May 2019 New Horizons

Reforming Race Relationships in the Church

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Building Bridges Conference

On the weekend of February 1–2, Covenant OPC in St. Augustine, Florida, hosted Building Bridges Instead of Barriers: Reforming Race Relationships in the Church. Tarence Dickerson, an elder at Covenant, was the impetus behind the conference. “I was hoping and praying for a more common voice to weigh in on this conversation,” he said. Instead of there being a common voice, Dickerson observed that conversations about race relations, including in the Reformed community, “are not actually handled very well” and tend to be divisive, not unifying. In contrast, the conference stage exuded gentleness and respect. “Race relations in the church was a palpably personal issue for many of the attendees,” Jacob Valk observed. Not an OP member, Valk is a traveling filmmaker for Ephtwoeight Productions who landed in St. Augustine for the conference. “Yet the discussions and talks were quite balanced and measured,” he said. The OPC has not issued a resolution or statement on race since the GA’s ... Read more

The Color of Preaching

What color is God? This is a strange question, but one that many have wrestled with through history, especially as it relates to the subject of social justice and the church (an issue that is becoming increasingly important—particularly among millennials). Having recently finished preaching through the entire book of Exodus, it is striking to me that for all that the Israelites and Moses saw, they never saw God’s face. If there were ever a time when God might have given his people an artistic depiction of himself, this would have been the time. A painting of God might have looked lovely in the tabernacle. However, God never gave Moses any instructions for depicting God in any particular way; in fact, God strictly forbade it. As John Calvin would later say, our hearts are idol factories, and the Israelites would surely have worshiped the image of God rather than God himself—if God had given them such an image. All the “images” that God positively gave Israel were means of grace to point to ... Read more

Four Theses for Reforming Race Relationships

I’m happy this conference is happening. Yet, I hate talking about race. It has become so polarizing! We talk about it today the way that C. S. Lewis, in his day, said that Christians talked about demons: either with a disbelief in their existence or with an excessive and unhealthy preoccupation with them. Given the current climate in the evangelical church, one may easily succumb to a kind of racial reconciliation fatigue. And yet, I talk about race because it is directly tied to redemptive history—to God’s plan in Christ to procure his elect from every nation and make one new man out of the many, to gather together one multiethnic family out of every nation, tribe, people, and tongue. So, here are four theses on reforming race relationships in the church. 1. Reforming racial relationships must be cruciform from beginning to end. When Paul says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18), he is ... Read more

Doctrine and Life as a (New-ish) Reformed Christian

Having entered the Reformed world only seven years ago, after following Christ for over twenty years, I am deeply grateful for the proper doctrine and sound, consistent, biblical teaching that is now in my life. I came out of a traditional Black Baptist church in a rural area of central Virginia. It was not possible to be uninvolved in our church because every person was expected to be doing something in and for the church. My family was at early morning service, Sunday school, and morning service every Sunday. I was a member of the choir, an usher, and a Sunday school teacher for the younger children, as well as helping with Vacation Bible School and with the kitchen committee when our church served dinners before evening services. Our church belonged to a very active local Baptist association, and we visited and served in these other churches throughout the year as well. In hindsight, I can honestly say that I learned some good things in my years there that have been carried on, like the necessity of ... Read more

Is Reformed Worship Eurocentric?

The immediate roots of Reformed worship clearly are anchored in Europe, even Northern Europe. Does this mean that Reformed worship is “Eurocentric” in some kind of limiting way? Some critics argue that Reformed worship is what it is because of culturally relative distinctions that can be discarded in favor of other culturally relative distinctions of non-European cultures. They seem to have in mind a more emotionally expressive preaching and praying, a more physically and vocally active participation, and a more musically dominated approach. They tend to describe Reformed worship as overly intellectual, word-dominant, and rationalistic. These characteristics are attributed to the culture of Europe rather than to biblical or theological conviction. Is this argument correct? Americans at this particular point in our history are obsessed with ethnicity and race. Nearly everything—religion, employment, politics, music, language—is reduced to race. Yet as Christians, our concern ultimately is not ... Read more