The Misleading Language of the Social Justice Movement

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Biblical theology / Black Liberation Theology / Christianity / Doctrine / Gospel / Injustice / Justice / My Worldview / Racism / Religion / Social Justice / Theology

“The concept of the black race and the white race originated with the Enemy himself. Just as he sowed seeds of doubt in the garden of Eden with his “hath God really said,” he has continued through the ages to offer a lie in the place of God’s truth. His attack has been anything but subtle. This web of deceit has brought hatred and bigotry into the church. What we are left with is a huge divide that is no more evident than at the 11:00 worship hour on Sunday mornings.” 
– Dr. John M. Perkins, One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race


It was more than half a century ago, on December 18, 1963, to be exact, when, during a Q&A session at Western Michigan University, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated the following: “We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning, when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.”

“Segregated”?

Really?

Now, before I go any further, I want to say at the outset of this commentary that I do not ask that question in an effort to be facetious or to portray an acrimonious or argumentative posture toward either Dr. King or his legacy as a civil rights leader.

Not at all.

Nevertheless, the truth is King’s assertion that 11:00 on Sunday mornings is the most “segregated” hour [in the American evangelical church] has essentially gone unchallenged since the day he uttered those words some 55 years ago – words that for many Christians who today identify as advocates and proponents of “social justice” within the evangelical church – serve as a primary impetus to promote a missiology founded upon the presupposition that the same culture of ethnic divisiveness to which Dr. King is alluding, a culture that initially gave rise to the Black Church in America, exists virtually unchanged today.

I, for one, do not believe that to be the case.

But what makes the ongoing appropriation of King’s declaration particularly concerning to me, is the dogmatic manner in which the term ‘segregated’ is consistently used to describe what many believe to be an ethnic imbalance within American evangelical churches (and by “American evangelical churches” I’m referring specifically to churches whose congregations are predominantly white, as churches whose congregations are predominantly black, though perhaps just as ethnically imbalanced, if not more so, are never described in such terms.)

Never.

But, I digress.

When we hear words like segregated and segregation, more often than not we assume they are used within a contextual framework that is jaundiced and tendentious. This is particularly true given today’s socio-political milieu in which reminders of America’s history of ethnic discrimination against blacks and other ethnic minorities, especially in the case of  Southern Baptist churches, seems incessant and ubiquitous.

That said, in no way am I discounting or minimizing what is unarguably a sinful and sordid history. In fact, I am quite familiar with it on a somewhat personal level.

From 2009 to 2015, I was a member of a predominantly ethnically white Southern Baptist church whose origins date back to 1823, the same year that abolitionists Mary Ann Shad Cary and Mifflin Wistar Gibbs were born. But it wasn’t until 1827, the year Fourah Bay College, the first college in West Africa, was founded, that this Southern Baptist church voted to allow blacks to become members.

Ponder on that for a moment, if you will.

That a so-called “church” – any supposedly gospel-centered church – would have to vote on whether to allow others of God’s image bearers to be welcomed as fellow members of its local body is blatantly antithetical to the gospel (Acts 10:28). Nonetheless, it was while a member of this particular church that, in February 2012, I was afforded the distinct and unique privilege of becoming the first non-white person in its nearly 200-year existence to be ordained a deacon.

So, not only do I have an appreciation for the discriminatory history of the Southern Baptist denomination against black people, I have an affinity for it as well. But, be that as it may, contrary to what some evangelical social justice advocates might exclaim, the past is not what is at issue here. What is at issue is the continued acceptance of the subjective assertion that white evangelical churches in America – in the 21st century – are ethnically segregated in the same deliberate and calculated manner as was often the case many years ago.

I say “subjective” because the church must never be defined or distinguished in terms of metrics such as a church’s ratio of black congregants to white congregants, but of hearts that have been sovereignly brought by God to a saving faith in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). But that notwithstanding, a question that must be asked is this: by whose standard would such an “ethnic imbalance” be deemed to have been sufficiently remedied? Or, to frame the question another way, who gets to play God in these situations? After all, it is His church, is it not?

In his book, Race & Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed On Discrimination?, Dr. Walter E. Williams, professor of Economics at George Mason University, asks what I believe to be a very profound question:

“Just because blacks are not proportionately represented in some activity, how analytically useful is it to assert that the activity is racially segregated?”

The interrogatory posed by Dr. Williams is, in my estimation, paramount to the matter of multiethnicity within white evangelical churches in America; and yet it is one that many evangelical social justice advocates refuse to answer (or at least consider). Instead, they continue to propagate the notion that multiethnic “intentionality” – a favorite term of theirs – is a “gospel issue” based primarily, if not exclusively, on the premise that Dr. King was – and is – correct in his original assessment and, as such, that the current ‘lack’ (whatever that means) of multiethnicity among white evangelical congregations is inherently rooted in the historic ethnic biases of the past. This denunciatory perspective is perhaps most clearly expressed in the book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, who jointly assert that:

“Despite devoting considerable time and energy to solving the problem of racial division, white evangelicalism likely does more to perpetuate the racialized society than to reduce it. This, we have seen, is because of its history, its thorough acceptance of and reliance on free market principles, its subcultural tool kit, and, more broadly, the nature of the organization of American religion.”

Perhaps you’ve deduced by now that I do not concur with those who would tender such assertions as the aforementioned. For to paint an entire ethnic population of believers with such a broad and accusatory brush is to suggest being able to discern the thoughts and intentions of one’s heart. And from what I understand, only God Himself is qualified to do that (Ps. 44:20-21Jer. 17:10; Heb. 4:12).

But for what it’s worth, concerning the matter of ‘social justice’ in general, I happen to fall within the ideological camp of the late Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the most learned theologians the church has ever known, who, in his classic work Preaching & Preachers, declared that,

“This concern about the social and political conditions, and about the happiness of the individual and so on, has always been dealt with most effectively when you have had reformation and revival and true preaching in the Christian Church.” 

Lloyd-Jones is right.

But he isn’t right simply because I agree with him. He is right because he is biblical.

The danger of our being so rigidly dictative about multiethnicity within the church is we essentially reduce those who comprise the body of Christ to nothing more than an assemblage of redeemed bean counters. For the only way to objectively determine if this multiethnic vision that the 11 o’clock hour on Sunday morning no longer remains “the most segregated hour in America”, if that’s the case at all, is by visually observing and monitoring how many people of varying shades of melanin are occupying the pews on any given Sunday morning.

I am of the opinion that what many evangelical social justice advocates appear to lose sight of is that changing the ethnic makeup of a local congregation merely for the sake of changing its ethnic makeup is, at best, an exercise in aesthetics. Just because individuals of different skin tones are seated beside one another on a pew in a church does not portend they are genuinely unified in the way that matters most to God (Jn. 17:20-23).

As the late Dr. R.C. Sproul, Sr., founder of Ligonier Ministries, writes in his commentary on the Book of Acts:

“No one can read your heart. If you make a credible profession of faith with your lips, you can join a church and become a member of the visible church. Yet every day people join the visible church who are far from the kingdom of God. They profess Christ with their lips, but their hearts aren’t in it, which is why the distinction between the visible and the invisible church exists. Augustine said that the invisible church is the true church made up of the body of the elect, those who have been truly redeemed and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. They are invisible to our sight but clearly visible to God, who can read the heart.” 

What is prefatory to, and more important than, changing the ethnic composition of a local church congregation is changing the sinful disposition of the human heart (Prov. 2:6-10); Rom. 12:2). The former is accomplished by God only as the latter is likewise accomplished by Him (Jn. 6:44; 6:65). Given this reality, I believe we would do well to give prayerful consideration to the following thought from theologian and author John Piper who, in his book Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, declared that:

“Union with Christ is the key. When we trust Christ, we are united to him. His righteousness is counted as ours. Before God we are not guilty, not impure, not sinful. We are holy and righteous with the imputed righteousness of Christ. Not only that, but we are born into the very family of God. We are justified through faith, and we are sanctified through faith. We are counted as perfect in Christ, and we are put in the most magnificent family in the universe, God’s family.” 

The irony of Piper’s comment is that in our temporal efforts to pursue heightened levels of multiethnicity within the evangelical church – efforts which, again, are undertaken primarily under the guise that multiethnicity is a “gospel issue” – in God’s eschatological paradigm the ethnic composition of His church is already an accomplished reality (Rev. 7:9). But because this reality is not fully visible in the sin-saturated world in which we live (1 Jn. 5:19), we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that it is up to us to bring what God has ordained as an eschatological reality to fruition in the here and now.

In other words, we have confused God using us to build His church with God needing us to build His church. But as theologian and author Dr. Michael Horton reminds us:

“The church is neither a central agency with branch offices nor a group of individuals who decide to follow Jesus and therefore decided to start a church. Rather, it is a supernatural and eschatological reality that decends from heaven in the power of the Spirit through the means of grace (see Rev. 21:9-27). Just as each believer’s salvation finds its origin in God’s sovereign grace, so too the church collectively is the result of God’s gracious plan, not ours.”Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples, chaper 17: The Church, p. 389

What makes the assertion that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most “segregated” hour in America so misleading, is it suggests congregations that are composed primarily of individuals who are of one particular ethnicity and whose members, for whatever reasons, may worship separately from those who are primarily of another ethnicity, are motivated solely by a desire to be segregated from them.

That there is congregational separation neither presupposes nor portends that there either is or will be congregational segregation.

The beauty of the gospel is that our union with Christ – and with His people – is not a matter of aesthetics, that is, how many white, brown, yellow, red, or black faces are reflected on the home page of a church’s website, but of what God Himself has already done to unite His elect through the sacrificial, propitiatory, and atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins (Rom. 5:8). As Dr. John M. Perkins states in the aforementioned book One Blood:

“Just as from one man, Adam, all human physical life began, it is from the blood of one man, Jesus, that all who believe in Him are born again and united into the family of God. We are indeed One Race…One Blood.”

Brothers and sisters, Christ has promised to build His church (Matt. 16:18).

It is a foregone conclusion.

As the 18th-century Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, has so truthfully stated:

“The Builder and Maker of the church is Christ himself. Building is a progressive work; the church in this world is like a house that is being built. It is a comfort that Christ, who has divine wisdom and power, undertakes to build it.”

With this comforting and reassuring truth in mind, let us humbly remember that regardless our ethnicity – an attribute of our human identity that is solely God’s doing (Acts 17:26) – to whatever extent our Lord chooses to use you and me to bring His eschatological promise to fruition, we must never confuse God using us to build His church with God needing us to build His church.

“…and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the church continued to increase.”
– Acts 9:31b

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
Sunday: The Most Segregated Hour. So?Tony Mator, The Unsafe Space Blog
Texas Pastor Urges Southern Baptists To Denounce ‘Evil’ Social Justice IdeologyThe Christian Post
The Apostacy of Social Justice ChristiansErik Rush
There Is No Scientific Basis For Race – It’s a Made-up LabelNational Geographic
Southern Baptists Grapple With Racist HistoryAl Jazeera
Social Justice Movement Ought To Recognize Human Rights For Unborn ChildrenLife News

Image credit: The Gospel Coalition

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The Problem Is Enmity, Not Ethnicity

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Biblical theology / Black Conservatism / Black Liberation Theology / Christianity / Doctrine / Family / Gospel / Injustice / Justice / My Worldview / Progressivism / Protests / Racism / Religion / Social Justice / Theology

“Once we are reconciled to God, the estrangement and hostility is over. The peace is sealed for eternity.”
– Dr. R.C. Sproul, Sr. (1938-2017)


Enmity.

It is a word that has all but disappeared from our contemporary vernacular. Think about it for a moment. When was the last time you used the word enmity in a sentence or heard someone else use it? Exactly. And yet, despite the rarity of its application in today’s common discourse, enmity carries with it significant weight and substance in both cultural and theological contexts.

An Exegesis

The Oxford Dictionary defines enmity as “a state or feeling of active opposition or hostility.” Etymologically, the word enmity has origins in the Old French noun enemistie and the Latin noun inimicus, from which the English word ‘enemy(ies)’ is derived.

In its singular form (because a plural form of the noun appears in Gal. 5:20), the word enmity (אָיַבἔχθρα) appears only eight times in Scripture across only five of the Bible’s sixty-six books: Gen. 3:15; Num. 35:21-22; Deut. 4:42; Eze. 25:15, 35:5; and Eph. 2:15-16. In each instance, in both the Old and New Testament, the word denotes an intense and deep hatred and hostility between parties who are enemies of one another.

It is in that same sense that the apostle Paul, in Rom. 5:10, uses what is the Greek word for enmity to unambiguously declare that those who have been reconciled to God, through the atoning work of Christ, were beforehand His “enemies”, “For if while we were enemies [of God] we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

In commenting on Romans 5:10, the 18th-century Bible expositor, Matthew Henry, noted that: “If God justified and reconciled us when we were enemies, much more will he then save us when we are justified and reconciled. The One who has done the greater, which is to change us from enemies to friends, will certainly do the less, which is to treat us in a kind and friendly way when we are friends. The dying Jesus laid the foundation by making atonement for sin and bringing the enmity to an end.”

In his book Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, theologian and author, John Piper, echoes Henry’s sentiments in that, “The gospel of Christ conquers our hearts and brings us to repentance and faith in Christ. Christ enters our lives and dwells within us. All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to him. He commands the unclean spirits, and they obey him (Mk. 1:27). Therefore, into the racial situation the gospel brings the only power that can set people free from the bondage of the Devil. The Devil gives way to no other power than the power of Christ. And the power of Christ moves in the world through those who have believed the gospel and are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ.”

A Man Named Jupiter

Because our affinity with the biblical doctrine of enmity is so languid, both within and without the church, its weightiness, particularly regarding the vertical dissonance that exists between inherently sinful human beings and an innately holy God and, conversely, our consequent horizontal disharmony with one another, has been completely lost. But one person on whom this concept was not lost was a man by the name of Jupiter Hammon.

Hammon was born a slave in October 1711 and died a slave sometime around the year 1806. In February 1787, Hammon, who was a poet and the first black person in America to have their literary work published, gave a speech to the African Society of New York entitled An Address to the Negroes of the State of New York (also known as the Hammon Address). In this address, Hammon cautioned his ethnic brethren, “Now you may think you are not enemies to God and do not hate him. But if your heart has not been changed, and you have not become true Christians, you certainly are enemies to God, and have been opposed to him ever since you were born.”

Let me remind you that Jupiter Hammon was a man who literally took every breath of his existence in this world as someone else’s property. Nevertheless, he was not an uneducated or unlearned man. Hammon attended the same school as the children of his owners, Henry and Rebecca Lloyd. Hammon was a devout follower of Christ and an ardent believer that God was sovereign in all the activities of the world, including his enslavement. “We live so little time in this world”, Hammon wrote in the aforementioned address, “that it is no matter how wretched and miserable we are if it prepares us for heaven. What is forty, fifty, or sixty years, when compared to eternity?”

Sadly, Jupiter Hammon would be openly criticized, if not altogether ostracized, by many today within the Christian social justice community for making such a statement. At a minimum, he would be labeled a traitor to his race, or worse, accused of “cooning“, or of not being enlightened or “woke” enough about the “struggle” for justice. But it should stand to reason, should it not, that a God who was sovereign in creating the universe should be no less sovereign over what occurs in it (Ps. 103:19)?

As John Piper exclaims in his book Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, “We can…be sure that, whatever God is accomplishing as he actively carries along all things, it is just and right. As the Scriptures emphatically declare, God is indeed the Rock on which we, in even life’s most evil moments, can rest, the One whose works are perfect and all of whose ways are just. In ordaining the evil works of others, he himself does no wrong, “upright and just is he.”

Sin By Proxy

Hammon recognized what many professing Christians today do not – that sin is the begetter of the enmity that originally separated mankind from God and, likewise, is the source from which every conceivable form of disharmony originates in our relationships with each other. In other words, Hammon would clearly understand that what many today refer to as ‘racism’ is not the genesis of such human animus, but is merely a by-product of it. Our failure to recognize this is what has given rise to a worldview being propagated by many professing Christians that I’ve termed ‘sin by proxy’.

Sin by proxy is the unbiblical idea that current members of one particular ethnic group, in this case, white people, should be deemed collectively guilty, based solely on their ethnicity, of offenses (allegedly) committed decades and even centuries ago by their ancestors against those who are of a different ethnic population, namely, black Americans, and, as such, must collectively repent of and make restitution for those offenses.

In reflecting on certain of my brothers and sisters in Christ who happen to subscribe to a social gospel of sin by proxy, I’m reminded of the French theologian and reformer John Calvin who, in his classic work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, quotes the renown philosopher Aristotle, who declared, “Where incontinence prevails, man loses the specific knowledge of good and evil through his unruly appetites, because he cannot see in his own sin the evil which he commonly condemns in others.”

In considering that enmity and enemies are the same word in the New Testament, it should be noted that the prefix ‘en’ denotes that which is within or innate to something. Words like energy (inner vigor) and enjoy (inner pleasure) come to mind. The same is the case for you and me. The hostility, acrimony, malice, and hatred we harbor toward one another is a direct and tangible result of the enmity that resides in our hearts toward God. This reality is affirmed by the apostle Paul in Rom. 8:7, where he asserts that, “…the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God; for it is not even able to do so.”

The God Who Sees

Notwithstanding the fact that there is no such thing as ‘race’, neither biblically nor scientifically, the notion of “racial reconciliation” is both nonsensical and irrational. The truth is ‘race’ cannot reconcile anyone because it has no heart so as to desire to do so nor a will so as to commit to doing so. Sin has so thoroughly corrupted our nature that only the heart-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ can remedy the deep-seated enmity that separates us first and foremost from God and, consequently, from one another (Gen. 4:7, 6:5, 8:21b; Jer. 17:9).

The fact that what we see with our eyes (skin color), can be transferred to our mind and subsequently formed in our heart as a sinful bias toward one of God’s fellow image-bearers is a spiritual issue, not a social or cultural one (Mk. 7:14-23). As such, we cannot hope to rectify a spiritual problem with a temporal solution. The justice of God is inseparable from the righteousness of God; and the righteousness of God is exemplified in society only as hearts are transformed by the power of the gospel (Rom. 12:1-2).

I believe pastor and author Dr. John MacArthur put it very well when he remarked that, “As Christians, we ought to have a moral and social influence in our communities. We ought to use the rights granted to us to promote morality and decency in the public arena. But that’s not the sum total of our responsibility to this world. We can’t settle for mere social change and behavior modification. We must bring the light of the truth to bear in a world blinded by sin. And we must do what we can to halt society’s decay—not through protests and political action, but through the bold proclamation of the gospel.”

A ‘Free’ Slave

‘Jupiter Hammon, who lived his entire life as a slave, is now free. But the truth is Hammon was already free even while he was enslaved. How could I possibly say that, you ask? I’ll tell you how. Because that’s what the gospel of Jesus Christ does (Gal. 5:1a).

The gospel of Christ frees us to rest in the reality that the sovereign God who created the world is sovereign over everything that goes on within it (Ps. 103:19; Prov. 15:3). Or, as theologian and apologist Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) wrote in his book Christian Apologetics, “I feel that the whole of history and civilization would be unintelligible to me if it were not for my belief in God. So true is this, that I propose to argue that unless God is back of everything, you cannot find meaning in anything.” Conversely, theologian Dr. John Frame, in The Doctrine of God: A Theology of Lordship, affirms that, “People freely choose to do evil, but for that they are no less under God’s control.”

What Christians who are demanding justice must understand – and accept – is that the gospel doesn’t promise relief from the injustices and inequities of this world. In fact, it promises just the opposite (Jn. 16:33). The world in which you and I live still lies in the power of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:19). Only in the new heaven and earth that are yet to come will unadulterated justice, righteousness, and ethnic harmony be a reality for God’s people (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 7:9).

Christ came into the world to save sinners, not society (Matt. 1:21; 1 Tim. 1:15). The problem of racial reconciliation is rooted in our inherent enmity with God, not our inherent ethnicity. In other words, it is what is on the inside of us that is the issue, not what is on the outside of us.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credit:

Related:
Jupiter Hammon’s first published poem, An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, With Penitential Cries, which was composed on Christmas Day in 1760.

Don’t Waste God’s Time

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Biblical theology / Christianity / Doctrine / Family / Gospel / Marriage / My Worldview / Religion / Theology

“The present is the only time in which any duty may be done or grace received.”
– C.S. Lewis


A primary role of the church, and of the gospel upon which it is founded, is to prepare its people for eternity. Or, to put it more plainly, to prepare them to die. And yet death and eternity are arguably subjects that the church seems to avoid addressing more than almost any others.

Come to think of it, when was the last time you heard a sermon that dealt with the brevity of life or the finitude of your mortality?

Exactly.

Time is a reality for each of us, in this life and the next.

From the moment we are conceived in our mother’s womb, the providential clocks of our earthly and eternal existence start ticking. The former is to someday come to an end, whereas the latter never will.

“When you kill time, remember that it has no resurrection.”A.W. Tozer

There is perhaps no greater sense in which the finitude of time is more evident to us than in situations involving human life and death.

The ardor and exuberance we feel when a child is born into the world, fallen though it may be, is offset by the soberness of knowing that one day he or she will depart from it. Such experiences are reminders to us that indeed “time waits for no one” (as the saying goes).

Scripture has much to say on the subject of time and how we, as believers in the God who transcends time, are to make the most of it for His kingdom (Eph. 5:15-16). The very first verse in the Bible is a reference to a point in time in that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1).”

It is the degree to which we view time as God does that ultimately determines what we choose to do with the time He has given us (Ps. 90:12).

This is important to note because, for the Christian anyway, the concept of time is first theological then chronological.

Our problem, however, is we are so easily seduced by the trappings and attractions of this world that we often succumb to the temptation to invert that paradigm. Consequently, we have a propensity to view time in terms of prioritizing our own purposes, plans, and goals above those which God Himself has ordained for us (Eph. 2:10).

“Time is given us to use in view of eternity.”Henry Allan Ironside

By means of God’s common grace every person who has ever lived, regenerate and unregenerate alike, has been apportioned a certain measure of time on this earth. Ideally, it is to be used in service to the One who gifted that time to us to begin with. Unfortunately, however, not everyone appreciates this, including Christians. As the Puritan missionary David Brainerd, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 29 said, lamentably, “Oh, how precious is time, and how it pains me to see it slide away, while I do so little to any good purpose.”

The irony of Brainerd’s self-effacing comment is that many would argue he was the greatest Christian missionary who ever lived.

Brainerd’s accomplishments in the mission field were of such significance that Jonathan Edwards, a man many would argue is the most brilliant theologian America has ever produced, in a sermon he preached at the funeral of the young missionary, remarked of Brainerd that, “He in his whole course acted as one who had indeed sold all for Christ, and had entirely devoted himself to God, and made His glory the highest end, and was fully determined to spend his whole time and strength in His service.”

Would that we all were as convicted as Brainerd with regard to redeeming our time for Christ.

“God hath given to man a short time here upon earth, and yet upon this short time eternity depends.”Jeremy Taylor

On my desk in my office at work is a small calendar that displays the day’s date in the upper-right corner, a New Testament verse in the bottom-center, and a New Testament Greek word in the upper-left corner.

I mention this because a habit or, perhaps more accurately, since I am a Christian after all, a “spiritual discipline” I have, is to never flip the page on the calendar to the next day’s date until I actually walk into the office the following morning. I do this as a reminder to me that no day is promised or deserved, and that each new day is an unmerited gift of grace from a loving and merciful heavenly Father in whose hands are my very life and being (Acts 17:28).

“Time is the most valuable thing that a man can spend.”Diogenes Laertius

We Christians can be quite astute at professing with our mouth what we believe about God and His word, but that we don’t actually live out in practice. I call it using bumper-sticker theology – very succinct and concise biblical catch-phrases that would look nice on a t-shirt or bumper sticker and are correct in terms of orthodoxy, but with which we are woefully inconsistent with regard to orthopraxy.

One of those bumper-sticker phrases is: “Time is a gift from God.” We have a mental cognizance that this is true, but how quickly that principle escapes us in application as we strive in our daily walk with Christ (Col. 1:10-12).

“Serve God by doing common actions in a heavenly spirit, and then, if your daily calling only leaves you cracks and crevices of time, fill them up with holy service.” C.H. Spurgeon

My older brother died while in hospice of complications from HIV/AIDS at the age of 35. Conversely, my father passed away from a massive heart attack at only 64 years of age while engaged in an activity you and I do every day. He was at home one afternoon and simply went in to use the bathroom and didn’t come out. My mother, who had been waiting for some time for my father to pick her up from work that day, walked home and found my father slumped over the bathtub dead.

I share these personal experiences with you as a loving admonition and encouragement to take very seriously the time God has granted you (Ps. 39:4-5).

No day is promised.

Not one second. Not one minute. Not one hour.

All of time is a gift from God.

All of it.

That time is a gift from God means He grants it to us at His sovereign discretion, not because you or I deserve it.

Don’t waste God’s time.

Use it to serve Him.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Darrell

Related:
His Suffering Sparked a Movement: David Brainerd (1718-1747) – John Piper, Desiring God

Hijacking ‘Evangelicalism’

comments 17
Barack Obama / Biblical theology / Black Conservatism / Black Liberation Theology / Christianity / Democrats / Doctrine / Family / Gospel / Injustice / Justice / Liberalism / Marxism / My Worldview / Progressivism / Protests / Racism / Religion / Social Justice / Theology


As increasing numbers of professing Christians subscribe to a gospel of social justice – a fundamental tenet of which is the resurrection and prosecution of past sins committed primarily by white evangelical Christians against black people whether by commission or omission – the term ‘evangelical Christian(ity)’ has become synonymous with historical and present-day attitudes of white oppression and white supremacy in America, whether perceived or real.

But a fundamental problem with this perspective is that it paints an entire ecclesiastical population, namely, white evangelical Christians, with a very broad and subjective brush, having judged them collectively guilty of harboring such sinful attitudes solely on the basis that they are white and evangelical.

Ironically, seldom, if ever, is the term ‘evangelical’ used in that same context when referring to Christians who are black. Unlike white evangelical Christians, black Christians are considered just, well, Christians, and under that generic descriptor are generally not held to the same standard of attitudinal or ideological scrutiny as their white evangelical brethren.

Yes, they are brethren (Gal. 3:26-28).

As is often the case when engaging in discourse on such topics as white evangelicalism and, specifically, the influence white evangelicals are having in shaping the current socio-political vista in America – a reality many social justice advocates, especially though not exclusively, find concerning – objective terms and definitions have proven difficult to come by.

But if this matter of white evangelicalism is to be discussed in a spirit of intellectual honesty, it must first be objectively defined so as to be understood in context as opposed to a subjective and nebulous idea that is open to interpretation. In other words, the question must be asked: what exactly is ‘white evangelicalism’ anyway?

There are myriad grievances being lodged under the guise of white evangelicalism, but I have yet to find an objective definition of what white evangelicalism is.

And if there is such a thing as white evangelicalism – as there surely must be given how incessantly the term is used within social justice circles – the logical deduction must be that there also exists such a thing as black evangelicalism, and Asian evangelicalism, and Hispanic evangelicalism, and Latino evangelism, and so on, until every conceivable ethnic association with the term evangelicalism has been identified (if such a thing were even possible). 

Though not openly acknowledged by many who are considered to be among the social justice elite, the truth is that much of the acrimony being aimed at white evangelical Christians is rooted in a deep-seated anger over the level of support Donald Trump received from them as a voting bloc and, likewise, for conservative Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for United States Senate from Alabama.

But I find this indignation, such as it is, to be somewhat hypocritical, as the support received by Barack Obama from black voters in both 2008 and 2012, many of whom were professing evangelical Christians, far exceeded what both Trump and Moore received from white evangelical voters in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

So why, then, is it so problematic to some that white evangelical voters cast their vote for the candidate(s) of their choice, when black evangelicals did the exact same thing – and to an even greater degree?

“I voted for Barack [Obama] because he was black. ‘Cuz that’s why other folks vote for other people — because they look like them.” – Samuel Jackson, actor, as quoted in the Daily Mail, February 13, 2012

It is disingenuous, in my humble opinion, to accuse white evangelicals, en masse, of political, racial, or ideological idolatry with regard to Donald Trump and his agenda, when the same can be said of black evangelicals concerning Barack Obama and the role melanin unarguably played in their decision to twice support him to the tune of 90-plus percent.

It is this kind of selective partitioning of the term evangelicalism that prompted me to title this blog post as I did.

To assert, imply, or infer that all white evangelical Christian supporters of Donald Trump and Roy Moore are racists and white supremacists, while excusing black evangelical Christians who supported Barack Obama, a man who openly advocated for such unbiblical policies as homosexual marriage and partial-birth abortion, is tantamount to hijacking what evangelicalism truly is by uprooting it from its theological foundations and relegating it to merely a political philosophy.

In the book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, British theologian J.I. Packer defines evangelism as: “a work of communication in which Christians make themselves mouthpieces for God’s message of mercy to sinners.” Packer goes on to assert that, “Anyone who faithfully delivers that message, under whatever circumstances, in a large meeting, in a small meeting, from a pulpit, or in private conversation, is evangelizing.”

By citing these words of Packer, I am simply pointing out that in discussing the topic of evangelicalism, particularly in light of today’s socio-cultural milieu, it is helpful to consider that words have meaning and meaning requires context, assuming, that is, that getting to the truth about a matter is ultimately the goal of discussing a matter in the first place.

In biblical terms, evangelicalism is fundamentally rooted in Jesus’ command to His followers to “…make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19).” It is a universal edict that is applicable to every believer in Christ, regardless of any other spiritual or temporal distinction or qualifier (Lk. 6:46).

Interestingly, the Greek noun nation in Matt. 28:19 also appears in Acts 17:26, a text that unambiguously exclaims the sovereignty of God in creating each of us with the unique characteristics we possess and is the word from which the English word ethnicity is derived.

But leave it to sinful humanity to take an attribute that openly testifies to the creative genius of almighty God, namely our ethnicity, and use it to divide the very people whose mission it is to proclaim to the world the mercies of a God who, in His providential wisdom, uniquely created each of us in His image (Gen. 1:27).

Notwithstanding the extent to which the term evangelical is being co-opted today by many Christian social justice advocates in calling for generations of white evangelical Christians to repent of centuries of racial injustices against black people, the idea of resurrecting and prosecuting past sins is wholly antithetical to biblical Christianity (Eph. 4:32).

Admittedly, it is when we are sinned against that being Christlike can be most challenging for us. But, as theologian Dr. R. Kent Hughes reminds us:

“Jesus changes our lives! We are no longer consider it our duty to get even. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is fine for the court, but not for our relation to others – even our enemies. Thanks to Jesus, we have let go of our legalistic obsession with fairness. We are glad that Jesus was not fair with us, for if we were to have gotten what was coming to us, it would not have been good. As Jesus’ followers, we give ourselves to the highest welfare of others, even our enemies. We put up with the sins and insults of others for Christ’s sake and theirs. Though hurt many times before, we refuse to withdraw into the shell of self. We do not run from hurt. We appear weak, but we are strong, for only the most powerful can live a life like this. But the power is not ours, but Christ’s.” The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom, p. 141

Shortly before He was put on trial and, subsequently, sentenced to death on a cross, Jesus Christ, who is Lord of the church (Eph. 5:23), prayed that those who believe in Him would be one, even as He and His Father are one (Jn. 17:20-21).

The oneness of which Jesus spoke had nothing to do with the pursuit of political consensus across ethnic or cultural boundaries and experiences, but a unity that transcends all earthly understanding and comprehension, being rooted in a universal love for Jesus Christ and those who comprise His church (Jn. 13:34-35; Heb. 13:1; 1 Pet. 3:15-18).

As the Presbyterian theologian, J. Gresham Machen, wrote in his classic work Christianity & Liberalism,

“An evangelical church is composed of a number of persons who have come to agreement in a certain message about Christ and who desire to unite in the propagaton of that message, as it is set forth in their creed on the basis of the Bible. “

I can remember, as a child, hearing the words of an old “negro spiritual” my mother would often sing on Sunday mornings around the small two-bedroom public housing unit in which we lived on Harwell Street, the same dead-end street on which I was born, on the west side of Atlanta. The song was ‘We Are Soldiers In The Army’, the chorus of which is:

We are soldiers in the army.
We have to fight although we have to cry.
We’ve got to hold up the blood-stained banner.
We’ve got to hold it up until we die!

There is a sense today in which the word evangelical has become something of an ethnic pejorative within the church in America. Needless to say, this ought not to be the case among those who confess the name of Christ (1 Thess. 4:9).

As sinful as it is to discriminate against one of God’s image bearers on the basis of his or her ethnicity, it is no less sinful to misconstrue or misapply an aspect of one’s identity as a Christian to advance or promote a particular ideological narrative or agenda.

After all, we are soldiers in the army of Jesus Christ, my friends, and soldiers fight with each other not against each other.

“…and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you.”
1 Thessalonians 3:12 (NASB)

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
Defining Evangelicalism – Ariel Bovat, Kaleoscope Biblical Christians of Color
Can Evangelicalism Survive Donald Trump and Roy Moore – Timothy Keller, New Yorker

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thegrio.com
nbcnews.com
Getty Images

 

‘Big Bang’ Racism

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Biblical theology / Black Conservatism / Black Liberation Theology / Christianity / Family / Gospel / Injustice / Justice / Liberalism / Marriage / Marxism / My Worldview / Progressivism / Protests / Racism / Religion / Social Justice / Theology


Ex nihilo, nihil fit
(Out of nothing, nothing comes)


According to the website space.com, in science, the Big Bang Theory is, “the leading explanation about how the universe began. At its simplest, it says the universe as we know it started with a small singularity, then inflated over the next 13.8 billion years to the cosmos that we know today.”

Similar to the scientific view of the origins of the universe, there are those today who have a ‘Big Bang’ view of racism.

Like the reality of the universe itself, they acknowledge the existence of racism – though the definition of ‘racism’ varies greatly – but that its existence is purely the result of uncaused “singularities” that are external to the individuals who would exhibit such a sinfully prejudiced disposition. Consequently, racism, with its myriad definitions and interpretations, is spoken of primarily, though not exclusively, as systemic or global with regard to its origins as opposed to being intrinsic or congenital in nature.

This is important to note as, over the past several decades, the strategies and tactics employed to ‘fight’ racism have largely been directed at the structures which many perceive to be representative of a culture of systemic racism rather than the attitudes that gave rise to those structures to begin with.

But structures are not formed from nothing. Discriminatory policies and practices, whether systemic or otherwise, do not come into existence by virtue of a series of serendipitous or autonomous convergences of ideological and philosophical singularities.

Like many who subscribe to the notion that the universe – with all its intricate and recondite complexities – was formed ex nihilo, adherents of “Big Bang Racism” believe racism to be the result of forces and influences that are external to human nature. In other words, it is the systems and structures themselves that result in people’s racist attitudes and behaviors as opposed to the other way around. Which is why many today place a higher value on transferring monuments than transforming hearts (Rom. 12:2).

The argument I am positing here is often a point of consternation for Christian social justice advocates, many of whom deem it of more missional benefit to protest what is wrong with “the system” than to preach what is wrong with us (Rom. 3:23). But such was also the case during Jesus’ earthly ministry.

There were people then who, convinced that Jesus was the agent of socio-political change for whom they had been waiting – and praying – made the eternal mistake of seeing Him as their king and not their Messiah, never realizing that to whatever extent “the system” under which they lived was corrupt or unjust, it was merely a reflection of the innately sinful individuals who comprised “the system” (Eccl. 5:8-9).

As the 19th-century theologian J.C. Ryle wrote in his classic work Holiness, “If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false and imperfect remedies.”

Ryle wrote those words in 1879. Yet I believe they are just as relevant today, as social justice advocates continue to pursue “false and imperfect remedies” for a spiritual malady whose genesis is quite definitive yet is being treated as an ex nihilo or Big Bang-type of reality. But as pastor and theologian John MacArthur exclaims,

“Nothing we can do for ourselves will free us from the bondage of sin. Adam’s transgression had a catastrophic effect, not only on him and his environment, but also on his progeny, including you and me. And we cannot make sense of our moral plight until we come to grips with where it all began.”Think Biblically: Recovering a Christian Worldview, p. 87

Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume stated, “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.” This applies to racism as well. Racism is not an ex nihilo proposition borne out of theoretical Big Bang reasoning. It is the product of a spiritually depraved heart that is innately darkened by the deceitfulness of sin.

In other words, racism is always individual before it is ever institutional.

As Jesus declares in Mk. 7:21-23,

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

At the heart of the social justice movement, and its constant calls for putting an ‘end’ to racism, is the misguided idea that humanity can fix itself by simply deconstructing old systems and structures and replacing them with new ones.

But the antecedent question many social justice advocates are failing to consider is: how did humanity become broken in the first place? The answer intrinsically conveys why such logic is misguided to begin with, for everything that exists has both an origin and a cause (Gen. 1:1), including the brokenness of humanity (Gen. 3). Conversely, the answer further communicates that remedying humanity’s brokenness is extrinsic to our nature as human beings.

In biblical terms, there is only justice and injustice. Scripture never uses qualifiers like ‘social’ as if to suggest there are various ‘kinds’ of justice. To apply God’s precepts equitably to each of His image-bearers is justice; to fail to do so is injustice (Ps. 106:3; Pr. 28:5Isa. 1:17; Mic. 6:8; 1 Jn. 3:4).

Christ understood what many of us do not – that our fundamental problem isn’t the systems or structures under which we live as a society. They are merely symptoms of the problem. Our problem is our soul. Which is why the gospel is so necessary in the first place (Rom. 1:16Eph. 2:1-9).

When all has been said and done, unless and until you and I, as individuals, begin to recognize not only that racism exists but why it exists, we will continue to regard it as an ex nihilo phenomenon produced ‘out there somewhere’, when the problem lies much closer – within us.

Humbly in Christ,

DBH

Image credit: egymbb.sk