Black and Reformed: Beginnings


My entrance into the Christian tradition came by way of Neo-Pentecostalism.  My Senior Pastor at the time was a very ecclectic thinker and appreciate of the Christian tradition in its plurality.  For a season we went headlong and deep into Reformed theology.  As a matter of fact it would be the presuppositionalism of Cornelius VanTil and Greg Bahnsen that would lead me to have a profound appreciation for postmodernism and postmodernity.  Ironically, it would be the work of Christian Reconstructionist and Kuyperian theology that would bring me to the world of black liberation theology.  Strange indeed.  This week I have promised friends that I would start back blogging regularly again.  And the recent bloggings of brothers over at Reformed Blacks of America has me re-thinking my relationship to the Reformed tradition.  Especially the recent criticism coming out of Reformed (psuedo-Evangelical) circles regarding Emergent and the broader emerging church movement that I affiliate with.  This week will be a thinking out loud about the Reformed faith. 

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20 thoughts on “Black and Reformed: Beginnings

  1. Hey man! Its been a long time!

    Here’s the skinny. When I think Evangelical (aside from the basic elements of the Protestant tradition such as the solas, priesthood of all believers, justification by faith, etc.):

    A theologically conservative Euro-American Christian tradition that emphasizes 1. a particular kind of evangelism (i.e. cold call) that hopes for personal conversions 2. penal substitution 3. in most quarters the belief in the infallibility of scripture 4. pre-millenial eschatology.

    Off the top of my head these are some Evangelical distinctives.

  2. While I’ve not heard of Reformed types being referred to as pseudo-Evangelicals, I do get the sense that some Reformed people don’t readily identify with Evangelicals, while some are okay being identified with them. The former are kind of the people who see the world as Reformed and non-Reformed, and are quick to critique the shortcoming of other less logically-formed theologies. 🙂

  3. My above post was not suggesting that Reformed folks in total are pseudo-evangelical. I think my quote said the following:

    “Especially the recent criticism coming out of Reformed (psuedo-Evangelical) circles”

    Most of the criticism of the emerging church coming out of the Reformed church tend to be those who straddle the fence between being Evangelical and Reformed. For instance some of the good folks over at Resurgence appear to have an Evangelical strain in their presentation. Especially the centralizing of penal substitution…which is an Evangelical move as I understand Evangelicalism. The Reformed tradition, in total, does not do this. There are Reformed traditions that affirm other atonement theories.

    In regards ‘premillenialism’. Most of the Reformed folks I know are either historical premillers or amil…with a growing smathering of partial preterist (or postmillers). When I said premil I was not referring to dispensational premillenialism. Stephen you are probably aware there are two basic streams of premils: dispensational and historic or traditional. A historic premil position would be represented by someone like R.C. Sproul…now his last book on the Last Days suggests he has gone on the postm-mil or partial preterist side of things…I am not sure.

    So all pre-millers are not dispys.

  4. As far as a great treatment of the Atonement from a Reformed perspective I’d check out Hans Boersma’s book “Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition”.

  5. thanks for the clarification, anthony. i had just always considered all the reformed camp a subset of evangelicalism. coincidentally, i was just reading the eschatology section of grudem’s recent systematic theology. he presents a, post, pre (both disp and historic) as all being evangelical positions, which had been my thought as well. but now that we’re talking about it, I think i have seen somewhere where some reformed folks don’t consider themselves evangelical.

  6. Stephen,

    Well…as you probably already know the Reformed tradition is not a monolith nor a homogenous tradition. The Reformed folks I would consider a hybrid of elements of Reformed and evangelical are the folks who have been quite loud in their criticism of emergent and the emerging church. However, there are Reformed folks who have a somewhat positive appraisal of the emerging church.

    Think Walter Brueggeman and John Piper. Both are in the Reformed tradition but if you read their works you get the sense they speak in different ways about particular topics.

  7. Stephen,

    Regarding the relationship of Reformed to evangelical I’d say that Reformed is prior to evangelical. Evangelicalism is later phenomenon than the Reformed tradition. I’d say that the Reformed tradition is a subset of the Protestant Reformation to which Evangelicalism is a sub-sub-set to both the Reformed tradition and other elements of American Protestantism. I’d suggest checking out scholar Martin Marty on the geneaology of American Protestantism. Goods stuff.

  8. anthony, those are fair comments, I think, especially when you consider the time development of reformed and evangelical traditions. I’m sure that there are reformed folks who don’t want to be grandfathered into the ev tradition!

    regarding reformed folks favorably viewing the ec, there are reformed folks who are *in* the emerging church! I’m thinking of Mark Driscoll and Acts29 folks and I also considering myself reformed and emerging.

  9. Anthony,
    Hi, i just re-read your mini essay “The Panopticon of Ecclesial Whiteness” what a great piece of writing. anyway, i was wondering if you have any thoughts on the panopticon of ecclesial maleness? i agree with your essay, but couldnt help but wonder, where are the women in this? the panopticon is not just a matter of whiteness it is also maleness. right? I am currently working on an essay regarding the necessity of black women in the church and i would reallly appreciate any thoughts you might have. thanks.

  10. the reformed church has serious problems. It has turned more into a theological debating society (See Madchen’s Warrior Children) and an academic exercise more than one who feels they have any duty to culture. They seem to be quite content that the state controls the deaconal function of the church and that the evangelicals do the ground work in getting out the gospel message. Being more elite,since they have the truth, they feel free to umpire about how everybody does evangelism wrong except them.
    They forget about the sin of ommission.

  11. I sent too soon, My closing statement was I fear the reformed church has been worshipping in “truth” alone and not in spirit and truth. However if they are not worshipping in spirit and truth is the truth alone a whole truth?

    Much of this may be traceable back to the roots of the reformation when the Eucharist was the focal point of the worship service, the spiritual meal . While I am not condoning the catholic view of the meal, it is better to experience the meal than explain it , as Calvin put it. In reexamining the reformed tradition the eucharist /Lord’s Supper should have the same import as the sermon and should not be relegated to long periods of times betwixt.

  12. Interesting post. Interesting for me at least in this way, ecclesiology may be THE most pressing issue of our day…may be…at least in our place. I’m baptistic, reformed, evangelical (?) and grateful that those in the emergent movement are raising the issue. Could it be that American evangelical churches have jettisoned the nature/essence of the church by almost exclusively defining themselves by the functions of the church, only to inevitably devalue those functions they suppose they are elevating?

    I must be crusty. I still think function naturally flows from essence. I’m not sure I’m satisfied with the explanation of those I know in the emergent church, but then I haven’t been satisfied with the institutional/consumer model posited by the church growth movement either. Still think it over….

    Thanks for the post. Grace and peace.

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