The Post-Racial Church
Reconciliation Only Possible by a Savior
Kenneth A. Mathews (Old Testament) and M. Sydney Park (New Testament), professors at Beeson Divinity School, attempt in The Post-Racial Church to Ã¢ÂÂbetter equip the church in answering why Christians claim that the gospel and the Christian church are the first and last best hope for peace in a racially diverse worldÃ¢ÂÂ (25).
To help readers understand how churches can more faithfully reflect Ã¢ÂÂthe wonder of GodÃ¢ÂÂs human kaleidoscope,Ã¢ÂÂ they work their way through the arc of the Old and New Testaments to reveal GodÃ¢ÂÂs plan for reconciliation. Reconciliation, they believe, Ã¢ÂÂcan only be fully and finally achieved by a Savior who redeems and transforms the human stateÃ¢ÂÂ (57). Their call to racial/ethnic unity in the church is an unabashedly Biblical program. They write, Ã¢ÂÂGenuine unity must be predicated upon a commitment to the Lord God, not based on anything or anyone else. Otherwise, the unity is circumstantial, which means that it is superficial and fragileÃ¢ÂÂ (72-73). They ground their call for ethnic unity in the Church firmly in Scripture.
Mathews writes the introduction and chapters 1-4 on the Old Testament, addressing GodÃ¢ÂÂs design in creation, his covenant with Noah and then with Abram to bless all nations, as well as GodÃ¢ÂÂs heart and provision for the immigrant among the people of Israel. Park traces the New Testament development of the theme of the inclusion of all people in GodÃ¢ÂÂs covenant. She explores JesusÃ¢ÂÂ stories concerning reconciliation, as well as how Biblical characters like James, Peter, and Paul came to grips with a deeper understanding of GodÃ¢ÂÂs desire for trans-ethnic unity in the Church. (ParkÃ¢ÂÂs interpretation and application of the Prodigal Son parable opened up new understandings of that story that I had never consideredÃ¢ÂÂdespite having already heard and read it many times.)
The Post-Racial Church is excellent in the thoroughness with which it treats Biblical texts that have to do with multiethnic reconciliation (and reconciliation more generally). In this sense, it greatly succeeds in being what the bookÃ¢ÂÂs subtitle claims it will be: A Biblical Framework for Multiethnic Reconciliation. Even though the introductory chapter clarifies what the authors mean by various terms they use, the phrase Ã¢ÂÂpost-racial churchÃ¢ÂÂ as such is not really explored in the book itself. Ã¢ÂÂKaleidoscopic ChurchÃ¢ÂÂ or Ã¢ÂÂThe Post-Racist ChurchÃ¢ÂÂ would have been more fitting titles for the book. (So if you, like me, express skepticism at a Church or any institution being Ã¢ÂÂpost-racial,Ã¢ÂÂ donÃ¢ÂÂt let that stop you from checking out this book. The authors donÃ¢ÂÂt actually advance that we be Ã¢ÂÂcolor-blindÃ¢ÂÂ or Ã¢ÂÂignore raceÃ¢ÂÂ as part of their thesis.)
On the one hand the book at times felt a bit over-dense (especially the first half). But on the other hand, other books IÃ¢ÂÂve read about multiethnic church-building or racial reconciliation often give what feels like too short a treatment of Biblical texts on the topic. MathewsÃ¢ÂÂ and ParkÃ¢ÂÂs detailed exegesis was in the end refreshing in this sense, and makes a unique contribution to the genre of book into which The Post-Racial Church fits. I also appreciated that they drew on the original Hebrew and Greek to further illuminate the texts they expounded. This made their work even more compelling.
Each chapter concludes with Ã¢ÂÂThought ProvokerÃ¢ÂÂ questions, a high point of the book. For example, one question (p. 171) asks,
If loving our neighbors is a critical factor in our discipleship, and if loving our neighbors
self-sacrificially serves as the litmus test for our discipleship, does the test prove positive for you and your church?
One could easily use this book in a small group discussion to great effect.
The reader who takes the time to work carefully through the authorsÃ¢ÂÂ guided exegetical tour through the Scriptures will be greatly rewarded. If indeed, as Park claims, Ã¢ÂÂthe proper understanding of racial reconciliation is possible only in light of GodÃ¢ÂÂs saving activity throughout human history,Ã¢ÂÂ then those who desire to join God in drawing all people to himself will want to avail themselves to the solid Biblical exposition that the authors provide.
(Per FTC guidelines, I note that I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.)
June 24, 2012