The SBC on Biblical Justice

In light of all the discussion on justice, I came across this SBC document that lays out clearly biblical justice. This stands as one of the best statements on the matter.

WHEREAS, God is holy, righteous, and just, and He requires His image bearers to live consistent with His character and to pursue the reflection of His character in every sphere of creation; and

WHEREAS, Scripture declares God’s purposes for creative and redemptive acts are that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord’s glory, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14) and that “justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream” (Amos 5:24); and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message states that we should live under the Lordship of Christ in our individual lives and in human society, trust the transforming power of the gospel as the primary means of implementing justice and affecting social change, and work to care for those who are hurting and are in need (Article XV); and

WHEREAS, We live in a world with urgent social, cultural, and economic challenges, and in our society, people of goodwill possess commendable desires to ease the impact of injustice and oppression so that all people may prosper; and

WHEREAS, We recognize that in the face of these pressing issues, people—even Christians—have adopted ideological solutions that address these challenges in ways not fitting with God’s creative order and the redemptive hope found in the gospel, and consequently, social problems are addressed in ways that are antithetical to the Christian faith; and

WHEREAS, Scripture provides humanity the hope of freedom from all kinds of oppressive and unjust entanglements and idolatries, which are ultimately derived from the pervasive impact of sin in every spectrum of society that prevents people from experiencing the glory of being made in God’s image and adhering to their full dignity in cultural, economic, social, and political spheres; and

WHEREAS, The gospel is the good news of God’s redemptive work to reconcile and restore a people for His own possession (Titus 2:12–14; 1 Peter 2:9–10) and reconcile all things to Himself (2
Corinthians 5:18; Ephesians 1:9–10; 2:14–16; Colossians 1:19–20) and to ultimately free creation from its groaning and subjection to sin (Romans 8:19); and

WHEREAS, Scripture states God requires of His people “to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly” (Micah 6:8) and directs all Christians to function as salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13–16, 40–42; 17:24–27; 22:21); and

WHEREAS, Scripture contains examples of spiritual leaders addressing injustices in the world, such as Amos, who confronted social injustices (Amos 5), and Paul, who insisted on justice from civil authorities (Acts 16:35–39); and

WHEREAS, Biblically unfaithful pursuits of justice notwithstanding, Christians should maintain an attitude of compassion toward the tragic and pressing problems in our society that cause real pain and prevent human flourishing; and

WHEREAS, Our witness to the truth of the gospel includes obedience to Christ demonstrated in giving our lives to evangelize the lost around the world and in becoming involved with the struggles of our neighbors as well as our believing brothers and sisters (Genesis 18:19; 1 Peter 2:11-12); now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, June 11–12, 2019, commit ourselves to be holy as our Father in heaven is holy (Leviticus 11:45; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we pray for the glory of God to fill the earth and for justice to be an overflowing stream for all people; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we grieve the reality of brokenness, resulting from sin, that is present throughout our world and subjects God’s image bearers to oppression and injustice, resulting in pain and burdens that inhibit human flourishing; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we reject solutions for social brokenness that depend upon ideas that are antithetical to the Christian faith, for they ignore the lasting transformation only found in the gospel; and be it further

RESOLVED, That in light of the urgent needs in our world, we commit to address injustices through gospel proclamation, by advocating for people who are oppressed and face wrongs against them, acting justly in our own dealings, and by insisting that spheres of society should operate according to “principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love” (The Baptist Faith and Message, Article XV); and be it further

RESOLVED, That with love and compassion, we address people who have been negatively impacted by oppressive realities, and that this love and compassion lead us to apply the sufficiency and fullness of the gospel message to their situation; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That our concern for the needs and aspirations of humanity—expressed in their joys and their hopes, their pains and their struggles—is rooted in the truth of the gospel and in our hope that through our love for others, they too may receive the gospel and share in the joy of salvation.

This is certainly a starting point that keeps the gospel at the center.

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“1922” by Stephen King: A Review

Image result for 1922 book

In the end we are all caught in devices of our own making.

I have never read a Stephen King novel. Admittedly, my history of reading fiction is improving but still poor. It wasn’t until a few years ago I decided to read more fiction and that was limited to the classics. Over the last year or so, I have agreed to engage modern fiction in a pastoral effort to better understand the world I live in. CS Lewis (I think it was him) rightly noted that through fiction, the reader will have lived many lives.

King is no doubt one of the most read novelists of our time. Within the horror genre he certainly stands at the top. I would suspect that the majority of his works have been translated into film, television, or mini-series. After recently watching the 1922 film, I felt it best to take the Stephen King dive.

For those interested, the film mirrors the book in ways I am not sure I have seen before. We all know and expect films to take liberties with the source material, but this film largely avoids those tendencies.

Regarding the story, it is an engaging narrative that explores retribution. The “hero” of the story is actually the villain. He convinces his son to join him in murdering his wife. Wilf, a farmer who’s wife wants to leave behind the land and embrace the city, kills her when she threatens to sell her share of the land (which she inherited from her father). The beauty of the story is not just what happens before, during, and after the execution, but the soul of the man behind the story.

King wisely tells the story through the perspective of the father. He is, in fact, the narrator of the story. Everything is seen through his eyes. He is writing, strikingly enough, from the city he killed to avoid years after the dirty deed. He is clearly remorseful but far from grasping repentance (King explores some of Wilf’s poor theology throughout the book). So before the story really begins, we know what will become of his wife.

Wilf justifies his actions by bifurcating his personality. There is the real Wilf – the husband, father, and farmer who enjoys his life in the country working the farm. There is also what he calls the Conniving Man who often takes over. The narrator, Wilf himself, often explores the Conniving Man – his thoughts, feelings, and actions – from a distance as if to suggest that he is not him.

This bifurcation haunts Wilf. From the time the seed of hate and murder entered his heart, concocting the Conniving Man may have been a convenient way to justify his actions, but it never brought peace. As the days and years pass, Wilf is literally haunted by his late wife either through the imagery of rats which desecrate his property or through literal visions of his deceased spouse.

Not only is he haunted by his murder, his innocent son adopts a life of crime. In light of his mother’s death (which his father connived him into helping him with), Henry, Wilf’s son, finds comfort in the arms of his girlfriend. They eventually discover she is pregnant. Unwilling to lose the only female influence in his life, Hank kidnaps her from a home for pregnant teenagers and they adopt a Bonnie and Clyde lifestyle. The two die as a result of their lifestyle leaving Wilf with neither a wife to love or a son who will inherit all his work.

That is how Wilf finds himself in the city. His land is worthless. His life is worthless. As the years pass, the burden of his crime continues to define him.

King has authored a compelling story that keeps the readers attention. If his other novels are this good, I might read some more. Regardless, King explores theology because this is a theological story. Man’s justification of his wickedness is not new, but is as old as Adam blaming Eve. The Conniving Man convinces Wilf that murder is the best and easiest route. All his troubles (his wife) will magically fade if only he kills her. The problem can be solved.

It isn’t until Wilf discovers that the Conniving Man is his real enemy does the process of remorse truly begin. The Conniving Man has a weird eschatology and even suggests to Hank that murder opens the gates of heaven to the murdered. Once Wilf discovers that he is the Conniving Man can he begin down the road of redemption. Yet that is the catch. There is no redemption in this story, only condemnation. Having rejected the gospel, the faith of his son prior to the murder, he surrenders to the pain and the consequences. In an effort to be free, Wilf sinks deeper into isolation, envy, and pain.

Jesus alone is the Savior Wilf needs. But I am afraid that Wilf is too blind to see him. There are many Wilf’s. Maybe you are one too.


image credit

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