In my continuing masochistic experiment of commenting on one of the most openly bigoted and wrong minded books I have read (outside of maybe the books I purchased from Obama’s church’s book store), I delve into a second installment of this series. I will however, unlike my dealing with the Introduction of Ibram Kendi’s book, take smaller chunks of it and dissect it a bit. Or take topical chunks I should say. The first issue I wish to tackle are more misunderstandings regarding the Christian faith and the journey his father took (at least Kendi’s understanding of it). Here is an example. In the beginning pages of Chapter one of “How to Be an Antiracist” he writes of the influence of Tom Skinner on his parents.
However, Mr. Ibram never expresses the ideas to the reader that even though Tom Skinner was tough on white Evangelicals – making them feel uncomfortable in time (remember, many were silent in the pews during the Democratic Jim Crow era), but that Skinner himself was tougher on the black church., for instance, in an interesting article entitled, “Tom Skinner Was Not The Evangelical Radical You’re Looking For,” we find this:
…Skinner was not afraid to make white evangelicals uncomfortable. They were “almost totally irresponsible” in their avoidance of their black brethren, and it was only the pressures of the civil rights movement that had belatedly stirred them from their complacency. He blasted white evangelicals who piously intoned that “Jesus was the answer” while refusing to get involved in the problem. Skinner believed Jesus was the answer too. But he had skin in the game, and he expected other evangelicals to join him. Yet it was precisely this supplicatory undertone that made Skinner’s criticisms manageable. For all the discomfort his words could cause, he did not doubt that white evangelicals had the correct theology on the point that mattered most, and he asked them to help him bring their theology to the ghetto. Christianity Today approvingly noted that Skinner “plays down social insurgence in his sermons because he feels that reform may take ‘sixty years’ but that regeneration through Christ can help now.” To put it baldly, converted Negroes were not rioting Negroes.
Remarkably, Skinner’s criticisms of white evangelicals were tame compared to his open contempt for the black church. He described most black churches as bastions of excessive emotionalism and spiritual immaturity, led by ministers given over to sexual immorality and hypocrisy. As a result, he claimed, “There is hardly any Christian witness in the ghetto.” There’s little reason to suppose Skinner’s hostility toward the black church was anything but sincere ….
“The Gospel with Candor,” Christianity Today, October 14, 1966, 53-54.
However, on pages 16 and 17 we see the real influence on Kendi and his family. James Cone is said to have been asked by Mr. Kendi’s father this: “What is your definition of a Christian?” James Cone responded: “A Christian is one who is striving for liberation.”
Without getting into “theological woods,” James Cone pretty much announced he isn’t saved. In the previous post on this book I noted the following from the “flagship book” of Dr. Cone’s:
“The personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew” — Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
“The goal of black theology is the destruction of everything white, so that blacks can be liberated from alien gods” — James Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, p.62
“White religionists are not capable of perceiving the blackness of God, because their satanic whiteness is a denial of the very essence of divinity. That is why whites are finding and will continue to find the black experience a disturbing reality” — James Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, p.64
However, the book specifically mentioned in these pages by Mr. Kendi is the following:
“It is this fact that makes all white churches anti-Christian in their essence. To be Christian is to be one of those whom God has chosen. God has chosen black people!” — James Cone, Black Theology & Black Power, p.151
This influence on the black church is detrimental to Christianity, just as much as if it were said that “God has chosen the white people.” And this thinking by Cone is what is driving some of the political violence we see today when he said “These new theologians of the Third World argue that Christians [liberation theology accepting Christians] should not shun violence but should initiate it” (Ibid. p.32)
Tom Skinner essentially taught that “converted Negroes were not rioting Negroes.” Cone taught the opposite. In the afore mentioned book, Dr. Cone noted:
“It [black liberation theology] is dangerous because the true prophet of the gospel of God must become both “anti-Christian” and “unpatriotic.”…. “Because whiteness by its very nature is against blackness, the black prophet is a prophet of national doom. He proclaims the end of the American Way” — James Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, p.55-56
La Shawn Barber zeroes in on the above thinking promoted by Dr. Kendi
…Filtering Scripture through race or sex should instinctively strike Christians as problematic; labeling theology “black” or “white” or “Latino” or “feminist,” even more so. The most wonderful enduring truth about Christ is that He’s no respecter of persons. It is not unbiblical to recognize differences or to incorporate them into worship, as long as Christ and Scripture remain the supreme authority of our faith and practice.
The kind of black theology Reformed Christian Anthony J. Carter supports is different from Cone’s brand of race-filtered theology. Carter said theology has always had an ethnic or cultural context, and lists German Lutheran and Scottish Reformed traditions as examples. In that regard, he says a biblical black theology is necessary, because the alternative is an unbiblical black theology. “The unfortunate errors of nascent black theology were rooted in the assumption that experiences should be the primary source of truth,” Carter writes. He notes that men like Cone didn’t maintain the integrity of doctrine “pivotal and indispensable to the historic Christian faith.”…
Anthony J. Carter, On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African-American Experience (Phillipsburg, NJ: P and R Publishing, 2003), 14.
And this early (chapter one) setting is a red-flag for just how bad the rest of the book will be and is. As Ron Rhodes poignantly says in his quoting of Tom Skinner:
Tom Skinner agrees and argues that “like any theology, black theology must have a frame of reference…. There are some black theologians who seek to make their frame of reference purely the black experience, but this assumes the black experience is absolutely moral and absolutely just, and that is not the case. There must be a moral frame of reference through which the black experience can be judged.” That frame of reference must be Scripture. (EQUIP)
And that is where the vaunted James Cone (and, frankly, Ibram Kendi’s acceptance of the neo-Marxist positions of liberation theology) sidesteps the real issue. Salvation vs. liberation.
Something Lit-sen Chang noted many years ago: “Without reconciliation with God, there is no reconciliation with man.”
As Dr. Carl F. H. Henry pointed out: “The Chicago evangelicals, while seeking to overcome the polarization of concern in terms of personal evangelism or social ethics, also transcended the neoProtestant nullification of the Great Commission.” “The Chicago Declaration did not leap from a vision of social utopia to legislation specifics, but concentrated first on biblical priorities for social change.” “The Chicago evangelicals did not ignore transcendent aspects of God’s Kingdom, nor did they turn the recognition of these elements into a rationalization of a theology of revolutionary violence or of pacifistic neutrality in the face of blatant militarist aggression.” (Cf. Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, “Evangelical Social Concern” Christianity Today, March 1, 1974.) The evangelical social concern is transcendental not merely horizontal.
We must make it clear that the true revolutionaries are different from the frauds who “deal only with surface phenomena. They seek to remove a deep-seated tumor from society by applying a plaster to the surface. The world’s deepest need today is not something that merely dulls the pain, but something that goes deep in order to change the basic unity of society, man himself. Only when men individually have experienced a change and reorientation, can society be redirected in the way it should go. This we cannot accomplish by either violence or legislation” (cf. Reid: op. cit.). Social actions, without a vertical and transcendental relation with God only create horizontal anxieties and perplexities!
Furthermore, the social activists are in fact ignorant of the social issues, they are not experts in the social sciences. They simply demand an immediate change or destruction of the social structures, but provide no blueprint of the new society whatsoever! They can be likened to the fool, as a Chinese story tells, who tried to help the plant grow faster by pulling it higher. Of course such “action” only caused the plant to wither and die. This is exactly what the social radicals are doing now! And the W.C.C. is supporting such a tragic course!
We must challenge them [secular social activists] to discern the difference between the true repentance and “social repentance.” The Bible says: “For the godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret; but worldly grief produces death” (II Cor. 7:10). This was the bitter experiences of many former Russian Marxists, who, after their conversion to Christ came to understand that they had only a sort of “social repentance”—a sense of guilt before the peasant and the proletariat, but not before God. They admitted that “A Russian (Marxist) intellectual as an individual is often a mild and loving creature, but his creed (Marxism) constrains him to hate” (cf. Nicolas Zernov: The Russian Religious Renaissance). “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one…. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10,23). A complete change of a society must come from man himself, for basically man is at enmity with God. All humanistic social, economic and political systems are but “cut flowers,” as Dr. Trueblood put it, even the best are only dim reflections of the Glory of the Kingdom of God. As Benjamin Franklin in his famous address to the Constitutional Convention, said, “Without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.” Without reconciliation with God, there is no reconciliation with man. Social action is not evangelism; political liberation is not salvation. While we shall by all means have deep concern on social issues; nevertheless, social activism shall never be a substitution for the Gospel.
Lit-sen Chang, The True Gospel vs. Social Activism, (booklet. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co: 1976), 9.