Friday, January 30, 2015

Malcolm X and MLK: Law and Gospel

Malcolm and Moses

Malcolm X

Martin and Messiah

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Reformed African American Network published on January 28 "Martin and Malcolm: Reconciliation" by Mr. Jimmy
Butts. According to the biographical note Mr. Butts is pursuing "a Masters (sic) of Divinity in Islamic Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (there really is Master's track in Islamic Studies at SBTS?) and is an "Associate at Ninth Street (Missionary) Baptist Church in Covington, KY."

Mr. Butts' thesis appears to be this: God's offer of reconciliation does not take place till sinners are made aware of the need for reconciliation through the Law. Moses and the Law must do their work before Christ and the Gospel do theirs.  Similarly there can be no racial reconciliation until whites are convinced of the need for reconciliation by the exposure of their racial sins. Malcolm X and his indictment of white America must do their work before Martin Luther King and the gospel of love do theirs.

Mr. Butts gives us his understanding of reconciliation with God:
In the Word, we see humans had direct access to their creator. God made man with the ability to enjoy fellowship with him. Sadly, man rebelled against God, which resulted in a division in that relationship. A key phrase located in Genesis 3:9, says, “The Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, where art thou?” In this context, we must recognize the question God asks is not a result of ignorance on God’s part, but a teaching strategy. God wanted Adam to notice a shift in their relationship. In essence, God was asking Adam, “Have you noticed any change in your relational standing with me?” God’s first step after the division was to show Adam his new position: an outcast. God continued this in scripture by giving the Law to Moses (2 Cor. 3:9). This constant exposure of man’s sin was used to bring man to the point of inescapable conviction (Rom.3:20). It seems before God offers the grace of reconciliation, he first convinces man of his enmity, and alienation from his creator. In the process of reconciliation, the offended first establishes the guilt of the offender before reconciliation is offered. For a person to understand the Gospel, they must understand their alienation from God. This shows the consistent biblical model displays the Law (recognition of one’s guilt) precedes the grace of reconciliation.
I’ve shown God’s grace of reconciliation is offered after the Law’s guilt one has a problem with the claim Jesus loves them, until they are confronted with Jesus’ command to repent of sin. Many want the blessings of “grace” without the hard confrontation of the “Law.” One must first talk with Moses before they meet with Jesus.
He believes this pattern for reconciliation with God must be followed for reconciliation between blacks and whites:
...according to the Gospel, there must be unity because of the reconciliation accomplished by the cross of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). Although God has accomplished this spiritually, we have an obligation to carry it out socially. (I am not sure what he intends here as the point of Paul's teaching in the Ephesians passage is that the reconciling work of Christ on the cross reconciles Jews and Gentiles.) To this end, I would like to present a dialectical model of African American thought represented by Malcolm X and Martin L. King Jr. (Thesis: Malcolm X. Antithesis: MLK, Jr. Synthesis: Reconciliation?My goal is to show the necessary process of racial reconciliation begins with a trip to speak with “Malcolm” before dining with “Martin.” If we want true reconciliation, we must follow the model God gives in scripture.
If we want to talk about reconciliation, it would be wise to follow God’s example. I’ve shown God’s grace of reconciliation is offered after the Law’s guilt exposure. For these reasons, I argue much of our attempts at racial reconciliation fail because we refuse to follow the logical order of reconciliation.
We must first experience the law work of Malcolm X:
The ministry of Malcolm X was sociologically to America what the Law of Moses is to the human heart. While Malcolm eloquently exposed the depravity of the “American soul,” Malcolm X’s direct and aggressive tone of Malcolm X shook this nation at its core. Many in white America viewed this country as the greatest; a bastion of moral superiority; the epitome of democratic excellence. Malcolm removed this false image many Americans believed and forced them to deal with the evils it had committed toward blacks. Many African Americans admired Malcolm (although some from a distance) because he so bluntly articulated the anger and frustration blacks have held inside. For the most part, even those blacks who opposed him did it because of his tactics and tone, and not necessarily the content of his indictments. Malcolm represents, as a sociological paradigm, the Law of Moses. And just as the Law was insufficient in that it only indicted, and did not save, so was Malcolm’s message.
We presume that Mr. Butts does not endorse all of Malcolm X's views, which he espoused up to his break with the Prophet Elisha Muhammad's Nation of Islam about a year before his death. These included that blacks are the original humans, that blacks are superior to whites, that whites are devils, and that the demise of whites is imminent. (Refer to the 1963 Louis Lomax interview.) But Mr. Butts is clear enough about the sorts of things about which he thinks whites need to experience conviction:
Those who follow African American culture will understand much of black thought, whether religious or sociological, emphasizes resistance to social oppression. Because of the evils of white supremacy, there has been a historical divide among African Americans and their white counterparts. 
 (Whites) would like to skip the hard facts of American history: white privilege, mass incarceration, systemic racism, racial profiling, and police brutality and go straight to reconciliation. I contend those who truly want to see reconciliation must be willing to listen to what “Malcolm” speaks.  
When we have heard Malcolm's loud thunder, then we may be ready for Dr. King's healing:
Martin L. King Jr. was a self-proclaimed radical for love. He sought to overcome injustices by graciously loving the enemy and taught fellow blacks to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who endured injustice peacefully. Martin had a more optimistic vision of America than Malcolm. He believed the country could one day rise above the moral decay of racism. Martin fought to unite the races under a banner of mutual love. He had a hope that blacks and whites could live in harmony. The paradigm Martin represents is the grace of reconciliation.
But we must not go to Martin till Malcolm has finished with us:
If one is not willing to hear the anger and pain of “Malcolm,” they are not ready for the grace and love of “Martin.” ...If we want racial reconciliation, we must be willing to stop by “Malcolm’s” place before we move in with “Martin”.
But Mr. Butts' analogy is all wrong. Malcolm X the Islamist racist is not Moses. Dr. Martin Luther King who denied the essential truths of the orthodox saving faith is not Jesus. The Law came not by Malcolm but by Moses. Grace and truth came not by Martin but by Jesus Christ.

What brings conviction, takes us to Christ, and guides our gratitude is the Law of God, the summary of which our Lord says is to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The cross reconciled us to God, and broke down the wall of partition creating a new commuity in which there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free. One must presume that, if the cross bridged the ethnic and racial divide and hostility between Jews and Gentiles and united them in the church, the cross is sufficient to reconcile blacks and whites to one another by reconciling them both to God and then to bring them together in that same church.

I won't stop by Malcolm's place, but we can meet at the cross. I won't dine with Martin, but we can share the Supper of our Lord.



Anonymous said...

Here's the concentration in Islamic Studies at SBTS (yikes):

William H Smith said...

Here is the Islamic studies concentration MDiv track at SBTS:

Islamic Studies Concentration
Islamic Studies Concentration
32985 History and Religion of Islam 3
32986 Issues in Contemporary Islam 3
32987 Islamic Thought: Belief and Practice 3
32990 Islam and the Christian Mission 3
Free Electives 6
Islamic Studies Concentration 18
BGS M.Div. Core 70
Total M.Div. Islamic Studies Requirements 88