"One New Man" review- Bryan Loritts

One’s passion can easily become their deity.  Such is the struggle among my tribe who long for the day when the multi-ethnic church becomes normal.  The temptation to become louder on the implications of the gospel, than the gospel itself is all too real.  When we talk more about ethnicity than the cross of Jesus Christ we exchange our role as preachers for that of sociologist’s.  The effects of the gospel must never serve as a substitute for the gospel itself.

In an age of globalization books abound on multi-ethnicity, for which I am grateful.  These books line the shelves of my library, and I have drunk deeply from their wells.  Yet inwardly I have thirsted for a resource that will carefully connect the horizontal dimensions of the gospel, and all of its glorious ethnic ramifications, with the vertical beam of the cross.  At long last my thirst has been satisfied, as Dr. Jarvis J. Williams has provided us with such a volume, One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology.

Dr. Williams, a New Testament professor at Southern Seminary, has provided a scholarly work on racial reconciliation that exegetes both the problems and solution, while offering practical help in how we can experience not just diversity but true racial reconciliation.  It is my hope that every believer will carefully consider his work.

Thoroughly biblical and carefully researched, Dr. Williams labors meticulously to explain the problem of race by first connecting our historical segregation with the fall.  Sin’s most devastating effect was to segregate humanity from their maker, and one another.  When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden the first thing they did was to hide from God, thus impeding their fellowship with him.  They also took fig leaves to isolate themselves from each other. Previously naked and intensely vulnerable with one other, sin now distorted their intimacy.  Thus began the great paradox of humanity: Our greatest desire is to know and be fully known, and yet our natural proclivity is to find our own “fig leaves” to hide from vulnerable, authentic community, what the New Testament describes as fellowship.  

Our hiddenness has taken many historical forms, one of which being voluntary and institutionalized segregation.  None must look further than the city plans of Johannesburg, South Africa during that ugly age of apartheid to see our isolation from others who have been made in the Imago Dei.  The so called “red-lining” that strangled most American communities for the better part of the 20th century (and even today in a much more volitional form) was a mere illustration of Adam and Eve’s isolation.  Today, the homogeneity that marks most of the American church finds its roots in the garden of Eden when humanity partook of the forbidden fruit.  Segregation and racism are but expressions of the fall, a point that Dr. Williams makes abundantly clear in the first part of his book.

The glorious solution to man’s impulse to isolate from one another is found in the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who abolished the dividing wall of hostility.  What the cross offers, Dr. Williams carefully explains, is not racial diversity, but reconciliation through the forming of one new man.  That ethnic diversity and reconciliation are not the same is a point that the author is careful to explain in numerous passages.  For example:

“Nevertheless, I also strongly disagree that ethnic diversity is the same as racial reconciliation.  The former does not guarantee the latter, and the presence of racial diversity in a particular sociological, ecclesiological, or educational context does not mean that racial reconciliation exists” (page 6).  

“Ethnic diversity is not racial reconciliation…ethnic diversity and racial reconciliation are not the same.  Racial reconciliation leads to more than a multi-ethnic church, a diverse work environment, or a multiracial community.  A particular church or community could theoretically be ethnically diverse, but racial reconciliation could be absent from both entities if love is absent” (pages 133-134).  

And that love is rooted in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  

Dr. Williams goes onto say that the love that ethnically different followers of Jesus Christ share with one another is to excede the love that they have for people of their own ethnicity, even blood, who have not been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  It is to be the church, as Dr. Williams argues, which is to be the place in which racial reconciliation is displayed in the context of a fallen world ripped a part by sin and it’s tributary of racism.  

The thorough nature of Dr. William’s treatise can be seen by some to be over explained.  He goes into great detail in his argument to the extent that for the reader looking for a simplicity, or for more direct application threaded throughout will leave frustrated.  One New Man does not thoroughly investigate or answer all of the questions or issues surrounding the topic of racial reconciliation (which is not the author’s aim), but it does provide an essential contribution to the subject, anchoring issues of multi-ethnicity in the cross of Jesus Christ, the only hope for sinful man.  For anyone interested in the field of racial reconciliation, this is a seminal work that should be but one of many in your personal library.  For this I’m grateful.

You can purchase a copy of "One New Man" at: Amazon: "One New Man"

Be sure to register for Kainos 2015, held in Memphis, TN April 22-23. Registration

Posted by Cormac Parker at 4:33 PM
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The purpose of the Kainos 2015 is to gather leaders who either seek to start multi-ethnic ministries or churches, or who aspire to transition their current homogenous ministries into a multi-ethnic trajectory.

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