Certain divisions between individuals have always existed in the Church at large; be them economic, racial, ethnic, cultural, legal, or political. Whatever the case, throughout history, the Church has progressed in unification and reconciliation organically through long-suffering, steadfastness, discipleship, and prayer. Within each of these aforementioned categorical causes of division there has always been, and will continue to be, resistance in this world by other brethren. However, such resistance should not be met with hostility, impatience, and irrationality. These things only exacerbate divisions and sow more discord causing irreparable social damage within that generation; damage which may not be mended until the next generation, or the next one, or the one after that, or so on.

Along with their high-handed tactics, there are many within the current “woke” movement (those whom I’ve defined as enlightened racialists) of American Evangelicalism committed to a message of guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are not inherently bad, but when used by such antagonists in a manner to provoke extraneous collective repentance, it exposes their motives and discredits their arguments at the outset, thereby alienating them further from those with whom they allegedly wish to be reconciled. These calls to repentance are mere vague exhortations citing no specific event or person to even allow for repentance. It precludes any genuine repentance that should occur on an individual level. One example is the general indictment against whites for being white. Despite this, some “whites” have taken a notion to melodramatically lament and, in a sense, self-flagellate, while unaware of any specific acts they themselves have committed towards anyone else.

One can only assume this is a result of racialist gas-lighting or self-congratulatory pietism — or as Doug Wilson recently pointed out, effeminacy. Whatever the case, the motivation of this movement looks to be, by most accounts, nothing more than misplaced resentment based upon what Thomas Sowell would call, “inter-temporal abstractions” concerning white people, and the “selective localization” of their alleged evils.[1] Which is to say, they seek anachronistically impractical recourse for cherry-picked errors only to suit their conceited ends. In this, it is no surprise to see irrational argumentation and psychological manipulation; that which has done precious little to unite the Church in any meaningful way thus far, let alone society.

The Problem with Tim Keller

Perhaps one contribution for recent divisions can be found in Tim Keller’s 2012 message, “Racism and Corporate Evil.” It is here where Keller confuses temporal justice with divine justice; it is a message that boils down to this: If you’re white, then you are responsible for recognizing and rectifying all the injustices committed against black people in history simply because, at worst, you share some sort of genealogy, or at best, you share some superficial trait (e.g. skin color and ethnicity) with white people in the past who committed grave injustices against black people. This crass over-generalization not only equivocates the differentiation between those people from a direct lineage wherein those sins were committed, with those who merely share some similar trait, but have zero connection to those past sins, it also effectively condemns subsequent generations of those perpetrators to unappeasable calls for penance.

His misuse of Scripture in application attaches the identity of the individual to some proximate collective in order to draw an indictment from wrongdoers within that collective, back to the innocent individual, regardless of the individual’s true connection to that collective and the time in which they all reside respectively. He essentially makes a case for perpetual white guilt before God despite the implications of one’s individual saving faith in Christ. In this, there is a greater emphasis on “sins” against one’s neighbor than on sins against God. It is a massive misprioritization.

Keller’s Modernist Eisegesis

These Scriptural illustrations do little more than highlight Keller’s aforementioned confusion on two different sorts of justice. Granted, Keller wishes only to highlight the collective punishments in these illustrations, but this actually trivializes their full meaning. Keller uses Joshua 7, Daniel 9, and Romans 5 as his proof-texts, but there is one major problem. The offended parties and executor of justice in all three examples (cf. Josh. 7:10-15, Dan. 9:24-27, & Rom. 5:12-21) is God by direct and divine decree for specific sins. Moreover, there are direct implications on each specific group of people in each situation wherein all parties involved have a direct connection to the injustices in that place — Achan to his family; Daniel to his people, the Jews; and Adam to his descendants, all of mankind who share in his guilt against God. Keller emphasizes the magnitude of each injustice and their respective implications, but yet still fails to make a direct comparison from each Scriptural illustration to those contemporary situations he mentions in his message.

Achan’s family is directly punished for his sin, and not for injustices committed against other people, but against God. However, Keller turns this into a message about how people are products of their raising.

Then there is Daniel who repents for the sins of his people that were committed against God in times past. Pay close attention to this. Daniel was not repenting of any injustices that his ancestors may have committed against other people. Here again, Keller makes Daniel’s situation about interpersonal guilt for civil injustices.

One would think that such a discussion would warrant an exposition of Ezekiel 18, but Keller failed to even mention this explicitly exonerative passage. As food for thought, I encourage the reader to read and study the implications of this passage. Consider a key verse (Ez. 18:20),

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

Collective Redemption Be Damned

I mention Keller because he is a representative of current aberrant views on justice. Keller, among many others, condemns all whites on the basis of a past collective error, but remains unmoved by any perceivable collective correction of these errors (e.g. the abolition of the slave trade in the UK; and the abolition of slavery in the United States of America by subsequent generations).

In Keller’s message, and at the recent MLK50 conference hosted by The Gospel Coalition, there was nary a mention of white slavery abolitionists, white civil rights activists, or white political theorists in general who espoused freedom and justice for all (including people of non-European descent) — virtues wholly consistent with the Christian worldview and Scripture. Granted, it was a conference in honor of a man whom the attendees and speakers saw as a great civil rights leader, and so the focus was on him, and his juxtaposition with persisting systemic racism. So, by all accounts, it looked to be a conference in praise of Martin Luther King Jr., while bashing whites, and even other blacks — who refuse to adhere to their racialist ideals concerning divine justice. Never mind MLK’s heretical theology, his marital infidelity, and rank Statism (forced integration). If Keller were honest he’d apply the same exact hermeneutic in redeeming whites that he uses in condemning them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t fit the prevailing vision of enlightened racialists, and so consistency is abandoned.

Concluding Thoughts

The problem with Keller’s message, and that of enlightened racialists, is one of convenient ambiguity and sophistry. Racialists attempt to indict an entire race of people while fallaciously assuming a collective white experience which allows them to make a collective call to repentance specifically for white people (and of course, black “traitors”), but with no specific or reasonable recourse — except maybe reparations.

I cannot question Keller’s motives, or the motives of other racialists, but I can speak to the utter uselessness of Keller’s message — save one part when he speaks to the sanctimony of those “crusaders against systemic racism.” He does well to emphasize the changes that should take place upon salvation, and in how they should play out when interacting with others on these matters; a humble attitude and a repudiation of anger. Unfortunately, this part seems to have fallen on deaf ears, including his own, it seems.

Perhaps what is most disconcerting is the fact that Keller’s message of corporate evil, now touted by Enlightened Racialists everywhere, could potentially be construed as a call for more state intervention in civil matters. After all, compulsory integration was an outcome of MLK’s legacy; an act no less egregious than compulsory segregation by the hands of the State (e.g. Jim Crow). Does this mean affirmative action in the Church at large? Does this mean pastors will be forced to step down so to accommodate equalitarianism? We should pray not. We should pray this time of trouble will pass and that these self-anointed individuals will repent from sowing undue discord.

[1] Thomas Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002, 1999), 156; Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals (San Francisco, Calif.: Encounter Books, 2005), 269.