Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The Church, Embracing Grace, and Racism 3

posted by xscot mcknight

Fighting racism isn’t a tack-on to what happens “after I believe,” but an issue wrapped up in the gospel grace of God we embrace when we embrace Jesus Christ and his kingdom vision.
How often do we make distinctions between “faith in Christ” for redemption and “discipleship” for sanctification? or what we embrace for salvation and what we choose to do as a part of following Christ? As if the two are separable realms. This is hooey, I say.
In Embracing Grace I did something I’ve never written about before, but which came to me in my study for the book.
In what would be called in older categories the “decision” section, I suggest we embrace the gospel in three decreasing circles: first, we embrace the cosmic redemptive work of God (trinitarian work); second, we embrace the faith community wherein the performance of the gospel takes place; and third, but not until third, we personally embrace the gospel. In other words, a genuine embrace of the gospel is an embrace of what God is doing, what the Church is performing, and how we fit into that large, large, big, big work of God. Until we come to terms with this, we are simply embracing our own individual redemption — which isn’t the focus of God’s work.
Now, if this order is correct — and what I genuinely believe is that we are to do all three at the same time but that most times we don’t talk about one and two until well after three, which creates rabid individualism — if this is correct, then a commitment to end racism is part and parcel of what it means to embrace the gospel itself — because it is the embrace of God’s redemptive work.



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jazztheo

posted September 28, 2005 at 8:29 am


Mr. McKnight,
This resonates. To follow Jesus is to take on the language of “us.” “Forgive us…give us our daily bread…lead us…” And the language of “one another.”
It is impossible to pray and be Christian without the first two categories. Amen…



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Scot McKnight

posted September 28, 2005 at 8:31 am


Jazztheo,
Tomorrow, brother, a post on reconciliation.



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Ochuk

posted September 28, 2005 at 9:30 am


This has been facinating. Thanks for posting on this.



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Fr'nklin

posted September 28, 2005 at 12:17 pm


This was a fabulous post. I’ve NEVER heard it described this way (embracing the three “categories”), and I think it’s on target…THANKS. Of course, a few questions come to mind to clarify what I THINK you mean: 1) What is the “cosmic redemptive work of God” (restoration of His image?)?, and 2) What if I don’t want to go to church? If I am unchurched does that equate w/ unbeliever?
Thanks again…great stuff!



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Scot McKnight

posted September 28, 2005 at 12:26 pm


Fr’nklin,
You’ve got an emerging movement issue and shoved it at me. I’m persuaded that the Church is the center of God’s plan in the world; the Bible is too (by the way). The Church has not lived up to its calling and some have chosen to “do church” another way — that, for me, is still “church.” But there are no “solo artists” in the cosmic redemptive plan of God because his work is to form a people for the blessing of the world.



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Trevin Wax

posted September 28, 2005 at 12:40 pm


Scot,
This is a fantastic post! I love the categories you have put up. Evangelicals are good at preaching the third, but we put very little emphasis on the first and second. Many Catholics and Eastern Orthodox place emphasis on the first (and sometimes second), but don’t get too far with the third. I think we need to learn from each other and begin seeing salvation as holistic in nature. These three categories must be present for a true understanding of the nature of conversion.
Thanks for this explanation. I’ve never heard it put so well.
Trevin



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Fr'nklin

posted September 28, 2005 at 12:52 pm


Much agreed…I’m struggling with the form, but I’ve been reading different Gospels (in one sitting if I can) lately and I don’t see Jesus “ditching” the Temple or the Synagogue. He stays with God’s people…religious elite or sinner…perhaps treating each differently, but still staying with them. I guess for me, that has been an important “discovery”.
So, to answer my own question, here is what I hear you saying: the cosmic redmptive work of God is the forming of a people for the blessing of the world…and that people is called, “the church”. Close?



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John Frye

posted September 28, 2005 at 1:40 pm


Scot, you are a very good teacher. The image of concentric circles makes so much sense as a picture of holistic salvation. It swims upstream against the strong currents of the “me,” “my family,” “my job/vocation,” then maybe “my church,” and “the world” and the cosmic reach redemption is a foreign language to most. Keep re-imaging the kingdom of God for us. Your words and your spirit impress us with all that we can “be for,” so that to “be against” is just a waste of time.



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ted gossard

posted September 28, 2005 at 2:36 pm


We are surely disheveled in practice even if we are seeing this more and more clearly in our theological belief. At least I speak for myself and much of what I’ve seen.
Thanks so much Scot for sharing all of this with us, and thanks to you other folks for commenting. I learn alot from that as well.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 28, 2005 at 2:41 pm


You are all invited to dinner tonight! Thanks for these encouraging remarks.
Fr’nklin, that’s it.



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Lukas McKnight

posted September 28, 2005 at 5:45 pm


Pesto and bruschetta, I assume?
Y vino tinto tambien?



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Scot McKnight

posted September 28, 2005 at 5:47 pm


Salmon with risotto, rosso vino.



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Dana Ames

posted September 28, 2005 at 6:20 pm


One of my favorite menus…
Truly this is your best series, and this post is just outstanding.
Thank you.
Dana



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Bill Smith

posted September 28, 2005 at 6:48 pm


Scot,
Good food for thought. It rattles around in my head throughout the day. It is reaaallly radical though. Which is why I am concerned that there are not more questions raised about the implications. If your idea is correct then part of preaching the gospel in the south would be preaching agianst racism. You could try that at an evangelistic meeting in many places but be sure that you have a good friend who makes dentures.
Based on your description of the gospel I don’t know many people who understand it much less preach it. This means that not only are there only a few Christians worldwide but most of the people who claim to be Christians are not Christians at all. Now I realize that neither one of the concerns that I have raised necessarily have a thing to do with whether your reflections are on target but I am merely wondering whether you realize where they lead. If so, are you willing to come down hear to South Georgia and go on the evagelistic trail. Oh, and teeth will be provided.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 28, 2005 at 7:00 pm


Bill,
Preaching the gospel as preaching the kingdom involves justice, and justice at the heart of God’s plan. So, I agree that evangelism is a summons to the kingdom of God and to live in light of it.
If, as I’ve said before, the gospel is judicialized by turning sin into little more than guilt from breaking law, and the cross is the rectification of our legal status, then conversion is nothing more than being rectified legally. This is contrary, brother Bill, to the sweep of the Bible. Sin is hyper-relational (it consumes and corrupts all relations — God, others, world) and God’s redemptive work is to restore the hyper-relationality. (This is what Embracing Grace is about.)
I would not say that peole who don’t believe this are not Christians; I’d say, however, they are not yet swallowed into the redemptive work of God. The singular problem of evangelical evangelism is that it is simply and solely a “for me” gospel. This is why church membership is seen as a choice, not as part and parcel of the gospel itself: to commit to the gospel is to commit to God’s work, to God’s people, and to what God can do for me.
Right back atcha, brother Bill.



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Bill Smith

posted September 28, 2005 at 7:28 pm


Scot,
As you know I like all this big picture stuff. My concern is how to put it together. My question is what do we consider the gospel message. You may be right. I lean in that direction but I thinking through the implications. By the way, my illustration was not completely in jest. I have a friend who is missing his two front teeth.
Take that
Bill



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Ellen

posted September 28, 2005 at 8:46 pm


Amen Scot — battling racism has everything to do with seeing people through the eyes of Christ. With love and mercy, without prejudice or injustice. This is a tough one for us — but so critical.



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Matt

posted September 28, 2005 at 11:40 pm


I wonder if circles 1 & 2 switch places relative to whether you come into the church from the outside as an adult or you come in through growing up there.
Basically, it makes sense that 3 is 3 no matter what, though. If you grow up in the church without a major period of disaffection/disassociation, practically, #2 comes first. (Ontologically is different, I suspect.)
Just a thought…
::Matt Thomas



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Bryan Murley

posted September 28, 2005 at 11:51 pm


For me the implication of this on at least one level is that Bill Smith is partly right. There are a lot of people who haven’t grasped the concentric circles and are stuck on the individualistic salvation.
But I find it hard to blame these people because the churches they/we attend, the churches where they/we are saved, the churches where they/we grow in faith are totally centered around the individual act of salvation! Does one hold guilty the person whose whole religious existence has been spent in an atmosphere of individual salvation?
As an extension of that thought, following through these concentric circles, how do we embrace the church that spends its spiritual capital on the individual act of salvation? I realize this is something of an emerging church issue as well, but I am thinking primarily of some of the churches Bill Smith speaks of, which may not be engaged in any overtly racist acts, but are locked into patterns of religious exercise that diminish this concentric design you suggest (i.e., First Baptist Church of Podunkville, USA).



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Anthony

posted September 29, 2005 at 6:29 am


Bryan,
Good question. I believe what needs to happen is that the growing conversation among missional and emerging church thinkers needs to include racism in its narration of modernity’s vices in how it influences our theologizing and ecclesial practices. The same way we talk of epistemology, consumerism, nation-worship, and the other many issues that are normally brought up in these circles. The first step may be to subvert an individualized understanding of salvation. I don’t hold any one person guilty. We are talking about one of the ‘courses of this world’ that has the church in captivity. There needs to be an expanded talk on the relationship between the ‘principalities and powers’ and the church. The church is called to demonstrate the multi-faceted wisdom of God to the Powers (Ephesians 3:10,11):
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I believe God’s wisdom is God’s pattern. The church is called to demonstrate God’s creational intent for human communities. We need to seriously interrogate why we have fallen captive to racism in its dis-ordering work. These issues extend beyond individuals (even as they are complicit with them) but it will take leaders and individuals in local churches to use their theological imaginations to see their complicity and to find ways of de-constructing and re-constructing their communities to embody God’s wisdom.
Anthony



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ted gossard

posted September 29, 2005 at 7:51 am


Anthony, thanks so much. There is so much to ponder here and then to try to begin to integrate in our thinking and from that our action.
To bring Jesus’ message of the kingdom to bear on racism (as well as poverty) is scarcely seen and even less understood by the status quo in evangelicalism, it seems to me. We pay a little lip service to those issues, and mean what we say, but we don’t have a sufficient biblical theological understanding to really do justice to it.



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Ron

posted September 29, 2005 at 8:48 am


Thanks for a great series on racism. In the last paragraph you write: “but that most times we don’t talk about one and two until well after one”. Don’t you really mean, “but that most times we don’t talk about one and two until well after THREE”?



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Kerry Doyal

posted September 29, 2005 at 9:22 am


I remember when it dawned on me in my 30’s that I had never – as I can recall – heard even as much as an application of the gospel on racism, much less a sermon on this topic.
I grew up in “solid” Bible teaching (white) churches in the South. I do remember rumors of deacons guarding the doors for disruptive radicals (blacks). I now recall & recognize code racist language in church and suspicion of liberals who were “into those social causes”.
To have been baptised in this setting for 18 + years, it was all but impossible to know what was missing. I had been saved, I had been baptized, I had joined, I had, I…, I, I. What more was there other that getting other people saved and supporting missions – over there?
I have needed and deeply appreciate some patient, mature Af. Americans in my life who put up with left over bigotry I am still blind to. Recovery is slow because new sight can come slowly, no matter how much it is desired.
Redefining assumed correct areas is more than repentance. Repentance rejects known areas of sin. Sanctification means encountering new old areas all the time. Those ugly “ah ha” moments when the Spirit tenderly shows you pockets of sinful thinking & attitudes. If nothing else keeps us humble in life, this ought.
God help us.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted September 29, 2005 at 11:30 pm


Scot,
Just got back from vacation and catching up on the reading, but this has been one of the best posts I’ve read yet. Thanks for this.
Peace,
Jamie



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Bob Robinson

posted September 30, 2005 at 8:58 am


The reason we white evangelicals contribute to racialization in our culture is that we refuse to get the gospel in that right order. Our gospel is inside out–a gospel that says that we first need to have a private faith and then (and only then) work that out in good works. A gospel that first sees God’s work to redeem ALL of Creation sees that God is first of all seeking to redeem fallen systems that are corrupting and destructive to all of Creation’s shalom.
A gospel that starts with COSMIC Redemption and then moves into COMMUNITY Redemption and then PERSONAL Redemption readily looks for the SYSTEMIC problems in our culture that are destructive to shalom (Racism being a HUGE one), and says that the reason God is calling out a holy people as a COMMUNITY is to remedy these systemic issues, and then says that in doing so, you work out your PERSONAL salvation.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 30, 2005 at 9:12 am


Bob,
You’re preaching brother. Thanks. I’m your witness.



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Bill Smith

posted October 2, 2005 at 6:00 pm


Preaching to the choir. Then that’s what I see happening a lot on blogs.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 2, 2005 at 6:52 pm


Bill, don’t deconstruct us!



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