On the Friday morning before the recent Desiring God National Conference, I had the privilege of meeting together with a number of men to discuss various issues surrounding the central topic of racial reconciliation.
The most immediate reason for the meeting was my recent online interaction with Thabiti Anyabwile, coupled with the fact that I had been invited to speak at DG. I had also been scheduled to sit down with John Piper for a two hour video interaction about the busy intersection between the gospel and culture, sponsored by Bethlehem College and Seminary.
Because the ministries associated with the leadership of John Piper have long been known for their zeal in pursuing the hard work of racial harmony, it should not be surprising that there were a range of feelings about my coming to Minneapolis registered across the spectrum, from opposed, to concerned, to ambivalent, to supportive. But in some quarters there was consternation, some of it pretty intense.
In response to all this, a meeting was arranged with about a dozen of us in order to hash things out. I am very grateful to those who organized the meeting, and to those who were willing to attend it. In that attendance were black pastors and seminarians. There were also whites engaged in urban work, who were distressed at how my stance makes their work more difficult. There were some of the men involved with inviting me to Minneapolis in the first place.
We talked about a great deal, but I just wanted to mention two aspects of it now. Several other large issues involved with all this are gestating in my mind which I plan to write about in the near future.
But for now, the first thing is a reiteration of something I told Thabiti in our exchanges. When I write polemically against the pc-left, as I often do, I do it with mayhem in mind, and have no desire to take back a syllable of it. But if I find that my words have also given offense in quarters where I had and have no desire to give offense, I want to be eager to seek pardon or forgiveness, as appropriate. I hope that was clear in our meeting on Friday, and in a conviction that a second coat of good paint never hurts, I want to make it clear again now. It is no part of my purpose to create unnecessary barriers to fellowship for men like Thabiti—and I was privileged to meet with some men like him last Friday.
The second thing has to do with the value of meeting face-to-face. This is something the Scriptures clearly point us to as we engage in delicate operations like this. Paul wanted to be present with the Galatians, so he could change his tone with them (Gal. 4:20). John longed to be with his friends (2 John 12), but in the meantime a letter would have to do. The apostle Paul earnestly wanted to be present with the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:17) Good communication can occur via the written word, but for some things, talking in person is always better. It certainly was in this instance and, I think, in any other situation like it.
Written denunciations of racism can come off as perfunctory and obligatory, like a white man dutifully ticking boxes. That’s how some have heard me. But in person, if you really hate racial vain glory (as I really do), then it becomes possible to communicate more effectively.
One last thing. Stating that we had a profitable meeting should not be taken as agreement on everything, or that the need for meetings is over. I am simply saying that when we arrived together there was a lot more tension than when we left. We left in fellowship with one another, which is a God-ordained stepping stone toward like-mindedness. And I think the Spirit was pleased with that.
And a postscript: I have a few theological observations I want to make about all this in several additional posts, which you can look for coming up. In addition, some of my friends have asked me to consider some more specific aspects of all this, which I am also doing. I hope to address those things in my conclusion.