Reading While Black

A Wheaton professor helps us sort out a difficult social issue.

African American assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, and a priest in the Anglican Church of North America, Esau McCaulley, in his Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation As An Example in Hope, first speaks to African Americans who might be under the influence of white and black progressives, who state that Christianity is a “white” religion.

He addresses this first audience by showing that Christianity is not just a “white” religion, but a universal religion and that people of all colors are included in God’s promise to bless all nations in Abraham.

McCaulley also shows Biblically that Africans were some of the earliest converts to the faith. Progressives often argue correctly that white slave owners used selective verses of Scripture to keep their chattel in line as well as to justify their often harsh “discipline” of their slaves. But McCaulley shows that the Great Awakening had surreptitiously penetrated slave populations with its preaching, which opened up all of Scripture to them, including the story of freedom from Egypt’s slavery and Jesus’s atonement for all people. The miracle is that despite white owner’s misuse and abuse of Scripture for economic gain, a black church based on the whole of Scripture emerged and grew.

McCaulley also addresses white evangelicals who consider the black church as being naïve and theologically unsophisticated, by revealing a long history of solid expository preaching from black pulpits. He also addresses misunderstandings of white Christian’s concerning black rage, but does it from a Biblical perspective, without exonerating violence.

McCaulley’s own tense encounters as a black male with the police introduces an excellent treatment of Romans 13:1-4 in which he employs Romans 9:17 and other Scriptures to put this text within a proper context. He shows that Romans 13 does not promote our being subservient to an authority that promotes injustice. 

Esau McCaulley clearly and effectively addresses both whites and blacks about our Christian hope in careful, personal and readable expositions, in seven chapters under the three great themes of Scripture: Creation, Redemption and New Creation. This is a book that all who are Christian—black and white—should read.

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