Tuesday, December 26, 2017

There IS A Race Relations Problem In The Church But Maybe Not Where You Think

More and more it seems that prominent, once orthodox, black evangelicals or Protestants are abandoning the Gospel which has the same message for all men regardless of race, ethnicity or gender, and begun embracing identity politics dressed up in religious language. I have already mentioned men like Lecrae and Thabiti Anyabwile who have turned their back on "White evangelicalism" or have scolded White evangelicals for supporting Trump while at the same time proclaiming their support for pro-infanticide career criminal Hillary Clinton. Now there are two more examples that are deeply concerning. The first comes via a tweet from Anthony Bradley.

According to Bradley evangelicals, which presumably he defines as White, conservative Protestants, have never had  the Gospel. Ever. As someone who qualifies under virtually any definition of "evangelical" that statement says to me, as someone born again more than 15 years ago who has in my own feeble way been studying the Gospel ever since, that I don't really have the Gospel. Does that mean I am not justified before God in the eyes of Mr. Bradley and the "black church"? There exists no justification apart from the Gospel so if Anthony Bradley thinks that as an evangelical I have yet to "embrace the Gospel for the first time ever" he must therefore be saying that I am unsaved. Not just me but millions upon millions of my fellow evangelicals that have been told in no uncertain terms that we have never embraced the Gospel, that apparently only those who see the Gospel from the "black church perspective" have a true understanding of the Gospel.

That begs the question: What exactly is the "black church"?

From what I am seeing and hearing from Mr. Bradley, Lecrae, Jemar Tisby and others is that blacks in America and around the world have a unique and distinct view of the Gospel. That in itself is fine but there is also a further suggestion that their view of the Gospel trumps all others and seems to also delegitimize the views of people that don't share their view of the Gospel. To me, you can have culturally distinct lenses to view the Gospel from just so long as you don't alter what the Gospel is but when something like this causes controversy, I suspect that the Gospel some of these men are talking about is actually "another gospel" (Galatians 1:6-10)

There isn't a race specific aspect of the Gospel in the New Testament. The struggles of the descendants of black slaves, the persecuted Irish during the Potato famine, the starvation of Ukrainians during the Holodomor, the killing fields run by Pol Pot, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict all have the same message from the Gospel. Repent and believe in Jesus Christ. How that looks might be a little different but those are secondary concerns. The Gospel, as Keller rightly puts it, is primarily about the forgiveness of sins, something all men stand in need of regardless of their race.

I have expressed on many occasions my own concerns about a myriad of issues with American evangelicalism, sometimes pretty stridently, but I don't drum the entire evangelical church out of the Kingdom because I have some concerns over the way they apply the Scriptures to specific contemporary situations. I have lots of issues I disagree with my Presbyterian brothers about but I don't sweepingly declare that they have never had the Gospel because I disagree with them on the issue of baptism.

When someone says that only their specific stream of Christianity has the "True Truth™", my cult alarm starts going off. Mr. Bradley is not speaking in a "all things to all people" sort of way (1 Corinthians 9:22) where we speak the universal Gospel to people in their specific cultural context. No, he is writing out of the Kingdom everyone that doesn't share his "black church perspective".

Dr. Anthony Bradley is a featured speaker at the Gospel Coalition's upcoming conference celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who is widely understood to be a plagarist and serial adulterer along with holding to some heterodox beliefs that would have been condemned in better days from TGC.

This should be a moment of truth for the Gospel Coalition. According to the founding documents of the Gospel Coalition, they are:
We are a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.
But according to Anthony Bradley evangelicals have never had the Gospel. Kind of weird that a Gospel Coalition would hold a conference including a speaker that accuses them of never having the Gospel in the first place. Also weird that Bradley would want to speak to a group that doesn't have the Gospel, unless he is only going to lecture the White audience. I replied to Bradley's tweet but I don't expect a reply in return.

So I would ask the leadership of the Gospel Coalition, men like Albert Mohler and Don Carson and Mark Dever and John Piper, men who I consider giants of the faith who have each helped me to better understand the Gospel, if they agree with Bradley's assertion that they have never had the Gospel. As for me I am confident that Al Mohler and John Piper have and understand as well as any human being can the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am not at all confident and am in fact quite skeptical that Martin Luther King, Jr. ever had the Biblical Gospel.

Anthony Bradley is also a research fellow at the Acton Institute, which has an all White executive team and a  mostly White team in general. The Acton Institute is headed up by a White Roman Catholic priest, Robert Sirico. I wonder if Anthony Bradley thinks Sirico has the Gospel? I intend to reach out in multiple ways to the Acton Institute to see if they agree with the assertion from Bradley that evangelicals have never had the Gospel.

Then I saw a Facebook post from Eric Mason where he used the term "cooning"

Notice that Eric applies Titus 3:14 specifically to the "black & African diaspora", not to the church in general but to the "black & African diaspora". I would think that a lot of the black & African diaspora in places like Haiti and Africa are happy that white Christians apply Titus 3:14 to the entire church in need, not just toward people that share their racial/ethnic heritage.

Eric is a pastor and author of several books, including one I own, Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole. Eric was once considered part of the small but important core of black Reformed ministers that were seeking theological reformation in the black church but he seems to have abandoned that as have many others.

He also uses a curious and ugly term: "cooning". So what exactly is "cooning"? It is a term I have heard before, defined in the Urban Dictionary as follows:
Cooning is a verb derived from the word coon. A coon was/is a person of african decent whose sole purpose was/is to entertain white people. These 'coons' started out as wearing black face, characterized by haveing big eyes and painting big red lips on their face. These people would tap dance, play instruments and sing. 
Modern day coons are blacks who play stereotypical roles and black entertainers that promote ignorance. 
I have heard this pejorative term used before and as someone that lacks "perspective" it sounds to me like the all too common practice of blacks shaming other blacks for not acting sufficiently "authentic". In other words, it describes a black that is acting "too white". It creates a monoculture where only one manifestation of black culture is considered authentic and acceptable. Pardon my language but the only equivalent I can think of from a white perspective is a term that was in vogue in the 90's: "whigger", which as you can guess is a combination of "white" and "nigger" and was used to describe a white kid that tried to act black.

Of course I am coming at this from a White perspective so my opinion isn't even heard. It is a pretty clever rhetorical device. You stake out a position on race relationships and then declare that anyone black that doesn't fall in line is a coon and anyone white that speaks up on the topic isn't even worthy of being heard. At all. All that is left is a singular view from one narrow perspective that is above reproach. Like I said, a pretty clever rhetorical device. On the other hand I wonder why it is that black Christians can feel free to lecture white Christians and even question their salvation as a group and we are expected to meekly stand there and take it but on the flip side white Christians are not even worthy of being heard by black Christians simply because we are speaking "from a white space".

What this really boils down to is a black version of kinism. The logical conclusion of what Bradley, Lecrae and others are proposing, a unique and exclusionary racial identity that trumps shared identity in Christ, at least on a practical level, is not functionally different from what is proposed by white kinists. Instead of being a Christian that happens to be black, you are a "black Christian". Rather than a local church that happens to be compromised of mostly black people, you have a "black church". This calls for a segregated worship, a segregated community, a segregated theological system. It even, as above with the reference to Titus 3:14 sees good works as being racial segregated in the church!

If you can reconcile a belief that White kinism/ethnonationalism is a terrible thing but that the opposite, a "woke" church hermeneutic that examines the Bible in every respect through the lens of past racial grievances and condemns the entirety of the White evangelical church for being "captive to Western culture" and utterly absent the Gospel itself, you are a far more creative thinker than I am.

I understand that the church in America is dominated by white, European expressions of the faith that are grounded in Western culture. That is because America has long been a nation that was overwhelmingly populated by white people of European descent. I have yet to see, although it may be out there, anyone criticizing the church in Africa for being to "Afro-centric" or the church is Asia being too Asian. Thanks to the First Amendment blacks have the right to worship among themselves as they please, a right recognized and codified in law by the white Founding Fathers and many blacks have benefited enormously from this, including Mason and Bradley. Eric Mason was educated at the graduate level at Gordon-Conwell and Dallas Theological Seminary, two schools founded by whites in the tradition of Western, European culture. Anthony Bradley graduated from Clemson and teaches at The King's College, institutions that likewise bear the "taint" of unbearable whiteness. I have to assume that the audience and financial support for the Acton Institute is overwhelmingly white but that doesn't stop Anthony Bradley from being a research fellow there which gives his work greater exposure. The board of directors for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is made up of 100% white men but I am sure Eric Mason didn't return any of the royalties for his book that they promoted multiple times.

It might be blasphemous in some circles to say this and deeply unpopular in many others but I think that a huge amount of blame for the current problems with race relations in the church in America can be laid at the feet of the public leaders of the "black church". The permitted narrative is that race relations are terrible and the blame for this is only on whites, even whites that have never done anything to impede the success and happiness of a single black person. In too many cases there seems to be a new, different and false "gospel" that is being adopted to replace the Biblical Gospel of the Good News of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It is a "gospel" of racial grievances, both real and exaggerated; of historical myopia where it is perpetually pre-1964 in America; of left-wing economic policies; of blame placing and responsibility avoidance; a "gospel" that is overly focused on the last 150 years in America and not focused enough on eternity.

As long as leaders of the "black church" are unwilling to stop lecturing long enough to have an honest and real dialogue and as long as they refuse to even "hear us at all" if we don't cede the entire conversation before we begin, then there is really little reason to try. If black leaders are going to call other blacks "coons" and arbitrarily claim that evangelicals have never had the Gospel and that our opinions are irrelevant and unworthy of being even heard because they come from a white man, then I really don't have time for them. I will do what I can for those in the church in need, regardless of race, and I will share the Gospel as I have opportunity, regardless of the race of the person I am witnessing to. What I will not do is be silenced or let accusations and slander in the public square go unchallenged, regardless of the respective races of those accusing and being accused.

Race is still one of the most fraught topics in America and it doesn't help when men who are elders in the church fail to exhibit the wisdom and temperance that their calling demands of them. If the "black church" and evangelical leaders won't call them out for their slander and foolishness, then I will.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Well Done Good And Faithful Servant

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:21)

Ligonier Ministries shared the news a few minutes ago that Dr. R.C. Sproul has gone home to be with the Lord....

Dr. Sproul is a teacher I have never met in person but for over a decade his teaching via writing, books, videos, audio and in person at T4G has had an enormous impact on me. He had a real talent for weaving the teaching into an accessible but deep material for people of all levels. He was one of the least Cage Stage Calvinists around, someone who was firm on his positions but never angry about it. Perhaps no other teacher did more to help me flesh out my early Calvinism than Dr. Sproul. 

I had my differences with what he taught, most notably on the proper recipients for baptism, and I have my concerns about some aspects of his ecclesiology but I always knew that Dr. Sproul would be fair and Scriptural in his positions even when I disagreed with his conclusions. I am terribly sad about his passing and not a little envious of his presence now with the Lord. Oh to hear the voice of our Lord: "Well done good and faithful servant".

Here is one of my favorite talks from Dr. Sproul from Together for the Gospel in 2008. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. I can truly say to Dr. Sproul "rest in peace" and I look forward to seeing you one day soon at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Save me a good spot.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Real Winners In Alabama Last Night Weren't On The Ballot

In a not terribly stunning upset Doug Jones, an absolute nobody that was a far Left sacrificial lamb in a deep red state, right up until the moment that the 40 year old, unproven and unprovable allegations against Roy Moore surfaced, won the Senate seat formerly held by Jeff Sessions. It is noteworthy that in 2014 when Jeff Sessions ran for re-election, he was so heavily favored that he ran unopposed and garnered over 97% of the vote. So this was supposed to be a safe seat. Then the media stepped in, these accusations were assumed to be true and constantly hammered into the voter's minds for a month and just like that Alabama flips to the Democrats and the Republican lead in the Senate shrinks to almost nothing.

So who really won last night? It wasn't Doug Jones. Unless something drastic changes in the next three years, he should be crushed handily by a more mainstream Republican in 2020 when Trump is at the top of the ticket in Alabama. Like my Senator Joe Donnelly, who is I believe the only Democrat holding state-wide office in Indiana, Jones is destined to be a one-term Senator, and an abbreviated term at that. A Soros aligned pro-abortion Democrat doesn't have much of a future in Alabama politics, especially once he starts voting in lockstep with Chuck Schumer.

No, the real winners are a mixed bag.

The mainstream media is a big winner. They found a tool to use against untamed Republicans like Roy Moore, a perfect accusation in this climate of sexual harassment and "assault" that occured four decades ago. In a world of #MeToo accusations of sexual misconduct are as good as a death sentence. I don't think the media quite understood what they unleashed and as Democrats like Al Franken and John Conyers go down in flames it sort of seems like this victory might be a Pyrrhic one but they still got their winning tactic. I expect to see variations of this trick employed again, probably as soon as 2018, with an unprovable accusation is used to undercut conservative candidates. The media in the urban enclaves of D.C, New York and elsewhere despise people in places like Alabama and Indiana and by defeating Roy Moore they feel a sense of getting even for their humiliation on election night 2016.

Another big winner was the "Never Trump" style "conservatives" that hate Trump and hate his right hand man during the election, Steve Bannon. Over at once reliably conservative but now mostly irrelevant National Review, David French crows that "conservatives" that stayed home, wrote in candidates or even voted for radical Leftist Doug Jones were "taking a stand". People like French and the loathsome Bill Kristol are of the old school Republican establishment that don't care about vulgar things like winning elections and passing legislation. They just care about their cushy positions at think tanks and their status as pet, tame "Republicans" that get invited to appear on CNN and to write for the New York Times. These champagne conservatives are like their neighbors in the media that occupy the fancy zip codes around D.C. and New York in that they don't like, don't trust and often are openly ugly toward the very people Republicans rely upon to win elections. Roy Moore epitomized every caricature they have created about Republican voters in fly over country. They hated him from the get-go and the accusations of misconduct decades ago were as welcome a gift to them as they were to the media.

Some really big winners last night were RINO "Republicans" like Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. With the GOP lead in the Senate down another vote and with only a razor thin majority in the Senate, the demands of big government Republicans like Collins will be overwhelming. They will be able to demand huge concessions for their votes and with no margin of error they will get what they want. I don't expect anything positive like national concealed carry reciprocity or real immigration enforcement reform to be enacted until after the 2018 elections but you can bet Susan Collins, Flake and others like them in the squishy Republican middle will be getting all sorts of attention and money from lobbyists and special interest groups for the next year or so.

A surprising winner in this is the Alt-Right. That may seem counter-intuitve given silly essays like this one from Douglas Schoen where he mentions that this election was a blow to Steve Bannon and the Alt-right, especially since Bannon isn't Alt-Right by any definition of the term. But look a little deeper at the numbers. We once again see a huge racial disparity in an election. According to CNN, 96% of blacks in Alabama voted for Jones and they made up almost 30% of the voters even though they are only around 17% of the eligible voting population. Whites voted pretty overwhelmingly for Moore, almost 70%. Every kind of White voted as a majority for Moore, even White college educated women that presumably were swayed by the sexual harassment allegations, voted for Moore by a narrow margin:

From CNN, accessed 12/13/2017

The electorate is increasingly divided into White Republicans and Black/Latino Democrats. This plays into the racial self-interest message of the Alt-Right: all politics are identity politics and you had better start thinking about protecting your own racial identity because everyone else is thinking about theirs. The Alt-Right wasn't on the ballot in Alabama but you can bet they will use the results above to advance their message.

This is what I wrote on Facebook in response to a post from Robert Gagnon regarding the David French post I mentioned above.
The election itself was just a sideshow for a much larger struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican party. People like David French, Bill Kristol and NRO in general represent the old school Republican party that is happy to lose as long as they preserve their sense of genteel respectability and keep getting invited on TV. Moore was a flawed candidate, as they all are, but the efforts to suppress the Republican vote from NRO and others speaks volumes about the loyalty of those old school voices of pseudo-respectability that once dictated what it means to be conservative.
The 2017 Alabama Senate special election was a huge proxy fight that got out-sized attention from the media that normally doesn't care about Alabama one way or the other. It has also been an absolute circus. Now all the effort and attention will shift to the 2018 mid-term elections where a lot of Democrat Senators like Joe Manchin (WV) and Joe Donnelly (IN) are very, very vulnerable. Given that Democrats have a lot of vulnerable seats to defend and three quarters of the total seats up for re-election to defend in general which will strain their resources, not to mention the general fatigue over Trump bashing in the media, the booming economy and stock market and the absolute inability to make any charges stick to Trump and we could see a major shift in the Senate make-up come January 2019 which only a little over a year away from now.