Does Being Black and Reformed Make You Historically Ignorant?

Comments (8)
  1. Roger N Williams says:

    In regards to Steven’s post, I totally agree. I have been struggling with this very issue for years. How can people who,in my estimation, interpret the Scriptures so clearly and accurately, yet sin so heinously against other image bearers? I think the answer is in the lack of application of the deep truths of Scripture. Some people are able to understand accurately what the Scriptures say yet fail to put what they understand into practice because of compartmentalization, or an unwillingness to obey God or a submission to the prevailing dominant views at a particular time in history. Slavery was justified on this basis. And some truths are not so deep. For example, “love your neighbor as yourself” or “treat your neighbor the way you’d want to be treated”. These truths are not as deep as the doctrines Predestination or the Sovereignty of God, but we are commanded to, nonetheless, believe and act on them.

  2. steven says:

    Edmond says, “Carter suggests blacks should not look at history and their Christian experience as a tool for arguing against Reformed theology, but should view it with an understanding of God’s sovereignty, human depravity and sufficiency of Christ.”
    I am not a black man, I am a latino, and am learning the history of my peoples colonization and enslavement at the hands of White Catholic Christians. I find it impossible to remove my “Christian experience” from how I view Catholicism and Reformed Theology. When I learn about people like Jonathan Edwards and others who are so important to Reformed Theology, yet actively participated in the attempt to subdue and oppress an entire people group, I can’t help but feel disgust and sick to my stomach. At the same time, when I read the Bible, my interpretations usually side with their reformed views of scripture. At this point, I just feel like its messy, and I am still unable to reconcile the monstrous acts committed by early reformers with the sovereignty of God, but I don’t feel the need to reconcile them either. Its a severe tension I hold, but I trust that God is okay with me having this tension.

  3. Earon James says:

    I too am a black man who embraces Reformed theology even though I come from a Charismatic background. Carter’s book encouraged me in that it helped me to recognize that we are part of a very rich theological heritage. The story of Black people is one that is marked by the sovereign hand of God. In spite of the injustices and atrocities the Black church has persevered by God’s grace. Thanks for the insightful article.

  4. Roger N Williams says:

    I disagree with Carter’s understanding of God’s sovereign plan. We need to be careful not to indirectly or directly excuse particular human sins and injustices by stating that they were in God’s Sovereign Will. “Slavery and colonization were crimes committed by white Christians”. I think we can call it that. The fact that it happened, shows that it was indeed part of God’s plan. However, God’s plan includes both an efficacious and a permissive decree. The permissive decree relates to moral sin. Crimes committed by white Christians were under the permissive decree. The Sovereign God ordains events in His plan that are unpleasing to Him. Yet He permits them to happen for His glory and for our good. An example of this is the crucifixion of His beloved Son . Was it in the Father’s plan? Yes. But the deed was committed by sinful humans and He held them accountable. God permitted this to occur in His plan, while probably hating it, for His glory and for our good. This view can be found in Dogmatic Theology by William G.T. Shedd, pgs. 318-321 and an article by John Piper “Are There Two Wills in God?” in the book Still Sovereign. I think as Christians we have to fight current injustices and evil where we find it; and be on guard against assigning it to God’ Plan. I think Deut 29: 29 will help us keep it straight: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

    1. Carter devotes Chapter 3, The Church From Chains to narrate the atrocities committed against the kidnapped and exploited Africans. He clearly states the sins committed against Africans by white Christians without excusing them. He then summarizes these experiences in the statement:

      “Only in Reformed thinking do we get a clear picture of God sovereignly working within the realm of sinful humans to bring about the existence of a dynamic church and, more importantly, and redemption of all those who believe. In fact, if Christians of various races would examine history from the perspective of a sovereign God ordaining and orchestrating all events for his glory, we would find that we have more in common than not.”

  5. Thanks Sam for the insightful comment. I agree justify inhumane acts as works of God’s sovereignty is unsettling and sometimes outright offensive. A story that quickly comes to mind is the life of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his own, he later became a leader in Egypt.

    What was God’s sovereign plan slavery or ascending to the throne of Egypt? It’s easy to say God’s sovereignty is illustrated only in his ascension, but the life of Job and even Joseph’s concluding remarks might say otherwise. Both the slavery and the ascension were part of God’s sovereign plan.

    Carter demonstrates throughout the book that God’s sovereignty doesn’t ignore or absolve the sins committed by the slave traders, owners and those who said nothing. But it teaches us and points us to the sufficiency of Christ so that we can say with Joseph, “What you meant for evil, God meant it for our good.”

  6. Sam says:

    Thank you for sharing this. One of the challenges I run into is the very argument that Carter makes, but it’s put more bluntly by my white friends, especially those fitting the stereotypical hard-line conservatively reformed perspective that I found among seminary peers. They see things like “if it wasn’t God’s will for slavery/segregation/rape of our women/discrimination/mass incarceration to occur, then it wouldn’t have happened. God is sovereign.”

    Well if I knock you upside the head for saying that, would it be God’s will for you to experience the stitches you receive? I think not. Not everyone will see Heaven, although Scripture clearly points to that being God’s will (2 Peter 3:9b). Such statements continue the rift between black/white and reformed/non-reformed perspectives.

    I’m so grateful for the peace of Christ that can rule our hearts (Col 3:15). His peace will allow us to overlook offensive statements made on all sides of the spectrum and focus on the role he’s called each of us to play in the body of Christ. I share with my friends that such ignorantly stated comments can come from a position of privilege. We’re all privileged when we think that our Reformed, COGIC, Charismatic, Jesus-Only, Independent, Baptist, Southern Baptist, Full Gospel, PCA, AME, CME, Adventist, or any other tradition is considered more superior than others, simply because we aren’t willing to listen and consider others. We must all do better.

    1. Chioma says:

      I appreciate this comment. Thanks.

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