31 January 2019

Virtue Signaling and the Signing of Religious Manifestos

by Phil Johnson

A friend—actually a very good friend of mine—noticed that I had spoken on "virtue signaling" at the G3 pre-conference, and he put a comment on my FaceBook page asking if signing a manifesto like the Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel might not be legitimately seen as "the conservative equivalent of liberal virtue signaling." Here's my reply:

f you listen carefully to the definition I gave, virtue signaling is when you affirm a trendy, politically correct, or socially popular position in order to claim the moral high ground or garner praise—especially when you have little intention of doing anything else about the issue you are publicly wringing your hands over.

So my conscience is clear.

Still, it's certainly possible that someone wishing only to trumpet his own notion of "stylish orthodoxy" might think signing a conservative group's manifesto could accomplish that self-aggrandizing purpose.

But one could say that about anyone in any context who makes his or her opinions known publicly. Blogging, FaceBook comments, even sermons delivered from a sound church's pulpit all carry the same risk.

So unless a person is willing to keep all his opinions to himself, he ought to examine his own motives on a regular basis. Because Scripture does say, "Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak."

This is therefore a good reminder. "Let a person examine himself."

But Scripture also says, "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience." So silence isn't always a virtue.

Anyway, I take your feedback as a good reminder, and not a rebuke. Anyone who knows you should understand (as I do) that you were not just trying to pick a fight for the sake of being contentious.


When one sees a massive bandwagon rolling by, filled with people who have all suddenly become concerned with a specific issue that is being hard-peddled to them by celebrities and trend-setters, and all these people are both trumpeting their own wokeness and shaming everyone who isn't woke yet (including aiming their newfound scorn at respectable Christian leaders who may not share the now-trendy opinion)—one can hardly help concluding that this is another wave of just what we saw when Emergents were saying similar things and shaming the rest of us for not being sufficiently postmodern.

"Woke," it turns out, is the new postmodern.

The current wave of political correctness has simply put a veneer of evangelical moral outrage on the idea of "social justice," without carefully delineating how the term "social justice" as it has been employed in modern and postmodern secular academic circles (and in liberal religion) for more than a century now. And if you look at the landscape carefully, you'll see that leading the parade of those who are clamoring for a "woke church" is a pack of socialists and liberation theology buffs.

Pointing out that fact is hardly an example of "virtue signaling."

Here's that message from the G3 preconference:

Phil's signature


Eternity Matters said...

SJWs are worse than the hypocrites in Matthew 6 – at least the hypocrites actually did something to merit praise! The "Christian" Left virtue signals over "giving" your money and has turned coveting into a virtue, not a vice.

Rick Potter said...

Your friend has always had that uncanny ability to reach in and pick out those observations that most of the rest of pass right over. I envy that in your friend.