Black Liberation Theology and Woke Christianity

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For the month of November, the Banner of Truth has graciously allowed our readers a free download of The Bleeding of the Evangelical Church by David Wells. This was a prophetic address to the National Association of Evangelicals that holds great pertinence for Christians today.

You probably don’t know its name, but you’re familiar with it. Barack Obama’s pastor preached about it. Chance The Rapper raps about it. Cornel West writes about it. And evangelicals are becoming sympathetic about it. You are familiar with Black Liberation Theology, and you didn’t know it.

Black Liberation Theology was developed by James Cone in the 1960s during the Black Power movement as a reaction to evangelical apathy on racial injustice. In his book, Black Theology and Black Power, James Cone explains how he formed his theology:

For me, the burning theological question was, how can I reconcile Christianity and Black Power, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s idea of nonviolence and Malcom X’s by any means necessary philosophy? The writing of Black Theology and Black Power was the beginning of my search for a resolution of that dilemma. (5)

Anyone who makes a prophet out of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X is sure to teach another gospel, and that is what James Cone’s Black Liberation Theology is: another gospel. Black Liberation Theology is Martin Luther King Jr.’s social gospel and Malcolm X’s Black Nationalism in one. Black Liberation Theology exchanges the power of God for Black power. It exchanges the supremacy of Christ for Black supremacy. Black Liberation Theology is built on a foundation of bitterness and victimhood, with social justice as its chief cornerstone.

In James Cone’s theology, Black liberation from White oppression is the gospel. In his book, Speaking the Truth: Ecumenism, Liberation, and Black Theology, James Cone said:

What else can the crucifixion mean except that God, the Holy One of Israel, became identified with the victims of oppression?  What else can the resurrection mean except that God’s victory in Christ is the poor person’s victory over poverty? If theology does not take this seriously, how can it be worthy of the name Christian?  If the church, the community out of which theology arises, does not make God’s liberation of the oppressed central in its mission and proclamation, how can it rest easy with a condemned criminal as the dominant symbol of its message? (6)

James Cone died in 2018, but his Black Liberation Theology is more alive than ever, more woke than ever in the reformed community.

You only need to read some reformed leaders’ words on James Cone’s death to recognize that many reformed Christians are adopting a form of Black Liberation Theology, a theology that borrows from James Cone and John Calvin, Martin Luther King Jr. and Martin Luther, a theology called woke Christianity.

Woke Christianity is an attempt to reconcile Christianity with Black Lives Matter. It is a theology developed from Calvinism with an awareness for social justice—the idea is that a person “wakes up” to see this issue. It makes liberation from perceived racial injustice a central message of the gospel. It suggests that a gospel that doesn’t address racial injustice is an unbalanced gospel. Woke Christianity is essentially a Calvinistic social gospel.

Unlike Black Liberation Theology, however, woke Christianity maintains an otherwise orthodox theology. Black Liberation Theology rejects the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture; woke Christianity does not. Woke Christianity affirms the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross; Black Liberation Theology does not. Black Liberation Theology suggests that Black people are uniquely favored by God; woke Christianity does not. Woke Christianity rejects Malcolm X’s position that White people are White devils and inherently racist; Black Liberation Theology does not.

However, woke Christianity embraces several concerning elements of Black Liberation Theology. For instance, woke Christianity does not entirely reject James Cone’s position that Black people are, in some ways, morally superior to White people. Woke Christianity subscribes to the ‘prejudice plus power’ definition of racism, suggesting that Black people cannot be racists.

Like Black Liberation Theology, woke Christianity accepts W. E. B. Du Bois’ concept of double consciousness, a concept that teaches that we Black people have an internal struggle between our perception of self in light of how others perceive us in a society that oppresses Black people. Therefore woke Christianity attempts to unify this double consciousness by identifying what it means to be Black and reformed, woke and Christian. Too often, however, this concept leads woke Christians into elevating culture over Scripture.

And that’s what concerns me most about woke Christianity: it suggests that the culture is more enlightened on justice than Scripture is. In fact, by definition, woke Christianity is a type of Gnosticism, as it suggests that some Christians have become enlightened to a central message of the gospel that average Christians, particularly Black Christians like me, aren’t privy to.

So the message is clear: Black Christians who aren’t woke are sleeping on the truth of Black liberation and racial justice. For that unpardonable sin against our skin, we stand condemned to a sunken place, a purgatory ghetto fit for coons and uncle toms.

Editor’s Note: this article originally appeared at Slow to Write, and is posted here with kind permission. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author

  • Samuel Sey

    Samuel Sey is a Ghanaian-Canadian who lives as a full-time writer in LaRue, Ohio. Samuel is committed to addressing racial, cultural, and political issues with biblical theology and an attempt to be quick to listen and slow to speak. His writing has been featured in The Daily Wire, The Christian Post, TheBlaze.com, Relatable With Allie Stuckey, The Alisa Childers Podcast, Founders.org, Aomin.org, EzraInstutute.ca, Wretched.org, Desiring God.com, and more. His articles can be seen at Slow To Write. He and his wife are members of LaRue Baptist Church.

Samuel Sey

Samuel Sey

Samuel Sey is a Ghanaian-Canadian who lives as a full-time writer in LaRue, Ohio. Samuel is committed to addressing racial, cultural, and political issues with biblical theology and an attempt to be quick to listen and slow to speak. His writing has been featured in The Daily Wire, The Christian Post, TheBlaze.com, Relatable With Allie Stuckey, The Alisa Childers Podcast, Founders.org, Aomin.org, EzraInstutute.ca, Wretched.org, Desiring God.com, and more. His articles can be seen at Slow To Write. He and his wife are members of LaRue Baptist Church.