The gospel explains and undermines racism, John Piper said on Wednesday at New York City's Society for Ethical Culture. The gospel explains racism, which is fruit of rebellion against God. If we rebel against our Maker, then we'll turn against each other. Yet the gospel also undermines racism, he said, by the reconciling work of the cross, making all believers sons and daughters. Racism is not simply a social issue; because of the cross and our new standing with Christ, it is a blood issue.
Piper's most recent book, Bloodlines, was the occasion for the event, which also included presentations from Tim Keller and Anthony Bradley, editor of the new book Keep Your Head Up and associate professor of theology and ethics at the King's College.
Keller's presentation explained why white Americans have such a difficult time understanding "corporate guilt." In most places around the world, corporate guilt is a given. Individuals are not responsible only for themselves, but each person is a product of community. Both guilt and good is corporately shared, even in the Bible. Keller offered a few examples from the Old Testament where an individual sinned and the whole family---sometimes, whole communities---suffered for it. But he landed most forcefully on the corporate guilt through Adam (original and imputed sin) and corporate righteousness through Christ (imputation).
This has implications, according to Keller, for our understanding of systemic evils in our society and our involvement in it---whether knowingly or unknowingly. We need eyes to see systemic evil.
Bradley expanded on why God cares about systems in our society, using a basic Reformed/Kuyperian theology of creation and culture. He ended by exhorting white evangelical leaders to engage with black theologians like James Cone and Cornel West and listen to black evangelicals laboring in evangelical institutions.
Power, Mixed Marriages, and the Global South
The last hour of the event centered around difficult questions like power and race in society, mixed marriages, and the rise of Christianity in the Global South.
Keller noted how the practice of support raising among parachurch ministries assumes staffers come from communities open to asking for money and possessing the resources to give. That's not the case in many minority cultures, compared to white communities, Keller said.
Both Piper and Keller forcefully condemned those who discourage mixed marriages, even subtly. Piper argued that the imago dei is a million times more important to who we are than race. Keller observed that we idolize race when we oppose mixed marriages.
On the rise of Christianity in the Global South, Piper recognized that momentum has shifted away from Western Europe and the United States. But that doesn't mean the West should stand pat, thinking the Holy Spirit has left our churches. Keller noted the West's tremendous resources and stability and encouraged Christians to take up the posture of servants.
Recordings will be made available soon for everyone who missed the event in person or live-streamed.
John Starke is lead pastor of All Souls Church in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. You can follow him on Twitter.