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Westar Executive Director Responds to "The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel"

By David Galston | 9/12/2018

Westar is about religious literacy. In response to “The Statement of Social Justice and the Gospel,” I accuse the authors of biblical illiteracy.

Anyone who has a degree of biblical literacy knows that justice is not incidental to the Bible. In Hebrew and in Greek, the words translated as “justice” occur over 8,000 times. The Hebrew and Greek words are directed at the social world. They are not directed at an individualistic or private world. It’s not possible to be “biblical,” with any integrity, without being for justice in society. “Let justice roll like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5:24). As Hurricane Florence seems poised to teach, the roll of water and everflowing streams characterize social crises not private affairs.

The Bible has no words for homosexuality and no understanding of human sexuality. Only in a general way can it be said that the Bible understands sex to be about just relationships. This means sexual relationships are judged moral or immoral depending on whether an injury is suffered. To pull just one example, even though Tamar poses as a prostitute to trick Judah, her father-in-law, and lure him into sexual union, in the story Judah is the guilty party who inflicted an injury (Gen. 38). He failed his duty to honor Tamar by failing to allow her another husband. Tamar’s act of prostitution is Judah’s fault. In this story the Bible neither promotes nor condones prostitution. The point is the injured Tamar and the shame of Judah. If there is anything to gain about human sexuality from the Bible, it is that the Bible is silent on sexuality but insistent on honor in relationships.

I accuse the authors of “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospels” of misunderstanding what both gospel and justice mean. I accuse them of willfully contributing to religious illiteracy in America.

This post is the opinion and contribution of the author. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Westar or its scholars. Westar welcomes diversity of thought. If you’d like to contribute to the blog, click here.

David Galston is the Executive Director of the Westar Institute and the Ecumenical Chaplain at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he is also an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy. A co-founder and Academic Advisor of the SnowStar Institute of Religion, a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar, and a United Church minister, David has written several articles and led many workshops on the question of the historical Jesus, the future of Christianity, and the problems of Christian theology in light of the historical Jesus. He is the author of Embracing the Human Jesus (Polebridge Press) and Archives and the Event of God (McGill-Queens Press). David holds a PhD in the Philosophy of Religion from McGill University.