Editors note: the following book review appears in the Spring 2022 issue of Eikon.
Thaddeus J. Williams. Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask about Social Justice. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020.
Over the past ten years, many neo-Marxist ideas have been smuggled into the church under the cover of the Trojan horse of “social justice.” Of course, Christians should care about justice and walk humbly before God, living righteously in the world (Mic 6:8). Furthermore, we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matt 22:39). But we must be careful to do this with biblical discernment and the “mind of Christ” and not with the methods of the world that oppose God’s Word. This is the crux of the issue and why so much of the church is struggling with “social justice.” Enter Thaddeus Williams’ Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth, which tackles all the major justice issues of the day from a biblical worldview.
Let me say at the outset that this is truly a fantastic book. Williams has probably written the best introductory primer that covers all the major justice issues of the day. With a biblical framework and careful use of logic, he demonstrates how to approach issues of justice with godly discernment. Williams makes an important point when he says that we “take the Bible’s commands to be discerning just as seriously as we take its commands to do justice” (192). The neglect of this point has been the failure of the modern church and is exactly why this book deserves a wide reading amongst evangelicals.
Williams tackles head-on the justice issues of sexuality, intersectionality, critical theory, socialism, identity politics, personal vindication, propaganda, abortion, and racism. And he does so by contrasting what he calls “Side A,” which is the biblical perspective on a justice issue with “Side B,” which is the world’s perspective on a justice issue. For example, take the often used term “systemic injustice.” Williams rightly defines it biblically (Side A) as “any system that either requires or encourages those within the system to break the moral laws God revealed for his creatures’ flourishing” (79). Williams, however, says that the world (Side B) is largely operating with a definition that says systemic racism is any system that produces “disparities of outcome” amongst different groups. “Disparities” on Side B, then, are evidence that “discrimination” exists (80). Williams points out that this “Side B” definition is problematic because it first begs the question by concluding that “systems” are what produce disparities (81). Secondly, he argues that there are actually a number of variables that lead to disparities between groups, including everything from the location you were raised to your birth order amongst your siblings (83). The problem is that the “Side B” definition is divorced from the law of God and produces answers to disparities that are far from accurate. “Systems,” which perceived oppressor groups knowingly or even unknowingly participate in, are attributed with creating the disparities. These inaccurate assumptions are then used as bludgeoning sticks against those in perceived “oppressor” categories. As Williams notes, the normal tactic of progressive Christians in the church is then to “identify overthrowing that system as a ‘gospel issue’ and indict fellow believers for white supremacy or patriarchal oppression if they do not join us in the fight” (81).
Concluding each chapter are fascinating testimonials from someone who has experienced or fought against actual injustice. I particularly appreciated Samuel Sey’s testimony on the issue of systemic injustice. Here is an excerpt of Sey’s testimony:
As a black man, I understand the temptation to ascribe racial disparities to racial discrimination, especially since racism did create vast disparities between black and white Americans through history. But things have changed and, while blaming today’s disparities on ongoing systemic racism may win us the applause of the main stream, it is no longer true or helpful. The Bible teaches me that I shouldn’t compare my blessings with those of my (white) neighbors. It teaches me that accusing white people of racism without evidence is slander. It teaches me that if I am grateful and faithful over the little blessings God gives me, God will bless me further. It teaches me that different trees bear different fruits. Disparities are often evidence of differences, not discrimination. God entrusts people with different blessings or privileges-because he values faithfulness not parity. We should do the same. We’re not instructed to pursue parity. We’re instructed to pursue faithfulness and biblical justice (90).
There is so much more that I could commend in this book. The appendix chapter critiquing socialism, for example, is outstanding. I have a few minor quibbles with one of the appendices on engaging in the “culture war,” because I think Williams makes some category errors between the mission of the church and the mission of individual Christians. Individual Christians should fight to reverse unjust laws and that often means confronting people who have turned their back on God. The Psalms are replete with examples of places where David identified his enemies as “evil men” who stood “opposed to Yahweh.” We should not be afraid to do the same. Of course, we should not compromise our integrity or take vengeance ourselves, but the culture war has found us and, regrettably, for most Christians there is no avoiding it. This, however, is a minor disagreement in an ocean of truth that Williams has presented. When members of my congregation ask for a book regarding biblical justice, I will heartily recommend this one.
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