Reformation Resources for the
Black Whole Church
One of the more encouraging developments in the first decade of the 21st century has been a number of books written by African American pastors and scholars laboring to serve and reform the black church. The list below may not be entirely exhaustive, but it will give you a good snapshot of the faithful, quiet work that a number of brothers have produced thus far.
I think it’d be a mistake, however, to think that these works are only for our black brothers and sisters in the church. I would encourage all of us, no matter our race and ethnicity, to consider picking up one or two of these books and working through them. I think the result will be better listening and more learning as we see faithful wrestlings with the interplay of contextualization, compassion, and conviction.
Listen, for example, as a couple of other brothers reflect on the effect of these books on their own lives:
John Piper writes about his experience of reading Carl Ellis’s book in the summer of 2001:
It was like one of those little magnets which, as you lower it slowly onto a table where there are thousands of tiny metal filings, the filings begin to turn and vibrate and orient in the same direction; and then you touch the table where they are and all of them come together and cling to that little magnet and dangle from it if you lift it up. I felt, in reading this book about the soul dynamic and the black experience in America, that everything I had ever seen and savored of the sovereignty of God and the centrality of God and the supremacy of God was a preparation for being a part of this reality—that is, a God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated rebuilding of black and white evangelical culture not primarily around color but around the triumphant, sovereign glory of the all-knowing, all-governing, crucified, suffering, and living Christ.
Or consider D.A. Carson’s perspective on Anthony Carter’s edited work on Glory Road:
This book is a wonderful encouragement to those who love the doctrines of grace. The ten men described are African Americans—but quite frankly, what their ethnicity is does not matter nearly as much as their common delight in Christ and his gospel. Their stories are sufficiently diverse that they cannot be reduced to a simplistic mold; they have enough similarity that together they bring us back to God’s sovereign goodness in the cross of his Son. Read this book and rejoice.
Or Mark Noll on the historical and theological value of Thabiti’s book on the African American theology:
It is remarkable that, to my knowledge, there has never been a book that attempts what Thabiti Anyabwile’s The Decline of African American Theology attempts. . . . For both historical and theological reasons, this is a very important volume. . . . Because I have already learned so much from its pages, I am delighted to recommend it wholeheartedly to others.
There are riches here, awaiting discovery by the whole church. Tolle lege!
Carl F. Ellis Jr., Free at Last? The Gospel in the African-American Experience (IVP, 1995)
Bruce Fields, Introducing Black Theology: Three Crucial Questions for the Evangelical Church (Baker Academic, 2001)
Anthony Carter, On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African American Christian Experience (P&R, 2003)
Thabiti Anyabwile, The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors (Crossway, 2007)
Thabiti Anyabwile, The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Accommodation (IVP, 2007)
Anthony Carter, Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church (Crossway, 2008)
Eric C. Redmond, Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men’s Questions about the Church (Crossway, 2008)
Anthony Carter, ed., Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity (Crossway, 2009)
Anthony Bradley, Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (Crossway, 2010)
Jarvis Williams, One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology(B&H, 2010)
Anthony Bradley, ed., Keep Your Head Up: America’s New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (Crossway, 2012)
Jarvis Williams, A Chosen Race and a Royal Priesthood: A Biblical Theology of Ethnic Identity (Crossway, forthcoming)