Thank you to Rick Caldwell from Caldwell Apologetics for putting together the Anti-Woke Symposium.
First, all of these gentlemen took time on a Saturday night, away from their families, to have a conversation to discuss a very relevant, and important topic to our culture; so a hearty thank you to:
- Rick Caldwell
- Chris Williams
- Edwin Ramirez
- Alton Johnson
Thank you for sharing your time to address this important issue.
And it is an important issue. Books like Robin Diangelo’s work, “White Fragility,” and Ibram Kendi’s book, “How to Be an Anti-Racist,” have topped the bestseller list. In the church, Dr. Eric Mason’s book, “Woke Church,” is a best seller. Everyone is talking, and the messages are often laced with emotion, given the cultural climate around us.
During that symposium, I asked a question, something akin to the following, “how can the church deal with genuine issues of racism or oppression without falling into the trap of woke ideology?”
My motive in asking that question is twofold.
First, I share many of the concerns that the gentlemen on the panel expressed during the discussion, including the following:
- Woke ideology truncates history.
- Woke ideology is antithetical to the sufficiency of Scripture.
- Woke ideology (in the church) is often a distraction from the expository preaching of the Bible.
- Woke ideology is rooted in an asymmetrical understanding of sin.
- Woke ideology is rooted in a non-Christian worldview.
Second, as Edwin Ramirez suggested, I also recognize that we live in a fallen world and that there are systemic injustices that have occurred (undoubtedly) and may still occur that impact some segments of our American culture than others.
What caught my attention were the answers to my question and the reactions to those answers.
Edwin’s answer was to start with proximity. In essence, Edwin suggests that those who have proximal relationships should be the ones to minister to those who have been the recipients of injustice. Edwin contrasts that with the emphasis of woke ideology that demands everyone everywhere to show their sympathy and compassion through demonstrations of “solidarity” which are, more often than not, political in nature, rather than personal.
Edwin also drew a distinction between empathizing with someone and jumping to conclusions and allowing the emotion of the situation to determine the guilt or innocence of the parties involved.
Finally, Edwin made a very important point, we cannot solve problems of justice by speaking, acting, or advocating for organizations and movements that embrace principles and positions that the Bible would describe as unjust.
Chris Williams answered the question this way.
First, he said, if someone is the victim of racism in the church, show compassion to them and pray for them. Help them to guard their hearts against bitterness toward the person, or others who may look like that person.
Second, if someone has a racist heart in the church, pray for them and preach the gospel to them, and call out racism as a sin when the opportunity presents itself.
Chris continued by suggesting that the Scripture should guide the process in the details of the situation.
From the standpoint of the person who asked the question, I feel like these are all excellent answers.
However, I was also struck by the responses to these answers.
Some suggested that the answers were too “general” and too “shallow.”
Frankly, that concerns me. It is illustrative of the core of the problem.
Edwin’s answer was a distillation of the following admonitions from Scripture.
Don’t take up the world’s agenda in trying to solve issues of injustice.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
(Romans 12:2 ESV)
Engage in proximal, compassionate ministry.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.Never be wise in your own sight.”
(Romans 12:14–16 ESV)
Don’t try to overcome evil with evil.
“To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
(Romans 12:20–21 ESV)
Chris’s answers were also very biblically grounded.
Keep grounded in the scriptures.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
(2 Timothy 3:14–17 ESV)
Make prayer a vital aspect of the ministry to those suffering genuine injustice.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
(James 5:16 ESV)
Counsel others against bitterness.
“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;”
(Hebrews 12:15 ESV)
Preach the gospel.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,”
(2 Timothy 4:1–3 ESV)
“And I, when I came to you, brothers,did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,”
(1 Corinthians 2:1–3 ESV)
When did these answers become the “shallow” answers?
We are in trouble if the church starts looking outside the God-breathed, holy word of the Lord in order to solve these kinds of issues.
We must find a way to address real, genuine concerns from a uniquely Biblical perspective. The world doesn’t start with the right formula; therefore, it won’t arrive at the correct conclusion.
Frankly, characterizing these kinds of answers as “shallow” is how the church ends up exchanging the power inherent in the word and embracing the power offered by the world.