I am excited to see Jonathan Leeman’s, Word-Centered Church (Moody Publishers), in print as a repacking of a very good earlier work, Reverberation. Leeman especially does a great job of helping the church member understand how God uses the preached word to conform our lives into the image of Christ. His work is a good place to start in order to see a case for enjoying Scripture daily as a joyous love exchange between the believer and our Lord. (“Is that in the book?” Yes, if you read it prayerfully and with discernment.)
I also am excited to see O Palmer Robertson’s, The Christ of Wisdom. Reading Robertson’s understanding of the literary structure of the Psalter and individual psalms was so rich that I am eager to see how he complements that study as he goes through the rest of the major books of biblical poetry.
My Facebook friend, Raymond Chang, posted a piece on a friend’s experience with campus diversity. He is granting me permission to repost it (below). The post brings to fore some of the problems we face on college and university campuses with moving forward on racial diversity and the lingering problems of racial and ethnic insensitivity.
On Christians campuses, the struggle to achieve a diverse campus at all levels of the institution can be as challenging as attempts to do so on non-Christian campuses. The intent to please Christ by the cultivation of a diverse campus life reflects the Savior’s love for “people for God from every tribe and language and peoples and nation” (Rev. 5:9). But good intentions require yeoman efforts and changes of hearts and minds at all levels in order for conversations on diversity to find welcoming atmospheres, and for diversity to be viewed as a magnolia planted in good soil rather than as a briar patch for only the bravest to traverse.
Duke University has been leading the charge in the fight for campus diversity for over 30 years. By their own admittance, Duke stills lacks success at some levels, as a recent controversy at their divinity school might also reveal. Maybe Duke’s efforts (and failures) can help all of us think through the ways forward—ways, on Christian campuses, that will honor the Lord and help us reach 6.5 billion lost people with the gospel.
An enlightening case study:
A friend is at a large state school in a medical program with 450 students. Each class is comprised of a little over 100 students.
One of his classmates posted a “disrespectful and dignity stripping” rant on their class’ Facebook page making fun of a professor’s accent from an Asian country. This classmate clearly didn’t take into consideration that this professor was teaching at a graduate level in a language that wasn’t his mother tongue.
My friend noticed how it received over 30 likes (out of 100 people in the group) with a host of comments thinking it was hilarious. Each class is comprised of about 15% Asians, with 1-2% black and about 4% Latino. He noticed how the majority of the likes were by white students he has seen treat people (mostly patients) differently based on race and socioeconomic status when they came into the clinic. He remarked, “When we are in the clinic, I see how condescending my white peers are to patients who look poor or foreign.”
Of all the comments, the one that stuck out to him most was one by another student of color who thought the post was hilarious. He saw how other people of color who weren’t aware of the racial dynamics made it difficult for p.o.c’s who were trying to bring about the change the institution needed.
In response to the post, my friend wrote, “Who’s next?” Then, he listed the other faculty of color one by one who had accents or cultural differences other than the ones white people considered normal.
One by one, the likes went from 30 down to 10. The comments also disappeared one after another. Eventually, the O.P. was deleted too. The original poster found my friend’s phone number and asked to talk, realizing his act was racist without realizing it himself.
My friend has observed the institution carefully over the last three years and now that he is in his fourth year, he wants to leave the place better than he found it. As my friend is nearing the end of his program he is asking me what he can do. I look forward to helping him bring about change before he graduates.
These are some of his reflections from my phone call with him:
During his time as a student, he regularly heard off handed comments that were clearly rooted in prejudice and feels like he needs to do something before it’s too late (its already too late – he institution, like every higher education institution, is now playing catch up).
He expressed his frustration with the ways Asians are perceived as docile and black people are seen as angry. He also mentioned how he doesn’t want to be seen as an angry Asian because that is not who he really is. As his friend, I can attest to this.
He mentioned how students are doing things that only benefit themselves. He noted that they are operating out of a marginalized instinct and instead of advocating for systemic change, they huddle together to care for one another, which has its merits, but is doing nothing in the long run.
The faculty is very diverse, but to his surprise, it doesn’t make much difference because the administration isn’t. He noted that the faculty of color can’t stand up for students because they are concerned about their own tenure and promotions (which he understands). But he also notices how white faculty are fine challenging the institution on things that matter to them because their concerns are easier to digest for their superiors. He doesn’t know what to do about this because the people who can represent people like him don’t feel like they have the agency to because their livelihoods would be on the line.
He is frustrated with the diversity officer who doesn’t do anything except get people into the school. Once students and faculty walk in the door, they realize the institution is not what they expected it to be. The diversity officer is a very nice Christian woman who doesn’t do much except fill the quota of international and American people of color. The most she has done was facilitate conversations among people of color over meals. From what he’s observed, the diversity officer doesn’t do much to raise awareness about the communities the institution serves. The institution has a diversity officer for each major program – which means their program of 450 has its own designated diversity worker.
My friend feels a responsibility to talk with the student affairs office, the diversity officer, admissions, and if possible, the administration (who is all white) to address the issues at hand.
All these are things any institution can learn from. May we have the humility to learn from others.
Jemar Tisby already is enduring racist comments for his article in yesterday’s Washington Post, “Why a Racially Insensitive Photo of Southern Baptist Seminary Professors Matters.” The article responds to a controversial photo of Southwestern Baptist Seminary professors posing as rappers. I will not repost the picture here, but one can find it attached to the article at the WaPo.
Significantly, Tisby touches upon the need for greater ethnic diversity among faculty members at US evangelical institutions. At one point Tisby writes,
Southwestern could certainly use this opportunity to dialogue about race and diversity, but I hope the seminary goes further. I hope it will commit to hiring professors and staff members from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. The professors could conduct an audit of their curriculum to see if they are assigning works by scholars of color. The seminary could review the places it goes to recruit students. The leadership could visit other seminaries with more diversity to learn how they could change their own campuses. Sit down with minority students and ask them if they are willing to speak honestly about their experiences at the seminary…. But diversity initiatives and attempts to talk about race haven’t resulted in broad, systemic change. The homogenous environment of predominantly white churches and organizations means people who have all the same cultural blind spots will still marginalize minorities. People are more than offended by pictures like these. They are in pain.
Tisby should be commended rather than castigated for demonstrating, again, that “the problem of the Twentieth Century” is alive and well in the Twenty-First Century. SBC authors’, Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention, can’t get here fast enough to re-address these concerns. However, seeing that the photo in question arrives only 22 years in the wake of the 1995 SBC’s, “Resolution on Racial Reconciliation on the 150 Anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention,” I’m not sure the stain will go away before the return of Christ. Because, for whatever reasons, some people simply do not see the stain, and others do not want the stain to disappear.
“It appears that our entire encounter with the Bible, even if it involves our natural abilities, is a supernatural encounter. This would seem to imply that whatever we meet in the Bible—historical facts, poetic praises, proverbial wisdom, promises of help, descriptions of God’s nature, illustrations of God’s ways, standards of holy living, procedures of church discipline, predictions, calamities, warnings of Satanic opposition, summons to faith, analyses of human depravity, directions for husbands and wives, political insights, financial principles, and much more—all of it will only be seen aright when we see it illumined by, and in relation to, the peculiar glory of God. In other words, no matter how natural the process of reading is, and no matter how natural the objects discovered are, no reading and no discovery happen without dependence on God or without seeing all things in relation to his worth and beauty—if we are reading the way God means for his book to be read.”
John Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 178-179. Also available via Kindle, and at wstbooks.
This week I have enjoyed greatly the events of the US debut of the Africa Study Bible (ASB). The ASB is the first study Bible written by Africans for Africans. The study notes, artwork, articles, stories, African proverbs, and illustrations within the ASB offer a means of contextualizing the truth of Scripture in African ideas and for African concerns.
The ASB was a major undertaking, involving over 350 biblical and theological scholars from the more than 50 countries on the continent of Africa. The ASB includes a large section of notes given to a narrative timeline of God’s work in Africa.
The representative contributing scholars who came to Moody Bible Institute spoke of the joy of having the ASB as a tool for discipleship. While rejoicing with them, I also am grateful for the ASB’s ability to increase our sensitivity to the concerns of our sisters and brothers in African nations, and to raise our cultural awareness toward non-Western issues the biblical text addresses. For example, an “African Touch Point” on Ex. 22:18 teaches that “witches” should not be equated with “foreigners, widows, and orphans–the vulnerable in society.”
I encourage you to get your own copy of the African Study Bible and utilize its notes in your personal study. Pray for the ASB project to have great reach around the world. Also, an ASB 30-day devotional is available. Below is an example of the devotional reading from Day 1.
Africa, a Cradle of Christianity: a Devotion on Africa’s Legacy
From an Africa Study Bible Article titled “Christianity’s African Roots”:
Socially, gender is more indispensable that both race and ethnicity, even if they are equally indispensable biologically.
My doctoral supervisor, David Hogg, was once asked in my Theological Method PhD seminar what his method is. I still love his response: “I look for patterns and weird stuff.” That is, his approach to reading Scripture consists largely of paying attention to what is repeated and what stands out as extraordinary, either in terms of actual events or their description or both. This interpretive method produces readings that sometimes (many times) vexes those who hold to the historical-critical method and its evangelical cousins.
What, then, are the *theological* rationales that give an interpreter the hermeneutical warrant to link certain biblical texts together in a typological chain? To put a finer historical point on it, why does Irenaeus, in his On the Apostolic Preaching, feel justified in linking the Virgin Birth to the untilled ground out of which Adam is made, or Eve’s creation out of Adam’s rib to…
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(Below I have reblogged Pastor McKissic’s excellent post because of its importance to SBC life, and to greater kingdom work around the world. It is difficult to see how some, like Dr. Jack Graham, cannot understand that the ability for the SBC to gain a hearing in the culture — even at the level of the personal proclamation of the Gospel by local church members –is effected by the perception that some SBC churches’ criticism of Russell Moore and withholding of funding to the ERLC is a move that demonstrates power politics is more important than moral reasoning–moral reasoning that does not align itself with a GOP platform. It would be wonderful for predominantly white, mega-church congregations within the SBC to speak with boldness equal to Graham’s and even greater courage in support of the direction of the ERLC under Russell Moore, and thus for Moore himself. McKissic’s voice should be part of a grand movement of voices within and without the SBC that continues to work to separate the Gospel from American political positions. At this time in history, it would be a shame for the SBC to witness a diminishing of SBC support by its ethnic minority congregations and less successful outreach to an increasingly ethnically diverse culture because it takes a vocal stand against Russell Moore–a Christian champion of righteousness on racial justice, fair immigration policy, and just treatment of people of all faiths. The opposition to Moore is using a standard of accountability seemingly that was not used when former ERLC President Richard Land made greatly insensitive comments about Treyvon Martin and followed the comments with a non-apologetic apology. I guess the opposition thinks Jesus is smiling down from glory and saying, “Way to go! Way to use your financial power to force Moore to stop criticizing Donald Trump and those who have attempted to morally justify support of President Trump.” [Clap, clap, clap.])
THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION’S DECISION TO INVESTIGATE RUSSELL MOORE HAS HUGE IMPLICATIONS FOR BLACK SBC CHURCHES
By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.
The Prestonwood Baptist Church of Plano, TX, (a Dallas suburb) led by Dr. Jack Graham, a former President of the Southern Baptist Convention, has determined to escrow funds totaling $1 million, that were previously designated for the Cooperative Program—the premier funding mechanism of the Southern Baptist Convention’s agencies— because of positions and policies taken by Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Other predominantly White Southern Baptist Churches are also threatening to withhold Cooperative Program funds surrounding public positions taken by Russell Moore and the ERLC.
Consequently, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention has decided to investigate and explore the depths of why some churches aren’t giving and the best way to address the whole matter. They want…
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