Friday, February 3, 2012

An Examination of Protestant/Evangelical Race Based Special Interest Theology (Part 1 of 5)


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)

I. Introduction

Recently there was a bit of a micro-cosmic ruckus going on within a Reformed and Neo-Reformed group of Christians closely associated with The Gospel Coalition as well as with others in its periphery. This mini-melee surrounds the event of allegedly theologically orthodox Pastor(s) inviting historically modalistic (modalism is the view that God does not express himself in three distinct persons but that they are only manifestations of the one God which is historically rejected as heresy) and prosperity gospel “preacher” T.D. Jakes to a sit-down where the result was Mr. Jakes being permitted to maintain a preference for modalistic language while giving lip-service to genuine Trinitarian orthodoxy.

The Elephant Room and Racial Considerations

This sit-down was in a forum hosted by a Pastor named James MacDonald and it is called The Elephant Room. From this, some accusations arose that the protests toward Jakes was, in part, racially motivated.  James White, head of Alpha Omega Ministries  quotes Bryan Loritts, a professing Christian, from one of Loritts’ blog posts:
But to be honest with you, right now I’m really embarrassed to be. The loudest voices in the conservative evangelical world are middle aged white Reformed guys. While their events are populated with a lot of young R/reformed people, on their stages and pulpits (at these same events) it is filled with middle aged white men. Because of this, the implicit message that is being sent is that the varsity section of the kingdom of heaven in 2012 is white, middle aged and Reformed. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not accusing anyone of racism. But we must be extremely careful of both the explicit and implicit messages that we send.
Now, as you cannot see for the moment with this quote, Loritts is black. While this should not matter to anyone with respect to theology and more importantly, Christianity, it apparently matters to Loritts who approaches the theological issue as if it is, in part, a racial one. He imposes upon the objections of others some kind of racial responsibility with respect to theology. That is, Loritts asserts, at least implicitly, that our theological assertions and objections can legitimately be formed, in part, by racial considerations.

Your first reaction, I am sure, is that he is wrong and you are correct. But you would be surprised the number of Protestant/Evangelical Teachers (and I am referring to those on the moderate to conservative side) who would, in one breath, reject Loritts’ assertion but in another breath echo the very theology underlying why Loritts believes it is acceptable to approach the matter as he does. I am not sure all of the causes for such duplicity in some notable men, particularly when it is rather obvious, it might involve ego-investment, but this paper is not about this so I will save the why’s in their case for another day.

John Piper’s Bloodlines

Additionally, this series stems from a recent attempt by Neo-Reformed/Calvinist Pastor, John Piper, to strengthen Race Based Special Interest Theology in his book, Bloodlines, which appears to have landed with a bit of a thud. I suspect he under estimated the level of informative decision making on this matter among Christians though, in the book he treats his readers as if “most” have not done their due diligence.  I was working on a three-part response to the book but decided that after this recent Elephant Room conflict and working through the book, it would be more expedient to argue the larger theological proposition(s) and counter-punch the errors of Race Based-Special Interest Theology which have arisen and are contained in Bloodlines.  So let’s begin with the premise contained in Race Based-Special Interest Theology.

II. Race Based-Special Interest Theology

Race Based Theology is the predominant form of Special Interest Theology articulated and practiced today in Protestant/Evangelical Christianity and growing in its acceptance and practice within historically conservative Protestant/Evangelical Christianity. Throughout this series it will be referred to either specifically as Race Based Theology or more generally as Special Interest Theology or with the combination and its abbreviation Race Based Special Interest Theology (RBSI Theology). While the term “Race Based” brings to mind racial considerations, this category must and does include ethnic and cultural elements which cannot be, on the whole, divided from the matter (though a few parts it may) which is why the more broad general category of Special Interest Theology assumes these extensions if Race Based alone does not serve the reader. They conjointly are being arguing against as valid theological forms and for precisely the same reasons.

This theology of the racial kind places an essential value on racial association when identifying one’s self as a Christian. As a result, those identifying as such do so with the objective of being treated as a certain class or kind of Christian (whether stated or not, this is the implication which exists with labeling, though not all tags are de facto wrong, in the case of race they are as they are used in this instance). In other words, their human properties make them a distinct kind of Christian and permit (if not demand) the view that they should be understood to legitimately have proprietary theologies and experiences based on their race, even in part. This thinking, though, is anthropologically (humanly) based and not Biblically/spiritually based.

Anthropological Classification vs. Spiritual Classification

Within anthropology we have racial classifications due to unique properties which result in certain measurable manifestations, thus unique grouping. Two examples are the demonstrative physical properties (morphology) which are apparent or the less apparent but quite real, DNA differences (which give us morphology).  But as well (though strongly debated with regard to its being measured and expressed factually) there are immaterial properties which seem to commonly manifest themselves culturally or collectively in some manner, though not necessarily, which results in anthropological classifications and identifications, from race all the way to culture and in between.

However, for those practicing this and claiming to follow the Scriptures, the Scriptures clearly state that with regard to the body of Christ these human properties are not spiritual properties and their operation in no way signifies any spiritual reality (though such properties remain anthropologically real, thus legitimately socially and personally real and significant for each person, saved or unsaved). These anthropological properties are not the cause of our spirituality or even a means of enhancing our spirituality but most importantly, are not legitimate frames of reference with regard to our spiritual person. 

Colossians 3:11(NIV)
Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Galatians 3: 28 (NIV)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is not a denial of our anthropological realities; instead it is a statement about a divine construct, namely a spiritual one, which never existed before, (i.e. the church, the body of Christ) along with its new protocol(s). And as we can see, the New Testament is not re-arranging or denying the realities of anthropological constructs or their properties (that is, for example, a slave was still a slave, it was simply within the body of Christ this was not his order because in the body of Christ we operate on a spiritual order with spiritual protocols and human states, whether genetic or social, have no bearing on our spiritual state or order) but it is saying that these anthropological matters are not essential parts of the body Christ’s spiritual construct. Instead we are now one in Christ and Christ alone.

But Race Based Special Interest (RBSI) Theology ignores this new protocol and imports into the body of Christ anthropological interests as if they are acceptably fused into the construct of the body of Christ. And this infusion of special interests, especially racial interests (which in America stems from slavery and segregation but in history Special Interest Theology has been used in other forms), is accomplished by those who would misuse Scriptural contexts.

Further, for those who would ignore this distinction (between our anthropological states or construct and that of the singular spiritual construct, the body of Christ) there is the belief that upon society one can and may thrust protocols meant only for the body of Christ as a prescription for social remedy. Worse they believe that upon the body of Christ one may thrust protocols meant only for anthropological constructs and remedies. It is vital to keep this basic theme in mind as you read.

There are social problems in every community but social constructs are not met with or combated by importing, from the body of Christ, its special spiritual protocols intended to remedy spiritual issues. Now, this has nothing to do with morality, itself, intended for all humanity but sometimes dealt with and taught upon in the church, rather it has to do with the special or proprietary doctrines reserved for the body of Christ and intended only for the body of Christ. But this is what Special Interest Theology does in attempting to impose upon anthropological contexts, the contexts of the body of Christ or trying to impose upon the body of Christ, social constructs and their protocols. And in the next section this will be explored, defined and exampled very clearly.

It may be tempting to practice Special Interest Theology for some because it does yield results which others enjoy but it also is an assault on the divine institutions given by God, namely the body of Christ. It attacks God’s spiritual construct, the church, and attempts to make it a social or anthropological one.


terriergal said...

Excellent - can't wait for the next installments!

I especially appreciated this statement:

"you would be surprised the number of Protestant/Evangelical Teachers (and I am referring to those on the moderate to conservative side) who would, in one breath, reject Loritts’ assertion but in another breath echo the very theology underlying why Loritts believes it is acceptable to approach the matter as he does."


Alex Guggenheim said...

Thanks for the input. Part 2 will be posted by Monday morning with the remainder, one part per day after that.

martha said...

The body of Christ exists outside the confines of human reason. I see much human wisdom, rather than the truth of Scripture in these so called race-baced theological positions.

Luther would have recognized these views as a confusion of the left- and right-hand kingdoms. This is politics dressed up in church robes.

Politics -- any stripe -- and civic virtue (treating all people equally in the body POLITIC) are NOT the domain of the church.

We must not to reject brothers and sisters in Christ; however, the church militant (the visible body of Christ) must not accept a wayward hermeneutic or outright heresy. The basic Christian doctrine of the ages arises from Scripture and the church's wisdom from the apostles onward.

We SHOULD judge who is in the body; that is the duty of pastors and elders, when someone sounds heresy from the pulpit or the Elephant Room.

And segregation is more a matter of proximity than racism -- what a misnomer anyway; imprecise use of the language always creates chaos and confusion.

Anthropological differences do not denote different "races." When authorities in the church propagate such foolish, once again, the body is splintered based on foolishness.

Pastors who throw themselves into this fray are not doing so as shepherds, but those who subscribe to a worldly view of the body of Christ.

martha said...

I meant segregation in churches often arises more from proximity and church tradition rather than hatred of an ethnic group among a congregation

Beyond that, do the apostles denounce congregations based on their ethnic aggregate? Please someone show me where.

Alex Guggenheim said...


Thanks. I agree that racial demographic by proximity must be considered but if such congregations reject Special Interest Theology and teache sound doctrine and practice then its racial aggregate is irrelevant. Very good point.

khanh said...

Lots of thought provoking stuff here.

Martha and Alex:
Referring to "segregation is more a matter of proximity than racism"

What do you think of Martin Luther King's famous quote that "...11 O'clock on Sunday is the most segregated hour in Christian America?"

Altho' "race" is a social contruct - Do you realize that historically systemic racism in (housing laws/practices, white flight etc.) has caused alot of segregation in society and therefore the church?

martha said...

Hello Kahn,

Accusing white Christians of purposeful racism is not a brotherly or sisterly act.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian brother, a skillful orator, and a great leader; however, he is NOT an apostle. Where does St. Paul -- or Christ in Revelation -- address the issue of the "social construct" called race? Where is the instruction to deliberately go to another church just to desegregate according to skin color (NOT socially constructed and the real issue)?

The temporal social construction (construct is a verb after all) and the Church Triumphant have nothing in common.

Your judgmentalism, Kahn, does not press your point. I am not convicted of the statements I made and to exoriate me in such a way is unloving. The Word and the Sacraments are eternal, and we all come to the table as beggars and saved sinners.

There is NO FORCED segregation in my church; however, we have only one "black" family and people of other ethnicities visit our church, but where I live the Anabaptists are predominant. They don't approve of the liturgy. So they don't want to join a Lutheran church.

What is my responsibility as a Christian to anyone of any ethnicity? To proclaim the Gospel to whomever God puts in my path, with no thought for color or other human traits.

In Christ's love -- neither Jew, nor Greek. . .


martha said...

However, focusing on the eternal is not politically correct in most evangelical and liberal churches.

C.S. Lewis found comfort in visiting the closest church and entering into communion with whomever God had put there. He would condemn the "church shopping" that Americans do as a rule, looking for some charismatic experience.

Hearing the Word and partaking of communion don't light the fire for people who want social justice -- human works -- as the focus of their worship, or having "felt" needs met or being entertained. Meeting needs and being entertained are man-centered religion too.

Your self-righteous tone seems to place you in the first camp -- legalists tell other people how they must keep the Law.

Go to the church in which the inerrancy of Scripture is promulgated and the body and blood are given out as a foretaste of eternity.

And leave the ethnic make up to God. No one is forcing segregation on anyone.

Khanh said...

Martha, (and Alex)
BTW my name is spelled Khanh.

You seem angry at my questions and uneccesarily retaliatory. I pose questions simply to dialogue and you have judged them as judgemental & self righteous - oh well. Let's try to leave personal attacks out and just dialogue issues which I'm sure everyone's intention is to do.

back to the topic -
Am I really judging white Christians, when the fact is racism has existed in the U.S. (slavery, Jim crow, Chinese exculsion acts etc.)

Or do you not believe racism is a sin? When I say construct, I'm saying I agree the word/concept "race" is not in the Bible. It was created by humans to oppress other humans. However is that nonetheless sin? Or do I misunderstand you?

So if it is what do we do about it?

It was eye opening to me the history of how churches came to worship separately in the first place. Particularly black/white churches...too long a conversation to get into here.

I believe my responsibility is to reach the "nations" (Greek - ethne) so there is some legitimate thought & consideration of ethnicities/nations in proclaiming the gospel. Not to idolize ethnicities but also not to ignore.

My observation is that segregation WAS forced (Jim Crow) and now segregation is by choice.

martha said...

Apologetics is the main of defending the faith -- polemics rarely provide insight into a theological problem. And so on. I asked for Scriptural context for your position. If you can't provide it, then yours is purely opinion. How's that for polemics?

In His admonitions to the churches in Revelation, Jesus condemns no congregation for failing to fill "quotas" based upon skin color or ethnicity within the flock. If He doesn't chide on such a point, then I know how much regard I need to give such an assumption about segregation within Christian churches -- none.

I have found NO evidence of segregation by choice in any church I have attended -- perhaps black Christians don't want to associate with whites -- why would I care? It is not my perogative or yours to pass judgment on matters that Jesus does NOT JUDGE.

I find your position absurd. It maligns Christians without regard for any factor apart from assiduous pursuit of desegregation.

I have no conscience about attending my church -- the Law and Gospel are rightly divided and the communion table reflects Jesus' intention in the sacrament.

And conscience holds when Scripture is silent on a matter. And Scripture is SILENT on segregation based on skin color or ethnicity. Those are the obsessions of minds set upon changing the world apart from Scriptural mandate. Doesn't hold weight or water.

martha said...

Dear Kahn,

If you can't find Scriptural defense, we can label this idea about segregation or desegregation to be a matter of your conscience. You're free to be convicted on this account, but I'm not.

Saved by faith alone, not by demographic category.

Khanh said...

Again, my name is spelled Khanh.

I see that you aren't engaging on the history of racism in the US as to why we are at "racial" divide. So you don't think MLK should have fought for desegregation?

I gave one example of the importance of "nations/ethne" in Scripture. Also Eph 2 says God has made us 1. There should be unity in the church. Also we are mandated to go the nations Matt 28. Heaven will be made up of of all nations and tongues. Rev 5:9 There are so many more references to how to relate to our new brothers and sisters in Christ that are not of our culture (Acts 10, 15 - inclusion not exclusion)

So my question is - why when the many cultures of the world are literally at our doorstep in the US - is the church still divided along "racial" lines? Is this a problem when you see what heaven will be but on earth it is not? It doesn't seem as if we are acting out our Oneness if we don't want to worship with one another and are still divided.

That's why I kept seeking you to consider asking how and why we got divided in the first place. But if you choose not to engage and not want to examine history, and just get mad, that's fine - no more to discuss.

Altho' I do await Alex's response.

Khanh said...

Martha and Alex

If you are interested in studies on racism/segregation problems in the church - I'd recommend 2 books - Divided by Faith (Emerson) and United by Faith (DeYoung)

Alex I wonder if you have read these and what you think.


Alex Guggenheim said...

First, it appears that "Racism in the United States" is being used synonymously with "the church in the United States".

Secondly, racism is being used with an incorrect definition. It is including any and all forms of social segregation, which is not true. But that is another matter and I cover that in my definitions.

But to the earlier point. What the United States society and government did is not a reflection of the church, per se. That is, the church does not determine social or governmental policy so equating social/governmental segregation as something of which the church is guilty because "the United States" and "the church in the United States" are the same group is quite erroneous thinking.

But it is true that while social/governmental segregation occurred some churches practiced segregation. They were wrong.

However, and again, while the Bible prescribes for the body of Christ membership for all, it does not do so with "integration" in mind but with "homogeneity" in mind seeing that we are all related and related to one another via Christ, his person, work, words and Spirit.

And simply because this is so in the church (again pointed out in my article) does not make it necessarily binding, wise or possible outside the body of Christ. Why? Because it would require everyone in social/governmental contexts to have homogeneity revolving around Christ in the world and that isn't the case. In the world people's social constructs revolve around anthropological interests so you cannot impose on the world the construct of the body of Christ.

The body of Christ succeeds with various groups is because at the door such distinctions are irrelevant and our relationships are Christ based. That isn't possible in the world. Therefore, all those wishing to imposed on the world the harmony of the body of Christ would have to actually force the world to drop their anthropological distinctions and secondly, have relationships revolved around Christ. And this, again, is precisely why the various divine institutions and their protocols must be understood and their distinctions maintained and attempts to force protocols for one institution upon the other rejected.

martha said...


Of course this focus on skin color and quotas in the church is a confusion of right- and left-hand kingdoms.

It is a left-hand issue when civil gov't. sanctions segregation based on skin color or creed or ethnicity. It is a matter of civil virtue to pursue equality under the law and in the marketplace and in the area of civil discourse.

If Christ's body comprises neither Jew nor Greek and so on, the issue of desegregating churches is moot. Christ does not discrimate -- that is the right-hand kingdom's perfection.

Please, with all due respect, show me where in Scripture Christ prescribes quotas for His church?

Otherwise it is a left-hand kingdom issue.