The Standpoint Question
November 4, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
This is part 12 of a multi-part series reviewing Thaddeus J. Williams’ book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice. This book is published at a critical time when many in our nation, including Christians, wrestle with the concept of justice. Williams starts with the clear biblical command that Christians must “do justice” (Micah 6:8) and “seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Not everything labeled “justice,” however, is necessarily biblical justice. Therefore, Williams poses twelve questions to help Christians discern true, biblical justice, while calling us to do true justice. I commend this book if you want to dig deeper and be more faithful in seeking justice.
The twelfth question Williams poses is the “Standpoint Question.” He asks, “Does our vision of social justice turn the quest for truth into an identity game” (p. 151). One of the key components of Critical Theory is to elevate one’s external identity markers as more important than logic, evidence, or even Scripture in the evaluation of one’s claims. For example, James Cone, known as the father of modern black liberation theology, says, “If there is one brutal fact that centuries of white oppression have taught blacks, it is that whites are incapable of making any valid judgments about human existence” (p. 155). In Cone’s estimation, and Cone has significant influence on the current cultural conversation about racial justice, “we can process ideas as true or false based purely on melanin rather than merit” (p. 154).
With that sort of vision of social justice, Cone’s claims end up being unfalsifiable. Williams explains, “If no amount of logic, evidence, experience, or Scripture could possibly change our outlook, then our beliefs are unfalsifiable” (p. 151). In fact, one professor with this vision of social justice says, “We are inflicting harm asking for evidence… to ask for evidence of racism is racism with a capital R” (p. 153). This vision of social justice “shifts our focus from ‘isms’ to ‘ists,’ from ideas to people, from evidence to people’s external identity markers” (p. 153). Williams argues this is attractive to people because it presents a simple solution to complex issues. We can quickly dismiss and judge people based upon external identity markers.
Williams draws out one of the main problems with such a vision: “The problem with such thinking is that it erases the Creator-creature distinction, assuming we have an X-ray vision into others’ hearts, an omniscience about people’s true motives that only God has” (p. 153). There is no humble, self-reflective admission of fallenness. External identity markers become the infallible gauge to judge others’ motives.
The biblical vision for justice is different. “Love you neighbor as yourself” is the key command undergirding a just society. “Love rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). To love our neighbor well, we will strive to discover truth. Showing partiality based upon external identity markers is sin (James 2:1-4). And every human is equally sinful, regardless of ethnicity, social status, education level, race, gender, etc. (Rom. 3:23). As Williams states, “We are all fallen. We are all fallible. We all need grace. No one’s perspective, including my own, is free from the truth-blurring power of sin, except God’s perspective” (p. 158). Let’s love our neighbors with humble, gracious, and kind forbearance.