Monday, August 17, 2015

The Pursuit of Diversity in the Church: What the Bible vs. Humanism and The Gospel Coalition have to say about taking a Racial Census in your Church


Recently, at The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter, an editor for TGC, published an article entitled, Why Increasing Racial Diversity in Denominations Is a Math Problem which you can read, here.

The article's postulate is based on the far too common anthropocentric theology which rests on the bereft supposition that a local assembly or a larger denominational group, is obligated to possess human racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in order for it to be a healthy congregation and Biblical model. This concept, unbeknownst to many in the church, is in reality a tenet of Humanism and can be found expressed in various ways in each of the three Humanist Manifestos (a link to all three is provided further down).

As a sample, here is part of what Carter asserts from the article:

Yet therein lies the problem for increasing diversity in the other denominations. There is simply not a large enough number of black Americans to have both census quota diversity and large, predominantly black denominations.

This is not to say that increasing diversity within denominations should not be a goal. It also does not imply that local churches should use this as an excuse for not trying to increase outreach to minorities. Local churches have the ability to increase diversity in ways that may not be achievable at the denominational level.

But what such rudimentary analysis can show is that we need a more sophisticated way of determining just what diversity in denominations would look like. We can’t assume, for instance, that just because 12 percent of the population is black that 12 percent of our denominations should be comprised of black members. We also can’t automatically take pride in the fact that our denomination may be more diverse than another denominations, since the comparisons may obscure relevant factors.

If increasing diversity within our denominations is a goal—and I believe it should be—we need to come up with more advanced metrics that can help us determine exactly what a realistic level of diversity would look like. That will require more number-crunching and analysis of regional demographics than we are used to doing. But it may be the only way to truly determine both whether a denomination’s minority outreach is effective and whether they are becoming more diverse.

Some Observations and the Objectification of Blacks by Carter's Philosophy, in my View

Racial Objectification - In the first paragraph of the quoted material, I am somewhat stunned that the obvious is not noticed by many readers and is so readily accepted by The Gospel Coalition founders and current directors who are allegedly astute theologians (they have accepted worse so maybe I should not be surprised). Black people, it appears, are pawns for the relief of racial census distresses lest we find ourselves in a congregation of a majority of Korean Christians or what have you.

These members of society aren't to be targeted with the gospel for the sake of their souls and their subsequent edification but to be part of a self-aggrandizing pursuit on behalf of congregational census taking through which its overseers may feel good about themselves for gaining more members who are racially, ethnically and culturally unlike the majority membership, whatever it may be. 

Sure, winning people to the Lord is part of the process but it isn't the expressed primary objective in reaching minority groups or non-majority groups, rather it is as an object of congregational or denominational enhancement by way of their racial, ethnic and cultural properties. In other words, as I see it, ultimately these citizens are objects for what Carter (and apparently others) believes to be favorable ecclesiastical census taking. Wow.

This is, in my view, a fundamental flaw in Carter's theological development which finds its expression in this manner and which I understand to be offensive to the theology of the cross. Ultimately, they (anyone fitting the "they" quota objective - just typing this as something a church does is nauseating) are objectified because of their race, ethnicity or culture and not sought simply because of their lost condition.

Quotas, What Quotas? Did I miss this somewhere in Scripture? - Carter calls for "advanced metrics" to help us meet this "census quota diversity". May God have mercy on such theological flamboyancy in attempting to impose onto the body of Christ this fixation when it is completely absent in Scripture. 

Understand, Joe Carter is not ambiguous here. He plainly states, "If increasing diversity within our denominations is a goal—and I believe it should be", all without batting an eye while he offers absolutely no Biblical directive or implication. I suspect his lack of argument to support that this is something he believes should be a goal, is because he is writing within in organization which accepts this portion of poorly vetted theology and for an audience which has swallowed its poison some time ago. 

Thus, it seems his views are simply conclusions which only those not right with God would oppose (reminds me a bit of the silencing of the climate change debate since it has all been concluded, no more debate permitted) and so, let's just all move on with the program. It should be alarming, however, (to those of you who have remaining inside of you the capacity to be alarmed) that Carter is completely devoid of Biblical references in this anthropocentric diversity fetish.
General Response - I realize that within modern culture and modern social philosophy, racial, ethnic and cultural diversity has been elevated to a point of Biblical morality (with the help, sadly, of groups like The Gospel Coalition) so that anyone opposing this on any level  may be viewed as not just unethical or unconstitutional but sinning against God in their thoughts and possible deeds
(unless you are supporting the apartheid of Native American tribes which require one to belong to that particular genetic/racial/ethnic family before being allowed to be a member, apparently that kind of national apartheid is okay and not immoral). But human social consensus is not the basis for Biblical theology and certainly not a sound ecclesiology.

Of course, those who grasp Biblical theology without this leaven of humanism understand that no such requirement or value exists in Scripture for the church. This is not to say outside of the church this may not have worth in social institutions but such humanistic appraisals are both relative and wanting with regard to the absolutes of Biblical morality in spite of what people such as The Gospel Coalition, its editor Joe Carter, or anyone else may imply and definitely are not binding precepts for the church.

What Does the Bible Teach about Racial, Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in the Church and Census taking for such Matters?

A racial census is non-existent in the Scriptures as a means of gauging the fitness of a ministry. This is humanism 101 (see Humanist Manifestos I, II and III on the fellowship of man). The N.T. does address diversity however, that diversity is one of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4). Hence, if you wish to promote a gauge for ecclesiastical diversity, this is it.

As long as the humanism based theological leaven of esteeming our churches based on an anthropocentric ecclesiastical fellowship philosophy of racial, ethnic and cultural measuring, is given merit, we will forever fail to satisfy an ever changing/morphing humanist model which is being permitted to damage the church.

The great Apostle Paul made clear that (in the context of ecclesiastical fellowship among one another, i.e. spiritual fellowship) such a relationship is based on our being a new spiritual race/species (2 Cor. 5:17). Thus, the fellowship believers have with one another in the body of Christ is based on their common relationship in Christ.

Our fellowship revolves around the person of Christ, first in being regenerated when we believe and then with all of the denominators extended to and in us from Christ which are his Spirit and Word (shared doctrine). Human properties are not part of that equation with respect to our spiritual fellowship. Ours is a shared spiritual DNA, not human DNA (but let me be clear, where our anthropological properties are relevant, such as marriage and family and far beyond, God does intend, by design, that these properties be the basis of relating, but in those contexts).

You are my mother, father, sister or brother in the Lord, not because I am reconciled to or embrace you personally (I am speaking in the human context which is what racial, ethnic and cultural census taking and fellowship measuring is), and not because you or I have been reconciled to one another’s human properties such as the human culture in which we live or the collective expression of our human family whether it be immediate or the larger racial/ethnic whole and its expressions. Such a view is absent in the Scriptures as a protocol for the New Testament church regarding any ecclesiastical/spiritual fellowship and litmus test of health and fitness.

The church is a spiritual body with its members being born into the family of God through faith in Christ and with its value system of fellowship being based on the shared Spirit of God and Bible doctrine. This is how we esteem the church, collectively and individually. Its culture, its race and its ethnicity is that of Christ.

So long as we are not deliberately setting up human based (anthropocentric) favoritism in our churches (I dare say deliberately targeting a racial, ethnic or cultural group with the objective using it as some kind of enhancement for a local or denominational body is a form of favoritism) and are willing to share the gospel and win the lost to all men and arrange ministries based on spiritual gifts, there is no explication or implication in the New Testament that the church is bound by these kinds of anthropocentric measures in evaluating itself.

The race, ethnicity and culture of the church is that of Christ (again, a new spiritual species with a brand new way of thinking which is not of this world, the value systems of this world are not part of that body of understanding which is why we are told “be not conformed to this world but be transformed by having your mind renewed”). Diversity for the body of Christ is rather explicitly presented as something measured by our spiritual gifts. 

However further the concept of an anthropocentric theology of racial, ethnic and cultural diversity is fostered as orthodox doctrine, and as long this tenet of humanism is imposed onto the church as a legitimate gauge for measuring its fitness, the longer it will produce the very fractures those claiming to want remedied, will occur.