We Are Family: What African Americans Bring to Reformed Theology

Although all true Christians share a common heritage of faith, there are many branches of believers.  I inhabit a particular corner of Christianity called “Reformed.”  The term comes from the historic Reformation of the 16th century and is characterized by several distinctive truths.

Francis Grimke’ (1852-1937) African American & Reformed

I didn’t grow up Reformed.  I had never heard of it until college when a friend sent me a book by John Piper called, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (download the free PDF version). Reading this book changed the course of my Christian life.  It gave me a hunger for rich biblical truth and ruined me for anything less.  Where I am now at Reformed Theological Seminary, in a confessionally Reformed denomination, and as co-founder of the Reformed African American Network is a direct result of reading Desiring God.

Dr. Piper’s ministry for God-centered resources is called Desiring God and it is well-known in the Reformed world of Christians for producing trustworthy, relevant, and biblical content.  So it was a privilege to finally be able to post an article on their website.

I wrote “We Are Family: What African Americans Bring to Reformed Theology” in response to the question: What do African Americans uniquely contribute to Reformed theology.  Here’s an excerpt:

Reformed theology is theology in process. Semper reformanda, we say — always reforming.

As a body of thought, Reformed theology is not complete. The challenge and opportunity for Christians is not to revise the biblical principles but to make our doctrinal formulations more biblical — and faithfully apply them in different cultures and contexts.

Developing Theology in Community

One of the goals for the Reformed African American Network (RAAN) is to “develop theology in community.” As the network took shape, we knew we had to avoid any kind of theological imperialism. While it’s true that the African American community can benefit from Reformed theology as it stands, Blacks have much to offer from their own theological and cultural heritage as well.

Our hope with RAAN is that as more voices contribute to the conversation, a more robust theology emerges — one that is both increasingly committed to the Scriptures and is primed to be applied in different cultures, contexts, and situations.

Questions About Contributions

When we talk about “developing theology in community,” some people ask whether we’re talking about changing doctrine. The answer to that question is easy. No. We’re not talking about changing doctrine. To the degree we have understood Scripture properly, those teachings must remain unchanged. They are biblical, eternal, and true. There may be opportunities to articulate biblical truths with more clarity and care, but mainly what we have in mind is freshly and faithfully applying Reformed teachings to new issues and in new contexts.

Another question people often ask is, “Okay, so how does Reformed theology look different when it’s informed by more African Americans?” Or, “What do African Americans uniquely contribute to Reformed theology?”

I have wrestled with the answer to that question. For a long time, I assumed I just hadn’t thought about it enough. But the more I roll it over in my mind, the less pressing the question seems to me.

Read the rest of the article here.

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