Opinion: Social Justice is Not the Same as Biblical Justice

Scripture leaves no room for interpretation that God is a just ruler and desires equality for all humanity. Psalm 11:7 states, “For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.”

As image bearers of the Righteous One, humanity is also hardwired to value justice and fairness. When we are wronged, or when we see examples of injustice, we feel strong emotions of anger, frustration and confusion. We have a craving to see ourselves and others treated fairly and to see society function to ensure that justice is afforded to all, and that is good.

However, because of our sinful nature, our definition and conception of justice is skewed. Furthermore, American culture propagates a version of societal fairness called “social justice,” adding to the confusion of justice we experience. On the surface, it appears that social justice lines up with biblical justice, because the goal of social justice is to ensure that oppressed groups are freed from oppression and that their needs are met.

While this appears to agree with the biblical meaning of justice, a closer examination of the terms will show they are starkly different.

The Bible defines justice in two main ways. The first carries a tone of retribution in which someone who commits sin or wrongdoing is punished for their deeds. The second definition (and the focus for this article) is a “restorative justice, in which those who are unrightfully hurt or wronged are restored and given back what was taken from them.”

It focuses on restoring to individuals what has been unfairly taken from them and helps them as they rise out of their bondage. If an orphan has no family, then biblical justice would seek to give that child a home. If someone was robbed, the focus would be on restoring that individual’s specific needs. This justice does not care about ethnicity, racial background or status in life: if you have a need and seek help, if you are in need of justice, God will provide it.

Our ultimate example of justice is found in the life and person of Jesus, who healed the sick, defended the weak and ultimately paid the price for our sins and freed us from our oppression of sin and death. He turned no one away and showed God’s love to all who would draw near.

Social justice, however, takes a route that directly contrasts the meaning of biblical justice.

The core value of social justice is to redistribute “resources and advantages to the disadvantaged to achieve social and economic equality” for all. But for this to happen, it requires the identification of those who have advantages and resources with those who do not. 

This is the first problem with social justice. It pits people groups against each other and instills jealousy in those deemed “oppressed” of those who are “oppressors.” It creates a victim mentality in the oppressed and forces them to look to blame others (oftentimes unjustly) for their plight. While biblical justice unites and uplifts people, social justice tears down certain groups and creates division.

The second problem with social justice is that it surrenders more power to the government, since it appears to be the only one powerful enough to correct these systematic inequalities. Voddie Baucham said that social justice seeks to find out who is to blame for unequal outcomes (academically, economically, politically) and then “there needs to be a redistribution of power and resources in order to address those issues.”

In America, politicians earn votes and approval by catering to the needs of specific groups in order to “lift them out of oppression” particularly minority groups such as Black individuals, women, LGBTQ members, etc. They identify ways in which these groups are “oppressed” and if they are given more control, they can free disadvantaged groups from their chains.

This is communism at its finest: the redistribution of wealth so that all equally share resources. But as Soviet Russia, Fidel Castro-led Cuba and modern-day Venezuela show us, this type of thinking and government only bring destruction and chaos. However, people who don’t have a biblical sense of justice will look for an anti-biblical solution to the problem of injustice, which always leads to problems.

Our world is full of injustice and always will be until Christ comes and restores his kingdom where he rules in justice. Until then, we are commanded to “seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with (our) God” (Micah 6:8). But as we walk through life and seek to reflect God’s justice, we must do so in accordance with God’s will, not the destructive ideology of social justice.

John Simmons is the Web Manager. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSimmonsJr7.

12 comments

  • While I agree that the definition of “social justice” you used for this article is difficult to justify in light of a biblical lens, I believe you have chosen an extreme definition of the term that is not inline with helping professionals. As a Christian social worker the focus is on opportunity and not redistribution.

  • This article shows the thinly veiled prejudices that exist in this country and apparently in this institution also. It is written with a hidden agenda or opinion against minorities or as you put it,”particularly minority groups such as Black individuals, women, LGBTQ members, etc.” To say that politicians somehow “earn votes and approval by catering to the needs of specific groups” is a gigantic fib because said politicians DO NOT deliver on the empty promises to these minority groups. I would accept this better if you would have straight out said that you do not believe that these minority groups are discriminated against nor oppressed and those that are saying that they are should shut up and take it. I sincerely hope you are not an instructor at Liberty and if you are a student, that is even worse! Good right-wing talking points though.

  • You have done a very good job writing this article. It is very well thought out with supporting arguments for your position. Unlike the previous commentator, I do agree with your position that there is a redistribution (i.e. taking something from someone who has it and “redistributing” it amongst all who don’t) when it comes to social justice. I think the previous commentator misunderstood what was being communicated and instead chose to interpret it as a narrow focus to apply to his social work.

    • Mr. Fields, in Mr. Simmons opening, he speaks to two kinds of Justice, Retribution and Restoration. Social Justice, in all of its definitions, falls under the category of Restoration. The premise of “redistribution” comes from the very fear-mongering we see in the political arenas were things such as Johnsonism and Replacement Theory rule the day and NOT the biblical principles those who claim to be Christians demonstrate. Mr. Simmons even goes so far as to compare Social Justice to communism (I guess socialism has been overstated as the phrase of the day). Here he is sowing the seeds of dissent and division from a place of fear and an inaccurate associations for those who don’t understand or wish not to understand. Yes, his comments are well thought out and he provides (albeit inaccurate) support for his argument, however slave masters justified slavery with scripture as well. I’m not suggesting Mr. Simmons is aligned with slave masters, simply his argument is alarming.

      “When you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him.” ~Ashanti Proverb

  • The article seems to be written from a position that if others have equality under the law then it must take away from someone the power or position of another group. Asking for equal treatment by police and not being shot does not require that ”particularly minority groups such as Black individuals, women, LGBTQ members, etc.” take away from anyone else. It simply means there is equal treatment. Having equal pay for the same work does not require that any other group be targeted other than the employer not treating the worker fairly. The premise for the article has merit. The explanation is weak and seems to rest on an ideology that is more fearful. It seems to covertly suggest that one has to embrace all liberal political positions in order learn the nature of applying just and equal treatment under the law. It falls back on the capitalist versus communist versus socialist forms of government argument to make an argument about faith. The author in future attempts would be better served to leave political undertones out of the discussion and point out examples where aspects of social justice differ from biblical justice. For some, abortion rights may seem like social justice. It is not biblical justice. That is an issue. It is not representative of the entirety of the difference between biblical and social justice. This author seemingly (and hopefully unintentionally) only speaks to those who possess a status that they are fearful will be diminished if others have greater equality. That is simply living with a priviledged mindset. “If others have more then they just be coming for what I have.” Yes, they want equality and justice too!

  • How far back in an individual’s history should we consider how oppression affects them and what needs to be restored? Are you suggesting it only applies at an individual level (ex. An orphan not having a parent/home and fixing that problem) or does it apply to the family (ex. A parent losing their child due to financial factors that need to be supported to avoid neglect)? Or does it apply to a larger system of how that family was impacted by oppression (ex. Fixing systemic issues in distribution of wealth as it impacts that orphan child)? How does biblical justice apply to factors beyond the level of the individual person affected?

  • Mr. Simmons definition of social justice is categorically false. As others have commented, I too hope that he is not faculty or staff. His opinion is not reflective of Christ, but instead the ultraconservative right wing rhetoric that sows the very seeds of divisiveness he references. His comparison of social justice to communism is the exact fear-mongering we often see in divisive political arenas, where such does NOT reflect a Christ-like walk. A quick google search of the definition of social justice would yield a common definition much different than what he espouses. I would submit that he should re-read the scriptures he quoted and look at his “restorative” justice definition again.

  • Im thinking that responses to this attempt to define the disparagies between Biblical and Social Justice, are not clear. Because Social Justice is not equal with Socialism (see several types in Webster), and neither does it align with the Biblical source of true justice, sourced in and modeled by Jesus Christ himself. The most vital TRUTH, is that in the end, He will judge all people according to their heart motives and actions/ whether self-serving or God-glorifying in nature. Take time to read the Bible, know this God of both loving kindness and just righteousness. Its a matter of Life and Death!

  • First, social justice is coercive, while biblical justice affirms human sovereignty and freedom.

    Second, because it views society in terms of groups that are assessed as either oppressors or victims, social justice ignores individual accountability.

    Third, social justice is racist. Eschewing racism actually means treating race as a non-issue. This attitude says, The color of a person’s skin does not matter!

    Fourth, social justice is divisive because it intentionally pits one group against another. It gives those who are members of the group deemed “victims” a feeling of superiority over members of groups that have been deemed “oppressors”—regardless of whether or not members of these “oppressive groups” are guilty of treating anyone unfairly.

    Fifth, the SJM recognizes rights as government-created and government-manipulated, not as God-given, fixed, and inherent.

    https://www.wordfoundations.com/2019/03/16/five-categories-of-contrast-social-vs-biblical-justice/

  • Where social justice and Biblical justice part ways is when justice is “undertaken from a framework that is not compatible with the Bible, [thereby] hurting the very people we seek to help” (Dr. Thaddeus Williams).

    Within the unbiblical framework of Social Justice ideology, you’ll find liberation theology, wokeism, and critical theory to name a few. You’ll hear terms like “identity politics,” “political correctness,” and others.

    Ideologies that are unbiblical yet make up much of the social justice worldview/ideology today often fall into the “Critical Theory” category. This includes Race Theory, Gender Theory, Queer Theory, Intersectionality, and more.

    In its simplest form, the unbiblical framework comes down to works-based salvation.

    It all comes down to ideology and worldview—the social justice ideology (worldview) versus the Biblical worldview. How do we discern and discover the true gospel?

    1. The Social Justice ideology blames all evil on external systems of oppression while ignoring Scripture’s assertion that all human hearts are filled with sin and evil (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
    2. The Social Justice ideology deconstructs relationships into hierarchies and “power differentials.” Justice then is to expose all hierarchies as evil and do away with all power differentials in the name of equality.
    3. The Social Justice ideology sees all truth and reason in light of group identity (i.e., race, gender, sexuality, etc.). Truth and reason outside group identity are deemed constructs of the oppressive class, thus making views valid, accepted, or dismissed strictly based on one’s skin color, gender, and/or orientation.
    4. Social Justice ideology is motivated by rage and resentment toward specific groups of people.
    5. Social Justice ideology divides people into group identities, breeding a spirit of suspicion, hostility, offense, labeling, victimhood, and obsession with one’s feelings and desires.
    6. The Social Justice ideology seeks to force behavior modification through different tactics such as pressure and intimidation, speech codes (speech that is disagreeable or contrary to the group identity), and a demand to be re-educated ideologically to align with the offended or outraged group.
    7. The Social Justice ideology holds that one’s meaning and purpose is defined by himself/herself, thereby making anyone who differs an oppressor.
    Final Thoughts

    True justice is Biblical justice. Any other ideology and/or worldview will ultimately fail to bring justice and joy to all people, especially to the oppressed. In fact, instead of freedom, comes bondage; instead of justice, comes chaos.

    Compared to the Social Justice ideology/worldview, the Biblical worldview is dignifying, respectable; glorious and beautiful. And powerful. The Biblical worldview ultimately brings the freedom, healing, and flourishing that we long for (Psalm 1; Num. 6:24-26).
    https://www.jarrodjones.com/2020/10/social-justice-vs-biblical-justice-7-ways-to-discern-the-truth/

  • Excellent article and spot on.

    • God bless you for explaing the difference. Some things are not skin issues, but SIN issues. We are to hate evil & cling to what is good. Thankful for those who speak the TRUTH in LOVE, and for those who are SALT and LIGHT. Lord, please help us believe the Truth, and to trust and obey you. Help us turn from our wicked ways. Please forgive us, help us, and heal our land!

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