Over the course of the last year, some people have raised the question about the lack of a Reformed message in Where Are All The Brothers? I think the concern is this: How can a book be intended to help bring about reformation if it is not overtly Reformed? That is, do I (Redmond) think that it is the preaching of God’s Lordship over all that brought about the Protestant Reformation and the Great Awakenings in America?
I must say, your concern is legitimate. For if I am not reforming with a (biblical) theology, I might be simply a pragmatist. μη γενoιτο!
Allow me to address this concern with two points:
First, in the book, I am speaking pre-Reformation stuff to pre-Reformation people of the target audience. My intended audience, as a whole, does not readily throw around “total depravity” and “sola gratia” in normal conversation about the Christian life, even though the audience’s culture, by and large, is immersed and meshed into the church and (Christian) religious conversation. Instead, the familiar theological terms come from the music of an ethnic culture, comedians who make parodies of the church, and the sort of introductory-level, Sunday school-sort of “accept, believe, confess” sermons that are the staple of the diet of the sheep within the African American church. “Calvinism” – known as “predestination” – is wrongly perceived as a doctrine that was good only for sustaining antebellum slavery; it has no association with the Great Awakening or the Protestant Reformation, or the demolishing of social ills in British and American societies. Therefore, I thought it was important to start a conversation closer to “give me a drink” rather than closer to “Melchizeldek.” In speaking of expository preaching in today’s world, Carson has noted,
We’re also further removed from the language, the culture, the heritage and so on, today, than unbelievers were in Jewish synagogues in the first century. So that in Acts 13 in Pisidian Antioch, Paul doesn’t have to lay out a whole lot about Creation and Fall and all that; that’s part of the given. So he tends to focus on a handful of Old Testament passages that demonstrate that the Messiah really did have to suffer, and [he] explains who Jesus is within that kind of context. By contrast when you come to Acts 17 and the sermon to the intellectuals of Athens, then, although he does actually quote unambiguously a whole clip [of] any biblical text, what he is really doing there is laying out the Bible’s entire storyline: The oneness of God, Creation, providence, God’s aseity, even eventually the nature of sin, he’s both sovereign and personal, and so on, until eventually he comes to Jesus and the final judgment, and you know where he would go if he hadn’t been cut off. So the more biblically illiterate any culture is, the more it’s imperative to lay out something of the Bible’s storyline into which alone the preaching of Jesus makes sense. If people are really biblically illiterate, and all they’re talking about with Jesus is “come to Jesus and he’ll give you abundant life,” that’s just a cipher – what does “abundant life” mean? More sex? [A] better job? [A] promotion at work? More money? – so that it becomes more important to lay out the Bible’s framework so you know what is meant by the categories that are being used when you do preach Christ. (D. A. Carson, “Observing Evangelicalism with D. A. Carson,” 9marks Audio, accessed May 26, 2009.)
In a similar manner, I have attempted to lay out a very basic theological framework for the reader familiar with African American religious jargon and ethnic objections.
Second, the text assumes a Reformed worldview, which includes directing people to healthy churches. As can be observed if one reads the complete text, Brothers? is intended to reveal the depravity of the reader’s thinking, pointing him to the Scriptures for the answers he seeks (along with examples of the Christian life lived out among God’s people), eventually leading him to a full presentation of the Gospel that rests on Christ alone for salvation. If the reader turns to Christ as Lord, the suggested reading in the book points him to texts of Reformed Theology. However, it is my hope that those who give the books to unbelieving men will follow-up with discussions about Christ and conversations about theology, for proclaiming the Gospel to the lost is, in part, how one lives out a reformation.
Next: A book giveaway.