Nine minutes worth your attention:
A few years back, I listened to theologian Miroslav Volf’s talk at Wheaton. Many things struck/troubled me, but here are a few:
*It seems his theology has collapsed into ethics.
*I would love to hear his exegesis of John 8.
*He says rightly that Muslims reject a conception of the trinity that is not the one of orthodox Christianity. He says the reason Muslims have done this is because most Christians can’t articulate the orthodox doctrine of the trinity. That is also correct in a way, but Volf makes no mention that Muhammad was reacting to the worship of many tribal deities not the trinity. I found this amazing.
I find the trinity attractive, compelling, and there are desires we all have for community and individual impact that showcase we are created in the image of a triune God. My next door neighbor who is not a Christian said this made sense to him.
Our culture emphasizes a faux unity that kills true diversity or a faux diversity that kills true unity. The trinity elevates both in glorious splendor. There is much Christians have to offer our chaotic culture. Sadly, I’m not convinced many Christians are that interested in having both diversity and unity.
Sadly, I’ve found many Christians confused in their thinking about the trinity. Here are five errors I’ve heard the most in my conversations with a number of Christians:
Thinking that the incomprehensible nature of the trinity means I can’t say anything meaningful about the trinity.
Thinking the trinity is illogical.
Thinking the trinity is impractical.
Thinking the trinity is something Christians can disagree about like other unimportant matters such as the proper mode of baptism.
Thinking the trinity is simply a river in Texas.(HT: To my friend, Helen Reeves!)
MAKE THE TRINITY GREAT AGAIN! Hey lawyer friends: Can I copyright that?! 🙂
Some Encouragement/Final Reflections
Like you, I have plenty to do, so will make this my final (at least for the time being) post on the racial crisis. My correspondence was heavy these past days. I am grateful for all those conversations but must pivot to other matters including the final edits of a book my publisher is waiting on.
Here you go…
I reject Critical Race Theory (CRT). Full stop. For those who know me, that will come as no surprise.
When I use “white privilege” I don’t have in mind the various tenets of CRT. I am a Christian who is seeking to think biblically and theologically about this issue. And historically. No claims to perfection about my reflections, but I am trying to make sense by writing (Augustine said writing clarified his thinking and writing showed him what he thought).
I’ve had many good conversations in the last couple days. Some have helped me to think in clearer ways about this issue. Some have shown me that there are differences of emphasis, and some have reminded me that complex issues are not resolved overnight.
One difficulty with any complex issue is that groups are hardly monolithic. Saying all people in a certain group believe x is not reflective of what exists in any group: a myriad of perspectives.
My use of “white privilege” as I mentioned in a quick blog post on June 6 was “not a punt to liberal, political ideology, but rather the manifest witness of God’s Word.” Manifest may be the wrong word because we can disagree how clear that emerges from the pages of Scripture.
Here is where I should say more about “white privilege.” As one friend said, since the term is used in a certain way by those who hold to CRT, perhaps another term is needed. I think that is good counsel. I am looking for a way to communicate that some/many (certainly not all) of us white people can be oblivious at times to the struggles those from other backgrounds face.
Making sweeping assertions is a constant temptation but should be resisted. If you are familiar with the conditions of many whites in Appalachia, you will know that they have less “privilege” than affluent African Americans in the suburbs. Class is not being talked about enough these days, but it is also worthy of our attention. J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is a good reminder of this reality.
One last word for all of us: Let’s not get weary in well-doing. That is clearly biblical! See Gal. 6:9. We must fight the tendency to hunker down in our own world and so leave the messy problems for others to address.
In modern life there are more controversies than any one person can address. You may be called to other things. All of us need great wisdom to discern where and how our time should be spent.
We Christians have a huge advantage because we have God’s Spirit to empower and direct us. We don’t go it alone. We also can shout the glorious truth that our God is triune. The beauty of true unity, but never at the diminishment of diversity, really does exist and is worthy of emulation.
I’m planning to design a t-shirt that says, “MAKE THE TRINITY GREAT AGAIN!”
I am sixty-two years old. I am white. I was not responsible for either of these two things, but I am responsible for many other things.
A good friend asked me what we as Christians in the majority culture here in America can do with respect to the racial crisis. There are many things, but here are a few in no particular order, except for the last which is of first importance.
*We Christians need to stop being so consumed and/or afraid with how terrible we believe America is at this point in its history. Instead, we should spend our time making sure we are clear on all of God’s truth, compassionate to every person, and courageous even if it is costly. This will keep us Christians plenty occupied. It is animated by the reality that “judgment starts with the household of God.” (I Peter 4:17)
*It is great to have African American friends, but you will not have much to offer any friend if you are not grounded theologically. I used to give disclaimers whenever trying to promote the study of theology for all Christians. No longer. Knowing what and why you believe the Christian faith to be true is the most practical pursuit of life. This leads to my next thought.
*If you unable to give compelling reasons for why the trinity has much to offer not just with the racial conflict in America, but with many other pressing matters, please study up before you go out representing what Christians believe. The unity and diversity of the trinity has far-reaching implications for all sorts of things. Again, get studying if you can’t articulate in compelling and clear language all that the trinity (and other Christian beliefs) has to offer.
I have asked several Christians why the trinity is compelling including a Dallas Seminary trained pastor. Except for my wife and a handful of others, I typically do not receive a great response. Most Christians sign their church’s doctrinal statement with a thin understanding of what they are agreeing to. I concur with J.I. Packer that the most pressing issue for the church is robust education. Again, no apologies.
*We must make concerted efforts to get out of our echo chambers. Most of us live in some sort of echo chamber. In addition, we should avail ourselves of theological education that is increasingly aware of two thousand years of Christian reflection not just what happened after the Protestant Reformation. All the major Protestant Reformers would agree with me on this!
*There is a good chance many of us have significant homework to do. Homework is another word I used to apologize for when talking with adults! To quote President Bush #41 “Not going to do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.”
If you have not read it, begin with reading Narrative of a Slave by Frederick Douglass. There are many more things I would add, but that is a good place to start.
*Be aware of false dichotomies. Believing that people need to trust Jesus as Savior is not at odds nor diminished by acknowledging “structures of evil” or “institutional racism.” Or “white privilege.” If we want to be biblical, we will need to juggle many truths at the same time.
We Americans do not tend to be the most thoughtful people. The great observer of American life, Alexis de Tocqueville, appreciated several things about America. However, he saw the problem of superficial thinking in our country almost two hundred years ago. American Christians are not immune from the tendency to emphasize one (many times valid) truth at the expense of other truths.
*Last, but obviously most important, we will need God to convict, direct, and motivate us to do these things, things many of our fellow Christians either denigrate or worse still, do not think about at all.
I am grateful to my friend, Dr Vince Bacote of Wheaton College, for his input on this post. As it is always said at such points, but with good reason, I alone am responsible for the content. I am glad that Vince agreed that what I wrote should be “common sense” among Christians. Sadly, foundational truths should not be assumed in our day and age.
This is the second book I’ve read by the happy atheistic gadfly, Christopher Hitchens. His writing is beautiful, funny, and makes you think, even, perhaps especially, when you disagree with him.
This was his last book. He was dying of esophageal cancer.
Read to find out how an atheist can have better theology than the silly notions of too many Christians. Read for the enjoyment of engaging great writing. Read to consider what kind of friend you want to be to your atheist friends. I hope you have some!
My latest interview:
STEPPING INTO CONTROVERSY…WITH COURAGE AND CHRIST-LIKE CHARACTER
IS IT POSSIBLE IN OUR DIVISIVE AND TURBULENT TIME?
Taught by Dave Moore
Imagine that you are at your favorite coffee shop. Everything about the place is great, except the tables are a bit too close to one another. This, of course, makes it difficult to avoid eavesdropping. Your reading tends to zone you out from the conversations of others, but not on this day. To your utter amazement you listen in on a conversation between an ardent Trump supporter and one who gladly voted for Hillary Clinton. It is not the various arguments that are being mustered for one candidate over the other that intrigues you. Rather, it is the evident respect each person has for the other even while articulating their significant disagreements.
It is hard to go back to your reading for the day. You become preoccupied with why the kind of exchange you just heard is as rare as it is refreshing…even in your local church.
For seven weeks we will discuss several areas that can hurt or help us as we discuss controversial subjects. A sampling of these include:
*Taking honest inventory of our own failure to be prepared and/or interact with grace
*The need to slow down and pay more careful attention to the definition of words
*Diagnosing how much of an echo chamber we live in
*The need to read and listen to those who make us angry…and to pay close attention to what our “opponents” can teach us
*Why the focus must be on our own challenges rather than being frustrated with those we disagree with
We will also be looking various points raised in How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs. Copies will be available.