08.07.18

Hitting Reset on Conversations about “Race,” Racism and the Church

The last five years have brought the country and the Church a fair amount of strife and consternation along racial lines. It’s as if a volcano of mutual distrust, accusation and recrimination has erupted among God’s people–especially online, but not exclusively. In the exchanges there can be a lot of heat. Light can be sorely lacking.

But one writer, Brad Mason over at Also a Carpenter, has actually tried to sift through the debate to clarify what is and is not being said. His efforts deserve wider attention. He has a point of view which comes through clearly, but he seeks to be charitable and irenic in tone. He’s gone through the trouble of attempting to actually define issues, give their historical and biblical backdrop, and apply judiciously and persuasively. In short, the series deserves prayerful reading whether or not you agree at every point (as never happens with anyone’s writing!).

For your edification, here is the “What Is and Isn’t Being Said” series:

1. “Race” and the Bible

2. “Race” and the Racialized Society

3. “White Privilege

4. “Privilege”; A Parable of Smith and Emerson

5. “Color-Blind Theology

6. “Color-Blind Racism

7. Individual vs. Institutional Racism

Prior to this series of post, Mason authored another series entitled, “Why Racism Is Material Heresy.” Here you get a sense of the brother’s theological and philosophical chops as he makes an argument about nature and racism that’s new and enlightening to me. Well worth the read even if you find yourself breaking out a dictionary (it’ll do us good to dust off the dictionary every once and a while!). The three parts:

1. Why Racism Is Material Heresy and Ought to Be Formal Heresy

The conclusion: “the church at large ought to acknowledge that the claim to superiority or inferiority among races is not only a crime against love—in itself warranting discipline—but also a crime against the Gospel. Not only is racism de fide error, it is material heresy; it quite clearly “leads to the corruption” of essential articles of the faith.” Go read it for the compelling theology and logic that leads to this conclusion!

2. Responding to Questions/Objections to Outline 1

3. Outline 2: “Is Christ Divided?”

The argument: “The following seven points, according to the Scriptures and the confessions of both East and West, constitute the substance of the doctrine [the communion of the saints], and as such lay bare the fundamental contradiction between all forms of segregation and preference for kindred and the fundamental Christian confession found in the Apostles’ Creed.”

A while back there were some who were up in arms about our brother Eric Mason calling for an ecumenical counsel to address racism and related matters. Most of the objectors were like, “What would that even look like?” I think Brad Mason’s posts demonstrate what it could look like in terms of the clear thinking and fruit it could both harvest from church history and theology and produce for our own day.

Sometimes it’s really helpful to hit the refresh button on discussions. That’s when we go back to the basics, download the argument again in pristine clarity, and refocus ourselves on the bones and skeletal system of our thinking. If you read these two series of posts, perhaps beginning with “Racism Is Material Heresy and Ought to Be Formal Heresy” then working through “What Is and Is Not Being Said,” I think there’s a good chance you might yourself been refreshed. I know I did. Thanks for putting in the work Brad!

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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