Tuesday, February 7, 2012

An Examination of Protestant/Evangelical Race Based Special Interest Theology (Part 5 of 5)

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I suspected you didn't need the outline one more time :) 

(Edited and Revised Nov 2012)

Part 5

X. Racial Narcissism, Racism, and Anthropologicalism

Racial narcissism - this is an over-estimation, over-valuing and over-application of one’s genetic properties and/or expressions. Racial narcissism can result in “racism” but not necessarily so, though it is still dysfunctional with regard to reality. Racial narcissism views racial properties as being so special and proprietary that one believes their race to have distinctive experiences which others racial groups cannot. Unlike racism where inherent superiority is being argued, racial narcissism is a bit more subdued and does not view one’s race as inherently superior, rather that their genes produce a class of human who has so distinguished a personal constitution that it results in proprietary experiences which others simply cannot have or understand. As a result they accept the false and narcissistic premise  about their race which is that their racial reference, in and of itself, must be given special attention and deference.

This is not racism, rather it is racial narcissism. And because of this, racism itself must be understood. There are many bad definitions of racism which indiscriminately and wrongly include any form of racial prejudice.

Racism – fundamentally it is the elevated practice of racial narcissism which forwards the view that your race possesses superior genetic properties which produces an inherently superior class of human being. Others are looked and acted upon, not merely in a prejudicial or narcissistic way while acknowledging their equality as humans, rather as inferior human beings. This is the distinction between racial prejudice which is much more common and acknowledges the equality of humans as humans (though the prejudice itself is based on appearance and culture) as opposed to racism, which is motivated not by appearance but by the view that one group is inherently or genetically a superior human than the other. This is racism.

Your human genetics are important. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being interested and proud of your unique genetics, their properties and whatever perceived or real advantages and gifts they may give you in comparison to the next person. But they are not superior properties which establish you as inherently a superior human being. *(This not to say you cannot become a superior person in your character or that you will not possess superior traits in respect to comparison with other individuals or groups, but none of this makes you more human, that is a higher order of human being, though you may have a higher order of principles to which you conduct yourself or your mental functions operate at a higher level, all humans are equally humans regardless of such differences).

Anthropologicalism – this simply accepts the realities of one’s genetics as they are without denying them, either in advantage or disadvantage. This is unlike racial narcissism which expresses itself in overestimating one’s self, racially or like racism which rejects the legitimacy of others as being as equally human.

Anthropologicalism is the basis for human relationships and human constructs, from marriage to government. Some of it involves human properties of a physical nature and some of an ideological nature, but still they are human properties upon which the relationships are built.

Marriage requires a man and woman, these are physical properties. Friendships require like-mindedness, these are human properties. Anthropologicalism simply is living life by the realities of your human properties and their legitimate strengths and weaknesses and interacting with others based on these realities, either individually or collectively.

Sometimes people wish to label anthropologicalism as bigotry because it excludes others who do not possess certain human properties. And often these claims are simply tools to intimidate others and deny them valid and divinely sanctioned freedoms without condemnation.

Ex: Mensa is a human organization based in high IQ. categorization. If a person does not fall within the top 2% of IQ.’s they are excluded from membership. This club is anthropologically based. So should we conclude that since they exclude others who are not like them that Mensa is an intellectually bigoted organization? Clearly, no. But this is the doctrine much of the world uses for many valid anthropologically based organizations, from marriage to government.

Marriage and Race – there is a myth which abounds in the naïve minds of too many people (never mind Christians who ought to know better) which is that because you are attracted to only those of your racial likeness as potential mates you are a default bigot, but more so, to be attracted to those of different races is a virtue, superior to that of the person only maritally/romantically attracted only to those of his or her race. This is utter foolishness.

People grow up in homes where a certain developed view of life is implemented (even if it is dysfunctional, it will have its own means and ways, i.e. doctrine) and when they go looking for a mate they will look for someone who shares their view of life and other familiar traits. Well, there is nothing more clearly and repetitively familiar and certain to a person than their appearance so it is quite normal to gravitate to those who represent your human identity. Obviously some people have less investment in the value of human physical identification than others hence, we have marriages of different races but one is no more noble than the other and the belittlement of sameness as a preference or castigating it as some kind of bigotry is simply small-mindedness which refuses to accept the realities of anthropologicalism’s divine design.

The Christian and Anthropological Realities

You, even as a Christian, still must function in the anthropological world. This reality does not melt away so you must do so based on anthropological realities (which, by the way and in spite of what many say, are not condemned by God though many alleged Bible Teachers wish to impose on anthropological structures that of the protocol for spiritual contexts and condemn believers who would do otherwise and I will expand this point in a moment). These anthropological realities are not just inescapable, they are necessary.

But as well, in understanding your human properties (anthropological realities) you need to grasp their advantages and disadvantages. As history unfolds the collective practices of various groups formed anthropologically, brought both the good and the bad and much of it is due merely to the collective expression of genetic traits, though certainly not all. I am quite aware of my genetic traits and their manifestations. I have some advantages and some disadvantages. Humility enables me to accept these realities. I understand that as an individual I possess both strengths and weakness. But if a person does not accept such realities of their person or their genetic trends they will compensate for this with racial narcissism or even racism.

For the Christian you do not deny your real, physical properties. You are taught by the Scriptures such realities are to be bounded by humility and humility neither exaggerates nor denies the truth.

Identifying Racial Narcissism

Racial narcissism manifests itself in many ways. It imposes upon conflicts which arise (both individually and collectively between groups)  racial motives where there are none. As well, it demands from one group the special treatment of its group while the accommodating group receives no such preference. Instead of simply taking care of its group, racial narcissists insist others embrace their ideology about themselves and adjust their lives for the racial narcissists instead of the racial narcissists adjusting their lives to reality. They demand others agree with them instead of accepting the fact that others have the right to their own views. And when others do not agree, they engage in campaigns of libel and slander with the objective of eventually demonizing the person or group, their motives and their views. And ultimately, if racial narcissism is being practiced by someone who is asserting themselves to be a Christian, they will come around to finding some passage in the Bible to support their ill-conceived and racially narcissistic view so that they may create the illusion that this is a Biblical morality which is mandated.

Racial narcissism eventually affects weak-minded Christians because it is based in false guilt. And unfortunately the Bible does not lie when it says:

Luke 16:8b - For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.

Racial Narcissism in the Body of Christ

When Christians succumb to racial narcissism they accept the doctrine that goes with it which explicates there are “special properties” of one race against others and these “special properties” must be preserved and promoted within a spiritual construct. This is because, in order to have maximum spiritual benefit, the doctrine of racial narcissism says these special experiences, stemming from their racial class, are essential.

Of course this is utter heresy but it is promoted within the body of Christ, day in and day out. Have you ever heard the erroneous claim that “the black worship experience is emotional and the white worship experience is more intellectual or non-emotional”? This is racial narcissism in its premium form within the body of Christ. How whites or blacks might collectively operate has nothing to do with spirituality or its essential operation. More so such axioms must be proven and to date no such data exists to prove the above assertion.

The Bible makes it explicitly clear that the way we worship God and become spiritually enlightened, as well as empowered, is through spiritual property, namely by being born again (spiritually resurrected) which is via the work of the Word and the Spirit. This has nothing to do with being black, white, emotional or non-emotional:

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

John 4:24
For God is spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.

You will find racially narcissistic based schisms in the body of Christ when racial properties are considered essential parts of spiritual realities and where the race of one person is considered special and necessary for the spiritual exercise. This is sinful and shameful at best.

Whether one racial group experiences strong emotionalism more than another might be an anthropological reality but it does not translate into a spiritual reality or necessity as we see from the above passages but more importantly, to impose possible anthropological differences between humans as spiritual necessities or pit one against the other in the body of Christ is to practice racial narcissism. To this we must say, no. The Spirit of God enlightens our minds and Christians all have the Spirit of God, we are all born again. Our emotions have nothing to do with the enlightenment and empowerment of God whether we experience strong emotions or little. That is what the Bible teaches. Sadly this is just the tip of the ice-berg with regard to the practice of racial narcissism within the body of Christ today which is doing great damage to God’s church.

XI. Black Trophyism/Chasing Down Black People

Bloodlines

John Piper, in his book, Bloodlines, talks about racial issues and what he considers to be racism in his past with particular reference to growing up in a church were the practice of social racial segregation was wrongly permitted to infiltrate the church. Now, whatever ideas that came along with social segregation at the time, it seems that Piper was only influenced by the worst of these ideas (not all policies of segregation were based in views of superiority but apparently that is all Piper recalls) in what he considers his early life racism. In his book Piper recalls:
I was, in those years, manifestly racist. As a child and a teenager my attitude and actions assumed the superiority of my race in almost every way without knowing or wanting to know anyone who was black…
And throughout the book Piper laments this part of his life which he considers condemnable.  Piper (during his theological training) came to understand his anthropological error (believing his race to be superior). This was good. However and unfortunately, it seems that he equated racial social segregation and racial ecclesiastical segregation as approachable and remedied with the same protocols. He failed to understand they are two separate constructs, one anthropological and the other spiritual.

So as a conflicted and inflicted Christian, Piper, in attempting to address his past sins and remedy social segregation (which he believed to be based exclusively on racism) as well as anthropological segregation in ecclesiastical settings, he took his lack of understanding of the distinctions between that the body of Christ and anthropological constructs and came to some ill-founded conclusions as well as damaging doctrines offered as remedies.

This fundamental misunderstanding resulted in a life-long prescription where Piper regularly tries to take passages meant for the spiritual body of Christ and its spiritual camaraderie and impose them upon other divine institutions which are anthropological constructs and abide by separate protocols and doctrines.

Piper proclaims:
The Bible does not oppose or forbid interracial marriages but, as I will argue in chapter 15, sees them as a positive good for the glory of Christ.
Let me go further and demonstrate precisely what I have been talking about and how Teachers like John Piper are heaping terrible spiritual and theological injury upon the body of Christ. Piper’s argument in Chapter 15 of his book to which he referred is fourfold but this particular erring point underlies his position as whole as he refers to Colossians 3:11:
In Christ ethnic and social difference cease to be obstacles to deep, personal, intimate fellowship, including marriage.
Piper got the very first part right but did you notice what he got wrong? He shifted from the context of the body of Christ (a spiritual one) to that of an anthropological context, namely the divine institution of marriage. You cannot theologically, in any sound manner, impose upon the divine institution of marriage the protocols and doctrine of the divine institution of the church, even if everyone involved is Christian.

The ceasing of ethnic and social differences in the body of Christ refers to our spiritual construct and is only operable in a spiritual construct. This is why the issue of divine institutions was covered so rigorously. Marriage still retains its anthropological construct, in fact it has to in order for a man and woman to marry and form this institution. It is based on their anthropological features. Piper is utterly confused and I am not sure if it is his lack of theological training or simply a refusal to understand but he is in grave error here.

Let’s look at Colossians:
Colossians 3:11
11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Paul is talking about those in Christ and the spiritual construct of the body of Christ. Marriage is not a spiritual construct, though believers who are married do participate in the body of Christ and do have extraordinary protocols outside of the fundamental ones of marriage for all humans, still the divine institution of marriage is an anthropologically based construct and not a spiritual construct. But because Piper has accepted, in some form, the hermeneutic which gives us Race Based Special Interest Theology, he is just as guilty as anyone else practicing it, though he wouldn’t be able to recognize it unless you pointed it to him. But what does astonish me are the numbers of conservative Protestant/Evangelical Teachers who don’t recognize this and practice it themselves or do recognize it and do not call attention to it seeing the seriousness of its error.

Marriage is not a Spiritual Construct, it is an Anthropological One

This reality, that marriage is a human or anthropological construct and not a spiritual one, is very difficult for some Christians. Much of this is because believers are given supplementary instructions regarding marriage and its execution such as is found in Ephesians.
Ephesians 5:25
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Simply because we have ancillary instructions of a superior kind as believers does not suddenly move the divine institution of marriage from an anthropological construct to a spiritual one. If merely by receiving proprietary instruction on how to conduct a marriage as Christians makes marriage, on the whole, a spiritual construct, well then this means all divine institutions are a spiritual construct and should be classified as a spiritual constructs since we (Christians) receive additional instructions for all of them. But that is not true and impossible.

Take government for example. We, as Christians, are given some extra-explicit instructions as to how to function in government. That does not make government a spiritual body now does it? It might mean you, as a person, will be spirit-filled in obeying God’s commands while participating in government but that does not make government, itself, a spiritual body.

Take parenthood. Christians are given additional directives on parenting. Does that make parenting a spiritual construct? No, it is a human one. I do realize there is a great deal of literature which speaks about marriage being “spiritual” but such literature does not concern me, what should concern me and everyone else is how does the Bible present marriage?

Marriage is a divine institution for all people with a construct intended to enable the perpetuity of humanity. The Bible says explicitly:
Genesis 2:24
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Cain, the Spiritually Dead Non-Believer Who Was Married

Now, in Genesis we find Cain (the murderer of Abel and the one that rejected God's plan and protocol and brought his own offering) seeking a wife. And the Bible records Cain found a wife. Surely you don’t think this was a spiritual context yet, he found a wife. Why? Because marriage is not a spiritual construct, it is not a spiritual body, it is a human or anthropological one designed by God with certain purposes.

But let’s not only deal with Cain but the rest of Scripture. How do you imagine it is possible for the Word of God to treat so many unbelievers as being married if marriage is a spiritual construct? If one is not born again, that is a believer, they are spiritually dead and it is impossible to form a spiritual construct with spiritually dead persons. And if marriage is allegedly a spiritual construct then why does the Bible treat spiritually dead people forming this divine construct? I will tell you why, because it isn't a spiritual construct, it is a human or anthropologically based divine institution, that is why. And it is critical for you to remember this when people start trying to impose on anthropologically based divine institutions the protocols meant for the one and only spiritually based divine institution, i.e., the body of Christ, the church.

Christians are to be spirit-filled in all they do but simply being spirit-filled does not re-arranged the divine design of an institutional construct. And this is just where Piper and many others make their greatest error. They place upon anthropological constructs the protocols intended only for a spiritual construct, the body of Christ.

Objectifying Blacks -Trophyism

While the Special Interest theological practitioners might make it very hard for others ministering where there is a significant black demographic I would, even more so, hate to be a Christian Teacher who is black and who is Teaching and ministering among Protestant/Evangelicals where the demographic was largely white and where they believed and practiced this. I really don’t know if you fully understand just how condescendingly and patronizingly so that blacks are treated in such situations, but it is so indeed. They are, very often, the black trophy  (you know, like using black children as adoption trophies) instead of simply a Teacher of God's Word to all men and for all men.

And I will speak directly to you, my brothers in Christ who happen to be black. To many men (and I mean co-Ministers in the Word, Teachers) you know you are trophies; evidence that they aren’t racist, evidence that they have seen the light and have come to embrace you, fully. But you know better, in the back of your mind, don’t you?

Why?

Because to them, in the body of Christ, you are still black and they refer to you in this manner often and surprisingly with a great deal of pride and glee. And they want to help you in your achievements so you can succeed as a “black Christian leader”. Frankly, you know and I know that often you simply have been chased down because you are black and to hide their “trophyism” they use many facades but in the end, your main function is to be a trophy. No I am no cynic, I know of enough places where faithful ministry occurs and race is irrelevant, either for or against, but Christ and Christ alone is the DNA of God's children. However, what I say few dare to speak it as it is, and as I am saying, so let me bear this burden of being the "bad guy".

I know you have experienced this and thought about this and it ought not to be so. You are not to be trophies of any evidence other than God’s grace and you ought not to be assigned racial considerations because God knows of none of that in his spiritual body. But it happens.

You get special mention for your blackness and it sickens you, at least it should if you hold to the criteria and protocol God has set for the body of Christ. And no one is saying your genetics should never be mentioned, not at all but it is how they are being mentioned, as an object of other men to show you off  but worse, to prescribe you to others as a “black Christian”.

No, you are not a “black Christian”. You are a Christian, you are a Bible Teacher, you’re are a Christian leader and that is all as it concerns your spiritual ministry. Your race is, at best, a necessary description of your physical person when all else fails but it should never, ever, ever be practiced as it is, today, calling you a “black anything” in the body of Christ. This is not to remove or lessen your racial value in other constructs where its relevance exists to varying degrees but not in the body of Christ.

By doing this, you, my friend, are being segregated and spiritually diminished. But maybe you like this special status, shame on you.  However, if you reject it then my commendations are to you, my dear brother, because you bring health to the body of our Lord.

In this despicable segregation you are now denied, via this special classification, an audience of believers who might otherwise consider you in a purely spiritual light. If you are offering spiritual illumination, spiritual insight, spiritual doctrine and guidance then we all need it and you should not tolerate, even for a second, your own acquiescence to Race Based Special Interest Theology or its practices but especially do not tolerate it from others if you reject it so wisely as you should.

The Error of Pursuing Diversity, More Trophyism

And this brings us to the catch phrase in Protestant/Evangelical theology which is “pursing diversity”. It is based in large part upon what we have just reviewed, the misunderstanding of the spiritual body of Christ and its unique protocol and the various anthropologically based bodies and their protocols.

We, as Christians, are a new nation, a new people, a spiritual body. And when we meet it is not for the affirmation of our human properties. Those things may be affirmed which is why God has given us the divine institutions of the self, marriage, family and government. In these constructs those things are audited and affirmed.

In the body of Christ we no longer count heads based on human properties. Counting white heads, black heads, and brown heads is not God’s protocol that is the interest of the world. We count lost and found, spiritually needy and spiritually able.

If you are functioning as a local expression of the body of Christ without regard to human properties determining membership or participation, that is all God requires. That means your pulpit will speak and teach spiritual truths with spiritual interests in view, not human special interests. However, too many who have succumbed to false notions of what spiritual camaraderie looks like wish to compel you to go on a trophy hunt and look for other racial, ethnic and cultural groups to fill your church so you can prove you aren’t bigoted. They believe the lie of the Devil with his premise that you are a bigot unless you can prove otherwise.

The truth is such proposals, themselves, are the epitome of bigotry. It is a form of the most condescending treatment of other people in light of the Word of God and their spiritual needs one can imagine. Just think, you are to purposely pick out people or target people for participation in your local body of Christ based on race, ethnicity or culture, is this what you want?

My Lord may it not be! You are to seek the lost, regardless of these things. But no, to others what is more important is presenting “multi-ethnic” trophies to demonstrate just how spiritual they are.  

Whoever will come, come and whoever that is, you are to see them as trophies of God’s grace and evidence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

XII. Hoisting “Whiteness” Upon Orthodoxy

Theology is the study of God or literally, God logic. Simply, it is the study of the Bible in which topics and texts are compared to each other in order to discover explicit and implicit truths which God has communicated to us through the Bible. Over time believers have developed theological expressions.

But it has become fashionable to accuse the formatters of various theological systems of hoisting upon their theology, that of their race and particularly, “whiteness”. In fact, it has become an assumption

Special Interest Theology Assumes Everyone Else is Guilty by Design

This predilection for accusing historical theology of having “white” or “Anglo-Saxon” underpinning is two-fold.

1. Primarily it is due to the intrinsic properties and process of Race Based-Special Interest Theology. That is, Special Interest Theology, itself, begins with the premise that the Word of God may be developed in its theological form, with special human interests in mind, whether it is to serve a race, gender, ethnicity or specific culture. And from this underlying premise RBSI Theology assumes this is present in other, non-RBSI theologies though its codification is not so obvious. How could it not be? Of course this is an argument from silence and assumption but in order to combat this problem of arguing from silence they have taken segments of historical orthodox theology and attempted to read into it, RBSI theological elements where none exist.

2. Secondarily it is due to the fact that at times, this indeed has been a practice by some. That is, there has been some RBSI Theology which as been expressed throughout history and of course, it too is wrong. And this Special Interest Theology was not with reference to the interests of blacks, but with interests to either political groups or white, racial groups. Again, wrong but since these did and still do exist, the modern Special Interest Theology proponents attempt to use these deformations as arguments that these are only excesses of what is still, mildly present, in all historical Christian orthodoxy.

And to this I respond to anyone and everyone who would hoist upon orthodox Christian theology accusations of “whiteness”, how dare you! How dare you make such accusations simply to serve as excuses for Race Based-Special Interest Theology! But more so to those who would call themselves Bible believing conservative Protestants or Evangelicals, you better make your case or be shamed.

This is a narrative which has been addressed and proven to be a lie, over and over and over again. Sound theology is sound theology. The Word of God constructed in the form of good theology is good theology, it has no special human interests, and it only has divine interests.


XIII. Conclusion


Minister Where You Find Yourself, Let God Take Care of the Statistics and Diversity

Socially you might find yourself among more of one people than another. There is no sin in this nor is your willingness to place yourself among different anthropological groups proof of some form of super or special spirituality. Quit using people and social constructs to prove your spirituality, it is a sin, stop it.

What you are to do is study the Word of God and proclaim it soundly, from the gospel that saves to the most advanced and sophisticated doctrines in the Word of God. And wherever you are, this is where you are to do this, regardless of the race, ethnicity or culture around you. God’s Spirit is not hindered by your human properties but you can use your human properties to hinder God’s Spirit.

The LCMS had, at one time, this wonderful articulation regarding the church Race Based Special Interest Theology which should rule our theology on this matter (modification mine):
The church must develop and maintain its own cultural language that reflects the values and structures of the Scriptures and not of the current culture. This church language can only be shaped by a biblical theology which affirms the real presence of Jesus Christ in worship and our belief that this presence binds the culture together as a community. The context that shapes our distinct Lutheran Protestant/Evangelical ethos is Scripture, theology, and history. Local circumstance is secondary.

Monday, February 6, 2012

An Examination of Protestant/Evangelical Race Based Special Interest Theology (Parts 3 and 4 of 5)


Outline:

Part 1

   I. Introduction
  II. Race Based Special Interest Theology

Part 2

  III. Divine Institutions
  IV. The Body of Christ and Its Spiritual DNA

Part 3

   V. The Error of Racial Theological Prescription through Racial Identification
  VI. Labels and Their Implication

Part 4

   VII. Human Properties and the Body of Christ: Anecdotal vs. Primary
  VIII. Spiritual Camaraderie Does Not Assume or Require Social Camaraderi
     IX. Social Constructs vs. Spiritual Constructs

Part 5

     X. Racial Narcissism, Racism, and Anthropologicalism
    XI. Black Trophyism/Chasing Down Black People
   XII. Hoisting “Whiteness” Upon Orthodoxy
  XIII. Conclusion

_____________

(Edited and Revised Nov 2012)

Part 3

V. The Error of Racial Theological Prescription through Racial Spiritual Identification

Often you will hear the term the “black church” and when you do it should be as offensive as the white church, the right-handed church, the brunette church, the Asian church or the handicapped church and so on. Get the point? As made clear from above, the body of Christ is just that, the body of Christ.

Why We Assemble as Christians: The Single Denominator - Christ

The assemblies of our Lord should assemble because they share a singular denominator- Jesus Christ. Now, in reality it might not be true that all assemblies using the name of Christ come together for the right reasons . However, God has prescribed for us the protocol (Christ) for coming together for corporate spiritual exercise and if it is not being done properly in other places and in those other places, where something else is being done, it appears to give some benefit to its participants (particularly social/personal benefit), this is no excuse or warrant that we are to do otherwise.

When we assemble together as believers it is so we may exercise ourselves, spiritually, in a corporate manner. This is normally done through the corporate exercise of being taught God’s Word, singing, and praying and partaking in the Lord’s Supper and baptism along with ancillary matters which serve spiritual objectives. The book of Acts gives an account, with respect to the objective of why believers meet together:
Acts 2:42
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Why is this? It is because as spiritual people we are to engage in that which spiritually edifies and enlightens. It is not time to come and be at the gym and work out or any other non-spiritual emphasis. Non-spiritual things do occur when we meet but they are anecdotal. Be clear though, God has not done away with anthropological structures and their boundaries and you will still participate in them as believers but the body of Christ is a spiritual body which is regulated by spiritual truths.

Unfortunately the body of Christ has been used for many special interests throughout history; political, racial, cultural and sexual and so on. However, God intended for it to have a singularity of cause which is the cause of Christ, the sole denominator and when our special interests invade, we attack Christ himself.

The Body of Christ: One Race, a Spiritual Race

Within the body of Christ, when we come together, there should not be human properties used to describe what kind of church we are. We should be Christ’s church and our brothers and sisters in the Lord are just that, brothers and sisters in the Lord, no more and no less. And this speaks to the need to address the difference between anthropological and spiritual constructs and why, when we meet as brothers and sisters in the Lord and enjoy spiritual camaraderie, it does not necessitate that we will have social camaraderie. This will be covered in more detail in part 4.

When we allow for racial identifications as an adjective in describing our spiritual body we do great harm to the body of Christ. We deny the message of our Lord and the intent of the God’s spiritual community to be one that is spiritually formed; instead we emphasize the propriety of humanity. Our fellowship (spiritual camaraderie) is based on what we share in common, spiritually, not humanly. This is why, in the body of Christ, those of a particular race, gender, ethnicity, culture or political identification may find camaraderie with other believers. It is because the language we speak to one another is a spiritual language not vested with human interests or looking to human advantages.

To call a church a “(insert anthropological special interest) church”, even to use the term generally as many do, is to violate the principles we have already uncovered which is that the body of Christ is a spiritual body and anthropological identification is disharmonious with this truth. When we engage in race based identification with respect to the spiritual construct which is the body of Christ it hampers our spiritual fellowship seeing that we move from a spiritual construct to and human one and deny full access to others.

VI. Labels and Their Implication

Some people will have an immediate reaction to the previous section appealing to descriptive labels used such as Baptist and Lutheran or those in the New Testament such as “the church at Antioch”. And, in their short-sightedness they walk away claiming they have a right to use such “human properties” as part of their spiritual identification.
Acts 13:1 (NIV)
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
Location and Language Descriptors

Location. The use of Antioch does not tell us what kind of church it is, that is, it does not reveal its theological/spiritual identification. This reference only gives the geographical location of this particular body without the intent of identifying its basis of doctrine and fellowship (theological/spiritual identification). Location labels, therefore, are just that and that alone and do not violate the principle of not using anthropological properties as sources of spiritual identification.

Language. Another legitimate descriptor is one of language. That is, if you speak one language and are in a country which speaks a different language, one might identify the congregation as “Korean” but not because Korean genetics or culture is in view around which a Race Based Theology is built, even in part, but because of a language barrier that has nothing to do with theological, hence spiritual, identification. This is a perfectly acceptable tool which does not speak to spiritual identification, rather providential language barriers which have nothing to do with doctrine or practice.

But if the passage in Acts said, “The white church at Antioch”, we would have a description of the church’s theology, at least in part, which gives us its identification, in part. And to use such human properties like that is to tell us what theology, in part, is being prescribed,  (in this case, a special interest in white people) which is a sin against God since the body of Christ, again, has no special human interests, rather it has spiritual interests. Giving a location or language description is not a theological identification which exists as a theologically prescriptive tag unlike race, which would tell us that there is a vested racial interest as part of their theological/spiritual identification.

Denominational Labels Such as Lutheran

The next issue which is commonly brought up by those wishing to validate the use of human properties as part of their spiritual identification and special interests is the use of theological labels which have human names in them. Martin Luther is a well known Protestant theologian of the Reformation. From his theological development and articulations arose a group of believers who identified with his theology and as a result, labeled themselves, “Lutherans” (this occurred after Luther died and against his stated wishes if ever some group wanted to use his name as part of their ecclesiastical identity).

For what reason did they use Luther’s name as their identification? It was because of his theological articulations, not his person. They were not saying “we follow Martin Luther because of any special human properties” rather, they used his name because of his theological expressions. It was, in essence, a spiritual identification which was being made based in spiritual properties, namely theology.

Now the use of Luther’s name is something to be debated and I believe not to be the most expedient of choices. But what you must understand is the distinction here. Those calling themselves Lutheran are not following Luther, the man, and identify, in part, as those who may share his unique human properties. Instead, they are aligned with the theology articulated by Luther and his name is used as quick reference to what they believe, theologically. Their interest is in the Word of God and has no vested interest in special human properties.

This is quite unlike any church using an anthropological property such as race as its identifier. Race has no theological reference or interest, it has human ones. Hence, racial identification for a spiritual body fails the biblical test since it identifies and prescribes as essential, not a theology but a human property.
                                         
The Deacons at Antioch

Another approach by those who would introduce Race Based Special Interest labels, thereby paving the road to its theology (or vice versa, take your choice) is the event in Acts 6:
Acts 6:1-6 (NIV)
1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 
From this some have asserted that this examples a Race Based Special Interest Theology in practice because deacons were chosen to accommodate the Hellenistic Jews. But in fact, what you have is the apostolic rejection of schismatic Special Interest Theology.

Hebraic Jewish Christians/Hellenistic Jewish Christians

The passage identifies two groups, Hebraic Jews and Hellenistic Jews. It does not use these descriptors as legitimizing or prescribing to us the practice of using such labels in association with spiritual identifications. Rather, it is giving you this information precisely so you may know why there is a conflict. So here one should learn why the use of such descriptors highlights just what they don’t belong in the body of Christ.

The Hebraic Jews were believers in Christ who still largely used their Aramaic language and the accompanying Jewish cultural customs. The Hellenistic Jews were believers in Christ but had adopted the Greek culture and language as their predominant social moorings. Before either one of them converted to Christ, it was normal for the Hebraic Jews to hold the Hellenistic Jews in contempt as compromisers. And certainly the Hellenistic Jews returned the antagonism. But now, people in each group are saved and together in the body of Christ.

What happens?

Well, some bring with them into their new faith their bad attitudes or at least remnants of it along with an attachment to their former ways, particularly the Hebraic Jews. These new Hebraic Jewish Christians, seen not only here but later (as some developed into full-blown heretics in attempting to formulate a brand of Judaized Christianity) still held some contempt toward their Hellenistic brothers and sisters in the Lord and practiced Special Interest Theology resulting in more favorable treatment for one group than another based on anthropological interests.

What should have occurred, but did not, was an account in Acts of how they immediately understood that the doctrines of the church were superseding that of the protocol of the Theocracy of Israel. But that didn’t happen. So we have a record of the facts. Thus, to treat descriptions of theological special interest attitudes, which were being practiced in the early church, as somehow as a prescription for us to do so today is to introduce a failing hermeneutic and practice, but worse, miss the point entirely.

An important note should not be missed in this passage. When instructions were given to choose deacons, notice the qualifications given, “Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom”. Spiritual properties were the qualifiers and not human ones.

But regarding the eventual full-blown Judaism which occurred within the Hebraic Jews who had believed on Christ, the book of Galatians gives us this information which is the next consideration.

Paul and Peter and Judaism

It is very important to understand what has just been discussed particularly in light of what is about to be covered. Being a Jew is no longer a human property which brings special logistical or spiritual privileges and blessings. In the tenth Chapter of Acts we have an event where Peter had a vision during which he came to understand that a former dietary protocol for Jews was no longer binding. But from this and beyond Peter came to see that the Judea was in recession on the whole and the body of Christ with new protocols and doctrines arising as the new protocol. Of course this sudden change in protocols didn’t set well with many believing Jews seeing that it was not merely a theological change but a practical one as well. It demanded that what they considered to be divine culture, which was based in a now remitting theology, be understood in a new light, namely that is was no longer a theologically binding culture, its special status removed:
Acts 10:34
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
So Peter begins to assert this principle change. However, all does not go so well. Those who once understood their practices to be direct or indirect extensions of their theology now must understand that these are quite suddenly without their former significance.

So, over time this group, of what is described as Hebraic Jewish believers in Christ, sought to retain their former construct where human properties and practices were matters of divine sanction and protocol, thus they became what is known as Judaizers. They attempted to import some of the protocol of one construct, the Theocracy of Israel, and bring it into the new construct, the body of Christ. And this group became very aggressive and intimidating to the point that Peter felt threatened enough to accept their Special Interest Theology as if it were acceptable to mix along with the new doctrine being taught for the body of Christ. Paul had to confront Peter about this:
Galatians 2:11-14 (NIV)
11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
Peter succumbed to Special Interest Theology. It was simply too difficult for many Jews who did believe on Christ to accept all that came with the body of Christ and its new protocols and doctrines which included the cessation of the Jewish privilege (at least during the church age for those who are pre-millennial and certainly for those who are post and a millennial.  But all must agree on this one point, there are new protocols and doctrines which believing Jews did not like which led them to incorrectly attempt to rescue an inapplicable construct and impose it upon the church).

(*There is some theological dialog to be had about the establishment of the Church verses the Theocracy of Israel and its termination, suspension or fulfillment upon the arrival of the church. But it is not germane to the propositions in this series.)

So What Label Should We Use?

I cannot give you a list of what labels to use because it is not necessary. However, what is necessary is to know, in principle, what does not belong as a label for identification as a spiritual person or body which would be the use of anthropological properties. This is because it implies that the emphasis of doctrine and practice revolves around anthropological interests, even in part, and that is not reflecting the truth of what a spiritual body is in the Word of God. That is sinful and wrong.

There is no such thing as the left-handed church. There is no such thing as the dwarf church. There is no such thing as the black church and there is no such thing as the white church. You need to stop, now, referring to the anthropological properties of your brothers and sisters in the Lord in this way because you do two things:

1. You produce a false schism in the spiritual body which is rejected by God’s Word.

2. You, by implication from the label resulting in this schism or segregated language, deny the rightful identification of brothers and sisters in the Lord as spiritually based and set up a special precedence for human considerations. As a result you place a hindrance upon others and their frame of reference in identifying with their fellow believers and how they may be edified by them.

Part 4

VII. Human Properties and the Body of Christ: Anecdotal vs. Primary

From the material covered so far one can imagine the next question to be is, “how do we, as the body of Christ, refer to human properties or anthropological realities since they remain realities”? Glad you asked so I am going to give you the very best analogy I can to help accelerate your understanding of the matter.

The Military Example

Suppose you are in the military and you attend a meeting. Everyone has on a uniform, right? It represents something, the protocol of the military. And when we refer to Sgt. Roberts we do not say, “White Sgt. Roberts” though he is white, now do we? Why, because his race is irrelevant with respect to the military objective of being a Sergeant.  Just as Capt. Jenkins is not called “Black Capt. Jenkins” because his race has nothing to do with military objectives.

Within the body of Christ we have a similar construct. Our objective is spiritual and those spiritual objectives are met with spiritual doctrines and following spiritual protocol. So things such as culture, race, and ethnicity or gender, while real, are anecdotal with regard to reaching those spiritual objectives.

When Lt. Ramirez briefs a staff no one says, “Lt. Ramirez did a great job as a Spanish Lieutenant.” Why? Because there is no such thing as including your anthropology when giving military briefings. You give military truth that is it. It has no race, just military truth.

Race and Ethnicity are Anecdotal

As you saw in the military example the race of the various military personnel were simply anecdotal. The word anecdotal here means something that may, indeed, be real but is of no significance to the context. The context was a military one and the significance was related to military issues.

The military personnel coming together for their military meeting might have had coffee together, chatted about personnel things, told a few jokes or talked about family and entertainment. But some, on the other hand, may not have interacted at all; possibly they did not find social compatibility. But that is not why any of them met. They met for military reasons. And when the meeting began what occurred? They laid aside these anecdotal issues and got down to the objective as to why they met and meshed like a well oiled machine. They had military camaraderie which was the objective while the anecdotal social relationships were just that, anecdotal.

Just as illustrated above. When you and another believer in the body are in a spiritual context you ought to understand your camaraderie is based in who you both are in Christ; not based on your anthropological interests. Your race is anecdotal in the body of Christ. Your relationship is Christian and based in Christ where we speak the Words of Christ to one another.

It is true you might find some anthropological interests between the two of you to be the same but that is just what it is, anthropological and not spiritual and anthropological camaraderie, even in a church setting, should not be mistaken for spiritual camaraderie and vice versa.

Culture and Socialization in the Body of Christ

Quite a bit has been said in the last fifty years about being “culturally/socially sensitive”  and when local assemblies are formed they should be done so with a strong appeal to local culture in mind. Well, that is not true. How they should be formed is with the Word of God in mind. Local culture will be found in a local assembly without effort to bring it in but it must be in service and subordination to the protocols of God’s Word for the body of Christ, hence anecdotal. It is inevitable that local cultural forms will be within a local body of Christ but again, they are anecdotal and not the objective.

Culture - Suppose you have a cultural custom that where, in order to learn, this culture believes that people must have their faces painted blue. Do you now form a church to accommodate this? Of course not, even if it is a main feature of a culture. Why? Because God makes it clear that to understand spiritual truth all we need to do is be born again and be taught the Word because we have God’s Spirit who enlightens us. To accommodate a blue face painting practice is to deny the sufficiency and basic protocols of God.

On the other hand suppose you are going to have an event which requires feeding some people and the local culture enjoys roasting a pig and in this culture there is a practice of cooking it in a way that everyone enjoys. If the Bible does not have anything here which is in conflict with this, then this cultural item may anecdotally serve the needs of the church since it is performing an anecdotal function which is physical hunger. But you aren’t meeting to roast a pig nor should this event be treated as primary, though enjoyable. Rather, you meet for spiritual purposes while the food is anecdotal.

Socialization vs Fellowship (koinonia) – whether you know it or not the word koinonia (κοινωνία) which is commonly translated “fellowship” is not human socialization; it is spiritual camaraderie, spiritual interaction or spiritual intimacy. Remember the illustration above with the military meeting? While a room full of people will socialize they are not there to socialize, they are there for military intimacy. Socialization may occur and likely does in the context of spiritual fellowship but it is anecdotal. It is not the purpose the meeting nor is it a spiritual exercise, though it may be pleasant as an experience.

And this is what needs to be emphasized here. When the body of Christ meets, its koinonia, even when meeting physical needs such as feeding others, is spiritually based. The social service of feeding is not the objective. Rather the feeding serves the spiritual objective. You might find social satisfaction to some degree in an assembling together as the body of Christ, but you are not there for that objective, so this cannot be the objective. Unfortunately it is, all too often.

When we make any human property such as race, cultural and so on, the primary cause for our coming together, even in part, we adulterate God’s protocol and misinform God’s people as to God’s objective for his spiritual body, the body of Christ.

Anytime a human element, whether it be human properties themselves such as race, ethnicity or gender or its by-products such as cultural are elevated as a necessary property for spirituality, you have crossed the line and now have a dysfunctional doctrine and practice. You have spiritual disorder which will result in disharmony of all sorts, from minor to major schisms and divisions because they body of Christ has wrongly been identified with a default Race Based Special Interest distinction. As a result, all that flows from this will manifest this error; though some may be minuscule some will be very injurious.

VIII. Spiritual Camaraderie Does Not Assume or Require Social Camaraderie

Spiritual camaraderie (biblically true κοινωνία ) is based in, around and through Christ; his person and his doctrine which is the doctrine for the New Testament body of Christ, from its universal and invisible body to its local visible bodies all the way to the individual believer priest. But understand, spiritual camaraderie does not equal social camaraderie and this is a myth that has been imposed upon the church, not just in modern history but all throughout history.

Take everyone in a local church which assembles, even in a church with strong spiritual health. Are they all socially compatible? Of course not and they do not come together because they are socially compatible nor should they expect to be, they come together because of a central and specific reason, Christ. They have that in common. Therefore, when they are “koinoning” (spiritual fellowship) their commonality is Christ and his doctrine and this is where there is true spiritual camaraderie because believers are sharing the same Christ and the same doctrine. This is the basis for genuine spiritual camaraderie or κοινωνία.

Now it is true that spiritual camaraderie or fellowship requires a person to be saved and hold to similar doctrines of your local assembly. So if you have distinct disagreements with a particular local assembly, while you will have light spiritual camaraderie at such an assembly you will not have great spiritual camaraderie. This will require you to audit your beliefs and see if you hold to something in error or, if you do not, find an assembly/resource which holds to these beliefs and enjoy that setting in the body of Christ (there are exceptional circumstances which might compel you to still attend a congregational assembly while disagreeing with some teachings if nothing else is available and then it requires simply, with grace and spiritual finesse, you participating in the koinonia where you can and when you can without begrudging where you disagree).

But understand, simply because you experience spiritual fellowship or camaraderie with someone does not imply or assume that you will or should be socially compatible. Yes, it might help some with your socializing. Obviously as we grow spiritually there are by-products which might change our social interests and align them more with someone else with whom we are not very socially compatible, but these are anecdotal or incidental by-products and not demanded to be so in Scripture. We are only required to have spiritual camaraderie and this is possible because it is done exclusively in, around and through Christ. When we add human elements such as race, ethnicity or culture to the biblical structure or design we again, adulterate God’s plan and injure others by implying, in the least, that a believer must possess something more than a spiritual property in order to engage in the greatest degree of spiritual intimacy with his brother or sister in the Lord.

IX. Social Constructs vs. Spiritual Constructs

As introduced above, the body of Christ is but one of several divine institutions given by God for the purpose of humanity’s perpetuity. The difference between the body of Christ (the Church) and the other divine institutions is that the others are human constructs based on human properties with beneficial human by-products in mind while the body of Christ is a spiritual construct based on spiritual properties and beneficial spiritual by-products in mind.

But within the church, because we have a construct which eliminates anthropological differences in forming itself and operating and because believers experience spiritual harmony and camaraderie between many kinds of humans, racially, ethnically and culturally, some naively rise up and ask the question, “Why can’t we do this with the rest of the world”?

What is the problem with that question?

Hopefully the answer to that question is now apparent to the reader. Each divine institution is regulated by different protocols and you cannot impose on one divine institution the protocols and doctrines for another. It does not work. Let me give you the most obvious example.

The Human Family – to belong to a human, as reflected in Scripture you have an identity, which is based either on your genetics or legal union but still oriented around humanity. Suppose someone wishes to join your family. Simply because they desire to be a member of your family does not mean they get to though they may insist, now do they? They may only do so based upon possessing either proper genetics or lawful declaration, and both of these methods revolve around human properties (human genetics and human courts).

And maybe your family has assets which this other person’s family does not and maybe this other person of another family and your family are both Christians belonging to the same church. Should the church now seek to impose on your family the view that since he is your brother in the Lord you must now also accept him as part of your human family as a matter of fact and share your assets with him?No.

Of course this is ridiculous but this is precisely what is attempted when Christians wish to export the protocols for the body of Christ and impose them upon society, it does not work and cannot work because they are not intended to work that way. 

Human Society and Government – as an extension of the human family we have societies. These societies act in the same manner as human families, with rightfully vested interests in those things such groups value and wish not only to preserve but to promote, not necessarily at the ill-will of others but for their benefit. This is social construct is called government and it is anthropologically based, not spiritually based.

Sometimes governments or peoples are race based, sometimes they are doctrinally based or sometimes some of both. But the Bible never prescribes a prohibition against forms that are based on human properties because that is precisely the basis of government, human properties. In fact, historically, the Bible seems to recognize race based nationalism as well as race mixed nationalism which is really, doctrinally based nationalism. None of these are frowned upon as governmental forms themselves.

Unfortunately some would, again, take the construct of the body of Christ which succeeds with its harmony and impose it upon the construct of human government and society altogether. What is the problem? The harmony in the body of Christ is based in, around, one and through Christ and anthropological associations and their constructs are centered in, around, on and through human properties.

In order to impose the construct of the spiritual body of Christ upon society requires society to all be believers and accept that society revolves around Christ. This is not possible and more importantly, not God’s intended use or misuse of the divine institutions and their protocols and doctrines.

Social Organizations – social organizations are based in and around human interests. Photography clubs are for those interested in photography. It excludes others.

Suppose the local photography club is having a dinner serving delicious steak and lobster.  And suppose the club has 20 people, all belonging to a church were 20 other people are also members.  But on that night the 20 other members, who are not photography club members, are eating hot dogs instead of the advantageous steak and lobster (or whatever you consider advantageous). Should believers now march on your club and say you are not being “Christian” and not considering the needs of other brothers and sisters in the Lord?

Of course this is foolish, yet it is proposed by people like Tim Keller and attempted on a grand scale by many Christian leaders. Their elementary flaw is to fail to understand that the spiritual divine institution of the body of Christ and anthropologically based divine institutions operate on and with separate protocols and doctrines and one cannot be imposed on the other, otherwise tyranny, true tyranny, ensues.

It is a fundamental failure to grasp the biblical understanding of divine institutions in the Bible, from their design and intent to their practical application and it is destroying both our churches, which are spiritual structures and our anthropological structures-which have within them very legitimate exclusionary designs based on human properties and their by-products.