American Christianity the Biggest Loser during Times of Racial Division

Jarvis Williams

Racism was one of the first great social evils to infect American Christianity. Racism manifested itself in the egregious institution of slavery, which was rooted in white supremacy. From the founders of this country to American preachers, American Christianity had representatives who sponsored and supported slavery, and who supported and sponsored black inferiority.

The enslavement of blacks/Africans as practiced in Europe, and then in America was based upon racism, white supremacy, and the belief that black people were only fit to be slaves. De Jure segregation in the south was based upon fallacious beliefs about the black body, beliefs that exploited the fears of white southerners. Unfortunately, this belief made its way into American Christianity very early as colonies, states, and churches were eventually established. My denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, was founded in 1845 in part because of slavery.

Continuous Segregated Hour
After emancipation, blacks were not welcome in numerous white American Christian churches. So, they founded their own denominations and churches. The historical reason why black churches emerged is because blacks could not worship with whites. In fact, one reason why Sunday morning has historically been the most segregated hour of the week in the U.S. is because whites did not want to worship with blacks.

The black church historically was one of the few places in American society during segregation where blacks were treated with the dignity and respect God created them to have. And the reason why whites and blacks are still segregated in many contexts today, even in churches, is because of the racism that underlies the founding of the institutions of which they’re part.

The U.S. is currently grieving public violence due to racial tensions. This violence and the public’s reactions to it reveal the historical vestiges of racism upon which America was established have not been dealt with. Black people are angry and scared! Brown people are angry and scared! White people are angry and scared! Poor people are angry and scared! Middle class people are angry and scared! Rich people are angry scared! Each group is angry and scared for different reasons. These fears are exacerbated by the violence and the political rhetoric that currently exist in the American culture.

American Christianity
For many, the sad events in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas reinforce the effect that racism has historically had on America. The responses of many of America’s citizens and residents to these shootings illustrate how far apart black, brown, and white Christians really are when it comes to living in genuine community with each other, when it comes to how they understand race in America, and when it comes to the different experiences whites and blacks have in America.

As a super power, America indeed has a lot to lose if it continues to experience racial division and fails to offer proper diagnoses and long term solutions to either real or perceived racial injustices. However, as great as the nation’s losses might be relationally, politically, and economically, American Christianity has the most to lose during this divisive racial climate.

American Christianity is still largely segregated. There are those church leaders and denominations that want to pat themselves on the back and boast about the diversity in evangelicalism or about the increasing number of minorities joining traditionally white churches or white denominations. But white and black Christians are still segregated in many Christian communities. And they are often just as divided over race as non-Christians. Blogs, books, sermons, and social media posts reveal the current racial climate and racial division in the U.S. highlight how deeply divided white and black Christians are on race. Furthermore, many Christian churches are still segregated.

A Narrow Gospel
A contributor to the current racial division in churches and to the segregation of other marginalized groups within the American Christian community is that blacks and other marginalized groups and whites generally have different understandings of the gospel.

White evangelicals generally continue to define the gospel in a narrow way that allows for racial discrimination to flourish within their churches by offering a definition of the gospel that focuses primarily on individual salvation, while ignoring racial reconciliation. But black and other marginalized groups generally define the gospel both as individual salvation and as cosmological renewal.

A narrow definition of the gospel that excludes horizontal and cosmological transformation enables Christians to ignore the horizontal and cosmological regeneration for which Jesus died and was resurrected (Romans 8). Just survey the role evangelicals played in racial discrimination during slavery and Jim Crow. Many evangelical churches ignore a variety of injustices that exist in and around their churches and in the communities or cities in which their churches reside because they think the gospel only focuses on the forgiveness of sins.

Losing the Gospel
America and its citizens have much to lose during these times of racial division. But I think American Christian churches have more to lose. We are in danger of losing our voice in a dying world that desperately needs to hear, see, and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are in danger of losing credibility with marginalized communities because many expressions of Christianity continue to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to human suffering and injustice. But most importantly, we are in danger of losing the gospel. And, in fact, many so-called American Christian churches have already lost it.

Liberal churches have lost the gospel because they reject the authority of the bible and deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Conservative churches are in danger of losing the gospel because, though they may believe in the authority of the bible and preach the cross and resurrection as foundational elements of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15), they ignore basic tenets of Jesus’ teachings that focus on the good news of the social liberation of the marginalized (Luke 4). And they ignore the teachings of Paul when he writes about the gospel as the unification and the reconciliation of all things and all people in Christ (Eph. 1:3-13; 2:11-3:8).

With their one liner bumper sticker statements about the gospel or about making America great again or about taking America back or about racism being about sin and not skin, certain American Christians and pastors show no concern about those groups who have historically been marginalized the most by American Christianity.

Instead, they exacerbate the pain of the marginalized by preaching sermons, writing books, posting blogs, hosting conferences, participating in panels, and teaching classes that reinforce a gospel that enslaves the marginalized, liberates the privileged, and prioritizes whiteness as the normal expression of American Christianity. They do all this while ignoring the suffering of the marginalized as one of many reasons for which Jesus died and was resurrected.

The Biggest Loser
Yes, there is much racial progress in America. Yes, churches have come a long way. Yes, many American Christians did and do care about the marginalized. But America has not fully recovered from slavery and segregation, and neither has American Christianity.

The structures in place in American society flowed out of a racist ideological framework. And many of the structures in the churches within American Christianity have done the same. Until American Christians are willing to confront our racist past and to admit the privileges that have come to certain people because of the racist structures that undergird our denominations and our churches and our curriculum, American Christianity will be the biggest loser in a country divided over race and will continue to lose credibility with marginalized groups.

American Christianity might lose the gospel, not because of liberals who deny the authority of the bible or the bodily resurrection of Jesus, but because of conservative bible-believing Christians who fail to see both the justification and the restoration of the marginalized as an important aspect of the gospel.

45 thoughts on “American Christianity the Biggest Loser during Times of Racial Division

  1. jimmy

    There is such a thin line with works that I would consider I agree or disagree with; some works, I may agree with the main thesis, but disagree on other specifics of the authors argument. In other writings, I may disagree with the main thesis, but the author makes some specific points that I find correct. So, instead of separating from what I agree or disagree with, I am just going to list the ten books that I think would be helpful in further discussions. I wanted to include biographies, slave narratives and other works that may have been written by non-black scholars, but I wanted to respect the limitations you gave. However, just know that there is much more out there than these; this is just a start:
    1) Cornell West: Race matters
    2) James Baldwin: The fire next time
    3) James Cone: Black theology and black power
    4) Emerson and Smith: Divided by faith
    5) One new man: Jarvis Williams
    6) WEB Du bois: The souls of black folk
    7) Beverly Tatum: Why are all the black kids sitting together in the caferteria
    8) Michelle Alexander: The new jim crow
    9) George Kesley: Racism and the Christian understanding of man
    10) MLK jr: Where do we go from here.

  2. Mara

    Dr. Williams,
    Thank you so much for this article! I confess, I have often left out the horizontal, unifying reconciliation when I consider and talk about the Gospel. I think of it as being a result of, but not an important part of the Gospel. And I have thought even less specifically of racial reconciliation in this way!
    Your explanation has given me new understanding and increased my desire to fight racism (in my own heart and in society and the church).

    I am so thankful for RAAN and how you all help me understand the workings of racism and how to pray for freedom from it. And I do pray for our country to move toward racial reconciliation and I pray the Church will step up and take the lead!

  3. g

    Dr. Williams. I am encouraged by this discussion that the courageous offering of your reputation has provoked. We don’t like to be compared to the “cloud of witnesses”. As you can see it is historically uncomfortable for those of us who have created our own “cloud”. I pray that you continue to in your efforts even as your motives are questioned. Praying for you now.

  4. Jimmy

    Well, if thts ur mentality, u probably shld not attempt to engage with the blk community because ur not going to get any where.

    Its like u have the over-facination with seeking to exonerate whites from the charge of racism. U continously bring a defense for something i havent advocated. I think ur fighting agaisnt ur own insecurities or guilt because u keep saying “someone struck me,” when no one is around. U continue to b a defense attorney for white racial innocence, whn i have not put u on trail for tht.

    U keep focusing on the origin of the vulenerability, but the origin is irrelevant. Jesus focused on the vulnerable of society; period. We are not discussing who made them vulnerable, we are arguing the fact they are vulnerable.
    With mentalities like yours, its hard for me not to conclude, if what u just told me is ur message to blk america, u can keep it. Your message is not the message of jesus, yours is the vindictive message of a white guilt apologist. U can keep tht message man. We dont need tht message in our communities. We need the real message of jesus. Just being totally honest man, i dont think ur called to minister among African americans. If u are, U probably will get a vision of a blanket coming down from heaven with a bunch of unclean animals on it before he sends u in the hood. Goodbye, im done talking to you.

  5. John N

    “Im not arguing with u on which is a worst sin and which is not. Im saying, if jesus preoccupied his time with the most vulnerable, thn who should we be spending most of our time attempting to correct their sin of racism? White racists or blk racists? Jesus gives priority to addressing the most vulnerable of society.”


    The black community that is most vulnerable is not vulnerable and marginalized due to white racism. That is the lie of the left. I’m not saying racism doesn’t exist either. They are vulnerable and marginalized due to their own sinful depravity. The same is true for whites. The greatest threat to vulnerable blacks is other vulnerable blacks. And the answer is not pointing your finger at what you and RAAN perceive as white racism. It is going into to streets to preach of “righteousness, self control, and the judgment to come.”

  6. Jimmy

    Ur right in the statement tht “blk racism is as much a sin as white racism.” But tht is not equivalent to: black racism brings with it as much power to carryout its hate on white ppl, then the reverse.

    Im not arguing with u on which is a worst sin and which is not. Im saying, if jesus preoccupied his time with the most vulnerable, thn who should we be spending most of our time attempting to correct their sin of racism? White racists or blk racists? Jesus gives priority to addressing the most vulnerable of society.

  7. Jimmy

    Where did u get the notion tht i argued tht it was or was not due to systemic white racism? My only purpose of bring up the power difference is in reference to the idea tht since white racism comes from a position of political, social, and geographic power, tht validates the notion tht it is more urgent to focus on tht then on this notion of blk racism. Both are sins, both are damnable; but the potential power behind the one, makes it a priority to b dealt with.

  8. John N

    No Jimmy, simply stating the obvious (unless there’s a racial mote in your eye) that blacks enjoy tremendous political, social and economic power today is not a denial that whites still dominate the political, social and geographic landscape of America. I do deny that such a disparity is due to systemic white racism. A number of black scholars agree, such as Thomas Sowell and Walter E. Williams.

    Jimmy, it is my heart’s desire to see our churches and society rid of racism. Black racism is as much a sin a white racism. It is a human sin and it is not for you to redefine.

  9. Gabriel

    This has definitely been an interesting dialogue between you two. Billy has referenced me in one of the comments on this thread so I figure that I would jump in.

    As Billy mentioned, he and I are co-writing a rather extensive blog series on CredoCovenant on a Reformed Baptist perspective on public theology with its various applications into modern day topics (with ethnicity and race being one of the topics). Billy and I come from rather different backgrounds when it comes to discuss ethnic divisions and strife within and outside the Church, but we do come to very similar conclusions and methodologies when it comes to this discussion.

    As for my background, I grew up hearing these discussions quite often. We talked about it during my days within the COGIC church about 10-15 years ago; we talked about it during my days at Morehouse as a matter of public policy and as a matter of church disunity, and since becoming Reformed, it has come up rather often.

    One of the things that I want to emphasize personally is that I do not disagree with Dr. Williams’ intentions on this matter (i.e. I do not think he’s a closet Marxist, a liberal, or liberation theologian) and I agree that the fruit of the gospel will directly address this issue, if the Word of God is being preached faithfully and persuasively. However, I do disagree with the proposed solutions that have been given throughout this discussion in general.

    Here’s one example from the above article:

    “Until American Christians are willing to confront our racist past and to admit the privileges that have come to certain people because of the racist structures that undergird our denominations and our churches and our curriculum, American Christianity will be the biggest loser in a country divided over race and will continue to lose credibility with marginalized groups.”

    I’ve been talking about this issue for years now and virtually every confessional Reformed minister that I know have admitted windfall gains for numerous White Americans and windfall losses for numerous Black Americans. However, simply admitting these things doesn’t produce a solution. As Dr. Williams continues,

    “American Christianity might lose the gospel, not because of liberals who deny the authority of the bible or the bodily resurrection of Jesus, but because of conservative bible-believing Christians who fail to see both the justification and the restoration of the marginalized as an important aspect of the gospel.”

    In my view, the more pertinent set of questions would be: What is the specific definition of marginalized here? Is there a distinction made between marginalized believers and those who are marginalized in the world? What is the definition of “restoration” used here? Is the goal to provide equal opportunity or to produce equal outcomes? Is the goal to reverse these windfall gains or losses? How would one go about restoring marginalized peoples? What would be opportunity cost to the various denominations and/or local churches of actively pursuing a particular methodology? Have the unintended consequences of a particular methodology been properly assessed?

    Just a few thoughts.

  10. Jimmy

    I’ll just refer u to my conversation with william to address the stupid idea tht ethnic gnosticism is the same as legitimate expectations on a person speaking in a subject. Its common sense so im not goin to spend more time on it.

    Lastly, with all your rhetoric abt how evil blk liberals hve infiltrated the academy(which, to me is the intellectual grandson of the assertion of biological inferiority, and the suggestion tht all free blk men wanted to rape white women), even if true, i will still challenge yout assessment of the social and political capital of AA’s as a whole. U really want to suggest tht white ppl do nt still dominate the social, political and geographic landscape of america? If u assert tht, i cannot have a honest dialigue with u, because tht wld show me, ur not interested in truth.

  11. John N


    The mote of black privelege and black racism blinds the eyes of so many to the tremendous political and social power blacks have today. As I’ve said, this black racism is the ideological tyranny of so-called multiculturalism in all public schools. Blacks, with largely liberal world views, are increasingly found among every level of political and economic strata. Liberals, Christian or otherwise, fail to revel in the wonder of this because of their insidious racist mote. Instead they prefer to be the victim class. I see them as overcomers. You should too.

    And sorry Jimmy, your assertion that black racism is mostly “contingent or in response to the history of white racism” is the great Adamic finger point. This is truly heart breaking.

    Furthermore, your questions are so typical of black skin bias so frequently expressed in RAAN material. It just couldn’t be possible, based solely on the facts that I’m white and I disagree with you, that I live and work among blacks, could it? My neighbors on both sides are black and are my dear friends with whom I have intimate relationships. We bear each others burdens. My church has many minorities of all flavors. Sadly, the only black churches I have been in are full of heresy and rampant sin. However, my unsaved son lives in Savannah and I’ve been urging him to go to the only solid church I know of, Christ Centered Reformed Baptist Church, which incidentally is a black church. We will be visiting this church the next time we’re in Savannah. Can’t wait.

    Finally, I have read many black authors. Including Conrad Mbwe, Voddie Baucham, Thibiti Anyabwile (part of the race problem unfortunately), Anthony Carter, Lemuel Haynes, Thomas Sowell, etc. on the subjects race and other social issues. I’d call your questions to me Exhibit A of what Voddie Baucham so aptly has referred to as Ethnic Gnosticism, born of the idea that a white man can’t possibly know what a black man knows.

    Black racism.

  12. William Leonhart

    Totally. I am sure, if we had the time to talk in person, we woulf find that you and have way more in common than what is readily apparent here.

  13. William Leonhart

    So, then, would it be valid for a black man, a hispanic woman, an Asian family, or an old retired Samoan couple to ask how extensively a white pastor has studied their precise culture and how many friends he has that match their exact ethnic, gender, and age description before submitting to his servant leadership?

  14. Jimmy

    Ok, deal. Give me sometime. I have s busy weekend: i teach sunday morning, preach sunday night, and im at my full time job now. I know u can relate to that.

  15. Jimmy

    No, thts not my reasoning; my reasoning is this: a man who has not spent any substantial time among women or minorities, nor has took the time to sacrifice time to read and hear there views should not pastor them. We overcome our existential limitations by being a servant leader and showing your love for a demographic by sacrificing time to learn them, and know them. Part of being a shepherd is knowing ur sheep. Yes, if a Pastor has not, and does not plan to learn abt minorities and he is white, he should not pastor in a minority neighborhood; because he does not really love them. Love is a desire to know and be known. This is why many church plants by majority culture pastor in minority communities are simply church plantations not church plants. So, yes, if a pastor has not sought to overcome his existential limitations by sacrificing time to know his context, he should not be a pastor there.

  16. William Leonhart

    Deal. Let’s simply expand it to…

    1) Five scholarly works written by AA scholars with whom you believe I may currwntly disagree, and…
    2) Five scholarly works you have read dealing with similar issues also written by AA scholars with whom you disagree.

    I will read both sides on the issue and weigh them by Scripture. Then we can discuss these matters further.

  17. Jimmy

    Is your acronym: CRT critical race theory? If so, we have a deal, but i want to expand the boundaries to some works on blk history and thought. Deal?

  18. William Leonhart

    I hope you understand that, by your reasoning, a white man cannot and should not attempt to pastor women and minorities, because he has no authority granted him by his majority culture experience to teach them anything about how they ought to perceive their experiences. I look forward to your list of scholarly books

  19. Jimmy

    Your response is funny. U made assumptions abt what y think my assumptions are. I asked u questions of inquiry.

    When u go to a doctor a doctor that didnt go to medical school but to law school? Would u go to a lawyer who did not go to law school but to engineering school? U jump on the defensive to argue tht: how much ive read about a very complex subject, and how much ive interacted with ppl who have existential experience on a subject is irrelevant; amd tht a person is not required to have substantial knowledge on a subject to speak on it. U show the simplicity of ur argumentation by rejecting the idea that a persons existential existence can, by virtue of tht existence grant them knowledge on a subject that others dont have access to. Should we have an expectation that a person speaking on labor has a certain gender, or atleast have read widely those who are female? Does not gender limit a man from authority to speak concluvely abt how much labor hurts?
    Would u accept an anthropologists argument abt a ppl group that has not spent time among those ppl?

    It seems tht u suggests tht we have a dream world were their is no expectations for ppl who argue certain suppositions. Yes, we have free speech, but all speech is not equal. We rightfully distinguish from ppl who meet ligitimate expectations to speak authoritatively on a subject and those who do not. Thts how we all(including u) live our lives. Ur inconsistency is so obvious here its almost embarrassing.

  20. William Leonhart

    You know what, no. I said the last word is yours, and it will be, but I have onenlast pledge I will make to you:

    Leave in your next comment…

    1. The top five books you’ve read on CRT, and…
    2. The top five books you’ve read in opposition to CRT,

    …and I will read all ten before I comment again on RAAN. Deal?

  21. William Leonhart

    Your questions demonstrate that you believe yourself to already know the answers to all these questions. It is clear my views are dismissed outright and assumed to be ill-informed and the product of having been racially isolated my whole life, assumptions that are just as ill-informed as you suppose me to be. The last word is yours, brother. Please just allow that I don’t have to prove my credentials (e.g. having the right number of black friends or the right kind of black friends or having read all the right books specifically chosen on the basis of the author’s skin color) before calling you “brother.”

  22. Jimmy

    U state that u r s bi-vocational pastor with little time. I respect tht; however, this is all the more reason to be a bt more humble in ur suggestions tht someone who works in the area of race full-time for a number of years is wrong. Maybe its because of your little time to think deeply about this issue is what makes it sound so foriegn.

    I hope u dont equate writing blogs expressing your opinion on race, with doing work on race. Before someone can be a legitimate voice on a subject they have to have shown a willingness to submit to others and learn from them. My question is not: how much time have u spent expressing your personal views abt race on a blog. My question is: how much time have u spent learning from AAs abt AA issues? How much time have u spent reading books by AA authors on issues of race and things we know existentially(and something u cannot learn in a book)? This is not gnosticism. Is it far fetched to argue that if a person has only read about love, that their knowledge and/or ability to speak on the subject is limited? Because some aspects of love are learned merely existentially. Same with some issues tht plague certain communities. U cannot read abt it, or get ur phd in race and african american studies from (LNU) Local News University. And since some things tht are limited to existential knowledge, some things, certain individuals are limited from fully grasping; for example: i can never know what it is like to be a woman and experience labor pains. For me to sit up and argue with a woman abt how labor pains are “not that bad” or how they can be overcome, i wld make myself look like a foo; especially if i have not, at the very least read from women who have experienced labor. Then when called out abt it, my answer cannot be: i dont have the time because i am bi vocational. Well, u shouldnt have said anything at all in the first place then.

  23. William Leonhart


    The emotion you ascribe to my vomments simply isn’t there. Dryness and a commitment to proposition over emotion is not the same as anger or crying.

    In regard to your suggestions as to how I should have handled this, please go back and read my original comment. I asked Scripture based questions that have still not been properly addressed. Now, it is obvious from my questions that I do not agree, but that is no sin in a civil dialogue. Can we disagree?

    Regarding your accusation that I specifically accused Dr. Williams of anything, I invite you to go back and read those comments. I was asked about the RAAN narrative, not Dr. Williams. I gave an honest opinion based on years of research in the history of ideas. It was not meant as a targeted insult to any one particular person.

    I do think RAAN’s CRT approach in general to be unbiblical, and even an adding to the gospel, and I would welcome discussion on that front, if it were welcome here.

    Regarding my work on race, I am a bi-vocational pastor who has precious little time, but I domehow still manage to address race issues bot on and over at you are free to do a word search on either of those sites to see what work I’ve done on the matter, even co-authoring blog series with AA contributors.

    When the topic of race comes up in the sermon text at my church, it is addressed. I have a commitment to confront any hint of the sin of racism as it crops up in my church. I wholeheartedly commend and support any members in my church with more free time than myself who would take it upon themselves to minister to are dark and dying world in myriad ways as you have suggested, and I believe that is the natural response if a heart changed by the gospel.

    So, please, stop trying to demonize me. I may disagree, but that does not automatically make me a bad guy.

  24. Jimmy

    Ok william,
    Here is the heart at why i view your interactions here as trolling:
    1) you challenge a established professor who teaches new testament interpretation on his foundations being marxist.
    2) Coming to RAAN, even if you assert it propogates “unbiblical views” atleast challenge their interpretation of scripture, rather than suggesting that they adopt a marxist of liberationist foundation. Lets grant that they are wrong, well, why not come up here and say: guys, i think your interpretation of …..verse/doctrine is misgiuded based on A,B,C. Instead you spew vitriol up here complain tht no one interacts with u. Have u considered your approach. You challenge a new testament phd as if ur talking about A little kid. There is a way tht i wld comfront a seemingly well intentioned scholar who i think gets it wrong, based on the fact tht this person is not a “junior theologian.” Nothin ur gonna come up here a d say tht dr williams have not read, heard, and probably wrote a book on. Maybe its just me, but i just think there is a measure of respect that should be granted. Richard Dawkins in my view is wrong on many things, but if i approach him on issues of science, im going to come at it from a posture of recognition that this man has spent the majority of his life studying what i am challenging him on.

    3) Do u spend anytime in white communities critiquing their misguided views of scripture tht contradict the Gospel, and facilitate injustice? This, i think jesse williams got right: if you dont have a history of critiquing injustice do not pop up trying to critique responses to injustice. This is just biblcal wisdom of having credibility among communities. And as Ministers of the gospel, we shld recognize that credibility is earned not assumed. How often have u decried injustice done toward blk community? How often have u challenged police brutality in blk communities? Or do u live by the fantasy tht police never do injustice? Whats ur track record of service among AAs? Can any AA vouch tht u have served the community? U claim to be so concerned abt the how raan is hurting blk ppl, but what about ur life shows a consistent fight to display genuine concern for AAs?

  25. William Leonhart

    “Your assertion tht we as christians, based on collossians, shld not b bound by the traditions of men suggest atleast two things: 1) you argue tht raan writers have not founded their critique of racism in scripture. 2) or, u have a bias of what someone can apply that principle to. Dr williams and every other writer for raan have their foundation in scripture.”

    Then you should welcome criticism and questions based on Scripture as Paul did.

    “No one goes to human wisdom uncritical. U just reject the wholistic view of the gospel.”

    Wrong. I accept that the gospel, rightly preached and received, is sufficient for holistic reform of the saints.

    “Its funny that u cry tht i try to act like i know your motives, yet u have continously gave a sweeping condemnation to raan writers of their motives.”

    I’ve said nothing of motives. I’ve attempted to interact with their ideas, and I’ve been honest about similarities I see between RAAN’s brand of CRT and the world’s gospel-less approach.

    “Man, please go troll a klan website. Debate them on their views. Stop tryin to police our discussions abt race. We are groinded in the word.”

    Show me a klan website that claims to be Reformed and Evangelical and that has the same influence in Evangelicalism RAAN has, and I will go engage them. I’m an equal opportunity dissenter. I wonder if these uber-influential white supremacy sites you claim exist are as willing as you are to hear disagreement.

  26. Jimmy

    Your assertion tht we as christians, based on collossians, shld not b bound by the traditions of men suggest atleast two things: 1) you argue tht raan writers have not founded their critique of racism in scripture. 2) or, u have a bias of what someone can apply that principle to. Dr williams and every other writer for raan have their foundation in scripture. No one goes to human wisdom uncritical. U just reject the wholistic view of the gospel. Its funny that u cry tht i try to act like i know your motives, yet u have continously gave a sweeping condemnation to raan writers of their motives. Man, please go troll a klan website. Debate them on their views. Stop tryin to police our discussions abt race. We are groinded in the word.

  27. William Leonhart

    With your permission, I will ignore the fact that you insist you know my thoughts, heart, motives, and history.

    The question of how to address sin is one of foundations. Do I use ideas to combat home invasion? Yes. The Bible tells how to think about self defense. Do I use ideas to combat cancer? Yes. The Bible tells me that the sick need a physician. Do I use the Bible to combat racism? Yes. The Bible condemns favoritism in all its forms and teaches me that the gospel breaks down barriers. Do I use the Bible in my approach to politics? Yes. I test all things by the word. I have not said we should not read the world’s ideas. I have a degree in Humanities (philosophy). I am arguing that we should test all things by the word. We must get the Bible into people. The question is how to get the Bible into people. The answer, according to Scripture, is the regulative principle of worship, the ordinary means of grace, and the mundane faithfulness of the saints.

  28. Jimmy

    No. I acknowledge tht their is some(not thriving) blk racism. However, with that said, blk racism lacks the social and/or political power of white racism. And as jesus says: to whom much is given, much is required, tht principle establishes the concept of : greater power breeds greater responsibility. A mayors greed is different from a 8yr old greed due to the access of power the one has. This shows the more urgency to address white racism than blk racism because 1) white ppl as a group hold the most power and their views can actually have influence on other ppl groups lives. 2) blk racism is mostly contingent or in response to the history and experience of white racism. Hear me, im not sayin tht excuses it, i merely pointing out, if u eliminate the root of a contingent cause, u will take care of the contingency. Let me repeat, because i know ur gonna try to make my last comment mean that i argue tht blk racism is excused or not sinful, or even a less sin. Blk racism is usually contingent on the experience of white racism. Remember, the very fact u can have a discussion with a “angry blk person” is because of the contingency of racism and slavery.

    As i noted above but knowing ur position i must continue to reenphasize: unrepentant blk racism is contrary to the gospel, and therefore damnable. But, my wrong response to a man robbing me is still contingent on his sinful act of robbing me. Stop the robber, stop my negative response. For these reasons, from scripture and reason, ot seems right to me to prioritize addressing a more dangerous threat than one tht is less dangerous just from the concept of triage. If i see a kid talking trash to a stranger, and the stranger pulls out a bat to beat the kid to death, im not going to comcentrate on telling the kid he needs to be quiet; no, i will give priority to removing the bat from the adults hand. Will i address the kid? Yes, but the urgency kf the situation calls me to prioritize the greater more powerful threat.

    Further, i want to ask u a question now: 1) how many blk christians do u know in person? 2) when was the last time u been to s blk church? 3) how close a proximity to a blk neighborhood do u live? 4) when was the last time u read a book by a black author?

  29. John N


    Do you acknowledge that black racism is thriving in the black community in general and even among black Christians?

  30. Jimmy

    Your really gonna say I dont want dialogue? Did i not suggest the opportunity to write a article yourself? What i think u do is take every bad experience u have had om discussion abt race, then impose your disagreements with tht last person on the new person u r dialoging with; u may have spoke with a blk marxist, but we are not. Just because our concerns sound similar to the blk marxist, but thts just because the blk marxist is comcerned abt the same things many blk ppl are concerned abt; so it shouldnt surprise u tht the language at times overlaps; however, our fundamental philosophies are ions apart.

    Your (common fundamentalist, evangelical) suggestion tht we address all sins/evil/problems with scripture exclusively does not hold weight when examined. Let me explain: being reformed, im sure u agree tht all sickness and disease is a result of man’s fall into sin. Now, although God is our healer, amd the ultimate cosmological renewal found in the gospel will heal all sickness, do u encourage christians not to go to the doctor? Do u tell parents of mentally ill children to not go to a mental health specialist? Since, according to u, they would be addressing sin problems with a worldly philosophy. Under your reasoning, if something has its origin with sin, we as believers can only turn to spiritual remedies. U dont live that consistently yourself

    Racism is a sin; and our primary means of addressing it must be scripture. But just like if i get cancer, im not simply going to pray about it; i will pray, but im going to borrow from the good of the resources God has birthed in human ingenuity to address the issue to. So, as a believer, yes, i can borrow (some) things from critical race theory; i can gain understanding from the wisdom of men who came before me to deal with this issue. Paul did this at the areopagus, and in Titus. (Obviously im not saying he used thm indiscriminately).

    So, your suggestion that we as blk christians are bound by the limits of scriptural language to address the issue of race is 1) nonsensical 2) a double standard because im sure you dont use this same philosophy with other issues in your own life. U just seek to limit the scope of how we addess the issue because u dont like the findings.

    If i want to know history, should i only read biblical narratives? If i am in politics, should i ignore the constitution and just say “scripture alone?” When addressing ISIS, do u suggest america just throw bibles at them? If a burgular comes in your home, are u just going to pray for him of he is attack your family? Or are u going to rely on your worldly wisdom of self defense to protect your wife? Well, the bulgular is a sinner; so the root issue is sin. So, u shld sit there and throw bibles at him….right? This just shows the foolishness of what u are suggesting tht we, as blk christians shld do to address our concerns.

  31. Emily Lightner

    I absolutely agree with your main point of this article. It bothers me that my own white church is so focused on salvation, but leaves out the kingdom-focus of the Gospel. However, I wonder if the problem really is segregated churches. I feel like each subculture in Christianity is entitled to worship in a way that reflects their own culture. African-American culture seems very different than my white, rural American culture. I understand that segregating our churches certainly will lead to racism, but is there a way we can establish churches that come together in community and yet reflect our own culture’s uniqueness and beauty? I guess what I am trying to say is that when I envision Heaven, I don’t see all believers from every tongue, tribe, and nation all singing “How Great Thou Art”, but I see a beautiful tapestry of people singing in their own language and musical style and it all sounding like one amazing song because it reflects the complexities of our God. How do we seek to establish that kind of thing here?

  32. William Leonhart

    Also, the “shut up and listen” sentiment in your comment only further demonstrates the lack of desire for any real dialogue on the issue. Do you want a dialogue or a monologue? Or do you just want to circle the wagons and let any brothers who disagree with you that their voice doesn’t matter?

  33. William Leonhart

    Define “troll.” Is it to adk honest questions and give hinest input in a desire to engage in a dialogue where everyone does not necessarily agree? For a website pushing a narrative and seeking converts to your cause, you have a pretty high standard of agreement required of your readers before you are willing to engage their comments. In fact, I noticed that, rather than answer honest questions, the original author of this post took to Twitter to tell people he’d been the victim of name-calling, as I predicted. I “troll” this website (as you put it), because I care about this issue. I care about my brothers in Christ. #AllSaintsMatter

    If you want to know my thoughts on the matter, you can read the ongoing series I’m doing with Gabriel Williams over at A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology. Having spent months being ignored over here, I somehow doubt a submission of my thoughts to RAAN would be considered. If I can’t get some honest dialogue going in the comment section, simply because I disagree, why would I get a blog post?

    As to your accusations that I have racist motives and don’t care for the little guy or inderstand the Bible’s mandates, you obviously don’t know me. Again, I would encourage you to go and read my ongoing series over at Many pastors are very concerned about the issue of racism and address it wherever it comes up in the text. We rebuke it where we see it in our churches, and we encourage our congregations to admonish one another where they see sin in the lives of the saints. THIS is why I read RAAN. I care about this issue a great deal.

    Where RAAN and I part ways is when the sin of racism is redefined to include inter-generational sin, intangible, ghost-like, perceived structures of racism, and the idea that I must treat my brother like a state employee under “protected class” status rather than simply as a brother.

    Yes, there were widows’ lists in Scripture but, as I’m sure you are aware, Paul’s teaching on them in 1 Timothy 5 might seem a bit harsh by today’s standads. Let widows under 60 remarry? If she has children, let them support her? Paul, how insensitive! If a man does not work, he shall not eat? If a man does not take care of his own, he is to be treated as worse than a heathen? Paul, you obviously do not understand the social justice arc of Scripture.

    Is there racism in the church? Yes. Is it sin? Yes. Does it need to be eradicated? Yes. Through discussions with my friends of color, though, it has been pointed out to me that RAAN has a different definition of the sin of racism than I do. With this observation, I must concur. I comment, not to troll, but to make that difference clear.

    This website calls itself Reformed, and a core doctrine of the Reformed faith is that of the ordinary means of grace. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul is dealing a church that is trying to deal with a faction of people commentators have come to call the Colossian heretics. The heretics’ goal is apparently to help the church deal with sin in the body. However, rather than pointing to Christ (chapter 1), His ordinary means of grace (chapter 2), and the mundane faithfulness of the Christian life (chapters 3-4), the heretics proposed that the church follow the traditions of men and worldly philosophies. They misdiagnosed sin as primarily a matter of the body, where it was actually a matter of the heart.

    Again, racism is sin. It must be eradicated from Christ’s church. How do we accomplish that? Exalt Christ and commit ourselves to a steady diet of the ordinary means of grace and mundane faithfulness. It may not immediately, fundamentally alter our societies, but it will help the church to guard against the infiltration of societal attitudes. To say these things are not sufficient for dealing with sin is to contradict Paul and side with the Colossian heretics.

    So, let’s have that dialogue. Let’s be willing to disagree with one another without calling each other trolls. Let’s recognize that dialogue means both parties listening, not merely running to Twitter and screaming to the masses, “I got called a Marxist!” without ever asking, “What do you mean by Marxist? Because I don’t want to be seen as smuggling worldly philosophies into Christianity in order to address sin issues in the body.”

  34. Jimmy

    I want to respect your input, but having observed your consistent interaction on this website for months, you are simply here to troll. All you do is criticize articles posted on this page. I often wonder, why do you come to this site if its so horrible? How about submit an article to publish and work for change in what you deem as the unhealthy content here.

    You seem to attempt to refocus the emphasize of Jesus: “to whom much is given, much is required.” While you make some (possibly) legitimate concerns, you fail to realize the trajectory of the scripture; the scripture gives priority to targeting ppl in positions of power over vulnerable ppl to stay their mistreatment if the less powerful; thats not marxist, that just the flow of scripture. James singles out looking out for widows and orphans; does this mean he doesnt want other ppl cared for? No! Its just the trajectory of scripture to emphasize the plight of societies most vulnerable. All through the prophets, God warns the ppl to not to withhold justce from the poor. Did he do this because it was okay to withhold it from the rich? No! The point is, it is usually the most vulnerable in society that God directly speaks for because usually it is the defenseless who get explioted. God seems to have a heart for the vulnerable. You want to call the Christian adherence to that same priority marxist. In my view, tht is just a symptom of ur sinful desire to prioritize the privileged(which you so eloquently do in almost all your post).

    In american society, African Americans have historically been vulnerable and unprotected. For Raan or others to give priority to the disenfranchised is not marxist. Its following the example of the scripture and jesus’ life; namely, finding the vulnerable of society and prioritizing our ministry with them. Jesus did this, he spent most of his ministry among the poor and hurting and disenfranchised. This is something that privileged evangelicalism misses. And in your post this is the most apparent blindspot. I wish u were willing to hear another view; but being a troll thats not what your purpose is. I wish u wld see value in gaining another (biblically informed) perspective. Listen man, u have nit learned all their is to know. I know american culture has taight u to think less of, or have suspicion toward any black contribution, but, brother, God can use us to. And get this: GOD COULD ACTUALLY USE A BLACK PERSON TO CORRECT YOU. I know thats revolutionary in american culture for u to accept; but o just suggest that you try to use this site to gain something from (if u have a teachable spirit), or just go harrass a white supremacist site; your skills at trolling wld b much more useful and beneficial there.

  35. William Leonhart

    Wow. If that’s not a racist, stereo-typical over-simplification, I don’t know what is. Irony all around.

  36. Jimmy

    The irony of all this discussion and critique of Dr.Williams (of whom I have enjoyed in the context of a classroom, and across a table eating) is that Dr. Williams earned his Ph.D at one of the most conservative evangelical seminaries in NT; and is a professor of NT interpretation at that same school. He is very familiar with James Cone( he has actually met him, and presented a paper critiquing him and described his disagreements to James cone himself, in person) and he rejects liberation theology. I think whn some who have been taught that the only expression of biblical christianity is only with terms that white evangelicals have used(or approved of), then once you present a more complete description of the application of the Gospel, since they don’t know how to handle it, their first knee-jerk reaction is to call it liberation theology( which is simply code-word for anything that black ppl contribute to theological discussions that don’t either originate from white men, or bask in the glory of the white men.

  37. William Leonhart

    1) My point in asking this question was to drive us to Jeremiah 31 where the New Covenant is prophesied, a covenant in which men are explicitly forbidden from charging other men with the guilt of their fathers.

    2) In context of a narrative in which churches unwittingly imbibe the sinful structures of their surrounding cultures (as Dr. Williams described), I don’t see how any church can escape the condemnation this “gospel” brings.

    3) No solutions?

    4) John H. asked me what I think the RAAN narrative is “born of.” Now I would not accuse anyone in particular on RAAN of being conscienciously Marxist or of purposefully holding to liberation theology. My comparison had to do with lines of argumentation common between RAAN’s majority culture / minority culture narrative and Marx’s bourgeoisie / proletariat narrative. I said nothing of Dr. Williams specifically in this regard. As I predicted, though, my comparison is reduced to name calling in order for it to be easily dismissed.

  38. John N

    Well said Willliam.

  39. Cody Floate

    William and John H.

    Firstly, the question regarding NT witness for inter-generational sin guilt is a bad question to ask since the NT was written over the course of the first generation of believers. There won’t be any specific examples of that if that is what you’re asking for. I do not think however that that would condemn Dr. William’s argument for corporate repentance. If a group have sinned in the same manner for generations, then that group must, as a body, repent of that. Repentance should be both individual and corporate. You see that in the nation of Israel very clearly.

    Secondly, new churches don’t need to be strapped by privileging others if they are preaching the gospel and its far-reaching implications. Privilege for many exist because of societal structures but it doesn’t have to stay that way in our churches. So I would encourage new congregations to preach the gospel boldly, and allow that gospel do its work on a multitude of levels. The gospel keeps true privilege from occurring in our churches even if privilege exist in the culture. We don’t want to be those who James is rebuking for partiality. We want to see the gospel radically bring together those who otherwise have no cultural business being together in community.

    Thirdly, please refrain from using such harsh language. Your use of phrases like “black liberation theology” and “Marxism” in context to Dr. Williams reveals that you don’t actually know what those ideologies really mean. He is in no way promoting black liberation theology. I’ve heard him boldly renounce it in his SBTS classes. He’s also no Marxist. So don’t run to harsh accusations. The fool is the man who speaks without knowledge.

  40. William Leonhart

    I would say Marxist but some, not having read Marx, Engels, and Alinski, would assume I’m resorting to name-calling rather than recognizing a particular, historic line of argumentation. Colossians 2 is very clear that we are not to be bound by the traditions of men and worldly philosophies in our battle against sin. Furthermore, to smuggle these worldly philosophies into Christianity and to equate it with the gospel is to run the error of the Galatian Judaizers and preach another gospel. The answer to sin is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some, however, would claim to have special knowledge (gnosticism) that is necessary beyond the gospel in order to combat sin. They should repent.

  41. John N


    How would you summarize the RAAN narrative on race relations?

    To me, it is clearly born of leftist, black liberation theology.

  42. William Leonhart

    John N.,

    Couple of errors in your comment. First, your definition of racism doesn’t match up with the RAAN narrative. Even if you can demonstrate from the Bible that all favoritism, even that of racial favoritism on the part of minority races, you will not be engaging with the narrative of RAAN, so you will be pigeon-holed as a non-black non-listener. Second, you have expressed a disagreement with the original article, so you will most likely not get a response. Dialogue is not the goal.

  43. g

    Dr. Williams, Thank you for enduring the endless criticisms for speaking on these things. Some of us are very grateful for the attempt by the courageous leaders like you who have a voice, to speak for those who few will hear. Praying for you now.

  44. John N

    Mr. Williams,

    Racism is a human sin. All the sons of Adam have at one time or another fallen by it.

    As long as black racism, contempt for white people, fails to even be acknowledged as a wide spread problem in the black community, even among black Christians, how can we move forward and truly reconcile? If racism were completely eradicated and repented of by whites and white Christians, that would still leave black racists, the systemic black racism which is the ruling ideology of the public school system and is perpetuated by even the first black POTUS along with his administration.

    The veneration of black criminals by black Christians also must end.

    Police were called to the store where Alton Sterling was selling CDs because they received a call that someone fitting his description had threatened someone else with a gun.

    That doesn’t matter though because he was black.

    When police arrived they knew they were potentially dealing with an armed man. Indeed they were. They were dealing with a man who had committed horrific crimes against other blacks in his life. And he illegally possessed a gun in his pocket.

    But that doesn’t matter because he was black.

    When the police, who have a right to go home to their wives and children at the end of the shift, ordered him to submit to being searched for that illegal gun, he resisted.

    But that doesn’t matter either because he was black.

    Ground fighting is one of the most dangerous situations for police officer to find himself in. Once Alton Sterling was on the ground he continued to fight. You heard with you with your own here’s one of the police officers saying “he’s got a gun!”

    None of that matters because he was black.

    The criminal image bearer was tragically shot by a police officer who thought his partner was in danger because of a criminal with a gun.

    Doesn’t matter. He was black.

    Romans 13 says that governments, including police officers, bear the sword, not in vain, against the wicked. And God pours out his wrath through them. This is quite sobering of course. And it does not excuse police brutality in any way. But it doesn’t excuse black criminals ever. Only black racism excuses black criminality.

    This hypocrisy ought not to be named among Christians. As you stated in your article, “We are in danger of losing our voice in a dying world that desperately needs to hear, see, and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Black racism will be one of the many factors, if this ever did occur.

  45. William Leonhart

    “Until American Christians are willing to confront our racist past and to admit the privileges that have come to certain people because of the racist structures that undergird our denominations and our churches and our curriculum, American Christianity will be the biggest loser in a country divided over race and will continue to lose credibility with marginalized groups.”


    1. Can you make a case from the Bible for corporate, inter-generational sin guilt in the New Covenant community?

    2. In your view, are new churches / denominations also to be strapped with this same stigma of privileging people “because of the racist structures that undergird” them?

    3. What solutions do you offer?

Leave A Comment