This is a book review for Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth by Thaddeus Williams
You don’t have to be on social media long to realize that what is called justice today often includes counter-productive outcomes of anger, hatred, bitterness, and wrath. Rarely do those calling the loudest take a breath to reflect on the wisdom of their words. Echo chambers mean we are quick to point fingers along partisan lines and rebuke those who violate man-made standards of righteousness.
This idea of “social justice” is typically either uncritically embraced or vilified within the church, but rarely defined or explained. Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth takes a step back from the madness to provide clarity to the conversation. The author doesn’t make the mistake of minimizing our need for justice or flatly dismissing claims to oppression. Instead, he provides a nuanced, even-handed analysis of today’s hot button issues.
“The most pressing cultural and political issues of our day are, fundamentally, worship issues.” – Thaddeus Williams
The book aims to and succeeds in providing the reader with a perspective on justice firmly rooted in Scripture. It distinguishes between two kinds of social justice—Social Justice A (the kind Christians have always practiced by helping the poor, honoring widows, reaching the least of these) and Social Justice B (the kind widely promoted in culture today). This second kind of social justice is critiqued through twelve questions, such as: Does it distort the gospel? Does it take seriously the godhood of God? Does it embrace divisive propaganda? Does it value group identity over identity “in Christ”?
This book’s greatest strength is that it repeatedly emphasized that justice without God is actually injustice, reaffirming that “all injustice is a violation of the first commandment.” Everybody wants to call themselves pro-justice. However, when people become their own arbiters of truth, their vision of justice becomes distorted as well.
By providing examples both from history and modern-day, Thaddeus Williams broadens our scope beyond the particulars of specific issues, hitting on the worldview assumptions at the heart of our debates.
The end of the book included seven appendices labeled A-F addressing the issues of abortion, race, socialism, sexuality, helping the poor, fragility, and the culture wars. These were useful for going in-depth and illustrated how to apply the biblical principles outlined in the twelve chapters.
Enjoyable writing style
Though the book features heavy topics, the writing makes it enjoyable to read. Thaddeus Williams’ style is personable and witty, and his humor can be disarming when dealing with touchy issues. I also appreciated the relatable explanations and situations he included throughout which put tougher to understand concepts in an everyday context.
The end of the book includes 30 pages of research documentation. As different topics are addressed throughout the chapters, books going deeper into the issue are consistently referenced. By the time I had finished reading, I had a list of new books to check out next. These recommended resources make this book an even better jumping-off point for interested readers.
Inclusion of personal stories by contributing authors
The contributing authors were one of the reasons I initially decided to check the book out. I have learned and benefited from the writing and work of Neil Shenvi, Monique Duson, and Samuel Sey. I appreciated the inclusion of their stories and of others towards the end of each chapter. These short insights into their lives functioned as a powerful reminder that we are still dealing with real people, not mere statistics or ideas. Many of these stories gave me a new perspective, as they were outside of my normal frame of reference, like Suresh’s experience under the Hindu caste system and Becket’s experience in Hollywood.
Addressing seldom discussed issues
Thaddeus makes sure to address the biggest injustices of our day, things that typically get swept under the rug like exploitive porn, sex trafficking, children from split homes, lives lost to abortion and women exploited by the industry, religious persecution, and the victims of socialism. This reminds Christians not to simply jump on the trending issues for the sake of looking virtuous. Most of all, it reminds us that we need the gospel above all else.
Gracious in argumentation
Maintaining a humble attitude is difficult when your convictions are strong and the stakes of debate are high. Thaddeus’ respectful treatment of those he critiques is in-line with his early statement to “take aim at ideas, not people.” He keeps the gospel central and doesn’t get caught in the weeds.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER
There is very little to critique in this book, both in style and content. For an introduction to social justice from a Christian perspective, it is everything I could have asked for.
While this is a highly accessible book, some knowledge of social justice ideology is helpful for getting the most out of it. The ideology that lies behind many modern-day conversations–theory originating from scholars such as Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, the Frankfurt School, and Karl Marx–is touched on but glossed over. This book would pair well with something touching on the deeper philosophical issues behind social justice ideology, like Ratio Christi’s booklet on Engaging Critical Theory & The Social Justice Movement.
Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth is a very approachable and comprehensive overview of some of the biggest issues we face in culture. Few Christian books have taken the time to address social justice from a biblical perspective, so this book fills a unique void. For me, that was a breath of fresh air. Every Christian should read it to equip themselves to speak the truth and do justice in a culture that misunderstands both. I hope those who do pick it up will be encouraged to tackle difficult problems and go into the culture with the courage to bring light as past generations of Christians did when they rescued discarded babies in Rome, worked to abolish slavery and stood up for the downtrodden.