The Gospel Explains and Undermines Racism

The gospel explains and undermines racism, John Piper said on Wednesday at New York City’s Society for Ethical Culture. The gospel explains racism, which is fruit of rebellion against God. If we rebel against our Maker, then we’ll turn against each other. Yet the gospel also undermines racism, he said, by the reconciling work of the cross, making all believers sons and daughters. Racism is not simply a social issue; because of the cross and our new standing with Christ, it is a blood issue.

Piper’s most recent book, Bloodlines, was the occasion for the event, which also included presentations from Tim Keller and Anthony Bradley, editor of the new book Keep Your Head Up and associate professor of theology and ethics at the King’s College.

Keller’s presentation explained why white Americans have such a difficult time understanding “corporate guilt.” In most places around the world, corporate guilt is a given. Individuals are not responsible only for themselves, but each person is a product of community. Both guilt and good is corporately shared, even in the Bible. Keller offered a few examples from the Old Testament where an individual sinned and the whole family—sometimes, whole communities—suffered for it. But he landed most forcefully on the corporate guilt through Adam (original and imputed sin) and corporate righteousness through Christ (imputation).

This has implications, according to Keller, for our understanding of systemic evils in our society and our involvement in it—whether knowingly or unknowingly. We need eyes to see systemic evil.

Bradley expanded on why God cares about systems in our society, using a basic Reformed/Kuyperian theology of creation and culture. He ended by exhorting white evangelical leaders to engage with black theologians like James Cone and Cornel West and listen to black evangelicals laboring in evangelical institutions.

Power, Mixed Marriages, and the Global South

The last hour of the event centered around difficult questions like power and race in society, mixed marriages, and the rise of Christianity in the Global South.

Keller noted how the practice of support raising among parachurch ministries assumes staffers come from communities open to asking for money and possessing the resources to give. That’s not the case in many minority cultures, compared to white communities, Keller said.

Both Piper and Keller forcefully condemned those who discourage mixed marriages, even subtly. Piper argued that the imago dei is a million times more important to who we are than race. Keller observed that we idolize race when we oppose mixed marriages.

On the rise of Christianity in the Global South, Piper recognized that momentum has shifted away from Western Europe and the United States. But that doesn’t mean the West should stand pat, thinking the Holy Spirit has left our churches. Keller noted the West’s tremendous resources and stability and encouraged Christians to take up the posture of servants.

Recordings will be made available soon for everyone who missed the event in person or live-streamed.

  • Quincy A. Jones

    though this conversation is way late in the game…it is encouraging, necessary, and welcomed. (Why is that Evangelicals are always like 20 years behind the curb???)

    • Collin Hansen

      Thankfully, this isn’t the first time evangelicals have spoken about race. But it’s a conversation that will always be necessary, at least until Jesus returns.

      • Quincy A. Jones

        Very true Collin, my exaggeration probably was unfair. but its sad that in 2012 we (the Reformed and fundamentalist community particularly) actually are “where” we are in the conversation…we are def making strides, but if we are honest (and want the outside world to take us seriously) we must admit are still way behind…

        • Collin Hansen

          I’m not so much worried about what/how the world thinks, but no doubt we’re way behind the standard God has set. We have much to confess and plenty of room to grow in grace.

          • Quincy A. Jones

            Brother Collin,

            I respect you a great deal so let me start by saying I’m not trying to be rude, argumentative, or have the last word. But, what you just said I find very disturbing and is sadly indicative of our historic (conservative evangelical) impotence in the public square regarding race and difficulty in properly dealing with the race issue with true gospel centered focus.

            1) You actually said: “I’m not so much worried about what/how the world thinks…” – really?? – are you serious??

            there’s so much that can be said, but i will only say: if we have no concern with how the world views the church and whether she herself is effective in the very intent of the gospel – reconciliation – then we are in the wrong business! the very credibility of the gospel is at stake in our testimony of love for one another and our unity (John 13:35; Eph 2). Schaeffer’s “The Mark of the Christian” is very helpful regarding this – I’m sure you’ve read it, it may worth a re-read. If we understand that the credibility of the gospel before the world is at stake and we have responsibility for that credibility, then we would (and would have) approach(ed) the issue of racial unity and reconciliation with much greater care and fervency in the church. And if we are not concerned with the world seeing our “salt and light” and seeing us “do good to all men” then how can we ever say we are truly concerned with God’s standard and glory?

            It is when we become truly concerned with the world and what they think (and have thought of us historically) will we truly make greater impact with the gospel of reconciliation. Because to be concerned with God’s glory means we will be very concerned with how the world sees us – especially in how we deal with race. Maybe that’s the very place we need to start with our confessions…

            In love and grace,


            • Quincy A. Jones

              P.S. if i’m blowing your comment out of proportion, forgive me…but i just find that nonchalant attitude too pervasive and counterproductive…

            • Collin Hansen

              I believe you have misunderstood. You expressed concern at how the world looks at the church. I’m more concerned at how God looks at the church. We should not be judging ourselves by the standard of the world. We should be judging ourselves by the standard of God and his revealed world, which shows how infinitely short we fall in our love for one another, especially across racial lines. I would hope that when we follow the example of Jesus, loving our brothers and sister of other races, the world will take notice and praise God. I see a world full of racial violence, self-segregation, economic exploitation, and even murder. That’s not a model for the church.

  • Michael Swart

    I was not able to listen to the live streamed talk but will certainly do so when recordings become available.

    I am particularly interested in seeing how corporate guilt in ancient Israel is to be understood and its implications for Christians in the light of the completed work of Christ and the birth of the Church. Believers today live in a very different situation from that of God’s Old Testament people. While Paul clearly states that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, I wonder if we can really talk about corporate guilt of Christians in a way similar to prophets speaking of the guilt of ancient Israel?

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