The Social Justice "Jesus" of Neo-Evangelicals & Catholics

By Brannon S. Howse

Meet the social justice Jesus aggressively promoted by socially conscious 20- to 40-year-olds. Humanitarian Jesus: Social Justice and the Cross, a 2010 book by Ryan Dobson and Christian Buckley explains that although Jesus is at first calling, seeking, and saving those who are lost, followers must become good Christians to complete the Gospel and embrace social justice. “Social justice,” as I’ve said before, is merely a euphemism for socialism, and the history of the term connects directly with globalism. 

In 1840, Luigi Taparelli a Jesuit priest, coined the term “social justice.” Yet many Christians today embrace the socialism of the so-called social gospel. Ryan Dobson, co-author of Humanitarian Jesus, is also the son of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. For his book, Ryan Dobson interviewed Ron Sider and Tony Campolo, among others known for their work in the arena of social justice. Although James Dobson publicly supported Tony Campolo as long ago as the 1980s before he was recognized as a radical, liberal progressive, Campolo and Sider are not people to interview and promote if you really want folks to take biblical theology seriously and not embrace socialism. Yet now social justice is thought to be an important part of the Gospel, and if we’re not involved in social justice, then we’re not really pushing a complete Gospel. 

By promoting social justice, these people are actually helping to promote an anti-biblical philosophy that will be one of the major underpinnings of the coming religious Reich.  Tommy Ice explains how serious this problem is:

[quote] There are too many so-called “evangelicals” who are advocates of socialism like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Brian McLaren, Ron Sider, and Tony Campolo, to name just a few. These ideas are being gradually sown into so-called “evangelical” colleges and universities as “social justice” issues. Regardless of what these ideas may be or where they come from, one thing is clear, the Word of God is not their source. In fact the source of such ideas is clearly satanic. 

According to Bible prophecy the world is being prepared for a time in which socialism will indeed come to dominate the world under the rule of antichrist. Thus, it is not Jesus Christ who is a socialist; instead it will be the antichrist who will pose as an angel of light in order to use socialism as a vehicle to temporarily bring in a time when the government will attempt to own all possessions, including the hearts of men. No, Jesus is not, has never been, nor will ever be a socialist. The Bible tells us that Jesus will use all eternity pouring out His unlimited blessings and wealth upon believers. [end quote] 


Although a detailed discussion of socialism would reveal many reasons why socialism is not biblical, the clearest point is that it violates the eighth commandment, “thou shalt not steal.” Socialism is built on taking possessions from one person and giving to another that which is not rightfully theirs. Socialism also encourages coveting, which is a violation of the tenth commandment. 

Far from being an expression of Christian compassion, socialism is antithetical to Christianity. Social justice philosophy creates a false gospel and develops a non-biblical worldview. Suffering in this world is caused by sin. Jesus even reckoned with this reality when He said, “The poor you always have with you” (Matthew 26:11). Some people are poor because God has chosen not to give them great wealth, because we know that whatever we have ultimately comes from God. And even though many people today are squeamish about assigning responsibility for individual problems, some are poor as a consequence of sin. So to say that a person doesn’t have a given level of income because of injustice is simply false. 

This acceptance of a disparity of wealth among people doesn’t sit well with some Christian leaders. Nothing less than across-the-board economic “equality” seems to be acceptable. Tim Keller is a key figure who promotes this angle on social justice. His book Generous Justice is all about “the cause.” During an interview in which he was asked, “Are we to be rich?”, Keller promoted his ideas this way: 

[quote] We’re not to be poor, but neither are we to be rich. . . .  John Stott has a great little book on this—a great little article on this, where he says, “What are we supposed to do with our goods?” What does the Bible say? Does the Bible say we must become poor materially? And he checks it all out and decides, no, it doesn't really tell you have to do that. 

Then on the other hand, does it say we can stay rich and just give away to charity? No, we can’t do that. He says, “We don’t have to become poor, nor can we stay rich. We have got to get,” he says, “incredibly contented with what we’ve got, ‘cause we have rewards in heaven.” That’s why we’re not afraid to weep. That’s the reason why we’re not afraid to mourn. That’s the reason we’re not afraid to weep now. That’s the reason we’re not afraid to be empty now. We have to be extremely content with what we have and radically generous. We don’t have to actually become poor, but we’re not allowed to stay rich. [end quote] 


Even on the surface, the problems with Keller’s formula for economic balance are obvious. After all, who decides what is “rich”? How do we determine what cap to put on someone’s income? Who decides how much is enough? And who’s to say, “She makes too much, and that person should give away 80 percent of his income”? If government assumes the authority to decide the answers, we end up with an economic Gestapo for enforcement. The only hope for true justice is to let individuals determine answers as they, hopefully, walk in truth, obedience, and the sanctification process, realizing that every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord. Let individuals determine “when I have more than I need, when I have provided for my retirement, when I have provided sickness or disability, and when I have plenty to share with others.” 

This is not mere idealism. Many wealthy people do incredibly wonderful, biblical things with their resources. Who is Tim Keller or anyone else to say, “They have too much and need to give it away”? Again and again, the Scriptures affirm private property and an individual’s right to use possessions as he or she sees fit. Dobson, Keller, Sider, and Campolo have made Jesus into a social justice hippy—but they’re not the only ones. 

Hippy Jesus was featured in the movie Son of God that grossed more than $70 million worldwide. Husband and wife filmmaking team Roma Downey and Mark Burnett adapted Scripture to fit their image of Jesus of Nazareth. An idividual that saw the film came on my program and described the film as follows: 

[quote] The problems with the movie began with the very first scene. The opening scene is that of Jesus calling Peter as his disciple. The biblical account records Jesus calling both Peter and Andrew, his brother, at the Sea of Galilee followed shortly thereafter with James and John. In the movie, it is only Peter who is called. This is the first of what, I believe, are many nods to the Roman Catholic Church and its heretical theology. The Jesus character waded out into the water toward Peter in his boat and Peter pulled him in. Jesus said, “Just give me an hour and I will give you a whole new life,” to which Peter replied, “Who says I want one?”

Jesus said, “I’m giving you the chance to change your life.”

“What are we going to do?” asked Peter.

Jesus answered, “Change the world.”

Firstly, none of these statements are in Scripture. The statement Jesus actually did make, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” Matthew 4:19, was left out entirely. Notice, too, the horizontal nature of the statements from the Jesus character in the film: “I’m giving you the chance to change your life” and “change the world.”

This reflects the entire tone of the film. It is horizontally rather than vertically oriented. Rather than focusing on the Person and work of Jesus reconciling sinful man to the righteous and holy God, the movie is focused on meeting people’s and society’s “felt” needs. This is not surprising given that the men chosen by Burnett and Downey to be the film’s theological advisors are the seeker-sensitive Rick Warren and Word of Faith preachers Joel Osteen and T. D. Jakes, the latter of whom is anti-Trinitarian. . . .

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey claim that they desired to make a movie honoring the Son of God, but by distorting His character, taking Him out of context, and omitting His claims of exclusivity they have not honored Him at all; they have denied Him. Let’s keep in mind, though, that Burnett and Downey are New Age Roman Catholics and, as such, are not regenerate. Their minds have been blinded by the god of this age—2 Corinthians 4:4. They cannot see what they cannot see. God must reveal the Truth to them. Let us pray for their genuine conversion. . . .

What is more troubling to me than the movie itself is that evangelical leaders who claim to believe in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture have so heartily endorsed it. That Word-Faith preachers such as T. D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and Paula White endorse it should be no surprise. Though it certainly does not surprise me that Rick Warren endorsed it; he at least claims to be a preacher of the true Gospel. Rick Warren went so far as to say of the film, “Skip church and go see it; it is that important.”

Other notable “evangelicals” to praise the film include Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, Max Lucado, Lamb and Lion Ministries, and the American Family Association. This movie is, in my estimation, a reflection of the pitiful state to which we as professing believers have slid. We seem to yearn for Hollywood to somehow validate our theology and values. It’s as if we are saying to the world, “See, Jesus really is cool and we really aren’t kooks! See how popular these films are?”

We are like the kid on the playground who nobody wants on his team but desperately desires to be included. Pitiful. Why do we need validation from a lost world and depraved culture that is warring against God? We are the redeemed of the Most High God empowered by His Holy Spirit. Why is it that we seem to get so excited and worked up over a theologically and biblically inept Hollywood production when we have the Alpha and Omega as our Head? [end quote] 


The Son of God website included promotional video commentaries from a who’s who of evangelicals: Rick Warren, Samuel Rodriquez, Bill Hybels, T. D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, Leith Anderson (president of the National Association of Evangelicals), Pat Robertson, Luis Palau, Jack Graham (pastor of one of America’s largest Southern Baptist Churches), Jim Daly (president of Focus on the Family), George Wood (general secretary of the Assemblies of God), Max Lucado, Erwin McManus, Tony Campolo, Frank Wright (former president of the National Religious Broadcasters Association), Jim Wallis, and Della Reese (arguably a New Age preacher rather than an evangelical). 

The disturbing connections become even more disturbing when you consider that Roma Downey is a New Age Roman Catholic, as explained in “Roma Downey Happy Out of Spotlight,” an online article by Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith. They explain:

[quote] Roma also attends the University of Santa Monica, a private graduate school founded by New Age spiritual and self-help guru John-Roger, and will graduate with a master’s degree in spiritual psychology in June.

Says Roma, who lives in Malibu, “My kids go to school about a 40-minute drive away. I’m open to the group’s opinion about what we listen to on the way there. On the way back, I get my own selections—books on tape by Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robbins.... My husband says I’m so self-realized I’m practically levitating.” [end quote] 


Eckhart Tolle and Tony Robbins are popular New Age teachers and writers. To get an idea of their worldview: In his book A New Earth, Tolle describes “your life’s purpose” as “man made God in his own image.” And, as if consulting New Agers like Robbins and Tolle isn’t enough, Downey apparently counts on help from psychics as well. A USA Today article by Donna Freydkin entitled “Spirit Moves Stars to See Psychic” includes a short list of stars who enlist “spiritual” assistance:

[quote] When it comes to psychics, quite a few celebrities are finding a happy medium. “It’s not a fad. This has been going on for years,” says psychic John Edward, the host of Crossing Over with John Edward. Edward, whose first celebrity guest was soap star Linda Dano, has communed with Kirsten Dunst, Roma Downey, Ricki Lake and Gene Simmons. [end quote] (emphasis mine)


A video interview with Downey by Washington Post author and columnist Sally Quinn bears out Roma Downey’s “openness”: 


DOWNEY—I know for all the years I was on Touched by an Angel, we had an expression where we would say that coincidence was God’s way of remaining anonymous. And I’ve always loved that. And I love when these—when these things have shown up for me, and I choose to see them as reminders of, um, that we’re not, you know, that I’m not alone.

QUINN—So, you continued to be a, a Catholic and a, and a devout, I would say a devout Catholic.

DOWNEY—I see such beauty in, in, in my faith. . . . I just have a great, love and belief in, in the Lord. . . . I see God in everyone and in everything. You know? I guess when I’m looking for inspiration myself, I probably find it most in nature and the beauty and magnificence of nature and . . . two things that have struck me as profound is that you can see that there are two points of you, perhaps. That there is no God, or there is only God. And for me, there is only God. It’s like you could see nothing as a miracle, or you can see everything as a miracle. Right? . . . God is in the silence, perhaps. And from this, from when I was a very young age, through, through my education, but really through my father’s guidance, encouraged to listen to what he called, you know, “your God voice,” which is the, the still, quiet voice inside of yourself that you know what’s the right thing to do, that you know the kind of thing to say. And I’ve always tried to be guided. [end quote] 


Her point that God is “in everyone and in everything” is a blend of pantheism and panentheism. Pantheists belief that all is God, and panentheists believe God is in all. Both are flagrant New Age terms. And Downey’s comment that “God is in the silence” smacks of Roman Catholic mysticism like that taught by Brother Lawrence, Saint Teresa of Ávila, and other Catholic mystics.

With a philosophical background like Downey’s, we should not be shocked that the Jesus portrayed in the Son of God film is not the Jesus of the Bible. What should shock us is that so many evangelicals—who claim to believe in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture as well as the exclusivity of Jesus—would endorse this film. In supporting it, they contribute to the redefining of Jesus. They are accomplices in implementing step one in the global transformation of a false church.

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