Thursday, July 19, 2007
White Man's Religion
A few weeks ago my friend and brother Anthony Carter exposed and exploded the myth that Reformed Theology is Anglo. I’m following up not because I can do a better job than he did in debunking that foolishness but because the source of the statement was a white PCA pastor. I’ve been in the PCA for over 17 years and have been ordained as a deacon, ruling elder and teaching elder. My entrance into reformed (aka biblical) theology came through God’s grace as I studied Scripture. I didn’t become reformed while in seminary or through listening to R.C. Sproul. (although I appreciate our brother and would recommend his writings to anyone whether black, white or Klingon)
I’m writing about this first of all hoping that my PCA brother did not and would not say such a thing or that he was misunderstood. I hope that this brother (as Tony Carter wrote) meant to say that the PCA is too white and directs far too much of its energy and resources on white people at the expense of other ethnic groups. If that’s what he meant than the brother gets a straight up AMEN! However, if he really meant to say that reformed theology itself was Anglo or too Anglo well then Houston… we have a problem.
In my view reformed theology while not always biblically and humbly applied (that’s a crucial point to keep in mind) accurately captures the essence of the over-arching biblical story which is God saving a people for Himself through His Son Jesus Christ. The story of redemption is the story of Scripture. Thus, if we’ve got the story of redemption wrong and/or pushed to the margins our foundation, witness and mission will eventually lose cohesion, veer off course and become useless. We may be left with a church, but not the house of God which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Instead we’ll have a captive cultural entity that ‘worships’ a tribalized diety that exist expressly to advance the temporal agenda of ‘our’ people.
Reformed theology focuses on the main theme of Scripture which is by its nature acultural. The acultural theme of salvation is demonstrated throughout Scripture and especially in those places that declare and explain the gospel. For instance Rom. 3:28-29 reads, For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. This passage is critical in promoting the right biblical view of acultural theology. God presents Himself as the God not just of the Hebrews but of the entire earth. Think through this for a moment. Paul has just declared the most important and significant thing possible to a human being, society or people group, namely how we obtain and maintain a right relationship with our Creator.
Paul is proclaiming this gospel in a world populated by millions of people from thousands of societies each with a distinct history, culture and system of religion and yet he boldly declares that each individual human and each particular culture must approach God in the same way. Is God the God of the Jews only? Absolutely not! Is the God who chose the nation of Israel, had His word recorded in the Hebrew language, accepted worship imprinted with their cultural nuances also the God of the Ethiopians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, British, French, Chinese, Spanish, Arabs, Americans, Kenyans and African-Americans? Absolutely!
Are we thus to enter each culture with a different message, and different aspect of the Covenant Lord that suits their particular needs for dignity, identity and self-empowerment (which is what black theology or any other kind of ethnically based theology promotes) or the one unifying message of eternal salvation that brings us into a unified relationship with our Covenant Lord and with all of His people?
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. That succinct, wondrous and grace drenched statement by the apostle Paul lies at the heart of reformed (aka) biblical theology. It is a statement that applies to all people everywhere and at every time. It is a statement for the white, well-educated, upper class, suburban businessman and the black under-educated, underclass, inner-city struggling brother.
Now we know this is true brothers and sisters. The question I want to ask is this: Why is this issue arising now? Consider this: many believe the black church to be in serious trouble if not crisis. At the same time reformed theology is beginning to make an impact (small but growing) among many African-Americans. These two circumstances are not a coincidence. How is it that at this precise time we have questions as to the validity of reformed theology for the black church and black people? I ask you who would gain from this? Will the black church and black people be better off embracing prosperity theology? Will that theology move us to love God, His salvation and delight in Him as an end in and of itself? Should we pursue and adopt black liberation theology? Will that make us whole, give us a greater insight on God’s worldwide salvation and foster the unity of the body of Christ spoken of in Ephesians 4? Do we plan to start a Black Reformed Church to go along with the National Baptist Convention, African Methodist Episcopal Church and Church of God In Christ? Isn’t this the time to demonstrate to the church and the culture that it is true biblical theology alone that authentically unites believes across ethnic and socio-economic lines?
Or is the world right in claiming that the Scriptures, our salvation and our Lord are just part of a white man’s religion?
To Him Who Loves Us...