Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, November 14, 2008

Equality at the Cross: Covenantal Relationships and Racism

The history of race relations within the United States of America is a long and complicated one and, because of total depravity and the corruption of the human ability to reason according to God's Word, historical revisionism has occurred on all sides of the issue. There are more races here in the United States besides just Caucasoid and Negroid. There are native Americans and Asians and Arabic and Indian peoples. We have Hispanics of all sorts of cultural backgrounds. The short of it is that sinful human beings often tend to discriminate against those who are different and this is true of all races and cultures and ethnic groups. Every person is a born sinner and is inherently flawed and corrupt and on that basis everyone discriminates against others and is a "racist."

While it is absolutely true that whites in the Deep South treated blacks horribly after the Civil War ended, it is also true that discrimination occurred in the North as well. Jim Crow laws, segregation laws, and laws designed to prevent blacks from exercising their 15th amendment right to vote are all examples of the terrible abused suffered by blacks in this country.

It is not my purpose to rehash here the history of the Civil Rights movement which won great freedoms for African-Americans in this country in 1965. What I do wish to put forth is a brief understanding of the biblical doctrine of equality and fellowship based on the cross of Jesus Christ and how that should relate to Christians among the various Evangelical denominations, particularly the Reformed and Anglican Reformed churches. (The latter group is very tiny since many Anglican/Episcopal continuing churches are heterodox or heretical because of the Tractarian heresy).

First of all, the Bible says that when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are all equal before God. The Apostle Paul in particular says that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free but all are one:

Galatians 3:23-29 (ESV)23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

What we have here, theologically speaking, is the apostolic argument made by Paul which does away with the exclusivity of salvation for the Jews only. In the Old Testament there was only one true God and only one people of God which was chosen by God from among all the nations of the world at that time. The initiation of the covenant with Abraham was the beginning of a particular election of a peculiar people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. While all the other nations of the Ancient Near East were committing gross sins of infant sacrifice, idolatry and all sorts of wickedness, including sexual immorality like bestiality, homosexuality, and incest, the nation of Israel was given the law of Moses to set them apart from the rest of the world.

Salvation was only through Israel in that time and the nation of Israel is really a type of the New Testament Church as Paul says:

Galatians 6:14-16 (ESV)14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
Here Paul is speaking of the New Testament church and his argument throughout the epistle to the Galatians is that there is no longer a division based on the Jewish race or the nation of Israel as the only way of salvation. Though Paul places this argument within the context of the law, i.e., the ceremonial and judicial laws of the ancient nation of Israel, Paul is arguing secondarily for an equality of all Christian believers regardless of their ethnic or social or cultural background. Salvation does not even come through keeping the moral law, according to Paul, since all of our good works cannot withstand the severity of God's judgment. (See also Article XII of the 39 Articles of Religion). The New Testament church replaces the nation of Israel as God's way of salvation and the divine election is for the church instead. The church is literally "the Israel of God," according to Paul.

However, lest I should neglect to be thorough I should point out that Paul's theology is not simply out of thin air. In fact, there are prophetic foreshadows of Paul's teaching within the patriarchal period of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and also in the Pentateuch and the mosaic law. The covenant with Abraham involves a change of name. Abram is no longer just Abram but now he is called Abraham, the father of many nations. (See Genesis 12:1-4; 15:3-6; 17:1-8). This prophecy is two fold since other nations not of Israel later claim to be descendants of Abraham, including Ismael's line and the Edomites who come from the line of Esau. But Paul argues that the true descendants of Abraham are those who are believers in the covenant and live by faith.

Another precedent for the church is the acceptance of foreigners, sojourners, and proselytes among the Israelites. In fact, the law of Moses provided for the proper treatment of foreigners and that they should suffer no injustices while they lived among the Israelites. This is not only a precedent for the church but also for the civil laws of nations today. We are not to discriminate against those who are different from us in race and culture. However, we must acknowledge that the resident aliens in ancient Israel were required to observe the religious practices of the Hebrews, including the sabbath. Moreover, proselytes who intended to live permanently with the Hebrews and observe the Passover were required to convert and to be circumcised to become full members in the covenantal community and the nation of Israel. (See Deuteronomy 10:18; Exodus 12:43-49; Leviticus 19:33-37). It is obvious that even in the Old Testament there is a principle of loving your neighbor and the stranger, even if they are not fully believers in God. Though Israel did not openly evangelize or proselytize there is at least a provision made there for conversion.

In the New Testament, however, we see the way opened for all men and all nations and all races to be accepted into the church by faith in Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20; Revelation 5:9-10; 7:9-10; 14:6-7). In the church of Jesus Christ there is no room for racism whether it be from blacks who hate whites or whites who hate blacks. There is no room for any race to hate another. Some blacks are prejudiced against Jews and Koreans. Some Chinese do not associate with Japanese or Koreans. While some of this may be due to language and cultural barriers, the truth is that all Christians who believe in Jesus Christ and the doctrine of justification by faith alone have some basis for fellowship through the blood of Jesus Christ.

When Peter disfellowshipped himself from the Greek and Gentile believers in the church, Paul openly rebuked him to his face. (See Galatians 2:11-14). Sadly, today there are few integrated churches here in America. We see black churches and white churches and Chinese and Korean churches. Part of the reason for this is doctrinal differences resulting in different denominations. Another reason is cultural differences and language barriers. While there are some notable exceptions within the Pentecostal movement where blacks and whites worship together the general tendency is for churches to remain predominately segregated. This is difficult to understand given that the communion of saints includes both those on earth and those saints who have departed this earth and are in heaven with our Lord. In heaven there are multitudes of souls worshipping God together in harmony. On earth our communion remains shattered and fragmented with only small glimpses of eternal glory to come.

Blacks tend to feel ostracized by a majority white culture and like to worship with others who share their experience and their culture as African-Americans. While some whites feel so hated by blacks that no matter how far the whites go to extend the hand of fellowship, friendship, and mutual respect and understanding, that they still feel a deep resentment and suspicion on the part of blacks. No matter how much the white population does they are never forgiven and they can never do enough to please the black people who hate them because of the sins of the past.

While it is true that we all bear some guilt for what the white majority did to blacks in the past, it is also true that each individual does not bear all the guilt for the sins of the fathers in the past. If we wish to view this problem biblically we have to see that we are all guilty of Adam's original sin. As the federal head of the human race, including all the ethnic groups, tribes and races, Adam represented us all before God and Adam's rebellion brought the curse of the law upon us all.

It should be pointed out that the black race is not without this same guilt of original sin and has inherited the same total depravity and corruption of the human nature that all humankind has. Thus, we can observe around the world evidences of this. The most glaring examples that the black race has a total corruption of the human nature is the genocide in Rwanda, Africa in the 1994 massacre of perhaps 1,000,000 Tutsi by two Hutu militias. (See Rwandan Genocide). Other notables are Idi Amin, who ruled in Uganda in the mid 1970's. Under Amin's regime perhaps 500,000 people were killed for political reasons.

Other examples of the sinfulness of the black race and their own inherent racism would include at least one black nationalist group, the Nation of Islam. Louis Farrakhan, the current head of the cultic organization which is not related to the Islamic religion in doctrinal teachings, holds the view that white people are blue eyed devils and that Jews are to be hated and despised. The past of the United Christian Church, where Barack Obama was a member for over 10 years, awarded Louis Farrakhan with a lifetime achievement award. This is the same man who believes that white people in the United States government has tried to exterminate black people by deliberately spreading AIDS in the black community. The Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton have both referred to the Jewish sections of their communities as "Jaime town." (Pronounced HI-mee). There are also examples of black aggression against Korean store owners in New York City.

And what white person is safe in black neighborhoods which are dominated by gang activities? And what of black on black crime, which is acknowledged by all as a problem overwhelming the black community? The short of it is that while blacks want to continue to dwell in past they too have perpetuated sinful and criminal activities against other races both here and abroad. There is none righteous, no not even one! We are all sinners and in need of repentance and forgiveness. And if we would be forgiven, Scripture tells us that we too must forgive. If there is ever to be harmony among us then we must put the Bible first and focus on our love for our neighbor regardless of his or her skin color, race, or culture.

While I could go on with examples, we should not forget that we are all sinners and all have fallen short of God's perfect mark in the moral law. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Furthermore, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. The book of James says that we war against each other because of covetousness and because we do not truly worship God.

James 4:1-3 (ESV)1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Romans 7:23 (ESV)23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (See ESV online).

If there is ever to be peace on earth, it will only come as we come to worship and adore Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It will only come as we give God the glory. It will only come as we lay aside our sinful striving after selfish gain and learn to love each other as fellow human beings created in the image and likeness of God, regardless of race. We should never forget that we are all descended from Adam are therefore related to one another by natural generation. What might be even better would be that we all come to worship God together here on earth in integrated churches, not just studying together in integrated schools and integrated workplaces and integrated neighborhoods. Rodney King once asked, "Why can't we all just get along?" We know that sinners who do not know Jesus Christ do not get along. But those of us who claim to know Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior have no excuse for avoiding our fellow believers in Christ. Every church, whether it be predominately black, white, Asian or Latino, should be seeking to integrate its congregation as an example to the world that all of us are one in Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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