The New Edition of the Reformation Study Bible

At GA this year, I met Lisa Stolz, senior account manager of church outreach at Ligonier Ministries. We had a great conversation, at the end of which she offered to send me a copy of the new edition of the Reformation Study Bible for review on the blog. I said I would be delighted. Here are my thoughts on the new edition.

What’s new: how does this edition differ from the first edition? In several important ways. 1. It is now based on the ESV, not the NKJV. 2. It has maps and illustrations peppered throughout the text, and not just at the back (no doubt Ligonier saw how effectively the ESV Study Bible had made use of this concept). 3. They have definitely improved the binding of the Bible. Even the leather-look edition that I received looks extremely sturdy (quite thick material), and is Smyth-sewn. 4. They have included not just theological articles throughout the text, but also some longer articles at the end, and most importantly (to my mind, anyway), 4. They have included the ecumenical creeds, the Three Forms and Unity, and the Westminster Standards (I understand the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible includes these as well).

How does this study Bible compare to the ESV Study Bible (which, along with Joel Beeke’s Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, are the only competitors, to my mind, for the best study Bible for Reformed Christians)? Well, the ESV Study Bible is addressed to a broader audience. The ESV Study Bible has a few more maps and illustrations than the Reformation Study Bible does. However, the ESV Study Bible does not include the creeds and confessions. They are both bound well. Size-wise, the Reformation Study Bible is slightly smaller, though both are significant tomes. I like the printing of the ESV Study Bible slightly better. The notes are slightly more fulsome in the ESV Study Bible, though the new edition of the Reformation Study Bible has significantly increased its comments. You will see more breadth in the ESV Study Bible, more depth in the Reformation Study Bible. They would actually complement each other rather well. I would recommend either to any new Christian, and I would recommend both to any who can afford to have both. I do not have a copy of the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, and so I can make no comparison to that study Bible, although I am sure that it is excellent work.

Tim Keller’s Book on Preaching

I was very pleasantly surprised to read Tim Keller’s book on preaching. I was afraid I would encounter a low view of preaching, an antinomian spirit, a denigration of exposition, and an exaltation of things that have no business being in the worship service. I encountered none of these things in this book. Although the book is not perfect, the good definitely outweighs the bad, and by a fair margin.

The good things: 1. He has a very helpful way of connecting the first use of the law to the third (though he does not use these terms). A general movement in the sermon that he recommends goes something like this: the law is what you are supposed to do, but you can’t do it. Jesus has done it, so if you are united to Him by faith, here is how you can do it, by growing in your faith.

2. In general, he uses excellent sources, and usually the best, to bolster his points. You see names like Ferguson, Lloyd-Jones, Clowney, Carson, Spurgeon, Old, Perkins, Dabney, Calvin, Edwards, and Packer.

3. In an age when preaching is falling on hard times, Keller is definitely going counter-cultural here. In fact, his thoughts on culture are very helpful at places. He has a balance between acknowledging what can be a point of contact, while using that same point of contact to confront the culture at various points, including both unconsciously held narratives as well as explicit idolatries.

4. He advocates a mostly responsible redemptive-historical understanding of Scripture (see my one caveat below) that sees Jesus in the Old Testament.

5. The gospel is for Christians and unbelievers. He has a robust view of the possible hearers, and a helpful taxonomy of various spiritual places that hearers could be.

6. There are many insights that are eminently quotable. Here are a few: “[Secular people]…won’t even consider real Christianity unless they see it is not identical to moralism” (p. 62). “We need not only the Bible’s prescription to our problems but also its diagnosis of them” (p. 97). “[I]magine that the Bible is not the product of any one human culture or set of authors but is a revelation from God himself. If that were the case, then it would have to offend every person’s cultural sensibilities somewhere. No matter who you are, you inhabit an imperfect culture that shapes your beliefs, and the Bible-if it were authoritative revelation from God-would then have to be outrageous to you at some place. Since that is the case, it is no argument against the Bible to say, ‘It offends me at this point.’ That is precisely what you should expect” (pp. 113-114). It should be pointed out that Keller is not advocating a low view of Scriptural authority here. Rather, he assumes a high view.

There are many other good things about this book. I have not been exhaustive, but only representative.

There are a few caveats that I feel are necessary to point out. First, although Keller does have what seems to me a responsible redemptive-historical hermeneutic that sees Christ in the Old Testament, he also tries to use a bit of the Christotelic hermeneutic, compliments of Tremper Longman (pp. 86-87). I used to think that a second Christotelic re-reading was fully compatible with Luke 24 and John 5. I no longer think that is true. Yes, the New Testament does help us understand the Old Testament. The question is whether the NT sheds light on what is actually there in the OT, or whether the NT changes the meaning of the OT. It is not entirely clear to me which of these positions Keller would ultimately assume, although the majority of his argumentation favors the former, more orthodox position.

Secondly, Keller references Krister Stendahl’s article “Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” which was a seminal article in the formation of the New Perspective on Paul. While it is possible that there is some good in that article, it would have been nice to see Keller offer a caveat, so that people would not think that Keller is endorsing the NPP. He does the same with N.T. Wright in at least one place.

Thirdly, there are a few false dichotomies he uses that I do not think are terribly useful. On pages 157ff., he advocates (rightly) that the human being is a whole being, body and soul, mind and heart, and that we should not separate these things. The heart can think, biblically speaking. It is not just emotions (p. 158). He advocates preaching to the heart (again, how could one disagree?). The quibble I have has to do with how Keller sees truth, propositions, and the mind. It seems to me that Keller does not really see the truth by itself as carrying the weight of conviction that Scripture says it carries. Jesus tells us that the truth will set us free. Jesus did not say “the truth dynamically spoken.” Keller agrees with Edwards that there is no opposition between mind and heart (p. 161). Well and good, except that he also advocates an essential element of making the truth “gripping and real to the heart” (p. 160). He is not excluding rational argument and doctrine (p. 162 makes this plain). Is there room in Keller’s theology for God using a dry-as-dust-but-orthodox sermon to transform someone’s life permanently? Another example of what I am asking is on page 169, where Keller (ironically) uses a proposition to denigrate propositions. He argues that the imagination is more affected by images than by propositions. Perhaps, if one has a low and narrow view of propositions. But why must propositions be dull and unimaginative? Why can’t propositions use imagery, metaphor, word-pictures? He brings in the example of Genesis 4:7, and the imagery of sin being like an animal crouching at the door. He argues that this imagery conveys more information “than a mere proposition could do.” But if you look at his own statement, it is a proposition. Furthermore, so is Genesis 4:7! It is a proposition that sin is like an animal crouching at the door. It seems to me that Keller simply has a narrow view of what propositions can do, as if they can only be premises or conclusions in a formal logical argument. Related to this is something that is simply false on page 287, footnote 4, where Keller agrees with Smith in critiquing what he calls “an approach to ministry that is too rationalistic and focused on information transfer and the transmission of right doctrine and beliefs. His response is that we change not by changing what we think as much as by changing what we worship-what we love and fill our imaginations with.” This is a false dichotomy. It is difficult to square this kind of thinking with Romans 12:1-2, where we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Is doctrine really this boring?

Fourthly, I do not share his view of the inadvisability of preaching through entire books to a mobile city church. Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia has just as mobile a congregation as Redeemer does, and yet they preach straight through book after book of the Bible. It doesn’t seem to have hurt Tenth very much, to put it mildly.

I am not sure what I think of his three tiers of communication related to the gospel (the introduction, pp. 1-7). Initially when I read it, I thought that it makes sense on one level. However, what Keller did not make clear is what impact this would have on his view of, say, women in ministry. Keller is in favor of the dictum that a woman can do anything in worship that a non-ordained man can do. But if this is true, and a non-ordained man can preach, then may a woman do so? This certainly would seem to fall foul of 1 Timothy 2.

Although I have had to explain at somewhat greater length my quibbles with Keller’s book, I do not want the readers to get the impression that the quibbles outweigh the good things. Quibbles always take longer to explain. Furthermore, my list of good things is only representative, whereas the quibbles are pretty much exhaustive. This is still an excellent book on preaching, and I would recommend it to anyone who is committed (as everyone should be with any theologian, including this blogger!) to eating the meat and spitting out the bones.

Quote of the Week

Some of my readers might be wondering whether I dropped off the face of the earth. Our family was sick for a month and a half. It was the single worst respiratory disease I have ever had, and my poor wife Sarah was in constant pain during all that time. We believe there is a mold issue in our house. Fortunately, we also believe that it can be fixed relatively quickly. Our church has been marvelous about fixing the manse quickly and efficiently, and we feel very loved.

The quote of the week (month?) comes from Joseph Caryl, his commentary on Job, volume 3, p. 445, commenting on Job 10:3:

Many are troubled at small defects in the outward man: Few are troubled at the greatest deformities of their inner man; they call for no repairs, for no fresh colours to be laid on there; many buy artificiall beauty to supply the defects of naturall, who never had a thought of buying (without money) spirituall beauty to supply the defects of supernaturall. The crookednesse and distortions, the blacknesse and uncomelinesse of the soul are most deplorable, yet are they little deplored; we are called every day to mend and cure them, we are told where and how we may have all set right, and made fair again, and yet the most stirre not, or not to purpose. God will not know any body at the last day, unlesse his souls be mended by grace, and some do so mend their bodies by art, that God will not know their souls at that day. Depart from me, I know you not (will be all their entertainment) ye have mended your bodies till ye have mar’d your souls (spelling and punctuation original).

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of many more Puritan quotes so directly applicable to modern culture.

Happy Chained America, or “Celebrating Independence”?


Our country was founded to be a religiously free country. This was one of the primary goals, if not the primary goal, of the pilgrims in coming over from England. Later on, even the founding fathers who were not Christian still believed in religious freedom. For instance, Thomas Jefferson, hardly a Christian himself, did not believe that civic freedoms depended on one’s religious beliefs. He believed in a complete freedom of religion. Take a good look at the bill that Jefferson helped write and sponsor for the Virginia legislature. Are not the evils mentioned in it precisely those that we see today, and have every right to fear in the future?

Here are the words of the first amendment to our constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In today’s world of a “living and breathing Constitution,” this has become a complete wax nose. It means whatever the cultural majority decides it means.

Up until the SCOTUS ruling, there has been mostly freedom of religion (although that has eroded somewhat). There will no longer be a true freedom of religion, unless cooler heads prevail. Folks, if someone wants to be able to say “I hate homosexual people,” he ought to have the freedom to voice his opinion (this is something I would not say, by the way). I date the chaining of America to June 26, 2015. We are no longer a free country. People might very well respond by saying that they are just pursuing their rights, which have been denied them for a long time. This is an utter lie. Judging from the religious persecution that has already started against conservative Christians who refuse to engage in something that they cannot by their own conscience do, churches will most certainly be targeted.

If Satan’s minions were willing to listen, they might realize that they are using the wrong strategy, if they desire to eliminate the church’s influence from America. Up until now, Satan has been making the American church fat and lazy by giving them multitudinous opportunities to be comfortable. Churches fall away from Christ in droves when this happens. It has been happening. Now, however, all that dross is about to be purged away. The church is going to become lean, purer, and much more effective. It will start to look more and more like the house churches in China. There will be many positive things that will come out of this situation. In other words, I am not whining. Obviously, God knows that the church in America needs this in order to be purged. But my point is this: the left should not try to kid themselves or lie to the American public about their true goals. Welcome to the Chained States of America. Big brother is watching.

A Textual Variant That Makes a Difference

In Revelation 11:17, the Textus Receptus has added the phrase “and who is coming” to the end of the first clause of thanksgiving. No doubt, the scribes were used to seeing “who is, and who was, and who is coming.” The best manuscripts do not have the phrase “and who is coming.” The omission of the phrase is a fascinating glimpse into the theology of the text. The reason why the original did not have the phrase is because, from the perspective of the twenty-four elders, Christ had already come! If, as seems likely, the seventh trumpet is a description of the very end of the current world, then we are getting a glimpse at what post-consummation worship looks like. It is rather important, then, that the phrase “and is coming” is NOT present in the text. It is gloriously absent!

A Time For Waterfall Eyes

Posted by Reed DePace

Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! (Jer 9:1)

I’m beginning to weep and mourn for both my Country and Church. In the midst of all our energy given to discussion and debates on these things, maybe what we need to do is hit pause and begin to ask God one simple question, “Why?”

After all, He is the sovereign One whose hand is behind all these things.

And maybe, if we listen to the Spirit respond through the word, we will give ourselves over to the only thing that offers any real hope: repentance.

SSM WH rainbow

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1Pe 4:17)

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2Ch 7:14)

We have become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name. (Isa 63:19)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: … a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; (Ecc 3:1-4)

In that day the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and wearing sackcloth; (Isa 22:12)

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. (Joe 2:12-13)

What Are You Willing to Give Up?

Today’s Supreme Court ruling federally legalizes same-sex “marriage.” It seems obvious to me that we need to prepare our people for persecution, while simultaneously preparing them to speak lovingly, yet truthfully, to the LGBT community. This will not be an easy road. What are we willing to give up? For this decision constitutes America’s attempt to re-define God’s own creation ordinance. This will have massive ramifications that we can only barely glimpse at the moment.

The somewhat provocative title of this post should not be seen as a call to emotional hysteria. All too often, the conversation is characterized by shrill voices on both sides of the debate, thus creating a climate where no one can listen. Evangelicals are rank with fear. Why? And what kind of fear is it? I think we fear to lose the comfortable liberty we have had for such a long time. We fear to lose what is in our bank account. We fear social ostracism. In other words, we fear man, not God. On the other side, we see the LGBT community using emotionally charged words to shout down the opposition. The words “bigot,” “hate-speech,” and “homophobic” are thrown at anyone who does not agree with their agenda. There is no communication going on, only a lot of shouting. The importance of books like Rosaria Butterfield’s masterpiece can hardly be underestimated at a time like this, because no one could possibly accuse such an ex-Lesbian of hate-speech, and yet she also speaks the truth. More books like this need to be written. The most thorough treatment of the exegetical issues is undoubtedly Gagnon’s book. For a smaller, more accessible book (although Gagnon is not too difficult to read), there is now Kevin Deyoung’s book. Butterfield’s book, though, is the most important of the three.

The accelerated pace of the sea-change going on now in America requires some comment. I am constantly hearing of people who think that “such and such thing cannot possibly happen in America.” I am not sure that anything is off the table anymore. The changes are easily fast enough now to make us dizzy. I am preaching this Sunday on Revelation 11. A more timely text could hardly be imagined. The two witnesses I take to be the church defined as a legally valid testimony on Old Testament Deuteronomic terms. The persecution rises against them until the church appears dead. The world rejoices. God will then vindicate those witnesses by raising them from the dead. I know that every era of church history has had people saying that the end is upon us. As a good Amillenial, I believe that they are all correct. The end-times are upon us. As Hebrews 1 says, we are in the last days now (“in these last days God has spoken to us in (or by) His Son”). The American church is about to be seriously pruned. We are about to look a lot more like the house churches in China. Anyone got some nice spacious basements?

What are we willing to give up? We are going to have to be willing to give up forever the idea of being “relevant,” at least in the way that many people mean the term. We cannot adopt the world’s way of doing things. Our way of being truly relevant is to speak the truth to people who do not want to hear what we have to say. We need to be willing to give up prestige, money, land, freedom, and life itself. They will be gone in a very short period of time. Our families will be torn apart. The government will take away everything we value. Welcome to the brave new world.

For the latter half of the twentieth century, Satan has been using the carrot to lure people away from the true church, and away from the means of grace. Satan is changing tools. He will now use the stick. Probably very few of us would have recognized ahead of time that the homosexual marriage issue would be the issue by which this change would take place.

As I was talking with one of my elders this morning about these things, it struck me forcefully that we need to pray for our dispensational Pre-millenial brothers. What is going to happen will knock their theology for a loop. They believe that they are going to escape the tribulation by means of the Rapture. Revelation 11 says otherwise. Even if verse 12 is talking about a Rapture, it clearly does NOT occur until after the death and resurrection experience of verses 7-11. At that time, those brothers will be wondering if God is incorrect in what He said, and what else God might be wrong about. They might very well forget to ask the question about whether they understand the text correctly or not. We need to pray for them that their faith will hold firm.

Do not fear what is about to happen. Above all, do not get hysterical, as if God’s grip on the world has somehow slipped. Instead, rejoice that the end is near. Count it pure joy when you experience trials of various kinds, knowing that the testing of your faith will produce perseverance. Know that the poor, dead-looking church over which the world will gloat will one day rise up again, in spite of the world. The world will then gape in dread and awe of the church as God resurrects it. SCOTUS may think itself the supreme court of the land. Boy, are they in for a shock!

Charleston Has Some Amazing Theology

Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church appears to my mind to have their theology amazingly right, at the very least, where it most counts. Knowing how much they have been forgiven by God enabled the nine families of those shot by Dylann Roof to offer forgiveness to the perpetrator. Folks, Christianity doesn’t get any more glorious than this. What other religion would direct people to react in this way? What other god can offer the grace our God can offer to enable people to do something that shut the mouths of the mainstream media? My heart bleeds for the families of those who were lost, but I also rejoice in the glory of God that is being broadcast all over the world.

There is only one point at which I would disagree with what at least one person said down in Charleston. “You took something very precious away from me,” a family representative for Ethel Lance, the 70-year-old grandmother who died in Wednesday’s massacre, told Roof on behalf of Lance’s loved ones. “I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people, but I forgive you.” Ah, this person is gloriously wrong! For what about the resurrection?

Satan is trying very hard to blunt the effectiveness of the witness of these godly people in Charleston. I do not think it is an accident that Tullian Tchividjian’s case broke at the time that it did. We need to pray that we can show the world that Charleston is what the gospel looks like in action, whereas Tullian’s case demonstrates what happens when the whole gospel is not taught.

Tullian Tchividjian and the Contemporary Grace Movement

Tullian Tchividjian has had to step down as senior minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church as a result of an affair that he had in reaction to an affair that his wife Kim had. This is tragic on a number of levels. This is a very high profile PCA church. D. James Kennedy was the founding pastor of the church, and Billy Graham’s grandson Tullian also brought limelight to the church. But it is always Satan’s delight to get ministers to fall in just such a manner. He can bring the church into disrepute. He can provide fodder for unbelievers to laugh at the church and say, “You aren’t any different from us. Why should we join you?” He can shake the faith of many saints in that church as well as other churches.

This affair, I believe, is not unconnected with his theology of sanctification. It would be overly facile to claim that his theology of sanctification is the sole reason for the affair. There can be many factors involved, of which I know none except what he told the Washington Post. However, the contemporary grace movement does not have a proper view of sanctification, however right they may be on justification. I have read Tullian’s book Jesus + Nothing = Everything. The problem with the book is that it does not encourage people very much to exert effort (which must, of course, always be Spirit-empowered, grace-driven). Tullian was reacting to a performance-based religion. The problem was that he over-reacted to performance-based religion. As a result, he almost certainly did not cultivate sanctification as well as he should have done. Doctrine always has consequences in one’s life.

Lest any should think I am trying to sound like I’m better than him, I will be the first to admit that there, but for the grace of God, go I. Not only that, but I take his example as a negative warning example to look to my sanctification, and look to my marriage, not to mention praying for him, and being as compassionate towards him as I can. He is a fellow minister in the PCA, and therefore my brother. This should drive us to our knees, folks. It is tragic that his theology did not provide the safeguards necessary in his sanctification to prevent this. It is tragic for his family. It is tragic for his church, and his presbytery. It is tragic for the PCA. Nevertheless, we must believe that God will use this for His glory, in ways that we don’t know about yet.

What Is Racism?

Racism is a very serious thing these days. We hear of race riots in America, just when some people thought we had moved past all that. There are blatant forms of racism, and more subtle forms of it. But before we get into that, we need to ask an important question: why is a white guy like me talking about this subject, and what right do I have to do so? There are two ways of answering that question. The first is that racism can be just as much against white people (theoretically) as against any other race. We haven’t seen much of that in America. But it does exist, especially in more subtle forms of racism, which we can get into below. The second part of the answer is that a white person can and should care about what happens to other parts of the human race. Just because I have not been a victim of racism doesn’t mean I can’t say anything about it. I haven’t been a victim of mugging either, but I presume that would not preclude me from saying something about it. I do have an imagination, and I hope all my readers do, too.

The biblical truth is that all humans come from Adam, and all humans come from Noah. As C.S. Lewis might say, that is grand enough to exalt any person, and humble enough to remind anyone that we are but dust. One of the most important features of racism, then, is either a partial or full denial of this fundamental truth. This goes a long way towards a definition. If we are not all from the same origin, then we have room to claim that one race is superior to another. This is one of the biggest problems with the theory of multiple origins of the human race. Evolution and the denial of the historical Adam will have racism as its intended or unintended consequence. Ben Stein showed this quite eloquently in his movie “Expelled,” which you should see if you haven’t yet. Since we are all from one origin, then no one part of the human race can lift itself above any other part of the human race. We are all one human race. The image of God is stamped on every human being. That image of God commands respect and dignity. To denigrate an image bearer, making the person somehow less than human, is therefore a direct attack on God.

There are, however, more subtle forms of racism, and here I am going to get very politically incorrect (as if my statements on evolution were not!). I believe that affirmative action is racist. When it comes to college scholarship and such things, I believe that those who hand them out should be color-blind. However, making a certain quota of African-Americans, or any other minority, is basically saying to them, “You can’t make it without our help.” I know very well the counter-argument: African-Americans have not had access to the kind of schooling that white children have had. But I would remind people of the arguments of Bill Cosby, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams (especially the first named): anyone working hard can overcome any obstacles. They have all argued, in one way or another, that affirmative action and the welfare state have wreaked havoc on the black community. The disintegration of the family is another serious factor. These things are harming African-Americans today more than other factors, I believe. The Japanese faced incredible prejudice after World War II. So did the Germans and Italians. They didn’t have access to the best schools either. What did they do? They worked hard and overcame the obstacles. Many African-Americans have done the same. But not all of them have. Many believe that they are owed something for what they or their ancestors suffered. What do I owe them? I owe them the respect and dignity that is owed to all human beings. I do not owe them for what my ancestors may or may not have done. Ezekiel 18 is very important here (I will be writing a post on the relationship of Daniel 9 and Ezekiel 18 at some point in the near future, Lord-willing). The fathers are not responsible for the guilt of the son, nor is the son responsible for the guilt of the father. Acknowledging the sin that someone else has done is one thing, and is very understandable (and can certainly help in the case of race relations today). But that does not mean the same thing as what some seem to be claiming: that there is actual ontological transference of guilt. I have had it said to me that I am guilty of racism simply because I am white. Folks, that is just as much the sin of racism as saying that an African-American is not human because he is black.

What difference does the amount of melanin in the skin make? This is simply micro-evolution. The African-American has more melanin in the skin. Over many generations in the incredibly hot climates of Africa, the people developed darker and darker skin in order to adapt to their surroundings. This is the beauty of the adaptive characteristics of humans. The flip side of this adaptive characteristic is the very pale complexion of Norwegians. They adapted to their frigid climate in the opposite way. If lots of Africans migrated to Norway, over a period of a few hundred years, their skin would lighten quite noticeably. Similarly, if the Norwegian migrated to Africa, his skin would darken quite a bit just in his own lifetime. It is quite silly to make skin color determinative of worth.

The much more difficult question is that of different cultures. It is here, for instance, that Martin Luther King and Malcolm X differed. King was in the south and argued for racial integration and desegregation. The south was segregated (and still is in some ways, though not in transportation and education, the issues that were uppermost in the Civil Rights era). Racism showed itself in exclusion. In the north, however, where Malcolm X mostly lived and spoke, there was no segregation. More subtle attitudes were the problem. This is why (so argues James Cone) King argues for desegregation while Malcolm X argues for segregation. They had different contexts. Which of them is correct? This is not an easy question to answer. There is nothing wrong with desiring to keep a particular culture stable (anyone seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”?). Any minority group that comes to America usually desires to keep its traditions alive and well, and those traditions can come into jeopardy when full integration is encouraged. On the other hand, segregation can result in exclusion, which is not healthy. The influence of other cultures is usually salutary, if for no other reason than that one knows one’s own culture better and values it more when compared to other cultures. This comparison itself has pitfalls, of course, because non-moral cultural issues can become a subtle basis for racism quite easily when non-moral issues become “better” or “worse” than what other cultures have.

To conclude, racism as usually understood means a person believes his race is better than another race. This can be blatant, or it can be subtle. We need to be very careful about how we think through these issues, and we need to do a lot of listening. I learned a lot, for instance, about ministering in an African-American context this year at General Assembly by listening to my African-American brothers. Avoiding racism is actually pretty simple: treat each person you meet as an image-bearer of God. That person deserves dignity and respect.

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