Monthly Archives: December 2008

Carlotta Morrow on Kwanzaa

Carlotta Morrow keeps taking up the mantle on Kwanzaa. I am thankful for her work. I wish the African American church could read/hear her en masse. I also hope my brothers and sisters in Christ outside of the African American community will take this issue seriously. It is another layer of deceit that stands in the way of the true Gospel in our community. I hope you too will gain and understanding of this issue so that you might be ready to speak with knowledge and sensativity to African Americans who are taking Kwanzaa and substituting it for or mixing it with Christ.


Below is my response to questions on Kwanzaa from David Roach, writer for BP News ( The article by Mr. Roach is posted as “Black SBC pastor & prof: Kwanzaa not rooted in faith,” December 21, 2005. Based on e-mails I have received from friends in response to the article, I thought it might be wise if I made public my full response to the writer’s questions. This is not intended to be a full analysis of Kwanzaa.


(Author’s Note: Since the publishing of the original article, two very good works have been published that are great resources for helping the church think her way though the issues of Kwanzaa, religious pluralism, and African American syncretism in the church: The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity (IVP Academic, 2007), by Thabiti Anyabwile, and Experiencing the Truth: Bringing Reformation to the African American Church (Crossway, 2008), Anthony Carter, ed. These books would make great Christmas gifts for lay-leaders in your church.)





Some Christ-Centered Thoughts on Kwanzaa

© Eric C. Redmond, 2006.



1. Can a Christian celebrate Kwanzaa without compromising any biblical principles?


I think African-American Christians must recognize that Kwanzaa is not a simple appreciation or reaffirmation of one’s ancestry. There is a development of self-worth based on one’s ancestry inherent in the system. While it is good to recognize the majesty of the image of God in all people, Kwanzaa overlooks the depravity within a culture or cultures.

            This is understandable in that African-Americans, as a collective body, perceive themselves as oppressed, displaced or negatively characterized by Anglo-American culture. In doing so, African-Americans have worked hard to teach their children and grandchildren that African-Americans are not constitutively less intelligent, moral or attractive than people of Anglo-American decent. But countering the affects of negative stereotyping and brainwashing by means of self-appreciation is different from what is practiced in Kwanzaa. African-American Christians must recognize the majesty of the image of God in man, the depravity of all cultures, and the worth of any person in Christ alone.



2. Are the values celebrated in Kwanzaa consistent with Scripture?


On first look, it would appear that the Nguzo Saba (seven guiding principles) has three items that would correspond to New Testament teachings: Umoja (Unity), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), and Imani (Faith). Yet, upon closer analysis, we find that the terms within Kwanzaa differ from the terms of the New Testament, even as much as the Catholic concepts of justification and grace (i.e., the Sacraments) differ from the Pauline concept of forensic justification. For example, Unity, in Kwanzaa, centers around the family, irrespective of the spiritual status of the family members. The unity is for the sake of the “community” – the African-American community alone. This is not the mysterious unity of being members of one another provided by the Holy Spirit across ethnic lines, nor is this the practical working unity of believers together for the exaltation of Christ through the Gospel to all people. Similarly, Kwanzaa’s Faith is based only in past triumphs of people of African decent. It is not a faith with God as the object, nor as the Providential One who accomplishes the salvation of a people in spite of themselves and their opposition. One must un-package each term within a practice to see if it is “Christian.”



3. Can celebrating the heritage of one race of people help to build up the body of Christ, or does it cause division more than it helps?


I think the over-celebration of a heritage is detrimental to the propagation of the Gospel within a culture. For example, I serve in a predominantly African-American congregation. If I celebrate African-American History Month in our songs selection in February, my non-African-American members can celebrate with us. But if I call for African dress as part of the worship services, or select only Negro Spirituals for the music the rest of the year, then a portion of my congregation is not actively participating in our celebrations because one race is given preference over another.

            If we then were to say that this is only a problem in mixed-ethnicity congregations, we come to the same problem within the larger Body of Christ. That is, we force separations based on ethnic-practices, or at least we ask people of other ethnic backgrounds to worship with some discomfort, or to over-identify with another ethnic group. Either way, this makes ethnicity have priority over the Gospel. To see this, one may need to think in terms of Indian and Pakistani rather than in terms of Anglo-American and African-American.

            But we also must be careful to recognize that in any geographical region in any time period, the majority culture is “celebrated” daily, intuitively, subtlety, and naturally by minority cultures. Evidence of this is the drive of minority cultures to be “Harvard-educated,” or members of a country club, which are both germane to the Anglo-American culture, or their disdain (read “jealousy”) when a member of the minority culture is accepted into and promoted within the majority culture. Why should someone be called a “Tom” or an “Oreo,” as in the case of Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele? Why shouldn’t he simply be ignored as one “confused?” (This is not to suggest that Lt. Gov. Steele is confused.) The epithets are jealousy-laden.

            In an oxymoronic fashion, further evidence can be seen when someone within a minority culture succeeds in opposition to the majority culture. For example, Tiger Woods is the hero of African-Americans because of his victories in a “white” sport. O. J. Simpson was perceived as beating “the system.” Colin Powel and Condelezza Rice are recognized as not having held the Cabinet posts traditionally held for minorities. These examples demonstrate that the majority culture, and exaltation within, is still celebrated as ultimate.

            Again, not to belabor the point, but the majority culture is celebrated by virtue of being in the majority and not having to adapt or change for anyone else. This can be just as detrimental to seeing the Gospel reach all nations.



4. Is there any way for Christians to use Kwanzaa as an opportunity for evangelism?


Kwanzaa would have to be divested of its meaning in order to be used as an evangelism opportunity, in terms of practicing Kwanzaa. One would have to remove the emphasis on ancestors, then change the definitions within the Nguzo Saba, in order to provide an evangelism tool. However, as much as Paul made a bridge from the Epicureans’ and Stoics’ unknown God to Christ, I think one can build a bridge from human-centered self-determination to Christ-wrought triumph, in an attempt to biblically contextualize the Gospel for a practitioner of Kwanzaa. This is a unique opportunity for African-American believers.



Rev. Eric C. Redmond is author of Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men’s Questions About the Church (Crossway, 2008).




The Religious Case for Gay “Marriage?”


Last’ week’s Newsweek cover story concerned the religious case for “gay ‘marriage,’”  (with “marriage” in quotes because the Creator of marriage instituted it with heterosexuality inherent in the concept). Al Mohler and Robert Gagnon have made solid responses. I thought it wise, also, to offer thoughts on the acceptability of homosexuality in the church altogether.

            Below is a reprint of “The Church Does Not Welcome Homosexuals,” Appendix B of Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men’s Questions About the Church (Crossway, 2008). It is designed to make the case for a proper understanding of welcoming homosexuals into the church. It was written with the African American church in mind in particular, although the argument from Scripture is the same in all contexts. While it is not a response to the Newsweek article, I think it will reveal that the Newsweek article needed to consider a different line of reasoning.





“The Church Does Not Welcome Homosexuals”


From where you sit, it seems that the church does not readily welcome homosexuals. This idea exists in spite of the fact that we play and sing music written by James Cleveland, we quote the poetry of James Baldwin in our sermons, and we dress in outfits designed by Willie Smith. The church’s hesitancy to embrace homosexuals continues despite the fact that much of the music produced, sung, and directed in the church is done by homosexuals. The rejection continues even though some very well known ministers have admitted to being bisexual or homosexual. In addition, we know that there is an underworld in which African-American leaders are living a double lifestyle on the down-low.


Homosexuals are members of the African-American community. Many of the people in our community who are dying from HIV/AIDS have had homosexual relationships. Mainstream culture, including mainstream African-American culture, is opening their arms to people with different sexual orientations. It seems, therefore, that the church is out of touch with the times, hypocritical in its message about the love of God, or at the very least, just simply homophobic.


Yes, we are guilty. We, the church, do not readily embrace homosexuals with outstretched arms. Truthfully, some churches will not even accept a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (see Chapter 3). We are in contradiction with mainstream culture. We have a problem with saying one can believe on Jesus and be a homosexual. We appear to be talking out of both sides of our mouths when on the one hand we say, “God loves you” and “love your neighbor as yourself,” but on the other hand appear to say, “such love does not welcome homosexuals into the family of God.”


As a pastor who has buried homosexuals (and those who have died from HIV/AIDS due to homosexual relationships) and who cares for his church members who have loved ones who are homosexual, I am familiar with your concern. I also know that many so-called Christians and church-goers have made hateful actions against homosexuals and have said many vicious, vile, and harmful things toward homosexuals that do not reflect God’s love for people made in his image. Nor do they reflect the grace, love, and kindness of the Christ who received lepers, accepted worship from prostitutes, dialogued with a Samaritan woman at a well, told the story of the prodigal son, selected a tax-collector to be included among his disciples, and ate dinner at the home of Zacchaeus. Moreover, Jesus welcomed into his kingdom the thief on the cross, one guilty of capital theft. In fact, it seems that Jesus expressed greater concern with the self-righteousness of the religious establishment of his day than with the sinfulness of those portrayed as society’s sinful. How then should we look at the church’s rejection of homosexuals?


First, let us be truthful about one thing: it is only recently that homosexuals are being readily accepted as part of mainstream African-American culture. In current attempts to revise African-American history, some people appeal to the exceptions, like the boldness of James Baldwin and the reception of Johnny Matthis by all audiences, in order to argue that homosexuality always existed as a norm within our community and American society. However, as late as 1984, in the movie Revenge of the Nerds, the actor cast as the African-American nerd was portrayed as a homosexual. To the filmmakers, for an African American to be homosexual was deviant from the norm for mainstream African-American life; it was nerdy, not normal. If there is any measure of values, attitude, and atmosphere of “mainstream” culture, certainly Hollywood acts as the barometer. In the case of homosexuality, the barometer was still low in favor of acceptance among African Americans in the mid-1980s. Even in 1993, Denzel Washington was cast as a homophobic lawyer in the movie Philadelphia. As an African-American lawyer, he did not readily embrace homosexuality and neither did our community in the early 1990s as represented by Washington’s character.


Second, the reality of homosexuality in the church does not mean it should be acceptable, if it can be shown that homosexuality violates the teachings of the word of God. In reality, many clergymen have been found guilty of embezzlement, adultery, plagiarism, and pedophilia. Surely this does not mean that these crimes and sins should be viewed as acceptable by the church? If this were true, what would make the church distinct from the rest of society? Not to mention, what trust would you put in the preaching and practice of a congregation full of unashamed embezzlers, adulterers, plagiarizers, and pedophiles? Would you put your money in its offering plate? Would you allow your spouse to attend any of its functions alone? Would you believe the minister heard from God or borrowed from someone else? Would you send your child to the children’s church? Would you believe that church’s message about God’s power to change your life when it could not change the lives of these criminals who claim to be following the message? Would you accuse someone of having embezzelphobia for not readily embracing practicing embezzlers as church members?


Now you could reply, “that’s not fair! Those items you mentioned are crimes. Homosexual acts between consenting adults are not illegal.” This is true, although it has only been legally true since the 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Texas statute forbidding two person of the same sex to engage in intimate sexual conduct was ruled unconstitutional. Nevertheless, I mentioned the above crimes because they are sins. I did this so that you might understand that the issue of rejection of homosexuals by the church is a matter of a lifestyle of sin, and not a matter of homophobia or hypocrisy.


This brings us to a third significant truth: the Bible identifies homosexuality as sin. “Sin” is missing God’s standard for holiness, and thusly missing the ability to have a relationship with God, for he is absolutely perfect in holiness. Homosexuality is an act that misses God’s standard for holiness, as seen in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (also see Gal. 6:19-21 and 1 Tim. 1:8-11).


Homosexual persons are labeled as “unrighteous,” as those who “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Moreover, these verses indicate that the practice of homosexuality is a behavior with which Christians have made a clean break by being “washed” (cleansed from sin by God), “sanctified” (set apart from sin for God), and “justified” (declared righteous in the sight of God) by Jesus Christ and the [Holy] Spirit. Homosexuality and following Christ are not combatable.


Moreover, homosexual practice and church membership cannot co-exist if the church is to remain free of evil, as seen in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:


I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you” (also see Eph. 5:5-8).


Christians, like those in the Corinthian church, have the responsibility “not to associate with sexually immoral people” who claim to be “brothers” of the faith, which includes homosexuals. Instead, each church has the responsibility to remove from their congregation those in a lifestyle of sin. Those with homosexual behavior may be received into the Church only after a profession of Christ that is accompanied by a complete break–repentance–from a lifestyle of homosexuality.


Yet it remains true that Jesus received people with sinful lifestyles. I cite several examples above. Let us look at each of these examples:

▪ When a leper approached Jesus, Jesus reached out his hand and touched him in spite of the outcast status of the leper. However, the Scriptures first record the leper saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (Matt. 8:2; Mark 1:40; Luke 5:12). The leper recognizes the deity of Christ, his sovereign freedom to cleanse or not cleanse, and his full ability to make the leper clean. The leper is not asking Jesus to accept him as a leper and allow him to continue in his leprosy. He is asking the sovereign God to change his life. In fact, the accounts in Mark and Luke indicate that the leper pleaded with Jesus to cleanse him. Similarly, the ten lepers cried “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” They, too, recognized Christ as master of their lives, and their need for mercy from him. In fact, the one who gave thanks for his cleansing was told “your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:11-19).


▪ One of the prostitutes who was received by Jesus in the home of a religious leader heard Jesus say, “your sins are forgiven.” As a result, “[her] faith saved [her]” from the penalty due her sins. The account of the demonstration of her faith says,

And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment (Luke 7:37-38).


The woman, in humility toward Christ, did not face him directly, but stood behind him so as not to look as if she were propositioning him. She took ointment for her occupation and used it to honor the Christ instead using it to allure Christ. She poured out tears of remorse, used her own hair as a towel, and demonstrated homage to him by kissing his feet (rather than attempting to kiss him in an erotic manner). The woman recognized him as Lord–the one who could forgive her sins. She did not expect him to allow her to remain as a prostitute. Furthermore, Jesus says that this was evidence of her “love” for the one who she sought to forgive her sins. Her love was not indicated by the “love” she offered on the street to men. Her love toward him came with shame for sin and a change in lifestyle.


▪ Jesus had a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well with full knowledge that she was an adulterer. Jesus confronts this woman’s sins in a conversation leading her to recognize him as the Messiah. He does not leave her as simply a Samaritan, but leads her to acknowledge the Jewish man confronting her as the Savior of all people in the world (John 4:1-42).


▪ When Jesus called Levi to himself, he called him to “follow [him].” Levi (a.k.a. “Matthew”) responded by “leaving everything”–including his money made from cheating the people, indicating he was leaving his former ways. Later, while at Levi’s house eating with other tax collectors, Jesus informs the religious leaders he “came to call sinners to repentance.” He called Levi, Levi turned from his sinful way to Christ, and thus he left his sin as he followed Jesus as a disciple. Similarly Zacchaeus the tax collector, finding out who Jesus is, gave one-half of his riches to the poor and promised pay four hundred percent of what was stolen from each person from whom he collected taxes. Zaccheaus made a change of life when he met Jesus.


▪ In the case of the thief on the cross next to Jesus’s cross, the thief was fearful of confronting God as a thief. Rebuking the other thief for ridiculing Jesus, he recognized Jesus as the Jewish King, asking Jesus to remember him when he arrived in his kingdom:


One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).


The thief fully recognized that Jesus, on the other side of death, would be king in the kingdom he had been preaching. He also recognized Jesus’s ability to bring him into that kingdom. In effect, he asked the king to pardon him for his sins rather than mock the king in his sinfulness (Luke 23:32-42). The thief’s repentance is evident from his apparent change in heart. He could not continue in the mocking of Jesus that he had been practicing with the other thief (Matt. 27:44; Mark 15:32). Jesus is able to assure the thief of acceptance in his kingdom because the thief has repented from sin and trust Jesus for his salvation.


▪ In the case of the prodigal son, in which the prodigal represents the sinner and the father represent God, the prodigal does not expect the father to express forgiveness. But as the son had turned from his wasteful lifestyle, he then returned home and was welcomed into the house by his father. For the prodigal, repentance from sin preceded acceptance by the father.


In summary, each person was received by Jesus as they 1) recognized him as Lord, 2) repented of their pasts–turned away from their previous lifestyles, 3) expressed faith him for salvation from their past ways of living, and 4) demonstrated change from their past to the standards for following Jesus. Initial reception of each sinner became ongoing acceptance only after a change of lifestyle by faith in Christ on the part of those practicing sin. The modern concept of “come as you are,” flaunting and justifying one’s sinful inclinations without thought of seeking a change in lifestyle, differs from the description of Jesus’s encounter with sinners in the Gospels. For Jesus, “come as you are” meant to come to him and be readily welcomed by him in one’s sinful identity. But it also meant coming to him in brokenness over one’s sin, seeking to be changed from that identity in order for there to be ongoing acceptance from him (i.e., salvation). Even the account of the woman caught in adultery depicts the woman’s recognition of Jesus as “Lord,” and Jesus’s demands for the woman to change her adulterous ways: “go; and from now on sin no more” (John 8:1-11).1

This type of reception of sinners was not limited to Jesus’s earthly ministry: this was the message preached by his disciples as they preached to people “to repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 20:26; also see 5:31; 8:22; 17:30; 20:21). This finds agreement in the epistles expectation that all people “should reach repentance (2 Pet. 3:9; also see Rom. 2:4; 1 Thess. 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:25; Heb. 6:6). Therefore, in order to be faithful to the Scriptures, the final authority for faith and practice as a Christian, the church must call homosexuality sin, reject from membership those who do not change from a sinful lifestyle, yet receive those who desire to turn from homosexuality and any other sinful lifestyle.


Therefore, if your homosexuality is the concern keeping you from church, go to church and observe the worship. You should be welcomed into the public worship service. Expect to hear that the Lord will rescue you from his judgment upon sin, give you the power to resist fulfillment of homosexual desires, and grant you the joy of life as a heterosexual in monogamous marital relationship of fidelity or in contentment as a single in contentment and holiness.


However do not expect the church to receive you into membership without your repentance from homosexuality, faith in Christ as Lord, and continued practice that gives evidence of the repentance and faith:


·     You should move out from living with a homosexual partner and completely break off that and all such relationships immediately. If your concern is about feelings of love or loneliness, bear in mind that God’s love for you is demonstrated by the giving of his only Son to die for you. Once you have placed faith in his Son, God promises that he “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5-6). The Lord is able to give you new, God-fearing, loving friends who will walk with you as you seek to live for him. This should be done after sharing with these unsaved, homosexual friends about the love of Christ, so that they can choose as well to accept or reject Him. This demonstration of love may be crucial to whether they may eventually choose Christ themselves or not.


·     You must avoid homosexual bars, clubs, and similar gathering places common to the homosexual community. This includes gatherings of metrosexuals, bisexuals, transgender individuals, so-called homosexual churches and homosexual-welcoming churches. This may seem extreme. However, if you were an alcoholic desiring to repent from alcohol abuse, repentance would include staying away from bars, liquor stores, liquor isles in grocery and convenience stores, keg and drinking parties, and even a glass of alcoholic beverage with a meal. You would stay away from drinking buddies and fellow alcoholics who might offer you a drink until you were free enough from the desire for alcohol to resist drinking and lead others to do the same. This staying away is not meant to condemn those places or people. Instead, it is meant to provide the proper environment for you to be free from distractions that may take your focus away from God as you attempt to cultivate new habits.


·     You must destroy all homosexual, erotic, and pornographic literature, audio and visual media, and paraphernalia in your possessions. A great portion of your battle to turn away from sin will be mental: your mind must be able to tell your feelings and desires the truth about God, his righteous standards, his power, and his love for you.  As a Christian, one is called to live a new life and develop a new way of thinking based on the death and resurrection of Christ and the power to live a new life that comes from believing on Christ:


I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, (Rom. 12:1-2).


Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:17-24)



·     If in your life as a homosexual you chose to develop gender-marking characteristics typical of a person of the opposite sex, such as a change in tone of voice, a cadence or flare to your walk, a drastic alteration of the hair, or adorning yourself with clothing and jewelry common to the other gender, you must chose to stop using these markers. You must not send signals to homosexuals that you continue to deny your natural gender. While God “looks at the heart” more than one’s outward appearance, he is concerned about men and women having appearance appropriate for each gender, (see Dt. 22:5; I Cor. 11:14-15; I Tim. 2:9-10; I Pet. 3:3-6).


·     You need to publicly declare your repentance among the people of God and seek out those who can help you walk in maturity. Christians are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). You will need people to help you carry the load of the struggle of attempting to be free from homosexual desires. You will also need people to encourage you to continue to fight to overcome sin, to pray for you, and to be available if you fall back into your old habits while attempting to gain victory over homosexuality. Such people will be there to support you, reminding you that God even stands to forever forgive those that would humbly confess and start over rightly with him.


You should not be upset because the church has standards for membership. You cannot force your standards, or the standards of popular culture, on the church. The church should not and must not accept unrepentant homosexuals–or unrepentant sinners of any type of transgressions–into membership.


The church did not make the rules for her standards of conduct. The one true God, who is holy in all of his ways, made the standards. It is he who offers to you to believe on Jesus Christ so that he might give you salvation from your sins. He offers you Christ so that you may become a sinner saved by grace who lives holy among God’s people–the church.


So if it is acceptance you are seeking, go to Jesus first. Once you have met him in repentance, all of the other redeemed sinners will be glad to accept you!



For Further Study

Ash, Christopher. Marriage: Sex in the Service of God. Leicester, UK.: Inter-Varsity, 2003.

Heimbach, Daniel R. True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2004.

Schmidt, Thomas E. Straight and Narrow: Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexual Debate. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1995.




(1) It is recognized that the trustworthiness of this account as Scripture is textually disputed. For more, see D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John: An Introduction and Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1991, pp. 333-37.


From Where Are All the Brothers? by Eric Redmond, © 2008. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,





Speaking Schedule


If you will be in the vicinity of any of the events below, I would love to see you there. I could always use the support of a friendly face! If you will not be nearby, your prayers would be most appreciated.





December 6, 11:00 AM, Sunday School Teachers’ Training at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, Washington, DC


December 7, 7:45 AM, preaching at the worship service of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, Washington, DC


December 13, 1:00 PM, book signing for Where Are All the Brothers? at Books-A-Million, Dupont Circle, Washington, DC


December 14, 7:30 AM, preaching at the worship service of New Canaan Baptist Church, Washington, DC


December 28, 11:00 AM, workshop on creative evangelism in African American context, based on content of Where Are All the Brothers?, at IMPACT 2008, Atlanta, GA


Hiestand in WTJ: Pastor Scholar to Professor Scholar



In the current issue of Westminster Theological Journal (WTJ 70.2 [2008], 355-369), Gerald F. Hiestand, Pastor of Adult Ministries at Harvest Bible Chapel, Rolling Meadows, IL, and President of The Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology, contributes an article entitled, “Pastor Scholar to Professor Scholar: Exploring the Theological Disconnect Between the Academy and the Local Church.” As he writes, “this article will briefly recount the shift in social location for North American theologians from the local church to the academy, and suggest ways in which this shift has impacted evangelical theology,” and “my goal here is to explore a more fundamental sort of disconnect—a theological one—between academic scholarship and the theological (not ministerial) needs of local church ministry. In other words, my goal here is not to critique the focus of seminary training, but rather the focus of seminary theology” (358).

        I would encourage pastor, professor, and layperson to read the article and pass it throughout the leadership of one’s local church and evangelical academy. (The article is not available online at this time. However, the current issue of WTJ is great in its entirety, so I would recommend purchasing the print copy.) I would also suggest that Hiestand’s work is complementary to, rather than in contrast to, Mark Noll’s Between Faith and Criticism: Evangelicals, Scholarship, and the Bible in America, 2nd ed. (Regent, 2004).



I will not spoil the entire article. However, let me provide a sampling from the article, portions of Hiestand’s conclusions, and a few of my own thoughts.



Sampling from Article

On page 368, Hiestand writes,


Yet the current generation of parish minister—on the whole—lacks the theological giftedness to take up the task of theological formulation. By and large, our theologians do not reside in our churches; they have been sent almost exclusively to our academies. Consequently, the pastoral community is largely devoid of individual who feel a calling toward theological formulation. Pastors are expected to know theology (and this less and less), but are not generally expected to write theology. (Even the term “pastor-scholar” lacks the punch it once had. For many in our day, the term does not conjure images of Augustine, Edwards, and Calvin, but rather of a local church pastor who reads widely in theology.) It is unreasonable, therefore, to insist that the current generation of clergy assume a responsibility for which it is not collectively gifted.

        Yet if history has shown the wisdom and viability of once again reuniting the calling of the pastor with the task of the theologian, how are we to effect the needed paradigm shift?”



Concluding Portions

Hiestand offers three preliminary conclusions which I abbreviate below:


1  Both the church and the academy need to recognize the “inherent limitations of academic theology” for meeting all of the various theological needs that arise in the context of local church ministry (368).


2  “We” – seemingly meaning the church and the academy – have to find ways to create a “network for pastor-scholars” (368).


3  Individual local churches with a sensitivity toward the worth and significance of the pastor-scholar to the kingdom must make theological reflection an effective part of the pastor’s role (369).



Personal Comments

I was encouraged by Hiestand’s article. I hope the next two decades of local church ministry, speedily assisted by the web and internet-based technology available in the information and digital ages, will witness a gradual shift back to an ecclesial theology. In fact, signs of the winds of change are abounding:



The Gospel Coalition has built into its fabric the training of a younger generation of future pastors to be pastor-theologians who put the Gospel at the center of all things in life and ministry.


9Marks ministries – a ministry that exists for supporting the work of building healthy churches (i.e., “reforming” churches, as in the ministry’s previous name, “The Center for Church Reform”) – is generated out of a church that exemplifies doing and developing theology from the church rather than the academy. They are training laity and seminarians to focus on Biblical theology from and for the local church.


The Simeon Trust, The Bethlehem Institute, and BILD International offer church-based programs that keep students within the context of the local church as they develop theory and method in preaching, theology, and Christian practice.


Sean Michael Lucas and others have called attention to the need for a proper perspective on PhD studies (and thus academic theology) as relates to the ministry of the local church and the work of seminary graduates. In personal discussions, I have heard seminary presidents Al Mohler and Paige Patterson express their passions for training men for pastoral ministry local church at their schools, as opposed to schools that seem to be making a general pool of evangelical scholars for society at large.


Recent systematics like Akin’s A Theology for the Church and Kelly’s Systematic Theology have the local church in focus. This seems to be a trend for coming theological works.



Enjoy Dr. Hiestand’s work. May we be encouraged by the Lord’s grace toward us in giving us reminders that theology for the church must be done from both the pulpit and the lectern.





Ascol on Allen’s Rejoinder: SBC and Calvinism

Over at Founders, we have gone from lightening strikes to tornado winds! Even so, Tom Ascol has made the reply of a gentleman. I think it is important for all that we forever distinguish Calvinism from Hyper-Calvinism. Murray’s Spurgeon vs. Hyper Calvinism is helpful for this discussion.