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Attentiveness: Racism and Evangelism

Dr. Scott W. Sunquist

President & Professor of Missiology


Last week I participated in a Veritas Forum gathering on intellectual humility. It was just me and about 500 others on Zoom listening to science professors from MIT and Dartmouth. I was out of my league.

The concern is simple: we do not advance knowledge if we are not humble enough to admit we need to learn more. Science advances through failures, and this should keep us humble. Humble enough to learn more. If we are sure we are right, it prevents future discoveries.

Another part of intellectual humility is to admit that physics needs philosophy and sociology, and theology needs brain science. It is really a theological commitment (from the Christian perspective). All knowledge is from God but our little minds tend to divide knowledge to grasp what we can. Integration of different academic disciplines like culture studies, chemistry and philosophy, is very difficult. It requires both a new form of academic rigor, and humility to learn from other disciplines.

And this brings me to racism and evangelism. Our public and private struggles against injustices rooted in systemic racism must not be divorced from our other areas of theology. Just as justification must not be separated from sanctification, and the incarnation must not be divorced from the crucifixion, so the specific concern that black lives matter, must not stand alone from the Christian duty as ambassadors for Christ.

Gordon-Conwell is an evangelical institution, and so we cannot divorce one particular issue of injustice (police brutality, sexism, sex trafficking, etc.) from the Christian duty to be witnesses, to be reconcilers or to be ambassadors. There is an injustice also in denying others the opportunity to receive the grace of Christ. Our witness to our neighbor is related to our love of neighbor, especially love of our neighbor who is different. Our constant struggle against prejudice shows an honest understanding of the pervasiveness of sin and the need to be ever vigilant.

Americans today have a hard time keeping disparate issues together and seeing how they connect. We are single-issue political animals. But it is a matter of intellectual humility to be able to say that we will NOT see racism as an issue separate and unique from all other issues. It is related to our general fallenness, our fear of others, and our own insecurity. Therefore, we will work to think and act by the integration of our theology of God and creation to better understand solutions that have Christian integrity.

This means that we care deeply about racial injustice because of what it says about our identity with Christ, who suffered even death to bring about reconciliation. We will stay focused on our primary mission in life, to make disciples of all nations, knowing this means we must spend all of our life humbly learning about other races and cultures. The Great Commission is a command to include others, a type of constructive anti-racism.

SWS


Scott W. Sunquist, the new President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Monday morning on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses and good ideas.