Monday, April 28, 2008
It's been interesting to watch the ongoing drama over the views of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, retired pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and former pastor of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Just when it seems like the Wright controversy will die down, the good reverend makes more comments that light the fire all over again. Only the fire seems headed toward a nuclear burst.
I, along with many others across the country, watched the live coverage of Dr. Wright's comments to the NAACP convention. I also watched -- with interest -- to see what the talking heads would have to say about it. As I expected, no one addressed the theological aspects of the controversy. And no one asked the right questions.
Dr. Wright was very cagey. He came across sounding almost reasonable. He even sang snatches of old hymns and referred to serving Jesus. The question is, which Jesus?
For starters, the Jesus of liberation theology -- standard or black -- is not the Jesus of the Bible. Also, if one really paid attention (note his references to the treatment of homosexuals), you would have probably detected hints of liberal theology bubbling forth. And for a United Church of Christ pastor, that is not surprising. As I have noted previously, with the exception of some conservative congregations here and there, the UCC largely threw biblical orthodoxy to the wind long ago, including embracing of homosexuality as a legitimate expression of human sexuality.
Dr. Wright now is blasting any criticism of him as a broad scale attack on the black church experience or context. I am certain that quite a few Bible-believing, Bible-preaching black pastors would take issue with the good doctor on that one. There are many, many black congregations out there that stand firmly on biblical orthodoxy and reject heresy.
In the end, it doesn't matter what your "experience" or "context" is. Right is right and wrong is wrong when it comes to biblical interpretation and exegesis. I don't much care whether a pastor or theological teacher is black or white. If said teacher is peddling heresy, then it must be confronted. It doesn't matter how loudly people squall or bleat in protest.
If anyone is trying to cause racial divides, it is people like Jeremiah Wright, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. These guys thrive on racial conflict. For people who style themselves as Christian ministers, they ought to be ashamed.
A late addendum to the above post.
I just finished watching more news coverage of this controversy, with more comments by Rev. Wright. Most notably, "black churches embrace a theology of liberation," spaced with more comments about interpreting theology through a black context.
I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. When it comes to biblical theology, race and experience is irrelevant. You don't interpret the Bible through a black context, or white context, or brown context. You deal with it through its own context. Scripture is what it is. Universal truth that is applicable to ALL people groups, no matter what the culture. There is one right interpretation, although there might be abundant applications of core biblical truth. Any attempts to wrest Scripture from its own context and authority must be rejected. Any attempts to make the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ into something that it is not must be rejected.
You cannot take the Gospel and turn it into the communist manifesto. You cannot take the Gospel and turn it into an apologetic for robber baron capitalism, or any other political/social movement of man. The Gospel is the Son of God taking on human form, taking human sin upon Himself, and paying the price for human sin through His shed blood. He rose again from the dead for our justification.
A human heart changed through the Gospel and regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit can indeed experience liberation. Regenerate human beings can indeed accomplish much good in the world. But the good works we accomplish as believers are the fruit of that changed heart and changed life. That is the message of Scripture. Anything else is a perversion of biblical truth.