Ever since the popularization of Social Media platforms, I have seen a steady stream of people looking for recommendations for local churches, especially on the local community pages. We have recently had a family visiting our Sunday services that were introduced to us in this manner. Typically, there are a list of parameters and desires that are given to let the readers know what type of church the inquirer is interested in. Things like- “ We are looking for a Reformed 1689 Church”, “We are looking for a church with a full children’s ministry”, “We are looking for a church with a modern worship service”, etc. Those questions are typically easy enough to answer by simply visiting a church’s website.
In the past couple of weeks however, there has been a new phrase that has entered the dialogue. “We are looking for a non-woke church”. What a time to be alive. I was initially going to attempt to answer the question of whether or not GLCLC is a woke church in this post, but as is the case with so many movements in postmodernity, nailing down a definitive list of distinctive of wokeness is pretty difficult. We will leave the discussion of the “First Great Awokening” that we are currently undergoing for another day. Instead, I would like to speak to this issue with a list of affirmations. Denials are sometimes much easier to come by and articulate, but I think that giving positive affirmations may be more helpful here. So here we go-
#1 We affirm the equality and unity of all human life as imago Dei.
From conception to the coffin and celestially beyond, all black lives matter to God. Those whose names are famous and those who are completely unknown. They matter. They always have and they always will. This, obviously, holds true for every human being. We must not lose the overarching unity of the human race amidst the often forced diversity in our fractured society.
As Paul said on the Areopagus: “The God who made the world and all things in it … made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
From one important and often neglected perspective, there is only one race (Adam’s), united by one color of skin (melanin) and one color of blood.
Let the cultural Marxists have their polarizing special interest groups, but this must always be the Church’s rallying cry: Every nation, tribe, and tongue, one in the Son. The cross of Jesus Christ is not simply the pathway to racial reconciliation, it is actual racial reconciliation.
#2 We affirm the God-ordained diversity of all human life.
Like light shining through the various facets of a diamond, the glory of God shines through every race and culture when it reflects the good, the beautiful, and the true. God’s glory is just too great for any one race to radiate fully and express completely. So the Creator has clothed each race with its own unique, incomparable, and obvious glory.
Call it privilege or call it blessing, but God has uniquely gifted different people groups in different areas where they really do shine. To take just one example: Think of the glorious voices of Aretha Franklin and Frank Sinatra , or the pulpit oratory of Voddie Baucham and Alistair Begg, or the on-stage performances of James Earl Jones and Sir Ian McKellan. In these, as in every other human endeavor, each race and culture glows with its own unique expression of divine splendor. It is a kind of blasphemy to deny this, and men diminish themselves when they do.
#3 We affirm the unique sovereignty of God in shaping the hearts, personalities, and giftedness of human beings:
“But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you” 1 Cor. 12:18–21, Psalm 33:15).
Geographical snobbery is really a silly notion, given the fact that we providentially live in the locale that we do. God determines the spiritual, geographic, social, cultural, and racial sphere in which we all grow up (Acts 17:26). There, we each run a unique race set before us by God (Heb. 12:1). Divine providence sets different trials, obstacles, and difficulties for each of us to overcome as well as unique burdens for us all to carry. As we face injustice along the way (and we will), our first response should always be to look up to God (Psa. 37). Without His help, we will tend to devolve into a fretful, anxious, and envious bitterness that leads only to wrongdoing (Psa. 37:8).
What many in the current mob desire, is not really the justice of equal opportunity; no, what they want is equality of outcome. In a fallen world, equality of outcome will never be realized; in fact, I am not sure that we will even find it in heaven. The perfection that we enjoy there will also glow with a glorious diversity – diversity of gender, race, culture, giftedness, appearance, and reward. Such heavenly rewards will reflect the various investments that we made on earth for the Kingdom (1Cor. 3:12-15, Matt. 25:14) and will honor the principle of grace enabled and grace rewarded personal responsibility (Phil. 2:12-13).
#4 We affirm and give thanks to God for the unique glory of the American Experiment, which has been by no means perfect.
Contrary to an opinion that seems to be growing with intensity among many of the evangelical elite that seek to virtue signal at every opportunity, you don’t have to completely discredit and condemn our nations history and founding in order to be a Christian. No other nation under heaven rests on such liberty-fostering, constitutional ideals. As I mentioned above, this shouldn’t produce a geographical snobbery, but rather a heartfelt gratitude to God. We also affirm the gross error of chronological snobbery – as if we are better people, who know more, and see more clearly than all our ancestors. Often, this is simply not the case.
We believe our Founding Fathers were fallen men, but on the whole, decent men. Many of them, as far as we can tell through the lens of history, were regenerate men. Yes, the historical record clearly shows they owned slaves, but it also reveals men who saw the terrible evil of slavery and who sought ways to extirpate it from society. Some scholars also believe that they wrote the Constitution envisioning a time that would eventually bring this great blight upon the Republic to an end.
Consider these quotations which reveal the heart of these men on the matter:
“I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil.” – Patrick Henry, letter to Robert Pleasants, January 18, 1773.
“There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it.” – George Washington, letter to Robert Morris, April 12, 1786.
“Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature, that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitous care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils.” – Benjamin Franklin, An Address to the Public, November 1789.
“We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Holmes, April 22, 1820.
“It is much to be wished that slavery may be abolished. The honor of the States, as well as justice and humanity, in my opinion, loudly call upon them to emancipate these unhappy people. To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused.” – John Jay, Letter to R. Lushington, March 15, 1786.
“Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery in the United States … I have, throughout my whole life, held the practice of slavery in … abhorrence.” – John Adams, letter to Robert J. Evans, June 8, 1819.
“Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.” – Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821.
“We have seen the mere distinction of color made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.” – James Madison, speech at the Constitutional Convention, June 6, 1787.
To those who label the above utterances as hopelessly inconsistent with many of their practice. I would simply say: “Granted, as long as we all show willingness to examine our own hearts and lives for similar inconsistencies.”. We all have them. How many of the leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement (for example) also turn a blind eye to the millions of black lives snuffed out in the womb? Do these lives not matter? We all have our blind spots and areas in which we fail to apply the good ideas that we grasp in our minds to the choices that we make in our lives.
Such failure does not invalidate these ideas. It simply shows that we are all frail, fallen sinners who need the grace of God. As John Newton famously testified at the end of his life: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”
#5 As Christians living in this strange, cultural moment we affirm and humbly acknowledge that this world is not our home
I really feel very little burden to deify or vilify our founding fathers of this nation. I am grateful to live my life in these United States. But, this nation in its fallen state is not our ultimate hope. America can be shaken at the foundation, but the Kingdom of God cannot.
“This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken — that is, things that have been made — in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:27–29).