This is an exclusive excerpt from Voddie Baucham’s Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe. This national bestseller was released on April 6, 2021 and is available where books are sold.
Our Problem Is Not Growing Ethnic Tensions
O. J. Simpson. Rodney King. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Trayvon Martin. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Just say these names and you can divide a room. On one side will be people who see the incidents those names represent as evidence of America’s “systemic racism.” The others will argue that they were isolated incidents, at least some of which represented justifiable actions taken by the police. Chances are the discussion will not end in agreement, or even one side moving slightly toward the other. Instead, they will simply continue slipping past each other along the fault line. Growing ethnic tension is a problem—but it is not the main problem.
While troubling, it is no match for the truth of the Gospel and the unity it creates among those who embrace it. In fact, such tensions represent an opportunity for Christ’s followers to demonstrate the truth of Paul’s words:
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:13-16)
Ethnic tensions are only a problem for Christians who forget this truth or subordinate it to a competing ideology (whether that be on the left or the right). When that happens, a fault line appears: those on one side “press the text” of the Bible, while those on the other see that approach as short-sighted and insensitive. The problem is not ethnic tension, but the fundamental assumptions that drive our assessment of and subsequent approaches to it.
Our Problem Is Not Political Divisions
Friends in the U.S. have half-jokingly asked if I moved my family to Zambia in 2015 to escape “Trump’s America.” I may not have been present for the 2016 election, but I was definitely connected and aware.
I started writing and speaking on political issues in 2008, during Barack Obama’s first run for the White House. At that time, I warned repeatedly of his culturally Marxist worldview. I also warned that an Obama presidency would not heal, but rather deepen ethnic tensions in America. I also warned much the same regarding both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016.
But neither was “the problem.” On the one side of the election debate were Christians who saw immorality as reason enough to swallow hard and vote for Trump in the hopes of stemming the tide of illegal immigration and abortion. On the other side were those who saw inequalities in health care, income, and immigration as reason enough to swallow hard and vote for Clinton in the hopes of stemming a different tide.
Our Problem Is Social Justice versus Biblical Justice
Those belonging to the social-justice crowd present themselves as the only ones pursuing justice, to the exclusion of all who disagree with their assessments—who, by that definition, are pursuing injustice.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the current struggle is that it mischaracterizes Christians that way too. On one side are “compassionate” Christians who are “concerned about justice.” On the other are “insensitive” Christians who are “not concerned about justice.” This is wrong.
I have pursued justice my entire Christian life. Yet I am about as “anti-social justice” as they come—not because I have abandoned my obligation to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14), but because I believe the current concept of social justice is incompatible with biblical Christianity.
This is the main fault line at the root of the current debate—the epicenter of the Big One that, when it finally shifts with all its force, threatens to split evangelicalism right down the middle. Our problem is a lack of clarity and charity in our debate over the place, priority, practice, and definition of justice.
The current cultural moment is precarious. The United States is on the verge of a race war, if not a complete cultural meltdown. And the rest of the Western world seems to be following suit. Tensions are rising in every place the African slave trade has left its indelible mark.
However, as much as I love and want the best for America, I am far more concerned about the precarious moment facing evangelicals. I am not a pessimist. I believe the Lord’s Church will survive until He comes, and this moment is no exception. God’s people have faced other—and I would argue more significant—obstacles in the past. I don’t think anyone would say that what we are dealing with here rises to the level of the Spanish Inquisition or the Protestant Reformation in terms of threatening our unity. There is nothing like the drowning of the Anabaptist martyr Felix Manz on our current radar screen. Nevertheless, there is trouble afoot.
Navigating through the Issue
The goal of this book is not to avoid the looming trouble. In fact, I believe that to be neither possible nor desirable. The trouble has arrived.
It will not go away any time soon, and the division it is causing is necessary.
I chose the fault line metaphor because I believe it not only describes the catastrophe, but also the aftermath.
There are two competing worldviews in this current cultural moment. One is the Critical Social Justice view—which assumes that the world is divided between the oppressors and the oppressed (white, heterosexual males are generally viewed as “the oppressor”). The other is what I will refer to in these pages as the biblical justice view in order to avoid what I accuse the social-justice crowd of doing, which is immediately casting its opponents as being opposed to justice. (In evangelical circles, that paints us as opposed to God Himself, since every effort has been made to demonstrate that “social justice is a Gospel issue.”) There are plenty of sincere, though perhaps naive Christians who, if they knew the ideology behind it, would run away from the term “social justice” like rats from a burning ship. (As legendary economist Friedrich Hayek once said, “I have come to feel strongly that the greatest service I can still render to my fellow men would be that I could make the speakers and writers among them thoroughly ashamed ever again to employ the term ‘social justice’.”)
The current moment is akin to two people standing on either side of a major fault line just before it shifts. When the shift comes, the ground will open up, a divide that was once invisible will become visible, and the two will find themselves on opposite sides of it. That is what is happening in our day. In some cases, the divide is happening already.
Churches are splitting over this issue. Major ministries are losing donors, staff, and leadership. Denominations are in turmoil. Seminary faculties are divided with some professors being fired or “asked to leave.” Families are at odds. Marriages are on the rocks. And I don’t believe the fracture in this fault line is yet even a fraction of what it will be.
No, I [did not write] this book to stop the divide. I [wrote it] to clearly identify the two sides of the fault line and to urge the reader to choose wisely.
 James Lindsay identifies Critical Social Justice as “the intentional combination of Critical Theory, Postmodern Theory, and Social Justice.” Triggernometry, “Why Social Justice Is Dangerous - James Lindsay,” YouTube, August 12, 2020 (19:30).
Photo courtesy: ©Voddie Baucham/Ema Capoccia
Voddie T. Baucham Jr., a pastor and church planer, is the dean of the School of Divinity at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia, where he and his family have lived since 2015. Married more than thirty years, Voddie and his wife, Bridget, have nine children and two grandchildren and are committed home educators. Learn more at www.voddiebaucham.org.