Piper: Racial Reconciliation Will Require Bold, Biblical, and Patient Pastors

time_to_speak

Very grateful for the conversation tonight on race, “A Time to Speak,” at the Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

Late in the conversation, Bryan Loritts, offered up this challenge: “White evangelicals will attack the issue of abortion voraciously, systemically. I want to see that same passion for issues of racial injustice. I want to see that same passion. It’s disingenuous to attack abortion systemically and all of the sudden go mute when it comes to issues of racial injustice.”

A few minutes later, moderator Ed Stetzer turned the conversation to John Piper, saying, “All the polls point that we’re in a time of racial polarization, that we’ve made less racial progress, or we’ve lost ground even. Most polls say this, even with President Obama being the first African American president. But I haven’t seen this much talk about this [race] maybe since Promise Keepers. So John, I wonder, as an Anglo pastor, in a predominately Anglo church, are you encouraged about the tone and tenor of racial reconciliation conversations now?”

Which set up Piper’s closing response:

It’s mixed. There’s discouraging things to see, and there’s encouraging things to see. This [panel] is encouraging. I told a brother I was having lunch with today that the number of young, black, theologically-rich, socially-aware, men feels fresh to me. It feels new to me — didn’t see it a generation ago. That feels really hopeful.

I think the last thing I’d want to say is to speak to pastors, if I could, for just one minute.

Bryan, I wish there were more pastors passionate and courageous about abortion. You make it sound like it’s a lot, and perhaps comparatively it is. But there are cowards in the pulpit, cowards in the pulpit who are looking at their pocketbooks and looking at their membership lists, who won’t touch that issue with a 10–foot pole — abortion they won’t touch, and how much less racism. So my first plea for pastors is, be bold. “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

Second, I would say: Preempt the issues on abortion, on racism, and others, biblically. Go there first, and capture the vocabulary. Otherwise you’ll inherit all the Fox News vocabulary or another a-theological vocabulary if you haven’t provided your people with a biblical vocabulary to talk about the issues.

Third, and last, I would say, don’t think of this as dealing with a crisis for the moment, that will soon be gone and over. Think of it as marriage. Nobody who has been married 30, 40, 50 years, has a blowup and says, “Ah, a golden moment for fixing it!” Nobody thinks that way. You work it through and hope you make a few increments of progress, and you go on and take whatever joys you can get.

And that’s the way it’s going to be until Jesus comes.

So I don’t want pastors to walk away from this. I want them to stay at the table and just keep hammering away. If they get clobbered for doing it wrong, come back and do it better.

Novel Alert: Kristin Lavransdatter

undset

In the early 1990s, R. Kent Hughes surveyed Elisabeth Elliot for her favorite books, and then published her response in an appendix to his book Disciplines of a Godly Man [?].

When asked to name her single favorite spiritual book, Elliot simply wrote: “Impossible to say.” But when asked about her favorite novel, the decision must have been easier, for she listed one title: Kristin Lavransdatter by Norwegian novelist Sigrid Undset (1882–1949). For it, Undset was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928.

A few days back, Wesley Hill published his favorite reads of 2014, announcing:

. . . the best book I read this year was Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. . . . Originally a trilogy published in the early 1920s, Kristin Lavransdatter tells the story, over the course of about one thousand pages, of the whole life of its title character in medieval Norway. It has elements of the macabre, as it eerily explores lingering superstitions in face of an ascendant Christianity. It also has elements of the devotional, reading at times like a spiritual handbook, a chart of the soul’s progress to be used as a goad to the reader’s own self-examination. Mainly, though, it is a story of marriage and motherhood and all the ways that we remain mysteriously — sometimes wondrously, sometimes fearfully and devastatingly — distinct and distant from one another.

Pilgrim’s Progress

pp

In an interview back in the summer of 2003, J.I. Packer praised Puritan literature, a massive and intimidating body of work. So where should an inquiring reader start? Here’s an excerpt from his answer, as published in Reformation and Revival 13/4 (2004), page 170:

Q: Where would you advise a person to go to begin to understand the Puritans?

JIP: There is indeed a lot of material, but the Puritans were a single school of thought and an extraordinarily homogeneous one. For years now I have been telling people that if they want to start exploring Puritan wisdom they must read Pilgrim’s Progress. (I am quite emphatic about this!) What you have in Pilgrim’s Progress is a kind of pictorial index to all the topics relating to the Christian life that the Puritans thought about, preached about, and wrote about. All the perplexities, all the temptations, all the forms of opposition, all the encouragements, all the ups and downs of Christian living, the trials in the form of depression and the trials in the form of overconfidence, and the ways that Satan arranges to test Christians who are overconfident are all there, these pictured in a beautifully vivid form.

Q: But people will say, “Pilgrim’s Progress is just a children’s book.”

JIP: They will say it, and they will be wrong.

Haha! Classic Packer. You can download and read PP free in a fresh edition edited by my colleague Jonathan Parnell, here.