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Seminary journal examines biblical race reconciliation

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–What is the genuine antidote to racism?

It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, essayists in the latest edition of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology argue.

The summer edition of the SBJT addresses racial reconciliation from a number of biblical standpoints, but all the writers agree that the sin of racism is ultimately dealt with only through the Gospel.

The journal is a publication of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

“Racism, from a biblical view, is always wrong,” writes SBJT editor Stephen J. Wellum. “Genesis 1:26-27 is absolutely clear at this point. Because all human beings are created in the image of God, no one race is superior either in terms of value or significance.

“Sadly, sin has distorted and twisted God’s good creation, including racial relations, and it is only the power of the gospel which can bring true healing and transformation.”

Four other Southern Seminary professors also weigh in on the issue. Russell D. Moore, dean of the seminary’s School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration, asserts that Christians, during the civil rights movement, were confronted with the sin of racism through their own theology.

“[It was] a theology that emphasized both the dignity of the individual and the reconciliation of the community in ways inconsonant with racial bigotry,” Moore writes. “With racial, ethnic, and tribal animosities accelerating across the globe, it is imperative that contemporary evangelical conservatives understand the evangelical impulses at the heart of the civil rights movement that provide a biblical portrait of the personal, corporate, and cosmic aspects of the gospel.

“In so doing, conservative evangelicals can speak theologically to the crises of racial hatred by drawing on the implications of their convictions about personal regeneration and the community of the church.

“This theological awareness is even more critical when contemporary evangelicals are asked increasingly to accept new movements — from feminism to homosexual liberation and beyond — as the legitimate heirs of the civil rights movement,” Moore adds.

T. Vaughn Walker, professor of black church studies, reflects on the history of cooperative ministries both within the Southern Baptist Convention and among National Baptists. Walker also lays out a six-fold challenge aimed at helping Christians work toward racial reconciliation.

“If the Christian community in all of its racial diversity cannot model authentic racial reconciliation, then what is the hope that our society can do so? Given the transforming power of the gospel which can not only reconcile fallen sinners to God but also to one another in the church, we need to be on the forefront of serving as models of reconciliation in this racially divided, fallen order.

“Cooperative ministries (alongside church planting), whether as an official denominational program emphasis or not, must be the order of the day.”

Ken Fentress, assistant professor of Old Testament interpretation and dean of intercultural programs at Southern Seminary, is one of seven scholars who participates in an SBJT forum on “Racism, Scripture, and History.” Other participants include D.A. Carson, Paige Patterson and Michael Haykin. Haykin is distinguished visiting professor of church history at Southern Seminary.

The Great Commission demands that the church remove all barriers that are built upon race and ethnicity, Fentress writes. Because in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, the church must work toward racial reconciliation, he asserts.

“The Great Commission calls for us to go and make new disciples of Jesus Christ,” Fentress writes. “This mandate requires the church to be intentional about overcoming the racial barriers that have been the source of division and segregation in the Christian Community.

“It is vital to work toward racial reconciliation because it is consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ through which God reconciles people of all races to Himself. Reconciliation with God through Christ is the basis for racial reconciliation in the Christian community according to 1 John 1:7 and 4:20. The integrity of the gospel and the credibility of the church of the Lord Jesus are at stake in this issue.”

The journal also contains articles by John Piper, Sherard Burns, Timothy George and Robert Smith, Jr., as well as several book reviews. For more information on the SBJT, contact the journal office at 502-897-4413 or [email protected].

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  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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