By In Culture, Family and Children, Politics, Scribblings, Theology, Wisdom, Worship

Why I No Longer Participate in Racial Reconciliation Services

Guest post by Rev Sam Murrell of Little Rock, AR

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeupSam is an Anglican Priest in the Anglican Church in North America. He holds a Bachelors in Music from Covenant College and an MDiv from Covenant Seminary.  He is currently a Biblical Worldview Teacher at Little Rock Christian Academy. He and his wife Susan have eleven children and twenty-one grandchildren.




Nothing that I am about state should be construed as my advocating for people of different ethnicity to worship separately. Nothing I say here should be understood as an advocating of what is commonly referred to as ‘racism’. The Body of Christ is one, and the Church should visually reflect the reality of that ‘oneness’ to the degree that the world yearns for what they observe that we are enjoying. It is unfortunate that, for far too long, the Church has followed the lead of the world when it comes to recognizing and addressing hatred amongst the various tongues, tribes and nations.

Years ago, I participated in my first ‘racial reconciliation’ worship service. It was a well-integrated gathering of black and white folk. The service, while very moving, left me feeling very awkward as white strangers approached me to confess their racism toward me and “my kind”. It wasn’t that I had never experienced unfairness or injustices because of the tone of my skin. On the contrary, the issue was that the confessions came from people who had never done any wrong towards me in particular. So, I was left not knowing what I should do for them in response to their confessions; I was young and so chalked my discomfort up to my inexperience. Since that gathering, I recall participating in at least two other instances of worship services that were focused primarily on racial reconciliation. And I have actually worked for a church where “intentional racial reconciliation” was part of the mission statement. Over the years, I have come to a greater sense of clarity regarding my uneasiness with such event. Here, in no particular order, are the few reasons that I no longer take part in “racial reconciliation” services:

Too often, the premise of the worship service is that Whites are guilty because they are White. This is evident in the fact that the white people present at such events are expected, even pressured, to confess the sin of racism even if they cannot recall any specific instances of racist action that they have perpetrated. The assumption is that because you are white then you must have knowingly, or unknowingly, caused offense towards Blacks (and maybe other ethnic minorities too). An example of this guilt-by-association is that, although you may be unable to find any instance of slave ownership in your genealogy, you are held accountable for the history of slavery in the United States of America. The black person stands as representative of the innocent victim of so-called racism and thus serves a priestly role for the white confessor who is guilty because of a lack of melanin in the epidermis. The white person’s pigmentation carries with it a privilege, and that is enough to require repentance.

In contemporary parlance, the word ‘privilege’ is employed by the offended group as a weapon against the other. Once someone is labeled as ‘privileged’ he is supposed to realize his rightful place in the ‘race’ conversation is as the silent observer whose liberty to speak has been revoked. The accused and the accuser are no longer equals. Recently, a major Reformed Seminary hosts a conference on ‘race’ and actually advertised that they were inviting Whites to come and to listen but not to speak or interact. Such is not biblical reconciliation but rather a warped form of penance and one that cannot be paid fully, thus being reconciled, as the person of whom the penance is required can never cease to be as God created them: white or black. He can never undo the fact of slavery or systemic hatred in America and, therefore, he must embrace a life of spiritual self-flagellation as a result of the unwarranted whiteness that has allowed him to live such a life of comparative ease. What is most disturbing is not that the world would think this way but that such thought has been embraced by the Church.

Words Matter. As people of the Word, language is important and I believe it is time the Church gave up the common use of the word ‘race’ and all of its cognates. They only help to perpetuate an untruth about the nature of mankind. In the anthropology of Scripture, race is an alien concept. Scripture does not speak of ‘the races’ as subsets of humanity, but it does speak of ‘tongues (which can be translated as religions), tribes and nation’. As long as the Church concedes to the terminology of a Darwinian worldview we will never get closer to modeling the oneness of the Body of Christ for the world that is spoken of in Scripture. The Church must not capitulate to the secular world on this matter and put words into our mouths, and in doing so perpetuate a false reality. God’s Word has this right; there is one ‘race’ and many scattered tongues, tribes and nations. Many anthropologists agree that the 19th-century idea of many ‘races’ is not a biological reality but rather a myth. My point here is not to argue the science but to emphasize worldview. When discussing biblical anthropology we should insist on biblical language, and there is no Scriptural basis for diving mankind among the so-called ‘races’. The illusion of racism is not where the discussion should lie, and as long as the Church discusses issues of pre-Christian tribal and ethnic allegiances from the perspective of so-called racism then we will not see any real progress as we are led by the nose by every new social-justice group that comes along to claim their place as the new prophetic voice of a downtrodden minority.

Identity madness is a current hot topic. People question their identity as man rebels against the boundaries of a biblical anthropology they seek in vain to invent their own explanation. This radical subjectivity results in daily re-definitions. God’s people need to understand their true identity. As a Christian, what is my preeminent identity? Am I a Black Christian, or a Christian who is black? We must not give priority to tribal or ethnic loyalties in place of fidelity to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have found nothing in scripture that affirms that I am allowed to believe that old tribal devotions neither can nor should take precedence over my identity as a member of the Body of Christ, the nation of the New Israel come down from heaven. We give lip-service to this reality, but do we walk in this truth consistently? The only way is to manifest the truth of the Gospel of King Jesus. The Church cannot continue to trail along behind the world attempting to sprinkle ‘holy water’ on the latest iteration of Marxism and call it ‘social justice’.

Racial reconciliation services are founded upon a lie from Satan. The whole motivation behind them is a false anthropology. Allow me to nuance my previous point. These worship services focus on corporate confessions by the white section of the congregation. And once the service has ended it is expected that the white brother will now go forth and sin against his black brother no longer. Recall here that for many they are expected to repent of being made white which is not a sin. If the white brother does eventually cause offense against black brother, and he will and vice versa, his former repentance, based upon a false premise, will then be viewed as being disingenuous. How is that justice? The line of thought is that, had his confession been genuine, then his offense would be unrepeatable. The offended Black then may accuse the White of ‘racial insensitivity’, latent racism, ‘racial privilege’ and a host of other insults. But rarely is the individual treated as a fallen human being, struggling with a fallen nature, who is wholly incapable of living up to God’s expectation of loving his neighbor as himself. If the person were to be treated fairly, we would seek to follow Jesus’ mandate that, if you offend me, I am to forgive you. Period.

“He said to His disciples, ‘It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.’
” ‘Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive
him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I
repent,’ forgive him.’” Luke 17:1-5

The message is clear that the offended brother must forgive if so asked. This is repeated several times in the Gospels, for example, Matthew 6 wherein the Lord instructs His followers to pray to God asking that we are judged as we judge others, to be forgiven just as we forgive. We can all relate to the apostles’ response, “…increase our faith!” In own of strength, we cannot possibly hope to be the people that God has called for us to be, nor can we love the way that Jesus says to love. So, when my brother sins against me in prioritizing his ethnic, social, political and economic tribes over mine I am to forgive him. It is not my place to accuse him and therefore all who look like him of being hopelessly lost, nonredeemable and less than me because of some new ‘Mark of Cain’ in his skin that looks different than mine. I pray for him. I talk with him. I seek to help him grow beyond the limitations of his tribe, ethnic or otherwise.

In Summation

The Church of Jesus Christ should stop attempting to address the mythical issue of so-called ‘race’ as to do so would be to spend time and energy chasing after an imaginary dragon. There simply is no such thing and the Bible offers our proof. Biblically speaking, mankind is of one human race. We are all saved the same way, we will all be judged by the Christ according to the same standard of righteousness that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and not one has been tested and found in the right in His eyes.

The call of the Church is to love one another. This means that I must deal with you personally when you sin against me personally. I cannot hold you accountable for sins committed by past generations, nor can I regard you as a pariah because I perceive that God has blessed you differently than He has me.

No ethnic group has the market cornered on any particular sin. The Church does mankind a disservice when she disciplines them to believe the lie that skin color makes them immune from the accusations of hating or discriminating against others of a different tribe. Many blacks have been sold the lie that their identity as an oppressed minority renders them exempt from being found guilty of tribalism. In the Marxist worldview, such may be lauded as a foundational truth, but when life is seen from a biblical perspective that simply does not pass the smell test. Christ has commanded us to love one another. That call can only be fulfilled on His terms.

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By In Culture, Family and Children, Wisdom

Teenagers and the smartphone beast

According to this recent article in The Atlantic, teenage promiscuity is decreasing. Apparently there is a general “decline in dating” which also “tracks with a decline in sexual activity.” The figures are startling:

The drop is the sharpest for ninth-graders, among whom the number of sexually active teens has been cut by almost 40 percent since 1991. The average teen now has had sex for the first time by the spring of 11th grade, a full year later than the average Gen Xer. Fewer teens having sex has contributed to what many see as one of the most positive youth trends in recent years: The teen birth rate hit an all-time low in 2016, down 67 percent since its modern peak, in 1991.

This might seem like good news. I mean, less sleeping around, fewer teenage pregnancies, fewer lives messed up by intimacy without commitment – sounds like a huge step in the right direction, doesn’t it?

Sadly not. In fact, once we understand the reasons for this decline, and the likely implications of it, it turns out that the drop in sexual promiscuity among teens reflects new patterns of behaviour that are very troubling indeed.


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By In Theology

Apostasy Happens … Slowly

Apostasy happens. Various schools of thought within the church have different explanations concerning the nature of apostasy, but the fact that it happens is undeniable. Judas, chosen by Jesus himself to be an apostle, is the paragon of apostasy. The ability to apostatize from the faith is assumed in Jesus’s exhortations in John 15 for the disciples to continue to abide in him. Jesus also alluded to apostasy in his parable of the soils when he spoke of those who receive the word of the kingdom with joy, endure for a while, but then fall away when tribulation and persecution come (Matt 13.20-21). The writer of Hebrews assumes the ability of apostasy when he exhorts the Jewish Christians not to do so throughout his letter. The possibility of apostasy also undergirds Paul’s exhortation to the Gentiles in Romans 11 not to be proud but fear, for if God did not spare the natural branches (i.e., the Jews), neither will he spare them.

Apostasy happens. Explain it however you will, but it happens. There are people who are a part of the people of God, people who may even be excited about their faith (as in Jesus’s parable), but as time passes they become the enemies of Christ. They forsake the faith and are the objects of God’s wrath. (more…)

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By In Culture, Film

Fargo Movie Review: Lady Justice is Pregnant

A while ago I wrote a post about strong female characters in movies comparing Wonder Woman and Elastigirl. A reader of the Kuyperian blog, Anthony, responded and asked if I had seen Fargo. He suggested Margie as an interesting female character. So I watched the movie over Christmas break. Here are some of my thoughts on the movie in general and on the question of Margie as a strong female character.

Whenever I watch a Coen brothers’ film, I always feel like I am walking into the book of Judges. The world is a little tilted and the hero is always a surprise because he or she is never who you thought it was going to be. Fargo is like this in many ways. The story starts with a strange and dark premise that is also a bit humorous: a man wants two thugs to kidnap his wife and hold her for ransom so he can extort money out of his wealthy father-in-law who will pay the ransom.

This setup presents the sharp reality that even a family man can embrace terrible darkness. But the humor of this beginning also suggests the deeper justice at work in the story. While evil is a dreadful force to be reckoned with in the world, it is never out of control. There is always a deeper truth at work which is controlling everything so that even the darkness serves the purpose of the comical ending.

On the technical side of things, the Coen brothers are masters of creating a specific region. As I watched the movie, I thought of a comment from Flannery O’Conner: “Art requires a delicate adjustment of the outer and inner worlds in such a way that, without changing their nature, they can be seen through each other. To know oneself is to know one’s region” (The Fiction Writer and His Country). The Coens ensure that the location of the story, dark, cold North Dakota, becomes a character in the story. The cold biting edge of the world is inside most characters in the story. It is only Margie and her husband Norm who do not give into this cold world. They share a joy and love that pushes back against the cold.

Into this dense setting, the Coens place characters who are equally thick. No one is extra. Even small side characters, like the old friend from high school, are full real characters. This also grounds the story in a deep reality.

Before moving onto the meaning of the story, I do have to acknowledge one huge flaw in the storytelling abilities of the Coens: the two sex scenes. It is really too bad that such a rich story with such rich characters falls into this kind of cartoony story telling. A sure sign that a story teller has fallen asleep at the wheel is a sex scene. It takes no brains or talent to pull one off. The reality is that the movie would have been a far better story if the Coens had left these things as suggested actions off stage. If they had done that, it would indicate that they trust their audience to put the pieces together and it would also add greater depth to the story. I am not against a character going to a prostitute; I am against a director trying to use sex to sell his story. If he wants to do that, he should go join the porn industry.

Now to the meaning of the story.


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By In Culture, Politics

Slavery and New Testament Household Codes

Slavery is an ignominious fact of history.

Historically it was also well-nigh universal. I know you’ve heard otherwise, but its universality is simply another fact. Western civilization didn’t invent slavery. In fact, civilization itself didn’t invent slavery. Some of the most degrading forms slavery has taken developed within hunter-gatherer communities.

I learned these things years ago when I read the best treatment of the subject that I have come across,  Orlando Patterson’s, Freedom in the Making of Western Culture. (It won the National Book Award in 1991.)

Patterson is a social historian at Harvard University. He is also a descendant of slaves. (He was born in Jamaica.)

Based upon what I learned from Patterson I think its safe to say we’re all the descended from slaves. Somewhere, at some point in the dim past, your ancestors were slaves.

Early on in the book Patterson recounts his dismay when he learned that slavery was a universal institution, while freedom has a very particular and surprising provenance. What we know as freedom today arose in the West, in the very civilization that many people making a good living love to denigrate.

But here’s another surprising thing that Patterson reveals: it is the experience of slavery that served as a midwife for freedom. That shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the Bible. It was bondage in Egypt that was the womb for the nation of Israel. Exodus is the story of their liberation.

How odd then that the Israelites should have permitted slavery. Or so it seems to us. And I think it is the same apparent inconsistency that bothers many people today when they read the household codes of the New Testament. Those codes made room for slavery. Why didn’t Christians simply free their slaves? Why didn’t Paul command them to? What’s all this about obey your masters?

While I’m sure that many Christian slave owners continued holding slaves for bad reasons, and while it is true that over time the emphasis on spiritual freedom in Christianity provided a theological basis for challenging the institution, still here in the New Testament we have codes telling slaves to obey their masters.

What do we do with that? No one says we should bring slavery back–no one we should listen to anyway. But more important for me is the claim that the codes as a whole are defunct because they provided for slavery. Ipso facto, wife, don’t bother respecting your husband, after all the code that calls for that also told slaves to obey.

I think defenders of the codes are familiar with that line of argument. But rather than address the role of wives, or children for that matter, I’d like to spend the rest of my time looking at slavery.

I think the place to begin is with the fact that I noted above: historically slavery was nearly universal. And something doesn’t get to be universal unless it solves certain problems.

I think we all know what one of those problems is: the problem of cheap labor.

But is that all there is to it? That addresses the demand side of things, but what about the supply? Sure, people could be born into slavery and you can wage war to acquire slaves. But there is something deeper to consider.

“Slavery is the permanent, violent, and personal domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored persons. …(A slave) does not belong to the legitimate social or moral community.” pp. 9-10

Social displacement can happen in many ways: warfare (as I’ve already noted), natural disasters, economic insolvency, and so it goes, ad infinitum. When people are displaced, the problem for a society is the problem of re-placement. Where do you put these people? There are relatives, of course. But what if they’re lost, or overwhelmed, or just unwilling?

Most people don’t think along these lines today. Individualism blinds us to a plain fact Aristotle noted: we’re social animals. We truly do need other people. Furthermore, many of the social institutions we take for granted could only have come into being in an advanced industrial civilization like ours. (Think of where all those charities and government social services we rely upon would be without fractional banking or taxes levied on the capital of highly productive corporations. They just wouldn’t exist.)

The cultures of antiquity in the near east and in Europe didn’t have those things. They were made up largely of hardscrabble households. When displaced persons needed somewhere to go, it was houses that took them in.

Some slave holding households could be quite large. The houses of the Patricians in Rome for example, or the house of Pharaoh in Egypt. But you see the point.

And once they’re brought into a household there’s the whole problem of where these people go in the hierarchy. You don’t suppose the folks who are already there are keen on being displaced themselves? And what about inheritance? How do these newcomers fit into the household’s long term prospects?

So you see, taking people into households solved the displacement problem. But it created new problems. and the answer to those problems was slavery. A slave was a person who contributed to the economic livelihood of a household without enjoying ownership or inheritance rights.

Hopefully this is beginning to make a little sense. Abolishing slavery is a little more complicated than just legislating it away. Slavery solved problems. To abolish slavery for good you must find new solutions for solving those problems.

And this is what western civilization has done. After many fits and starts and a lot of bloodshed over many centuries, we’ve managed to do it. But I suspect that the only way to keep slavery abolished is by keeping the institutions that have replaced it healthy. Lose those and slavery will be back.

But functional households don’t need slaves to function. And a wife is not a slave, neither are children. They are members of a house and enjoy the full benefits of membership. They are not property, they help to work property and derive a living from it. And this is one of the reasons why members of a household submit to its governing authority–the head of the house. Ideally it is in their interest to do so, because a household is a commonwealth and its members must work together to realize that wealth. And wherever people work together someone must serve as the head of the enterprise.

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By In Books, Theology

Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition

In March 2017, IVP Academic published Craig G. Bartholomew’s systematic introduction to the Neo-Calvinist school of thought entitled, Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition.

Kuyper scholars like James D. Bratt, author of the 2013 Kuyper biography Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat, have recommended Bartholomew’s book. “Agree with Kuyper or not, this is the place to go to learn, in brief, what he said, did, and wrought,” said Bratt.

Over at the Jesus Creed blog on Patheos, The Rev. Canon Dr. Scot Mcknight has two posts on the book. On December 22, McKnight overviews his familiarity with Kuyper’s work and poses the usual objection to Kuyperian thinking: the how. In the Reformed world, we have seen a variety of Neo-Calvinist interpretations from Rushdoony’s Reconstructionism to James K.A. Smith’s efforts to revive Augustine’s “permixtum of the saeculum.”

McKnight is likely familiar with this variety (and history) of its applications and expresses his nervousness at Bartholomew’s paragraph: “Mission is easily reduced to evangelism and church activities, and indispensable as these indeed are, mission is much broader. As David Bosch points out, “Mission is more than and different from recruitment to our brand of religion; it is alerting people to the universal reign of God.”

McKnight and I belong to the same Anglican Diocese, where he is Canon Theologian. While McKnight doesn’t embrace the term Kuyperian – I do and here’s one reason why. McKnight returned to Contours on December 28, 2017 and pulls up to Kuyper’s conversion story. Interestingly, this is a place where McKnight’s Anglican tradition and Kuyper can actually touch historically. Kuyper’s conversation happens while reading a popular novel: The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge – a disciple of Father John Keble, who closely supervised the writing of the book.

McKnight and Bartholomew point to Kuyper’s quote:

“I read that Philip knelt, and before I knew it, I was kneeling in front of my chair with folded hands. Oh, what my soul experienced at that moment I fully understood only later. Yet, from that moment on I despised what I used to admire and sought what I had dared to despise.”

It is not clear in his blog if McKnight has made (or would agree with) this connection, but I would posit that it is no coincidence that Kuyper’s conversion and ecclesiology are born out of a Yonge novel. McKnight is likely familiar with the “Tractarian/Puseyite” traditionalism (or Oxford Movement) that Yonge hopes to romantically entangle the reader with. Her inclusion of high-church, sacramental Anglo-Catholicism is essential to the historic import of the book. In Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, Bratt notes how Kuyper made the connections himself, “the hero’s funeral rite in the Church of England conveyed the comforts available from a pure ‘mother-church’ that was there to guide each step of the pilgrim’s way.”

McKnight goes on to connect Kuyper’s critique of modernity with his emphasis of separation and the sphere-sovereignty of the church. While Kuyperianism is often maligned as a political theology, McKnight, Bratt, and Bartholomew all point to his bold emphasis on the importance of the Church.

Perhaps, I am putting too much weight on Kuyper’s conversion story and its connection to the Tractarians, but they both spring from the same revolt against modernity. Both Neo-Calvinism and Anglican Traditionalism are born to combat the tides of what they saw as liberalism. It is impossible to understand the Anglo-Catholics as a liturgical movement alone, they also represented an anti-modernist political philosophy for the Church against the encroachments of “whiggery.” In a similar way, Kuyper would develop a political theology as a result of his high view of the church, as a defence against modernism, not as a tool for power or mere social engagement.

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By In Theology

Jesus’ Baptism And Ours

If we would not be too proud to admit it, many of us American Protestants are scared of water. Whenever people start talking about what happens in baptism instead of what doesn’t happen in baptism, many of us start twisting in our seats. Images of superstitious priest-craft and mechanical guarantees of salvation start to swirl through our heads, and we have violent reactions like any good Protestant.

Some of us have seen people presume upon God because they have been baptized. That kind of abuse of baptism has caused us to go to the opposite extreme and reject any effect of baptism at all. Besides that, we know that God wouldn’t use water on our bodies to do anything substantive in regards to our salvation. That all happens directly by the Holy Spirit without any sort of means. (more…)

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