Calvinism responsible for Racial Injustice and Oppression?

Blogger and church planter, T.C. Moore is convinced that Calvinism doesn’t serve the black community well.  Why?  Well, according to Mr. Moore, “Calvinism perpetuates the demonic lie that power is best demonstrated in strength and control.”  Mr. Moore clearly does not think well of Calvinism, as the conclusion to his post The “Big God” Lie and Why It’s Dangerously Wrong reveals:

Black U.S. Americans are not well-served by Calvinism and they never have been. The Calvinist conceptions of power as control and special chosen-ness are directly responsible for centuries of racial injustice and oppression. Black U.S. Americans must reject Calvinism and embrace the beautiful power-in-weakness of Jesus. 

Mr. Moore begins his post, “Being black and Reformed is hot right now. If you’re a black Christian male in the U.S. and you want to be cool and sound smart, all you have to do is talk about the “doctrines of grace,” God’s glory, and Penal Substitution.”

I am black and Reformed, not because I want “to be cool and sound smart.”  Rather, I’m Reformed because of seriously wrestling with Scripture.  In college and seminary I was taught to violently reject Calvinism, not because it was “responsible for centuries of racial injustice and oppression,” but because it was deemed “unbiblical.”

I remember purchasing J.I. Packer’s Knowing God at a used bookstore and  putting it down because of its Calvinism.  I wasn’t forced to read Packer.  It was a choice.  Neither was I looking “to be cool and sound smart.”

As I conclude, for the record let me emphatically say, Calvinism is no more responsible for racial injustice and oppression than Christianity, which was viewed as a tool in the White man’s hands to enslave and oppress.

Sinful and evil hearts.  Aberrations.  Distortions.  Pride.  Hatred.  These are the real culprits of racial injustice and oppression, not Calvinism.

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13 Responses to Calvinism responsible for Racial Injustice and Oppression?

  1. SLIMJIM says:

    That was a very encouraging response to read

  2. Bobby Grow says:

    TCR,

    I think Moore definitely is overstating things; he needs to demonstrate how this is so, not just assert it—he has left this in a post-hoc way … i.e. no demonstration of a necessary causal linkage.

    That said, I don’t agree with classic Calvinism either; because it starts with a God who is philosophically shaped by Law and absolute decrees instead of Triune personal love and grace.

    • TC says:

      SlimJim, thanks.

      Bobby, my hombre, you are wrong about the God of classic Calvinism. Have you read a Calvin on the matter?

      • Bobby Grow says:

        Of course I have, TC. I’m surprised you would ask me that; we have a book in the tradition of Calvinian.

        But of course Calvin and Calvinism are not synonymous. Calvin is not a scholastic, Calvinism is. The God of classic Calvinism is largely Thomistic, or the God of substance metaphysics. A God who is monad, a singuarlity; and thus, philosophically that which funds the classical Calvinist God, primarily, is impersonal substance. This conception of Godness is not commensurate with a God who by Self-Revelation is Triune personal love.

  3. T. C.(M) says:

    Thanks for being a dialogue partner T. C.. I’m up for the challenge of defending my thoughts on Calvinism.

    First, I didn’t write that every black Calvinist is only a Calvinist because they want to be cool or appear smart. What I wrote is: if you’re a black Christian in the U.S., and want to be cool or appear smart, Calvinism is the way to go these days. That’s not a jab at you or anyone in particular. That’s an observation I’ve made of many, many of my friends and colleagues who have jumped on the Calvinism bandwagon since it began to dominate Holy Hip Hop. To adopt Calvinism is to be accepted into an exclusive club of people who take theology “seriously.” I’ve been around it for over a decade. It’s true.

    Second, my argument in this post, which you didn’t re-post, is that Calvinism perpetuates “might makes right” thinking which is always behind every form of racism and/or oppression. I’m not sure how that claim of mine is disproven. Do you know of a place or time in history when racism and/or oppression was caused by servant-leadership or self-sacrificial love? In another post, (“Puritans and the Proof in the Pudding”) I have specifically addressed the “genetic relationship” Thabiti Anyabwile says doesn’t exist between Calvinism and racial injustice: an omni-controlling conception of God.

    You respond by saying Christianity is as much responsible for racial injustice and slavery as Calvinism. But Jonathan Edwards didn’t own slaves because he believe in the resurrection of Jesus or in his self-sacrificial death. Edwards owned slaves because he believe the status of Africans as slaves was predestined and pre-ordained by God. That’s not Christianity—that’s Calvinism!

    By the way, I agree with you that sin is ultimately what drives racial injustice and/or oppression. I wrote about that too. I wrote that idolatry, a sin, is at the root of it all. Specifically, idolatry of power—a specific conception of power: Strength and control. See, if we Christians conceptualize power the way Jesus demonstrated it, we’d believe power was in serving others, laying down our lives for them. We wouldn’t believe power was in controlling others. That’s where Calvinism gets Jesus wrong, God wrong, and perpetuates a dangerous lie.

    Propaganda discovered the hypocrisy of Calvinism and how the white male hegemony relates to black Christians like himself, but he stopped short of connecting the dots. Why? I don’t know. But I do know that if he did connect the dots, he’d be out of a job and he’d alienate all the other Calvinist rappers in Holy Hip Hop. So, I can understand why he didn’t go there. It takes courage to stand up against hegemony when it pays your paycheck.

    • TC says:

      Bobby, this is where a definition of terms serves us well. I do not equate classic Calvinism with scholastic, which you seem to be doing – please correct me if I’m wrong. I get your objections to scholastic Calvinism, but it’s not my brand. Sorry to disappoint.

      TCM,

      First, your statements come off in the general, not particulars with examples. Second, for this to stand, it must mean that non-Calvinists were never slave owner, racists, and oppressors. But we know that this is not the case. Therefore your argument needs a solid footing, which it doesn’t have. Third, I’m glad that you picked up on my “bait and switch” about Christianity being responsible for racial injustice and oppression. Note, that it was “viewed” that way. Surely I was “echoing” what was left unsaid.

      We cannot change the past, as we both are aware. But we must learn from it and correct our behavior as we move forward. This has been my burden and continues to be. In this, we both share something in common.

  4. Bobby Grow says:

    TC,

    What’s your brand? I am aware of multiple brands of Calvinism (of which Evangelical Calvinism or Scottish Theology is one); so what shapes yours? From what I have read of you over the past (and you could have certainly shifted in you absence from blogging), you have sympathy for a mode of Calvinism that fits right into a classic expression. What teachers would you say expresses your view of Calvinism best, contemporary teachers? When I use the language of classical Calvinism I am not necessarily tying that to the scholastics (but they are certainly central to that in the history); instead I am using it rhetorically, in a way, to identify it with classical theism, and what that entails. [here is a link to what I mean, and most people mean when they refer to classical theism: http://growrag.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/what-is-classical-theism-and-what-impact-does-this-have-on-the-american-church/%5D

    You haven’t disappointed me; I just don’t understand where you’re coming from, since the alternatives are finite, and I am aware of the whole continuum (not to be too forward).

    • TC says:

      Bobby, my God is far from impersonal and the like. I’m afraid that the Calvinists I’ve read never gave me that impression of God you’ve outlined above.

      Yes, I do agree that Calvin and (some) strands of Calvinism are not synonymous. I add “some” because I you rightly pointed out there are multiple brands, and this is where the whole thing becomes tricky.

      • Bobby Grow says:

        TC,

        I’m not talking about the piety, I’m talking about the ontology that stands behind the piety; there is a difference. I’m not suggesting that you’re God from a pious perspective is impersonal; but I’m willing to bet that dogmatically and ontologically he most likely is.

        If you let me know of some contemporary Calvinist teachers who you could endorse, this would give me a better idea of the kind of Calvinism you are comfortable with.

  5. TC says:

    Bobby, take a Packer for starters.

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