either politically conservative or African-American, which is also false. But much more concerning than everything above is Warner’s insistence that white people either forsake a conservative political agenda or be questioned concerning “their belief and commitment to the biblical gospel.” At this point, Warner is not even talking about racial reconciliation anymore. Rather, he sows division along political lines.
Mason writes, “It is only white Americans, evangelicals in particular, who have decided that the social work was complete in 1968.” Note the universal negative indicated by “only.” Does Mason claim to have interviewed every non-white American on the question of the completeness of social work in 1968? Not even Christian Smith or Michael Emerson, from whom Mason draws much of his thinking, did that. MacArthur does not claim that “social work was complete in 1968,” and in fact asserts the opposite, as pointed out above. Mason’s post is being promoted as a definitive rebuttal to MacArthur. In reality Mason simply misrepresents MacArthur, which is a real shame when one considers how often cage-stage woke folk castigate others for a failure to listen.