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Think of five theologians that have helped shape your walk with Christ. Write their names down if you have to.

Now think of five black theologians.

If you have not been exposed to black theologians, you may have struggled to even come up with one name. If you’re black and struggled to think of any names, you are not alone. In many cases, we don’t know of the black thought and influence in the Christian faith. There’s even a chance we’ve been encouraged to stay in this ignorance.

Foundation

Before we can appreciate the works by black theologians, it’s important to realize that the gospel is what helps us embrace the beauty in the giftings of others.

Our God is so beyond us in character/virtue and is more glorious than we can fathom. He sent his Son to pay the penalty of sin for all who would put their trust in him. His grace and mercy empower us to bring this joyful good news to the world. All who have received the Spirit are members of his body and are called to use their giftings for his glory. Jesus has united all believers by his blood.

Yet, becoming one tribe in Christ does not mean we lose our differences. Paul encourages the saints by writing, “Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:4) and it’s the Spirit who equips the saints with different gifts “to build up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). As we exhort one another in these gifts, we must remember that “the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free” (1 Cor. 12:12-13).

God has given diverse gifts to all his people who uniquely operate as one body. Through the lens of the gospel, we can’t hold one culture or one people group in high esteem. If we seek to unify in our differences, we need to make some strong changes that recognize and affirm other ethnicities as they seek to lift the name of Jesus in their gifting.

The Shades of Christianity

Understanding this foundational truth brings us back to my original premise of black thought. Though not commanded in scripture, I believe it’s wise we expose ourselves to different sound theological teachers that we aren’t familiar with. In my time at Bible College, the majority of my readings were written by older white men. I had only been exposed to a whitewashed Christian history that led me to assume sound teaching could only be found in white men.

This made me ignore the great diversity and Christian prominence of long-established African teachers. Early church fathers such as Tertullian, Athanasius, and Augustine have also been whitewashed as many Christians rarely acknowledge their African heritage. What a great disservice to the globalization of Christianity!

Tertullian contributed heavily to how we understand the doctrine of the Trinity. Athanasius spent almost his entire life defending the divinity of the Son, yet not compromising our understanding of Jesus’ humanity. Augustine provided the foundation of Reformed theology as he shaped the idea of Original Sin, the bondage of the will, and the doctrine of predestination.

These men of God were used greatly to define and defend the essential doctrines of the faith and we are still benefiting from their contributions. White men are not the only ones thinking through theological issues. We must recognize and appreciate black contributions to Christianity. If more works of black theologians, historical and modern, were integrated into seminary curriculum and discussed in more circles, the effects would impact many.

One Tribe

The idea that Christianity is a western faith is foolishness. This myth can subconsciously convey to urban communities that they are second-class citizens and that assimilation to whiteness equals Christianity. Nothing can be further from the truth.

This ideology is poor apologetics to the hood and the urban inner-city. My brown-skinned Jewish Savior died for the sins of all people and reconciles all who believe him. No ethnic group has a monopoly on theological truth; the work of the cross creates one tribe out of many scattered nations.

In light of this, here is a concise (not exhaustive) list of black scholars, theologians, and thinkers:

Dr. Carl Ellis, Bryan Loritts, Thabiti Anyabwile, Dr. Christina Edmondson, Dr. Anthony Bradley, Jemar Tisby, Dr. Vince Bantu, Dr. Eric Mason, Lisa Fields, Earon James, Damon Richardson, Ekemini Uwan, Dr. Jarvis Williams, Rodney Wilkinson, Karen Ellis, and Darryl Williamson. These are just a few bright minds.

We obviously don’t glory in race or ethnicity but I am thankful for black men and women who resemble me and speak to my specific context in ways other people groups cannot grasp or identify. By God’s grace, they have set the stage for many others to follow.

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