Theology
Category

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.

Read more

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…)

Read more

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.

Read more

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…)

Read more

By In Family and Children, Theology, Wisdom, Worship

Epiphany and Purpose

God’s people are a missionary people, and this is not true only of the New Testament church. God called Abraham to bless the Gentiles through him, and one of Israel’s recurring sins was her failure to carry out this mission. Israel was supposed to evoke praise from the Gentiles, but instead , er idolatries and sins caused the Lord’s name to be blasphemed. (more…)

Read more

By In Theology

The Word Makes History

St. John begins his Gospel with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” a

The Word as “Logos”

His use of “word” is often explained with its connection with the Greek “λόγος.” b The Scripture explains that God is Word, and this is associated with the Son in Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity. While there may be additional philosophical and theological meanings for “word,” my core idea here is of God coming to us through the medium of language.  (more…)

  1. John 1:1 NKJV  (back)
  2. Strongs 3056: Logos is a word as embodying an idea, a statement, a speech  (back)

Read more

By In Culture, Film, Interviews, Politics, Theology, Worship

Top Ten KC Posts for 2017

Here is a list of the most popular articles from Kuyperian Commentary in 2017.

We will begin with a few honorable mentions that we thought were important to our vision.

In June, there was a broad discussion on how to teach Christian Worldview that Dustin Messer was part of. He wrote A Few Cheers for Worldview Education interacting with a number of bloggers on the issue and in particular Rod Dreher’s critique. There were two posts in this series with Dustin defending the purpose and goal of worldview discussions. Here is the second part which lists out several of the key bloggers in the discussion.

A second honorable mention goes to David Koyzis. He joined the Kuyperian team this year and he had a series in August on Abraham Kuyper and Pluralism: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and  Part 4. In these pieces, he sketches the pluralism we find in our world and suggests a way forward by looking at how Kuyper would view this issue.

Now to the countdown:

10 Uri Brito, our founder, wrote a post titled 10 Ways to Keep Easter this Easter Season. Lots of good practical ideas here for that season of the year.

9 Steve Macias wrote a post about The Prayer of Humble Access. This is a discussion on one of the prayers for communion that is found in the Book of Common Prayer.

8 Steve had another popular post on The Unlikely Ascension of Jesus. This article unpacks the significance of this moment in Jesus’ life and how the message of the gospel is that Jesus is seated as king right now.

7 Steve also took a swing at Feminism arguing that it is a Self-Defeating Movement. Feminists have sought to throw off submission to particular men and have looked to the state to give them this freedom. The result is that they now find themselves in subjection to “The Man”.

6 Dustin Messer wrote a piece connecting the Disney musical from this year and Revelation: Beauty and the Mark of the Beast. In this piece, he argues that the movie emphasizes the importance of waiting on redemption just as the Beast lets Belle go even though she is his last hope.

5 Uri was back with a post on Musical Segregation. In this post, he makes the claim: “Churches that segregate musically are bound to segregate corporately.”

(more…)

Read more