The Gospel Coalition kindly posted my article, “4 Suggestions for Post-Election Listening.”
With a few of my colleagues I travelled to the Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting (ETS) in San Antonio, TX, November 15-17. Upon returning, I made two tweets reflecting my observation of seemingly even fewer African Americans and other ethnic minorities in attendance at ETS this year. The tweet below also reflects my observation that many of my African American colleagues at other colleges and seminaries were making note of their presences at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting (SBL) and the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting (AAR), both following ETS, and also in San Antonio. (SBL and AAR sometimes are designated as one unit – as AAR/SBL or SBL/AAR.)
Ben Dockery asked a question in reply to my comment. My response to him is too long for a series of tweets. However, I am posting the link to this blog post on Twitter, and I will post a few of the comments as tweets in reply to Ben.
The comments are closed here so that all comments may be made in the exchange on Twitter.
Twitter, November 18, 2016, 1:21 pm stamp, I tweeted:
Ben Dockery asked in reply,
Ben, this is what I see:
First, there is a need for theology to be located socially in application. Seemingly, systematics like Erickson’s and Grudem’s already provide social location – inherently (?) – for members of the majority culture. I have yet to hear one of my majority-culture classmates say of such texts written by conservative evangelicals (and conferences of like workshops and sessions), “That text is too white for our context.” However, for many years I have heard African Americans make this statement about classes, texts, and conferences. While it is true that everyone has to move from texts to application in context, somehow the ethnic context is an additional hurdle that some have to cross because the books and venues do not provide examples of such—in my experience, at least not enough for African American pastors. I cannot speak for other ethnic minorities.
Second, SBL seems to be a safer place for discussions of race, class, and gender. If a professional paper has a minority/ethnic slant, no one in a minority group likely will hear, “That’s not sound doctrine.” At SBL/AAR, the members largely hale from places where people of color are seen as equals; their ethnicity does not make their scholarship seem suspect in the eyes of their colleagues. Now in some cases, this suspicion might be more of a perception than a reflection of realities on the part of minorities. However, it is a well-earned perception, based upon many experiences of minority students and faculty at evangelical schools. It seems that in the welcoming, come-equally-as-you-are-context of SBL, people of color do not feel the need to prove their worth solely on the basis of their color; there they have no problem proving their worth on the basis of their abilities to do scholarship.
Third, evangelicals need to demonstrate even greater care about underrepresentation in their academic institutions with sustained, long-term, intentional actions. We have been making good strides since the 1980’s, yet we still have more to do. Our institutions – faculties and administrators – as a whole, have to think in terms of the Gospel to greater degrees. This means being intentional about promoting faculty diversity (which I am proud to say characterizes my current institution). Diversifying requires looking out for the interests of minority students and the churches of ethnic minorities (cf. Rom. 12:10; Phil. 2:3-4). Potentially, such intentionality means seeking, cultivating, tracking, funding, returning, mentoring, supporting, developing, keeping, marketing, and leveraging new minority faculty, starting at a student’s time in undergraduate/graduate school through the PhD and first few years of teaching. It also means breaking the cycle of the need to hunt every few years for 1 or 2 new ethnic minorities of one particular people group. After twenty years of teaching, it is odd for me to see evangelical schools still attempting to find an African American to teach in systematics, historical theology, or Biblical studies, especially when the lone African American representative in a department retires, leaving a void and no full-time African American in a department or on the residential faculty. The majority culture never experiences even a 25% loss of representation at larger schools, and certainly not a 50% loss. But African Americans often experience a 50%-100% loss of representation at our schools when a faculty member retires. However, at the schools from where the majority of SBL/AAR members come, there is greater ethnic minority representation. Thus, the lonely evangelical minority finds a strong place of fellowship, networking, sympathy, and understanding. ETS, inadvertently I believe, serves to reinforce a feeling of isolation for ethnic minorities.
On the third point, I ran my reply past a friend, also an evangelical teacher and pastor. He wrote these words:
I absolutely agree with you. On the hiring point, I would only add a personal anecdote. When I was at [a denominational evangelical seminary (DES)], I asked [President of DES] about black professors. At the time, Dr. [“Prof. A” at DES] was the only black professor, though there were several other Hispanic, Middle-Eastern, and Asian profs. [The President of DES] said than he would [like to hire more African American professors], but few meet his criteria of being theologically conservative and not divorced. Of course, I took offense to that, because that implies that the vast majority – [President of DES] could only find one? – were theologically liberal and [matrimonially] unfaithful….
Evangelical culture still hasn’t fully embraced minorities as an integral part of their life, and I think that it could be because it hasn’t fully embraced integration/multiculturalism as an integral part of its theology. Again, from my experience at [DES], I remember guys like Dr. [“Prof. B” at DES, white male] and myself having to argue for local church diversity, because people (profs and students) did not think it was a necessary goal. I still remember Dr. Prof. B’s walk through the book of Acts in a chapel sermon to show the church’s diversity from the beginning.
So there’s a blind spot (intentionally or not) in evangelical culture. As long as evangelicals do not believe that minorities are integral to the evangelical experience, they will neither pursue minorities nor value their voices. On the flip side, if minorities do not believe that they are included and they belong, they will continue to go where their voices are valued.
Fourth, evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges must continue to increase invitations to ethnic minorities to speak in their chapels, and to lecture as visiting professors. The presence of minority speakers in academic settings allows minority students to see that being a scholar in theology and biblical studies is within their reach, and that they do not have to lose their ethnic identities in order to become scholars. I suspect that no white colleague of mine ever heard their pastors say to them, “Now don’t let that school make you too Black,” or “Don’t come back from seminary preaching like a Black man.” But I can assure you many African American students have heard from their pastors a similar statement and many like things with the word “white,” nuanced to reflect the majority culture’s influence in the academy. The point is that to aspire to an academic post in our schools still seems like something out of the reach of ethnic minorities. Thus, ethnic minorities often choose other schools—schools that carry students to conferences like SBL/AAR and not to ETS.
I wish more institutional leaders were like Dr. Paul Nyquist and your father, courageously keeping issues of diversity and minority representation in the forefront of their visions for their institutions. They do so as a matter of the Gospel from their hearts, and not as matters of expediency or political correctness. I appreciate such men and the work they have done and are doing. I appreciate you too, for based on your question, it seems that the apple has fallen next to the tree.
Allow me to leave you with something I read a few years ago in The Skillful Teacher. Very insightfully, when Stephen Brookfield advocates for new faculty being accompanied by an expert instructor who is there to communicate to the class that he is not there to supervise but to learn from the new instructor, he writes, “Creating this dynamic is particularly important for faculty who do not possess White privilege. Faculty of color, and junior women faculty have a much harder time establishing credibility than do White males. This reflects a broadly held (though often unarticulated) ideological assumption that if scholars of color, or women, are faculty members they are only there because of affirmative action requirements. White males, like myself, however, tend to enjoy a considerable longer experiential probationary period when people are liable to give them the benefit of the doubt and to write off mistakes as a necessary part of learning on the job. One of the useful contributions senior White males can make, therefore, is to show up in the classroom of junior faculty and to make it very plain to students exactly how much they are deferring to, learning from, and being stimulated by the teaching of junior faculty of color and junior women faculty,” (Brookfield, Skillful, 62-63). (See also, Ken Bain, “What Do They Expect of Their Students,” What the Best College Teachers Do, 68-79, for significant comments about the treatment and worldviews of ethnic minority and female faculty members.)
Finally, I secured my copy of Edwards the Exegete. I am so excited! It takes a little while to fit a work like this into the budget, even when it is sale price.
Edwards was an incredible Christological, whole-Bible thinker. I hope to learn from his method how to become a better reader of Scripture. From the little bit I have read, I would invite anyone who wants another look at a better understanding of how to read Scripture to slowly wade through Sweeney’s work. It will be worth every effort given to the task. Sweeney is academic, yet lucid in his writing.
Several church leaders in the African American community collaborated to write an Open Letter to Hillary Clinton regarding religious freedom for African Americans. I am grateful for words therein like these:
The vast majority of black churches hold biblical teaching, which is eternal, as authoritative for doctrine and practice. Abortion is the deliberate destruction of a human life in its most vulnerable state. Biblical principle and natural law, both of which prohibit the taking of innocent human life, compel our concern about the increasing moral complicity with abortion. For the same reasons that we as black Christian leaders oppose racism, unjust wars, capital punishment and euthanasia, we oppose the violent denial of life to the unborn through abortion. It is our view that human life is a gift of God that we are called upon to protect, nurture and sustain, because we are created in God’s image. Therefore, our opposition to abortion is a logical outgrowth of our view that there must be justice for all. Particularly relevant is the innocence of the unborn child. The Bible places an extremely high value on human life and particularly on the lives of the innocent who are under the special protection of God. Those who take the life of the innocent violate a key biblical principle as well as a fundamental principle of natural justice…. In 2008, Secretary Clinton, you took theposition that abortion should be rare, and you emphasized “by rare I mean rare.” But Black babies are dying at terrifying rates. How do you justify your unconscionable silence in the face of such destruction of innocent black life? Don’t black lives matter? What policies would you pursue as president to reverse the soaring abortion rates among black women?
Read the entire letter here.
I greatly enjoy the musings of my friend, Wm. Dwight McKissic, Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, TX. Recently he posted some thoughts on the Presidential election and what he will do in the voting booth. Here are a few paragraphs:
Police brutality is one of the most pressing, unresolved social issues of our time. It certainly is a life and quality of life matter. It will certainly impact the environment my grandchildren are raised in. Therefore, I must ask myself which candidate will do a better job and be more objective and fair in making sure the citizens and the police are being treated fairly? Who best understands and empathize with both sides of this issue? Whose justice system and attorney general’s office would I rather see be involved in these matters? Whose answers to Lester Holt’s questions will set the trajectory for a better quality of life for my 12 grandchildren growing up in a climate where the criminal justice system and police brutality discriminate against them based on color?
So after much soul searching, I have reached the conclusion that the Life issues that I’m voting to protect this year will be my grandchildren. The racial healing atmosphere and the level of accountability that police know that will be expected from a Clinton administration, suggests to me that police persons will be slightly more cautious in pulling the trigger in the future than they have been in the past.
Blacks comprise 15% of the population; but we are involved in 29% of the police shootings. Certainly there are police shootings that are justifiable. Conversely, there would be some unjustifiable. To resolve or reduce the number of police shootings, the one being shot must take responsibility and try not to put him/her in this position. The one doing the shooting must exercise restraint and use a Taser, patience, wait for backup, or whatever it takes. Hillary Clinton mentioned establishing National Standards to help guide and govern these issues.
You can read the whole thing here.
I’m still working through how to vote in this election. I am not voting for the Donald Trump. I also would deny my conscience to vote for one who is sworn against the life of the unborn and probably would do away with religious freedom.
I so enjoyed my time today with the teachers of Salem Baptist Church! What an exciting group of teachers! The people of Salem are blessed richly to have so many people interested in becoming better expositors of the word of God.
As we worked our way through Romans, I was reminded of just how significant Christ’s work of justification is for us, especially in 3:21-26.
Justification is the forensic act by which a sinner comes to stand before God as righteous both actually and declaratively. The righteousness God provides is an alien righteousness—it comes from outside of the sinner rather than from within. By “actually,” we mean the Scriptures teach that the sinner is constituted righteous by having Christ’s righteousness imputed to him. By “declaratively,” we mean that Scripture teaches that the sinner is declared righteous before God as a judge in a courtroom declares the status of a criminal.
In declarative justification, the Judge makes a declaration: The sinner is declared righteous although the sinner is guilty.
Declared righteousness differs from judgment in the Western judicial system in the following: It is not simply an (1) acquittal (to rule not guilty), (2) a pardon (to forgive someone of an offense), (3) an exoneration (to free someone from accusation, blame, or responsibility), and that (4) it is based upon absolute truth. This stands in contrast to the Roman Catholic view, in which justification includes the expulsion of indwelling sin, the positive infusion of divine grace, and the forgiveness of sin. For Rome, justification is the infusion of new virtues after the pollution of sin has been removed in baptism. In Catholic teaching, the grace of justification can be lost, but also can be regained by the sacrament of penance.
Imagine walking into a courtroom in an orange jumpsuit with your hands and feet shackled, and with two Federal Marshals flanking you, because you are guilty of crimes. There is fingerprint and video surveillance evidence, eyewitness and your possession of tools used to commit crimes, and you have made an uncoerced confession. You are guilty. Yet, with all of the evidence stacked against you, the judge renders a verdict: “I declare you righteous [even though you are guilty.]” God, the Judge of all the earth, makes this declaration for sinners on the basis of the righteousness of his Son alone. This is the work of justification; this is mercy; this is reason to shout and to praise our Savior.
You have been kind enough to ask me loving, sensitive, sympathetic, and well-intended questions as it relates to the most recent police shootings of African Americans. If you want your heart broken over the issues facing African Americans, by means of exploring the history of this country and race, I would encourage you to read The Warmth of Other Suns. Within the last two months, I have recommended this book to more than a handful of kind friends like you.
Many African American families of my generation or older grew up knowing stories like the ones in this book, often with respect to the experience of a relative. In an Honor/Shame community such as ours, stories like the ones in Warmth are the fuel for both encouraging our children to excel in school and work, and for making us cautious, if not cynical, about what goes on in this country regarding race. Yes, I know that the Cross and the Empty Tomb are the warp-and-woof of the solution to problems of race in America. Also know, however, every church-going African American, at least my age or older, grows up with a form of these stories turning our engines, and contributing to the filter(s) by which we see everything.
Reading a book like Warmth might help you understand why just one racial incident makes the majority of our community respond as if someone has threatened us with nuclear war or genocide. No one else in this country has faced what African Americans have faced since their inception as an American people. No one ethnic or self-identified social group faces today what African Americans have endured for the last 500 years in America.
Enjoy the book!
 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:4-6 ESV)
Paul’s exhortation to the church for practical unity recognizes that the oneness inherent in the body is reflective of the oneness inherent in the Trinity. He says three things:
- Although we are individual members of the body of Christ, we all are united mysteriously by the Holy Spirit so that our hope as believers remains certain, 4:4.
- As we each have called on the same Lord for salvation by being given the same faith to call on Him, we have experienced spiritual baptism, which mysteriously places us together in Him, which is in His body, which is in one another, 4:5 (cf. Rom. 12:5; I Cor. 12:12-13).
- While having the authority of Christ and His fullness, we are under the sovereign rule of God the Father – as both Christ and the Spirit work voluntarily within the Trinity – as He rules through Christ through us all, being in the Spirit who is in us all, and being over, through and in the entire Creation, 4:6.
The incredible mystery of our union with Christ–union with the Trinity, union with the Creator–is reason to celebrate our hope, enjoy the fellowship of the body, and to submit to the sweet sovereignty of God in all things.
Knowing the Bible: Ephesians (Crossway) is available at wtsbooks.com.
#whybible #ktbeph #ktbephesians #ephesians #biblestudy #moodybible #MBI
May the Lord show every kindness to those who experienced a lost on 9/11. May his name be exalted as we embrace the joys of this short and fragile life. May 9/11 remind us to prepare to meet the Son of God, who died for sin and rose again, defeating death, so that he might provide life, righteousness, and comfort to all who trust in him. May God grant us wisdom to know that at any moment we are but one breath away from our last. May the Judge of all the earth bring to justice all terrorists determined to destroy civil society, and do so with mercy–with the mercy that rises as sets on us each day. May you come quickly, Lord Jesus.
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—(Eph. 3:1)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Eph. 4:1)
Paul’s discussion on his stewardship of the mystery of the Gospel is so significant that he must interrupt his intention to tie the walk of the believer to Christ’s work in salvation; (e.g., “walk” in 2:10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). The phrase in 4:1, “I… a prisoner of the Lord,” carried over from 3:1, “I… a prisoner of Christ Jesus,” indicates that 4:2-6:24 originally would have followed 2:22. The flow still works if you skip 3:1-21.
However, by inserting the discussion of 3:2-31, the walk of the believer now relates to the revelation of the equal spiritual footing of Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ (3:6). It also means Paul intends for the believer to be empowered by the prayer and truth of 3:14-21: We must know the love of Christ deeply and increasingly in order to accomplish the life of the believer (4:1-6:9), and we must know the love of Christ deeply and increasingly in order to to stand in the warfare being waged from the heavenlies (6:10).