Wednesday, August 28, 2013

John Piper, Racial Reconciliation, and Disappointment

I'm disappointed. I feel very strongly about the need for racial reconciliation in the Church. I'm the pastor of a church in Birmingham Alabama - a city that is not known for positive racial relations. However the church I pastor feels very strongly about being a multi-ethic church. While at this point we are still largely white, we do have many African-Americans who attend and we hope to someday reflect our community which, according to the 2010 Census data, is 52.3% African-American. Our church has chose to stay in our community in order to "bloom where we're planted" and reach the community we are a part of.

Back to why I'm disappointed. I was thrilled when I learned that John Piper was writing a book on race and the Church. As most of you know, Piper is a Calvinist but despite this I have enjoyed reading several of his books and he has influenced my thinking in numbers of ways. I would consider him my favorite Calvinist =). When Piper's book was released I could not wait to purchase it. I love my Kindle but this was one book that I wanted in hardback to I went to the local Christian bookstore and paid full price for it (something I very rarely ever do). I knew Piper was a strong proponent of racial reconciliation and integrated churches so I was excited to read what he had written. 

Here's why I'm disappointed. Piper has a lot of good things to say in this book. Much of which I agree with. However, Piper's answer to the racial problems seems to be Reformed (Calvinist) theology. Essentially he takes the grid of the 5 points of Calvinism and tries to put it over the issue of racism as the answer to our racial problems. I, of course, expected to have to chew on the meat and spit out the bones of Calvinism when I purchased the book, but unfortunately Calvinism is the bulk of the book! Apparently we are to believe that the only way to love the whole world is to believe in a God who doesn't! To suggest that the answer to our racial problems is loving everyone by believing in a God who has chosen some to be saved and some to be damned is mind-boggling to me. Why should I love everyone, if in your view, God apparently doesn't (if He has chosen to damn some to Hell)? I come away from this book wondering if Piper thinks I'm racist since I don't believe in Reformed theology. If Reformed theology is the answer for racial reconciliation, and I don't believe in it, apparently so. 

So, I'm disappointed. There is a lot of good in this book. Much of what Piper says I agree with. However, I'm disappointed because what could have been a great book was spoiled by bad theology.

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