Seminary and Scared: Why I am terrified to be at SEBTS and how you can pray for me.

I am absolutely terrified.

Tomorrow marks my first day as a seminary student at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. I am thrilled of course, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was scared. I am scared because I am about to get exactly what I asked for and it makes me very uncomfortable. Let me explain.

I have always been an introvert. Hand me a cup of coffee, a good book, and I will retreat for hours away from any living human being. This is not exactly a problem, but if not watched carefully can become one. This is especially the case for those who have a desire for gospel ministry. This is not hard to understand. Ministry is first and foremost about God’s glory, but secondly ministry is about loving, interacting, and sharing life with people. This includes getting the gospel to our unbelieving neighbors.

After graduating Boyce College I became aware that I was lacking in persistent evangelism and disciple making. So after two years I applied to Southeastern. I chose to do so because they advertise the institution as a, “Great Commission Seminary” where every classroom is a “Great Commission Classroom.” Consider the seminary’s mission statement:

“Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.”

In fact, during the first address to incoming students SEBTS President Dr. Danny Akin had the following as one of his points,

9. “Put no limitations on how and where our King might use you. Ask the Lord to give you the ability to truly pray, “Lord, why should I stay?” (Being Faithful To the High Calling of Christ)

Have mercy what have I done.

At Southeastern there is no room for academia for academia’s sake. The Bible is not an end to itself, but a means to love and know Christ. Furthermore, there is no room for those who do not want to be on mission now as they prepare for ministry. These people walk what they talk. 

The introvert in me needs this place. I need brothers to push me to share the gospel, take initiative with my neighbors, and to be open to the possibility that God could send me anywhere. 

So please pray for me. Pray that I would be disciplined in every class. Pray that I would be faithful with my time not ever neglecting to serve my wife with joy. Pray that as I grow in theological knowledge my heart will grow in doxological praise.

Finally, pray that God gives me a burden for my neighbor. That a love would grow in me that can only be expressed in sharing the gospel for the glory of God.

I am terrified and that is a very good thing.

Beyond Racial Gridlock by George Yancey: A summary and some brief thoughts.

As we move deeper into August schools everywhere are preparing for the upcoming Fall semester. As usual this means faculty members at every level are attending workshops to kickoff the new year. Here in Wake Forest the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is no different. During these workshops professors heard presentations from Dr. George Yancey, Professor of Sociology at the University of North Texas. The subject regarded Yancey’s Beyond Racial Gridlock (IVP, 2006). In this work Yancey evaluates four secular models that attempt racial reconciliation. He does so by sketching a brief history of the position, analyzing its strengths and weaknesses, and discussing how Christians have incorporated the model in their own attempts at racial reconciliation. Ultimately, he finds these models to be incomplete and offers a solution from his own Christian worldview. What  follows is a summary of Beyond Racial Gridlock. Justice cannot be done to the full weight of his arguments so readers are encouraged to check out the book. I am thankful for SEBTS and their desire to see diversity not only on the campus, but in the Church as well. 

Foundational for Yancey’s book is the idea that there are two types of racism. One view is individual racism. Yancey writes, “An individualist understanding defines racism as something overt that can be done only by one individual to another.” (pg. 20) The other; however, is structural. “According to this view, society can perpetuate racism even when individuals in the society do no intend to be racist.”(pg. 22) Of course, how one defines racism will dictate the solutions offered. Yancey points out that the first two models are based on a more individual definition and the final two are based on a structural point of view.

4 Secular Models

Colorblindness: This approach is somewhat self-explanatory considering its title. Colorblindness has has its desire to make race a nonissue in society. Yancey states it this way, “The core argument of the colorblindness model is simple: to end racism, we have to ignore racial reality.” (pg. 29) Yancey goes on to describe this position as seeking “not to take race into account” and having as their goal “to get beyond racial issues.” 

Anglo-Conformity:  This model desires to teach minorities the proper ways to succeed in life. This includes education, how to find and keep a job, etc. Yancey describes the goal of this approach as follows, “The majority must teach people of color how to succeed, while the minority is responsible for taking those lessons to heart so they can achieve economic and educational success.” (pg. 42) Fundamentally, this approach finds the problem to be socio-economic as opposed to being about race. “Anglo-conformity is a very materialistic model. At its core is the belief that the real source of racial strife is economic disparity between the racial majority and minorities.” (pg. 42)

Multiculturalism: Advocates of this approach long to preserve the cultures of all people and see them as helpful contributors to our world. Yancey equates multiculturism to cultural pluralism; however, he wants to be sure to define the terms properly. Cultural pluralism is not the same as “inegalitarian models of racial oppression (in which cultural separation was dictated to the minority by the majority).” (Pg. 53) Later Yancey states, “Multiculturalism is the practical application of cultural pluralism.” (pg. 53)

White Responsibility: This argument suggests that the problems of racism are primarily because of the “majority group.” Thus, it is the responsibilty of this majority group (whites) to end racism. First, the group must deal with the racism inside them before any progress can be made. Extreme proponents of this position even argue that minorities are completely incapable of being racist. (pg. 65) Yancey writes, “From their viewpoint, racial minorities can have prejudice, but they cannot be racist because racism requires structural power. Since only dominant group members have structural power in our society, only dominant group members practice racism.” (pg. 65)  

After discussing each model Yancey discusses why he believes these approaches fail. Consider this quote, 

“Each of the four secular models identifies one source of racial conflict and proposes solutions to deal with that source. Certainly each source is at last partially responsible for racial alienation. The strength of these models lies in their recognition of a particular cause of racial tension and in their effort to resolve it. Their weakness lies in their refusal to identify other sources of the problem. At best, these incomplete models can help us correct certain aspects of racial tension, but they will never eradicate the problem.” (pg. 79)

A Mutual Responsibility Approach 

With these incomplete models in mind Yancey establishes that the root of racism is sin. Everyone is a sinner-no one is excluded, except Christ. Communicating this with evangelical conviction Yancey writes, “Our sin nature drives majority group members to look for both overt and subtle ways to maintain the advantages of their racial status. Our sin nature motivates people of color to use their victim status to gain whatever they can.” (pg. 80) Yancey concludes that racial reconciliation is a mutual responsibility because of this universal sin nature. In chapters seven and eight Yancey discusses the sin of both European Americans and racial minorities. I would encourage readers to think about what Yancey writes; however, more reflection is needed on my part before I can discuss them here. 

After establishing that everyone is mutually responsible Yancey turns to Scripture. He mentions John 4 and discusses the woman at the well and Jesus’ call of Matthew the tax collector. Yancey then points to Jesus as the way and example of reconciliation.

The question thus becomes, what does mutual responsibility look like? It starts with each party being honest about their fears and open to discussing the needs and concerns of others. Using an illustration from his own marriage (pg. 129-131) Yancey shows that the willingness to listen to the concerns of others regarding racism is vital.  Mutual understanding can lead to a mutual responsibility of reconciliation.  Yancey then offers a starting place in regard to mutual responsibility:

Multiracial churches: “One of the best ways to to heal racial strife is to fellowship with Christians of different races.” (Pg. 144) 

Social Networks: “For racial perceptions to be influenced by interracial friendships, we must be involved in social networks that are thoroughly multiracial.” (pg. 146) Later Yancey writes, ” Diversifying our social networks is a Christian was to help heal strife in our society.” (pg. 146)

Political Activism: Here Yancey discuses the tension between Republicans and Democrats. He notes that because Christians are pro-life they generally vote for conservative candidates. Unfortunately, Republicans are less likely to support programs based on race. Yancey makes a good case that Christians should be careful about political activism, but should participate. (pg.147)

Christian Academic Institutions: “Christian colleges’ failure to promote racial reconciliation is particularly distressing because they are the source of our future Christian leaders.” (Pg. 149)

Fully aware that he cannot provide the perfect answer to racism this side of glory Yancey ends his book with a plea for Christians to contribute to a more complete solution. Ultimately, it must be the gospel that does away with racism, but this book provides helpful ways that Christians can contribute in the healing process. The weight falls not on “them” or on “us” but there is a mutual responsibility due to the nature of sin to seek reconciliation because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What more could we ask of an author than that?