In Christ There is no White, but Lots of Multi-culture

Trigger warning for those who oppose Lutherans (does that include Princeton Seminary these days?), I’m about to quote from a Lutheran pastor who thinks confessional Protestant churches face straw-man objections about how blinkered and ineffective they are:

We are not better than you. However, we do have the same struggles as you do. Namely, we struggle with sin. We have the same inclinations toward pride, jealousy, selfish ambition and self-aggrandizement that you do. We like things a certain way. We like our carpets certain colors. We like people to dress certain ways because those ways make us feel comfortable. We can be hypocritical, judgmental and prejudiced without cause. We are all of these things because we are sinners. No, dear culture, we are not better than you. But that is why we are here every Sunday. We do not seek to be confirmed in those things that divide us. We seek to be forgiven for the times when we do not act like Christ. And we are. We are forgiven and renewed by Christ, and that makes all the difference. You do not want us to judge you by your checkered-past of sins? Why would you judge us by ours?

The church is for sinners of whom we are the worst. The church is the place where God has ordained the forgiveness of sins to take place. The church exists to proclaim the Gospel. It exists to proclaim that you are a sinner, but you are a forgiven sinner when repentant. Why would you exclude yourself from that because you are surrounded by other sinners? Are you differentiating sins and making one sin worse than another? Judging, by chance? Hmmm. Interesting. Please forgive the snark, but this is the point that is made time and time again by the historical Christian Church. We are sinners and we are saints! We are forgiven only by the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ is for us. The blood of Christ is for you. We beg you, come–for your sake, not ours.

The church is bigger than you. This is the part that you might not like to hear, but it is the truth. The church is not about you, your preferences or your tastes. The church is about Jesus. It is about the Son of God who came down to earth in humility as part of His creation. It is about this same God-man who dies willingly on the cross bearing the sins of the whole world–bearing your sins. It is about Jesus who left your sins in the tomb and rose victorious to reign for you. It is about the victorious Christ who will come again, who will create a new heaven and a new earth, who will restore these lowly bodies to be like His glorious body by the power that allows Him to subdue all things to Himself. This is the church in which uncounted saints have had their uncounted sins forgiven. Uncounted souls have been saved through the waters of Holy Baptism, taught through countless hours of instruction, bowed at numerous altars and received the infinite body and blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and strength for their lives in Him. This church is the voice of ages of martyrs who have not recanted the faith that we make to appear so malleable. This church has a language, an order, a life that is bigger than you. It is a life that includes 90-year-old Uncle Bud and 9-day-old Stryker. It is a life that is big enough to include you also. So if you want to be part of this church, show some initiative. Learn the language. Learn the story of the church that spans all time and space in the promises and words of Jesus.

Some in the PCA, though, may deem this understanding of the church as “white normativity.” Duke Kwon explains:

White Normativity is defining ministry to certain communities and contexts with qualifiers— “ethnic ministry,” “urban ministry,” “international ministry,” or “outreach ministry”—while calling ministry to the majority culture simply, “Ministry.”

It’s savoring the doctrine of justification in Galatians—which we should do, yes—while overlooking the original context in which the Apostle points to cross-cultural fellowship as one of the preeminent fruits—and proofs—of our justification. It’s embedded in an ecclesiology that habitually warns against the dangers of emotionalism in worship, yet ignores entirely the spiritual dangers of joylessness. When was the last time you heard a workshop or read an article that warned against intellectualism in worship?

White Normativity is moral silence on social issues that are ancillary to white communities, but core concerns of black and brown communities. It’s dismissing as “political” what is in fact personal and pastoral and practical theological for brothers and sisters of color. White Normativity is desiring diversity without discomfort. It tries to add diversity without subtracting control. It’s the preservation of dominant culture authority in the name of theological purity. It’s what makes so many young seminarians of color that I’ve spoken to nervous about entering the PCA, as they all-too-often feel forced into a false choice between ethnic identity and theological fidelity.

Because what keeps folks of color out of our churches, friends, is not public racial hostility. And the greatest hindrance to racial harmony in our denomination is not crass bigotry. It’s our shared, institutional blindness to the exclusivity of a white normativity that is protected by plausible deniability.

Mr. Kwon thinks the church should follow Multi-cultural Normativity instead:

Multicultural Normativity is when the Church is a resurrection Banquet Hall more than a Lecture Hall—and, occasionally if you dare, maybe even a Dance Hall. Multicultural Normativity rejects “racial reconciliation” as a pursuit of interpersonal harmony unless it also seeks interracial equity and mutuality. Because it’s about inclusion, not just “diversity.” It’s placing men and women of color in positions of influence and leadership. It’s inviting Irwyn Ince to serve as chair of the Overtures Committee one day again, not because we’re debating racial reconciliation but simply because he’s a Bad Man! Because diversity is about who’s on the team, but inclusion is about who gets to play.

So I wonder, does Mr. Kwon think only white Protestants need to feel discomfort, or does it go both ways — that the banquet hall has to make room for the lecture hall also? Is Mr. Kwon willing to make room for the Gospel Coalition and fans of Tim Keller? Or has PCA church planting been captive to white normativity?

Bill Smith has been asking these questions. So far, the answers are only coming from folks that might fall in the category of white normativity.


42 thoughts on “In Christ There is no White, but Lots of Multi-culture

  1. I’m confused. Am I marginalized by the men’s ministry, faculty ministry, or youth and family ministry. Or is it the nursery, childrens, prison, singles, shut-in, mercy, singles, womens, or disaster relief ministry that marginalize me? I don’t know if we have a ministry ministry yet… If we did I guess I should be offended by the men’s ministry?


  2. As a brown person, I feel triggered by the black person telling me I would never desire to follow the Regulative Principle and sing the Psalms.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I get that it’s Lutheran, and that you are not writing about the old faith of the Westminster Confession. But what I don’t understand is if avoiding a theology of glory means having a theology where the cross is intended for every sinner but fails most of them.

    if God did not intend anybody to die, why do we die? if God did not intend anybody not to see, why do some lose what God promised them in baptism?

    “It is about this same God-man who dies willingly on the cross bearing the sins of the whole world–bearing your sins. It is about Jesus who left your sins in the tomb and rose victorious to reign for you.”

    Is it a theology of glory to confuse preaching in church visible with God’s sovereignty in deciding who “YOU” is?

    Water and preaching are not the same kind of thing as God’s election. God’s effectual calling may or may not come with God using preaching and a visible church, but be sure of this– God’s election of grace already happened

    God is NOT now still electing which sinners to save.

    If some of the “Uncounted souls who have been saved through the waters of Holy Baptism” will later be lost and perish in the age to come, this means there never was any legal imputation of sins to Christ, and it also means that there is no glory in the cross. If some for whom Christ died will be lost , there must be some other reason (not the cross) for those who stay saved being saved.

    If a theology avoids triumphalism, does that make its message the gospel? TK–“I don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but It can’t be that God doesn’t love us. God loved us and hates suffering and therefore the cross is an incredibly empowering hint. If you grasp the cross, the cross can transform you.”


  4. Tim Keller—“First, the church would have to be political without being partisan. That is, it would have to equip all its members to be culturally engaged through vocation and civic involvement without identifying corporately with one political party. Second, it would have to be confessional yet ecumenical. That is, the church would have to be fully orthodox within its theological and ecclesiastical tradition yet not narrow and harsh toward other kinds of Christians. It should be especially desirous of cooperation with non-Western Christian leaders and churches. Third, the church would not only have to preach the Word faithfully, but also be committed to beauty and sanctity, the arts, and human rights.”

    Duke Kwan—“I want to invite you to commit to stewarding whatever privilege you have—to employ your every social asset toward our growth in denominational diversity. it might be through… your tweeting gifts. You cannot get around the PCA without knowing people. So, share your relationships with minority leaders around you. Introduce them to everyone you know, especially those in positions of INFLUENCE….benefited from the relational generosity of Fred Harrell, Tim Keller, Dick Kaufmann, Terry Geiger, and others.

    Galatians 5: 2 Take note! I, Paul, tell you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not BENEFIT you AT ALL. 3 Again I testify to every MAN who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to keep the entire law

    I Corinthians 7 Was anyone called while uncircumcised? He should not get circumcised.

    Ministry to Gentiles is “normal” because Gentiles are not allowed to be circumcised, because if Gentiles do circumcision ( in order to progress in sanctification) this would force Gentiles to be being justified by the entire Mosaic law? (no cherry-picking allowed)

    Galatians 3: 28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus

    But John the Baptist has a “special” ministry to Jews—even though Jews are already circumcised, it’s not too late for Jews to be circumcised AGAIN because now water has come in the place of circumcision.

    I Cor 7: 18 Was anyone already circumcised when he was called? HE should not undo his circumcision

    In normal ministry to Gentiles, it is necessary that Gentiles not become Jews.
    But in special ministry to Jews, Jews can do either–be normal or stay Jewish in practice.
    Jews are allowed to stay in “the covenant of grace” in which they were born

    Sarcasm alert.


  5. Richard Nixon–“The Jews are irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards.”

    Billy Graham– “A lot of the Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. They don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country.”

    Douglas Bond, Grace Works P and R, 2014 p 92—“There are men today who encourage their congregations TO TEAR OUT THE PAGE BETWEEN THE OLD AND THE NEW TESTAMENTS IN THEIR BIBLES. Zealous to avoid the error of dispensationalism, these men make the continuity of the covenants the foundation of their preaching. But if we care about the distinction between law and gospel… we will train our ears for those who don’t seem to want to keep the distinction between the old and new covenants.Their insistence on “the continuity of the covenants” may prove to be a code phrase for confusing law and gospel.”

    “Billy Graham irked some Southern fundamentalists by inviting Martin Luther King Jr. to give an opening prayer at the crusade. “A great social revolution is going on in the United States today,” Graham said as he introduced King. “Dr. King is one of its leaders, and we appreciate his taking time out of his busy schedule to come and share this service with us tonight.”

    Despite repeated requests by Billy Graham, Reinhold Niebuhr refused to meet with him. Graham simply complimented Niebuhr and explained away their differences. “I have read nearly everything Mr. Niebuhr has written.”..


  6. mcmark quotes Keller:

    the church would have to be fully orthodox within its theological and ecclesiastical tradition yet not narrow and harsh toward other kinds of Christians. It should be especially desirous of cooperation with non-Western Christian leaders and churches.

    Genius or huh?


  7. D.G.,
    Suppose Kwon doesn’t answer your questions to your satisfaction, does that make his point on White Normativity wrong?

    Personally, I would like to ask him what he thinks about whether there is an upper class or upper middle class normativity as well.


  8. D.G.,
    How many people who are from minority races did you talk to first when you so easily dismiss white normativity? And can you point to anything practiced by the African-Methodist Episcopal Church that would say that they are guilty of Black normativity?


  9. D.G.,
    Why do you keeping acting like Kellyanne Conway in diverting people from reality and the questions asked? Is it Mencken in you who says that here, we are all singing Kumbaya when in reality, one race is dominating some races?

    Are you denying that in America, generally speaking, the normal state of affairs for Whites is privilege while for, at least, some of the minority races here their normal state of affairs for them is marginalization?


  10. Curt Day: “Can you point to anything practiced by the African-Methodist Episcopal Church that would say that they are guilty of Black normativity?” Yes, I can: having attended services there frequently, as well as services at an HBCU chapel, I’d say they’d have no problems whatsoever with the label.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “…Some of the minority races… their normal state of affairs for them is marginalization?” “Marginalization”? Meaning what, they aren’t treated like the majority? They feel alienated by the liturgy, the preaching, the music? Join the club. Christianity means everyone who gets in gets saved, not that your culture gets props or dibs.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. D.G.,
    The Jews are privileged in Israel over Israel’s Arab citizens and over Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. And compared to Blacks, they do have a privileged status here depending on how White they appear.

    The Irish were not initially privileged in the US but eventually enjoyed White privilege over Blacks.

    The Chinese have never received a privileged status here. But do they have privileged statuses elsewhere? And why bring up the Chinese

    Having a privileged status often depends on location. And so back to my question that, like Kellyanne Conway, you seem to avoid answering–though I have to give you more credit for not answering questions than I give her because you have avoided answering questions before she made it popular:

    Are you denying that in America, generally speaking, the normal state of affairs for Whites is privilege while for, at least, some of the minority races here their normal state of affairs for them is marginalization?


  13. D.G.,
    First, I couldn’t get your Thomas Chatterton Williams link to work.

    Are you rejecting that it exists or rejecting that is where you feel you fit in?

    As for whether it exists, what do you say to those who are from minority races who see White privilege from the outside? Do you think that White privilege never existed or does it no longer exist?

    And do you really reject group identity when you rant on Tim Keller and on evangelicals for not fitting in enough with your Presbyterianism and the confessions? After all, our religious ties also form groups. And you have been quite clear in saying that Keller and evangelicals do not belong to your group of Presbyterians.

    As for your Donald Trump is not Jerry Brown comment, what does that show?


  14. D.G.,
    That people are not identical in their reactions does not negate general observations. In addition, the stigma that comes with being called a racist leaves us White people with a conflict of interests that makes it extremely difficult for us to determine whether we are racist to some degree. For the charge of racist treats the description as a discrete value, not a continuous one.

    And what about the group think that allow true presbyterians to look at themselves as having everything to teach evangelicals and nothing to learn from them?

    If we want to know privilege is and what racism is toward Blacks, our best resource is to talk to Black people to see what they observe.


  15. Curt, group think of Presbyterians? Have you been watching the fortunes of the regulative principle of worship?

    Plus, if you have everything to teach me about Germany, social justice and racism, can’t I have somebody to teach?


  16. D.G.,
    Yes, group think in Presbyterianism. But one doesn’t have to think of group think in all-or-nothing terms.

    Likewise, just because I acknowledge that Nazi Germany committed national sins by invading its neighbors and persecuting the Jews doesn’t mean that I have everything to teach you about Germany or Nazi Germany for that matter. Don’t know why you would think otherwise.


  17. D.G.,
    Some people do, it depends on their perspectives. But when it comes to Nazi Gemany or Stalin’s Russia, we should be thinking in shades of black.

    Group think is relative and can be issue specific. It doesn’t mean that in everything, people in a given group will think the same. After all, we all belong to multiple groups and sometimes those multiple groups compete to control our thinking. But on certain issues, we see group think.

    When one’s own group enjoys a privileged position, it is easy for those in the group to lack awareness of how their group perceives and thinks about things. After all, those in a privileged position would like to think of the status quo as way things should be. But such thinking makes those in a privileged group become like a bull in a china shop.


  18. D.G.,
    Name the group and then name the thinking. What we reply ‘sheesh’ to different. While it seems that you have shown great reluctance to call Nazi Germany’s invasion of its neighbors and persecution of the Jews immoral and sin because you deny the existence of corporate, and thus national sin, I’ve simply tried to show some things that are clearly observable to the outside world and how, when denial of the existence of these things is associated with Christianity, then the Gospel is dishonored.

    It is difficult for those who are privileged to see the unfair advantages they have because they have been taught to believe that their privileges are either entitlements or something that is equally achievable by all.


  19. Curt, “I’ve simply tried to show some things that are clearly observable to the outside world and how, when denial of the existence of these things is associated with Christianity, then the Gospel is dishonored.”

    So far I haven’t seen much daylight between non-Christian moral preening and yours. Step up. Defend the Lord’s Day and condemn the corporate sins of the U.S.


  20. D.G.,
    Surely, as a 2Ker, you realize that in working with unbelievers, sometimes there isn’t much daylight when it comes to working with them for a more just society. But what am I to defend the Lord’s Day from what? And why defend the Lord’s Day when what distinguishes Christians from the world is their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins? And why when we have no NT command or example of keeping the Lord’s Day as our confessions stipulate?

    Yes, I condemn the corporate sins of the U.S. But I do so as a sinner who relies on the work for Christ, not any of my own works, for my standing with God. It is because I know about my sinfulness that I reject both proletariat and bourgeoisie rule because all sin, not just those from a particular class. And I sometimes bring in the parable of the two men praying to make this point. What would be gained by bringing in the Lord’s Day here? That some are above others because they observe the Lord’s Day according to one group’s confessions is something to be gained by unbelievers?


  21. Curt, bringing in the Lord’s Day shows you care about only parts of God’s law. Read Meredith Kline. The sabbath also sets Christians apart. Call it Sunday signalling.


  22. D.G.,
    Nice try, but such only shows that some Christians interpret the Lord’s Day differently than others. Btw, why read Kline here? Is he an authority figure who will set people who disagree with you on this issue straight?

    Tell me, where in the NT are Christians told to observe the Lord’s Day as the confessions stipulate?


  23. D.G.,
    That is right, which one interpretations are most consistent with the Scriptures for either issue. Tell me, from what the NT says about how we are to love others, what interpretations of social justice are most consistent with the NT concept of loving others? And that includes how we should love those who sin. Should we preach repentance to those who are visiting injustices on others?

    And, again, where in the NT are Christians told to observe the Lord’s Day as the confessions stipulate?

    See, we could assess the validity of these varying interpretations on a case by case basis. And, btw, I have no doubt that other Christians have better views on social justice than I do.

    Perhaps some conservatives find it difficult to argue with lefties because they have an overgeneralized negative disposition with them that prevents them from assessing arguments on a case by case basis.


  24. Curt, wise up. You go to a court for justice, not love.

    This is why your notions of “justice” aren’t serious. You fudge categories.

    “where in the NT. . .”

    That’s the Unitarian hermeneutic. All left all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. D.G.,
    We go to civil court for justice, not love. But there is another court, a heavenly one, for which we go before to judge us for whether we love or not.

    Where in the NT is also the argument used by those who ask when did Jesus or Paul either show concern for or tell us to be concerned about social justice. And since we are in NT times, we know from that there is a transition and changes made from OT times to NT times. Acts 15:10 tells us this. And the question remains unscathed: Where in the NT are Christians told to observe the Lord’s Day as the confessions stipulate? It’s a very valid question and perhaps your trite way of answering it is also a reflection on your notions of justice?

    BTW, how many categories did I fudge and how many categories must one fudge before their views are counted as being not serious?


  26. Curt, it’s one day in seven and after the resurrection the Lord’s Day is Sunday. It’s a long argument. You don’t have to buy it. But most of the church did (even Popes) up until recently. So why do you ignore that New Testament appropriation of the Decalogue? Maybe cause it’s inconvenient.

    The same way that it might be a tad uncomfortable telling your fellow BLM protesters that they have a heavenly court in which they can find love and affirmation.


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