10.25.13

Big God Theology: The Contributions and Challenges of African-American Theology

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In this talk, Thabiti Anyabwile narrows the broad subject of African-American theology down to “Big God Theology” — a yearning that has existed in the African-American church historically for a big God. He encapsulates the theological reflections of African-Americans as they have thought about God in their particular sojourn. Unpacking the theology of the African-American Christian experience, Thabiti argues that there are five particular ways African-Americans have understood God. That is that God is Bigger than suffering, injustice, history, race, and complexity. For more conversations, download and subscribe to The Front Porch Podcast on iTunes.

Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor of Anacostia River Church (Washington DC). He is the happy husband of Kristie and the adoring father of two daughters and one son. Holler at him on Twitter: @ThabitiAnyabwil

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  • Tabulous

    Greetings,

    I must say that I really enjoyed this talk/sermon. You juxtaposed Scripture and African American history in such a beautiful way. I walk away from this talk with greater appreciation for the bible in relation to slavery… specifically with how someone in chains can love, worship, hope, and trust in the God of the universe while enduring the whip b/c the God that they serve is BIG. I also walk away with a greater appreciation for my ancestors’ theology… theology rooted in Scripture yet communicated in such a plain and real way (e.g. Have a lil talk with Jesus).

    To God be the Glory!

    • Thabiti

      Hey Tabulous,

      To God be the glory! It’s really amazing to think of how much knowledge of God we can gain from early African-American Christian history. If nothing else, our forebears tell us that GOD IS BIG! Usually far bigger than we can think or imagine.

      Thanks for listening and dropping a line!
      T-

  • beefamato

    This talk was outstanding! It was awe inspiring thinking about how suffering drove deep roots down into God’s sovereignty. That Lemuel Haynes quote absolutely blew me away. What a brilliant and deep thinker. May God use the experiences of the Black Church to teach evangelicals in the West how to persevere and flourish on the margins. Thanks for doing this!
    Jon Dansby

    • Thabiti Anyabwile

      Dear Jon,

      Thanks for joining us on the porch and for the very kind encouragements, brother. I really appreciate it. I join with you in that prayer, brother.

      And Lemuel Haynes is the man! 🙂

      T-

  • Nijalon Dunn

    Great great stuff sir!
    Loved being able to hear you talk about these things and how the present day
    evangelical church can apply these things as we/they start to face these things
    in todays culture and even how us young blacks can look at how suffering, injustice, history, race, and complexity from toward our people didn’t make them turn their back on God and make Him small but how
    these things and fighting through them displayed how BIG He is!

    -Nijalon Dunn

  • Arthur

    I was hoping when Blue Letter Bible recommended this site that I would find a Biblical view of “race” and te body of Christ, but sadly in this particular sermon/teaching I hear talk from both sides of the mouth so to speak. I hear we are all descended from Adam, but this group is different from that group. It seems like Experience trumps Truth. We know what the Bible says … but our experience is … – One of the terms that stood out like a sore thumb was the term African- American. It was used profusely. Forgive me for including this long quote from Voddie Baucham from a sermon titled”The Table of Nations:Are There Many Races or One?” ( which I recommend to you and many of my brothers and sisters listen to – or read he PDF) here is the quote :

    “For those of you who know me I have just a few pet peeves, not a lot, but we have all got a few pet peeves. One of my pet peeves is I despise being called African American. I hate being called African American. I get angry at being called African American. Did I say I despise being called African American? I believe it is a racist term. First of all, why do I have to be hyphenated at all? Amen. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord. Why are we hyphenating and dividing ourselves in the first place. But I mean, ok. I am African American. Ok, that’s fine. Let’s examine this to see if it is an appropriate term. I am African American. Great. If someone is from Egypt do we call them an African American? No. Well, then the term is not appropriate. Egypt is in Africa. Libya is in Africa. So if we are going to call someone an African American because their skin looks like mine, why wouldn’t we call an Egyptian with lighter skin who is actually Arabic in his ethnicity an African American? Why? Because African American doesn’t mean what we like to say it means. It is a racist term.
    Well, ok, fine. Then we won’t use African American. Well, yeah we will. We will use
    African American because are still talking about people from Africa. Ok, that’s fine, but we already established that the Egyptian, the Egyptian is from Africa as well.
    Well, we use Asian American. Is that appropriate? Well, let’s examine it. Asian
    American. When we use Asian American we usually talk about people who are from Korea or Japan or from, you know, China. But guess what else is Asian? India and Pakistan? And do we call Indians and Pakistanis Asian Americans? No we don’t. Why? Because the term is inappropriate. We don’t mean what we say.
    Someone from Russia who is from the southern part of Russia are they are European American or are they an Asian American? By the way someone from the Middle East, what are they? Middle Eastern American? Well, no, they are Arab American. No, not necessarily because people from Iran are not Arabs. They are Persians. The terms don’t work. That is why I despise the terms. What do we call someone from Venezuela? A South American American? That would make some one from Mexico a North American American. Do you see how ridiculous this terminology is? The terminology is born out of our racist preconditioning. Who am I? I am what C.S. Lewis calls, “Son of Adam.” Amen? I love that term. That
    Chronicles of Narnia term, sons of Adam. That is what I am. I am a son of Adam. That’s what you are, sons and daughters of Adam.”

    • Thabiti

      Hi Arthur,

      Thanks for joining us on the porch. A quick question:

      Why do you assume that saying “there is one ‘race’ in Adam” and “African Americans have experienced” are mutually exclusive things?

      Surely you don’t mean to suggest that all people have exactly the same experiences, do you?

      Thabiti

      • Arthur

        Thabiti-

        Thank you brother for replying to my post. I would agree that not everyone has the same experience…but I think the key to dealing with this issue is – Perspective. Now that we are in Jesus Christ and His foreign righteousness – how are we to think about…who are we?There are many attitudes and thoughts that we had in our BC (before Christ) days. Our sanctification also differs from our salvation in that it occurs over time. Some thinking patterns take some time to go away. I would invite you to listen to the above sermon from Voddie or read the PDF and then respond to me with your thoughts. I will place a link to both here:
        Audio:
        http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=525091133123

        PDF:
        http://media.sermonaudio.com/mediapdf/525091133123.pdf