Written by: Dan Stump
I want to write about my story and explain the theological distinctives of Calvinism, which I hope will both inform, and bring clarity to what these doctrines are.
“Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”
If you come with an open mind, and are convinced that this is the truth of the Bible, grab hold and wrestle with these truths for as long as it takes for them to settle in your heart. I think you’ll be glad you did.
Written by: Dave Martin
The American Civil War ended a century and a half ago, yet we remain a nation deeply divided over race. What’s more, the church of Jesus Christ is one of our society’s most segregated institutions—segregated not just in physical terms, but in terms of attitudes and perspectives.
When another young black man is killed by a white police officer, the contrasting reactions are predictable from white Americans and African Americans. Sadly, the reactions of Christian whites and Christian blacks mirror those of the culture in general.
How can this be? Doesn’t the Gospel do away with racial alienation and make us all one in Christ? If the Gospel is not the answer, then there is no answer. However, the Gospel does not appear to be the answer in this situation.
Pastor Bob Bixby sums up the awkward tension succinctly in his thought-provoking article, “The Gospel in Black and White: A Missiological Perspective on Ferguson” (http://redeemerfremont.com/app/blog/home/1651089):
Why is the common ground so elusive? Why is it that sincere Christians, white and black, instinctively analyze a crisis like Ferguson along color lines when they both love the same Lord? Many white Christians sincerely wonder how any sincere black Christian can take offense at their calls for delayed judgment “until all the facts are out” while seemingly ignoring the alleged bad behavior of the victim that put him into conflict with a police officer in the first place. And many black Christians wonder how any sincere white Christian cannot see the obvious problem of prejudice and white-on-black abuse of authority that exacerbates tension and escalates any confrontation between black youth and white authority in ways that are manifestly unfair. And so the churches meet separately. The whites pray for the officer who is a “good man” who risks his life daily to fight for crime. The blacks pray for the family of the victim who is a “good boy” who was unjustly and prematurely cut down by white privilege. While neither side will go out into the streets and throw Molotov cocktails at each other because they are law-abiding Christians, their sympathies which are visceral and spiritual come together like the repulsive force between two north pole magnets. In other words, it is in crises like Ferguson that a repulsive force of seemingly opposing sympathies is most felt between white and black Christians.
I have been on a personal journey for the past several years, seeking to understand God’s will for the unity of the body of Christ in the midst of the most diverse society in history. I do believe that the Gospel is both a vertical reconciling force between us and God and a horizontal reconciling force that smashes all barriers alienating humans from each other. In a multiethnic culture we should expect that reconciliation to produce multiethnic churches that amaze the world with their deep, genuine, Christ-centered unity.
In trying to educate myself, I’ve read many books (ask me for summaries) and articles on multiethnic ministry, attended a number of conferences, seminars, and workgroups, and engaged in conversations about the issues. Recently I’ve read a number of Christian African American blogs representing a spectrum of opinions on the Ferguson situation. I don’t have a lot of answers, but here are a few things to think about:
As a white Christian, my silence is deafening to many black Christians when a Trayvon Martin or a Michael Brown is killed. African Americans, as a minority culture that has suffered the injustice and humiliation of slavery and Jim Crow, have a collective consciousness that is affected whenever an unarmed young black man is gunned down by a white law officer, regardless of the “facts” of the case. It’s another tragedy that’s happened to “one of us,” and when whites show no empathy or compassion, or smugly say “Let’s wait for the facts to come out,” it’s seen as devaluing black life.
We whites like to think that we are not racist because we bear no malice toward blacks, and that’s true. But having a black friend does not mean that you understand black culture, and if you are not willing to do the hard work of understanding the culture, you will not be able to bridge that racial divide—the barrier will remain. Minorities are more or less forced to understand the majority culture, but those in the majority culture have no need or motivation to understand minority cultures, so most of the time we don’t make the effort. But we Christians, of all people, should be motivated! Didn’t Jesus make the supreme effort to come and immerse Himself in our alien culture out of love? 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 is just one example of how Paul gave up his cultural privileges and perspectives for the sake of the Gospel.
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
The vision of a multiracial, multiethnic church is a heavenly vision! Many churches are on this road. Take a look at this video of multiethnic baptism celebration—I dare you not to get a lump in your throat and feel homesick for Heaven: http://www.churchleaders.com/worship/worship-videos/162452-baptism-celebration-at-transformation-church.html.
This barely broaches the subject, but I hope others of you will chime in. Let me emphasize that when I speak of “whites” or “blacks” I’m not denying the uniqueness of individuals or suggesting that there is a “typical” white American Christian or African American Christian. I’m simply using these terms in the same way that results of opinion polls and surveys are reported.
Typically, each Monday we will be posting the previous Sunday’s sermon. Here is the sermon from yesterday.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Preaching: Vergil Brown
Sermon Series: Wisdom for Navigating Life
Title: “Get Wisdom”
Passage: Proverbs 2-4
You can also access the sermon HERE.
Each week on Friday we’ll post a few links to things we recommend around the internet. Here are a few for this week.
How the News Makes Us Dumb
In this post on The Gospel Coalition site, Kevin DeYoung suggests that the massive quantity of news we can access is not necessarily a good thing.
Traditional Sexuality, Radical Community
This article addresses homosexuality and helps us think about sexuality from the perspective of church and community.
10 Historical Myths about World Christianity
A history professor from the University of Edinburgh presents what he perceives as the top ten historical myths about World Christianity.
Small Groups and the Transformed Life
In this article from Christianity Today Ed Stetzer lists and discusses some key elements of small groups that encourage life change.
There’s More to the End Times Than Being Left Behind
In light of the upcoming release of another Left Behind movie, this article urges Christians to guard against divisiveness on secondary matters like the rapture.
We are starting a Gresham Bible Church blog!
At GBC we consider the preaching of the Bible as central to all we do. This GBC blog is meant to supplement Sunday sermons. It’s another avenue to inform and encourage, and hopefully it will stimulate reflection, discussion, and discipleship.
While this is a public blog, the intended audience is the GBC church body. There will be various contributors writing posts, as well as links to other articles, posts, and sites around the web. This variety means the blog will reflect an array of perspectives, ideas, and opinions. That being said, we’ll do our best to ensure the content remains faithful to Scripture and representative of our church’s vision and values.
We’ll try to keep a consistent flow of posts coming, so check in regularly. Later today, and regularly on Fridays, there will be a post with links to other things around the web that we recommend.