Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian Hardcover – September 8, 2011
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“John Piper has given us an exquisite work on the matter of race. He addresses the issue with biblical and theological soundness coupled with personal sensitivity and practical advice. This is a must read for those who wish to pursue unity God’s way.”
―Tony Evans, Cofounder and Senior Pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship
“Americans have been turning to organizations, education, famous personalities, and ultimately government in an effort to address the on-going racial strife in our nation. In 2008 many hoped that the election of an African-American president would finally bridge this ongoing racial divide. Today, we are left wondering why racial tensions have not abated. John Piper argues from specific biblical texts that the only solution powerful enough to overcome racial strife and bring about racial reconciliation and harmony is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is this gospel that announces that, through his blood, Jesus has demolished the dividing wall that separates humanity along racial lines and has brought all ethnicities together as brothers and sisters into one body―the church. Yet Piper does not end there. He carefully shepherds us through the various implications of gospel thinking in relation to race and ethnicity. In this sense, the book you hold in your hands is so much more than a book about race and ethnicity. Bloodlines is a prime example of how we Christians are to do the hard work of renewing our minds by replacing old ways of thinking with gospel ways of thinking. Read this book and let it serve as a model of how to prepare your mind for action and think soberly about God, your sin, Christ, the gospel, and one another for the sake of your soul, Christ’s church, and God’s glory.”
―Juan R. Sanchez, Senior Pastor, High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas
“For years, I have yearned for a biblically sound, theologically anchored resource on race. God has answered that prayer. Leaping off the pages of Bloodlines is the power of the gospel to overcome and defeat racism and a call to cross-centered, holy justice in our attitudes and actions toward those who are not like us. This is an important, foundational work and I am sure it will be used of God to remind all of us of the power and precious, priceless dignity of the gospel.”
―Crawford W. Loritts Jr., Senior Pastor, Fellowship Bible Church, Roswell, Georgia; author, Unshaken; Host, Living a Legacy
“Piper bequeaths an outstanding―and at times, risky―work on race and ethnicity, thoroughly soaked in the biblical Christian Hedonism worldview. I found that Piper’s personal testimony from the 1960s until now and his exploration of critical thinking of African American writers past and present demonstrate the complexity of dealing honestly with the topic for the evangelical who seeks to honor the Savior. He is right: on race, ‘we have fallen together.’ The only question that remains is whether or not individual members of the evangelical church in America will take deeply to heart this sincere analysis of the cross of Christ and race and then become a steadfast holy force for undoing the problems of racism in North America and the world.”
―Eric C. Redmond, Associate Professor of Bible, Moody Bible Institute; Pastor of Preaching and Teaching, Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Illinois
About the Author
John Piper is founder and lead teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for thirty-three years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than fifty books, including Desiring God; Don’t Waste Your Life; and Reading the Bible Supernaturally.
Timothy J. Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. He is the best-selling author of The Prodigal God and The Reason for God.
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John Piper is transparent about why he wrote this book. He is open about his own racism as a kid growing up in the 50s and 60s in South Carolina. He says, <i> “I am not writing this book as a successful multiethnic leader. I am not successful. I am not an expert in diversity. If you came looking for the pragmatic silver bullet for the multiethnic congregation, I may as well bid you farewell. I don’t have it. I write because of truth I see in the Scriptures, convictions I have in my mind, and longings I feel in my heart.” </i> Part passion for the cross and diverse, biblical unity, part bearing witness to the freedom he experienced from racism, and part responsibility to shepherd God’s church, Piper lays out in his book the ways the gospel is essential to racial reconciliation and seeing the church look more like the diverse church reflected in Scripture.
Piper is careful to cite influencers on both sides of the issue and helpfully defines the buzzwords that mean different things for different people.
I will admit, upon reading this book I was still naïvely looking for a pat answer to the problem or a step-by-step process to racial reconciliation that would fix the world’s problems and obviously I didn’t get it. But I did not come away from Bloodlines disappointed. Where Emerson’s book condemned and criticized Christians for evangelism, minimizing it as a “just make friends with people from other races” solution, Piper reminds us that the gospel is not an ideology to be brought in and <i> “make its contribution” </i> -- it is a <i> “supernatural power.” </i>
He says, <i> “The gospel was meant to explode with saving power in the lives of politicians and social activists, not help them decorate their social agenda. Jesus did not come into the world to endorse anybody’s platform… The impact of the gospel in race relations is unpredictable. It has potentials that no one can conceive. And, to our shame, there have been many contradictions between what the gospel is and what professing Christians have done… But the answer to those inconsistencies is not to domesticate the gospel into another ideological mule to help pull the wagon of social progress.” </i>
Exploding with power! I love that! Piper articulated what I came away from Emerson’s book needing. Emerson downplays what is at the core of Christianity, not hiding his bias. But the gospel is not an idea. It’s the supernatural power of the Creator God who is not bound by human thinking or social structures- good or bad. Who can say what the power of the gospel can do in this world? It’s not naïve and it’s nothing to be flippant about. And that’s the hope of Piper’s book. We may not know how to begin structuring a society to remove racialization, though that doesn’t mean we stop trying, but that’s not our ultimate end game. As Christians, our endgame is eternity with our Savior. His power changes lives and if we do nothing else but introduce people to that power, is that not enough?
Piper describes nine destructive forces at the root of racial strife—Satan, guilt, hopelessness, feelings of inferiority and self-doubt, greed, hate, fear, and apathy—and then details how the gospel overcomes every single one of them. Really Satan lurks behind all the other forces, but Piper says,<i> “What hope does a message of personal responsibility or structural intervention have against [the Devil’s] supernatural power? None… The Devil is stronger than all humans, all armies, all politics, and all human morality put together. We have no charge against him except by one means, the power of Jesus Christ operating through us because he dwells within us.” </i> He asks us to imagine a world where people resist the devil, are free from guilt, dead to pride, fervent and humbled before God, filled with hope, courage, and a desire to serve others, and resting in God’s promise to make all things right. How can racism survive that?
This book won’t let us sit back and blame—on either side of the issue—but is meant to challenge us to pursue racial reconciliation and diversity in our lives and our churches every day, not giving up when it’s hard and overwhelming, or when we are misunderstood, but to constantly strive for it because God’s elect is the poster-child for diversity.
<i> “We were not made to make much of blackness. We were not made to make much of whiteness. We were not made to make much of self or humanity in general. We were made to make much of God. And when God pursues this, he pursues what is best for us—what will satisfy us forever. And therefore God’s self-exaltation is the essence of his love. He loves us not ultimately by making much of us but by freeing us from the bondage of self to enjoy making much of him forever.” </i>
I still don’t know how racial reconciliation fits into every aspect of my life (i.e. politics, social justice, my mostly white church), and I don’t necessarily feel confident about my ability to bring about change, but I am no longer directionless and hopeless because it’s not about me and my ability—it’s about the truth and the ultimate power of God and His gospel. And if that’s not a good enough solution, then I don’t know what is.
But recently I'd say I've grown a bit comfortable. That is until I began reading Piper's book. As Piper began to share his own story of growing up and discovering that he was a racist, I realized I am a black female in a white man's world. Let me explain. My bosses are white, my pastors are white and yes, my husband is white. I had grown comfortable with the differences and it never occurred to me that one of them might in fact have once been racist. Does it matter? Yes and No. No: If they have placed their hope and trust in the blood of Jesus and have repented of their pride and hatred, then they are forgiven. By all means, if God who is Holy and just and right to pour out His wrath on us yet poured it out on His Son, forgave them, surely I can. Yes: It matters because we are still sinners and as Piper argues in his book there could be a silent, tendency towards superiority that is not biblical and is indeed sinful.
Bloodlines is broken up into two sections: Our World, The Need for the Gospel and section two, God's Word: The Power of The Gospel. Within the sections are 14 chapters of personal stories, research, and Scripture. The book is just as much a historical reference as it is a guide to understanding racism from a biblical perspective, and for this I am grateful.
Piper does an exceptional job sharing the general history of black and white relationships in the United States. In Chapter 4 he explains why Bloodlines' focus is on black and white relations and doesn't veer into all ethnic groups.
"...African Americans are the only people group in our land who suffered centuries of race-based slavery at the hands of white masters. Adding the weight of that experience is the fact that during most of the time this slavery was accompanied by, and often justified by, the public conceptions of black inferiority," (location 725, Kindle edition).
I believe in order for anyone to appreciate the black experience one must learn the history. Piper doesn't stop there. He explores current struggles and arguments both sociological and political. Including references to Bill Cosby and Michael Dyson.
Piper continues by sharing the good news that the gospel is for every tribe and tongue. He also gives hope to the racist, black and white, sharing the power of the gospel to break the power of pride.
"Racial tensions are rife with pride- the pride of white supremacy, the pride of black power, the pride of intellectual analysis, the pride of anti-intellectual scorn...Where pride holds sway, there is no hope for the kind of listening and patience and understanding and openness to correction that relationships require...The gospel of Jesus breaks the power of pride by revealing the magnitude of the ugliness and the deadliness of it, even as it provides deliverance from it," (Location 1273, Kindle edition).
For the remainder of the book Piper applies the gospel to relationship between blacks and whites including an argument for why interracial marriage is a "positive in our day" (Chapter 15). At the end of the book, Piper shares notes and appendixes and several references.
Every Pastor should read this book
If you are a pastor and you are interested in caring for your flock, you'll read this book. That seems like a strong statement but if you read the book, you will quickly see the statistical changes occurring in churches worldwide. More importantly, if you have a black congregant and you are a white pastor, Bloodlines will give you a perspective into the world that your members live daily. Please don't assume that racism is dead, it's not. I know this from personal experience but all one must do is turn on the television.
Piper's humility in confessing his own racism and need for the gospel is refreshing and such an encouragement. As a black female, living in the south, married to a white man, and member of a predominately white church I can hardly recommend this book enough. Read it and then go speak with your black members to see what they are experiencing in your congregation. You might be surprised.