Ken Jones talks about the many barriers, on both sides, that hinder African-American Christians from intentionally embracing Reformed theology. He explains how other ethnicities can better appreciate the unique context of African-Americans and why African-Americans should not overly exalt Black culture over substance.

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  • Avatar Jeff Wenzel says:

    As a white brother, this was very helpful for me to hear your perspective. Your comment about “not feeling at home” was spot on. This applies to many scenarios such as a person accustomed to hymns “not feeling at home” to modern praise and worship or vice versa.

    I love your definition of spiritual maturity: “Growing up and subduing anything that would hinder us from embracing or seeing Christ.”


  • Avatar Thabiti Anyabwile says:

    Hey Jeff!
    That’s why Ken is the bishop among us! Well, he gets that title for being one of the oldest among us, too :-).

    Thanks for joining us on the porch!


  • Avatar itshome says:

    I’m still trying to peel back what is meant by “black cultural;” especially as related to the “black church,” beyond the choir and congregants saying, “amen” – are these really the things dividing white and black churches in the twenty-first century?

    It would seem, and this may be a restricted observation, that black culture is progressively changing (maybe all cultures/sub-cultures) and has been in this state for a very short amount of time, 200 years or so (in the USA). Certainly enough time to develop a distinct culture, but with its seemingly ever changing characteristics, from church choirs to hip hop, what is truly the “black culture?” What is truly the “black church culture?”

    Would it be over simplifying to say this “culture” is the same as that for all of man, regardless of race, but only having differences by groups within geography (country, states, cities, neighborhoods) and those very local practices? (Certainly, with today’s technology, mediums like radio and TV broadcasting the arts like Hip Hop (Soul Train?), can transcend the boundaries of geographic locations.)

    I’ve asked the question to a black brother whom I highly respect, regarding some characteristics I’ve observed. What I thought may be indicative of “black culture,” he was quick to point out what I was observing was not the traditional “black culture” but merely, “thuggery.” So what I may have considered culture, he did not. He went on to explain how things were in the seventies, it was quite a bit different view of culture, but was he right?

    It seems, the changing times are changing the culture(s), and potentially, the “black church culture.”

    I’d appreciate your thoughts on these things.

  • Avatar Thabiti Anyabwile says:

    Dear “itshome”

    It’s great to hear from you and to have you join us on the porch. Great comments and questions, friend. A couple quick replies and feel free to pull whatever thread you’d like.

    1. Most thinkers have given up (appropriately so!) on trying to define “black” or “black culture” in any essential way. There is no such thing as one irreducible essential definition of the terms. There’s great diversity in what it means “to be black” and in AA culture. So if we try to reduce it to some essential thing we’ll be on a fool’s errand, really.

    2. So when we talk about Black culture, we’re talking about a set of values and behaviors that, as you point out, are somewhat fluid but tend to have some general things in common. I’d argue Black culture is highly oral, placing great emphasis on rhetorical eloquence and creativity. You see that in everything from the value placed on preaching to hip hop culture. I’d also suggest that Black culture is generally communal. It’s not that there’s no room for individualism; there is. But there’s also significant emphasis placed on group identity. Third, there’s an energy, vibrancy, passion to Black culture. Now, that aspect has sometimes been caricatured by outsiders wanting to define the culture as essential primitive. But AA’s have usually understood “blackness” to include this ineffable vibe, rhythm, style, cool, flare, etc. It’s passionate, deep, warm and expressive. Emotion finds a spacious home in black culture. Finally, black culture has historically also been religious.

    Again, these are broad strokes. There could be other things to add, and the things I’ve listed will be there in varying degrees. And like all identities and cultures, these values and ways of being have historical and social contexts that help give them meaning and reinforcement.

    In some ways culture is like beauty: you know it when you see it. Walk into any AA church and you’re bound to feel and see the difference almost instantly. Leave that church and walk into almost any other ethnic Christian community and you’ll note another difference. Culture is that milieu we simply cannot escape.

    I hope that helps.

  • Avatar itshome says:

    Thank you for your thoughts above. I’m enjoying the opportunity to attempt better understanding for, and from, those outside my immediate cultural circle.

    Agree with no.1 and believe no. 2 is hitting on something I’ve not considered much, but believe is a concrete description, the oral nature to black culture. As you discussed it, I reflected back on many memories. I don’t believe what you’re saying is on target because of my memories, howbeit they’re quite in line with your description, but also some studies I remember having to do with socioeconomic issues. Those too, reflected some of what you shared above, more specifically, “significant emphasis placed on group identity.” These are very interesting points, above, and I appreciate your digging into the topic.

    I look forward to continuing on with The Front Porch,
    Thank you again.

  • Avatar Brian L. Spivey says:

    But it is such a challenge to embrace the doctrines of grace and give up our blackness. I guess the one thing I can say is that it makes me feel more like a pilgrim and for that I am thankful. Every time I walk into my church i am reminded that this is not my home. My home is in heaven with Jesus. When I was in a black church the praise and worship made me “feel” that I was already in heaven. I didn’t feel like a pilgrim so I didn’t long for home.

  • Avatar Ritetheology says:

    “I’d rather be nurtured at the level of my soul, than to be affirmed as a member of the AA community”. What!!! did you just say this, yes you did. Brother Ken are nurture and affirmation mutually exclusive? I ain’t never heard a white person say this in my life, yet I hear more black people say these things more than I’d like to hear. You make the black church sound like it is totally bankrupt, that all we offer is choirs and hooping. Well brother you ought to come to my church where this choice doesn’t have to be made. We offer affirming culture and nurturing, sound biblical Theology.

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