The Social Justice Debate: Jordan Peterson on White Privilege

Last week I posted John MacArthur’s response to a seminary student’s question about social justice in the church. In that reply, MacArthur invoked the concept of intersectionality and defined it in a manner which echoed Jordan Peterson in his infamous lecture on white privilege.

Since I first heard Peterson on white privilege, I have considered writing a critical response. The MacArthur post provoked me to finally get to it.  In the 10 minute clip below, Peterson explains why he doubts the privilege associated with “white privilege” is actually due to whiteness. Here is the clip. He begins with his views of intersectionality, followed by a critique of white privilege which starts at 4:45.

He doesn’t play fair here by only criticizing one theoretical article from 1988. Nearly all social science concepts start with a notion of some kind which then serves to generate testable hypotheses. As of now, there are empirical studies on the concept. However, his audience leaves thinking white privilege is only the idea of an isolated professor.

At 7:01, Peterson reads from a list of attitudes and behaviors taken for granted by white people. The list was crafted by Peggy McIntosh in a 1988 paper (the full list is here) titled, “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies.” Note that she says it is a personal account.

Okay, so here’s her white privilege list, some of it, there’s like 50 things. ‘ I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.’ ‘If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.’ That’s actually a wealth thing, by the way. ‘I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.’ ‘I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.’ ‘I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.’ ‘When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.’ There’s 50 of those, I think, something like that.

Okay, is that white privilege, or is that, like majority privilege? Is the same true if you go to China, you’re Chinese, is the same true if you’re Chinese? Is it majority privilege, and if it’s majority privilege, isn’t that just part of living within your culture? So let’s say you live in your culture, you’re privileged in that culture, well obviously. That’s what the culture is for. That’s what it’s for. Why would you bother building the damn thing if it didn’t accrue benefits to you? Well, you might say one of the consequences is that it accrues fewer benefits to those who aren’t in the culture. Yeah, but you can’t immediately associate that with race. You can’t just do that. Say it’s white privilege. There’s many things it could be. Certainly could be wealth. And the intersectional people have already figured out there are many things it could be. So like, what the hell? Seriously, well, what’s going on?

Well, we let these pseudo-disciplines into the university because we’re stupid and guilty, seriously. And they have no methodological requirements and plenty of power and plenty of time to produce nonsensical research and produce like resentful activists and now we’re bearing the fruits of that. It’s not pretty, so white privilege.

So Like Seriously What’s Wrong?

Other than Peterson’s argument by exasperation, the main problem I see is his assumption that majorities of one kind or another build and own the culture. In America, that is silly, and an aspect of white nationalist fantasy. I realize he is Canadian but his arguments apparently appeal to Americans who like the majority white. In America, our history leads us straightaway to race. You can’t talk about majorities and minorities without talking about race.

Let’s apply his argument to America instead of China and see if it doesn’t sound like race is at least one of the important issues of privilege in America. Remember he is criticizing the idea of white privilege. Here is what he said in the video. After that I will substitute America for China.

Okay, is that white privilege, or is that, like majority privilege? Is the same true if you go to China, you’re Chinese, is the same true if you’re Chinese? Is it majority privilege, and if it’s majority privilege, isn’t that just part of living within your culture?

Now let’s substitute America for China.

“Okay, is that white privilege, or is that, like majority privilege? Is the same true if you go to [America]? If you go to [America], you’re [American], is the same true if you’re [American]? Is it majority privilege, and if it’s majority privilege, isn’t that just part of living within your culture?”

See the problem? He seems to be saying that the real, true Americans are the majority Americans. He solidifies this messages by asking, “isn’t that just part of living within your culture?” Jordan, what do you mean “your culture?” In America, the culture isn’t mine as a member of any majority. It is supposed to belong to all citizens. However, it is very clear to me that simply because I am white, I never have had to deal with some things that my African-American friends have had to deal with. By law, it is just as much their culture as mine but they contend with different social rules that they did not get to construct.

Peterson continues to talk about “your culture” as if it belongs to some unspecified majority alone. In what is the most shocking part of this rant to me, he justifies majority privilege as the right of the majority. Then he essentially excludes the minorities from the culture by saying they “accrue fewer benefits” and “aren’t in the culture.”

So let’s say you live in your culture, you’re privileged in that culture, well obviously. That’s what the culture is for. That’s what it’s for. Why would you bother building the damn thing if it didn’t accrue benefits to you? Well, you might say one of the consequences is that it accrues fewer benefits to those who aren’t in the culture. Yeah, but you can’t immediately associate that with race. You can’t just do that. Say it’s white privilege.

An American distinctive is the belief that people from all kinds of backgrounds can make good and have a better life. Many of us want to believe in the promise of America for everybody to realize the same benefits of being an American. Peterson appears to promote a backward view toward an America where the majority stores up benefits for themselves. In the end, he doesn’t refute the concept of white privilege as much as he tries to shout it down. For what purpose? I can’t think of any good one.

While I believe the concept of white privilege does need more empirical support, I also believe there is a use of the term which is simply descriptive. It stands for the observation that race matters in American society and has mattered since the founding. One does not need to embrace identity psychology to simply recognize that racism has not been eradicated from our cultural institutions (e.g., the church, political parties, law enforcement, etc.) and that efforts to minimize that fact are corrosive to our culture.  White guys stomping around yelling, “seriously, what the hell?” doesn’t get us any closer to treating others as we want to be treated or ensuring equal treatment under the law.

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Image: Dr.Jordan Peterson delivering a lecture at the University of Toronto in 2017. March 20, 2017, Source: Adam Jacobs, Wikimedia, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

John MacArthur on Intersectionality and Social Justice

On Wednesday, school president John MacArthur welcomed seminary students to The Master’s Seminary. After he discussed the recent accreditation probation (more on that in this and future posts), he was asked about his recent blog posts about social justice. I have most of the audio of his answer and a transcript of all of it. In it, he goes beyond his recent blog posts to discuss why he believes a focus on social justice is a threat to the gospel. The transcript begins just below and a link to the audio follows the transcript.

I’ve been keeping up with your blog posts on Grace to You. You’ve been talking about social justice is an issue now. You said Wednesday you’re going to mention what the hindrances to the gospel were entitled with. Do you mind giving us a sneak peak today?

John MacArthur:
Well, that wouldn’t be fair. I’m not going to say … I wrote that already, but … Let me just give it to you in simple form. Obviously, social justice, which means equity in social treatment, right? Social justice means equity in how you’re treated socially. It’s not legal justice. I mean, we believe that all people should have legal justice, justice under the law. That’s never going to happen, either. You got people in prison who didn’t do something they were sentenced to prison for. You’ve got a lot of people who’ve been treated wrongly, even under the law.

But social justice means social equity, making sure everybody gets the social equity. That’s never going to happen in a fallen world, in the best of circumstances. But that is not the church’s concern. Let me tell you what the problem is. The mindset of social justice is that certain people are victims. You will notice what’s called intersectionality. There’s an overlapping victimization pattern coming now. You can see it all in bold relief at the recent Southern Baptist convention.

The LGBTQ people are abused, and abused people, their abused category. So they are victims of discrimination. Women are victims of discrimination. You even have Thabiti Anyabwile, my friend, writing an article apologizing to Beth Moore, for I don’t know what. For being part of the male conspiracy against women, because women have been collectively abused. They’re also victims.

Then you have the racial minority issue, where they have been also victims. When you bring those together, you come up with this new concept of intersectionality, so that it would play out like this. If you are a woman, you’re a part of a victim class. If you’re a black woman, you’re doubly part of the victim class. If you’re a homosexual or lesbian black woman, you are the most empowered human being in this culture. You have moral authority, because you’re in multiple victim classes. So that’s what’s going on.

You see, all those … You got homosexuals, women, men, racial issues, ethnic groups, all mingled together, and now the Southern Baptist convention is apologizing to all of the victims. This I think is a complete disaster for the gospel, because the gospel says you are not a victim. You are a perpetrator of sin and rebellion against God. If you recategorize all those people as victims, you cut them off at the start with the gospel.

Most of these people talking about social justice are concerned about it at the back end of the gospel. You know, are you really a believer if you don’t care about that? Well, of course we care about that. But when you turn people into victims … I talked about the higher rate of abortion among black women in New York City. 75 percent of babies are killed in the womb. I was just afraid, because that was not something that … That was not the biggest issue. That is a big issue. That is murder.

Fornication is sin. Adultery is sin. Homosexuality is sin. Stealing is sin. Lying is sin. Cheating is sin. But if I turn all these people into victims, I’ve cut them off from the essential necessity in the gospel, and that is full culpability for your own sin. So I’m asking these people all the time, why aren’t you preaching against sin, regardless of who they are? Men, women, homosexual identity people, or ethnic groups, whatever they are.

I was thinking about 2 Corinthians, 5:16. Paul says, “We no longer see any man in the flesh. We don’t even see Christ in the flesh.” I don’t see people in the flesh. I see them with the eyes of God. If I stop at their flesh, and get stuck, at that point, I have missed the whole point of the gospel. That what concerns me about the Martin Luther King elevation. The man denied the authority of scripture, denied the trinity, denied the deity of Jesus Christ, denied the gospel, and lived an immoral life. How does he become heroic? Only if you look at him in the flesh.

God doesn’t see him in the flesh. God sees him in his heart attitude toward Him. We went and … people who say they’re evangelicals get completely consumed with the flesh, and with what’s happening in the physical world, and then make those people feel like they’re all victims. This is no good service to them. Are there inequities? You bet. I wrote about them in that first blog. I’ve seen it.

Read the book, The Blood Land. Between Russia and Germany prior to World War II, as many as 15 million people were killed. None of them in a military uniform. None of them in a war. They were just massacred. 15 million people. That takes a lot of work to kill 15 million people, one at a time. Are there atrocities in the world? You bet. Stalin kills 50 million. Hitler kills 6 million Jews. 2,000 Nigerians are slaughtered in the last week.
This is a tough place to live. Sin has consequence. It has social consequence. It has deadly consequence. I’m not denying the curse of Adam. I’m not denying that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the third and fourth generation. This is a sinful generation right here. Sinful fathers in this generation are going to make life really difficult for the next three, four generations. But nobody ever went to hell for the sin of Adam. Nobody ever went to hell for the sins of the fathers. They go because they believe not in Christ, and because they haven’t confronted their own sin in an honest way.

So all this talk is simply looking at people on a fleshly level, and that’s the wrong look. That’s why it’s not a gospel reality, because it stops the gospel dead in its tracks at the start. You are not a victim. You are a perpetrator of sin against God, and in all.

The Bible warns, and I’ll get into this Sunday morning, but if you’re a watchman, and you don’t warn, the blood of those people is on your hands. If these people have a message, the message ought to be forget the history, forget the past, forget what went wrong, forget a fallen world … You better deal with your sin. That’s gospel. Turning people into victims is not gospel.

That just confuses everything, because all among us, let’s be honest … You’re letting them blame God. This is not new. Adam, what did he say? The woman … He didn’t blame me. He went to sleep single. He did not pick Eve. She showed up, by the creative power of God. I’m in the mess I’m in because of you. That’s where it has to go. Then you have to convince some person that there’s a good, gracious, loving God in heaven, who has turned you into a victim.

How in the world can reformed people believe this when they believe that God is sovereign over absolutely everything, and never does evil? This so confounds the gospel at its basic premise of the personal, individual sinfulness of every person. I’m going to preach on Ezekiel 18 eventually, once I get all this going.

God says, “Every soul is mine.” Wow. “Every person is mine. I’m behind your life. I have directed that life, and I hold you completely responsibility to repent.” That’s the message of the gospel. That’s the message that must be preached. That’s the message that Ezekiel preaches in chapter 18, and at the end he says, “Forget about blaming somebody else, and repent.” Great gospel chapter.

This sounds, especially in the beginning, like Jordan Peterson’s discussion of intersectionality (about 3:40 into this video).

It is hard for me to see how it can be wrong to strive for equal social treatment for all. One may advocate for traditional Christian redemption and for equal social treatment at the same time without doing violence to either one. Where Christians have failed to treat others the way we want to be treated, remorse and apologies are in order. I learned that in kindergarten (well preschool, because I was evicted from preschool since I hadn’t learned that yet). Being honest about historical facts (e.g., native Americans and the trail of tears, or slavery or the captivity of Japanese) doesn’t compromise the gospel.

MacArthur’s blog where you can follow his thoughts on Social Justice.

A critical response to MacArthur’s series on Social Justice posted Wednesday by TMUS alum Terrance Jones.

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Image: The Master’s University, by Lukasinla [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons 

Tim Clinton’s Co-Author: I Always Check My Sources

Defending himself against charges of academic misconduct last week, American Association of Christian Counselors president and Trump advisor Tim Clinton blamed a former employee for lifting material from other sources for use in articles which carried Clinton’s byline. Even though AACC’s code of ethics discourages ghostwriters, Clinton blamed an employee who functioned in that manner for material in his articles which came from other sources.

One online article by Clinton, “Press On,” (cached)* which contained plagiarized material was first published in the book Ignite Your Faith by Clinton and Max Davis. Because I wanted to find out how the copied content got into “Press On,” I contacted Davis for comment (I also contacted Clinton with no response).

When I contacted Davis, he said he did not have any part in writing the devotional “Press On.” He added that he always checks his sources and “never once in all my years as a writer has this happened” referring to copied content ending up in one of his books.

He also wanted me to know that he was not the fired AACC employee blamed by Clinton for academic misconduct to the Christian Post.

*The same article with the title “Strive to Excel” was once posted on Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk website. It is archived here.


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(In the image, Tim Clinton is above Donald Trump’s head, to the right of V.P. Pence, Image: Johnnie Moore’s Twitter feed)

Exclusive: Ravi Zacharias Apologizes for False Claims about His Credentials at Oxford and Cambridge

In response to my request for a comment about his false claim to be a professor at Oxford (see this post for video) in a speech to the C.S. Lewis Institute, Ravi Zacharias sent the following statement to me:

“I am thankful for the opportunities I have had throughout my life to pursue an education from a broad range of outstanding institutions. I earned my bachelor’s degree in theology from Ontario Bible College (now known as Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto) and then completed a Master’s in Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. I was then privileged to serve as Chair and Associate Professor of Evangelism and Associate Professor of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought at Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, New York. In subsequent years, I had the opportunity to participate in guided studies at Ridley Hall, an independent theological college affiliated with the University of Cambridge, which consisted of studies in a few subjects including philosophy and world religions. I was also a Senior Research Fellow, an honorary title which Wycliffe Hall, a permanent private hall of the University of Oxford, bestowed for a number of years. This role provided a wonderful opportunity for me to lecture there.

While I have been privileged to receive several honorary doctorates from other institutions, to be clear, I have never earned a doctoral degree and was never enrolled at the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge. And while I have lectured at Wycliffe Hall, I am not and have never been a professor at the University of Oxford. I recognize that academic terms and designations are important, and I apologize for any occasion on which I have wrongly titled my association with either of these institutions. For these reasons, I previously updated my curriculum vitae on the RZIM website to best reflect my educational and professional experience.”

The second paragraph contains some new admissions (in bold print). He acknowledges never being enrolled in Oxford or Cambridge and apologizes for using titles in the past suggesting he was a professor at Oxford. This took place over two decades.

In December 2017, Zacharias acknowledged that he did not have an earned doctorate and said he would discontinue using the title “Dr” (he has honorary doctorates). However, at that time, he did not address his past misleading academic claims involving Oxford and Cambridge. Today, this statement partially addresses that situation.

As I did yesterday, I asked for reaction from Canadian apologist John Stackhouse. Via email, Stackhouse said:

It is good to have Ravi Zacharias apologize for misleading claims about his academic credentials—as he has now done again. But now what?

Not only Mr Zacharias himself, but Mr Zacharias’s publishers, the RZIM board, RZIM staff members, RZIM institutional partners, RZIM donors, and the Christian & Missionary Alliance all have vital decisions to make now. What can and should be salvaged of a ministry whose leader has admitted that he lied, repeatedly, about the basic facts of his competence to perform that ministry?

Christians should pray for integrity, honesty, courage, gentleness, and wisdom for everyone involved in this mess—for it is, despite the mild language of this admission by Mr Zacharias, a terrible mess indeed.


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Image: Kristamaranatha at the English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Dear Gospel for Asia: How Will Funds Raised for Kerala Flood Victims Get to Them?

Over the past week, the news out of the state of Kerala in India has been devastating. Due to severe flooding, over 400 are dead and 800,000 have been displaced. Sadly, those numbers are expected to climb. Of course, the natural impulse is to help.

Kerala is the home of K.P. Yohannan, Gospel for Asia (now called Ayana Charitable Trust in India), and Believers’ Church. While it is understandable that K.P. has been informing his followers about what is happening there, he is also doing something that raises a question: K.P. is raising foreign donations to send to flood victims. The question is how will those funds get to flood victims?

In 2017, the government of India canceled the registration of Gospel for Asia (Ayana Charitable Trust), Believers’ Church India, and two other affiliated organizations to receive foreign donations. Yohannan is raising money but it isn’t clear how those funds will get to flood victims when the Indian organizations he fronts can’t receive them?

Different Answers from Different Sources

Yesterday via email in response to a GFA press release asking for donations for flood victims, I asked public relations contact Gregg Wooding of InChrist Communications if he could explain how donations will get to flood victims. He replied:

GFA has headquarters in Kerala, India. Volunteers are actively rescuing, feeding those affected by flooding and providing other supplies.

I wrote back to ask how GFA in Kerala could receive those funds since the Indian government had canceled the organization’s FCRA registration. He did not answer.

Earlier in the day a source called GFA in Wills Point, TX on behalf of my blog and asked how American donations could be accepted in India since the FCRA registrations had been canceled. The caller was told that GFA still is able to operate in India, but the license to receive money is with Believers Eastern Church. The GFA representative said that the funds given to GFA are sent to Believers Church. He added that GFA and Believers’ Church are technically and legally different entities. GFA cannot guarantee money given for India disaster relief will be used for that purpose through Believers’ Church because GFA has no legal or ultimate authority over Believers’ Church. Money given to GFA is preferenced by donors for a certain purpose and Believers’ Church in practice uses the money for what it is preferenced for.

Leaving aside the uncertainty that the Believers’ Church might not use the funds as intended, GFA’s answer doesn’t match what the Indian government says. As I will demonstrate below, the registrations for GFA (Ayana Charitable Trust), Believers’ Church, and two other GFA affiliated organizations were canceled in 2017.  The question remains – how will American funds get to flood victims since GFA and Believers’ Church are unable to receive foreign contributions? Maybe there is an answer to this question, but GFA hasn’t provided one that fits with information available to the public.

FCRA – Foreign Contribution Regulation Act

In India, a charity must be registered with the government to receive foreign donations. There are rigorous reporting requirements as specified by the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and the records are available to the world via the Home Ministry’s website. In fact, those records prompted the early questions about Gospel for Asia’s finances that eventually led to GFA being removed from membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

The FCRA rules are clear that only registered organizations can receive foreign donations (click here for a larger image).

Among other conditions, the rules (Q.2b) state that an organization “must obtain the FCRA registration/prior permission from the Central Government.” In contrast, Q.3i specifies that “individuals or associations who have been prohibited from receiving foreign contributions” cannot receive them.

To determine organizations which have been canceled, one can go to the India’s Home Ministry website and scroll down to the FCRA link.  On that site, there is a link near the bottom left which reads: List of Associations whose registration has been cancelled. If you click through, you will need to select the state of Kerala. Once you do that, you will see Ayana Charitable Trust at the top of the list. Scrolling down you will soon encounter Believers’ Church India and Love India Ministries and Last Hour Ministries.  Here are screen caps of Ayana Charitable Trust (formerly GFA-India), Believers’ Church, Love India Ministries, and Last Hour Ministries on the canceled list).

Since the very organizations which GFA and GFA’s PR representative said will take the money can’t do so, it is a fair and significant question to ask how donations intended for flood victims will get to them.  So far, GFA has not provided a satisfactory answer or provided evidence that the Indian government is wrong. Donors should demand more.

For more on the impact of the revocation of registration to receive foreign funds in India, see this article on Compassion International. When the Indian government canceled their registration to receive foreign donations, they left India. 


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Image: with permission Indian Navy (GODL-India) [GODL-India (], via Wikimedia Commons