Dr Ellis’ wife, Prof Karen Ellis, sent me this link a few days ago. Since I sent Dr Ellis a link to my article and this blog post was posted after that, I believe that it was written in response to my article.
Before commenting, I would just like to remind my readers of what I explicitly stated in the article:
Please note that this is not a personal attack on Dr Ellis. Dr Ellis is as far as I know not a heretic. Also, note that the points in the discussion above do not all apply to Dr Ellis. I merely wish to illustrate the point that Marxist hermeneutics have entered the church, and that it is dangerous.
After reading Dr Ellis’ article, I can say with confidence that he is not a heretic and that this conversation is between brothers in Christ and not about the essentials of the Gospel.
Dr Ellis says:
By way of another example, categories of dominance and sub-dominance are used by sociologists who are not Marxists. Language usage is not evidence of ideological affirmation.
I completely agree: Language usage is not evidence of ideological affirmation.
But I would like to make the following remarks
1. Language usage and ideology are intertwined.
“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”
We often do identify ourselves by the language we use. and the reason is that all thoughts (except for the most primal urges) are thought in language.
Matthew 12:34 For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
While it is abundantly clear that Dr Ellis despises Marxism, we cannot escape the meaning that our listeners attach to our words. If it quacks like a duck people will assume it is a duck. If someone talks like a Marxist people will assume he is a Marxist. We cannot afford but to communicate with absolute precision in today’s culture.
2. My problem is not with the words Dr Ellis uses, but with the categories he uses.
Juliet tells us that a rose by any other name would smell the same. I have a big problem with the fact that dividing the world into the dominant and the subdominant, or the oppressor and the oppressed is the default Marxist worldview. What you call those categories (language usage) is of secondary importance. It is simply not a valid Biblical way to see the world. Again, please note that I do not say that these categories do not exist. I am saying that they do not define the way we look at the world.
Marxism defines the world by those categories. The Bible does not. Why should we do it?
3. I have a big problem with the fact that Dr Ellis thinks the Bible advocates social justice.
Dr Ellis writes in his chapter in Piper’s book:
Israel, the Old Testament church, was to be a community marked by righteousness, social justice, and compassion for the oppressed.
As I have pointed out in my original article, there is a massive difference between Biblical justice and social justice. Biblical justice is always applied to individuals. Please read the parable of the persistent widow again. In this parable, Jesus illustrates exactly how justice is applied to the individual, not the group. (In the same manner, God applies justice to his elect – individuals whose names are written in the Book of Life from before the world began.) In stark contrast, social justice is applied to groups.
So I still stand by my assertion that on this specific point, Dr Ellis is dangerously wrong.
I will end the conversation here with an appeal to Dr Ellis: Please reconsider your opinion in this matter.
The Bible is sufficient. Biblical language, Biblical categories and the Biblical worldview are sufficient to say what we need to say in all circumstances. The Biblical worldview should form the foundation of our sociology, psychology, historical analysis, and other disciplines. Even “hard” sciences such as biology and cosmology cannot thrive apart from the foundation of the Biblical worldview.
We as Christians do not need to talk about social justice, except to contrast it with what the Bible says about true justice.
If we quack like ducks people will mistake us for ducks. And if Orwell is right, we might just start thinking like ducks.