Category: Marxism

Hijacking ‘Evangelicalism’


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

Image credits:
thegrio.com
nbcnews.com
Getty Images

 

‘Big Bang’ Racism


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

Why ‘Racism’ Isn’t Wrong


In surveying the current socio-cultural landscape in America, it seems increasing numbers of individuals are either identifying as social justice activists or aspire to be one.

What began with the protestations of one individual over perceived systemic “racial” injustices being perpetrated against black people, primarily by those who occupy certain positions of authority (e.g. police officers), has morphed into a global movement with other notable athletes and celebrities remonstrating in solidarity.

Now, before I go on, I want to confess that the reason I placed the word racial in quotations above is that, unlike most social justice activists, I happen to not subscribe to the idea of “race” as an aspect of human identity. In fact, my personal perspective on the subject is more closely aligned with that of the late anthropologist Dr. Robert Wald Sussman, author of The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea who, in a 2014 Newsweek article, declared:

“What many people do not realize is that racial structure is not based on reality. Anthropologists have shown for many years now that there is no biological reality to human race. There are no major complex behaviors that directly correlate with what might be considered human “racial” characteristics. There is no inherent relationship between intelligence, law- abidingness, or economic practices and race, just as there is no relationship between nose size, height, blood group, or skin color and any set of complex human behaviors. However, over the past 500 years, we have been taught by an informal, mutually reinforcing consortium of intellectuals, politicians, statesmen, business and economic leaders and their books that human racial biology is real and that certain races are biologically better than others. These teachings have led to major injustices to Jews and non-Christians during the Spanish Inquisition; to blacks, Native Americans, and others during colonial times; to African Americans during slavery and reconstruction; to Jews and other Europeans during the reign of the Nazis in Germany; and to groups from Latin America and the Middle East, among others, during modern political times.”

Dr. Sussman is right.

And though science continues to provide the world with objective evidence to support his conclusions, it is not necessarily my intent that this blog post serve as an apologetic for Sussman’s, or anyone else’s, epistemology of race.

That said, I find it interesting, if not ironic, that many who do subscribe to the concept of race as a scientific reality, choose to engage in discourse about those who exhibit “racist” attitudes, either overtly or covertly, not from the standpoint of biology but morality.

This, in my mind, raises several questions:

Firstly, how can something whose ontological premise (race) is based solely on skin color become a matter of morality (racism)? After all, if such an attitude (racism) is simply a biological response to what is merely a product of biology (race), should not the remedy for such an attitude also be biological as opposed to moral?

Secondly, and, conversely, if, in fact, racism is merely a biological response to a biologically-produced attribute of humankind, then, why is racism ever “wrong” to begin with?

In other words, at what point does morality begin to supersede science?

And, lastly, by whose or what standard of morality would it be determined that racism is “wrong” and by whom?

In answering these (and other) questions, I find especially helpful the words of theologian and author, Dr. John MacArthur who, in his book Think Biblically: Recovering a Biblical Worldview, states that:

“…the doctrine of evolution (if followed consistently) ends with a denial of the reality of evil. If naturalistic evolution is correct and there is no God, neither can there be any inviolable principles that govern the universe. And therefore there is no moral accountability of any kind. In fact, if evolution is true, things are the way they are by sheer chance, for no transcendent reason. Nothing under such a system could ever have any real moral significance. The very notions of good and evil would be meaningless concepts. There would be no reason to condemn a Hitler or applaud a Good Samaritan.”

The book of Genesis records the first murder committed in human history – the premeditated taking of the life of Abel by his brother Cain. We know Cain’s actions were premeditated because prior to carrying out the actual act, God spoke directly – and specifically – to him about the attitude he was harboring in his heart toward Abel:

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it. Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against his brother and killed him.”Gen. 4:6-8 (NASB)

Notice in the aforementioned text that Abel is twice referred to as the “brother” of Cain.

But notice also that it wasn’t for familial, relational, or genealogical reasons that God admonished him. God did not say to Cain, “It is wrong for you to murder Abel because he is your brother.” Nor did He say, “It is wrong to murder your brother because you both bleed the same color.” or “It is wrong to murder your brother because he is a man just like you.”

This is important to note because when it comes to matters of race, and race relations, the ethnocentric ethos to which many people subscribe today is predicated on our horizontal relationship to one another as opposed to our vertical relationship to God.

In other words, the assertion that racism is “wrong” is based primarily on the egalitarian proposition that we are created in the image of each other (imago homo) rather than in the image of God (imago Dei).

As the renown and highly-esteemed American poet, Maya Angelou, wrote:

“We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.
We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.

The problem with the kind ethno-moralistic relativism being espoused today by many social justice activists, is it preaches the delusive message of cura te ipsum (“physician heal thyself.”)

This mindset is why countless social justice activists are demanding a so-called “end” to racism because they believe sincerely, albeit naively, that the genesis of racism is biological (melanin) not spiritual (mindset) and, as such, that human beings inherently possess the capacity to “stop” being racist.

Which, again, begs the question: how is it that such a stabile, invariable, and constant characteristic as skin color can so affect the human heart as to result in the egregious maltreatment of others who don’t look like us?

“…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth…”Acts 17:26 (NASB)

The God of all the universe, in His infinite and unfathomable wisdom, created and fashioned you and me with the specific ethnic qualities we each possess.

Yes, racism is wrong, but it isn’t wrong for the reasons you think.

Racism isn’t wrong because we all bleed red.

Racism isn’t wrong because we all belong to a collective “brotherhood of man.”

Racism isn’t wrong because we all breathe the same air.

Racism isn’t wrong because of our sociological, anthropological, or biological similarities.

Racism – a word I personally loathe but will use for the sake of this commentary – is “wrong” not because you or I declare it to be so, but because it reflects a sinful heart-attitude that disavows the glory of God by deliberately harboring hateful biases toward those who, like you and I, have been created by God to reflect His image to a sin-sick world that does not know Him as Savior and Lord (Gen. 1:27; Matt. 5:13-16).

It is the objective, never-changing truth of the gospel that makes racism wrong, not the subjective, malleable ethics of mankind. So, to those who are calling for an “end” to racism, I applaud you, and I have the utmost respect for you. Nevertheless, I often wonder, do you truly understand what you’re saying when you say that? Do you have any idea what you’re really asking (Matt. 7:2)?

What you are actually demanding, whether you realize it or not, is attitudinal and behavioral perfection from every sinner who resides on this planet (yourself being one of them.) Now, consider, please, my brother and sister, how do you propose to achieve this level of collective holiness? Through more protests? More laws? More social media hashtags? More race-based or socio-economic class-based government programs that will help “level the playing field”?

You know, don’t you, that none of those is really the solution to the concerns you have? Of course, you do. And the reason you know it is because you understand fully that the real problem is not the darkness of a person’s skin, but the darkness of their heart (Mk. 7:17-23).

You don’t end racism.

You repent of it.

Like any other sin.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credit: galleryhip.com

How ‘Woke Theology’ is Weakening the Black Church

“The business of Christianity is not simply to make us feel happier or even to make us live a better life, it is to reconcile us to God.” 
– D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones


There is a movement afoot, particularly within black evangelical circles, to extol, if not exalt, social justice as the raison d’etre, that is, the most important reason and purpose for the existence of the church today.

I say “particularly” because the aforementioned movement is not restricted only to the realm of black evangelicalism. The truth is there are also certain elements within white evangelicalism which, being motivated to some extent by a collective acquiescence to the idea of “white guilt“, have attached themselves to this movement like a caboose to a locomotive.

The problem with movements, however, is they invariably beget labels (e.g. “social gospel”, “liberation theology”, etc.). And labels tend to subtly, though eventually, reorient our focus from that which is of utmost importance, namely, the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, to an ethno-centric “gospel” constructed from a collective worldview espoused by “woke” theologians and philosophers who are considered by many to be the most socially and culturally aware on matters of social and liberative justice.

Again, this mindset is not exclusive to black evangelicalism, and yet it is within that milieu that this movement, I believe, is doing the most harm.

I make that statement neither lightly nor disparagingly. I was raised in the Black Church. The affinity I have for its history and traditions is borne not only from education but experience. I appreciate the invaluable sacrifices and contributions to black ecclesiology of figures like Absalom Jones, Morris Brown, Jarena Lee, John MarrantBetsey Stockton, Henry Garnet, and Richard Allen.

I spent half my life, into my early 20s, as a member of Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church, located in Atlanta’s West End in the shadows of such venerable HBCUs as Morehouse, Spelman, Clark-Atlanta, and Morris Brown, where I worshiped alongside many family members and friends to the music of black gospel stalwarts as Walter and Edwin Hawkins. In fact, to this very day, the Hawkins-penned Changed, a powerful testimonial of spiritual redemption in Christ, remains one of my all-time favorite gospel songs.

It was at Chapel Hill that I witnessed people of all ages “catch the Spirit” during high points of what often seemed unending worship services. It was at Chapel Hill that I watched royally accoutered choirs march slowly into the sanctuary to the uplifting refrains of We Are Soldiers In The Army. It was at Chapel Hill that I passed those faux gold-plated offering plates – you know the ones – with the red crushed-velvet matting, to congregants sitting next to me in pews that, likewise, were fashioned with red crushed-velvet padding as if to match the aesthetics of the offering plates.

It was at that small church on Northside Drive that, Sunday after Sunday, I listened to the verbum Dei, the Word of God, preached – from the King James version of course – from behind an old wooden lectern with the letters ‘IHS’ engraved on the front. And it was at Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church that “the doors of the church” were always open, inviting sinners like me to step out from those crushed-velvet cushioned pews, walk that red-carpeted aisle, sit down in the lone wooden chair placed front-and-center of the sanctuary by a white-gloved deacon or deaconess, and “get saved” as it were.

All this to say that there is nothing about the so-called “Black Church experience” to which I cannot personally relate. Which is why, though I am Reformed – and, thankfully, Reformed theology is slowly but steadily gaining exposure within contemporary black evangelicalism – there will always be a place in my heart for the Black Church and, likewise, an equally heartfelt desire to see a recovery of biblical orthodoxy as its primary raison d’etre.

But, alas, I find what many term “social gospel” to be somewhat prohibitive to that end in that it relegates the central message of the gospel, namely, deliverance from the spiritual bondage of sin through faith in the propitiatory and substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ as secondary to a temporal “deliverance” defined primarily in terms of the socio-economic empowerment of black people (also known as ‘black power‘) and the embracement and affirmation, particularly by white people, of black social and cultural normativity.

It is an ideology that is more anthropocentric (man-centered) than theocentric (God-centered). As Dr. James H. Cone, whom many regard as the founder of black liberation theology, explains:

“Black Theology is a theology of black liberation. It seeks to plumb the black condition in the light of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, so that the black community can see that the gospel is commensurate with the achievement of black humanity. Black Theology is a theology of “blackness”. It is the affirmation of black community that emancipates black people from white racism, thus providing authentic freedom for both white and black people. It affirms the humanity of white people in that it says no to the encroachment of white oppression.” – Black Theology: A Documentary History, Volume 1: 1966-1979

Having defined black theology, Cone, in another of his writings, outlines how the Church must apply that construct in bringing about the emancipation he envisions for black people. He declares that:

“The Church cannot remain aloof from the world because Christ is in the world. Theology, then, if it is to serve the need of the Church must become “worldly theology”. This means that it must make sure that the Church is in the world and that its word and deed are harmonious with Jesus Christ. It must make sure that the Church’s language about God is relevant to every new generation and its problems. It is for this reason that the definitive theological treatise can never be written. Every generation has its own problems, as does every nation. Theology is not, then, an intellectual exercise but a worldly risk.” – Black Theology & Black Power: The White Church and Black Power, p. 84

There is much within the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of James Cone with which I disagree. Not that what I think matters to him or anyone else. Nonetheless, there is a degree of dualism in Cone that seems to suggest the belief that the gospel is both sufficient and insufficient at the same time.

Given the extent to which Christianity was leveraged by white people to oppress black people, one would think Cone would argue for a new religion altogether, one whose doctrine would inherently provide greater potential to achieve his stated goal of black liberation completely independent of the cooperation or concurrence of white people. Or, if not a new religion, then, perhaps an existing one would suffice to make up for what Christianity somehow lacks in effectuating the kind of social change Cone, and those who might share his worldview, seek.

But if the gospel isn’t sufficient for all of life, the question then becomes: why believe the gospel at all? If Christianity is to be understood merely as a moralistic prescriptive for the social ills of people who are of a particular ethnicity, or of the world at large, then, what is there to distinguish Christianity from Islamism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other “ism” that holds as one of its core tenets the equitable treatment of one’s fellow human beings?

“The black man’s response to God’s act in Christ must be different from the white man’s because his life experiences are different.” – James H. Cone, Black Theology & Black Power

The problem with “woke theology” is it emphasizes a teleology of Christianity that is one-dimensional.

It does this by reducing Christianity to what Cone described as “worldly theology”. In other words, a theology whose primary message has less to do with the spiritual redemption of a sinful people, that is, the world entire, and more with the corporeal redemption of people who are of a particular ethnicity and to whom salvation is to be viewed in terms of, as Cone stated, “the affirmation of black community that emancipates black people from white racism.”

A recurring thought in the black theology of James Cone is Jesus as the divine “liberator” of black people from the scourge of white oppression. It is a view which, in my mind, begs the question: why does Cone see the God of Christianity – Jesus Christ – as this great liberator and not Allah? Or the Hindu triumvirate of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva? Or the Buddha? Or any other religious deity for that matter? The answer is simple, really. It is because only the gospel of Christ deals with that which gives rise to oppression to begin with – our sin.

“Some folks good no matter what dey color, other folks bad.” – Cal Woods, freedman (emancipated slave)

Regardless by what label we choose to call it – ‘black theology’, ‘social gospel’, ‘social justice’, ‘liberation theology’ – any so-called “gospel” that proposes to resolve or redress the injustices human beings inflict upon one another apart from addressing the root cause of those injustices is short-sighted, naive, and destined to fail.

Above all else, the gospel of Christ is a theology that deals with the reality of the human condition (Gen. 8:21; Rom. 3:23). It is a condition which John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, describes as “a hereditary corruption and perversion of our nature, which in the first place renders us guilty of God’s wrath, and in the second produces in us those works which Scripture calls ‘works of the flesh’ (Gal. 5:19-21).”

“You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that your are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” – 2 Cor. 3:3 (NASB)

A ‘woke theology’ that is devoid of sound biblical hamartiology results in weak soteriology. Social change is accomplished through heart change; and heart change is fundamentally what the gospel of Jesus Christ is ultimately about (Eze. 11:19-20; Rom. 12:2).

In whatever sense people may or may not view Jesus as a “liberator”, as does Cone, He is first and foremost the Liberator of human beings from the bondage of sin through His propitiatory death on the cross (Rom. 6:10; 1 Jn. 3:5). It is this spiritual liberation that the Black Church – and the Church universal – must again commit itself to preach. For it is only in Christ that we find freedom from the sin that leads to oppression of every kind (Mk. 7:17-23).

“In all likelihood the revival we crave and need will come at a time we least expect through a means we too often neglect: the simple though diligent application of the Word of God to all of life.” – Thabiti Anyabwile, Reviving the Black Church: A Call To Reclaim A Sacred Institution

Now, lest I be misunderstood, none of this has been to suggest that the Church should not be involved in practical ways in advocating for social change that is rooted in the biblical precept of imago Dei (Gen. 1:27; Acts 17:26). Nevertheless, we must never lose sight of the fact that as much as the gospel of Christ is about life in this world, it is also about life in the next (1 Jn. 5:11-12).

The work that is involved in “working out” our salvation (Phil. 2:12) should never be misconstrued as salvation, for a liberation that is merely temporal and not eternal is not true liberation (Mk. 8:36). It is in light of this reality that I am reminded of the account of a black woman by the name of Eliza Davis George.

History records that on February 2, 1911, during the morning devotional hour at Central Texas College in Waco, Texas where Ms. George taught, she had a vision of black Africans passing before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Weeping and moaning as they passed, many of them were saying to Him, “No one ever told us You died for us.”

Stay woke.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
Another question: on being woke and Christian – Lisa Robinson
The myth of race – The Cripplegate
How the social gospel is becoming the dominant theology in evangelicalism – Christian Research Network
The Gospel is not social – The Heidelblog
How the social gospel movement explains the roots of today’s religious left – Christopher H. Evans
The Marxist roots of black liberation theology – Dr. Anthony B. Bradley
What is the social gospel? – Nicole Leaman
What we don’t know about black social gospel: a long-neglected tradition is reclaimed – Gary Dorrien
Why the social gospel isn’t the gospel – Tim Falkan
Evangelism and Social Justice – Ed Stetzer
Why your morality will never be enough for God – Silverio Gonzalez

Image credit: imgarcade.com

How Support for Donald Trump by the Right Exposed the Racism of the Left


The question is a simple one.

Does an American citizen, who is legally registered to vote, have the right to cast that vote for the candidate of his or her choice?

Simple enough, right?

Apparently not, depending on who you ask.

The post-election lamenting of the political Left continues to garner headlines.

More than a week after Donald Trump became this nation’s 45th President-elect, their collective petulance remains on full display for all to see.

As a conservative who is black, it has been interesting to observe liberals direct their anti-Trump vitriol exclusively at the 81 percent of white evangelical Christians who voted for him.

But in the midst of their targeted rage, they completely disregard the fact that 13 percent of black males also voted for Trump.

Are these voters not equally deserving of their derision and contempt?

As confounding as it may seem to liberals, their willingness to ignore the fact that Donald Trump garnered double-digit support from black voters is a serious commentary on the extent to which they are helping to perpetuate the decades-old stereotype that the so-called “black vote” is monolithic.

Needless to say, it is not.

I, for one, am proof of that.

In the wake of what was unarguably a devastating and, by many accounts, unfathomable political defeat, liberals are blaming everyone but themselves.

But that liberals view the election of Donald Trump as tantamount to an eschatological catastrophe of biblical proportions is not entirely the fault of white evangelical voters.

In fact, it is not the fault of any one particular ethno-religious voting bloc.

Though 81 percent support from white evangelicals is nothing to sneeze at, even more significant is the 8 percent of black voters who backed Donald Trump.

Because although it was widely expected and accepted that white evangelicals – particularly white male evangelicals – would galvanize behind Trump, being motivated in large part by Clinton’s unbiblical positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, no one gave him a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of making even the most infinitesimal strides with black voters.

After all, blacks are monolithic, you know?

We don’t think for ourselves.

We simply do as we’re told.

https://i0.wp.com/media4.s-nbcnews.com/j/newscms/2016_30/1637401/gettyimages-510875866_6b89731f747a0b429950dcfda378338a.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000.jpg

That black voters traditionally have been held to a lower standard of political autonomy than any other voting bloc in America, is clearly evidenced by a Salon.com article I recently came across entitled, The Real Reason Black Voters Didn’t Turn Out For Hillary – and How to Fix It.

The title alone is enough to give pause.

That black voter turnout turned out (no pun intended) to be less salvific than Hillary Clinton and the Democrats hoped – as opposed to blacks voting their individual consciences or, perhaps, not voting at all, which is also their right – is apparently a problem that needs to be “fixed” according to many on the Left.

It is a philosophy that warrants translating.

“Fixed” is liberal code for developing targeted strategies to ensure black voters continue to tow the line, and stick to the nearly 60-year old script of voting for only Democrat candidates for president.

“Fixed” is the plantation mentality which holds that black votes belong to Democrats in much the same way that black people once belonged to them.

“Fixed” – as far as liberals are concerned – is the perpetual political servitude of black voters to the Democrat party.

“My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did.” – Condoleezza Rice

It is interesting, if not ironic, that liberals will tout the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for its prohibitions against racial discrimination in voting, particularly with regard to their seemingly incessant claims of voter suppression on the part of Republicans, while tacitly endorsing ideological discrimination in assuming that Hillary Clinton receiving “only” 92 percent of the black vote instead of the anticipated 95 percent is something that needs “fixing”.

The hypocrisy of liberals is that their acceptance of white evangelicals exercising their right to vote as individuals, albeit against their preferred candidate, is offset by their belief that blacks should cast their votes solely on the basis of the interests of the collective “black community”.

Which begs the question to what end was the Civil Rights Movement, especially with respect to black Americans being granted the right to vote as equal citizens, if not the freedom to exercise that right as individuals in voting for the political candidate of their choice?

That liberals appear to believe this ethos applies to every ethnic voting bloc except black voters is telling to say the least.

Ultimately, it is not black voter turnout that needs to be “fixed”.

What needs “fixing” is the stereotypical mindset that black voters are joined together, as if by umbilical cord, to an electoral process rooted in political tribalism rather than ideological individualism.

Which brings us full circle to the original question, doesn’t it?

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
The Myth of Black Community
The Truth About Jim Crow (Free PDF booklet from the American Civil Rights Union)

Image Credits:
Top image: npr.org
Center image: nbcnews.com
Bottom image: commdiginews.com

 

On Black Lives Matter and the Question No One Seems to be Asking (But Should)


Many questions have been raised – and continue to be – about the movement known as Black Lives Matter and its pursuit of social justice.

But the question no one seems to be asking is one which, in my humble opinion, is the most fundamental of all:

What does it actually mean that black lives “matter” and why should it matter to me?

It is a question that is important to consider because to assert that “black lives matter” (or “all lives matter” if you prefer), is to apply the universal assumption that human life in general is inherently valuable if for no other reason than that it is human life.

But what is it about human life that elevates it to this particular level of appreciation and esteem?

Against whose standard of measure is valuable defined? Is that standard objective or subjective? If objective, then, by what authority are we obligated to acknowledge said standard? And if subjective, who then determines when, if, or how this standard of worth changes and to what degree?

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!” – Psalm 8:3-5 (NASB)

As mantras go, “blacklivesmatter” might make for a good hashtag on social media, but there is more to it than that.

Much more.

For to declare that a thing “matters” – whether it be a human life or a set of collection of antique jewelry – is to ascribe to that thing a degree of significance or worth that is grounded in a preconceived idea of what it means for something to “matter”.

“Man is an exception, whatever else he is. If he is not the image of God, then he is a disease of the dust.” – G.K. Chesterton

Ask anyone you know if a certain person or thing is of any importance to them and not only will you receive a definitive answer but, more than likely, they will give you the reason why as well (whether the answer is yes or no).

And it is the why of this proposition that “black lives matter” that no one seems to be talking about.

I live in a suburb of Atlanta where it is not unusual to see deer roaming about this time of year. Mornings are dark longer now, so I’m more alert than usual when driving into work, as deer have a tendency to dart into the road as if out of nowhere.

Every now and then, not often, I’ll notice a deer carcass lying on the side of the road. In that moment, I may spend a second or two in compassionate contemplation about the events that ultimately led to the animal’s demise.

Questions such as: How was it killed? Did it endure much suffering before it died? What was it doing so close to the road in the first place?

You know, thoughts like that.

But what I do not spend time contemplating is whether I should pull my car over to see if the deer can be revived by performing CPR. I do not think to dial 911 to request an ambulance so that the remnants of the deer can be transported to the county morgue and autopsied. Nor do I bother to contact the animal’s next of kin so that funeral arrangements can be made.

No, the most attention that poor deer will get from me is a passing glance as I continue on my way into the office.

Why?

It’s simple, really.

The deer didn’t “matter” to me.

Not because it wasn’t my deer, mind you, but because it was a deer.

Now, before you go reporting me to PETA or accusing me of being some insensitive, animal-hating conservative nut job, please understand that the previous illustration is neither to suggest, infer, nor imply that animals do not matter.

They do.

In fact, you may be surprised to learn just how much Scripture has to say about how we are to treat animals as the creations of God they are.

For example:

“Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest…” – Exodus 23:12a (NASB)

There are other texts that come to mind as well (Deuteronomy 25:4; Proverbs 12:10; Luke 12:6).

But though it is true that animals are created by God, they are not created in the image of God (imago Dei). Among the myriad creations formed by the hand of God, only human beings can lay claim to this unique distinction (Genesis 1:27).

Which brings us back to the original question, doesn’t it?

“If we ever deny our unique status in creation as God’s only image-bearers, we will soon begin to depreciate the value of human life, will tend to see humans as merely a higher form of animal, and will begin to treat others as such. We will also lose much of our sense of meaning in life.” – Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, p. 450

You see, the truth, when all is said and done, is that you cannot arbitrarily assert that black lives matter without also offering an apologetic as to why. For to declare, as if in a vacuum, that black lives have significance is of no real profit unless the argument is posited within the context of objective truth.

Otherwise, the discourse is reduced to nothing more than subjective opinions and ad hominem conjecture, the result of which is tantamount to running on a philosophical treadmill as the dialogue becomes so circular and unproductive, that it just goes on and on and on getting no one anywhere.

“Christianity is a philosophy – though not a rationalistic one because we have not worked it out beginning from ourselves. Rather, God has told us the answers. In this sense it is the true philosophy, for it gives right answers to man’s philosophic and intellectual questions.” – Francis Schaeffer (as cited in Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended by Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, pp. 241-242)

Any conversation about the value of human life, whether it be with regard to social injustice, abortion, or child slavery, must start with God and with His objective construct of why human life matters.

That the issue of the significance of human life is deemed by many to be worthy of protest in its various and sundry forms, is only because God, who is the Author of all life, has attributed significance to it.

“Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.” – Psalm 100:3a (NASB)

It is the same today as it was thousands of years ago, when God declared holy the ground on which Moses stood as he encountered the glory of God at the burning bush (Exodus 3:5).

Only God could declare sacred and hallowed [קֹדֶשׁ] something as useless and expendable as the dirt that Moses’ worn out sandals had come in contact with in that one extraordinary moment.

Conclusion

Human life matters because, in our humanity, we bear the image of the One who gives life to each of us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

That we, as human beings, are of a particular race, ethnicity, or nationality is of no significance given that even those aspects of our earthly existence are sovereignly ordained by God, so neither you nor I have anything to boast of in ourselves (Acts 17:26).

Not our race.

Not our ethnicity.

Not our individual socio-cultural experiences.

Nothing.

“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” – Galatians 6:14 (NASB)

The question of why black lives matter is indivisible from the annunciation that black lives matter.

It is an attestation that demands an apologetic because, at its core, it is an existential inquiry that invariably points us to God and to His righteous standard of how mankind should relate both to Himself and to one another (Exodus 20:1-17; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Matthew 5:38-48John 13:34-35).

With this in mind, as followers of the God of all life, we must be prepared to respond to subjective philosophical hashtags with the objective biblical hermeneutic that mankind is not, as Chesterton stated, merely a “disease of the dust”.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Elections Are Ultimately About Voting the Right Sinner Into Office

https://i2.wp.com/www.texaslawyer.com/image/EM/oath-fingers-crossed-Article-201411122025.jpg

Do me a favor.

Stop whatever it is you’re doing and take a few moments to think back to the very first promise someone made to you.

What thoughts immediately come to your mind? Who made the promise? Was it fulfilled as-promised or is it yet to be realized? If the latter, how does it make you feel today? Disappointed? Unimportant? Perhaps even unloved?

Now, think ahead to November 8, 2016.

What thoughts come to your mind now? What expectations do you have of the person for whom you’re planning to cast your vote for president (assuming you are planning to vote)? Are you more hopeful in their promises than in the ones made to you at other times in your life?

Why or why not?

“Everyone has commitments to a certain way of seeing life. Some people call this a worldview. Whatever the label, it is a vision about life, what it is, and how it works. This vision of life may be wise or foolish. People may or may not be self-conscious about their vision of life. But everyone possesses such a vision.” – Heath Lambert, A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry, p. 16

At the risk of making you feel as if you’re being interrogated under a heat lamp from a fast-food restaurant, the reason I posed the aforementioned questions is because, if nothing else, elections are about promises…

…and hopes…

…and expectations.

And why do we hope?

Why do we believe?

We hope because something inside of us longs for righteousness in our political leaders. We know it is right that those who are in authority over us should exercise the power granted them with integrity, humility, and equity.

We believe because, as Christians, we trust in the veracity of a God who has so purposed that worldly governments operate and function “as a minister of God for our good” (Romans 13:4a).

Nevertheless, we must not be naive to the fact that underneath all the pomp and circumstance of presidential politics is the universal truth that, like each of us, politicians are sinners by nature (Romans 3:23). That any man or woman should, by God’s sovereign will (Romans 13:1b), attain to the highest office in the land – or any office for that matter – won’t change that.

The Lord is my portion,” says my soul. Therefore I have hope in Him. – Lamentations 7:24 (NASB)

My pointing out the fallen nature of politicians is not to suggest that Christians should hold such a thing against those who seek political office. Such logic would be both misguided and hypocritical, as no human being could then even run for any office let alone be elected to one.

Which is why spiritual discernment is so critical.

Consider the counsel given to Moses by his father-in-law, Jethro, concerning the governance of the people of Israel during the Exodus from Egypt:

Now listen to me: I will give you counsel and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.” – Exodus 18:19-21 (NASB)

Then there is David, whom God ordained to be king over the nation of Israel while he was but a shepherd boy, looking not at his external attributes as qualification for the office, but at something far more important:

When they entered, he [Samuel] looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinidab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either. Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him here; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” – 1 Samuel 16:6-12 (NASB)

Whether we realize it or not, the reason so many people – Christians and non-Christians alike – are so concerned about this presidential election is because it is fundamentally a matter of biblical theology not political ideology.

Regardless of one’s political persuasion or party affiliation, each of us has an innate awareness of our capacity as human beings to commit evil.

It is this shared but unacknowledged awareness of our penchant to sin against one another that is causing such an unprecedented level of angst among voters across the nation. Our problem is we simply refuse to treat it as the spiritual issue it is.

It has been said that the elections of 2016 are the most crucial in our nation’s 240-year history.

I can’t say that I disagree.

Given what is at stake in this election, particularly as it relates to potential implications to the church and our ability as Christians to continue to freely practice our beliefs, as followers of Christ we must ask ourselves:

  • Have I attempted to see these presidential candidates as God sees them; looking past the external to fruit of who he or she is on the inside?
  • What biblical evidence is there that either of these candidates is endeavoring to live a righteous life before the God who created them in His image?
  • Am I viewing this election as a spiritual matter with spiritual implications to our nation or do I see it merely as my civic duty to perform?
  • To what degree, if any, does my professed Christian worldview shape my political ideology?
  • Do I compartmentalize my Christianity so that it applies only to certain areas of my life and not to others?
  • Have I spent time alone with God, seeking His divine wisdom as to how I should cast my vote?

Righteousness exalts a nation. But sin is a disgrace to any people.” – Proverbs 14:34 (NASB)

Needless to say, there is no “perfect” political candidate.

There has never been nor will there ever be.

Whether president or dog catcher – all are sinners alike.

But, you see, perfection is not the standard.

God’s standard of perfection was met in His Son Jesus Christ. It is in Him alone that perfect righteousness can be found (2 Corinthians 5:21).

But though God does not require perfection of us, He does require holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). And if God requires holiness in the lives of we who profess to believe in Him, how then can we discount or disregard it in the lives of those we choose to govern us (Proverbs 29:2; 2 Corinthians 6:14)?

“Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing with God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man.” – J.C. Ryle, Holiness

When we consider that the very concept of government was established by God (Romans 13:1), then, to the Christian at least, voting is seen as not just a civic duty but a spiritual discipline.

Yes, all politicians are sinners.

That much is true.

And yet, we can still pray that God will have mercy on our nation so that the right sinner is elected to office in November.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Advertisements
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: