It’s no secret that Christianity Today is the Washington Post of evangelical publications. Nothing exemplifies that more than its CEO Timothy Dalrymple’s call for the church to pay reparations for racism. Dalrymple’s sounding of the horn for the Social Justice Gospel helps reveal just why this false gospel that is increasingly becoming a separate religion is heretical. His column is fraught with historical, theological, and anthropological errors.
Reading as though part of the 1619 Project, Dalrymple argues that racism was in the amniotic fluid of the United States, ignoring the large push to abolish slavery once many of the state first had the chance. It also ignores how the United States removed itself from the African slave trade. The US Constitution put a death timer on slavery only to fail due to the invention of the cotton gin which made slavery an economically viable practice. Dalrymple views American history as one where groups are incapable of rising in face of adversity, ignoring the other immigrant groups that were mistreated. It ignores the fact that blacks were slave owners on more than nominal occasions and Native Americans continued the practice at higher proportions. The “Five Civilized Tribes” had a of a population that consisted of 10-18% black slaves. But everything is black versus white even though according to The Root,
In 1860, according to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 75 percent of white families in the United States owned not a single slave, while 1 percent of families owned 40 or more. Just a tenth of 1 percent of Americans owned 100 or more slaves.
This percentage would be even lower of white families today given mass immigration from Europe post Civil War.
But the focus of this article is to call to attention the heresy Timothy Dilrymple employs to call for misguided response rather than debate a history he does not know. He first equates slavery in America to original sin.
Two original sins have plagued this nation from its inception: the destruction of its native inhabitants and the institution of slavery. Both sprang from a failure to see an equal in the racial other.
Rather the original sin in American history is the same original sin in all of human history. Americans are not a unique breed of humans. If we applied this same logic to other nations, say Liberia. Or perhaps we would say corruption and tyranny are the original sins that plague Mexico? Following his logic will only produce holes in his later conclusions as we will see.
In fact, complicity is not a strong enough term. Much though it grieves us as people who love the church, it may be that the most monstrous sin of the white church in America was shaping a theology of racial superiority in order to legitimize and even encourage the institution of slavery. Slavery was not only permissible, many white Christians argued, but beneficial insofar as it brought gospel and culture to a benighted people. Even on the eve of the Civil War, preachers spurred on the secessionist cause by arguing it was part of God’s “providential trust” in the Southern states “to conserve and to perpetuate the institution of domestic slavery as it now exists.” If God had ordained the racial hierarchy, who were we to overturn it?
Dilrymple harshly criticizes how the church attempted to navigate slavery. And to a large degree he unfairly demonizes the brethren of the past. Some Christians sought outright abolition slavery. Others, acknowledged that slavery was inherited and taught Christians how to navigate it. There was also the concern of what would happen to newly freed slaves. The South lost the Civil War, largely due to starvation, as Northern agriculture yielded more edible crops than the agrarian South. The Reconstruction Era was rife with disease and starvation. Abortion is a sin and America can criminalize it without problematic repercussions. The reality of abolishing slavery is that ending this evil institution is not nearly as easy to navigate. Slaves are people. Their lives have value. Reparations for former slaves would make sense, as a means of setting up former slaves to live independently. But how would the church have been able to do this?
The second major issue is that Dilrymple calls people who preached a racist theology “Christians.” This statement affirms the salvation of those who bore tainted fruit. He goes on to say:
Many of the same ministers who defended slavery in the antebellum South likewise defended the racist systems that followed after the Civil War. Many Protestant denominations split as their Southern branches defended slavery and white supremacy before and after the war. Christian ministers and lay leaders participated in lynchings, in the Ku Klux Klan, and in the defense of segregation.
I take issue with calling Klansmen “Christian” in any capacity.
Today’s generations may say we did not invent the bull of racial injustice. But we have benefited from it.
Today’s generations benefited from the Nazis. Is this sin to fly on a plane or work for NASA? A number of vaccines benefited from abortion. Therefore, is it sinful to get vaccinated? This is the argument of certain anti-vaxxers. However, this assumption is incorrect. If an evil act leads to material benefit of those who were not partied to the act, much less alive when it was committed or affirming of it, the person materially benefiting is not committing a sin in doing so. Taking a vaccine is far removed from any abortion that contributed to it, just as being white is far removed from slavery, and I would not argue these two examples are morally equivalent as there is a far greater case to be made for calling the sin of those who vaccinate their children than white people because of an affirmative action taken with regards to a vaccine.
Two biblical narratives have been on our minds. The first (from Acts 10) concerns the apostle Peter, who believes that as a Jew he should not associate with people of other nations. Jew and Gentile, he thinks, should remain divided. Yet God shows him in a vision that he should not call unclean what God has made clean. He goes into the home of a Gentile named Cornelius, preaches the gospel, and the Holy Spirit is unleashed. This is a watershed moment in the spread of the gospel to non-Jews, when Peter recognized that what he thought was righteous was actually unrighteous.
Likewise, it’s time for white evangelicals to confess that we have not taken the sin of racism with the gravity and seriousness it deserves. The deep grief and anger over the death of George Floyd is about more than police brutality. It’s about a society and culture that allowed for the abuse and oppression of African Americans over and over and over again. We have been a part of that society and culture, and sometimes we have been the last to join the fight for racial justice. Christianity Today’s own record in this regard is mixed. Neo-evangelicals generally believed it was enough to preach the message of salvation and trust that justice would follow as a matter of course. It hasn’t. What we thought righteous was unrighteous. We repent of our sin.
Peter was confronted for resisting the Gospel to the gentiles. This is not similar, in that no evangelicals are saying blacks can’t be saved. George Floyd’s death is about the evil of individual police, not necessarily racism from what is known. Two of the charged accomplices aren’t even white. Black Americans are not oppressed. While there are instances of unjust killings, Black Lives Matter, organizationally, is a scam, a cause far removed from valuing black lives. According to the movement, only certain black lives matter, those killed by whites or police. It does not care about crime or abortion. It does not care that black Americans face a disproportionate and unacceptable amount of violence. Why? Because this would acknowledge an uncomfortable truth: black people perpetuate more evil against black people than any other race.
In 2020, it’s not the white man keeping black people in bad neighborhoods or abandoning their children. Furthermore, cities like Baltimore that are run predominantly by its majority black population are far cries from success stories as they relate to racism and quality of life.
Lastly in this excerpt, Dilrymple denies the power of the gospel over the sin of racism. As we will see below.
But repentance is not enough. The other biblical narrative that comes to mind is the story of a tax collector in Jericho. Zacchaeus was a collaborator with the occupying Roman authority, and by adding his own extortionary fees, he plundered the wealth of his neighbors and enriched himself. Jesus encountered him and shocked the crowd by going to his home. Salvation came to the house of Zacchaeus on that day. He proclaimed, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will give back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).
Zacchaeus had not personally designed the unjust system of Roman taxation. But he had not denounced it either; he had participated in it and profited from it. So Zacchaeus did not merely repent of his ways; he made restitution. He set up what we might call a “Zacchaeus fund” in order to restore what belonged to his neighbors. Are we willing to do the same? Black lives matter. They matter so much that Jesus sacrificed everything for them. Are we willing to sacrifice as well?
What Dilrymple is teaching here is that the faith did not save Zacchaeus. Restitution did. This is works based salvation and as Christians, we acknowledge that this teaching is heresy. The story of Zacchaeus is to show the power of the gospel to change lives, particularly of the worst among us. Dilrymple applies this passage to say that it was the restitution that made Zacchaeus justified instead of merely repenting. Mathematically speaking, its unlikely Zaccheaus was able to payback four times what he stole in his lifetime. But restitution is not the point of the story, repentance is. The gospel that changed Zacchaeus isn’t enough to change a racist man’s heart? By no means!
Perhaps the country is not ready to make reparations. But the history of racial injustice demands personal and corporate response. Perhaps the church can lead the way in biblical restitution. I am aware of one “Zacchaeus fund” in Atlanta, where Christians who believe that African Americans have been subjected to four centuries of injustice and plunder are beginning to do their humble part to make it right. A majority-black committee assigns the funds to support rising black leaders in the church and in the marketplace. It will not be enough, but it will be something. What if there were Zacchaeus funds in every city and believers gave sacrificially, so our brothers and sisters could be restored and so our neighbors could see once again the Christlike love that overcame the world?
Dilrymple then proposes we set up Zacchaeus funds to pay reparations to people who were never slaves. If we are not committing racism how can we repent of racism? We cannot. This is why repentance is not enough. Instead, we who have not committed racism must pay restitution for those who did? How is that biblical restitution? Only Jesus can atone for the sins of other. To boldly claim to atone or absolve the sin of past racism is bordering on blasphemy.
Furthermore what will this solve. This will not satiate the greed of evil men who need to repent, that they receive reparations funded by white churches. If you are not happy without reparations, reparations will not change the situation.
The CEO of Christianity Today shows just how heretical the teachings of the Social Justice Gospel are. The very nature of sin, salvation, and repentance are altered, to advance a political agenda stooped in Marxism. Sin is wrongly counted against people. Salvation is works based. Repentance is insufficient. Forgiveness is nonexistent. This is the Social Justice Gospel, a separate religion to be cast in the lake of fire.