Trent Hunter and the elders at Heritage Bible Church in Greer, South Carolina did a nice job of turning the “Thinking Theologically About Racial Tensions” blog series into a free eBook with questions at the end of each piece for their congregation. I’ve included the preface below and you can download a free copy here.
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The church has the best resources for dealing with the world’s greatest problems because we have been given a Word from God.
We know who we are because we know the One who made us. We have a common ancestor in Adam and a common dignity as those made in God’s image. We know what’s wrong with us because we have the true story about what happened when our first parents sinned. We failed to acknowledge God and so he has given us over to all manner of unrighteousness. We are haughty, hateful, and inventors of evil. But thankfully we have more than just an explanation for these things—our universal human dignity and universal corruption and guilt. We possess a universal offer of salvation. Through repentance and faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, we are new creations with a new common ancestor in Jesus. For, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro. 5:8).
Our problem is that bad. Our God loves sinners that much.
We don’t hear much about these truths on the topic of race. Maybe that’s one reason this topic is famously tense. One individual denies the universal dignity of all people, another denies the universal corruption of sin. We are trying to discuss a problem we don’t understand. Even worse, we’re trying to solve a problem between people without God or grace. Each location on the map of history and the globe has its own unique truth suppressing profile. As Americans we have had our own evolving profile.
For all these reasons, our elders recognize that there is a need to offer biblical instruction on the topic of race. This is not because we believe that we are demonstrating sinful thoughts or attitudes on this topic as a church. Not hardly. Rather, this topic—filled as it is with human beings, human history, and human conflict—deserves nothing less than our best biblical thinking in order that we might honor Christ as Lord in our conversations with one another and with our neighbors. Our purpose is not corrective but instructive. As with every generation of Christians in every challenging place, God has equipped us well. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2Tim. 3:16, 17).
Our commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture is why we are commending to you the work of Kevin DeYoung in his five-part series, Thinking Theologically about Racial Tensions. DeYoung teaches at Reformed Theological Seminary and pastors at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. As elders, we used this writing to guide our conversations during a weekend retreat in the fall of ’20. By it we want to instruct you.
In the months prior to our retreat, our elders spent some time mapping the theology coming to us through our newsfeeds in the summer of 2020. We heard biblical terms used in unbiblical ways, such as justice and oppression. We heard ideas that weren’t in the Bible but that needed definition, such as wokeness, white-fragility, and critical theory. Finally, we noticed that there were some crucial biblical terms that were missing altogether, such as partiality or forgiveness. The more any conversation becomes unmoored from the categories of Scripture the more difficult it becomes. This proliferation of terms and teaching was an indication that we needed to anchor ourselves in the Word.
In Kevin’s work we found a great deal of help in slowing down to think God’s thoughts after him, to think in explicitly biblical categories. He put words to our own concern:
I fear that we are going about our business in the wrong order. We start with racial issues we don’t agree on and then try to sort out our theology accordingly, when we should start with our theology and then see how racial issues map onto the doctrines we hold in common. Good theology won’t clear up every issue, but we might be surprised to see some thorny issues look less complicated and more hopeful.
That’s getting things in the right order.
Working from the right starting place, others are doing important work as well. Scholars and pastors like Carl Trueman are writing incisive essays to help us discern the winds of doctrine blowing about us. In his article, “Evangelicals and Race Theory,” Trueman puts Critical Race Theory in its historical and philosophical context and shows the bankruptcy of this system. Then, in his piece on race and policing, “Across the Race Divide,” Kevin DeYoung interacts with a key chapter on the topic in David Kennedy’s book Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America, to explore some underexamined dynamics involved in urban policing.
This is important reading. But the most important kind of reading is Bible reading. God has something to say about humanity and sin, about guilt and redemption. We want these truths to be clear in our minds so that we may speak the gospel clearly as we ought (Col. 4:4).
To that end, Kevin DeYoung and Christ Covenant Church were kind to allow us to put this material into an ebook for you. We commend it to you.
Read these articles alone or with a friend. We’ve drafted some questions to help you along. They are provided at the end of each section. We hope they help.
Heritage Bible Church”