Salem Books, 2021.
We must flee from the woke gospel:
A number of books have appeared recently offering a critique of the religious left, progressive Christianity, and the Social Justice gospel. I happen to have around 20 of them, and this is one of the best of the lot. As the subtitle explains: “How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel – and the Way to Stop It.”
I and others have often noticed the connection between a famous book of 98 years ago and the modern leftist gospels of today. So has Strachan. I refer to J. Gresham Machen and his 1923 volume, Christianity and Liberalism. In it he boldly and correctly stated that liberal theology is not a different gospel but a false gospel. The same today:
Like liberal Protestantism, which denied the historic truthfulness of the faith, supernatural miracles, and a sin-cleansing atonement for individual sinners, wokeness is not merely a different form of Christianity, a remixed version that fits fluidly with conservative evangelical faith. Built on Critical Race Theory (CRT), wokeness uses theological language and even the very system of Christian theology, albeit without any need for grace and God. Wokeness per Machen is thus in a “distinct category” from sound biblical doctrine. Wokeness, in the clearest terms, is not Christianity at all.
Lest people think that might be over the top, he goes on to clarify just what he means. He offers 15 points on “what wokeness is not.” These include things such as:
-concern for racial harmony and reconciliation
-admitting past American failures in these areas
-seeking genuine justice and fairness in society
-wanting to be a peacemaker
-celebrating Gospel-centred unity amid diversity
That is, Christians of a less radical and leftist persuasion also care greatly about these matters, but they realise that both the analyses of the problems and the solutions offered by the woke gospellers are fully inadequate, unbiblical, and counterproductive.
Indeed, one simply needs to ask about the origins of all these leftist agenda items such as wokeness, intersectionality, identity politics, political correctness, critical theory, and cancel culture. A straight line can be traced back to Marx and Engels. Because of its Marxist roots, wokeness is inherently at odds with biblical Christianity.
While Christianity divides mankind into the saved and unsaved, Marxism divides it into oppressors and the oppressed. Christianity finds evil in every human heart – sin is the real problem that must be dealt with. Classical Marxism and cultural Marxism see evil in the West, in whites, in capitalism, and in oppressive social institutions. To overcome evil then means to wage war against the West, whites, and so on. Says Strachan:
Critical Theory would adapt Marx’s categories and critiques in the mid-twentieth century. It applied the Marxist grid not solely to considerations of class, but also to anthropology more broadly. As Marx maintained, everyone is either oppressor or an oppressed person. The Frankfurt Critical Theorists like Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer argued that bourgeois institutions mediated the oppression in question. People outside of the cultural mainstream came off as essentially righteous in their struggle against cultural norms. In essential terms, minority groups gained favored status during this time.
And far too many Christians have latched onto Critical Race Theory as if it were gospel truth. The idea that all whites are inherently racist and all non-whites are inherently the victims of racism makes for nice leftist sloganeering, but it has nothing to do with the biblical narrative:
The sins of “white supremacy,” ethnocentrism, and “racism” should be repented of. There are indeed people who commit these sins; all of us stumble in many ways. But to convict all “white” people of such wrongdoing is wrong and unbiblical. Doing so is nothing less than the sin of bearing false witness or false accusation against a fellow image-bearer (Exodus 10:16; Matthew 15:19). The CRT diagnosis is a radical reframing of man’s chief problem. It changes our fundamental condition from one of individually willed sin to one of inherently racist “whiteness,” which makes horizontal transgression against men of greater import than vertical transgression against God.
The bizarre thing about CRT in particular and wokeness in general is you end up doing the very thing you have been denouncing: you become racists as you oppose racism. When all non-whites become the good guys, and all whites become the bad guys, that is nothing other than racism.
How can any Christian support this? We believe that all people are equal and all are made in God’s image. We are warned in Scripture against showing partiality to others. And in Christ there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, black nor white. Strachan writes:
We must reject the false vision of monolithic “whiteness” urged upon us in schools, colleges, seminaries, congregations, businesses, and other organizations today. We should reject the mindset of judgmentalism and hatred so often practiced in our milieu. “White” people are not a different form of humanity. They are not better than anyone else nor are they worse than anyone else. Every “white” person is born in sin, benefits from God’s common grace in untold ways, needs Jesus infinitely, and can become a born-again believer. There is no special wickedness in “whiteness.” To treat people as if there is based on their skin color and their community is, as stated above, “racist.” It is, more technically, partiality.
And Christians should have nothing to do with the victimisation culture either: “Scripture does not encourage us to think of ourselves as victims but as criminals fully complicit in Adam’s rebellion and deserving of eternal judgment as a result. Furthermore, whatever groups we may belong to by way of background, we must say two truths:
1. Nothing comes above our identity in Christ.
2. We are not called to a life of grievance, victimhood, and anger, but are instead freed from such a life.”
Christians need not be woke to fully care about and have workable solutions for the various social and cultural problems we are facing, be it racism, oppression, or injustice of any sort. Indeed, the Scriptures have long provided us with all that we need to deal with these matters. And this differs radically from the woke gospel:
The Gospel announces forgiveness and resulting innocence; wokeness announces guilt and unending condemnation. God’s good news is the ministry of freedom; wokeness is the ministry of imprisonment….
This is why we need the Gospel: because ungodly systems like wokeness seek to take us captive. They even seek to take the Gospel itself captive. But God speaks a better word. The Gospel does not condemn you as a “white” person for having “white” skin….
Our skin color is not a barrier to the kingdom; praise God, Jesus has died for people of every color, every background, and every group.
Since faulty ideas of justice, and especially “social justice” are often held by those pushing the woke gospel, Strachan deals with these matters as well. Consider just one particular aspect of this: calls for reparations. He writes:
Only when we understand divine justice will we rightly frame earthly justice, and thus avoid utopian versions of it that in truth yield no justice at all. Proposals for reparations, we note here, actually yield no justice at all in the end, for the people who suffered in the past days see no satisfaction from them, and people living today must thus chip in to pay for crimes they did not commit. Here we see that much of what is called “justice” today is actually injustice and does not do anything to make wrongs right.
In a closing chapter Strachan looks at nine ways in which wokeness has negative spiritual effects on the believer. Wokeness:
-divides us from others
-causes us to despise others
-leads us to condemn others in pride
-robs us of joyful peace
-directs us away from the Gospel
-makes us bitter
-makes moving on from wrongs very hard
–veil’s God providence
–makes man big and God small
As mentioned, the new woke gospel is not another version of the biblical gospel but is a false gospel altogether. All believers should work toward things like social harmony, true justice, improved human relations, and so on. But this should be done God’s way, otherwise it will just be another failed utopian social experiment, with all the negative outcomes that flow from that.
Strachan is to be praised for bringing us back to where we always should be: back to God and his Word, and not relying on trendy lefty social theories and ideologies that always fail and cause more harm than good.