There’s Yuppie Jesus who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat. There’s Platitude Jesus, good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons; he inspires people to believe in themselves, and lifts us up so we can walk on mountains. There’s Good Example Jesus who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you. And then there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for.
The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That’s why Jesus’ question to his disciples is so important: “Who do you say that I am?”
The question is doubly crucial in our day because not every Jesus is the real Jesus. Almost no one is as popular in this country as Jesus. Hardly anyone would dare to say a bad word about him. Just look at what a super-fly friendly dude he is over there. But how many people know the real Jesus?
There’s Republican Jesus who is against tax increases and activists judges, and for family values and owning firearms.
There’s Democrat Jesus who is against Wall Street and Walmart, and for reducing our carbon footprint and spending other people’s money.
There’s Therapist Jesus who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.
There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals.
There’s Open-minded Jesus who loves everyone all the time no matter what, except for people who are not as open-minded as you.
There’s Touchdown Jesus who helps athletes run faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.
There’s Martyr Jesus, a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him.
There’s Gentle Jesus who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash and looks German.
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By Mitch Chase — 3 months ago
If I’m trying to understand something in the Old Testament, then reading widely—or reading across the Testaments—means I’m allowing more authoritative and inspired texts to illuminate the passage I’m studying. Reading widely increases clarity, enriches meaning, and demonstrates the coherence of the Word of God.
The practice of biblical theology is concerned not just with the trees but with the forest—the Big Picture. Biblical-theological instincts want to read parts in light of the whole, and that means seeing specific texts within the larger context of Scripture’s progressive revelation.
Let’s take an example from Genesis 3. According to Genesis 3:1, a serpent came to Eve and began to tempt her to eat from the forbidden tree. Now this serpent isn’t named in the chapter at all. Genesis 3 has twenty-four verses, and throughout them the figure is only called the “serpent.” But who is this oppositional figure? The chapter doesn’t give more information. In fact, the serpent isn’t mentioned throughout the rest of Genesis. Moreover, the serpent isn’t mentioned in the rest of the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy).
Yet the interpretive instinct of Bible readers is to understand the tempter in Genesis 3 as Satan. Is that because the serpent is named thus in the chapter? No. The reason Bible readers make that identification is because of later biblical revelation.
In the book of Job, for instance, the being known as Satan wants to destroy Job’s integrity and turn him against the Lord. That agenda sounds like the same goal the serpent of Genesis 3 had for Adam and Eve. In the Gospel of Matthew, Satan comes to Jesus in the wilderness to tempt him by twisting God’s words—a strategy familiar to us because of Genesis 3.
By Adam Koontz — 2 years ago
Your conscience must be ruled by God’s Word regardless of how many vaccines you’ve received or masks you wear. If we were facing a future in which the government would require everyone not to be vaccinated and never to wear a medical mask in public, then I would say the same thing. If we were facing a future in which churches were requiring people to leave if they had been vaccinated or were wearing a medical mask, I would say the same thing. That’s not a likely future, so I say this instead: the unvaccinated, too, can be saved. They may come into the church of God. They may receive the Word and the Supper of Christ. Our churches are open to the vaccinated and to the unvaccinated.
Soon the churches will be thronged or at least fuller than usual. As the people come into a sanctuary familiar or a little unfamiliar to them, ask yourself a few questions. What is the vaccination status of those people shuffling into unfamiliar pews? Have the college kids back in a church for the first time in months received their booster shots? Do these questions seem silly to you?
They aren’t silly to many, including governments in Europe and Canada, not even to our own federal government, which speaks to the unvaccinated as if they are a class of demons destined to torture and to be tortured while the righteous vaccinated shall persevere through every trial. Such questions already shape policy in German Lutheran congregations now requiring one’s Covid-19 status to determine entry into the house of God (a policy commonly called 3G abbreviating the German words for “recovered,” “vaccinated,” and “tested”). That policy is recommended by the government and required by some congregations, here for example. Easily and swiftly what is said in media broadcasts becomes required in churches. There is no time to ask whether Romans 13 means that everything someone in government says or proposes is constitutional. There is no time to ask whether the church must regulate its worship according to governmental dictate, as if the three young men’s worship should have been to the golden statue Nebuchadnezzar had commanded them to worship instead of to the true God. There is no time to distinguish between what is legal (abortion, for example) and what is godly (not committing murder). Conscience has no time to ponder or to compare the dictates with Scripture. Compliance is required now.
The invasion of everyone’s conscience by governmental and media pronouncements is not a matter for the church’s silence. If I am silent on something affecting people’s understanding of how daily life functions, what will I choose to discuss instead? Luther’s protest against indulgences mattered not because it was the hottest topic of medieval academic theology but because it impinged on what Christians did with their lives. The church cannot let her people’s lives and hearts be determined by everything except God’s Word.
We have perhaps been silent on practically all matters of everyday life except abortion because to speak about the required HR training in diversity that means our people’s tacit assent to transsexual ideology or about the incessant consumption of social media and news that sets everyone’s teeth and tempers on edge would be “too political” from the pulpit. But our consciences have all been informed therefore largely by educational history and media consumption, largely by Fox or CNN or MSNBC, largely by Apple News or Breitbart. The Word of God did not change in the past two years. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are still divine institutions. We are still encouraged to meet together, not neglecting to do so, as is the habit of some. God’s Word did not change between January 2020 and January 2022. What our phones and TVs told us changed, so we changed.
In the past two years the divisions that have opened up in our churches were therefore predictable. We often broke sharply along the lines of media consumption with vastly differing perceptions of what was true, what was worthwhile, what was good. This has created clean breaks in what were once small fissures in the body of Christ. These divisions have deepened with the media portrayal of dissent from official Covid-19 policies as “selfish,” which some Christians have explained to themselves as “not keeping the Fifth Commandment” if you are not (as time has gone on and media messaging has changed) not masked if you’re not sick, then masked, then double-vaccinated, now perhaps boosted.
By Jonathan Tapp — 4 months ago
The ideology of Wokeness, built upon the foundation of Black Liberation Theology and Critical Theory, should be rejected in the church today. Though we should rejoice in ethnic diversity in the church as a beautiful overflow of the gospel which will be present throughout eternity, the means by which that diversity comes about in our local congregations must be thoroughly Biblical, gospel-centered, and Holy Spirit-appointed to stand the test of time.
It was the year 2014 and my wife and I were heavily involved in a church in Indiana that was striving to be multi-ethnic. We eventually decided to move to a different church primarily due to an unhealthy and unbiblical emphasis on racial diversity in the hiring and volunteer selection process of the church.
I noticed this firsthand during my time as a member of the musical worship team. I remember feeling comfortable and encouraged early on to see such a broad spectrum of diversity among the musicians. Our leader was a Latin-American keyboard player, I’m a mix of African- and Irish-American, we had Latin-American bass players and drummers, and African-American as well as European-American vocalists. Surely this was a picture of Revelation’s great multitude from every tribe, tongue, people and nation beginning to develop on earth! I was so glad to be a part of the Lord’s work, until I began to realize that this diversity also came at a significant cost and was strategically manufactured by the leaders of the church. The more I was involved in the ministry, the clearer it became to me that I was merely a tall, multiethnic prop to present a diverse appearance to a crowd. This became painfully clear as I heard the worship leader decide to not allow another white guy into the band because we had enough of them on stage. No, according to him, we needed to keep an eye out for a talented Asian to join us. Wasn’t this favoritism?
Not only were individuals not being invited to join the worship team based on skin color, but the people who were on the team were held to very low standards of accountability and discipleship, yet were still allowed to continue their involvement. To press for greater accountability would risk losing what seemed to be most important: the diverse makeup of the team. I did not understand the terminology or concepts back then, but as I reflect on my experiences now, I was involved in a church hyper focused on being perceived as multiethnic and diverse by the culture.
The main point of this article is that the church should reject the ideology of wokeness. Although ethnic diversity in the local church is a wonderful thing, pastors and Christians must consider biblically the means by which that diversity comes about. In this article, I will look at some of the underlying concepts behind “wokeness” in order to see its foundations. I will then look at God’s Word in order to see clearly how He views ethnic diversity. Finally, I will offer some closing thoughts and practical applications for how true churches should graciously, yet firmly resist this ever-increasing trend of wokeism in broader evangelicalism today.
The Foundations of Wokeness
As it is commonly understood and used today, to be “woke” is to be “aware of” or “awakened to” social injustices against a particular group of people. In his book “Woke Church,” Pastor Eric Mason describes his understanding of wokeness as it pertains to racial issues in the church. Mason writes,
My desire in this book is to encourage the church to utilize the mind of Christ and to be fully awake to the issues of race and injustice in this country. Pan-Africanists and Black Nationalists use the term “woke” to refer to no longer being naïve nor in mental slavery. We have borrowed the term and redeemed it to be used in the context of being awakened from deadened, sinful thinking. In fact, every believer has been awakened from sins effects and Satan’s deception (Eph. 5:14). Thus, the believer is able to be aware of sin and challenge it wherever it is.
According to Mason, wokeness urgently presses all people to awake from their slumber and to resolve the lingering effects of slavery and oppression still plaguing America. Thabiti Anyabwile passionately supports the concept of the “woke church” when he argues that within the local church context, “we have to teach people how to be their ethnic selves in a way that’s consistent with the Bible and how to live fruitfully in contexts that don’t affirm their ethnic selves. Hence, we need a ‘woke church.’”
Samuel Sey makes a convincing observation that the concept of wokeness in our day significantly overlaps with the tradition of Black Liberation Theology “developed by James Cone in the 1960’s during the Black Power movement as a reaction to evangelical apathy on racial injustice.” He continues,
Black Liberation Theology is Martin Luther King Jr.’s social gospel and Malcolm X’s Black Nationalism in one. Black Liberation Theology exchanges the power of God for Black power. It exchanges the supremacy of Christ for Black supremacy. Black Liberation Theology is built on a foundation of bitterness and victimhood, with social justice as its chief cornerstone.
While Mason claims to have “redeemed” the concept of wokeness for the purposes of the church, we must recognize that it is neither legitimate nor helpful for Christianity to build upon such a shaky foundation. Although distinctions exist between Black Liberation Theology and woke Christianity, vast similarities unify the two theologies into one dangerous threat to the church.
Wokeism is also strongly informed by other philosophical ideas such as Critical Theory which undergirds most contemporary “social justice” movements. This ideology essentially categorizes people into either oppressive or oppressed groups that are unified around various identity traits such as class, economic status, ethnicity, or sex. Critical Theory and Wokeism work hand in hand, for the first promulgates a narrative of oppression and the second demands a reckoning.
As it relates to local congregations, a woke church is a multi-ethnic congregation that strives to fight against racism and injustice by becoming heavily involved in social justice activism in its community. In the particular realm of worship ministry I was in, this meant giving skin color a much greater weight than either musical ability or character. The Woke Church Christianizes an otherwise secular way of thinking which has Black Liberation Theology and Critical Theory loaded into it. But what does the Word of God have to say?
Scripture and Wokeness
As we turn our attention toward scripture, we find that in the beginning, God created one man from the dust of the ground (Gen. 1:26–28). From the rib of this man Adam, God fashioned for him a helpmeet, Eve (Gen. 2:18–24), and every human being since has come from these two people. Genesis 10–11 is where we see the first references to various ethnicities, clans, nations and languages being established and developed in the world after Babel. God disperses and separates various peoples by language and geographic location. It is in these foundational passages where we are introduced to the concept of ethnicity, or what many in our day (erroneously) refer to as “race.” Immediately following Genesis 11, we are introduced to Abram in chapter 12 whom God, by his sovereign decree, separates for himself to become a new people who would be a great nation and a blessing to the other nations (Gen. 12:2–3).
Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, there is a God-ordained distinction and separation made between Israel, God’s covenant people, and the Gentiles, those outside of covenant with God. Though the sinful blood of Adam still ran through Israel, God, by way of covenant, set apart for himself a people who were to be a holy nation and royal priesthood who follow His commands and adhere to His law in the midst of the watching world (Lev. 20:26; Deut. 7:6; 1 Chr. 17:21). It is important for us to note that throughout the Old Testament, Gentiles could indeed become a part of Israel, and thus be woven into the fabric of God’s covenant people, regardless of their ethnic background. We see examples of this throughout the Old Testament as early as the Passover (Exod. 12:38) and in the case of Rahab’s family (Josh. 6:25). To be an Israelite was to be a part of the Old Covenant community of God’s people.