Despite my obvious physical differences (I’m white and a women) I heartily identified with many of the experiences described by 10 African-American Men in the book ,“Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity,” edited by Anthony J. Carter. Carter describes the 10 men in this book as Reformed preachers and theologians and, foremost, as Spirit-filled Christians.
The book’s title is descriptive since each man tells his own story of his personal journey into the brand of theology known as “Reformed.” As I read, I noticed that there were similar themes and experiences running through the stories. These repeated experiences, summarized below from the personal stories, express much of my experience too.
Something was not quite right.
- There was a hunger for a consistent, solid, theological foundation for the Christian faith.
- There were inconsistencies coming from the pulpit that created confusion, frustration, and weariness.
- There was a lack of clarity about who God was, what he was doing in the world, and how people actually change.
- Popular theology could not answer the “big” questions or reconcile things like suffering, sovereignty, and God’s goodness.
- The emphasis in preaching and teaching was man-centered, and difficult to harmonize with the Bible.
- There was a general understanding, though it may not have been specifically articulated, that salvation must be kept by the Christian (with God’s help).
I came to a sort of crisis of understanding. – Eric C. Redmond.
My understanding was growing.
- There was exposure to Christ-centered preaching that was more than moral exhortations to do better and keep trusting in the Lord.
- There was a growing understanding that God’s acceptance of the Christian was based, not just on the transfer of Christian sin to Christ, but also on the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to the Christian.
- There was a growing awareness of the importance of doctrine for undergirding world-view and life application.
- There was a growing awareness that popular evangelicalism had drifted from his historical Protestant roots and that God’s grace had been replaced with human effort plus divine assistance.
- Understanding of Biblical passages that related to salvation, the depth of human sin, God’s sovereignty, God’s power to maintain salvation began to become more cohesive and coherent.
- Resistance and argument against biblical truth began to fall away as true grace found root in hearts and minds.
- The understanding that, through God-given faith and the life Christ lived perfectly, the Christian was completely and fully justified and, therefore accepted, before God fell with great impact on hearts and minds.
- God’s glory and the Christian’s humility increased as the realization grew that God alone gets all the glory because redemption is all his great work (Rev. 5:13).
- There was a growing awareness of how biblical theology affects the way one thinks, speaks, lives and relates to God.
I learned that history itself is under the lordship of Christ – telling his story, designed to illuminate his glory. – Roger Skepple.
There were repercussions.
- The discovery that Christian fellowship was often based on tradition and culture rather than on shared core beliefs was painful.
- Friendships dissolved.
we found ourselves for the first time in our lives without a church home. This was not a happy feeling. Louis C. Love Jr.
There were good results.
- This is a greater understanding and a greater appreciation of the love of God.
- The biblical doctrines of grace inform understanding about how one comes to Christ, remains in Christ and with him in glory forever, and keeps the Christian life from becoming “oppressive, legalistic, and dead.”
- There is a greater understanding of “the mission of the kingdom of God and the role of God’s people in redemptive story.”
- The consequence is a bigger, more glorious picture of God and a more accurate assessment of man.
- True biblical doctrine practically helps and encourages people in life’s most difficult and trying circumstances.
- The doctrine of Christ is more fully expressed.
- Presentation of a coherent, organized understanding of salvation and life from a true biblical perspective is possible.
- Oppressive feelings of God’s continual displeasure dissipate.
theology matters. Everyone has a theology. This issue is whether that theology is biblical. … Is the end goal of that theology God’s glory or man’s pride, prosperity, and self-glory? -Lance Lewis.
Praying that, if you haven’t, you will experience the great joy of the deeper glory.
Carter, Anthony, J., ed., Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African Americans into Reformed Christianity, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009.