In case you didn’t know already, Tim Keller has a book coming out later this year entitled Generous Justice. In the publisher’s description of the book, it says:
Keller calls upon life-long Christians to deepen their faith by understanding that justice for the poor and marginalized is central to the Scripture’s message and challenges skeptics to recognize that the Bible is actually the basis for the modern understanding of justice.
This theme of justice was picked up yesterday in Keller’s talk at the Q Conference. Skye Jethani has the summary at Out of Ur:
[T]he justification people are all about justification by faith alone. Only after being justified can a person live as he/she ought to live. While Keller was in full agreement with this doctrine, he said the unfortunate implication for many of the justification people is the belief that “we are mainly here to do evangelism” and they view “justice as a distraction.”
The justice people, on the other hand, tend to downplay or completely ignore the doctrine of justification by faith. Instead they can focus on language about “defeating the powers” or seeking the renewal of communities. Also good ideas, but not if justification is lost in the mix.
Keller believes this rift between justification and justice is completely unbiblical. “Justice and justification,” he said, “are joined at the hip. They are a seamless cloth.” He spent much of his time arguing from scripture that the doctrine of “justification by faith leads inevitably to justice.” Citing passages like Isaiah 58, Mark 12:38-40, Matthew 25, and others, Keller said that if we truly believe that we are saved by grace alone we will care about the poor.
The doctrine of justification by faith emphasizes that “God’s justice matters,” he said. We are perpetrators of wrong. We are sinners. We are poor in spirit. But God has had mercy on us. If we understand our spiritual poverty than we cannot ignore the material poor who are presented to us. If our belief in justification does not manifest itself in care for the poor, then our faith is dead as the Epistle of James says.
This is what Keller calls the “both/and” gospel…it’s about justification and justice, not justification or justice. And when we get this right, not only do we see justification lead to more justice, but doing more justice leads more of the lost toward Christ and justification through faith.
If you are familiar with Tim Keller’s work on “the gospel and the poor,” you would be familiar with his argument (in fact, I think justification and justice is just an alliterative way of making exactly the same point in his previous articles). I believe it is precisely at this point where there is a divide among Reformed evangelicals as to the nature and implications of the gospel (and I think may have something to do with the theme “unadjusted gospel” from this year’s T4G). In any case, Keller is forging the discussion with his new book and similar talks at conferences which is a good thing.
But I’m curious with you guys. Do you believe the gospel is “both/and” in the sense it is about justification and justice? Is it a seamless cloth? Is Keller mixing the nature and implications of the gospel? Let me know what you think.