Rediscovering Values is Jim Wallis’ latest book. It is a prescription for economic recovery: applying (out of context) social justice texts from the Torah, together with selective texts from the Gospels (primarily the Sermon on the Mount), while advocating the application of some aspects of Shariah law to the United States banking system (see page 128 of his book). The result is an over emphasis on social justice and zero emphasis on the necessity of the gospel to fundamentally transform the fallen nature of corrupt sinners before values can have any meaning at all.
Wallis makes the error of applying theocratic texts from the Old Testment, together with admonitions of Jesus from the Gospels (which are limited in their application to those who have forsaken all, denied themselves, and taken up their cross to follow Him) to the economic and political realities of secular America.
This is a fatal flaw. To quote the Apostle Paul, “the law is good if a man uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8). There is no better illustration of a man using God’s law unlawfully than Wallis’ Rediscovering Values. Wallis is counting on the law (the Torah, the social justice texts of the Gospels) to do what only the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ can do – make a man righteous so that he actually desires to “do justice, show mercy, and walk humbly with his God.” Man by nature – and by the law – is incapable of pursuing these things outside of his own self-interest.
Wallis is either ignorant of or intentionally ignoring gospel realities, including man’s fallen nature and the remedy for sin accomplished through the incarnation, humiliation, suffering, death (vicarious atonement) and exaltation of Jesus Christ. He wants to generalize Gospel principles for people who have not been transformed by the Gospel, the end result of which is a kind of humanistic salvation that cleans the outside of the cup but leaves the inside of the cup corrupt.
Bottom line, Mr. Wallis: You can’t apply the words of Jesus to people who have no use for Jesus as Lord. Jesus didn’t come to give general principles for economic recovery or moral values. He came to revolutionize the economy by demanding that we recognize him as Lord – which is why he was ultimately crucified. Wallis is attempting to get the people who crucified Jesus to live by Jesus’ rules without Jesus as Lord.
Wallis’ out of context use of Scripture is too numerous to catalog here, but one of the most egregious is his use of Leveticus 25 (the year of jubilee) to justify forced governmental wealth redistribution. Kevin DeYoung, while not specifically responding to Wallis, offers a proper exegesis of Leveticus 25 in its historical context, which Wallis would do well to consider. You can read DeYoung’s exegesis here:
Social Justice and the Poor (Part 3)