Jonathan Edwards, Dabney, Piper & Daniel Kleven

One of the most insightful analyses of the connection between Slave Ownership & Reformed theology is being written “daily” by Daniel Kleven!

If you haven’t read his series of articles on the subject, you should take the time to read the sobering and honest unwrapping of this subject. [1]

Here is one recent example of his perceptive ability to unravel what has happened in regards to reformed theology and slave ownership. . . . .

[Sherard Burns states]“the eradication of racism today, as would be the case with slavery then, will not come about through programs, but by means of a God-centered and God-entranced view of reality… Whatever we may think of Edwards, one thing is for certain: He left the American church with the necessary theological truths to kill racism in our hearts and to be conquerors of it in the church.”

Burns, “Trusting,” 170–71.

Again, I must demur. The “eradication of slavery” did not come through Edwards’s “God-entranced view of reality” — it only finally came as a result of a bloody Civil War. As much as we may wish that “good theology” is all it takes to change the world, we must face the actual historical record: Edwards did not leave the church with the necessary theological truths to end slavery and kill racism, and the evidence is seen a thousandfold on the pages of actual history, in the lives of 18th century Reformed slaveholders, 19th century Reformed white-supremacists, 20th century Reformed segregationists, and their 21st century Reformed admirers. To pretend otherwise is wishful thinking.

Without restating the many insightful observations of Kleven, let me move to make three points that I was left with after reading his articles — to date.

#1) An orthodox theology is unable to root out unbiblical and/or ungodly attitudes or actions.

While it may be true that you will never have an accurate and sound world-view with a defective theology, an orthodox theology does not have any ability to assure the opposite.

In fact, you can have a defective theology and still be more socially in harmony with biblical truths, attitudes, and actions than those who are orthodox.  

Something is terribly broken when Quakers, or men who embrace “liberation theology,” are more in tune with the wickedness of slavery than those who claim to be theologically and biblically orthodox!


#2) The ability of regenerate men to justify wrong-doing is both actual and frightening.

The ability of humanity, even though saved by God’s grace, to justify wrong — to make wrong, right and right, wrong — is glaring. That was not just true for Edwards, Dabney, or Piper; it is evident in ministries and local churches today — RZIM.

And the failure of leadership in ministry, to be the corrective actor it could and should be, is just as real. The proof is evident throughout Christian ministries and local churches! [2]  Those who are in a position to change, correct, and challenge leadership failure remain all too quiet and equally become part of the continuing problem!  

Though often too late, thankfully, some come to realize that and see their participation for what it was — [Link to Ruth Malhotra’s CT article — a great read!].

#3) A ministry that had the potential of correcting the trajectory of racism can become a super-spreader of the same historical failure.

John Piper is not merely the pastor of an autonomous baptist church in Minnesota. His ministry — through books, seminars, conferences, speaking engagements, blogs, posts, tweets, and his college and seminary program — has been vast and lengthy!

Piper has utterly failed to grab the opportunity to truly change the direction, tone, and biblical understanding of racism within Bible ministries across America — and beyond! He has instead been unwilling to call out the tragic and hateful errors of men like Edwards and Dabney as he well should have! In fact, he has instead embraced men like Doug Wilson — to this day!

Like has often been said — “When you read the same books, you think the same thoughts!” Many have read the book of Edwards, Dabney, and John Piper for decades!  

As Kleven states . . . . 

“Our criteria for “giant of the Christian faith” is ethically anemic; it elevates intellect, and ignores the obedience of love and justice. We elevate “heroes” based on their “theology,” and then find ourselves in a conundrum: “Now what do we do with their glaring inconsistencies?” Maybe we need to go all the way back to square one, and re-evaluate what makes a “giant,” and only hold those in esteem who are actually worthy of imitation, not just those who intellectually stimulate us through their books.”



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