A Tale of Two Gospels
Given the current situation within America, I believe it to be an appropriate time to share a story about two different gospels. These gospels both claim to be able to solve the problem of racial reconciliation in America. That is good news indeed, right? Well, as I hope to show, only one of them actually has the power to do what it claims to be able to do.
But before we look at these competing narratives, we first need to highlight the problem that we face. The problem of racism (or to use a biblical phrase from James 2, the sin of partiality) does exist. It has always existed and will continue to exist until Judgment Day. People are sinners and, as such, will treat others differently for a variety of reasons. Whether it is because of age, handicap, language, intelligence, dress, attractiveness, gender, or ethnicity, some people will experience mistreatment by others. In fact, one could argue that all people will experience mistreatment at some point in their lives.
With that in mind, I acknowledge the difficulties faced by many in the black community in America today. There is no doubt that, historically, blacks have been treated poorly throughout much of American history. Furthermore, increasing fatherlessness and the breakdown of the family has only made things worse.
On top of it all, there does exist (and always will exist) examples of police brutality. Again, this is because police officers (like everyone else) are sinners and will at times abuse their power and authority. Some of them lack self-control and are prone to anger, while others might be too quick to use lethal force. And while it is likely that some police officers hold prejudicial views toward black men living in the inner city, I imagine that there are officers who are also prejudicial toward Hispanics or Asians (or other Whites). These sins of partiality will exist in a fallen world. Of course, this does not mean that we should simply accept our situation and stop talking about it. We need a solution. We need some good news.
Yet it is at this very point that the dividing line exists. For while Christians and non-Christians alike can recognize that a problem exists, the solutions that both sides present are incompatible.
Consider for a moment the narrative, or story, that is being proclaimed within our society at present. We are told that systemic racism exists throughout the nation and that it is perpetuated primarily by white Americans. In fact, these white Americans enjoy certain privileges that many of them either do not recognize or perhaps even openly deny. Blind to the advantages they received from an inherently racist system, white Americans today must recognize that their prosperity and privilege has come off the backs of slaves. Even those whites whose ancestors arrived after slavery was ended still benefited from the racist system that was established.
The answer to this problem, we are told, is simple. White Americans must listen to black voices and black experiences in order to become awakened to the truth. Once “woke,” whites must confess their racism and ask for forgiveness from the black community. They must then join the community as allies to people of color, advocating for things such as reparations and the defunding of law enforcement. Those who remain silent or who even disagree with this narrative, including blacks, are denounced and sent to the social media guillotine.
As we look at this proposed solution, I want to bring to your attention that this narrative is actually nothing more than an entirely new theological system (i.e. Woke Theology). In fact, I would say that the problem of racism and racial reconciliation in America is actually a SPIRITUAL problem that masquerades as a problem of ethnicity or skin color. Allow me to explain this by presenting some of the key doctrines of Woke Theology:
Doctrine of Man (Anthropology) — Not all men are born sinners. Some, namely whites, are born guilty of being racist oppressors either by action or by association. They are privileged from conception. People of color, particularly blacks, enter into the world as victims of this racial oppression.
Doctrine of Sin (Hamartiology) — The original sin of whites is both inherited and performed. White Americans inherit the guilt of their ancestors (either those who implemented systemic racism or those who perpetuated it). They also engage in their own sins of racism that take the form of undetected and unintentional micro-aggressions toward people of color.
Doctrine of Salvation (Soteriology) — People of color (particularly black Americans) are part of the Elect, justified in their behavior and innocent of the sin of racism/partiality. They are, therefore, not in need of “saving.” On the other hand, whites can be saved by a combination of grace and good works. Grace is needed for any white person to experience regeneration, or “wokeness.” Yet being woke is not enough to declare one to be justified or not guilty. One must perform various penances such as public confession of sin, public display of virtue, and public advocacy for policy changes.
Doctrine of the Church (Ecclesiology) — As mentioned above, people of color are the Elect and are therefore members in good standing within the Woke Church. Yet those people of color, including black Americans, who disagree with the woke narrative are guilty of heresy/blasphemy and are cast out of the covenant community. In a way, even people of colored can lose their salvation according to Woke Theology. As for whites, only those who repent of their whiteness and adopt the correct narrative can join the woke covenant community. Even then, they can never enjoy full membership but must remain in the outer court as quasi-Gentiles. Their penances are never done and their good works are never enough to earn them full justification. They are always guilty, or “unclean,” and therefore can never enjoy true peace.
Doctrine of Last Things (Eschatology) — As the woke covenant community grows, it expands to fill the entire society. This expansion and growth results in the toppling of any “racist” social structures (which is nearly all of them). In their place will be erected new structures based on vague concepts such as diversity, inclusivity, and equity. In this new society the woke covenant community will allegedly experience peace, prosperity, and genuine social justice. The Tower of Babel will finally have been rebuilt, this time to bring heaven on earth.
Along with the key doctrines listed above, Woke Theology offers a wholly unique concept of covenant and atonement. For example, white Americans are expected to repent of their white privilege and ask forgiveness from people of color, particularly blacks. In this way, whites serve in a sort of messianic role, atoning for the sins of others (their forefathers). Similarly, the black person that they ask forgiveness from apparently represents the entire colored covenant community. It is not as though that specific white American has sinned against that specific black American. Rather, that white person attempts to act as representative for all whites (dead or alive) by asking forgiveness from a person of color who also acts as representative for all people of color (dead or alive).
And what about the so-called “reconciliation” that this Woke Theology offers? It can never exist. Even if a white person becomes woke, he or she must perform a never-ending set of penances. Virtue signaling, public confession, and a contrite heart are all well and good, yet the expectations will always change. If you do not speak when commanded, your silence becomes violence. If you speak without being commanded, you are exerting your privilege. If you have no colored friends, you bear no fruit. If you pursue a colored friend, your love is not genuine. If you have wealth and power, you are holding onto your privilege. If you give away your wealth and power, you are patronizing. The target is always moving and the treadmill of penance is always running. And of course, for the woke white person, one misstep results in immediate church discipline (further resulting in the need for more penance).
In fact, Woke Theology even has its own catechism. You must say “black lives matter.” No, you may not say “all lives matter” or even “all black lives matter.” The correct verbiage is “black lives matter,” no more, no less.
This is the gospel of Woke Theology. It does not bring about reconciliation but rather enmity. And it is not really about race at all but about the narrative. While we need to listen to black voices, it can only be CERTAIN black voices. Those blacks who go against the narrative are considered anathema to the woke covenant community. What this shows is that, within Woke Theology, it is not your ethnicity or skin color that saves you but the narrative that you proclaim. It is the woke gospel that saves. Those who embrace it are accepted while those who deny it are rejected, regardless of the color of their skin.
If, at the end of the day, this issue is spiritual then our solution must also be spiritual. And the only solution — one that brings about genuine reconciliation — is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us just consider some of the main doctrines of Christianity and how greatly they differ from that of Woke Theology:
Doctrine of Man — All persons are made in the image of God and are descended from Adam (Genesis 1). There is only one “race,” the human race. Every clan, tribe, and nation are all of one blood despite the varieties in appearance.
Doctrine of Sin — Adam, who represented humanity, sinned against God and brought death and judgment upon all of mankind (Genesis 3). As a result, we are all born sinners, equally dead in our trespasses and sins, and equally unable to save ourselves (Romans 3).
Doctrine of Salvation — Christ, who is the second Adam, came into the world to save sinners (Romans 5). He fulfilled the requirements of God’s law perfectly, something that we could never do. He took the punishment we deserved upon the cross, paying a debt that we could never pay. He rose from the dead, conquering death and establishing his kingdom of righteousness and peace (1 Corinthians 15).
Doctrine of the Church — All those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ alone are members of the body of Christ, the Church. The Elect are those who have been chosen by God to be His people. This choice is according to God’s own good pleasure (Romans 9), and is not based on culture, language, or skin color. Those who are in Christ cannot and will not ever be lost, for they are his sheep and they hear his voice and follow him (John 10).
Doctrine of Last Things — God is drawing people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to be His people. It is through Christ that every family and nation of the world will be blessed. When Christ returns, those who trusted in Him will enter into everlasting rest and peace. Those who have rejected him will receive what they both deserve and desire, everlasting separation from God.
Please note that, according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, ANYONE — regardless of ethnicity — who places their faith and trust in Christ will be saved from their sins and declared “not guilty” before the throne of God. This occurs not because of their own good efforts but because of the good work done by Christ on their behalf.
This reconciliation between God and man is the ONLY foundation for any reconciliation to take place between man and man. And what does this reconciliation look like? Well, those who are in Christ can and should repent of specific sins that they committed against specific people. In return, those who were sinned against can and should forgive those who specifically sinned against them. They are to forgive others just as God forgave them. And just as God removed their own sins as far as the east is from the west, so both parties are to treat each other’s sins as if they have been completely reconciled— because they have been!
But what about the social structures and our systems of law? Well, instead of being built upon the ever-changing standards of diversity, inclusivity, and equity, Christianity teaches that they should be built upon God’s prescribed standard of behavior. This is the only true foundation for justice. Justice determined by man is fluid, ebbing and flowing based on the whims and wishes of society. Justice determined by God is firm, applied equally to poor and rich, small and great. Furthermore, God’s justice recognizes the limits of mankind’s capabilities and the human tendency toward vengeance. Consider the following example:
Deuteronomy 24:16 (ESV)
“Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.
This simple law eliminates any claim made by one group to another for sins committed in the past. Was your great-grandfather enslaved by my great-grandfather? Maybe. Have I possibly benefited materially from the work that your great-grandfather did in service to my great-grandfather? Maybe. Am I guilty for what my great-grandfather did? Absolutely not. Are you entitled to my possessions because of the suffering your great-grandfather endured? Absolutely not.
So where does this leave you and I? Well, I will treat you as one made in the image of God and I ask that you treat me the same. I will hold you to the standard of God’s law and I ask that you do to me the same. I will love you as myself and I ask that you do the same.
But what about the injustice that my great-grandfather committed against your great-grandfather? Who will atone for that? Christ did. But what if they were not Christians? Then, at the final judgment, God will deal with it. For no one will escape God’s justice except for those who have been covered by the blood of Christ. Everyone will die and everyone will be punished for their sins. They will either die outside of Christ or die in Christ. So, the question is, are YOU going to die and be punished for your own sins or are you going to place your faith in Christ so that HIS death and punishment takes care of them for you? Apart from Christ there can be no reconciliation, either between you and God or you and others. It is only in Christ that we can have true and lasting peace (Romans 5).