On Being Black, Baptist, and Reformed

I thought I’d pause to offer something of a biographical sketch and perspective of myself as a blogger.  Perhaps this post will serve to answer a few questions and fill in a few blanks.

On Being Black.  To be black is often to fit into a particular socioeconomic construct–it’s something of a handle for a subculture.  Black scholars and thinkers continue to write and speak of the “black experience,” especially in American.  It’s the experience of the black man that the non-black will never understand.  It’s the lingering effects of a people being enslaved and dehumanized because of the color of their skin.  I can say more, but I’ll end here.

On Being Baptist.  While I’m a Baptist by denominational affiliation, I’m in no way a tribalist, that is, all things Baptists, as the contents of this blog would reveal.  However, I’m Baptist in my ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) and those historic distinctives that make one Baptist.

On Being Reformed.  Before I say more here, I know, for example, there are those who only reserve the term “Reformed” for a particular understanding of say covenant theology, the sacraments, paedobaptism, and those who hold to the Three Forms and Westminster Standards.  In such case, I’m not “Reformed.”

But if by “reformed” we mean adhering to the Five Solas of the Reformation, the doctrines of grace and the biblical truths expressed in the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, and being an offspring of the 16th century Radical Reformers, then I’m reformed (however, this is not a hill I’m prepare to die on).

So I hope the above will serve as a context, a perspective, if you will, of much of what I have to share on this blog.

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This entry was posted in Baptists, Black, Black Theology, Calvinism, Michael S. Horton, Racism, Reformed, Westminster Confession. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to On Being Black, Baptist, and Reformed

  1. Acidri says:

    Yeah, TC has promised to baptise his kids some day…..soon if we pester him enough(just kidding)! 🙂

  2. Jon Hughes says:

    TC,

    1) I’m not black, but I am married to a black woman (Zimbabwean)!

    2) I’m definitely a Baptist.

    3) I appreciate Reformed Theology, but (like a lot of theology) see it as a reductionist grid imposed on Scripture.

    On the last point, can no-one else see the pink elephant in the room? One of the rally cries of the Reformation was ‘justification by faith alone’ – so why is it, then, that the only occasion we find “faith alone” in the Bible is in James 2:24, where we are told that a man is justified by works and NOT by faith alone. Can someone please answer that question, because I can’t get past the elephant…

    Luther was perhaps more transparent than most here by questioning the canonicity of James, and adding his own “alone” to Romans 3:28!!! My point is that justification by faith is biblical, but justification by faith alone is very much NOT biblical; or does James not count for much?

    By the way, this does not make me a Roman Catholic, or an advocate of salvation by works. It does, however, make me someone who wants to do justice to Scripture.

    • TC says:

      Jon, marrying a Zimbabwean makes you half-black, man. 😀 But I wouldn’t paint with such a wide brush when it comes to Reformed theology. Take for example, an NT Wright who stands in the Reformed tradition but he differs with the like of a Horton. In this matter, I’m primarily at the feet of a Wright and so on.

      Regarding “Justification by faith alone,” I believe the way Paul argues in both Romans and Galatians what Luther was justified in adding “alone.” Remember the juxtaposition of “by faith in Christ” and “not by works.”

      Like many, I tend to read James differently. I believe he is complement Paul. Note how both of how use Abraham. A careful reading would remove all doubt.

      But if we are justified by works, note Wright and Moo on this, in light of Romans 2:12ff. However this is where our Christology comes to bear on our soteriology.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        Cheers, TC!

        Sorry to keep jumping on your blog at the present time! I still think that “faith alone” is conspicuous by its absence, with the exception of James who explicitly states the opposite of Sola Fide.

        One could put it to the test by preaching in John Piper’s/John MacArthur’s/RC Sproul’s pulpits and making the point that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

        Can you hear the gasps?

  3. TC says:

    Jon, read my next post and discover how cool it is to have you and others in dialogue in these matters.

    Let me ask you a question then, Where does a person’s works fit in this whole thing call justification? I’m trying to understand where you’re coming from. Help a brother out.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Hi TC,

      I don’t know. I’m just trying to let James speak clearly. Salvation is by God’s grace alone; and God’s grace produces both faith and works in the life of the believer. James would have us know that you can’t have the one without the other.

      • TC says:

        Jon, if by grace, then works are excluded. This is Paul (Rom. 11:6). I believe James is addressing saved people but who are fruitless – no evidence of their salvation, if you will.

  4. Jon Hughes says:

    TC,

    Here are two pertinent quotes from Soren Kierkegaard (as quoted by Richard Bauckham: “James”) which touch on what we’ve discussed above.

    “There appeared a man from God and with faith, Martin Luther; with faith (for truly this required faith) or by faith he established faith in its rights. His life expressed works – let us never forget that – but he said: A person is saved by faith alone. The danger was great. I know of no stronger expression of how great it was in Luther’s eyes than that in order to get things straight: the Apostle James must be shoved aside. Imagine Luther’s respect for an apostle – and then to have to dare to do this in order to get faith restored to its rights!”

    “(Luther) himself best disproves his conception of the Bible, he who throws out the epistle of James. Why? Because it does not belong in the canon? No, this he does not deny. But on dogmatic grounds. Therefore he himself has a point of departure superior to the Bible.”

    I haven’t read what Bauckham says himself yet, but will let you know. What strikes me is how profoundly honest Luther was, albeit dangerously so! Luther read James in a way that today’s evangelical harmonizers apparently don’t.

    Luther’s option is not open to me, as I want to deal with James as the Word of God just as much as Romans or Galatians. But the great man does remind us that there’s a problem here, doesn’t he?

    • TC says:

      Jon, thanks for this. And as much as I admire Luther, I don’t believe he and the others are meant to be treated as the Alpha and Omega of it all, as many seem to do. I believe, like many others, that Luther erred here.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        TC,

        Here’s what Bauckham says on James:

        “Faith ‘by itself’ (2:17) or ‘alone’ (2:24) cannot save (2:14) nor be the basis of God’s declaration that a person is righteous (‘justify’: 2:24), because the only kind of faith which can exist by itself or ‘alone’ is mere intellectual assent… Abraham was justified by works (2:21, cf. 24), because Abraham’s faith was the kind that produces works and Abraham’s works were the product and completion of his faith. Works demonstrate faith (2:9b).”

        Bauckham also makes the point that James should be read and understood on its own terms, rather than interpreted through a Pauline grid.

        I have to say, TC, that I prefer the term ‘justification by faith’ without the add on ‘alone’, as it seems forced in the light of James. I love the Reformation emphasis on Christ alone, God’s grace alone, and Scripture alone, but faith alone seems to be the biblically weakest of the five solas (much like Limited Atonement in T.U.L.I.P.).

      • Jon Hughes says:

        Or at the very least, we should flesh out the nature of faith in our preaching. Otherwise, with too much emphasis on the word ‘alone’, we’ll end up in Zane Hodges territory.

  5. TC says:

    Jon, thanks for offering more from Bauckham. He’s essentially offering the standard position:

    “Abraham was justified by works (2:21, cf. 24), because Abraham’s faith was the kind that produces works and Abraham’s works were the product and completion of his faith. Works demonstrate faith (2:9b).”

    Yes, James must be taken on his on terms but not in isolation to the rest of Scripture. Yes, unity in diversity but not where one is contradicting the other. That’s not necessary. For all his brilliance, Luther was overly-zealous.

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