Is ‘Systemic Injustice’ Biblical? (Michael Rhodes)

Terms like “systemic sin” or “structural injustice” immediately make many people think of contemporary ideologies that they either strongly embrace or strongly oppose, such as socialism or the much-discussed (but poorly understood) critical race theory. These charged terms are often employed in vague or unhelpful ways.

The Bible has many examples of sin and injustice that are not purely individual—of evil that is bigger than the sum of the evildoers, and iniquity that reverberates through generations. How can we think more clearly and biblically about the nature of evil and injustice? Sin is many things in Scripture: an action, an identity, an agent or power, and the brokenness of structures and systems. People err when they don’t grasp the Bible’s full, complex picture of sin.

Michael Rhodes (PhD, Trinity College Bristol/University of Aberdeen) is a Lecturer in Old Testament at Carey Baptist College. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, author of Formative Feasting: Practices and Virtue Ethics in the Deuteronomic Tithe Meal and Corinthian Lord’s Supper (2022), and co-author of Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give.

Show notes:

  • 00:26 Unjust kings don’t act alone; the state is more than the sum of its parts
  • 06:46 The positive side: people were created to be mediators of God’s blessing
  • 12:34 English hides the second-person plural
  • 14:32 The structures of society create incentives and disincentives for behaviors
  • 15:38 Intergenerational sin in Scripture
  • 18:14 People’s inconsistent resistance to the idea of systemic injustice and sin
  • 22:49 What is sin? It’s both individual and communal, personal and systemic
  • 31:10 Is this leaning toward socialism or critical race theory?
  • 41:06 Cornel West for president?
  • 41:56 Exercising power faithfully in different kinds political, economic, and cultural contexts
  • 43:48 Paradigmatic depictions of God’s kingdom should be announced and emulated in the church

Show notes by Celina Durgin

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