A PUBLICATION OF THE CENTER FOR CHRISTIAN STUDY
BEYOND THE COLOR BARRIER: THE GOSPEL, RACE, & THE FUTURE OF CHRISTIANITY IN AMERICA by Fitz Green, p 3
THIS ISSUE: Beyond the Color Barrier: The Gospel, Race, and the Future of Christianity in America by Fitz Green, page 3
From My Perspective: Grace Cheng on Beyond the Color Barrier by Grace Cheng, page 5
The Old Testament and a God of Wrath by Bill Wilder, page 6
Fourth-Year Reflections, with Jaclyn Stokes and Vincent Morra, page 7
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On the cover: Dr. Anthony Bradley (left) and Dr. Soong-Chan Rah share a laugh during the questionand-answer session that followed their joint lecture entitled “Beyond the Color Barrier: The Gospel, Race, and the future of Christianity in America” on March 26, 2013 in Old Cabell Hall. (Photos by Elisa Bricker.)
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Pictured above (l - r): Dr. Soong-Chan Rah addresses the crowd; A mix of students and community members filled Old Cabell Hall; U.Va. student, Meredith Arnold, was one of many enjoying the talks by Rah and Bradley. Below: Dr. Anthony Bradley addressing the crowd of 536 at the March 26 lecture. (Photos by Elisa Bricker.)
BEYOND THE COLOR BARRIER The Gospel, Race, and the Future of Christianity in America by Fitz Green, Director of Educational Ministries In March the Center for Christian Study, together with our Grounds ministry partners, hosted 536 people in UVa’s Old Cabell Hall for an event entitled, “Beyond the Color Barrier: The Gospel, Race, and the Future of Christianity in America.” We heard from two speakers: Anthony Bradley, Associate Professor of Theology at King’s College; and SoongChan Rah, Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Seminary. Though Dr. Bradley and Dr. Rah differ in areas of expertise and ethnic backgrounds, they shared a common passion for honoring the place of culture and race in the church. Anthony Bradley focused on our creation in the “image of God.” We often look at Genesis 1:26, “Let us make humankind in our image,” and individualize it. The statement “I, Fitz Green, am made in God’s image” is partly true of course. But one person alone does not make up God’s image; it is humanity as a whole
that images God in Genesis 1. Bradley, citing Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck, put it this way, “It’s not simply that I am made in the image of God, and you are made in the image of God, but the image of God cannot be manifest by me or you alone—in fact we, as a collective humanity, bear the image and likeness of God.” This biblical understanding has profound implications for how we think about ethnicity. To begin with, it suggests that God’s image is distorted in us by the fall. We no longer “image” God in creation because we are a divided humanity, divided by race as well as by a host of other things. Christ’s work in salvation restores God’s image to a fallen, fractured humanity. Christ himself is the complete image of God (Col 1). That image is only partly restored now in us, who await Christ’s promised full restoration at his coming. As long as Christians remain separated by race, we fail to display the full image of God. This understanding of “image” also gives us encourS TUDY CE NTE R NE WSLE TTE R SP R ING 20 13 S PAG E 3
agement and hope, for as Christians we have solidarity in Christ. This solidarity does not do away with our differences. On the contrary, we are set free to love people who are not like us, on purpose, because they compose part of God’s image. We also have the opportunity to bear witness to the gospel that brings together people who otherwise wouldn’t be together. In doing so we put on display to the world what the image of God truly is, a redeemed and united humanity representing Him. Soong-Chan Rah began with numbers. At present 60% of all Christians live in Africa, Asia or Latin America. “Western” Christians are already a minority of Christians worldwide. Rah challenged us that this should wake us up to both the opportunity and necessity for theological dialogue with Christians of different cultures, from whom we can learn our blind spots. C.S. Lewis makes a similar observation when he tells us to read old books. Every culture has
“We are set free to love people who are not like us, on purpose, because they compose part of God’s image.”
its own outlook, Lewis writes, and is liable to make certain mistakes. Old books still make mistakes, but they make different ones than we would. They allow us to see where our own outlook, our own cultural assumptions, has clouded our judgment. Where Lewis sees reading old books as an antidote, Rah suggests that we find spiritual mentors among non-Western Christians. This would help us expose where Western, Modern, Enlightenment values have become so wrapped up with Christian values that we have a hard time telling them apart. I love how Rah drove home his point. He identified a theological category absent from American Christianity that he has learned from Christians in other cultures: Where, he asks, is lament in the American church? As I’ve learned to pray with the psalms, I’ve learned how thoroughly lament runs through scripture. Yet, in churches with lectionaries, psalms of praise are overwhelmingly chosen instead of psalms of lament. The same pattern exists in our praise songs. We sing lots of songs about how God is good,
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without telling stories of struggle. What this often means pastorally is that when a Christian is struggling they won’t tell anyone about it, because Christians make it seem like we have it all together and we don’t have struggles. Or we can be blind to the needs of our neighbors simply because we have not allowed ourselves to see. Lament is proper for us now, as we look around at a broken world and long for Jesus to come again. We can learn this from our brothers and sisters in other cultures. Learning from Rah and Bradley would not have been possible without the partnership of our brothers and sisters in other Grounds ministries, including InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Reformed University Fellowship, OneWay, Asian InterVarsity and SILT. We have benefitted so much from their friendship as we have served alongside them. From the outset we knew that our students would be coming from varied experiences and perspectives: some were already very deeply involved in conversations of faith and race, in relationship with students of different ethnicities and learning from each other; others had hardly thought about race before. Our hope was to give students a starting place from which they could begin discussing such a challenging topic as race with one another as fellow followers of Jesus. With a full crowd that evening, lots of students were confronted with how race bears on the gospel and asking what this means for their lives. It’s been a delight in the weeks following to hear all of the conversations taking place around the Study Center and the ways students and staff have reflected on what they heard that night. Those questions and conversations are still happening. Our hope is that all of us would move from asking those new questions to learning how to love in new ways.
Listen to the audio and watch the video of both speakers, plus a wonderful question and answer segment at www.studycenter.net/colorbarrier.
FROM MY PERSPECTIVE:
SECOND-YEAR GRACE CHENG SHARES HER THOUGHTS ON THE COLOR BARRIER LECTURE by Grace Cheng, U.Va. ‘15 I am from the beautiful country of Malaysia, filled to the brim with cultures and traditions stemming from extremely different races, religions and opinions. The recognition and respect for diversity made the atmosphere in my hometown so colorful and lively! I love Malaysia dearly and am proud of my country. Furthering my studies in America was a new and exciting voyage for me. I was eager to dive into an active Christian community, and living as an Elzinga Residential Scholar the past year in the Study Center has been a huge growing curve. Adapting as an international student here in this (almost entirely white) American community has been difficult – I frequently swung back and forth from feeling an immeasurable sense of gratefulness (for the joys of living so, so openly as a Christian with fellow sisters, intentional in embodying God’s love and grace to those around us) to feeling strong frustrations as I fought this seemingly lonely battle. Eastern culture
is so different!! Which values do I keep, and which values do I adopt? I wanted to assimilate into the American life, but didn’t want to lose my unique identity as a Chinese Malaysian. It was such a great affirmation to hear all these matters addressed by older, wiser and mature Christians at the Color Barrier talk, knowing that my frustrations and struggles were not merely due to my “personality type” or my “way of handling things,” or even worse, of my “not being Christian enough.” American Christianity does have a lot of American traditions, cultures, practices, and views embedded deep in it, often without realizing that Christianity is not exactly the same in other countries. However, there is no Christianity that is “more Christian” than another, if we truly understand the Gospel, fearlessly embodying God’s strong love and His pure, unchanging grace that transcends all races and cultures. THANK YOU, Dr. Bradley and Dr. Rah, for your wise words and encouragement! Having been comforted in my struggles, I am now eager to bring diversity to the Christian community here in the Study Center! I want to help others who are struggling as well to realize the special blessings that God has given each and every one of us.
UVA REUNIONS WEEKEND 2013 COMING TO REUNIONS WEEKEND? JOIN US AT THE Christian Fellowships Reception June 8, 4-6 pm at the Study Center
THE OLD TESTAMENT AND A GOD OF WRATH by Bill Wilder, email@example.com Executive Director
The God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath while the God of the New Testament is a God of love. Over 130 students and others from the larger community packed into the Center for Christian Study on February 19 to hear Dr. Iain Provan, Professor of Biblical Studies at Regent College, Vancouver, address this and six other misconceptions about the Old Testament. Dr. Provan saved this particular misconception for last, but in one way or another his entire lecture addressed the underlying issue: is the Old Testament mainly to be understood in contrast (and inferior) to the New Testament, apart perhaps from its prophetic witness of the coming messiah? Dr. Provan’s response was an emphatic No! In many ways his entire lecture was an extended answer to the first question he raised: “Why can’t we have a smaller Bible?” Along the way he moved from a foundational consideration of the relationship between the two testaments through a whole variety of other fallacies: that the Old Testament is opposed to the New Testament in its focus on Israel, its ethical standards, its reliance on the law or, as I have mentioned, in its revelation of a God of wrath. Dr. Provan answered these misleading assertions with intelligence and grace. (The Scottish accent didn’t hurt, either.) I hope you’ll take the time to listen to Dr. Provan’s lecture or even view a video of the event (www. studycenter.net/otmyths). His teaching was reflective of something that has long been at the heart of our mission here at the Center for Christian Study: “fostering the serious consideration in the university environment of a biblical worldview.” More recently, we have defined our overall
Pictured: Iain Provan visited the Study Center on February 19 for his lecture on reading the Old Testament. (Photos by Elisa Bricker.)
ministry goal here as seeking “to promote Christian formation,” first of all, “through the communication of Biblical truth.” Within our larger commitment to Christian formation, our most particular calling is to engage the questions and issues in our setting with the truth of Scripture. This emphasis on Biblical teaching and authority is one of the great strengths of our own evangelical (actually, neo-evangelical) heritage at the Study Center. Indeed, the roots of the Study Center were intertwined in some ways with Regent College, which provided early inspiration our own emphasis on relating Scripture to all of life. One of the founders of Regent, James Houston, also provided early help and encouragement to the Study Center. I remember Regent being invoked as a way of explaining the Center to me when I first arrived in 1999. It was a delight, then, to renew that longstanding sense of kinship to Regent College in Vancouver with a lecture underscoring the importance of the whole counsel of God—including the entire Old Testament—to our lives as Christians in a complex world. Do listen! Our prayer is that such teaching will help us all to continue growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Listen to the audio and watch the video from this lecture at www.studycenter.net/otmyths.
FOURTH-YEAR REFLECTIONS This May about 100 fourth-year students involved with the Study Center will be graduating from the University of Virginia. We love them all so dearly and wanted to take a moment to profile two students (who have both served as interns this past year) in recognition of the entire wonderful Class of 2013. Congratulations, graduates! When I think about the impact the Center for Christian Study has had on my life, I can’t even put it into words. Coming here I was nervous and overwhelmed by the forthcoming pressures of college. Not knowing what to expect, I quickly learned that the Study Center was going to be one of my havens throughout my time at U.Va. The Study Center has provided so much for me: great mentors, life-changing lectures, yummy food during exams and a place to put in hours of studying. This place, including the staff and an awesome community of friends, has been here through grief, uncertainty, joy and pain. The strategic location of the Study Center has meant the world to me. Living on Chancellor Street the last three years, I have always been able to hop in and out of this place almost daily for whatever I need to do. It became so ingrained in my routines several times to the point where I had to check myself and put restrictions on my Study Center use to make sure I’m not forgetting to invest in my friendships with roommates and sorority sisters. Located in the midst of fraternity and sorority houses, the Study Center continues to remind me that I am called to be in the world but not of it. The ministry has helped me build a foundation of truth found in Christ alone and has encouraged me to not just spend all my time in comfort. This building has modeled how to strategically place myself and build a foundation on Him and Him only wherever I am planted. This place will forever have a place in my heart and in my testimony.
I first visited the Center for Christian Study the fall of my second year, instantly falling in love with not only the mission of the Center, but the people who congregate here to work, interact, and deepen both their own and one another’s faith. The Center has provided me with extensive study spaces and resources, encouraging me in both my academic and faith journeys. Additionally, their provision of hot drinks and exam snacks has been invaluable, especially during those late study nights and exam seasons. My third and fourth years, I have been fortunate to live at the Study Center as an Elzinga Residential Scholar. This program has provided me with the opportunity to grow in both faith and community with other inspiring Christian men and women, while also allowing me to grow closer to the students and staff who regularly populate the Center. I have benefitted on many levels as a result of this incredible living setting. As I prepare to leave the University of Virginia, I am thankful for the Center for Christian Study for instilling in me the importance of finding and becoming part of a Christian community. Furthermore, I am very thankful for the students and staff that have made this place my home at U.Va. these past few years.
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