Is The Masters Seminary Reading List Racist? The Responses Come In…

SBC Voices, the newly-woke blog for run-of-the-mill Southern Baptist pastors, decided to run an article last week that was a shameful, slanderous hit piece on Dr. John MacArthur. It was a re-post from Terrence Jones, a graduate of TMS. In his opinion piece, Jones levels accusations of racism at both TMS and Dr. MacArthur because – for crying out loud – the TMS reading list didn’t include Africans. Of course, it’s doubtful that important figures like St. Augustine weren’t covered by TMS, but Jones meant Sub-Saharan Africa…in other words, people who look like him. Confusing an education of history and theology with and education of social engineering and political correctness, Jones signaled victimhood on account of a reading list that lacked the kind of diversity that he considers inclusive.

I wrote:

Victimology is the mode du jour for those inserting the political philosophy of Critical Race Theory into the vein of evangelicalism. To be perceived as a victim is seen as being synonymously good. Victimhood, in and of itself, is an identity class to be coveted. When combined with an already established racial identity, like being from an “oppressed” minority group it becomes intersectionality, a weaponized tool to use against those who supposedly suppress marginalized voices. SBC Voices, the longtime standard-bearer blog for lesser-known Southern Baptist pastors, recently ran an atrocious example of victimology that clearly crossed the line of slander in regards to Dr. John MacArthur.

That article, in which I explained Jones’ malfunction, is here

Thankfully, several other responses have surfaced from those closer to TMS. I figured I would apprise you of them.

The first is from Phil Johnson at the Pyromaniacs Blog. Phil writes:

Editors Note: Phil Johnson took down his post at Pyro because – according to his Facebook – it was done “out of deference for people I love.”  I suspect somebody was trying to keep Phil above the fray of this gutter slime-slinging nonsense out of SBC Voices. Good for them. Probably. 

The second is from Fred Butler at Bible Thumping Wingnut, who also happens to be a TMS graduate. Fred writes:

The narrative Jones presents is that a racial undercurrent flows through TMS. While it is not overtly hostile to any minorities, particularly African-Americans, the stream quietly directs the attitudes of the faculty and overall student body. I personally believe he has created a dishonest perspective of the institution and the people who serve there as I will outline.

He begins by expressing his gratitude for John and TMS. He is thankful for the blessing of the school and church environment. However, in spite of that blessing, Jones insists John MacArthur, and by extension, the college and seminary, has shown little concern for minority students, especially African-Americans.

What proof does he offer demonstrating his charge of secret racism?

The curriculum offered at the seminary.

Yep, that’s right. The books and authors the students read are written by a bunch of white guys. Mostly dead  Reformed white guys.

Out of all the credit hours necessary to complete a degree at TMS, Jones explains, never once did students explore any Christians of African heritage. All he remembers hearing discussed regarding the African church was Athanasius. He conveniently skips the historical overview of Augustine, Cyprian, Cyril and Clement, both from Alexandria, Origen, and Tertillian to name a few, but I digress.

I want to focus in upon his charge that TMS is so crippled by subtle systemic racism that they are unwittingly ignoring great swaths of church history in their curriculum and thus doing a profound disservice to the students. And that is in spite of the fact my main church history text was two volumes authored by Justo L. Gonzalez.

Fred continues:

Now folks are going to respond by saying that learning from Christians of an African heritage is far different than learning from the participants in the radical Reformation. Moreover, learning specifically from African-American theologians is certainly not the same.

Okay. Sure, I’d agree, but lets face the hard truth: the white, European, Western Society Christians are truly the ones who not only preserved Christian orthodoxy for everyone, including recapturing the Bible in the original languages, they are the ones who shaped the course of Protestant Christianity throughout the world and specifically here in the United States.

I don’t mean to be dismissive of their contribution, but African-American Christians are a small portion built upon the main foundation, that just so happens to be, according to God’s providence, a white, Western European/English one. A seminary with a three to four year tract designed to train men as expositional preachers must stay focused on the foundational matters, and that regrettably edits subjects others may believe are important. There is nothing racist about that.

I once had a fellow student smugly opine to me that TMS was theologically deficient because they didn’t assign any reading from Berkouwer. Really? I thought, why? I personally wished the seminary assigned more reading from B.B. Warfield or John Gill or John Owen, but that’s just me.

I will say, though, that what the seminary provided me both with the exegetical tools, as well as the intellectual curiosity, to explore Berkouwer on my own if I so desired. I was happy to be at a school that recognized the importance of such individuals in church history. That didn’t make my school prejudiced against Dutch theologians. Likewise with African-American authors.

Now, could TMS, or any seminary, expand their student reading lists to include African-American scholars? Of course, especially if they are theologically solid. I’d even like to see an elective that deals specifically with that area of church history. Likewise, I would enjoy seeing such a course for the history of Christianity in China, Russia, or discussing the topic of Eastern Orthodoxy. It must be kept in mind, however, those topics are one section built upon the overall foundation that the Protestant Reformation laid for evangelicalism here in the United States.

There really is no such thing as white theology or even black theology. There is Christian theology shaped by the exegesis of the biblical text. The exegesis of relevant passages pertaining to the doctrine of election, or the atonement, or sanctification, or the omni attributes of God are the same for those in the African-American communities as it is for those in Anglo-American communities, or Korean communities, or even Eskimo communities. TMS strives to train men in that exegetically derived theology. May we put away such ridiculous, narrow-minded criticisms.

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