Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"The problem of whiteness"

I already posted two articles on this, but I'll make a few comments of my own:

i) I don't know how Kirk defines whiteness. Historically, the traditional paradigms of Christian orthodoxy were laid down by Middle-Eastern Christians as well as Western Christians. 

ii) It's true that Western theologians and Bible scholars have been dominant compared to most other people-groups. That's due to the fact that in God's providence, Christianity has predominated in the West and the Middle East. Are we supposed to apologize for the pattern of divine providence?

iii) Keep in mind that Western Christians have made strenuous, often heroic efforts, to evangelize the Third World. Our efforts have been stymied by Islam and other hostile regimes. Western seminaries are open to Third-World students. And you have Third-World seminaries. The complaint is reminiscent of people who complain that Jews are overrepresented in certain fields. But no one is excluding gentiles from the same fields. 

iv) There are currently commentary series that seek out Third-World perspectives, viz. The South Asia Bible Commentary and The Africa Bible Commentary. Likewise, you have notable minority Bible scholars like Nijay Gupta, Moisés Silva, David, Pao, David Tsumura, and Seyoon Kim. 

That said, editors can't conjure up Third-World theologians and Bible scholars out of thin air. They are confined to what's currently available.

vi) Kirk indulges in cheap virtue-signaling. He's a white male NT scholar. It costs him nothing to bewail whiteness. It's not like he's stepping aside to let a minority take his place. 

vii) Kirk's radical chic embrace of LGBT ideology is the epitome of Western ethnocentric elitism. A major reason the Anglican Communion split is because African evangelicals reject the apostasy of their Anglican counterparts in the West.

You have the same divide in Roman Catholicism, pitting African traditionalists against German liberals like Cardinal Kasper. Kirk imperialistically lumps together feminists, LGBT activists, Asians, Latinos, and African-Americans (why no black Africans or East Indians?) under the rubric of marginalized minorities. But of course, many Asians, Latinos, African-Americans, and black Africans resent a white liberal commandeering them to his cause. 

viii) Kirk is shadowboxing with NT scholars like Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, Gordon Fee, Simon Gathercole, Murray J. Harris, and Sigurd Grindheim. It's mendacious to insinuate that their findings are controlled by ecclesiastical dogma. They offer painstaking exegetical arguments for their conclusion.

ix) As the Christian center of gravity shifts from West to East and South, traditional paradigms of theological orthodoxy may come in for renewed scrutiny. That's fine. Either there are good reasons to reaffirm those paradigms or not. If so, they can withstand the scrutiny. If not, they ought to be refined or replaced. 

x) It's instructive to compare Kirk's fake multiculturalism with the Christian perspective of Michael Nazir-Ali, the Pakistani-born Anglican bishop:


  1. There are a couple of related fronts of Christianity supporting the movement from West to East and South: missionary/church-planting activities and Christian scholarship.

    Scholarship necessarily follows missions and not the other way around. That is, scholarship supports missions from behind by educating missionaries. Only when an area has reached certain saturation with the Gospel can a pattern of scholarship begin to be supported in that area.

    Although the West is largely post-Christian, it still has the capacity to support orthodox Christian scholarship amid the abundance of liberal and unorthodox (un-) Christian scholarship.

    Two primary factors have hindered the movement of scholarship from the West:

    1. Underdevelopment of civic structures: economic, political, and cultural factors. I include these together because they are interrelated. It's hard to do Christian scholarship where the resources aren't available to support the work. You need an abundance of costly books to begin with. Then you need to be able to afford to have some people not in the work force to be dedicated to scholarly pursuits. You also need legal support for it. It's hard to do genuine Christian scholarship in Saudi Arabia, for example, since it won't be tolerated in their universities. Few places outside the West are able to support Christian scholarship. India and South Korea are the big two that I can think of.

    2. The pattern of Western missions fueled by a kind of superiority complex. That is to say that Western missionaries don't seem to have caught the vision for raising up their replacements from the areas they have gone to. If there is evangelism to do, "let's go do it," instead of, "let's raise up the local churches to do it." So you get short-term missions with no sense of working through the local churches to do follow-up and continue the evangelism after the teams are gone. Or you have long-termers who become the go-to people in their areas for anything ministry-related. Even in India, where they have theological colleges and seminaries, still look to Western missionaries to do what can and should be done by their own scholars and graduate-degreed ministers. This kind of mentality is actually harming local churches by making them dependent on Western ministers and funding instead of growing into mature churches capable of handing the ministry that we have been commanded to do.

  2. Couple of thoughts...

    ~ A large number of Christians in India with the exception of those in denominations having mainline connections, would resent Kirk's lumping. They would not identify with the guy's theology. Christianity is growing there. My church (back in India) grows at the rate of a new family a week. This is an indigenous church - not one set up by decaying liberal mainline missionaries from yester-century.

    Also... I think the internet will change how things work there in the future. Doctrine are the railroad tracks of the Church. You lose that, you lose the Church. The net will make resources available for free or dirt cheap. This will fuel scholarship in the future as the internet connections improve - which will happen.

    ~ Raj