Back in 2004, I first read Introducing Black Theology by Bruce L. Fields, associate professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Here is what I wrote at the end of the book: “I deem it an appetizer to a greater understanding of the matter at hand that needs to be addressed and not ignored.”
In this second reading, I’ve done so with more mature eyes, if you will. While not an expert in black theology, I’m better prepared now than when I first read it in 2004, to offer this brief review.
Introducing Black Theology: 3 Crucial Questions for the Evangelical Church is part of the 3 Crucial Question series, edited by Grant R. Osborne, professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The 3 Crucial Questions that professor Fields tackles are: (1) What Is Black Theology? (2) What Can Black Theology Teach the Evangelical Church? And (3) What Is the Future of Black Theology? In answer to these 3 Crucial Questions Fields interacts with leading black theologians, especially James Cone, who is considered the father of black theology.
While the book is meant to be a brief treatment of black theology, it is nevertheless substantial. On the one hand, the reader will find that professor Fields does not back down in critique of the white dominance of American Evangelicalism and its adverse effects on not only African Americans but other minority groups. Fields often quotes other leading Evangelical thinkers and scholars to address this crucial issue in both the academy and the church.
On the other hand, professor Fields, as a black Christian and part of the black experience in America, offers valuable critiques and insights to black theologians and consequently the church, if they are to remain a relevant witness to the black church in particular and the church in America in general. Professor Fields calls on black theologians to seriously consider how they do theology if they are to be persuasive in the larger theological community.
Moving toward his conclusion, professor Fields calls on both white evangelicals to listen to the black theological community and vice versa.
In the end, Fields maintains, “The way of ultimate liberation is still found in and through the cross of Christ, which facilitates both a deeper dependence upon God and the hope of victory” (p. 97). Though brief in content, Introduction to Black Theology packs a powerful punch, that I consider balanced and gospel-focused. And for this reason, I truly commend it (It’s ashamed that it’s out of print).