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NEW: Master of Arts in Social Justice at Kilns College

So, this is one of the best press releases of the year!


Kilns College is excited to announce the launch of its first graduate program! Beginning Fall 2013 we will be offering a Master of Arts Degree in Social Justice. This one-year program is designed for individuals seeking careers in the nonprofit sector, ministry, or simply seeking a better understanding of justice in their careers and day-to-day living. The program is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a community of entrepreneurs, theologians, social activists, advocates and leading thinkers in biblical and social justice.*

Admission Information

Application: The application deadline is May 1st. Application requirements include successful completion of an undergraduate program, letters of recommendation, personal statement, completion of the application form. Please note, we do not require the GRE for admission. For a full list of application materials and requirements please email Melissa McCreery.

Tuition: $237 per credit ($7,584 total)

(Scholarships and Financial Assistance: Multiple scholarship opportunities are available for entering students. Please e-mail Kilns College for more information.)

Listed below are a few course highlights. The full one-year curriculum will be posted online soon.

SJ 501a – Systematic Theology for Christian Social Justice: Part 1 (3 Credits)
The first module in a two-part course which is designed to introduce the classical topics in systematic theology as they provide the proper context in which to understand a uniquely Christian account of social justice. In the first part attention will be give to theological sources of knowledge, the development of Christology in the early Christological controversies, and the subsequent emergence of the doctrine of the Trinity. These doctrines will be related to the doctrine of reconciliation, forming the context in which to discuss the Christian mission of reconciliation as it relates to issues of social justice.

SJ 511 – A People’s History of Justice in the Modern Era (3 Credits)
The course will look at the topics of justice, injustice, human rights, politics and society from historical, theological and philosophical perspectives. This course will also pay special attention to developments in the modern era and the viewpoint of disenfranchised or oppressed peoples.

SJ 612 –Christian Ethics: Dietrich Bonheoffer and Soren Kierkegaard (3 credits)
This is a reading course in the ethics of two theologians. Close readings of primary sources will help to develop important interpretative reading skills in the subject area as well as give students a solid introduction to the thinkers that are featured. A short sequence of lectures will introduce methods and background information with the remaining majority of class meetings focused on discussions of the weekly reading assignments.

SJ 617 – Slavery: A History (3 credits)
The History of Slavery course at Kilns College is designed to expose students to the topic of slavery as it has existed in different periods: early, Roman, Christian, Middle Ages, Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Modern and Sex Trafficking. Students will learn the both the differing and similar features to slavery, the advocacy movements against slavery, the psychological effects of slavery and how that interfaces with the concept of social death. Students will also develop a stance with regard to modern slavery.


Top 10 Reasons I’m Counting Down to The 2013 Justice Conference

Guest Blog by Melissa McCreery

Since being hired at Kilns College, I’ve had the awesome opportunity—blessing, really—to be a small part of The Justice Conference. It’s truly amazing to see the conference staff, Kilns students, and countless (seriously, countless) volunteers come together to pull off this awesome event.  I’ve honestly found it difficult to sleep all week because The Justice Conference is in Philadelphia this weekend. Here are my top 10 reason why I’ve been looking forward to this event all year!

1.     It’s the single event where thousands of people who care about justice gather together. That’s a lot of awesome people in one place!

2.     Kilns College co-sponsors the event with World Relief so I get to spend 48 hours meeting people and talking about Kilns College and why it’s a place that’s revolutionizing higher education. If you’re coming to the conference come check out the Kilns table and say hi!

3.     Micah Bournes will be performing. This guy is seriously talented!

4.     You get the opportunity to meet representatives from hundreds of nonprofit organizations

5.     I was honored to ask to speak during a pre-conference session. If you’ll be at the pre-conference check out my session on education! While you’re at it, check out all the pre-conference sessions on The Justice Conference website

6.     My dear friend Erin Lytle is Director for this conference and works tirelessly 365 days a year to make it an awesome experience for all the attendees, exhibitors and speakers.

7.     This year’s conference is in Philly! After living for a few years in New England, I’m excited to be back on the East Coast, even if just for a few days.

8.     It’s a great networking event!

9.     Kilns College President Ken Wytsma’s new book Pursuing Justice will be available at the conference bookstore

10.  This year, Kilns College has a HUGE announcement to make at the conference… can’t wait to share it with everyone!



Is Justice Just a Fad?

Click on the image below to see my op-ed in the Huffington Post on how to asses the pop-culture nature of justice.

Also, for a more in depth discussion on the same topic see the Redux video at bottom.

If social justice is a fad, will it fade away? from :redux on Vimeo.


Justice as a Theological Necessity

I’m teaching at The House of Providence in Vancouver, Washington this Sunday (more…)


Worse Than Slavery – Book Review

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that’s completely turned me upside down.  (more…)


Is Social Justice Biblical?

Today is, according to the United Nations, Social Justice Day.  (more…)


A Response to Glenn Beck on Social Justice

I responded to a friend on the recent comments by commentator Glenn Beck on Social Justice.  Below is my text:

Glenn Beck has a narrow definition of Social Justice.  For him, it is political and liberal.  All of his examples make this clear.  Thus, his argument, from a philosophical perspective, goes like this:

1.  Social Justice is an abuse of power, borders on entitlement and is tainted with socialist ideology

2.  Instead of all that, Christ commanded us to love

3.  Therefore, Social Justice is not good and possibly quite bad and different from what Christ commanded

In contrast, the argument from many strong Christian leaders for Social Justice goes like this:

1.  Christ commanded us absolutely to love – indiscriminately, globally and holistically

2.  Social Justice basically means indiscriminate and holistic love in working clothes

3.  Therefore, Social Justice is near and dear to the heart of God

Put another way:

Glenn Beck: Social Justice >> political, liberal and a-theological >> bad and dangerous

Many others (and me): Social Justice >> love >> good and true

What I believe many of the younger Christian leaders understand better than many conservatives with a tight narrow definition of social justice is that in debates like this, that center around terminology, History and Etymology count way less than we are inclined to think.  Rather, how a word or phrase is “trending” at the current moment in culture is a much better gauge for what it actually “means.”

If we were debating the meaning of the word “gay” and someone took the meaning of the word from when he was a kid talking with his grandparents and then defended it with all the logic in the world – he’d still be wrong.  The cultural meaning of the word has changed.  Groovy was a cool word in the 70’s, but not now.  Social Justice was a negative concept to many from the 50’s to the 80’s, but to this generation it is a good word.  It’s not that we’ve changed our worldview completely on certain issues… it’s that the term has morphed culturally.  What it points to as well as whether it is a positive or negative term.

The bigger issue that is missed on the conservative side of this argument (one that you should recognize from your time growing up in the conservative circles) is that all the energy against Social Justice and related ideas does not add up to energy for love and peacemaking.  I can argue against a cult without ever arguing for Christianity… I can argue against Coca Cola without ever arguing for water.

The other side, however, is arguing for love.  The energy of many of my friends promoting Social Justice adds more to the “love” tank than the time and energy their antagonists add to the “love” tank.  You can see this by the two conclusions from the philosophical arguments above: one ends with a negation while the other ends with an affirmation.  This is more than semantic — it actually points energy in a direction.

It’s subtle, but it is why the conservative church went 50 years arguing against the Social Gospel before it realized that it hadn’t really argued for the many justice or love aspects on the periphery that Christ certainly would have had things to say about.

I’m an Independent.  I try to avoid falling wholly in either the conservative or liberal camp.  What I do know, however, is that many hate the term Social Justice because of what it might have meant decades ago or what it does mean today in political arenas.  I think this is where Glenn Beck is coming from. He means something by Social Justice that is highly political, liberal and debatable.

Most of the Christian leaders I know, however, use the phrase to talk about seemingly incontestable things like caring for orphans and widows, helping children in the third world who have AIDS, promoting economic and educational initiatives in developing countries, dealing with refugees, world hunger and the horror of modern-day human trafficking.

In this discussion, terminology, definitions and meaning are everything – in many instances, we’re all saying the same thing and promoting the broader categories of justice and love.

In the end, this is a classic debate where more heat can be added than light.  Starting with a talk show host at the center is probably not a good idea –


Social Justice

Here’s a little video of Mike & Danae Yankoski answering a question at Redux last Sunday.

I thought they did a particularly good job of answering the question and arguing for balance in our approach to the material and spiritual focuses of church.

(Make sure you watch the whole thing!!)

Social Justice vs Evangelism from :redux on Vimeo.


Mike & Danae

Authors Mike and Danae Yankoski are speaking at Antioch this morning.

Their new book, Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice, hits the stands next week.  It’s a must read for Christians interested in human rights, what the scriptures say about justice and practical things we can do to promote it.

Click on the picture below to order from Amazon or show up this morning to get a signed copy!!


The Social Gospel

I’ve been working all night on a lecture and presentation for the Human Rights class I co-teach tomorrow.

It is a talk on the history, development and theology of the Social Gospel movement, which began in the late 1800’s and blossomed in the early 1900’s.

I don’t think there are many topics in the church today that are as misunderstood. My own position is that of “Social Action” rather than “Social Gospel,” but it is hard to get to a balanced view without unpacking the relevant issues. I had the thought tonight that we understand the cultural conditions of the early 1900’s about as well as we understand what it is like to live in a slum outside Johannesburg today.

That is partly why orthodox churches and conservative theologians only pick at the theology of the social gospel, but fail to recognize the social implications of following Christ and the obligations that love requires – they don’t fully sense the presence of injustice and the urgency of poverty in everyday life.

Anyway, I could type about ten pages on what is wrong with the social gospel as well as what is wrong with our reaction to it.  All this is why I get so excited about Kilns College. At the end of the day, there aren’t too many Christians who have the ability to talk deeply about these things in a formal classroom setting. I believe the college serves a vital role in providing this community with opportunities to learn.

Also, if you didn’t get the chance to take the History and Philosophy of Human Rights class this fall – it’s being offered again next fall!!



Social Justice

I’ve been getting asked a lot of questions lately from people outside of Antioch about the phrase Social Justice.

The argument that gets made and that I’ve heard over the years has two points and then a conclusion:

One, for a few generations, social justice has been seen as a sidetrack from the redemptive purpose and gospel message of the church.

Second, social justice is a focal point of many non-christian groups… whether they be atheistic, Buddhist or otherwise.

Therefore, we should avoid getting tangled up in causes that distract from Christ and diminish our unique position in the world as Christians.

I don’t think the premises or the conclusion hold up.

The discussion could be cashed out in length, which is beyond the scope of this blog, but here are two quick rejoinders:

1) Isaiah 42 makes it pretty clear that one of the inextricable purposes of Jesus’ coming was to bring justice. It goes on and calls us to join in helping the oppressed, poor and needy. Then Isaiah ties this to the glory of God and our own joy in serving him.

In short, justice isn’t a distraction, it is a part of our redemptive purpose. Furthermore, justice is a part of the gospel… Jesus came to do for me what I could not do for myself and now I join him in that work as an outflow of my gratitude for his grace and lovingkindness.

2) The second argument is what I call a “guilty by association” argument. If someone I don’t like or agree with is doing something then I should do the opposite.

This is just plain silly.

If a Buddhist or atheist practices forgiveness, does that mean we have to walk away from forgiveness? Of course not. Something is valuable in and of itself and the Christian is called to practice righteousness with no eye to comparison games. (In fact, Paul praised the gentiles (non-Christians) in the Book of Romans for doing what the law required (justice) without even having the books of the law etc. They were “picking up their rooms” or “sharing,” so to speak, without even having been told to do so.)

Maybe the problem is the word “social.” Even this seems unimportant. The word social is usually put in front of justice so that we don’t think of merely court systems and legal disputes. Social justice is a broad based justice movement that extends beyond the courts into the social spheres of life.

I find the word helpful, but if it causes problems I am okay with simply justice.

What we should keep in mind in this discussion, however, is that when God rebuked his followers it was more often than not because they had neglected justice, not because they had dug in for the proper wording or sat on the sidelines so as not to mix with the other team. (Remember the Good Samaritan story?)

The issue isn’t how justice or social justice sits with us or affects our sensitivities… the issue is whether we are focused on it and see it as part of our redemptive calling (Is 42).

It seems that we, like the Pharisees in the New Testament, find it easier to debate causes instead of being dedicated to them.

[P.S. The latest conversation I had on this topic came this morning over coffee. For the first time in a while someone actually asked me directly what I meant and how I saw it related to our Christian calling. If only more people would handle hot button discussions this maturely we might actually get somewhere!!]


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