The Long History Behind Evangelical Opposition to Social Justice

In recent years, conversations around social justice and “wokeness” have dominated the public discourse both inside and outside the church, with any number of conservative figures voicing their strong opposition to examining systems of racial or economic inequality. For many evangelicals, this opposition has even emerged as a theological distinctive used to identify who is “one of us.”

However, a close observer of the history of American evangelicalism will note that this division over justice is not new. In fact, when it comes to the question of social justice, evangelicals have debated with, and divided from, each other for at least a hundred years.

On this episode of the podcast, we dive into the more than a century long history that has led to the current “war on woke” within evangelicalism today. Beginning with the Modernist-Fundamentalist controversy, we explore how the Social Gospel movement came to be associated with theological liberalism, how the rise of dispensational theology led to apathy about justice, and why the racial reconciliation movement has seemed to falter in recent years.

We also discuss how we can engage issues of justice in a manner that keeps us from falling prey to the same mistakes—and, in some cases, outright sins—of those who came before us.

RELATED RESOURCES

READ: Ancient Wisdom on the Debate Between ‘Social Justice’ and ‘Biblical Justice’
READ: 5 Reasons Every Christian Should Care About Social Justice
READ: Colorblindness and the Persistence of White Supremacist Theology
LISTEN: Rapture Anxiety

REFERENCED IN THIS EPISODE

What Do Evangelicals Believe About Social Justice?: A Brief History” by Dale Chamberlain
The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism” by Carl F.H Henry
The Bible Told Them So: How Southern Evangelicals Fought to Preserve White Supremacy” by J. Russell Hawkins
New 2020 Statistics on Multiracial Churches” by Multiethnic.Church

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