In a polarized age, even ideas that used to be held in common can become flash points of distraction and disagreement. Chief among those new areas of division in our own era is the topic of justice. Justice is a theme on which the Bible has much to say, and yet friends—who love the Bible equally and are passionate in its application to all areas of life—disagree with such vitriol about the subject that I wonder what really is informing their opinions. Is it actually true that large swaths of the American church are infected with cultural Marxism? Have denominational leaders, indeed, sold their souls to shadowy figures who operate behind the scenes? Some believe so. Or perhaps the “compassionate conservatism” of the early years of our century has given way to racist and classist political ideology, which has turned the church away from its mandate to care for “the least of these”? Some would point to our current political and cultural climate as evidence for that shift.
As our editors and senior staff have wrestled with this issue, we believe that something more fundamental is playing out on the national stage. Politics is downstream of theology. How we act is in some way a reflection of what we believe; and when it comes to justice, we have misunderstood key components of the Bible’s teaching. So, in this issue of Modern Reformation, we want to go back to basics. We believe that beneath the sloganeering of social media, there is real confusion over what the Bible says about justice and our responsibility as Christians—and ultimately God’s plan for the world.
To help chart a new way forward, we asked one of our regular contributors, Zach Keele (pastor of Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church), to trace the theme of justice as it is developed throughout the Old and New Testaments. We need to know how the Bible speaks about justice before we can begin to apply that teaching to our own day.
Next, our editor-in-chief, Michael Horton, asks an important theological question: Is justice a law issue or a gospel issue, and why does it matter? Too much of the current conversation about justice misses important theological categories that might help us prevent misunderstanding and misapplication.
Finally, John Nunes, president of Concordia College New York, returns to our pages for the first time in nearly fifteen years to help us think about our pursuit of justice in light of the in-between nature of this life. Dr. Nunes argues that even though we cannot effect final justice, we are called to a pursuit of “contributive justice”: the good of our neighbor for the glory of God.
I expect that this issue will provoke some feedback. As you wrestle through the topics presented and the arguments made, feel free to connect with us at email@example.com. We’ll feature your thoughtful letters and questions in the next issue and, as appropriate, ask our authors to respond.
Eric Landry editorial director