The Tunnel Vision Question

October 21, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

This is part 10 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 tenth question Williams poses is the “Tunnel Vision Question.” He asks, “Does our vision of social justice make one way of seeing something the only way of seeing everything?” (p. 127). This question seeks to push us to think about how we see and interpret the world around us. Williams uses the analogy of a computer operating system. Everyone has a “mental operating system,” a set of foundational beliefs that shade how we think about and respond to daily events. Other authors may call this one’s worldview. A worldview is formed by the answers and convictions one has for four fundamental questions: 1. What are we made for? 2. What has fundamentally gone wrong? 3. What will fix or remedy this situation? 4. What does perfect society (or heaven) look like? Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration. Our answers to these questions shape how we interpret the world and influence our choices.

 With the Tunnel Vision Question, Williams draws attention to the fact that popular calls for justice have a faulty answer to the second question, what has fundamentally gone wrong. With critical theory and intersectionality, oppression is the fundamental problem that must be confronted and resisted. Williams admits, “The Bible is clear. There is real oppression in the world,” but there is a problem when oppression becomes fundamental and the only way of seeing everything. “When oppression – a true insight into some things – becomes the way of seeing most things or all things, then our story of the world ceases to be a grand story,” which is the Gospel story of the Bible (p. 128). 

Williams highlights three dangers when our mental operating system is “buggy” with faulty code. We start seeing things that are not there, we miss things that are there, and we miss the main thing. He cites several examples for each of these dangers. To see more clearly the truth behind apparent injustices, Williams calls Christians to ask questions. “Asking unpopular questions and openly gathering and assessing the facts is one of the most loving things we can do for our oppressed brothers and sisters. Contrary to popular opinion, questioning whether and to what extent sexism, racism, or any other antibiblical ism is the real problem is siding with the oppressed” (p. 130). Such questioning is rooted in the biblical answer to that second question: all humans are in sinful rebellion against their Creator. All forms of oppression are part of that sinful rebellion, but they are not the only problem. And when we do not clearly define what has gone wrong with humans, we ultimately develop faulty answers to question three, what will fix this situation. This is the greatest danger… we miss the Gospel. 

One of the things I have come to appreciate about Williams is how he highlights that a pursuit of true biblical justice transcends politics. Unfortunately, much of the contemporary debates about justice tend to be political. Williams comments, “Scripture does command us to love our neighbors… Given the political polarization of our day, seeing our side as caring about others and the other side as cruel is easy and self-serving. But it is not so black-and-white. Often the left and right simply have different ‘others.’ If we are shaped by Scripture instead of the culture wars, then we will not become the priests and Levites galloping past bodies on the side of the road. Christians should be known less as culture warriors and more as Good Samaritans who stop for battered neighbors” (p. 134). Let’s beware of a tunnel vision perspective on issues of justice.



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