Justice advocates Rachael and Jacob Denhollander stand out as representative of the best leadership that God’s people have to offer today as the church wrestles with the complex challenges of justice. Justice is not only integral to the gospel, but integral to vocation. We’re pleased to have the Denhollanders – a lawyer and a systematic theologian working together to advance a theology of justice – join Karam Forum in Atlanta on Jan. 3-4 to speak with us about justice and vocation in our daily work.
Karam Forum is a unique gathering to inspire, equip and connect – and time is running out to join us, so don’t wait! Register today to join our abundant lineup of leaders and sessions. There’s no substitute for being there! The limited-time price of $100 is available only through Dec. 15. You can also reserve your hotel room for the conference price of $129, also for a limited time. (Faculty and other leaders at ON partner schools, check with your ON liaison to get a coupon for conference registration.)
Rich Mouw, Charisse Jones, Greg Jones, Jules Martinez and many more will catalyze conversation on justice, discipleship, fruitfulness and the kingdom of God. We’ll also hear from people in local Atlanta churches – including our on-site hosts at Intown Community Church – equipping their congregations for transformative whole-life discipleship.
When her compelling testimony at the Larry Nassar sexual abuse trial went viral, lawyer Rachael Denhollander captured the attention of both the nation and the church as an advocate for justice and for the gospel. Unfortunately, she encountered a great deal of opposition in the church to her work against abuse. She was even pushed out of her local church by people who treated abuse charges as suspicious and dangerous if they implicated Christian leaders. In her new book, What Is a Girl Worth?, she shares how the struggle to overcome abuse is a lifelong one for her – and how the knowledge of God was essential not only to her personal struggle, but to her public witness for justice.
Denhollander’s book has occasioned a great deal of discussion. There are hopeful signs that she has not only helped put a dangerous criminal behind bars, but helped take a lot of wrong thinking about abuse captive as well. (ON Director Greg Forster recently wrote on that aspect of her work.) But her witness for justice and the gospel goes far beyond the issue of sexual abuse.
One of the most telling things that happened when her testimony went viral was this: Churches and Christian media typically covered only the part of her testimony where she discussed forgiveness. Her lengthy discussion of justice and repentance was (at first) mostly left out. Links to video of her testimony almost always linked directly to the part about forgiveness, skipping over God’s implacable and traumatic demand for perfect justice – without which no real repentance or forgiveness is possible.
“It was fascinating when I gave my statement; news outlets discussed how God allowed me to forgive him, but they didn’t focus on the fact that I was also there asking for the judge to give him the maximum sentence,” Denhollander said. Her haunting question to the judge – “what is a girl worth?” – went mostly unheard in the evangelical world.
This deficient theology and practice is not just about abuse, it’s about the whole of life – something that should catch our attention if our movement is about “whole-life discipleship.” The church’s widespread failure to equip people for God’s vocation in their daily work is interdependent with the church’s failure to take abuse seriously, for they grow from the same root. A cheap grace that fails to confront God’s traumatic call for justice must – and does – spread through the life of the church like an infection, weakening every aspect of our discipleship.
A movement whose bedrock commitment is “whole-life discipleship” must not only accept but embrace – and prioritize – God’s traumatic demand for justice. The call to follow Jesus, the call to repent from and oppose injustice, and the call to do our daily work in the world in gospel faith are, after all, the same call.
Rachael Denhollander, a lawyer, and her husband Jacob, a doctoral student in systematic theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, have not only become the leaders of a growing movement in the evangelical church to confront abuse. They are working together to articulate and advocate a theology and practice of justice for the church and the world. Their approach repudiates cheap grace in order to hold on to God’s traumatic but precious demand for perfect justice, the only possible starting point for real restoration. At last fall’s meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, they delivered a co-written paper grounding an approach to justice in core categories of systematic theology such as the Trinity and the atonement.
The Oikonomia Network welcomes Rachael and Jacob Denhollander to Karam Forum to discuss how justice is not only integral to the gospel, but integral to vocation. Cultural circumstances may vary, so what works in one place and time may not be right for another. But justice always remains at the center of the gospel call, which is and includes the call to do our work in the world by faith.
There is, to repeat, no substitute for being there. Register today for this unique opportunity to hear the Denhollanders as well as Rich Mouw, Charisse Jones, Greg Jones, Jules Martinez and many more as we consider together what God has in store for theological education in the coming generation. We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!