Racism has produced many of the world's problems. It lies at the root of much violence, discrimination, hatred, murder, and a host of other atrocities in the United States of America and other parts of the world. Racial hostility has reoccurred throughout history, especially in the practice of slavery in medieval Europe and during the colonial period of the United States, the treatment of the Jews during the holocaust, the tactics of the Ku Klux Klan, the execution of Emmett Till, the militant practices of the Black Panthers, the policies and implementation of segregation and integration of blacks in the United States, the teachings on race of the Nation of Islam, the race riots of the civil rights movement, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedy brothers, the circumstances involving the protest of Rosa Parks, the beating of Rodney King, the violent act of the Jena 6, racist lyrics expressed through music, and the bitter rhetoric articulated by various people throughout the presidential campaign of Barack Obama.
Unfortunately, racism has also impacted the church. To find racism in the church, one does not need to look too long or too far from one's own congregation, regardless of the denomination, the ethnic groups, and the theological tradition that comprise the congregation. Racial tension can be easily detected on any Sunday morning, at any Christian church, during any worship service, and within any congregation, because racism crosses ethnic, ecclesiological, theological, and denominational lines. The impact of racism on the church is evident by either a lack of ethnic diversity in certain congregations or a lack of sincere, familial, Christ-like love for those from different ethnic groups within the body of Christ. The lack of racial harmony in the church is partly due to the culture's influence on Christians. Consequently, many Christians form racist opinions toward ethnic groups simply because they do not have a biblical worldview of race.
This book aims to provide Christians with a biblical worldview of race and race relations. By primarily focusing on the Pauline corpus, I address the issue of racial reconciliation. That Jesus' death for humanity's sin is foundational to Paul's theology of racial reconciliation is the argument that runs throughout my book. In other words, sin is the fundamental reason that humanity needs to be reconciled first to God and second to one another and that Jesus' sacrificial death for sin is the only provision for and solution to racial hostility in Paul's theology. The logic of the arguments I put forth throughout the book to advance my thesis can be summarized as follows: (1) Paul argues that sin has broken humanity's relationship with God and with fellow human beings. (2) Paul argues that Jesus is God's provision for the universal problem of sin and that he offered Jesus to die vicariously as a penal substitute for sin to restore humanity's broken relationships with God and fellow human beings. Therefore, according to Paul, Jesus' vicarious death as payment for humanity's sin is God's only solution to racial hostility and his only provision for racial reconciliation.
According to Genesis 3, the fall seriously damaged human relationships. Adam's transgression caused the breakage of humanity's relationship with God and with fellow human beings. Consequently, humanity and human relationships need to be restored to the original state in which God created them. Furthermore, the fall in Genesis 3 not only severed humanity's relationship with God, but it especially severed humanity's relationship among fellow human beings (see Genesis 1-11). Two examples of sin's impact on humanity in the latter way are the accounts about Cain's murder of Abel (Gen 4:1-11) and the tower of Babel (see Gen 11:1-9). In both cases, sin caused the shattering of relationships. Racial division, then, results from the sin introduced into God's good creation because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3.
Therefore, racial reconciliation has the following definition in this book: Humanity's relationship with God and with fellow humans is broken because of the sin introduced into God's good creation through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. As a result of sin, every relationship needs to be restored to the original state in which God intended before sin entered the creation. All races—not just blacks and whites—scattered throughout the entire world need to be reconciled first to God and second to one another because of the universal impact of sin. This restoration is called reconciliation. As it relates to the restoration of broken relationships between different races, it refers to racial reconciliation.
An exegetical method is central to the development of my thesis in this book. I incorporate biblical texts from both the Old and New Testaments to argue my viewpoint, but I primarily examine selected texts from the Pauline corpus. The exegetical method I use here should not intimidate readers who are not members of an academic guild of biblical studies or who are not seminary trained. This work aims not to overwhelm the reader with unnecessary technical arguments or with hundreds of gratuitous footnotes in each chapter, which cite all of the relevant secondary literature written in the last century about racism, Jesus' death, or atonement. Instead, I endeavor to present a lucid, scholarly investigation of Paul's understanding of racial reconciliation in light of his conception of Jesus' death, while I also critically engage some of the most important scholars and exegetical issues related to my position.
I discuss several issues throughout the book that are technical at the exegetical and theological levels. Many footnotes document the scholarly discussion on important exegetical and theological issues that relate to my argument. Nevertheless, I seek to discuss these issues with as much simplicity as possible so that scholars, students, and pastors will profit from this book. For example, translation accompanies Greek and Hebrew words and phrases. Certain technical discussions are reserved to footnotes as often as possible. In addition, footnotes point the reader to sources that offer more detailed explanations of particular exegetical, grammatical, and theological points than time or space allow here.
This book is necessary and should benefit its readers because it endeavors to discuss the issue of racial reconciliation from a biblical and exegetical perspective. New Testament scholarship greatly needs this approach since no biblical scholar has recently written a work on racial reconciliation for the church using biblical exegesis as the means of discussing the issue. This book attempts to show the reader that faith unites all Christians in Christ regardless of their race. Consequently, Christians should be willing to reach and extend love to the different ethnic groups that serve in their churches and that live in their respective communities. In addition, this book is necessary since many New Testament scholars have altogether neglected the issue of racism in their writings. Furthermore, it is painfully obvious that African-American New Testament scholars have not discussed the issue of racism and race relations through careful biblical exegesis. Thus, since I am an aspiring New Testament scholar who has a strong multiethnic background, I sensed the need to write this book.
My ethnic background is primarily African-American, but my family has a multiethnic heritage: African-American, Caucasian, German, and Native American. In addition, my wife is Hispanic since her mother is from Nicaragua and her father is from Costa Rica. Our son is a combination of my wife's and my own ethnic heritages. In addition, my mom and my aunts have white skin; my uncles and cousins have dark, brown, or white skin; my wife and son have light skin; and some of my other relatives have blue eyes. Because of these family connections, racial diversity is very important to me. Nevertheless, racial diversity is not enough,
Many Christians and Christian organizations have affirmed—either consciously or subconsciously—a secular model of race relations. Many Christians equate racial diversity with racial reconciliation, so they conclude if racial diversity is present, then racial reconciliation must be present as well. As an African-American with a strong multiethnic background, married to a Hispanic woman, the father of a multiethnic son, and as one who is passionate about multiethnic, urban ministry, I agree that ethnic diversity is a good thing. It more accurately reflects the world today than ethnic unanimity. Nevertheless, I also strongly disagree that ethnic diversity is the same as racial reconciliation. The former does not guarantee the latter, and the presence of racial diversity in a particular sociological, ecclesiological, or educational context does not mean that racial reconciliation exists.
This book calls for something much more radical than ethnic diversity. It calls for something much more radical than a strict implementation of affirmative action. Because of Jesus' vicarious death for all ethnic groups, it calls Christians to love, serve, minister to, and embrace their brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of their ethnicity. This book contends that racial diversity is not the same as racial reconciliation. Racial diversity is a phrase that speaks to the visual manifestation of different races in a particular society or context. That is, the phrase acknowledges the presence of different races in a particular society or context, and it often acknowledges the importance of ethnic diversity or multiethnicity for the advancement of a particular society. Still, racial diversity does not "reach the core of what the scriptures call us to pursue" in the area of race relations as Christians and as the Christian church.
As stated above, racial diversity can be a good thing, but racial diversity does not guarantee or duplicate what racial reconciliation does. For example, the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan could theoretically work in an environment in which his boss is an African-American and in which his coworkers are from ethnic backgrounds other than Caucasian. But he could still vehemently hate his boss and coworkers because of their race, and he could still participate in hate crimes outside his work environment, notwithstanding that his coworkers are from different ethnic backgrounds. Likewise, a parishioner could attend a church in which different races worship, but that parishioner could hate a fellow church member and thus might not show the love of Christ to him or her because of his or her particular race. Therefore, racial diversity is present in both preceding examples, but racial reconciliation is not.
Racial reconciliation, on the other hand, can be present in a particular society or context even if and when racial diversity is not. In some situations ethnic diversity is not possible because a particular community might be populated with those either primarily or exclusively from the same race. For example, I grew up in a very small town in eastern Kentucky, where as a child, I was one of few African-Americans in my town. As a teenager, I became a Christian and joined the First Baptist Church in a small town approximately 15 minutes away from my home. I was the first African-American to join this congregation in its history.
Approximately one year later, my uncle became the second African-American to join this church. The congregation and its leadership loved, embraced, nurtured, and ministered to us the same as they ministered to those who were either white or of Anglo descent. Ethnic diversity was not and is not a reality in this church since very few ethnic minorities reside in the immediate or surrounding community where the church is located. In fact, 12 years later, my uncle is currently both the only African-American and the only ethnic minority member of this congregation. Nevertheless, racial reconciliation is present in this church since its community of faith works extremely hard to welcome and love all people regardless of race.
Unfortunately, many churches regardless of the race of their members do not share the same passion for racial reconciliation. Instead of the biblical text, many Christians allow cultural prejudices to shape their understanding of race. This book endeavors to help Christians understand what the gospel says about race and race relations by focusing on selected texts from the Pauline corpus. Since many churches have either intentionally or unintentionally limited their ministry to those within their respective race or homogeneous unit (i.e., people within the same ethnic, social, cultural, linguistic, or class context), this book could liberate individual Christians and also churches from their bondage to racist ideologies, from a secular model of race relations, and from their disdain toward different races, which arise from both the impact of their respective cultures and the universal impact of sin.
Furthermore, since I have seen God magnify his glory through the reconciling power of the gospel, I think this book is necessary. As a university professor, seminary professor, and preacher, I have had the privilege of teaching and ministering to people from many different ethnic backgrounds, and of seeing others do the same. Although I am in my early thirties and have been a Christian for only approximately 14 years, I have seen Christians from different ethnic groups live out the reconciling power of the cross by their deep love for and devotion toward one another regardless of race. This book could create a longing within the readers to see the glory of God in Christ's death through the practice of racial reconciliation. The book could help them understand that an important accomplishment and application of the reconciliation that Jesus has achieved by his death for humanity's sin is racial reconciliation.
Chapters 2, 3, and 4 are crucial to the proposed thesis. Chapter 2, titled "The Reason for Racial Reconciliation," argues that sin is the fundamental reason races need to be reconciled first to God and second to one another. Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the connection between Jesus' death and racial reconciliation. Chapter 3, titled "The Provision for Racial Reconciliation," argues that Jesus' death for humanity's sin was God's provision for reconciliation. Chapter 4, titled "The Accomplishment of Racial Reconciliation," argues that Jesus' death for humanity's sin reconciles Jews and Gentiles to God and to one another. Chapter 5, titled "Conclusion: The Practice of Racial Reconciliation," argues that since God reconciles Jews and Gentiles to himself by their faith on the basis of Jesus' death for humanity's sin, he has also reconciled Jews and Gentiles to one another. As a result, Jews and Gentiles who place faith in Christ should live in unity with one another as the Christian church in the world and should fight to overcome any racist ideologies inherited from their sin and their culture. Chapter 5 also argues that the common bond of faith in Christ and the salvation that Jesus' death for humanity's sin has accomplished for all races are far superior and more important than any differences that Christians from different ethnic groups have with one another because of their races. Finally, I conclude this discussion in chapter 5 with practical applications that relate to Christian fellowship, racial slurs, worship, missions, evangelism, and interracial relationships.