Thaddeus Williams: Is Social Justice Biblical?

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This is a podcast episode titled, Thaddeus Williams: Is Social Justice Biblical?. The summary for this episode is: <p>Do we have to choose between biblical truth and social justice? Today on Truth Over Tribe, Thaddeus Williams joins the show to share why you can choose both. Thaddeus is an Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and author of the book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth. In this episode, he challenges both truth warriors who ignore past and present injustices, as well as justice warriors who have left behind the truth for relativism. He expands on how it's possible for Christians to choose both truth and justice, leaving us with insight into how to promote unity. Tune in now!</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Ok, truth time... Did you like this episode?</strong> Tell us by leaving a rating or review! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 If you did, you won't want to miss what's next (so subscribe now!). And help a friend by sharing this with them. Thank you! πŸ™</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Plus, the conversation is just beginning! </strong>Follow us on <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Facebook</a>, and <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Instagram</a> to join in on the dialogue! <strong>Want to learn more about Truth Over Tribe?</strong> Visit our <a href=";utm_source=Show%20Notes%20" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">website</a> and subscribe to our weekly <a href=";utm_source=Show%20Notes%20-%20website" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">newsletter</a>.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Resources:</strong></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice</a></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Subscribe To Our Blog</a></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">How Tribal Are You?</a></p>
Thaddeus on the polity of truth and justice warriors
03:00 MIN
Finding religious structures in non-traditional places
02:35 MIN
The John Jacques Rousseau influence
04:59 MIN
Thaddeus' thoughts on the need for Christians to care about social justice
02:21 MIN
Living in a memefide reality
03:23 MIN
What is the most important thing for followers of Jesus to be doing to promote unity?
03:40 MIN

Patrick Miller: Are you tired of tribalism?

Speaker 2: I think a lot of what the left supports is satanic.

Speaker 3: The only time religious freedom is evoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.

Patrick Miller: Are you exhausted by the culture war?

Speaker 4: If they don't like it here, they can leave.

Speaker 5: You could put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.

Patrick Miller: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?

Speaker 6: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican Party? And the answer is absolutely not.

Speaker 7: From certainly a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote democratic.

Patrick Miller: We trust the lamb, not the donkey or the elephant. This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives, and too conservative for liberals. I'm Patrick Miller.

Keith Simon: And I'm Keith Simon and we choose truth over tribe. Do you?

Patrick Miller: The devil always sends his errors in pairs into the world. Pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is worse. You see why of course. He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. That was a quote from C. S. Lewis. Not about today, but about the UK 70 years ago. And yet of course it is true today. In Christian circles there seems to be two opposing factions warring against each other right now. On the one side are the truth warriors who take down critical race theory, dismantle progressivism in the church and dunk on the trans community for their irrationality. On the other side of Christian circles there are the justice warriors. They're calling out racism and systemic racism within the white church. They're advocating for inclusive environments that embrace trans identify and they're calling out all of the phobias endemic to evangelicalism. And then, of course, there's the rest of us. And we wonder, do we have to choose between truth and justice? And if truth is devoid of justice, is it really true? And if justice is devoid of truth, is it really just? C. S. Lewis got it right. When you have two errors battling against each other, everyone can see the problem on one side, but they are often blind to the problems on their own side. In Thaddeus Williams book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth, he refuses to make the fool's choice. He won't pick between truth or justice. No, he follows Jesus and he says we have to pick both. His book issues challenges to the truth warriors who ignore obvious injustices both past and present. But it also challenges the justice warriors who have left behind the truth for relativism. And it caused us to become truth and justice, not warriors, but truth and justice peacemakers in the name of Jesus. Thaddeus teaches theology at Biola and he's also an up- and- coming cultural commentary on the issues that are dividing us today. He's also just a really fun guy to talk to. I think you'll pick that up in the interview, so let's get to it. I really sincerely enjoyed your book. I gave a lot of copies to people because I thought it was speaking directly to our moment. And so, I do want to start by talking about where we're at culturally right now in 2021. It seems to me, and you can disagree with this, that we have a lot of justice warriors out there and we have a lot of truth warriors out there. But there seems to be a posity of truth and justice warriors. People who are concerned with both. What do you think?

Thaddeus Williams: Sure. Well, I staunchly disagree with your premise. It teeters on the edge damnable heresy. No, I'm just kidding. I would say to the first half of that equation, justice warriors who truth takes a back seat to the pursuit of justice. My sort of working theory on that as a child of the'90s, is that the'90s were so relativistic, so anything goes. Britney Spears were not that innocent. Seinfeld had the famous punchline over and over again, not that there's anything wrong with that. Nirvana had the breakout hit, Come As You Are. And it was very much, the only sin in the'90s was calling anything sin. And the problem with that extreme form of relativism is it just doesn't jive with human nature. It doesn't fit our design. We're created to be part of the moral drama. We're created to live out virtues that transcend us. And we were really stripped of that in the western world there for a good long time. And it's sort of like a beach ball that you can try to push it, you can try to suppress it, but it's just going to pop up eventually. That's my read on what's happening on that side of the equation.

Patrick Miller: So you're saying that we never recovered from that? That you and I, millennials, people who grew up during the'90s era, we're still living in a Britney Spears' world view mindset? Not that innocent. Everything's okay. Is there any turning back from that?

Thaddeus Williams: I'm saying that there's a definitive shift from the'90s where we've gone from an anything goes zeitgeist, the spirit of the age with anything goes to what we're experiencing now which is the opposite. We have become extremely judgmental as a society to the point where now with a little help from a glowing box in our hand we can sit in an air conditioned coffee shop and a few swipes of the thumb we can judge 1, 000 strangers in three minutes. And so now every line is scrutinized and excavated for its hidden white supremacy, it's hidden patriarchal oppression, it's hidden homophobia, it's hidden fill in the blank. And so what I'm saying is not that we're still in the'90s in terms of anything goes. But that, that era was so suppressive of our god- given need to be part of a moral drama, it was suppressed for so long that now we're witnessing the backlash of the'90s with the very people who 25 years ago would have said, " Hey, anything goes," are now saying, " Nothing goes and we will shut you up if you don't agree with our orthodoxing.

Patrick Miller: That's a really interesting approach. It feels like a pendulum swing. You've got baby boomers who are more of the moralistic type, then you've got Gen- Xers and the'90s were very much so a product of Gen- X which like you said is anything goes. And now it's almost like we're seeing the pendulum come back but it's not this traditional, religious morality. It's what we're talking about. It's this notion of justice and equity and identity. And these are all the things by which I can determine whether someone's good or evil, right or wrong.

Thaddeus Williams: It actually is religious if you really stop and think about it. There's been a lot of good work done on this by Andrew Sullivan and John McWhorter and inaudible. None of whom are Christian by the way. But they're recognizing that maybe making the point I was saying two minutes ago in different categories would be the'90s suppressed religiosity. Our desire for something bigger than ourselves because it just said, " Well, follow your heart. Be true to yourself." To quote David Foster Wallace the great post- modern novelist. He said, " We're all now kings and queens of our tiny skull- sized kingdoms." So the'90s really he nailed it, right? It trapped us in our little skull- sized kingdoms. And I would say that now 2020s are people trying to break out of those and change the world out there. So it really is a religion. A lot of the social justice movement, not all of it, but a lot of it is a religion that is a response to the suppression of our religious instincts for a good 20 years so that now you have a set of dogmas, you have a clergy, you have a canon, you have what you're allowed to say, what you aren't. All these cultural liturgies that in Paul's language in Romans one just aren't centered on creator worship but some form of creation worship.

Patrick Miller: Now obviously you're making an assessment of the movement. I think people within the movement would not see it for the most part as being religious. There was a interesting study that came out called Hidden Tribes and one of the things that stands out about progressive activists in particular is their irreligiosity, they pray less, they are not a part of congregations. And so you're looking at it though and saying, no, that the social structures here, these are religious structures. These are how people within religious communities have always acted. And whether or not you want to call it religious, there's something deeply religious about it. I just have to say it's a really interesting theory. So we lost truth, we lost religion and now we're finding them again but not in the traditional places that we've found them in the past.

Thaddeus Williams: Yeah. That's exactly right. Think of like under Stalin's rule, they started under Stalin what was called... This one's a real thing. It blew my mind when I found it in my research. But there was a group in Soviet Russia called the League of Militant Atheists. That was a real thing. The League of Militant Atheists, it's like some super hero squad that inaudible.

Patrick Miller: What were their super powers?

Thaddeus Williams: The power of growing a ponytail and trolling people online.

Patrick Miller: That's good.

Thaddeus Williams: And I love atheists, I have many atheist friends. I taught atheists at a secular college for nine years so obviously I'm being tongue and cheek here. But under Stalin's rule, the League of Militant Atheists if you were to ask them they would say they're rejecting God. In reality what happened was Stalin became their functional deity. Like G. K. Chesterton said, once you abolish God, the government becomes God. And so this is... Just approaching the whole question biblically in Romans one, Paul doesn't really have a category for atheism. He says we're all worshipers. We're all on our knees to something or someone, it might be the creator, or it might be the creation but non worship just isn't a biblical option. In other words there are no true to the core atheists and I could say that having taught atheists for years and years, I never met a true to the core atheist, they either worshiped a romantic partner, a political ideology, science with a capital S. So that sort of levels the playing field in the sense that everybody has some deity that we're bowing to, and that's going to shape our approach to justice.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. So what do you think the modern social justice movement? What are they tempted to turn into idols?

Thaddeus Williams: Sure, I would say the biggest one is the idle of self, Self with a capital S. And you see this, the research bears it out that it's 82% of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, 82% believe that the chief end of man, to borrow some language from the Westminster Catechism is to glorify and enjoy yourself forever. The way the statement was actually phrased in this particular study was that is the meaning of life to fulfill your personal pleasures and desires. 82% said, " Yep, that's the point," chief end of man. 84% said to live the happy life, to achieve your happiness, do what you want, do what you want. And then I think it was north of 88% who said, " To find that true happiness, you look within." That's massive. I mean, there's all these studies out there that maybe Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. I think this sort of cult of self is the fastest growing religion in the world. And so the way that gets fused with social justice-

Patrick Miller: Yeah, that's what I was going to ask is it seems like those things are hard to integrate. I mean, just a second ago, you're saying, " Hey, now all of a sudden we're looking out into the world and saying, I want to change the world. I'm not a relativist. I do care about things out there." But yeah, integrate that with and I only care about myself, not I only care about myself, I care about self fulfillment, and living out my internal aspirations, being true to me.

Thaddeus Williams: Good question. So think of it this way. If I were to say, " Hey Patrick, I'm a theist, I believe in God, I believe in the God of the Bible. I just don't believe he's a trinity or I don't believe he's good or I don't believe He's sovereign." You would scratch your head and say, " What have you been smoking," that's sort of not an option. If you aren't believing in God as He's revealed himself, you aren't believing in the God who actually exists, you're, you're trying to erase his existence. So follow me on this, if we in the 21st century have bought into this, I get to define my own reality mindset. Functionally what I'm doing is playing God, I'm becoming my own deity. I define meaning and mystery of my own existence in the words of Chief Justice Kennedy in the'92 Planned Parenthood case, I get to define the meaning and mystery of my own existence. So if I'm a functional deity and you rejects how I define myself, then you're trying to erase my existence. Does that make sense?

Patrick Miller: Yeah.

Thaddeus Williams: So if I'm sort of playing God here, and you have a worldview that questions my sovereign authority, my autonomy, my ability to define myself, then you are trying to erase me. And so now it becomes a justice issue to silence anybody who would question my sovereignly chosen identity. That's the connection point right there, and one of the big gaps between what the Bible calls justice and what often today is being called justice. Real quick because your original question was so good. You asked what are the idols behind a lot today's justice movements. And I said, number one, you have the idol of self but here's the problem is that demands to create my own identity, and then sustain that identity over time. Man, that's an impossible wait, that is an impossible wait. No creature can bear that because it's a creator- sized task. And so as I'm trying to create and sustain my identity over time, eventually I start to buckle under that weight. So that leads to a second idol that often crops up under today's justice movements, which is the idle of state, if I don't believe in God, if I don't believe in a transcendent, then I look to the next biggest thing I can imagine, which is the government and law and public policy to endorse and celebrate myself chosen identity, to help offset some of that crushing weight. And so this is G. K. Chesterton's famous insight that once you abolish God, the government becomes God. If there isn't a God out there to justify me, to declare me not guilty then I turn to the next biggest thing I can imagine, I push for legislation that's going to endorse and celebrate my self chosen identity. So I'd say those are the two biggest idols that I see cropping up in the justice movement today. Again, not all of the movement, but significant swathes of it, the false gods of self and state. And then just real briefly, when the church gets mixed up in this, it tends to fall for a third idol of social acceptance, which is, man we don't want to be called bigots. We don't want to be called phobics, we don't want to be called haters. This seems to be in every Super Bowl ad, it seems to be in every SNL episode, it seems to be coming from the government, it's in my news feed. I don't want to be on quote in the wrong side of history. So to avoid the name calling and the stigma, I'm going to sort of drift along with the trends.

Patrick Miller: And it's really interesting to me, because phobia really is the only kind of internalized sin that we're willing to recognize. It's this maladjusted self who can't accept other people. But other than that, we really have no category for sin. It's interesting to me as you're comparing this to Lenin and what happened in the USSR. But I think there's another analogy which is 1789 in the French Revolution in the influence of people like John Jacques Rousseau. And one of the things that is really interesting about him is in his little memoir that he does about himself, he has a story about stealing asparagus, which is clearly supposed to parallel St. Augustine's story about stealing pears. But whereas Augustine draws the conclusion, " I stole these pears because I am sinful, there's something wrong with me. I have a problem that needs to be addressed." Rousseau goes the exact opposite direction and says the problem was that I wasn't true to myself, I was pressured by these other people into making this bad decision. And he sees it as a state job to free people to be true to their inner nature, and to actualize themselves as they really are. And so it's fascinating because this stuff is not brand new, we can go back to again 1789 and even earlier and find analogies to it all.

Thaddeus Williams: That's so good. So yeah, Augustine stealing pears, recognizes the biblical insight, his heart's depraved, he needs a redeemer. Rousseau, I mean who steals asparagus?

Patrick Miller: I love asparagus. Although if I had to choose between the two, I might choose the pears.

Thaddeus Williams: Yeah, I have no idea but thank you for enlightening that Rousseau was a asparagus klepto. Think of it like this, Rousseau, you're right, his worldview he rules the world from the grave in a lot of ways. And one of those ways is his dogma really is what it is that there's the noble savage in our pure states free from civilization. We are essentially good, it's the systems, we can blame all evil on the systems that should be ringing a bell for our listeners that all the problems are external that, that is... You can see a lot of today's quote unquote social justice movements have just torn a page straight out of Rousseau here. Well here's the fascinating thing is fast forward from Rousseau in the 1790s and the French Revolution to Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh's buddy. They're painting pals and Gauguin loves his Rousseau, and he's living in Europe which is something we hear about today in western culture is the source of all evil and oppression and suffering and so he buys into this idea I need to be the noble savage. And so he effectively abandons his family, abandons his painting career in France and flies out to Tahiti. Maybe that was before flight, maybe he catches the slow boat, I want to, for the fact checkers out there he ends up-

Patrick Miller: Metaphorically flies.

Thaddeus Williams: He metaphorically flies, it is a flight from western culture. And he ends up there expecting, these Tahitians man they get it, they're the noble savages, they haven't been tainted by all this systemic oppression. He gets there and finds that it's hardly the Eden that he expected it to be, it's hardly the utopia, that a utopia, the good place he expected it to be. He finds disease is rampant, STDs are rampant, corrupt politicians are rampant and so Gauguin actually sets off on a hike into the hills of Tahiti and drinks poison to kill himself. Thankfully, he survives and descended the mountain and got some medical help and ended up painting my favorite painting of his which is where we come from, who are we, where are we going? It's a massive, beautiful canvas. But the reason I'm telling that story isn't to flex that like, " I know stuff about Gauguin." But I think in Gauguin I have a section in the book called we're all Gauguin's now because There's a whole generation now that has bought into the same doctrine of Rousseau, that I don't need to do the hard thing and look in the mirror and take my sin to the cross. I don't need to repent, I don't need the sanctifying heart transforming work of the Holy Spirit, I just need to go out and fight the systems so that we can all become noble savages. The problem is all the systems out there. And don't get me wrong, there are sinful systems, we can talk about that later if you want. But I think we're setting up an entire generation for that Gauguin realization, that disillusionment that even if you were to change all those systems, you haven't changed the fundamental twistedness, brokenness, depravity and sin in the human heart. That's a helpful light I think to look at a lot of this is-

Patrick Miller: Well, and it's probably not incidental that we are going through the most precipitous rise in anxiety and depression disorders in American history. I mean, since it's been recorded, and in particular among people in that 18 to 29- year- old and even slightly above that range. And I think goes back to what you're saying, when we turn the self into an idol and we put that creator pressure onto ourself to make myself. What else can it create, but terrible anxiety, when we start trusting the state to be God, to come up with a program that can solve all the problems and it will fail? I think about myself back in 2008, it was my first election I voted in and I was a huge Obama fan, he came to speak at my university. And I really thought he's going to change the world, he's not going to keep bombing Iraq, he's not going to keep murdering people, he's not going to be on the side of these big Wall Street companies that just got this wild bailout while the rest of us suffer. He's going to solve the homeless problem I see on Columbia Street every single day and I care about and then it didn't happen.

Thaddeus Williams: Open change, right? Those were the slogans, open change.

Patrick Miller: And I bought in and my point isn't that we shouldn't want hope and that we shouldn't want change, my point is that if you put your hope in those things, if you turn them into idols, they will crush you in the end, and the only end result is what happened to Gauguin is this moment of anxiety, depression, and hopefully not suicide that's the extreme. But these things aren't incidental, it's not an accident that we're in this moment, culturally. And also, we're having all of these psychological disorders rise.

Thaddeus Williams: Yeah, which to your question a minute ago, how does this stuff pop up on the right. So in the book I talk about a guy named Christian Picciolini who was born and raised in the streets of Chicago, and he felt everything you were just describing. He felt the disillusionments, anxiety, anger, the state of the world. And he was lonesome and sad and essentially along comes the Chicago area skinheads and says, " You want to purpose bigger than yourself? Here's one, white supremacy, neo- Nazism. Are you lonely? You need a community? You need to belong? Well join our neo- Nazi club and you'll have brothers who will die for you, and you have brothers worth dying for, you have a cause bigger than yourself, you have community that can rally around you for that bigger cause." And so he gets sucked in and in a short period of time becomes one of the chief recruiters, he climbs the ranks pretty quick in the Chicago Area SkinHeads and I tell this story in the book that by the grace of God eventually was set free from the psychosis of white supremacy and neo- Nazism. And now he runs a organization slash ministry to help draw other people out of that ideology of hate. But you can see that in so many ways that we could easily fill two hours talking about the far left and the far right are mirror images of each other.

Patrick Miller: Well, and you think about white supremacy, that's exactly what it is. It is this affirmation of who you are that you take a young white male who's been told by culture, by virtue of your skin color and your gender you are functionally part of the problem. And any other group of people who come along and say, " No, the you inside of you is wonderful and great. And you know what the problem is? It's all the stuff out there, and we're going to do something about..." I mean, it's bizarre when you start putting the comparisons next to each other. I hear people say, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between David Duke and some of these really far left thinkers and at times, I'm like, " Yeah, I have to agree." No, I'm not saying that they're the same because they're not but we do have to address it. I'm curious on the right end, what I hear and what I have heard a lot of Christians. I think about people like John MacArthur have made these statements that say social justice is not a part of the gospel. It's not a concern of the gospel. It's outside of the scope of the gospel. And so they would think that someone like you who in your book, you really robustly defend the need for Christians to care about social justice, they would say, " Look, you've compromised the main thing." How would you respond to that?

Thaddeus Williams: Yeah. It's funny you should ask, when the book came out, the Gospel coalition really promoted it a few different ways. I got to have a good conversation with Colin Hansen over there, and they let me crank out a few articles on it. And they just posted a simple social media blurb that was I think right off the bat cover. God does not suggest, He commands that we fight injustice. And a variation of that is that social justice isn't an option for the Christian, it's essential. Now, if you bothered to just click through and see what the article is about, you would realize I'm not some KGB like communist, Marxist infiltrator trying to destroy the church with my-

Patrick Miller: But how do we get into a world where talking about justice can somehow equal sign that, it makes zero sense to me.

Thaddeus Williams: It's the rocky times we're in man, I start the book out by just rifling through passage after passage where God is not suggesting but commanding us, your listeners are going to know Micah six, eight.

Patrick Miller: Yeah, just pulled it up on my computer. I was about to read it.

Thaddeus Williams: There you go. Go for it, do it.

Patrick Miller: He has told you what is good and what the Lord requires from you, to do justice. This one says embrace faithful love, but another version you see to love faithfulness and to walk humbly with your God. I mean, that is a really simple set of tasks. Okay, here's three things. Do justice, act justly, love kindness, love mercy, love faithfulness towards your community and walk humbly with God. Talk about simplicity.

Thaddeus Williams: Yeah, let me just fire off more scripture here because that's way more insightful than anything he or I can say. This is God speaking, is this not the fast that I choose, loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the straps of yoke, let the oppressed go free, break every yoke, another verse, this is referring to one of the kings in the Old Testament that he judged the cause of the poor and needy, then it was well, is not this to know me declares the Lord. So in this passage, knowing God is actually equivalent, to equated with judging the cause of the poor and needy with justice.

Patrick Miller: Can I pause you there? Because it makes me think of something and I'm going to tread in some... I won't make you tread in these waters. But I think about around the time of Donald Trump's election, and as his behavior towards a woman was being brought in to the foreground, and a lot of people were comparing him to King David and saying, " Well, God can use King David to do great things, can't he use Donald Trump?" Now, I can say a lot of things about that but what came to mind were passages like what you just read, which is that the good king follows God by caring for the needy. That is in the foreground of his concerns and so if we're going to talk about what the Bible has to say about national Leadership. It's not merely God forgives. It's far deeper than that, that there's a deep responsibility if you want to be in a position of political leadership and authority.

Thaddeus Williams: I 100% agree. The problem is, man the options these days, it's like, do you want to drink cyanide or do you want to put a luger to your temple and blow your brains out? Think of when Trump was elected I guess the first and only time who his competition was. And if we're applying that biblical criteria, who really cares about justice, and who cares about ending oppression here? Of course, both sides are going to market themselves that way.

Patrick Miller: And both sides actually have legitimate things to say about how they would care for the needy, for the marginalized. Absolutely.

Thaddeus Williams: So it comes down to a question, I'm glad you brought this up Patrick, because one of the catalysts for some of the rifts we're seeing right now in the church world over questions of social justice, really was the 2016 election, and I've read guys like Jemar Tisby who does some really great work and a lot of things that I find problematic. But if you read his Color of Compromise, bestseller, sold over 100, 000 copies, New York Times bestseller, as a black brother in Christ, he says, the election of Trump to him was just all the proof he needed that white evangelicals are so heavily steeped in racism that he needs to break with white evangelicalism. And that trope has sort of been rolled out over and over since 2016, and my approach to that is to say, look, the Bible commands us to be charitable, love is not easily offended, it hopes all things, believes all things. And I have several friends who voted for Trump, I myself did not. I didn't vote for the other side either. My wife and I picked some random dude from Michigan who is really-

Patrick Miller: My dude was from Utah, but I'm with you, random dude, I can't even remember his name anymore. I think it was Evan something. That's how far I've-

Thaddeus Williams: My guy was named Mike. I voted for Mike.

Patrick Miller: Great. We got Evan and Mike.

Thaddeus Williams: He got two votes, my wife and I. So yeah, Mike in 2024...

Patrick Miller: We'll be back to our episode really quick. Look, if you're enjoying the content in here, you want to sign up for our newsletter. We like to write little articles every week that are kind of based on our podcast, but they really take one idea that we don't spend a lot of time talking about and expand them not to a super long article, but to an article you could read in 10 minutes and get a good little nugget out of that's going to help you think about what's happening in our world in a more Jesus centered way. So make sure to go to choosetruthovertribe. com and subscribe to our newsletter.

Thaddeus Williams: So I have plenty of friends who pulled the lever for Trump, and people who I've been really close to for a long time. And for them, their mindset is if Hillary ends up in the White House that will yield unjust results, especially for preborn image bearers of God. Serious threats to religious liberty, all kinds of things. But you see what the narrative becomes is the only conceivable way you could pull the lever for Trump is if you're racist. Let's call that what it is, it's slander or in the opposite direction-

Patrick Miller: It goes the other way.

Thaddeus Williams: The other way too, the only way you're not voting for Trump is if you hate America, and if you hate white people, and if you're homophobic and bigoted, and it's like that's beneath us as Christians, it's beneath us as Christians but we're playing those games in churches all around the country. What in the book I described as the Newman effects, going back to a 2018 interview between the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, and Channel 4's Cathy Newman, where everything he said she would just rephrase in the most cartoonish unflattering and damnable light possible. So you're saying women aren't smart enough to run these top companies is like, " What? No." So you're saying that transgender activist could lead to the genocide of millions and he's like, " What are you talking about?" We're all I argue in the book, we're all Cathy Newman's now. Where if you say you care about ending racism now, boom the Newman effect kicks in, you're a Marxist, you're a commie, you're a far left social justice warrior snowflake, you're saying maybe this or that wasn't racist, well obviously you're the grand wizard of the KKK, some kind of fascist-

Patrick Miller: We're living in a memefide reality, and people are thinking in the length of headlines. And unfortunately, it's like a ventriloquist act where we've got these incendiary headlines out there. And then Christians even unfortunately, being the dummy that's getting played along and just repeating the phrases back and my prayer is that Christians would detribalize, that we would detox from these political parties that are influencing us or the media organizations that represent them which are influencing us and just start asking honest questions about what's the Bible say about this? I don't care what the person on the left or the right says. I mean, race has become, I think even more so since the publication of your book, increasingly one of these fault lines, and I feel it, I would affirm that structural racism is a real thing not just in the past, but also in the present. Now, I think we need to have clear definitions, and we need to make clear cases, we can't just point at anything that looks different and say, " Well, there's structural racism." But even that statement, like you said, from the right has earned me personally being called a Marxist, a cultural Marxist, a CRT advocate and all these things, and it drives inaudible that is memefide reality. That's not what I am.

Thaddeus Williams: There's nuance here, there's complexity.

Patrick Miller: There's nuance.

Thaddeus Williams: Man, if only there was a book out there that dealt with some of this stuff.

Patrick Miller: Maybe if you call it confronting injustice without compromising truth. That'd be a good one.

Thaddeus Williams: Something that we could confront justice and at the same time not compromise truth, that would be-

Patrick Miller: And I think that would be a good challenge to continue to bring to the right, into the Christian right in particular is that matters of justice are Gospel matters in the sense that Jesus came announcing a kingdom, he had a vision for how the world was supposed to function and how he was going to be king over it. And we Christians, we get to bring the appetizers to that great feast that's to come. And so we should care deeply about these justice matters that's why I appreciate so much about your book is that I felt like you held both of those things clearly imbalanced. And there are challenges that I think both sides desperately, desperately, desperately need to hear. I realized we've spent our time mostly talking about the left. And I've discovered that I get timestamps sometimes on things where it's like, "Well, you talked for this long." And I think all I would say is this, if this was a year ago, I suspect we would be talking more about the right. But now we're living in a cultural moment where the left has more political and cultural power than the right does. And those things go back and forth but I don't think it's a matter of how long do you talk about each, it's a matter of saying I choose Jesus over my tribe. It's going to be my person. So let me ask you one last question before we sign off, what do you think is the most important thing for followers of Jesus that we can be doing to maybe promote unity across these tribal lines? I mean, you just said we're calling each other names. We're not listening to each other well, how do we heal? How do we bring unity?

Thaddeus Williams: Yeah, that's a massive question and really good question, a pressing question these days, let me just start really down to earth with something I do every single day. A lot of my spiritual life is shaped by Galatians five in particular, where Paul lays out this dichotomy between on the one hand there's the works of the flesh, sin nature, our fallenness, our depravity. And he contrasts that with the spirit. And he's saying, these are two ways to live, in all the complexity of the world it really boils down to these two ways to live, by the sin nature or by the Spirit. And so he lists the deeds of the flesh, right behind me there on the couch just three nights ago, I sat down with my four kids and my wife, and we did this whole thing on the fruit of the spirit together and just had a blast digging into this passage, because that phrase, the fruit of the spirit, and it lists love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and faithfulness, gentleness, self control, Fruit of the spirit is a Greek turn of phrase. Let me just nerd out on the original languages for a second with you.

Patrick Miller: Go for it.

Thaddeus Williams: It's what scholars would call a genitive of production and a genitive of production, all that means is that you could swap out the word "of" with the words "produced by" to get a fuller richer sense of the intended meaning. So love is not just a fruit of the spirit, it's a fruit produced by the spirit. Joy, the most authentic joy you've ever known or I've ever known, or any of the listeners have ever known was not produced by us, is produced in us by the spirit. The truest patience that we've ever had was not produced by us, but in us by the spirit. And so when I have these conversations, or somebody calls me a bunch of names online, I have an option, I can respond in the sin nature and the spirit. And there have been times when I've respond in the sin nature, that never ends well for anybody, everybody ends up a little dumber, everybody ends up with their blood pressure a little higher. And so I would start there and recognize the easiest thing in the world is to point my finger at the other side and say, " Man, what a bunch of jerks, what a bunch of hypocrites." The hardest thing to do is to look in the mirror and say, " I need grace, not just justifying grace, the good news, the gospel that I'm in a right relationship with God thanks to the cross work, and empty tomb of King Jesus." But also, I need daily sanctifying grace, because left to myself, I'm just going to keep playing this losing game of mudslinging and self righteousness and projecting all evil on the other side of the political spectrum. So what that looks like for me really practically on a daily basis is when I wake up in the morning or I'm praying with the wife or kids, it's Holy Spirit, this is what Paul prays for the Thessalonians in First Thessalonians three says, may God cause us to increase and abound in love. God would you cause us to increase and abound in love, give us a supernatural dose of patience today, give us a supernatural dose of joy. Because if I'm filled with the fruit of the spirit, it becomes almost impossible to play sort of the culture war game. And that's how we start to take our first steps towards a beautiful third way between the polarization that we see in our day.

Patrick Miller: I think that's a powerful message and it certainly speaks to starting with ourselves, which is a good place. I have this little practice sometimes I'll put my name in front of those long list passages that describe what a Christian walking with Jesus being powered by the spirit looks like. So it'd be, Patrick is a... He is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control, like as I say I'm cringing right now because I know it is so far from reality and it's so convicting for me to say, " You know what, it doesn't start with having the right worldview and the right philosophical answers to every single question it really does start with is my life being empowered by the spirit." And here's what it looks like, this is what the spirit produces in your life, that's great. Would you pray for our audience, maybe pray for those fruit of the spirit to come to life inside of us.

Thaddeus Williams: I would love to. Sovereign God, you are the definer of reality, you are in charge, you are on the throne. A lot of times we pretend that we're sovereign, we talked earlier about how that can be an idol on the left but it can certainly be an idol on the right too. Can be an idol for anybody with a pulse to pretend that we're in charge. And the truth is Lord, you are infinitely better at being God than we are. And so we just want to humble ourselves before you and acknowledge that you are supreme Father, Son and Spirit you are supreme, not us. And with that realization, we recognize that we can't cause ourselves to increase and abound in love without resorting to some kind of legalism or self help spirituality or spiritual showmanship. If we want real love, it's got to come from you. So as Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, I pray for everybody listening to this right now, I pray this for Patrick, I pray it for myself would you cause us to increase and abound in love in this cultural moment where there's so much strife. Would you cause your church around the country and around the world to increase and abound in joy where there's so much sort of doomsday catastrophic thinking. Would you create a new level of supernaturally infused joy in your church around the globe that would be magnetic to people out there who are feeling despair, and would you create supernatural doses of peace and patience and kindness and faithfulness and goodness and gentleness and self control? We need you, we need all that grace. And I pray that, that happens in us in a way that makes it impossible for us to feel self righteous because we recognize it came 100% from you, and thanks to you. We pray this in Jesus name, amen.

Patrick Miller: Amen. Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful, make sure to subscribe and leave a review.

Keith Simon: And make sure it's at least five stars.

Patrick Miller: Stop, no. Just be honest, reviews help other people find us.

Keith Simon: Okay, at the very least you can share today's episode, maybe put it on your social, your favorite text chain.

Patrick Miller: And if you didn't like this episode, awesome. Tell us why you disagree on Twitter @ truthovertribe_, we might even share your thoughts in an upcoming newsletter.


Do we have to choose between biblical truth and social justice? Today on Truth Over Tribe, Thaddeus Williams joins the show to share why you can choose both. Thaddeus is an Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and author of the book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth. In this episode, he challenges both truth warriors who ignore past and present injustices, as well as justice warriors who have left behind the truth for relativism. He expands on how it's possible for Christians to choose both truth and justice, leaving us with insight into how to promote unity. Tune in now!

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Today's Host

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Patrick Miller

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Keith Simon


Today's Guests

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Thaddeus Williams

|Professor and Author