Category: Study Projects
Posted by: RBAFounderMM
Introduction

“Grace So Amazing” is the last chapter in Experiencing the Truth. This work seeks to “argue for the essentialness of Reformed theology for the evangelical church at large and the predominantly African-American church in particular. The authors “also suggest that this begins with an investigation and appropriation of the doctrines of grace” (p.152). Chapter 6 purports that Reformed theology and particularly the reformed structure of soteriology, surmised in the acronym G-R-A-C-E on pages 149-150, is the desired response to the challenges and problems in Black churches because African American churches need sound theology. In essence, Carter believes that Black churches need to be “reformed” and nothing short of a reformation will save Black churches. Mark Robinson stated in his critique of chapter 2 and such is a guiding notion in chapter 6, “The underlying logic and purpose of the chapter is clear and can be reduced to the following: The Black Church needs good theology. Reformed theology is good theology. The Black Church needs reformed theology.”

“Grace So Amazing” may appear to be the easiest chapter to critique because it is the shortest. However, it may be the most difficult chapter to critique because of how closely Reformed theology is thought to be associated with the Bible. Once in a seminary class dealing with Paul’s letters, the professor asked us, “Is there anything in Paul’s letters that you would have preferred for him to say differently? Are there any subjects you wish he would have handled differently or explained more thoroughly for the benefit of all?” The classroom was silent; we had never asked ourselves such questions in relation to the Bible. Many displayed reluctance and timidity when asked to take a thoughtful yet critical approach to Pauline texts. The professor then went on to provide a list of possible responses. Of course, Paul’s writings that are in the Bible differ from Reformed theology in that Paul’s writings are authoritative, inspired and infallible; but, the example that I pose parallels such a critique as is now present before us because the reformed Christian makes little to no distinction between the Godly qualities of Paul’s writings and the godly qualities of Reformed theology. In short, most reformed Christians practically, albeit not theoretically, conceive of the Reformed trajectory as being authoritative, inspired and infallible.

Because Experiencing the Truth and namely chapter 6 display Carter’s tight hold to the godly qualities of Reformed theology, he confidently tells the reader that sound theology or doctrine will rebuff and resolve the problems of the Black church. Naturally, when one provides a “reformed or (considered synonymous with) Biblical” answer or solution to various problems or situations, our expectations dictate that almost without question, a right and holy duty has occurred. Therefore, what critical assessment could be posed in response to someone’s game plan to employ Reformed theology and particularly a reformed soteriology as the rebuff and solution to the religious and spiritual challenges of the day within the Black church?

» Read More

Tertullian, 4th-century African theologian, once asked, "What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?" Of course Tertullian was asking this question as a way to say that Christians should not import alien pagan philosophical ideas and assumptions into their understanding of the Christian faith. Athens, for Tertullian, represented a worldly way, as we say in church, to get at the Ultimate or ens realissimum (the realest Real) whereas Jerusalem represented the more faithful way, to understand the God of orthodox Christian faith. For Tertullian this was a practical matter. His passion, if we are to believe some of his contemporaries and commentaries, was for Christians not to lose their souls while reading Plato in one hand and Paul in the other. He's echoing Paul in his famous passage in Colossians 2:8:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
In this bit of anecdotal history and scripture I found an analogy with Kenneth Jones' chapter on “Biblical Spirituality: Experiencing the Spirit of God.” He begins our journey to biblical spirituality by first alerting us (which we will address at the end) of a new black spirituality that is gaining currency in the 'traditional black church.'. The new black spirituality is in concert with the changing face of 'American evangelicalism'. He then takes us into a faithful historical reconstruction of early North American Christian history, which is specifically the Christianity of some (if not most) of the colonists. Jones focuses in on the particular and very local theology of the Reformation. The orthodox theology of the Reformation consisted of "the solas of the Reformation, the sovereignty of God, the Trinity, the incarnation, sin and depravity, and the sufficiency and centrality of Christ."(Jones, p. 108)

We are then taken on an extended historical journey into slave Christianity and its tenuous relationship with Euro-American Christianity. The narrative is as detailed as you can get with only a couple of pages to work out a very complex history filled with both tragedy and triumph. I was very hopeful to think that many of my Euro-American Christian brothers and sisters will get a good dose of black church history. The black church still remains the strange 'other' in most of North American Christianity as evidenced by some of the recent responses to black theology of the more prophetic and social justice streams of the traditional black church.

» Read More

Category: Study Projects
Posted by: rhkeyman
Come and go with me
To my fathers house

Chorus
Its a big big house
With lots and lots a room
A big big table
With lots and lots of food
A big big yard
Where we can play football
A big big house
Its my fathers house

-Audio Adrenaline


The questions, ‘What is worship?’ and ‘What is appropriate for worship?’ is a topic that is often discussed by Christians. Many in the church lament the lack of depth in worship and yearn for more substance and less flash in modern worship. As we continue our discussion of the Reformation and the Black church, chapter 4 of Experiencing the Truth, titled “Biblical Worship: Experiencing the Presence of God,” takes us right into the heart of this debate. Space does not allow for a detailed analysis of this chapter but it is my hope that this brief overview will be both stimulating and encouraging.

Anthony Carter starts chapter 4 by quoting lyrics from a popular gospel song as an illustration of how modern worship has “degenerated in our time.” After this initial illustration the chapter can be roughly divided into three main parts: The first section is a discussion of worship from a Biblical perspective, spelling out what worship is and what it is not. The second section discusses worship experientially and outlines what happens spiritually when we worship. Finally, the third section is prescriptive, highlighting how we should worship and what we should do in worship.

As others have previously stated of Experiencing the Truth, it must also be noted here that there is much that can and should be commended in chapter 4. Carter’s definition of worship is a faithful presentation of what Reformed worship should be that will be valuable to many who have never studied theology or given worship much thought as a theological construct. The idea that worship should be God-centered and not man-centered is a much-needed corrective for Evangelicalism in our consumer driven age. In this chapter, Carter reminds us that we worship what we value most. Worship is not limited to what we do in church but is our service to God in all areas of life, and that we do not worship God by ourselves but are joined by Christ, the angels, and all the saints that have gone on before us. These ageless Biblical truths have universal applications in all times and cultures and Carter should be commended for his commitment and faithfulness to them.

» Read More

Category: Study Projects
Posted by: SCobbert
As African American pulpits all across the nation are filled with messages centering on prosperity, health, fulfilling your destiny, etc., it is refreshing to read Anthony Carter’s chapter on Biblical Preaching. Although God is concerned with our well-being in terms of health, abundant living, and our financial wellbeing, these are not the total themes of Scripture. Carter calls those of us who preach the Word of God to be faithful in uplifting Christ, the central witness of Scripture, as opposed to appealing to texts that only address money and what we receive from God.

He proposes that the African American preacher become more Reformed in his or her preaching. According to Carter, African American preaching has been heavily focused on experiential theology where the style of the preacher is held in high esteem and the emotions of the people are employed as a means of making the message meaningful. As an alternative, Carter summons the African American church to cultivate the ethos of the Reformation so that we will preach in a more Reformed manner utilizing the five solas of the Protestant Reformation.

Carter is on point as he stresses that our preaching must be informed by the right theological content. However, before he can call for African American pastors to consciously consider the Reformation and how Reformed Theology – the preaching of the five solas - can inform our preaching in vital ways, several things need to happen:

» Read More

Category: Study Projects
Posted by: Merobin
The conversation that gathers at the intersection of black and reformed theology is fraught with complexity and often requires much presuppositional ground clearing in order to just get on the same page. Thick concepts like views of race (essentialism ‘black is to the bone’ or constructivism ‘we weren’t black until we got off the boat’) and theology (the science concerning God that was established upon his voluntary self-revelation to man’ or the ‘application of scripture to all of life” or otherwise) inevitably come to fore and may obstruct productive dialogue.

Terminological conceptual complexity notwithstanding, it is a discussion worth having and it is one which ch. 2 - Biblical Theology: Experiencing the Truth about God seeks to advance. Michael Leach and the other contributors are to be commended for creating new needed literary space and continuing to expand the canon of black reformed literature.

Lamentably, this brief review of chapter 2 will be selective and somewhat cursory. Hopefully, the interaction will provoke further engagement and refinement of an already rich and rewarding conversation.

» Read More

Category: Study Projects
Posted by: RBAFounderX


Introduction

In a time when the message of the crucified and resurrected Jesus – victory through the cross/suffering – has been almost eclipsed by exclusive declarations of prosperity, Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African American Church has rightly called such proclamations and their implications into question. In dealing with such matters, the book is spot on in that many men, particularly African American, are growing dissatisfied with many churches’ preoccupation with material gain and demagoguing. This work attempts to respond to the health and wealth or better yet, the capitalistic messages that fill so many American pulpits. And the response offered by the book is basically found in its subtitle: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church. More specifically, this reformation should take place within five areas of the church as outlined by each chapter: theology, preaching, worship, spirituality, and grace/salvation.

Although, Experiencing the Truth should be appreciated for attempting to engage these problematic messages, unfortunately, the book’s prescriptions, particularly the theoretical model of a reformation extraneous to the Black church undermine the valuable theological resources of and intrinsic redemptive elements present within the Black church. This work also might have been more worthwhile if it was less likely to make superfluous proclamations without careful and detailed analyses that respect the integrity and context of the Black church. Therefore, with such gross shortcomings coupled with the perennial nature of this critical discussion among many Black Reformed people, a review seems to be mandated.

» Read More

Category: Study Projects
Posted by: lavaris
Neighborhood

Angela Glover Blackwell’s essay entitled, “Ensuring Broad Access to Affordable Neighborhoods that Connect to Opportunity,” is one which has much to contribute to the African American community. Essentially, the article’s thrust seeks to identify the core factors that have likely prohibited African Americans from enjoying a variety of social benefits. Much of her thought is driven by this fundamental concern: “In the United States today, where you live literally determines access to opportunity.” Thus, in identifying the latter statement as that which under-girds many of the apparent fallacies within this ethnic group, she attempts to address the issue by strategically providing helpful methods designed to alleviate these difficulties. Such methods primarily include increased funding of public transportation, particularly within urban areas allowing many (for instance) to reach their jobs and meet other obligations at a respectable time. And of course, as many of us would presume, Blackwell does not seek to construct an entire system that will sufficiently relieve the lack of opportunity within Black America, but in my opinion, she does however have a large scale ambition for initiating the groundwork by which an entire edifice could soon be established. Indeed, a large scale system of thought prescribed specifically for the rejuvenation of less fortunate ethnic groups and families who, by virtue of their location, are unable to have access to good schools and jobs, grocery stores and parks. Yet before I mention much else, I admittedly am ashamed of my own personal irresponsibility of paying little attention to the implications of less fortunate housing and its consequences. It is perhaps conceivable that the problems Blackwell reveals might have been minimized had many of us (who are of age) had the conscious to care more diligently for our community, and particularly, for the welfare of children whose fate rests helplessly in their hands. Moreover, this is not a “soap-box” moment, but if the weight of Black America’s woes are at all apparent to the onlookers in a significant way, and if parents genuinely care for the future of their kids (and therefore the future of America), then we would assume our responsibility as far it depends on us. This, I think, is not a lofty exhortation, one which is not suited (or compatible) for those immediately affected by its consequences, nor is it an insult designed to provoke some sort of emotional “knee-jerk” reaction. Rather, I suggest a calm reflection of what each of us is capable of contributing, or we may simply review what Mrs. Blackwell provides in her essay and select those options that are within our grasp. As such, I would argue that certain fundamental criteria for salvaging and thereafter rejuvenating diminished urban areas, is attainable. That is to say, we may enjoy the first-fruits of our labors, in an inchoate form of course, while reviving within ourselves a sense of dignity as we patiently petition our government to come to our aid. Such a suggestion, to me, seems minimally disagreeable and should therefore warrant a legitimate, positive response.

» Read More

Category: Study Projects
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Black man with policemen

Often it is said that most of our Black men are behind bars. What seems to verify this claim is that I don’t think I know a Black man who has not had some kind of run in with the police at some point in his life, especially if he was “Driving While Black” (See Rod Garvin’s story). If this is the norm, then are all Black people criminals deserving to be profiled? Are we naturally prone towards prisons? If no, then the question of the hour is why are the prisons predominately filled with Blacks? How do we account for this?

Background

What makes matters worse is that some do not know, care or have forgotten about the significance of “the mass incarceration of black people in America [being] a real and present danger. About one in every 265 whites is incarcerated in local, state, or federal prison. By contrast, of the 36 million African Americans in this nation, almost one million of them are in prison; that is about one in every 36 black people who is behind bars somewhere in America. African Americans represent 44 percent of all incarcerated people in state and federal prison cells, yet account for only 13 percent of American population. Something is clearly wrong when the government’s most effective affirmative action program is the preference people of color receive when entering not college, but the criminal justice system.”

» Read More

Category: Study Projects
Posted by: RBAFounderMM
Justice Scale

Chapter 3 of The Covenant with Black America is titled, “Correcting the System of Unequal Justice.” The chapter is well-formatted and explains the existence, problems and a game plan to combat an unequal justice system. The first part of the chapter speaks particularly about CPS or the cradle-to-prison superhighway and its effects. “The CPS is a network of legislation, policy, practice, and structural racism that has fostered blacks being incarcerated at unconscionable levels at increasingly younger ages for increasingly minor acts.” If one automatically smirks or doubts the validity of such a comment and routinely sets aside such information for the usual flashback of a beamed in CNN commentary depicting an eccentric black ultra-liberal, they may want to think again. As a matter of fact, if one doubts the validity of such a comment they probably have not read this book and should.

» Read More

Category: Study Projects
Posted by: Merobin
Classroom

Public education policy is not an area of expertise for me. Like all American societal institutions, the education system is enormous and extremely complex in its operations. However, one need not be an expert to simply note the devastating disparity that obtains between AA’s and the dominant culture in the area of education. It seems pretty well documented despite pretensions to race blindness in the 21st century.

» Read More