Should You Practice Generous Justice? A Review of Tim Keller’s Generous Justice.

If you’re wary of social justice, I understand. Social justice has been promoted by people who play fast and loose with the gospel and sound doctrine. What would you think if I told you that the Bible has a theology of social justice? And that Christians are commanded to practice it? And if you don’t “care about the poor, it reveals that…[you have] not really encountered the saving mercy of God.

Wow. That sounds harsh.

Okay, and what if it’s true? I’m not saying it is, I’m just saying what if? I welcome you to a reading experience that will confront your comforts, interrogate your instincts, and define your doctrine. The book is called Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. It is part confrontation, part commentary, part political, part biblical theology, and completely inundated with sound theology and straight-up doctrine. Here is a review of Tim Keller’s, Generous Justice.

Who’s This Tim Keller Guy?
First, you should know a thing or two about Tim Keller, the author of Generous Justice. Tim is a pastor, and he has a big church in New York City. Speaking of New York, he wrote a few books that hit the New York Times bestseller list (The Reason for God and The Prodigal God). In other words, he’s a good writer. And preacher. And theologian. And he practices what he preaches.

What Is Generous Justice About?
Now, back to the book. Generous Justice is a book about justice—both God’s justice and the justice that we as Christians should practice. In Keller’s own words, the book summons us “to see how central to the Scripture’s message is justice for the poor and marginalized,” and it “introduce[s] many to a new way of thinking about the Bible, justice, and grace” (GJ, xxi).

Let’s Answer Your Questions about Justice.
You probably have a few questions about justice, especially if you “are the kind of person who…approaches the subject of ‘doing justice’ with suspicion” (xi). You may be asking questions such as…

  • What is doing justice? (1)
  • What did Jesus say about justice? (19)
  • Why should we do justice? (78)
  • How should we do justice? (109)
  • “What if [the poor person’s] economic plight is more directly the result of selfish, indolent, or violent behavior?” (72)
  • What if this is contrary to good economic policy or business sense? (111)
  • Care for other Christians, yes, but are we really supposed to care for the other poor people, or the poor of the world? (60)
  • What if poor people abuse our charity and generosity? (108)
  • Isn’t it true that “Christians should not be concerned about poverty and social conditions, but about saving souls?” (42)

Keller tackles all of those (and more) head-on in the book.

Squirm in Your Seat
Some books make you feel warm and fuzzy. Other books make you feel uncomfortable and perplexed. You can expect that Keller’s will fall into the latter category. Here is a sampling of some of the incendiary statements. Do you agree with these?

  • James [in the Bible] can say that faith without respect, love, and practical concern for the poor is dead. It’s not justifying, gospel faith (104).
  • The law of God demands equity and justice, and love of one’s neighbor (101).
  • “I am the Lord who exercises kindness and social justice on earth” (15, c.f. Jeremiah 9:24).
  • If you look at someone without adequate resources and do nothing about it…your faith is “dead” (99).
  • Every failure to help the poor [is] a sin, offensive to God’s splendor and deserving of judgment and punishment (16, c.f. Job 31:23, 28).
  • If you are trying to live a life in accordance with the Bible, the concept and call to justice are inescapable” (18).
  • We cannot fit the Bible’s approach into a liberal or conservative economic model (33).
  • We should spend far more of our money and wealth on the poor than we do on our own entertainment, or on vacations, or on eating out and socializing” (48).
  • A lack of justice is a sign that the worshipper’s hearts are not right with God at all, that their prayers and all their religious observance are just filled with self and pride (50).

Enough bullet points.

It’s probably time for you to read the book.

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