Racial Reconciliation and the Mystery of the Gospel: Interacting with Jarvis Williams Pt. 5

It seems that Jarvis Williams’ argument for racial reconciliation necessarily entails that race is defined in terms of melanin and that the definition of the gospel is stretched and broadened beyond its historic meaning in Christian orthodoxy to something closer, much closer to liberation theology and the leftist notions of a social gospel. Paul said that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew First and also to the Gentile (Rom. 1:16) That is what the gospel is. It is the power of God that produces salvation, delivers from sin and releases from that divine legal debt we could never have paid. In the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. By faith, the righteous man comes to be, he lives. Better stated, But he who is righteous by faith, shall live. Otherwise, without faith, there is no righteous man. All men are dead in trespasses and sins. This is a narrative that is far more glorious than any finite mind could ever fully comprehend. For some odd reason, however, it isn’t enough for Jarvis Williams. The gospel must be broadened, and it must be broadened for the simple fact that Williams’ has an agenda and in order to support that agenda, and so that he might strengthen his argument, the narrative must be changed.

Williams claims that the gospel is broader than some are willing to admit. Historic Christianity and surely Southern Baptists, almost all of whom are Gentiles, have a very broad understanding of the gospel in the sense that the gospel of salvation extends beyond all believing Jews, and applies to all Gentiles who believe as well, or better, all believing Gentiles. I don’t think you can get any broader than that. But Williams has a different understanding of broad in mind. He says that the gospel does not just include entry-level language but, it includes maintenance language as well. But is this really the gospel? Is progressive sanctification as it has historically been called, the gospel? Or, it is related to the gospel? There is a difference between the gospel and those things that are related to the gospel. Once again, Williams creates confusion on this point because he wants to stretch the definition of terms and ideas and concepts. What is driving Williams’ method? The answer is simple: Williams’ agenda is driving his method and it is terribly influencing his exegesis. Like Steven Covey’s book on Seven Habits, Williams is beginning with the end in mind. He knows where he wants to go before he even begins his investigation of the text where this topic is concerned.

The Baptist Faith and Message states that Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. Salvation is offered to ‘all’ is as broad of language as one can use. Williams says, “Paul argues that the gospel includes the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles into one new humanity.” Williams is doing something very intentional with his use of the word “reconciliation.” He knows when he says “racial reconciliation” that the image that is created is the modern notion of gaps between black and white Christians. He knows that people will naturally want to read that image into Paul here in Ephesians when he positions it this way. But this is exactly how you do NOT do exegesis. The goal is to sit your modern baggage aside as much as is possible with the help of the Spirit. And you seek to see the argument from Paul in first-century terms. The Jews thought that the Messiah was coming to establish an earthly kingdom. They thought salvation was nationally deliverance. They thought all the nations would be blessed through their Jewish rule. They were wrong! That is NOT the good news. The good news is that Messiah himself is the seed of Abraham that would bless all the nations of the world by reconciling the human race from all those nations to himself. Foremost in Paul’s mind is correcting the Jewish mindset on the true nature of the kingdom, the true nature of blessing, and the true fulfillment of the promises to Abraham. If you employ modern ideas of race (ideas which are terribly misguided and always have been), when you come to the text, you will miss the true meaning of what Paul is getting at. And if you are not careful, you will miss the gospel in all its richness.

The mystery of the gospel that Paul is talking about is not the mystery of racial reconciliation. It is the mystery that Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Eph. 3:6). Contrary to Williams’ point, Paul’s focus isn’t race. It is the summing up of all things in Christ who is the head. It seems odd to me that a Gentile in the body of Christ writing to other Gentiles in the body of Christ would write as if the work of reconciliation in the gospel remains incomplete. If there is anything that one should conclude from the passages Williams refers to in Ephesians it is that reconciliation to God has occurred and that Gentiles have been united to their fellow Jewish believers in Christ. You see, the very fact that Williams is writing about this is only made possible because the very reconciliation mentioned in Scripture is a fact of redemptive history. What then is Williams getting at?

Jarvis Williams writing to the church, and to Southern Baptists specifically says the following: One, evangelicals should be quick to listen and slow to speak on race when they do not understand the issues. White supremacy and racism are complicated issues. These issues relate to concepts such as racialization, critical race theory, mass incarceration, economic inequality, education inequality, and other forms of systemic injustice. See Source Here

Jarvis Williams is attempting to build a bridge from between the biblical category of Jew and Gentile to the modern category of black and white. It is easy to see the massive leap that must take place if he is to be successful. The bridge he constructed is designed to support his agenda. From the beginning, Williams tells Christians to shut up when it comes to racial issues and just listen. H. Wayne House, in his article on Black Liberation Theology, wrote the following: The focal concern or center of black theology is the white oppression of blacks. Therefore the usual theological discussions about God, Christ, and salvation are basically irrelevant. Instead, these points of theology have meaning for blacks only insomuch as they relate to the question of freedom from the oppression of blacks in this world.[1] Men like Williams will deny that their position is rightly located within the rubric of Black Liberation Theology. But as one can see, his solution to this problem is obviously geared in a very specific direction. First, do not challenge the black Christian on the issue. Just listen. Then the expression “white supremacy” is tossed out. What does Williams mean by that? He mentions several examples: critical race theory, mass incarceration, economic inequality, education inequality and other forms of systemic injustice.

It is clear that the secular black agenda is driving Williams’ own agenda because these are all issues that supposedly exist in American culture. What has the church to do with economic inequality, or mass incarceration, for example? These things all point to Williams’ true agenda. Black Liberation Theology has failed to garner support in Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches. As a result, men like Williams are working on the language, reframing the conversation, and modifying the narrative all in an attempt to prop up their agenda. Look at the language Williams uses. Let’s take mass incarceration as one example. What do you think Williams means by this expression? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, less than one half of 1% of Americans are incarcerated. Yet, Williams refers to it as mass incarceration, leading one to believe that blacks are being gathered up, put on trains, and escorted off to prison–all because of melanin on the one hand and white supremacy on the other. 

This kind of outlook coming from Williams and others will not unify blacks and whites. If anything, it will drive a wedge between them and those who agree that we should walk in unity as Christians will start to find it more difficult to do so. The reason why is that people do not like expressions like white supremacy or white normalcy. When they hear those expressions, they think about white hoods, burning crosses, and other heinous immorality that they want nothing to do with. Perhaps this is the strategy? The use of emotive language like white supremacy, white normalcy, white privilege, racist, mass incarceration, etc. is for effect. Since the arguments cannot be made in a way that is empirically or logically compelling, maybe the agenda will have a better chance if the use of emotive language is incorporated. After all, this is exactly what the homosexual movement does. It is exactly what the abortion movement does. And it works. However, just because it is effective, that does not make it ethical.

From the standpoint of Christianity, blacks and whites and browns and reds and yellows do not need to be reconciled with one another. Why? “But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:13).” “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).”  “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).”

If you are in Christ, you are in the church. If you are in the church, you are one man. We have been reconciled to God. Paul says that we who were far off egenēthēte engys, have been brought near. The use of the aorist tense here indicates that Paul saw the action as an undifferentiated completed act. In other words, quite simply, Christ has brought us near. He is not working in the body to bring us near which is the obvious and unavoidable conclusion of the position argued by Jarvis Williams. At the end of the day, Williams’ argument is not persuasive. It is littered with eisegesis, exegetical fallacies, and logical fallacies. It should be rejected.

The next post will examine an article written by a pastor on staff in my own church and will serve as an excellent example of what happens when people take this topic far afield from the mission of the church. I was hesitant to post a response but given the number of things I am seeing in my own community around this topic, I think it is the right thing to do. My hope is that I will say something that will result in people being better thinkers, becoming better able to discern what is true versus what is false.

[1] Bibliotheca Sacra: A Quarterly Published by Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1955–1995).

Racial Division and Reconciliation in the Bible: Interacting with Jarvis Williams Pt. 4

This is part 4 of what will likely be a 7-part series dealing with the racial reconciliation movement being pushed by Southern Baptists like Jarvis Williams and Russell Moore. This post is going to evaluate Williams’ arguments concerning racial division and reconciliation as he says it is taught in the Bible.

Williams beings this section by claiming the following: Scripture supports the notion that racial division is a universal power that rules and reigns like an evil tyrant over all Jews and Gentiles because of the historic fall of Adam and Even in the garden of Eden. Williams claims that the fall entails both vertical and horizontal estrangement. Not only has the human race been separated from God, it has also been separated from itself. Now, I fully admit that estrangement is the consequence of sin. But I must confess that I cannot see how the fall entailed the same kind of estrangement of man from man that it did of man from God. That again seems to me to be stretching the truth. Adam and Eve were not immediately (if ever) separated from one another as far as I know. But they were separated from God immediately. So, we would say that immediately, for Adam and Eve, there was a division between them and God and a need for reconciliation. But I cannot see how they needed to be reconciled to one another. Williams again seems to be reading his thesis into his exegesis.

Now, it is certainly the case that Adam and Eve would now have to manage competing priorities and even interests. Conflict was inevitable. Rather than submit to him, Eve would have an innate desire to rule over her husband. But this is still not the division that exists between humanity and God. It only opens the door for such division. The potential for division is not division. While it is true that division is the consequence of sin, it is not to be confused with the state of man’s relationship with God. Man was not cut off from man the way he was cut off from God after the fall. Adam and Eve were not cut off from each other.

Williams advances his argument with the following claim: Yet the Bible teaches that Jesus, the new Adam, died and rose from the dead to kill all forms of sin and to reverse the vertical and horizontal curse over the entire cosmos by restoring vertical and horizontal relationships. It is clear that Williams takes his racial reconciliation ideas to the text, exaggerates division between humanity, includes it in the curse, and the folds it into the gospel. This is not to say that there is no relationship between human hostility and the fall. Surely there is. But as he always does, Williams pushes this hostility too far. Williams positions the gospel as reconciliation in the broadest terms. But there are some serious problems with this understanding of the gospel. Those will be addressed in due course.

Williams says that the horizontal curse brings us to the topic of racial division. He says Paul generalizes racial division as Jews and Gentiles. Williams is right that there was a separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. He is also right to say that this division was based on the covenant. This division was due to the divine prerogative. We call it election. But Williams is wrong to classify it as racial division. Moses knew nothing about the sort of division that Williams is speaking of. It was not racial division at all. The Jews were of the seed of Abraham. They belonged to the family of Abraham. Abraham was called out by God and his seed was chosen to be God’s people. This created division between Abraham’s offspring and those who were not his offspring. It wasn’t sin that separated human beings from one another, it was God. Because of sin, God chose, according to his plan, to elect some to salvation from the very beginning. That component of God’s plan and more so, the act of God to choose some but not others is the actual cause of the division. All human beings were one man in sin. We see this in Genesis 11:6: The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.

Williams says that “Jesus died so that he would abolish the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles so that he would reconcile Jews and Gentiles to God and to each other.” However, that is not exactly what Paul says in Eph. 2:13-16. Paul says that Christ died that he might reconcile both in one body to God through the cross. Hoehner writes, It must be understood that the reconciliation spoken of here is not between Jews and Gentiles “into” one body, for that would necessitate an εις rather than εν…rather it is speaking of those believing Jews and Gentiles, who are in one body, as reconciled “to God.” [Hoehner, 383] In Christ, Jews and Gentiles have been brought together into one man, unified. But it is off the mark to think of them as estranged in a way that requires reconciliation. What divided the Jew and the Gentile was the law, not race. God gave the law to the Jew and not to the Gentile. The point here is that Jesus did not die in order to reconcile races. He died to reconcile the human race to God. And through that reconciliation, the human race that finds itself elect of God, chosen by him finds itself as one new man in Christ. That is the point. The reconciliation to God results in a new kind unity in a new body, the body of Christ.

In summary then, man rebelled against God and as a result, God separated himself from man. God placed a curse on the human race. All men became equally separated from God through the fall of the first man, Adam. Nevertheless, God has acted to reconciled with some men from among the human race. He chose Noah to preserve some men from among fallen men. His choice was grounded in himself. And then, according to the gospel preached in the garden of Eden, God chose Abraham and his seed from among fallen men, to be his covenant people. Abraham’s family would be the covenant family that would grow in the covenant nation. It would be through this nation, the Nation of Israel, the Jews, that God would preserve for himself a people, a covenant people, a people whom he would redeem for himself, according to the purpose of his own plan for his own glory. The promise made to Abraham was that all nations would be blessed through his seed. Paul tells us with great clarity that that seed was Christ. In Christ, we are all, Jews and Gentiles, the seed of Abraham. The good news is that Christ reconciles all men to God through his own blood. By faith in the name of Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to God, partakers of the divine nature. We participate in the fellowship with God and now with one another by virtue of the fact that we have been placed into the body of Christ. We are all sons in the family of God. We are one in Christ.


Race, Racism, and the Gospel: Jarvis Williams on The Gospel – Pt. 3

In this post, I am going to focus my attention on Jarvis Williams’ theology of the gospel. Williams argues that Southern Baptists need to develop a biblical theology of the gospel. I think Williams is saying that Southern Baptists need to get back to the gospel. There can be no doubt that the SBC has a fully formed theology of the gospel. Some of them take a more Arminian perspective while a few take a Calvinist perspective in their soteriology. But to say that Southern Baptists need to develop a biblical theology of the gospel implies that they have yet to do so. Perhaps Williams just doesn’t like the Southern Baptist theology of the gospel. A theology of the gospel falls within the area of soteriology. Williams throws everything including the kitchen sink into his theology of the gospel. He includes: entry language (repentance and faith), maintenance language (walking in the fruit of the Spirit), racial reconciliation, and loving one another in the power of the Spirit. By throwing so many items into his theology of the gospel, he muddies the waters and creates confusion. So, if Williams includes too many items into his theology of the gospel, how is one to determine precisely what is the gospel? The best way to define the gospel is to allow Scripture to define it for us. I will attempt to do that in my closing comments of this post. For now, attention will be given to the claims made by Jarvis Williams about the gospel. One should pay Close attention to the argument Williams is making as well as the method he employs to make it.

Williams first move is to broaden the definition of the gospel. He says that the gospel should not be defined exclusively in terms of justification by faith. He grounds his theory in his interpretation of Paul’s work in Galatians, claiming that Paul’s gospel in Galatians includes more than justification by faith. For instance, he says that Paul does not use euaggelion, dikaiosynē, and dikaioō synonymously. Williams’ argument seems to be as follows:

  1. Unless Paul uses these terms synonymously, then the gospel must be more than justification by faith.
  2. Paul does not use these terms synonymously.
  3. Therefore, the gospel is more than justification by faith.

The argument is suspect because the major premise (1) is false on the face of it. It is not necessary for the terms “justify,” “righteousness,” and “gospel” to be synonymous in order for the gospel to be defined in terms of how someone is declared righteous or is justified. What then is the gospel? The gospel is that through the work of the Messiah on my behalf, I have been declared righteous, just, not guilty! That is good news. Now, does it follow that the consequences of my being declared righteous are also inclusive of the gospel? In other words, is regeneration also the gospel? It is surely related to the gospel, but it is not itself the gospel. Being declared righteous means that I am now filled with the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, dying to self, etc. Williams confuses the gospel with the consequences of the gospel. The message of Christ, the gospel, the good news is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. That is the gospel. Paul says that the gospel was simply this: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and on the third day, He was raised from the dead. Because of this, we are declared righteous, justified by faith in his name! The noun means very simply means, God’s good news to man. The verb means, to proclaim the good news. Why does Williams insist on extending the definition of the gospel? Why does he want to reject limiting the gospel to justification by faith? The answer seems to be that he wants racial reconciliation to be a gospel issue and the only way to do that is to broaden the definition of the gospel. It seems to me that once we open the door and accept Williams’ broad definition of the gospel that everything becomes a gospel issue. However, such a position is entirely unsustainable.

The verb euangelizō appears 22x in the LXX. The verb translates the Hebrew word bśr in 21 of those 22 occurrences. The sense of the Hebrew word is to bring news, a messenger of good news, to proclaim, to hear good news, to bring good news. Williams spills a lot of ink and several paragraphs attempting to show that good news may entail a broad category of meaning. But this approach is wide of the mark and quite unhelpful. Remember, Williams is trying to show that we should not think of the gospel only in terms of justification by faith. He says Paul’s gospel in Galatians includes more than justification by faith. Williams then spends several paragraphs in the LXX and even extra-biblical literature such as the Psalms of Solomon in order to strengthen his argument. His project fails. His argument is not strengthened. However, his agenda becomes clearer and that is a good thing for those who are interested in preserving the truth.

After several paragraphs devoted to the LXX use of good news, Williams brings us back to Galatians where he says the following: LXX Isaiah is especially helpful for understanding Paul’s use of ‘euangelizō’ in Galatians since he directly quotes and alludes to Isaiah throughout the letter. Now, this raises the questions, does Paul directly quote and allude to Isaiah throughout the letter of Galatians? How often does Isaiah use euangelizō? First of all, Isaiah never used the term euangelizō. Let’s be very clear about that. Isaiah used the term bśr. That is the word that appeared in Isaiah as it was originally inspired. And that word carries the sense to bring news, a messenger of good news, to proclaim, to hear good news, to bring good news. As one can see, it is essentially the same meaning as the Greek word used by Paul in the NT. I only raise the LXX issue in order to caution others who may not be theologically trained in using it. It is a translation of a copy of a copy of the original, somewhat removed. Moreover, we do possess the same copy of the LXX that Paul or any of the other NT writers used when penning their works. A right understanding of the nature of the LXX is critical if you are going to use it as a source in your Bible study.

Does Paul make heavy use of Isaiah when he uses the word euangelizō? From what I can tell, Paul alludes to Isaiah 49:1 in Gal. 1:15 where he says he was set apart in his mother’s womb. And then in Gal. 4:27, Paul cites Isaiah 54:1 in the context of his analogy involving Sarah and Hagar. In fact, Paul uses the OT approximately 30x in Galatians and in half of those occurrences the reference is Genesis. Other than these two texts from Isaiah, I can find no other place where Paul seems to lean heavily on Isaiah in his use of the word euangelizō. Williams points to the four places euangelizō translates the word bśr in Isaiah, but Paul never cites, quotes, alludes to, or even echos any one of these passages. That does not mean that Isaiah did not inform Paul’s soteriology. Surely, he did. It only means that Williams is exaggerating Paul’s references to Isaiah in Galatians. It goes to his tactics more than anything else.

Williams makes much of the number of times euangelizō is used to pronounce judgment in the LXX. But this is a serious gaffe. For example, Williams says that this word is used to pronounce judgment in Psalm 96 (95 in the LXX). But when one examines Psalm 96, one finds that the word appears in Psalm 96:2, which says, “Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day-to-day.” Nowhere in the LXX is the word euangelizō used to announce divine judgment. There are contexts in which judgment is imminent, but the good news is that repentance always brings mercy and faith always produces salvation and deliverance. It is impossible to talk about justification by faith apart from guilt and judgment. To be justified means that we were previously condemned, under judgment. Williams fails to make the sharp distinctions necessary and as a result, he fails to strengthen his argument, which to restate it, is that we should not see the gospel as primarily justification sola fide.

Where is Williams going with all this? He wants us to think that the gospel itself not only has a vertical component but a horizontal one as well. He is confusing the gospel itself with the effects of the gospel. When I say I have good news, you just won the lottery, that announcement does not fill your bank account or put you on some exotic beach. It is a statement about the state of affairs that has obtained. Now, the consequences of that announcement are that I am a millionaire, debt free, living a completely different life. Williams goal seems to be to get to Peter’s inconsistent behavior when the Judaizers were present. Williams writes, Peter believed all the right things about justification by faith for Jews, but he departed from the gospel by imposing Jewish legal demands on Gentile Christians. His error stemmed from an incorrect view of the gospel’s horizontal component. How close is Williams to the truth of the situation in Galatians 2? He seems to say that Peter believed justification by faith for Jews, but not for Gentiles. I cannot imagine how Williams arrived at such a conclusion. The main problem in the Galatian churches was over the doctrine of justification by faith alone apart from the works of the law. That is the occasion for Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches. We can see this easily enough in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Conference and the issue of Gentile salvation. When Paul first preached in the region of Galatia, he preached that everyone is freed from everything that the law of Moses could not free them from, both Jew and Gentile (Acts 13:38-39). Kostenberger writes, Paul wrote Galatians to defend the gospel of justification by faith alone against the false gospel of the Judaizers. [The Cross, The Cradle, and The Crown, 420] Did Peter really stray from the gospel? I don’t think so. Peter’s issue was that he let his fear get the best of him. He would eat with the Gentiles when these particular Jews were not around, and he would not do so when they were.

Peter’s behavior was indeed inconsistent with the gospel. But to say that Peter departed from the gospel is to overstate the situation. Did Peter’s behavior depict an incorrect view of the horizontal component of the gospel? This assumes there is a horizontal component of the gospel. This is a theory that Williams et al. have failed to prove. The horizontal consequences of the gospel are loving your neighbor. The gospel itself is that all men in Christ are forgiven of their debt to God regardless of their ethnic background. There is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ. There is only one man. All men are under sin, both Jew, and Gentile, according to Romans 3:9. Williams biggest problem is that he does not seem to appreciate hermeneutical and exegetical boundaries. He wants to take texts father than they should be taken.

When Williams says that Moses was establishing Israel’s racial identity in Deut. 7, he goes beyond the text. When he makes much of the word genos, he goes beyond the word. When he uses the LXX to try and show that euangelizō means more than just good news, he goes beyond the word. When he attempts to show that Paul was alluding to Isaiah throughout Galatians, he goes beyond the content of Galatians. When he says that Peter had an incorrect view of the gospel, he goes beyond what Paul actually said. And just for good measure, there is one more example worth mentioning. Williams writes, “When Paul condemned Peter as accursed in Gal. 2:11, he placed Peter under an apostolic curse.” What does Paul actually say in 2:11? It says, But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. The word condemned is translated from the Greek, kataginōskō. The lexical evidence suggests convict, condemn, bring a charge against. The word is used in 1 John 3:20-21 where John talks about our heart condemning us and God being greater than our heart. The gist of Paul’s sentence is that Peter was wrong! Nothing more. There is no pronouncement of a curse and there is no implication that Peter had perverted the gospel. Williams is constructing a narrative that will support his agenda that racial reconciliation is a gospel issue. That much is now obvious at this point. Williams is wrong about Moses, wrong about the word genos, wrong about the focus of Paul in Galatians both in terms of justification by faith and in his view of Paul’s use of Isaiah, and he is wrong in how he frames the incident with Peter in Galatians 2. In every case there is an exaggeration. In every case, it is obvious that the text is being stretched just beyond its limits. Williams has an obvious purpose in mind.

Williams says that in Paul’s view, one can conceptually confirm justification by faith and yet stand condemned by the gospel. And Peter is his example. However, one has to ask if this is actually Paul’s point or if Williams is once again reading something that isn’t really there? The resounding answer to that question is absolutely not. In fact, Paul is dealing with men who are publicly denying justification by faith alone. They are the reason Paul has penned the letter, to begin with. No one would dispute the fact that there are hypocrites in the church whose lives are grossly inconsistent with their profession. Again, this line of argumentation is unhelpful. It misses the point that Paul is making in Galatians. Williams is seeking to turn Paul’s concern from that of justification by faith to that of the supposed horizontal component of the gospel. By painting Peter as being cursed by Paul, not only does Williams supposedly support his theory of this horizontal component, it elevates that theory to a place of extreme importance. Now, can you see what Williams is doing? Williams is going to argue that walking in the Spirit is the gospel and that walking in the Spirit entails the horizontal component of the gospel and that walking in the Spirit, or the fruit of the Spirit also entails racial reconciliation. With a wave of his exegetical magic wand here, and there, and here again, Williams thinks he has successfully shown that racial reconciliation is a gospel issue. And as long as you don’t ask any questions and ignore the numerous exegetical gyrations and logical fallacies in Williams’ argument, you might just be convinced he is right.

The gospel then is the good news from God that the human race can be declared righteous, justified by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is the gospel.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise (Gal. 3:26-29)

There is something far more profound about the gospel than just limiting it to concerns of social justice. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18).

It is because of the gospel that we can and do have fellowship with one another. We have fellowship with the Father and the Son and therefore, with one another. John writes, If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:6-7). One is one. You cannot be more unified than being one in Christ.

I am rapid-fire posting these days because this issue is hitting very close to home for me. In my next post, I will interact with Williams’ section entitled, Racial Division and Reconciliation in the Bible and then I will turn to Racial Reconciliation and the Mystery of the Gospel. Once these posts are up, I will demonstrate just exactly how errors like this make their way into the rank and file of the church and result in a variety of errors. The end result is likely to lead to division in the body rather than unity. My final post in this series will address this topic in a direct, candid, and honest way. My hope is that the unity we find ourselves in is based on the unity of Christian truth rather than politics, political correctness, or melanin.




Race, Racism, and Gospel in the Bible: Interacting with Jarvis Williams Pt. 2


In his argument for racial reconciliation, Jarvis Williams makes a LOT of the fact that the gospel is not just about vertical reconciliation, but it is also about horizontal reconciliation. The idea of horizontal reconciliation is employed by those who have embraced the narrative that there is racism in the church, that systemic racism exists, and is the concern of the church, and that white Christians are inherent racists due to their environment even though they are mostly unaware of their racist attitudes. The narrative seems deliberately vague, almost always lacking in specifics, especially where the church is concerned. The argument, as well as the narrative, deserves intense scrutiny because of the ethical consequences involved. After all, to falsely accuse people of being racists is malicious slander.

Williams provides advice to his SBC brothers and sisters: “If my fellow Southern Baptists want to remove the stain of racism from the SBC, we must admit that racism based on white-supremacist definitions of race still exists in our convention and that such ideas depart from Scripture’s teaching on race.” This argument raises a number of questions. What is the “the stain of racism?” What is the “white-supremacist definition” of race and where is that documented? Moreover, what does it mean to say that this definition still exists in “our convention?” Does this definition exist if 1% of SBC members hold it? If that is true, how does the SBC actually purge that leaven from its ranks? I don’t know what percentage of SBC members routinely watch porn, commit fornication and adultery, or other sexual sins, but I would say that it is more than 1%. Does this mean that the SBC can never remove the stain of sexual sin from its midst? I really have no idea what Williams is saying here. If there is some visible, formal, larger percentage of the SBC that is engaging in racism, then it seems to me that those members ought to be called out, the specific behavior identified, and remedial action was taken without delay. It is unhelpful to talk about this problem in such a tenuous fashion. I also have to ask why Williams focuses on racism only based on white-supremacist definitions of race. Does he think that other kinds of racism are tolerable? For instance, it is a well-documented fact that racism is not isolated to one particular group of people with low levels of melanin in their skin. Racism is a global problem as old as sin itself. It isn’t going anywhere until sin is purged from the world. So, if that is the case, how do we deal with the sin of racism? We cannot purge the culture of racism any more than we can purge the culture of fornication and we shouldn’t try. That is not the mission of the church. But we can and must ensure that racism is purged from the body of Christ and that only happens one local body at a time, the same as purging any other error from our community.

I want to begin by talking about Williams’ argument for racial reconciliation. Specifically, I want to look at the word reconciliation. Since we are the church and we are dealing with this issue primarily from a theological perspective, we should use theological and biblical terminology. Williams argues that the gospel is not just about men being reconciled to God, but it is also about men being reconciled to one another. This is described as that horizontal element of reconciliation. Now, in the interest of disclosure, I use the NASB95 addition most of the time with the ESV as my second English translation. Mostly, I like the NA28. So, when I research on the word “reconcile” and its forms, I discover that it appears in NASB eleven times. Reconcile is translated into the NASB from four different Greek words. Six of those times it is from the Greek word katallassō. In five of these six occurrences, reconciliation is between God and man and once it is between a wife and her husband. The word carries the sense of exchanging a hostile relationship for a friendly one. Three times, the Greek word is apokatallassō. This word is used to assert that God reconciled both people groups, Jews, and Gentiles, into one body to God. The word is used to tell us that God has reconciled all things to himself through Christ (Col. 1:20). Finally, two verses later, in 1:22, Paul says that he has reconciled you in his fleshly body through death. Matthew uses the word diallassomai in 5:24 where the reconciliation is between two brothers. It means to be restored to normal relations or harmony. Finally, Luke uses the word synallassō when he tells the story about Moses attempting to reconcile the two Hebrews in Acts 7:26. The meaning is the same. The idea is to restore a friendship that was interrupted for whatever reason. In every case where the word reconciliation appears in the NT, it is dealing with a very specific estrangement: mankind as being estranged from God; a woman who was estranged from her husband; all things being estranged from God; two brothers and two Hebrews who were estranged from one another. Nowhere does reconciliation imply that humanity is estranged from itself. The one thing necessary for reconciliation is hostility/estrangement. Do human beings become estranged? Of course, they do. Is it because of the fall? Of course, it is. But are we estranged from one another the moment we are born, that is to say, natural enemies of one another? While we may be prone to develop hostile relationships with each other due to our sin nature, to say that we are born in such a state is at best an exaggeration. Why such an exaggeration? I contend the exaggeration is being driven by the narrative that the racial reconciliation proponents want to tell. When the NT talks about reconciliation, does it ever intend to denote ethnic or racial reconciliation specifically? In the instances where the word reconciliation is used, it does not. Even the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles is secondary to the reconciliation of humanity to God in Christ.

Now, when Paul talks about reconciliation in Ephesians, does he have racial reconciliation at the forefront of his mind? The text in Ephesians seems very straightforward to me. Since Paul never thought of race the same way that Williams and most moderns do, the answer has to be no. What then, was Paul thinking about? Paul was thinking about the mystery of the gospel. He was thinking about how the gospel is going out to both people groups. He was not thinking about how nice it is to finally have racial reconciliation. The promise from the beginning occasioned that enmity would be placed between the seed of the woman and the seed of the devil. This is made clearer in the Abrahamic covenant where God promises to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham. Men from all people groups would be reconciled to God. The promise was even more clear in Christ, we are all one man, one race, having been reconciled to God. The mystery of the Messiah is that the gospel reconciles all men, both people groups, to God. The Messiah has mediated a covenant that includes all flesh/both people groups. There is no valid reason to narrow the focus to melanin or even specific ethnic groups. Have you ever wondered why that is never the focus? Why not focus on the fact that God has reconciled both the English and the Irish? Or the North and the South?

Williams goes on to argue that racial reconciliation is bound up in the gospel, that it is a gospel issue. And he claims that the Bible provides grounding and warrant for his argument. But when one examines the texts that Williams contends offers this grounding, the argument is seen to be unsuccessful. For example, in Ephesians 2, Paul talks about two people groups–Jews and Gentiles–being reconciled to God as well as being united together in Christ. Williams attempts to show that what is being removed, what is at issue, the focus itself, is racial estrangement. The nature of the division between Jews and Gentiles is supposedly racial. This is why Williams goes back to Deuteronomy 7 and attempts to show that Moses is creating Israel’s racial identity based on geography, theology, and ethics. But Israel’s identity had already been determined in Genesis 12 with the call of Abraham. Moses was not establishing anything like racial identity in Deut. 7. See my last post for my interaction with Williams on that argument. The division between the Jew and the Gentile, according to Paul, was the law. Gentiles were outside the covenants of promise and the Jews were God’s elect. There was nothing racial about God’s choice of Abraham or his decision to make from Abraham a great nation. Paul clearly articulates this in Romans 9 when he says that God’s choice was based on his purpose according to his plan. The idea that we are all estranged from each other and need reconciliation is not the narrative portrayed in Scripture. But it is the narrative that racial reconciliation and social justice warriors tell. And if their narrative is to survive scrutiny, then it must stand up to the test of Scripture. For this reason, they frame the argument specifically to support their narrative and they don’t seem to mind stretching the truth a bit so long as it fits their narrative and furthers their agenda. Paul does not paint a picture of humanity being splintered into individual finite enemies of each other. Paul talks about two people groups that are divided from each other, not by race, but by divine prerogative. God is responsible for the division and distinction between the Jew and the Gentile. And it is God who destroyed that distinction with the blood of his own Son! Reconciliation in the context of the gospel is the work of God alone.

The question that we all must ask is this: if we are all in Christ, and everyone who is in Christ has been reconciled to God, and united with one another in one body, then why does Williams think that the work of reconciliation has yet to be accomplished. Let’s look at the language Paul uses again. Paul says in Eph. 2:19, So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and are of God’s household. God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. We are one man. Peter tells us that we are one chosen race! Whatever reconciliation was necessary from a gospel standpoint, it has been accomplished.

Williams wants to read racial reconciliation as we understand that expression, into the gospel and then turn that principle into a mandate for the Christian church to engage in the work of social justice by which he partly means ending systemic racism in the culture. He even goes so far as to claim that systemic racism exists in the church. However, Williams’ argument is largely unconvincing. Is there anything, then, to this horizontal view that Williams is talking about? Yes and no. I don’t know of any Christian who says that the gospel has nothing whatever to do with social concerns. What I do understand is that not everyone interprets the gospel to include social concerns in the way Williams implies. The gospel is the restoration and reconciliation of rebellious humanity to a holy God through the work of Christ. Man was created to image God. This imaging God takes two forms: to love God with his entire being and to love his neighbor as himself. These are the two greatest commandments. These commandments are expressed more clearly nowhere than in the Ten Commandments! The first four of those commandments tell us how to love God. The second six tell us how to love our neighbor. If you are looking for an explanation of what it means to love your neighbor, you should start with the last 6 of the ten commandments and work from there. And by the way, everyone is your neighbor.

Williams talks about reconciliation as if there are two parts to the reconciliation as it concerns the gospel: veridical and horizontal. As mentioned above, there is little support for this idea. To be reconciled to God in and through Christ is to be united to and enjoined with everyone in the body. Paul said it this way: So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him, you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22)

Peter says it like this: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:9-12)

In summary then, the reconciliation of Ephesians 2:11-22 is not racial reconciliation. In fact, it is not veridical and horizontal reconciliation either. It is humanity being reconciled to God in Christ. It is veridical reconciliation. Paul lays out the process clearly. The Jews and Gentiles are viewed as two people groups. The Jews are marked off, not by race, but by divine prerogative. They are the elect of God. God chose Israel according to his own purpose. By default, when you choose one man and his offspring to be your covenant people, you exclude everyone else. The covenant community is marked off by the law of God. The Gentiles were “strangers to the covenants of promise.” However, the blood of Christ has abolished the one thing that stood between the elect people of Israel and those who were not called: the dividing wall. The dividing wall is also described as enmity, the law of commandments contained in ordinances. It was the blood of Christ, shed for all the elect, that broke down this wall. Christ shed his blood so that he might reconcile the elect to God. “The first purpose of rendering inoperative the law of commandments, consisting in decrees, namely, to create one new person.” [Hoehner, Ephesians, 378] This seems far removed from anything remotely resembling modern ideas of racial reconciliation. After all, only those in Christ are joined together in this one person and the term reconciliation is not used to describe this work. “It is not that Gentiles become Jews as Gentile proselytes did in pre-New Testament times nor that Jews become Gentiles, but both become one new person or one new humanity, a third entity.” [Hoehner, Ephesians, 378-379] From Paul’s argument we can safely conclude that when men are reconciled to God, they also become one person in Christ. This is unavoidable. It isn’t a two-step process. We do not become reconciled to God in Christ while still having work to do in order to be reconciled with one another. Based on Hoehner’s observation we now have Jews, Gentiles, and Christians. But I think we still have two: the children of God and the children of the devil; the seed of the woman and the seed of the devil.

Jarvis Williams contends that there remains work to be done in the church where reconciliation is concerned. I do not disagree that the church always has cultural issues with which it must learn to grapple in any and every environment. I am not disputing that. But Williams and men like Russell Moore couch the language of racial reconciliation as a gospel issue because of the effect it has on their audience. It is a highly emotive expression. Using it is effective in the furtherance of the agenda. Everyone is doing that these days. What I am trying to do is to get the audience to think critically about these arguments and to measure them against Scripture. Whatever work there is to be done in the church where cultural gaps exist, it has nothing to do with reconciliation and more to do with understanding our cultural differences better. But there is a lot more to it than that. As long as there is a Christian church that transcends human culture, there will be cultural gaps. This is the beauty of diversity. The focus should be on ensuring unity in truth without impinging on cultural practices. Our cultural practices must be sanctified by biblical values. We need one another in order to ensure this is accomplished. Where cultural practices violate Christian principles and teaching, they must be abandoned. Where they do not, we have that old faithful expression: Christian liberty. Romans 14 is our guide.

In his article, How to Care About Social Justice Without Losing the Gospel, Russell Moore opens with these words: We need to stop pretending that Jesus does not call his churches to act on behalf of the poor, the sojourner, the fatherless, the vulnerable, the hungry, the sex-trafficked, the unborn. Now, the key expression to note here is “act on behalf of.” Moore explains that the example Jesus gives us is one of holistic caring for the physical and economic needs of a wounded person, not to mention the transcending of steep ethnic hostilities. However, Scripture implies that Jesus did not enter the world to put an end to poverty, at least not in this age. He Himself says we will always have the poor with us. Moreover, His feeding of the 5,000 was indeed an act of compassion but the theological significance was really the point of the gospel writers. Why did the authors include that story? What were the authors trying to do? They were pointing us to a man who has power beyond anything we could ever imagine. And let us not forget that those who followed Jesus for these reasons were sharply rebuked in due time and they inevitably ended up abandoning him. So then, it seems to me the same can be said about Moore’s contention that Jesus supposedly gave us an example of caring for the physical needs of people by healing them. Yet, we know that Jesus did not heal people in order to provide us with the example that we too should care for the sick. He healed people, out of compassion, but so that men would know that he was the Messiah, the anointed one come from God. Finally, it seems lost on Moore that this Jesus whom he says “transcended steep ethnic hostilities” would have been sued in our day for taking his ministry only to the Jews, for selecting only Jews to be his apostles, and for choosing only men to be his leaders. Williams and Moore are doing all they can in various ways to transform the gospel into an “evangelicalized” social gospel, so to speak. We are called to love the orphans and to provide for them. We are called to do the same with widows. The Scriptures are clear about that. But to expand the mission of the church and the gospel to end things like abortion, sex-trafficking, racism, injustice, etc. is going far beyond anything the Scripture teaches. Loving your neighbor does not equal becoming an abortion activist. I applaud those who are down at the mill every week. Follow your passion. Do your part. But do not confuse the mission of the church with transforming civil laws or society or the culture. Do not confuse the mission of the church with outlawing gay marriage, pornography, and prostitution. None of those things are included in disciple-making and anyone who claims they are is playing loose, fast, and free with the Scripture. This is mission drift in new garb, nothing more, nothing less.

Before I leave off this post, I want to share a bit more information about an article I read recently on why black Christians are abandoning white evangelical churches. The article is precisely consistent with my own observations regarding the public conversations taking place. Darrell Harrison tweeted an article that he will be talking about tomorrow on his podcast. The article is entitled, A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshippers Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches. The article appears in the NY Times. The thrust of the article is that Black Christians are leaving White Evangelical Churches after Evangelicals came out in full support of Trump in record numbers. The article chronicles the moves of a Ms. Pruitt who left her White Church after becoming disenchanted with her white brothers and sisters. The argument was really quite simple: Trump is a racist. How can these white Christians defend Trump? How can they vote for this man? Pruitt became uncomfortable in that environment and left the church. I bring this up because it is the heartbeat of this issue. The fact is that there is a real gap between white and black Christians and it has nothing to do with melanin for the most part and everything to do with more significant issues, like cultural values, practices, theological differences, and other deeply held beliefs. If there is any distance between those two macro-cultures, if you can put it that way, it is located in the area of culture, not biology. For example, Martin Luther King Jr. denied the virgin birth and resurrection Christ along with the inerrancy of Scripture. King once wrote that the resurrection was a mythological story. Nevertheless, if a white Christian classifies King as a heretic, someone who denies the faith, which is how one would classify a white preacher holding Kings views, most black Christians take the “touch not my anointed” attitude and a fight ensues. This is inexcusable. What is more important? The gospel? Or melanin? Do I remain loyal to the historic white leader even though I know he was an overt heretic? Do I accuse Voddie Baucham of being a racist when he issues a scathing rebuke to a Rob Bell or some white leader of prominence? I don’t. And frankly, I don’t understand those who do. The SBC is celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. in a couple of weeks. I admit that this is very troubling. These leaders seem quite content to look past the heresy of King and grant him a high status within the community of faith. King deserves status in the culture; he accomplished great things where society is concerned. However, those accomplishments pale in comparison to the obscure missionary laboring in the wilderness while doing all he can to uphold the truths of the gospel, and in many cases, risking life, limb, and even family.

What we need more than anything else from our gospel leaders today is honesty, courage, and integrity. What we don’t need is virtue signaling, politicking, and good-old-boy mentalities. The “I got your back, you got mine” nonsense has to be rooted out of the church either by loving correction or excommunication. Stand up, man of God, and be counted among the faithful men who have gone before you, giving up convenience and risking life and limb for the simple truth of the gospel, out of a love for God, for truth, and for those over whom God has placed you. Flee from the kingdom builders, the resume engineers, and the egomaniacs who obsess about their image day in and day out.

Between 850 and 859 AD, forty-eight Christians were decapitated in the Spanish town of Cordoba for religious offenses against Islam. All these martyrdoms were recorded by Eulogius, a Cordoban priest so that he could write up passions which would perpetuate the memory of these Christian martyrs through his martyrology.

The first of these forty-eight martyrs was Isaac. Due to his noble birth, he rose to the highest rank in the local government that a non-Muslim was allowed, Secretary of the Covenant (Katib Adh-Dhimam). He gave all this up and went to live in a monastery close to Cordoba, in Tabanos. Isaac visited Cordoba three years later to ask a judge about some details of Islamic law. This official spoke about Muhammad’s life and this launched Isaac into a full-scale attack on Islam in which he affirmed that its prophet was being tormented in hell for misleading the Arabs.
The judge was amazed at this outburst and concluded that Isaac must be either drunk or mad. But Isaac assured the judge that he was compelled to so outspoken because of the “zeal of righteousness”. Isaac was promptly arrested, sentenced. His decapitated body was left hanging for all to see. Mark Water, The New Encyclopedia of Christian Martyrs (Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd, 2001), 532.

This man, one out of thousands, had the nerve to speak the truth in the middle of the most hostile of circumstances. He had to know that his outburst against Islam in such an environment would cost him more than he could pay. Yet, his passion and love for the truth drove him to take the most unpopular and dangerous path available to him. He didn’t flinch. He regarded no one but God. And it cost him his life. What has standing for the truth cost you lately? Anything? We praise men who deserve ridicule because of what others will think. We aren’t even willing to ruffle feathers for Christ, how on earth can we say that we would die for him?




Race, Racism, and Gospel in the Bible: Interacting with Jarvis Williams


A good argument always ensures that the strength of its conclusion matches the strength of its premises. Here is an example: I am a Browns fan. Some Browns fans are deeply depressed. So, I am deeply depressed. The argument is a bad argument because the conclusion overstates the at least one of the premises. The strength of the conclusion is inconsistent with the strength of the second premise. Only some Browns are deeply depressed. The argument would be a good argument if it looked like this: I am a Browns fan. Some Browns fans are deeply depressed. Possibly, I am deeply depressed. This is a good argument.

Jarvis Williams, a professor at Southern Seminary has been making an argument as of late. That argument concerns the topic of racism within the Southern Baptist Convention. The purpose of this post is to evaluate Williams’ argument in order to determine if it is a good argument or a bad one. It is worth noting that good arguments are not necessarily true arguments. A good argument is an argument whose qualifying conclusion is consistent with the strength of its premises. But if one or both of those premises are not true, the argument itself, if it is a good argument, must be false. If someone makes a good argument, and the premises of the argument are true, then a good argument should convince us a reasonable person of its truth. Now, for purposes of this post, I am going to stray from the technical definition of a good argument and define a good argument as an argument that is both sound and true. If an argument is good, it is sound in that its conclusion follows logically from its premises and it is true because its premises are true. A bad argument is either unsound or it employs false premises along the way. I am going to evaluate Williams’ argument to see if, in fact, it is good in the way I have just defined good.

In his section on Race, Racism, and Gospel in the Bible, taken from his book, Biblical Steps Toward Removing The Stain of Racism from the SBC, Williams writes: “The category of racial identity has always been a social construct. Yet racial identity both in the biblical world and in the modern world was constructed for different reasons and with different methods.” In these two sentences is the claim that racial identity was a social construct in the biblical world as much as it is in the modern world. Is this actually the case? Did the ancient world engage in the same kind of social constructs we engage in around the issue of race? It seems to me that Williams accepts the view that the modern social construct around race is limited primarily to melanin because he says the in the biblical world, racial identity is not based on pseudoscience, which wrongly argues racial identity is based exclusively on biology. Williams’ ground is the biblical world did use race as a social construct. This claim will work its way to a conclusion. How strong is this strong? We shall see. In order to understand the strength of his ground or major premise, we turn to the warrant. In this case, Williams begins by claiming that in Deut. 7:1-24, Moses constructs Israel’s racial identity based on geographic, theological, and ethical boundaries. This raises the question, is Moses constructing Israel’s racial identity in this section of Scripture?

Deuteronomy 7 is the precursor to Israel’s going into the land to possess it. It specifically instructs Israel how they are to relate to the inhabitants of Canaan. God commands Israel to drive the Canaanites out of the land. They are not to have any relations with the Canaanites. This is a picture of the NT church and its relation to the world. The typology seems easy enough to recognize. After he issues these commands and warnings, God then issues promises of blessing if Israel will walk in agreement with the covenant. Why should Israel act in this way? The verses that follow give the reason. She was a holy or ‘separated’ people, chosen by God and called into a covenant with him. That fact set her apart from all peoples. A surrender of her privileged position by compromise was, therefore, unthinkable.[1] There seems to be no suggestion whatsoever in this section of Scripture that Moses is affixing racial identity to Israel. The identity of Israel emerges in v. 6: “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”[2] Israel’s identity is that they are a holy people to the Lord. They are the chosen people. They are the elect of God. Of all the people of the earth, God chose them. Moses is identifying Israel as the people in covenant with Yahweh. One should take care to note that race and identity are not synonymous. To reiterate, Williams is attempting to use race as the identifier. He is arguing that modern society uses melanin as the means by which we identify race, but Moses used geography, theology, and ethics. Race is central to what is taking place according to Williams. Israel is the “land of Canaan, called of God, holy people of God” race in the same way that Williams is identified with the black race. I must confess that I do not see Moses doing anything remotely resembling what Williams is claiming. The purpose of Deuteronomy 7 is typological and theological. It has nothing to do with Israel receiving her racial identity. It has everything to do with the elect of God being called into a special covenant relationship with God and finding their identity in imaging God as originally designed way back in the garden of Eden from the very beginning. Williams, instead of working from the beginning to this point or even working from Christ back to this point, starts with modern thinking on the topic of race and reads it back into the ancient text. This is the fallacy of anachronism. It should be avoided at all costs.

Williams uses the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX), called the Septuagint in an attempt to strengthen his argument. However, just as Deuteronomy 7 lends no support to Williams argument, the LXX offers little more by way of such support. Williams makes much of how the translators of the LXX use the word genos. The problem with Williams’ approach is that it assumes that race, as used in the lexical data, is synonymous with how modern culture defines race. The dominant manner in which race is used in American society is almost entirely understood as melanin. When Americans think about the word race, they almost think entirely of African Americans, then a little of Mexicans, and perhaps Native Americans, and rarely Chinese, Japanese, etc. We are more likely to use the word ethnicity rather than race when we think of people groups. Now, does the word genos carry the same sort of significance in the LXX or the NT that race carries for modern culture? That is the $64,000 question. The word genos is the receptor word for eight different Hebrew words. Not one of those words carries the modern concept of race in their range of meaning. This is a fact that is beyond serious dispute.

Williams goes on to say, “Although the word genos is not used in reference to Adam and Eve in the Greek translation of Genesis, God made male and female after his image into a distinct race/kind/group/class of creation (Gen. 1:11-31).” This point is incredibly unhelpful. Of course, God made a tree to be a tree, a lion to be a lion, and human beings to be human beings. How does this fact add anything meaningful to Williams’ argument? How does this fact strengthen Williams’ argument? As far as I can tell, it lends no support to the argument and is even not a very interesting fact in the context of the argument.

Another major point that Williams seems to think strengthens his argument is Luke’s employment of genos in Acts 18:2 and 24 respectively. Here Luke tells his readers that Aquila is a Jew who was born in Pontus and that Apollos was a Jew who was born in Alexandria. Supposedly, Luke is pointing to Pontus and Alexandria as racial identities. Luke is not using genos in order to identify race. He is using the term to tell us where the men are from. It is a fact about the men, not a way to classify them. If you pay attention to Williams and others in the racial reconciliation movement, race is all about identification and that identification is extremely important. Much is made of it. Racial identification is prominent in the conversation just as it is the very heartbeat of Williams’ book. And race, for purposes of the book, is biological. It centers around the level of melanin in the skin. Luke, nor Moses, nor any other NT writer never thought along such lines. Luke’s use of genos in Acts is far from the modern social construct of race. Williams is using modern social constructs and reading them back into the text. “One problem is that of anachronism, of using sociological models and methods which have taken shape in the analysis of modern organizations, groups or societies and using them as tools of analysis for the interpretation of groups and societies in Mediterranean antiquity”.[3]

Williams seems to be unaware of the anachronism. Anachronism is the fallacy of defining a New Testament term by a contemporary one. Williams takes a two-step fallacious approach: first, he engages in the fallacy of “illegitimate totality transfer.” This happens when a student of the text assumes that a word used in a particular biblical context is in some manner communicating aspects of its entire semantic range. Williams commits this fallacy when he insists on writing the entire range of meaning for genos nearly every time he employs it. And since race is one of those meanings within that range, he commits the fallacy of anachronism by assuming the modern definition of that term inside the ancient use of the word. It is a double fallacy. This does nothing to strengthen his argument and quite a lot to weaken it. The category of race employed by biblical authors is not the same category employed by modern culture. In other words, the biblical writers never thought about race the way modern minds think about it. Williams at least admits as much when he writes, “Racial categories were employed apart from any consideration of biological inferiority rooted in whiteness or blackness.” It is better to avoid using the expression racial categories entirely where the biblical record is concerned because the term is a modern expression that carries a lot of baggage and it only serves to confuse the issue.

My point so far has been to show that there is little strength in Williams’ argument. His claim that Moses was attempting to construct racial identification for Israel is misguided. His attempt to link the Greek word genos with the modern concept of race commits two separate hermeneutical fallacies. Clearly, Williams’ argument is in serious jeopardy of being considered a good argument.

After he completes his analysis of genos, Williams turns his attention to the Greek word ethnē. This is the Greek word commonly rendered nations or Gentiles. This word appears 52x in this form in the NT. In only 8 instances did the NASB translators decide not to render it Gentiles. Williams says, Contrary to popular opinion, the term ethnē in the plural does not refer to people groups as much as it does to non-Jewish groups and/or non-Jewish territories.” The word ethnos appears ~161x in the GNT and in ~128 of those occurrences, it is plural. The fact that the word never refers to the Jewish people group does not mean that it does not refer to people groups. Clearly, it does refer to people groups even though those people groups happen to be non-Jewish. Williams says in the paragraph that ethnos (nation, Gentile) overlaps with genos. The implication is that ethnos always refers to non-Jewish people groups. But in Luke 7:5, the term is applied to Israel by the disciples. Williams says that terms function as racial categories, but this is simply not the case. Williams continues his double-fallacy.

Williams is setting up a narrative in order to serve up his agenda. In order to remove racism from the SBC, Williams has to legitimize the use of racial categories. In order to lend credibility to this use of the term race, he knows he must turn to Scripture. If he is successful, then he now has the attention of his audience and can move to make specific recommendations on his agenda.

Williams’ grounds his argument regarding racism on Moses’ supposedly attaching Israel’s racial identity to geography, theology, and ethics. He claims that the word genos proves that the biblical world also used racial categories to identify human beings. He calls on Luke’s use of the genos in Acts to further strengthen his case. At the end of the day, I have shown that Moses was not attempting to set up Israel’s racial identity. He was informing Israel that they had been called out by God to be a holy covenant people who would be responsible for imaging God to the nations. The thrust of Deuteronomy 7 was typological. The church is to emulate Israel in a spiritual sense by driving the leaven of the culture of society from our midst. Second, Williams is attempting to overlay a contemporary social model onto the ancient world of the Bible. This is always dangerous because modern social constructs are built up psychological and social models that are far-removed not just by time, but geography, language, and especially culture. The result, in this case, is the fallacy of anachronism. Norman Gottwald is often accused of forcing his liberation theory on the data (1979). He theorizes that egalitarianism rather than monotheism was primary in Israel’s “socio-economic revolution” against the Canaanites.[4] Black liberation theology makes similar errors.

The racial reconciliation movement that Williams and others in the SBC is leading must be examined at the macro level. The model must be examined. The presuppositions must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny. Far too often, the church is hesitant to challenge these proposals and movements, and, in many cases, it is so for all the wrong reasons. What we care about is the truth revealed in Scripture. What we care about is imaging God. What we care about is walking in the identity that God gave us from the beginning: his image.

Williams argument does not meet the standards necessary to qualify as a good argument at this point. However, I still have more to say about his argument. I will follow this post with at least one more post on Williams’ argument and perhaps two. From there, I will use an article written by a young pastor who took Williams’ argument, hook, line, and sinker, and immediately began to advocate positions that are violently contradictory to Christian principles. My hope is that Christians will move slower to embrace proposals such as that put forth by Williams. My hope is that Christians will learn to think better. My hope is that we will challenge one another to grow more and more into the image of Christ. After all, I think I am on solid ground when I say that our identity is in Christ, not our ethnic origins, and certainly not melanin.

[1] J. A. Thompson, Deuteronomy: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 5, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1974), 146.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Dt 7:6.

[3] Stephen C. Barton, “Social-Scientific Approaches to Paul,” ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 894.

[4] Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Rev. and expanded, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 175.

Social Justice: A Christian Practice Misunderstood and Misapplied

There is an awful lot being said these days about social justice and the gospel. For those who may be newer to this conversation, the conversation itself is anything but new. We have had to put the social justice argument in its place for decades now and it looks like its time to do so once again. The reason this continues to emerge as a problem from generation to generation is more complicated than a blog post is able to address. If I could sum it up in a word, however, that word would be training. Poor thinkers are leading our churches and they are not training the body. So let’s do some brief training around social justice and why some people continue to think it is the be-all-end-all for the Christian.

The Impact of Constantine

On the night before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine, a sun-worshipper, had a dream in which the first two letters of the name of Christ appeared on top of each other. He also so or heard the words, “By this sign you will conquer.” Constantine had this sign painted on the shield of the army, prayed to the God of the Christians for victory and won an amazing battle over his enemy Maxentius, who was killed that day. From that point forward, Constantine would champion and protect Christianity. At the Edict of Milan in 313, Constantine and Licinius met and agreed on a policy of freedom for all religions, Pagan and Christian. This gave Christianity full legal status in the empire for the first time.

The emperor Constantius, Constantine’s son, took steps to increase the influence of Christianity and suppress paganism. In fact, he forbad animal sacrifices in the pagan temples. After a brief interruption by Julius the Apostate, Theodosius I, also known as Theodosius the Great, passed the Edict of Thessalonica that made Christianity the state religion of the Roman empire. From that time to the present, Christianity, to one degree or another, has been involved in an illicit and unbiblical relationship with the state. The state has had more say that it should regarding ecclesiastical matters and the church has had tremendous power and influence and even control over the state. This unnatural cross-contamination between these two entities has led to disastrous results. Despite the fact that these results have been documented for centuries now, there seems to be no shortage of men from both entities, vying for influence, power, control, and popularity. Will anyone remember my name?

The Reformers, the Lutherans, and the Anabaptists.

It was within this Constaninian socio-political culture that the reformation took place. There were no pure lines drawn between the church and the state. This environment had served to corrupt the power structure of the church for centuries. The gospel had been all but lost. Church offices were bought and sold and rewarded for political purposes as a matter of routine. It was business as usual for someone to buy the office of bishop. Martin Luther’s visit to Rome would be the spark that would eventually shatter the status quo. However, even the reformers would have to grapple with this illicit relationship. And for the most part, they got it wrong. It proved to be too much reform to completely untangle the web of state and church that had been knotted together for so long now. The nationalist reformers, such as Lutherans and Anglicans, transferred the powers that had been held by the papacy, to the state. This secured protection to the Protestants. The Christianising reformers believed in the rightness of a Christian state. This is best expressed by the views of Bucer, Calvin, and the reformed churches. Those who saw a clear distinction between the church and the state were the radical reformers, most of whom were in fact, heretics, but not all. The point here is that even throughout the Reformation, it was incredibly complex to determine just where the state ended, and the church began and for the most part, this problem was not corrected by the reformers and remains to be a serious problem down to this day.

The Catholic Expansion

During the counter-reformation, there was an incredible expansion of Roman Catholicism, especially to the Americas. Initially, Spain and Portugal send military forces into South America and Mexico and conquered the natives of these lands. Immediately following the military, once a land was subdued, came the missionaries. The blurry line between the state and the church also blurred the line between the military campaigns and missionary endeavors. Some religious orders within the Church were accepting of the brutal military rule. People were forced to convert to Christianity by the thousands. It was conversion by the sword. The law of God was being imposed, and after all, how could that ever be a bad thing? However, in the middle of this oppression, certain orders were repulsed by the behavior of their military forces and the state. These missionaries took steps to liberate those being oppressed by these so-called Christian states. Hence, we see here the path being laid for the anticipation of what would become in just a few centuries the seedlings of liberation theology.

Liberation theology formally took root in the 1960s. It got its start really during Vatican II when a group of young Catholic and Protestant theologians in Latin America began to discuss the pitiful condition of the poor. The idea was that the Church had a responsibility to address the conditions of the poor. The issue was that these conditions were blamed on the social structure at the time. In fact, we can say the same thing today. Not much has changed. The bedrock principle of liberation theology is: the option for the poor. This option involves a free choice or commitment by individuals or groups both to resist exploitation of the poor and oppressed and to work proactively to change social structures to new ones that protect the dignity and rights of the poor.[1]

The “theology of liberation” (teología de la liberación) was born and christened in 1968. In that year Gustavo Gutiérrez, widely recognized as the leader of this movement, introduced the term in a major address to theologians and pastoral workers at Chimbote, Peru.[2] For Gutiérrez, Christian praxis had everything to do with transforming activities. And because the line between the church and state was blurred, this led to the kind of institutional thinking that relocated these transforming activities to the structural framework of society that led to these problems to begin with. If we are going to rescue the poor, we must address the real problem behind the problem. So, it is the long history of the illicit relationship between the church and the state that has contributed to rise of liberation theology. Today, we call it social justice because liberation theology has been dubbed a heretical idea and repudiated by the church long ago. Social justice is nothing more than liberation theology wearing a different coat. The disguise is clever, but for the thinking and discerning Christian, not clever enough.

Eventually, liberation theology began to widen its focus. For instance, it began to include women’s rights issues, sexism, and racism. God was viewed as preferring the marginalized and oppressed in particular. It began with the poor, expanded to women, and then to race. The objective was not the power of the gospel to free from spiritual oppression and bondage, from sin and death. It was simply to free from oppression. If you were one of the marginalized, you were one of God’s favorites. God took a special interest in you. The Bible is about removing those social structures that led to any kind of oppression whatsoever.

Enter the Rev. James Cones. Cones is the founder of Black Liberation Theology. Again, we see the idea that there is a specific group of people who are marginalized, who are oppressed. Cones says that blacks live in a white-dominated society. This structure lends to the oppression of blacks by whites. Today, there are many, even in the church, who are attempting to convince white people that they cannot help but be racist simply because they are white. They are not conscious of it because it is so deeply rooted in them by their upbringing, their culture, everything in their environment. And many people, even Christians, are repenting for being white. They are apologizing to black people for their subconscious racist ways. Others are using this psychological poppycock to garner power. Dwight McKissic believes that the SBC should deliberately appoint black pastors to leadership positions as a gesture of true repentance. Such power grabbing is appalling and repulsive, but as one can see, typical of a church that has been thoroughly corrupted with the disease of Constantinianism. Others are instructing churches to even out their pastoral and elder staffs with the appropriate mixture of black, white, and I suppose other “races.” The problem with black liberation theology is its overwhelming emphasis on the black man and its relentless refusal to move beyond past wrongs. Leaders within this camp and those sympathetic to it are continually drawing up past wrongs in an effort to seemingly motivate black Christians to not give up the fight. What fight? We are one in Christ. Where are the divisions between black and white Christians? Are white Christians oppressing Black Christians or marginalizing them in some way? It is a serious indictment to be accused of racism. But it is incredibly irresponsible to be accused of unconscious racism. And it is intolerable and inexcusable to be accused of racism without a working definition and a good illustration or two of what constitutes racism. There must be a better way. The good news is that there is.

As we look back in time, we see that the church became infected with the disease of Constantinianism in the 4th century. Since that time, the church has been identity-challenged for lack of a better term. The church has institutionalized much of the New Testament. Rather than reaching out to the local mom, as a local body of believers, to encourage her not to kill her baby in the womb, the church thinks it has an ethical duty and gospel imperative to put an end to all abortions everywhere. It institutionalizes the value of human life. By doing so, it dehumanizes this value. Rather than loving an individual, it focuses on policy. Rather than protecting the institution of marriage by insisting that members in the Christian community not obtain illicit divorces, the church focuses on making sure government policy reflects the church’s view that same-sex marriage should be illegal. While just as many people in the church obtain a divorce without biblical ground as those outside the church, the church claims that its ground for opposing gay marriage, is God’s view of marriage. If the church really adopted God’s view of marriage, illicit divorce would result in excommunication, but that is almost never the case. The hypocrisy is painfully obvious and incredibly embarrassing. Rather than training our local communities at the local level that the Bible never classifies human beings in terms of race or skin color and rather than training local communities on what it means to be one race from one man created in the image of God to love God and our fellow man, the church buys into the notion of institutional racism and adopts the goal of ending racism at the institutional level a gospel issue. God calls us to love people, not social structures. Ungodly social structures should have unpleasant consequences. All ethnic groups, people groups, and nations are under the wrath of God if they are not in Christ. If you want to end racism, end it in the people in your community. Point them to Christ. Nothing destroys racism like the gospel. So, focus on the gospel, not racism. If I am a sniper and my objective is to take out Hitler, I don’t focus my attention on Hitler being taken out. I focus on my sharpshooting skills. If you want the enemies of abortion, divorce, racism, adultery, and other sin taken out, focus on the gospel. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

Because the church has a long history of this sort of thinking, the non-believer does not experience evangelism as it was intended in the New Testament. Instead, he experiences the church, just like any other institution with a set of values and an agenda to push, pushing its agenda on him. And that is exactly what we want to avoid. However, if we share the gospel without political skin in the game, it has a better chance of coming across as politically disinterested and therefore, it has a better chance of communicating genuine concern and care and better still, it preserves the integrity of the gospel. In this scenario, rather than sounding like a recruiter for a political party or institution, you sound like a Christian with the cause of Christ and the gospel at the center of your conversation. It sounds like you care about the spiritual well-being of the person instead of some political or social cause. This cannot be emphasized enough.

The gospel of Jesus Christ carves out a community of people from their respective culture for the purpose of imaging God. The New Testament provides specific mandates and instructions for what that imaging looks like. The two great commands are expressed in the ten. Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself. If you love God, you will love what God loves and hate what God hates. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will treat them exactly like you want to be treated. This puts an end to the murders of abortion, divorce, racism, and every other type of oppression and injustice in your world.

As a Christian, you should resist the Constantinianism that surrounds you. You should reject the values of the culture. You should refuse to think like the world. Reject racism. Love the diversity, the differences you see. Learn to appreciate them. They are a gift from God. Love the gospel and resist those who want to turn it into a political issue. Be more concerned with God’s opinion of your image than the culture. Do not be criticized for doing evil, but if you are going to be criticized, be criticized for holding to the truth.

[1] Thomas L. S.J. Schubeck, “Liberation Theology,” The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill, 1999–2003), 259.

[2] Ibid., 259.

Can Christianity be Rescued from the Clutches of American Politics?

What do I mean by American Politics? Thanks to the news media and to the American addiction to social media, we have been slowly but steadily conditioned to adopt certain behaviors as normative and their contraries as, well, abnormal. For example, Karen Swallow Prior, a leader on the ERLC for the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has said that it is unchristian behavior, in better, a violation of the Christian ethic for a Christian to call abortion murder. At the same time, KSP wants to wear the label of conservative Christian. This is not an attack on KSP. It is merely a real-life example to illustrate one of the points I want to make in this post. So here is the question for KPS: Is the child in the womb a living human being? If it is not, why should we oppose abortion? If it is, then we should oppose abortion because to end its life is in fact murder. The law governing murder for Christians is found in Exodus 20:13: You will do no murder. The Hebrew word, רצח (rṣḥ), and it means unlawfully take another person’s life. So, the taking of an innocent child’s life is to violate the law of God which governs how and under what circumstances a human life should be taken. This means that abortion is murder. And if that is the case, then it follows that anyone who has an abortion is, in fact, a murderer.

But KSP finds this language inflammatory, perhaps incendiary, and at least implied to me directly that it is unloving, or cuts against the fruit of the Spirit in listed in Galatians. Since when is it unethical and unloving to honestly describe an act for what it is? Well, since the American Church willingly walked into the clutches of American politics. This means we have to be more aware of the sensibilities of modern men. By American Politics then I mean the practice of saying things in the least offensive and upsetting way possible. We cannot call abortion murder, a prostitute, a whore, homosexuality, deviant sexual behavior, etc. We must strive as much as is humanly possible to take the stinger out of our message. God is love, after all. He only loves. He is patient. He is not angry. He looks beyond the vitriolic blasphemy and mockery and sees only a sincere, but misguided heart who really is a good person deep down inside. Everyone is, you know. Even evangelicals believe this. Sure, we give lip service to the doctrine of original sin, the doctrine of grace, even total depravity. But we really don’t believe it. We shudder at the suggestion that the violent acts men are committing against are manifestations of the wrath of God who will not be mocked. If every person in American turned away from their rebellion against God, School shootings, racism, abortion, you name it, wouldn’t be the problem they are today. But where are the preachers who will stand up and point their finger at America and tell her to repent? That the only solution to sin is Christ. It is the gospel. They are absent from the stage. Why? Busy working on their next press release about immigration, or racial reconciliation, or some other social cause.

By American Politics then, I mean the concern about public perception, image, stature, status, and the like. This has little to do with extending rebukes with gentleness and respect and everything to do with allowing the culture to shape not only the message but even some of the content of our message. We want to appear to the culture as sophisticated, educated, enlightened, loving, and so forth. If we don’t, we reason that we have lost them. Yesterday, in giving the gospel to a waitress, I asked her what the number problem with Christianity was: she said it was too judgmental. I suspect that would probably be the top answer from our culture. And we know it. So, what do we do? We accept the premise that it is bad to be judgmental, we don’t want the world to think we are Bible-thumpers, fundamentalist, judgmental people. So, we respond by changing our message as well as its content. This happens with our leaders on down. This attitude could not be more anti-Christ in its nature. Not only that, it is a serious impediment to Christian growth and learning. No one wants to run the risk of a confrontation anymore. When you recognize that we are all sinners and need to be confronted by others in order to grow out of that sin, you start to realize just how damning this American attitude can be to the Christian faith. And it is incredibly damning to Christian pastors and leaders.

What do I mean by Christianity? I mean the Evangelical and Reformed churches in America for the most part. But if the shoe fits in other parts of the world, so be it. Specifically, denominations like the SBC and the PCA seem particularly liable to this threat. This fact rings truer of the SBC than it does just about any other Christian denomination. The politics within the SBC have served over the years to make it one of the most ineffective organizations to have ever existed. This is an organization that is becoming more marginalized by the day where the truths of the gospel are concerned. She ran off course years ago, looked recently as if she were about to right the ship, but at this time, sadly, it looks like she will be lost after all. Lost to men who care far more about their own image, and accomplishments listed under their name, than they do about truly pouring their lives into the lives of those God has given them in their local communities. I suppose the attractiveness of popularity is just too much for them to handle.

The politics within the SBC are nothing short of deplorable. For example, the racial reconciliation movement is designed to “show” everyone that the SBC has repented of its racism. But the intelligent black pastor knows that this movement is nothing more than appearance. It is about casting a new image. And in the attempt to cast their new image, they are allowing the ideas of Black Liberation theology and Liberation Theology creep in unnoticed. After all, I am talking about a Christian denomination with a seminary that recently held a read-in session involving the writings of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. The latter is an open heretic while the former is a black Muslim who holds to some extremely radical and disturbing views. Pray for the leaders of the SBC and her pastors. If the trend continues, the denomination will surely collapse, split and splinter into a number of smaller denominations. That outcome is actually more attractive from my point of view.

What must absolutely have to happen in order for us to rescue Christianity from American Politics? We must admit that it needs to be rescued. This involves additional admission and acknowledgment that there is something unattractive about American Politics that does not belong, but has yet invaded, the church. What is are the unattractive features of American Politics? Christians have to stop seeing God as a one-dimensional being: the God of love. God is love but love is not God and the more I listen to Christians, the more I think they have no clue who God actually is. The slightest rebuke of sin and heresy is deemed unloving. These people seem to be completely ignorant and uninformed of who God is and what God is like. No, it is not okay to stop calling abortion murder because the culture thinks such language is just too strong, is offensive, ignorant, and incendiary. I am not arguing that our tone and attitude do not matter when we correct or rebuke the culture. They do matter to a degree. The tone one uses is situational. There is a difference in how we correct error and immorality. But the notion that we have to sugar-coat the truth in order to make it more palatable is simply intolerable. If anything is unethical, that is.

We need leaders who are willing to be marginalized, mocked, slandered, and humiliated if we are to stand any chance of rescuing Christianity from American Politics. As long as our leaders care about results and image, we are in trouble. If you are heading into the ministry, you should know that if you do it right, you are heading into the hardest job in the history of humanity. There isn’t a more difficult job than being a shepherd of God’s flock. If you care about prestige, power, leaving a legacy, recognition, respectability in the eyes of the culture, then do NOT choose the ministry. You will make all the wrong decisions for all the wrong reasons.

God is the one to whom you report, not your congregation, not the deacons, not even the elders. It is to him that you will give an account for your actions, and yes, your motives. An example of this can be seen in who men invite into their churches to speak. Did you expose your congregation to that particular man because he is clearly a skilled instrument in the hands of God to edify and equip the body over which God has placed you or did you do it for appearance? Was he there for political reasons? Are you casting an image? Are you preaching to the needs of your congregation or are you preaching for others who are watching you preach to your congregation? Unless you are tuned in to the needs of your congregation, you are not really going to know what is pressing upon them. And the only way to know them is to get out of the office and go see them. Spend some time with time. Have your elders spending time with them. If there isn’t structured discipleship in place, it will be challenging for you to know your church.

Can Christianity be rescued from the clutches of American Politics? She can, but only if she understands who God is and what he is like and only if her leaders are willing to be social misfits for the name of Christ. Otherwise, Christianity will simply march along in unison with all the other religions and movements and causes, vying for power and vainglory while millions perish without the true gospel. But hey, so long as we can end abortion, achieve racial reconciliation, obtain economic equality, end sex trafficking, and stop all injustice in the world, that’s really all that matters. Right?