What we ought to be
Four books about the variety of humans
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The Beautiful Community: Unity, Diversity, and the Church at Its Best by Irwyn L. Ince Jr.: In The Beautiful Community (available in paperback Aug. 4), Ince illustrates the foundation of multiethnic community in the triune God, its creation through the work of Jesus Christ, and its outworking in local churches as they orbit around the beauty of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He preaches racial variety in church because the Word of God demands it, the life of God grounds it, and the people of God must picture it, undoing the sin-fueled “ghettoization” of humanity that was supercharged at Babel. Although the book includes some ground-level instructions on how to achieve this diversity in a local church, it’s more of a why-to, not a how-to.
Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope by Jasmine L. Holmes: Holmes writes to her son Wynn, “When it comes to race, ‘just preach the gospel’ often means ‘just shut up.’” She does believe the gospel—that the good news of Christ’s resurrection is good enough for a black son to thrive on, in the United States or anywhere else. “Color will never change your status before Jesus.” But she’s also known too many white people who think the gospel explains away black pain. Holmes insists that the gospel demands Christian love and hard conversations with disciples of all colors. Don’t surrender to the stereotypes, she tells Wynn. You follow Jesus, not an earthly tribe. You cannot escape complexity. A Christian will not fully fit in any of the world’s political or racial boxes because we are made for heaven.
A Multitude of All Peoples by Vince L. Bantu: Bantu loathes the idea that Christianity is “the white man’s religion,” calling that notion “the single greatest obstacle for people coming to faith in Christ.” He shows that Christianity has always been a global religion and wants it liberated from what he calls its “white, Western captivity.” He quotes original sources and includes many of his own photographs of Christian objects and buildings created and maintained by ancient and medieval local churches in Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia. Yes, Constantine and later Roman and European rulers attempted to claim the role of Christianity’s global patron, but that’s false: Africans, Arabs, Persians, and Chinese worshipped Jesus long before Charlemagne did, and their descendants keep doing it, given “contextualized theology and indigenous leadership.”
Reformed Ethics: Created, Fallen, and Converted Humanity by Herman Bavinck, edited by John Bolt: Discovered in a Dutch manuscript in 2008 and finally available in English, Reformed Ethics by Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) is far more than a list of do’s and don’ts. It is a comprehensive account of human nature as created, fallen, and redeemed, with special reference to human moral obligations. Bavinck writes, “Ethics describes the concretizing of the kingdom of God in humanity; the origin, growth, and completion of Christ’s body”—but he stipulates that ethics is not the essence of religion, for then Christianity would be “absorbed by morality, the church by the state, worship by art.”
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