Thursday, December 27, 2007

Decline of AA Theology V

In accessing the soteriology of early African-American Christian thinkers and preachers, Thabiti writes:

Both the "five solas" and the Synod of Dordt's doctrines of total (or radical) depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance (or preservation) of the saints provided the skeletal system for theology in the American colonies. Nearly all African American Christians inherited the "five solas" as a general Protestant framework over and against the Roman Catholic view of authority and justification and the Arminian view of man and grace rejected at Dordt. African Americans gained exposure to these views of salvation through their earliest contact with Europeans in the colonies, especially in the North. Southern slave testimonies and northern writers reveal a "soft orthodoxy" consistent with Reformation solas, with some even putting forth a stronger Calvinistic view of salvation owed largely to the influences of the Great Awakening and early Baptists in the South (p. 175).

In reading this I would not help but recall the words of Scripture in Jeremiah 6:16: Thus says the Lord: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it and find rest for your souls."

4 comments:

Celucien L. Joseph said...

Carter,

I appreciate your blog and am a consistent reader of it. I thought I would comment on the last part of the quote "African Americans gained exposure to these views of salvation through their earliest contact with Europeans in the colonies, especially in the North. Southern slave testimonies and northern writers reveal a "soft orthodoxy" consistent with Reformation solas, with some even putting forth a stronger Calvinistic view of salvation owed largely to the influences of the Great Awakening and early Baptists in the South (p. 175)."

It seems to me that we have not been careful readers of the Bible for ourselves but have always been influenced by and driven by a sort of European-centric based hermeneutic. Do you think African Americans will be able to escape this trajedy? That is, reading Scriptures through the lenses of a non-European point of view. In addition, what is really African-American Theology? Is there such a thing?

Blessings,
Lou

ajcarter said...

Hey Lou,
As usual, your thoughtfulness and insight are a helpful challenge. Indeed, we are "influenced" and somewhat "driven" by Euro-centric hermenuetic. However, I don't think I would call it a "tragedy." I believe I understand your point, but I would say that all have been influenced by someone else. Luther and Calvin were influenced by the North African church fathers. The N African church fathers were influenced by the Jewish/Palestinian disciples and Apostles. This cross cultural influence should be viewed as God's glorious scheme for the consistent proclamation of His word. If some Europeans read the Bible correctly, why would I want to get away from that? If the N Africans read the Bible correctly, why would the Europeans want to get away from it? I would say that the real question is not WHO influenced us toward truth, but rather HAVE we been influenced toward the truth. And if we have, what are we doing with it?

As far as "what is really AA Theology?" For the sake of discussion, a simple definition is theology as it has been articulated and lived by African-Americans. Actually, a good African-American theology is nothing more than biblical theology discussed and applied by African-Americans. Similarly, Black History is nothing more than a subset of American History when understood properly.

Rightly understood, African-American theology should be a matter of emphasis not difference. Unfortunately, it has not been rightly understood, and thus the "decline."

Lou, we live too close to each other not to know each other better. 2008 must be a committment to meet. What do you think?

Celucien L. Joseph said...

Carter,
I appreciate your response to my comment. My concern is with any hermeneutical system that is culturally conditioned and expressed, as if that is the only way to define one's identity and Christian experience. I perceive that African American Theology has been subservient of such hermeneutical principle. For many years, African-descent people have been taught a particular theology from a Euro-centric perspective with its cultural relevance. If theology is done otherwise, that is, departing from the “dominant viewpoint” is automatically discarded.

Let me clarify a few things. First, Christology has been redefined and reinterpreted by those are in power and authority. For example, Jesus has been depicted throughout the years (i.e. in the media, in films, or literary works) as if he was a European figure who accidentally was born in the Jewish soil). Second, the manner which the doctrine of God or vision of God has been preserved and perpetuated by white theologians or churchmen in authority throughout the years (i.e. God as Sovereign Creator has favored a particular group of people to the point he ordained another group to be their “slaves” or “servants”). Such hermeneutical program cannot be sustained biblically and regarded as “theocentric” or “christocentric.” For the latter has been the subject of a particular interpretation. Any presentation of the Bible that denies the “humanness” or “personhood” of all man is not biblically driven, Christ-exalting and God-glorifying, therefore should not be embraced by the people of God. In addition, the slaves were taught by their Christian masters that God has “willed” their destiny to be as such- so that they could endure all things peaceably. However, the aftermath effects of such ideas continue bearing considerable consequences upon the African-descent people in (particularly Christians) in regard to their understanding of God, Jesus Christ and the nature of the church.
I must stop now! I hope to continue dialoguing with you on these important issues. Definitely we need to meet. My wife and I are thinking about visiting Southwest Christian Fellowship. I will let you know in due time. Thanks for your kind response.

Blessings,

Lou

ajcarter said...

Brother, you're preaching to the choir!

So please come and pay us a visit. I would love to welcome you and your wife to our fellowship and get to know you even better.