REVIEW: Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention

Removing the Stain of Racism SBCThis compelling work, led by Jarvis Williams and Kevin Jones, including input from Al Mohler, Walter Strickland, Kevin Smith, Dwight McKissic, and others, is not a book merely to be glanced at like passing a curious situation alongside the highway as you speed by at 65 miles an hour. We must not give mere token acknowledgement to this issue simply because the media highlights a specific circumstance in the ever transitioning news cycle. Ethnic tensions, systemic racism, and latent prejudices remind us of the deep darkness of sin that is always around us. We cry out as Paul did in Scripture when he said, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, CSB). This fact we see in our world at-large and in our own lives holds true for our cooperating assembly of churches known as the Southern Baptist Convention as well. The deep-set stain of racism and its continuing effects call for unyielding mortification on our part, as we focus on this issue in our lives together as Southern Baptists today.

As I opened this book focusing on an issue I believe to be of paramount importance for us as individuals, churches, and a convention, I expected to be hit hard with challenges regarding our past as Southern Baptists, with calls to acknowledge the continuing problems in our day, and with concrete plans to help us move forward together as we endeavor to remove the stain of racism replacing it with the Gospel-reflecting ethnic inclusion and diversity which befits the people of God gathering in His churches. I have not been disappointed in the least. At times I mourned the undeniable horror of our past. At times I winced at the confrontation of my need to face this issue in the present. At times I rejoiced in the prescribed remedy of the various authors of both Anglo and African descent showing us a better way forward.

I believe I am near the center of the target audience for this book. As a Southern Baptist pastor involved in our local church’s mission and ministry and also deeply connected with our cooperative ministry efforts through our local association, state convention, and the national entities of the SBC, each chapter offered insightful analysis and helpful recommendations for God-honoring transformation in removing the stain of racism from our midst. Some may find chapters like “Administrative Steps Toward Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention,” or “Publishing for Church Leaders to Remove the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention” less directly applicable, but I believe such contain helpful information for us all.

I found a priceless aspect of this book in an introduction of sorts entitled “Selected Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions on Race from 1845-2007” (pp. xxv-lix). These highlights captured the progression regarding this issue–the peaks and the valleys–for our beloved SBC. While this introduction is no substitute for the investment of engaging the authors throughout the course of the book, I do believe it to be worth the price of the book itself. Seeing from where we have come and the ever improving trajectory in which we are heading proved quite helpful in reading the rest of the book.

As I wrap up (Pastor speak for, “Here comes sermon number two!), I leave you with the fifteen recommendations Dr. Williams expresses in his chapter, “Biblical Steps Toward Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention.” While he enumerates them with commentary, I will simply share the topic line…and hope that encourages, intrigues, challenges you to the point of getting a copy of the book to read for yourself. I am convinced you will benefit greatly from doing so.

Fifteen Concluding Exhortations (pp.44-51)

  • Southern Baptists should be quick to listen and slow to speak on race when they do not understand the issues.

  • Southern Baptists must pray for and support multi-ethnic church plants in their cities and communities if their churches are not going to pursue reconciliation.

  • Southern Baptists must stop making excuses for why our denomination still has the stain of racism.

  • Southern Baptists must stop limiting the racial reconciliation discussion to the black versus white divide in our convention.

  • The movement of gospel-centered racial reconciliation within the SBC does not need an African-American savior, and Asian savior, a Latino savior, or a white savior. But we need a multiracial partnership of churches working together….

  • Southern Baptists need to enlarge their ethnic circles to include more black and brown believers.

  • Southern Baptists must recognize that black and brown people can minister to white people and teach them many things about many subjects, including race.

  • Southern Baptists must understand that black and brown Southern Baptists need white allies in the work of the gospel ministry.

  • Southern Baptists must understand that the kingdom of God does not revolve around whiteness or blackness or brownness.

  • Southern Baptists must recognize that whiteness is not normal and everything else abnormal.

  • Southern Baptists must not play the race card just to serve their political agendas, to get television appearances, to increase Twitter followers, to gain more friends on Facebook, or to get invites to the big white or black and brown conferences.

  • If Southern Baptists want to gain credibility in black and brown contexts on matters of gospel reconciliation, they must befriend black and brown people lacking celebrity status.

  • Southern Baptists must recognize that the evangelical movement generally and the SBC specifically still lack credibility with many black and brown communities in part because of their historic failure to do the things mentioned above.

  • Black and brown Southern Baptists are not off the hook. We have an important role to play in removing the stain of racism from the SBC, too.”

I pray we will all relentlessly pursue unity in the bond of peace since, “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” (Colossians 3:11, CSB).

The Reader’s Bibles are here!

A few years ago a Kickstarter project raised over a million dollars to produce a high-quality, multi-volume Bible without chapter or verse numbers. The idea was to create a distraction-free reading experience. I was taken in and ponied up $25 for the volume on the New Testament. Then I waited. And waited. And Crossway was able to get out a single-volume ESV Reader’s Bible, so I bought that and read through it a few times in a couple of years. (I did eventually get my New Testament and read that too).

I recently saw that both Zondervan and Broadman and Holman had released their own reader’s Bibles, so I obtained review copies of the new NIV and CSB Reader’s Bibles to compare the three for our readers. Below is the table I created:

Feature ESV NIV CSB
Cover options (bold for review copy)
  • Cloth over board (Brown/Gray)
  • Leather (Black)
  • TrueTone (Black) Hardcover (Flower design)
  • Cloth over board (Gold/Gray)
  • Imitation leather (Brown)
  • Cloth over board (Poppy)
  • Cloth over board (Gray)
Release (cloth over board) June 2014 October 2017 September 2017
Dimensions 8.00 x 5.5 x 1.7 in. 8.75 x 5.5 x 2.0 in. 9.25 x 5.5 x 1.7 in.
Font 0.131 in. 0.145 in. 0.135 in.
Line spacing 0.09 in. 0.12 in. 0.09 in.
Margins 0.675 in. 0.50 in 0.75 in.
Slipcase? Yes (cardboard) No Yes (cloth over board)
Ribbon marker 2 (brown) 1 (silver) 1 (white)
Other features
  • 4 color maps
  • Table of weights and measures
  • Textual notes retained as endnotes for each
  • 8 color maps
  • Chapters not identified in the margins (including the Psalms)
ESV

ESV’s Best Features

  • Multiple cover options
  • Two ribbon markers
  • Compact size (compared to the other two)

The ESV was the first of the three to market, but it still has a few bells and whistles not available in the NIV or CSB. Its spine is rounded with ribs, and the additional protection offered by a slip-case gives it a high-quality look. Two ribbon markers allow you to follow a reading plan with readings in the Old and New Testaments.

NIV’s Best Features

  • Bigger font and wider line spacing
  • NIV

    Textual notes retained as endnotes

The larger bigger font size and wider line spacing of the NIV reduce eye strain and make it easier to keep your place as you work your way down the page.  Textual notes are nice when you want them (Isaac means “he laughs”), but they are pretty useless as endnotes unless you want to completely disrupt your reading experience.

CSB’s Best Features

  • Cloth-over-board slipcase
  • Wide margins
  • 8 full-color maps

The CSB is probably the best designed of the three. Although it doesn’t have the largest font or widest line spacing, the wide margins mean fewer words per line, which

CSB

makes for the best reading experience. The margins also leave more room for handwritten notes. Add in the matching cloth-over-board slipcase, and you have a high-quality book to put on the shelf or end table. I expected the “poppy” color to be red, but it is definitely a pinkish hue. I also would have preferred keeping the Psalm numbers in the text since they are individual compositions.

To sum up…

All three make extended Scripture reading much easier. I’ve used each of these translations at various points and places in ministry. I’ve found them all pretty readable on their own, but the larger font and lack of verse numbers, chapter numbers, and footnotes in a reader’s edition make the reading experience much smoother. And quicker.

Reading the Bible through in a year used to be a challenge for me. With a reader’s Bible I can get it done by September, no problem. It’s not a race, but reading through the Bible at a quick pace it just one more way of growing your familiarity with all of Scripture. I also find it easier to see the narrative flow of each book.

Your thoughts

Do you have a reader’s Bible? If so, what do you like about it and how much do you use it?

A Greek guide for the book of Luke and a FREEBIE too!

How’s your Greek? I’ve got a book review as well as a freebie that might peak your interest.

Christmas will be here before you know it, and taking the effort to work through the Greek text of the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke might help kickstart a habit that will bless you and your ministry for years to come. And if you need a recommendation to get you started, look no further than the volume on Luke in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series.

In the interest of full disclosure, I asked Broadman and Holman to bring Christmas to me early this year by sending me a review copy, but that’s because I’ve already invested in a few of the other books in the series.

Luke was written by Alan J. Thompson. He’s got strong academic credentials, having studied under Eckhard Schnabel and D.A. Carson. He also has a few academic books on his resume, including an upcoming volume on Acts in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series.

Like other volumes in the EGGNT series, Luke begins with introductory materials covering authorship, date, audience, and purpose—standard commentary fare—though the extensive outline at the end of the book (five pages, single-spaced) is more of what you would expect from a much larger commentary.

Once you get past the introductory materials, the real fun begins. Because of size limitations (the book is over 400 pages), there’s no full Greek text or English translation. A Greek New Testament or an interlinear necessary to make full use of the book. Thompson works verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Luke, providing comments on grammar, syntax, textual variants, and translation options. It truly is a comprehensive guide to the Greek text of Luke.

Using this and other volumes in the EGGNT series has brought my Greek back from the brink. It had been a couple years, and I had forgotten so much, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pick it up again. When I saw how helpful one book was, I bought another, and another…

It was a little unwieldy for me at first because of all the abbreviations, but a few visits to the section listing abbreviations, and it didn’t take long to adjust.

Now for the freebie! Rob Plummer does a daily video working through a verse in the Greek New Testament on his website Daily Dose of Greek. Starting November 6 he will begin working through Philemon. As a special incentive, you can download Philemon from the EGGNT on My Word Search Bible, a website from Broadman and Holman for FREE. Check out his post for the details here.

The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was one of the most influential preachers of the 19th century. At a time before automobiles, airplanes, and electricity, he regularly preached before crowds of more than 5,000 in his church in London (he once even preached before crowd of over 23,000 people). He founded a college, an orphanage, and was a strong advocate for foreign missions. He was personally acquainted with D. L. Moody and Hudson Taylor. Famous Americans like Mark Twain, John D. Rockefeller, and James Garfield (before he became the 20th president of the United States) visited his church to hear him preach. He left more published words than any other Christian in history, before or since. He has often been called the “Prince of Preachers,” and rightly so.

Despite his popularity, or perhaps because of it, Spurgeon received a lot of criticism during his lifetime. His opposition to the new theory from fellow Englishman Charles Darwin earned him mockery from cartoonists and newspapers. His condemnation of so-called Christian slaveholders in America resulted in threats and book burnings throughout the Southern United States, especially from members of the relatively new Southern Baptist denomination. Yet times have changed, and now Southern Baptists are not only among his greatest admirers, but they have begun publishing a planned twelve-volume set of his earliest sermons, never before seen in print.

LifeWay graciously provided me a review copy of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume I. Over a few weeks I read it cover to cover. Volume I contains the 76 sermons Spurgeon recorded in the first of nine notebooks that will serve as the bases for the rest of the volumes in this series. I was immediately impressed by the aesthetic beauty of the book in my hands. The cloth over board covers, sewn binding, thick and glossy pages, and full color facsimiles of each page of the notebook showed a commitment to producing a high-quality work, and this is only the standard edition (there’s a special edition with more photographs, gilded pages, and even a slip cover, too!).

The introductory materials drew me in immediately. A 17-page timeline from 1800-1910 highlights important events from the life of Spurgeon in red and significant moments (both secular and religious) from the 19th century in black. Events of interest to Southern Baptists are included as well. The book also includes chapters looking at Spurgeon’s place in history, his relationship to Southern Baptists, and the background of this book series. Excepts are available online, which I encourage you to check out (from the ForewordEditor’s PrefaceIntroductionpdf sampler).

Each sermon includes a color facsimile, transcription, and notes. Even as a teenager, Spurgeon’s sermons were impressive for his insight and ability to connect with his listeners. He largely used outlines (he called them “skeletons”) and relied on his memory to preach extemporaneously. Because this is a critical work, the notes identify sources Spurgeon used (he was particularly fond of John Gill and John Bunyan), references to events of his day, and quotations from elsewhere in his body of work where he treated the same topics or Scriptures in more detail. The notes also discuss ink marks, corrections, and spelling, but I largely ignored these.

I wish my early sermons were as good as Spurgeon’s. By the time he was 20 he had already preached more than 700 times. If they had only published the text of his notebook, it would have been worth reading. The addition of introductory materials placing Spurgeon in his historical context and scholarly research of the notes placing his sermons in the context of his sources and later writings make the volume even more valuable.

If you’re interested in snagging a copy for yourself, you can find The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume I online and in LifeWay stores. Volume II is slated for release in September 2017.

Whether you’re interested in Spurgeon’s lost sermons or not, you can get access to a digital library of over 3,500 of his sermons by signing up for the Broadman & Holman Academic eNewsletter here. It’s free and you can cancel your email subscription anytime.