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The Divided Mind of the Black Church

Theology, Piety, and Public Witness

Raphael G. Warnock

Publication Year: 2013

What is the true nature and mission of the church? Is its proper Christian purpose to save souls, or to transform the social order? This question is especially fraught when the church is one built by an enslaved people and formed, from its beginning, at the center of an oppressed community’s fight for personhood and freedom. Such is the central tension in the identity and mission of the black church in the United States.
For decades the black church and black theology have held each other at arm’s length. Black theology has emphasized the role of Christian faith in addressing racism and other forms of oppression, arguing that Jesus urged his disciples to seek the freedom of all peoples. Meanwhile, the black church, even when focused on social concerns, has often emphasized personal piety rather than social protest. With the rising influence of white evangelicalism, biblical fundamentalism, and the prosperity gospel, the divide has become even more pronounced.
In Piety or Protest, Raphael G. Warnock, Senior Pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,traces the historical significance of the rise and development of black theology as an important conversation partner for the black church. Calling for honest dialogue between black and womanist theologians and black pastors, this fresh theological treatment demands a new look at the church’s essential mission.
The Reverend Dr. Raphael G. Warnock serves as Senior Pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church (Atlanta, Georgia).
In the Religion, Race, and Ethnicity series

Published by: NYU Press

Cover, Series Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Writing is at root a solitary undertaking. But it is greatly aided by the support, honest input, and constructive criticisms of colleagues, family, and friends. That is why I am so very grateful for the many people who have helped to make this a stronger project and with small and sometimes random acts of kindness and grace ...

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pp. 1-12

What is the true nature and mission of the church? As a community formed in memory of Jesus Christ and informed by the gospels, what is it that makes it a faithful and authentic witness, and what exactly is it called to do? Indeed, all Christian communities must ask and try to answer that question. ...

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1. The Gospel of Liberation: Black Christian Resistance Prior to Black Theology

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pp. 13-52

The black church was born fighting for freedom. That fact is evidenced by the resistance and testimony of slaves,1 signified in the oppositional witness of pioneers of the independent black church movement,2 and confirmed by the work of scholars across disciplines.3 ...

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2. The Gospel’s Meaning and the Black Church’s Mission

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pp. 53-74

Observing, in the light of history and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s movement, the marked differences between the social agenda and overall religious orientation of white churches and black churches, Joseph Washington dared in a 1963 essay to ask, “Are American Negro Churches Christian?” ...

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3. Black Theologians on the Mission of the Black Church

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pp. 75-116

Black theology emerged as the last of four critical moments in the black church’s apprehension of a holistically salvific faith, one providing principled Christian resistance to racism. It represented a new and self-conscious form of God-talk, a sophisticated apologia for a faith formed in slavery and in defense of a black liberationist trajectory ...

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4. Black Pastors on the Mission of the Black Church

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pp. 117-152

In the complex historical narrative of black religion in America, the emergence of black theology represented a new moment — a fourth moment — in the development of an antiracist and holistically salvific appropriation of Christian faith. Drawing insight from both the strengths and limitations of the preceding three, ...

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5. Womanist Theologians on the Mission of the Black Church

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pp. 153-172

The analysis put forth thus far has consisted of an examination of black theology’s unique contribution to a long and ongoing discussion regarding the mission of the black church. As we have endeavored to build on a historical interpretation and heuristic framework, outlined in chapter 1, the preceding chapter examined varying pastoral responses ...

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pp. 173-190

The relationship between black theology and the black church — and concomitantly the state of their dialogue regarding the latter’s mission — has not improved since the issue was first raised in the mid 1970s.1 Indeed, with the rising media presence and political influence of an uncritical white evangelicalism, biblical fundamentalism, ...


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pp. 191-230


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pp. 231-250


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pp. 251-262

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About the Author

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pp. 263-278

The Reverend Dr. Raphael G. Warnock serves as Senior Pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church (Atlanta, Georgia), spiritual home of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is a native of Savannah, Georgia. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781479864102
E-ISBN-10: 1479864102
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814794463
Print-ISBN-10: 0814794467

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867741766
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Divided Mind of the Black Church

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Subject Headings

  • African American churches.
  • Black theology.
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