What follows is a “play by play” commentary on David Platt’s T4G talk. I watched and commented as he spoke. The only organization comes through time mark notes.
What is my summary criticism? Platt argues that racism is a major problem in America today and that God will not be pleased to receive the worship of the churches represented at T4G unless white pastors specifically repent and lead their churches to fight against racial injustice. His claim is big, the acceptability of our worship before God being on the line. And he fails to establish it. He fails to establish with evidence that 1. Systemic racism is a reality in America today. 2. Churches are culpable in that systemic racism and therefore must repent. Therefore, his sermon, which begins with a clear explanation of Amos 5, is 75% a dud, an opposite-of-edifying-or-helpful-in-any-way dud.
He starts right out the gate with a statement that there is a need for repentance for racism.
So questions right off the bat: Is racism a problem today? Where is it a problem today? Who needs to repent? And how?
He is so scared to offend his hearers. Since when did Christian pastors believe that being offended is bad for someone? If we’re actually preaching God’s very Word, we have no need for fear. If we’re not preaching God’s Word, but some other agenda, with sincerity or insincerity, our reason for fear is great, and it isn’t the offense of the hearers.
The whole tone is upside down, the opposite of John MacArthur. If a man isn’t an authority on something, he ought not stand in the pulpit. If he is an authority, having rightly divided the Word of the Living God, he should speak with courage and clarity. Get on with it and exhort.
As he’s worked through the text, at the 14-minute mark of the sermon, he has set himself up to need to accurately answer a few things. 1. Is racism a significant injustice today? 2. Is it a significant injustice today inside or outside the covenant community? 3. Do the pastors to whom he is speaking need to repent of racism, personally or in their churches? 4. Will the pastors in the room be rejected by God if those outside the church continue to fail to honor God in all things?
By the 15 minute mark, Platt has asserted that black/white racism is an ongoing injustice, at least in America. He hasn’t specified where he believes that injustice exists, inside or outside the church. And he hasn’t established that it exists.
So far, by the 16-minute mark, the fact that this sermon is being preached at T4G establishes this circle’s valuing of pathos and ethos and devaluing of logos.
Platt asserts at 16 minutes that the pastors in the room are generally guilty of the same sin of Israel in Amos 5. Which would indicate that failure to agree with him and repent with him will result in falling away, going the way of the apostate church, not persevering to the end and tasting glory.
By 16:30, it seems that one ambiguity in Platt’s thinking is the difference between sins of pastors in the past and sins of pastors today. Are too many pastors effeminate? Are too many pastors cute with sodomy? Those are distinct questions from the question of too many pastors being racist or tolerant of racism. I doubt there was a single pastor in attendance who is racist or cute with racism against “black people”. If folks want to continue to agree that Jim Crow was bad, while meeting across the street from an active, open for business abortion mill, that’s their prerogative. But I’m not sure Platt is clear on what’s going on.
At 22 minutes, all the listeners should be thinking, “And…?”
At the 23 minute mark, Platt points to “extreme forms of racism” as being convenient markers we use to distance ourselves from racism. As an alternative theory, they may just be examples of actual racism, of which nobody in the room is guilty.
By the 25 minute mark, Platt has played his hand. His argument is that, at a minimum, as long as skin color is a prominent feature of our language when talking about people, then racism is alive and well. But that is just a silly, low bar. Yes, there is only one human race. Yes, we’re just Christians, pastors, etc. But as he’s making this argument, against referring to John MacArthur as a caucasian-American pastor and Arthur Price as an African-American pastor, which is stiltedly politically correct, he refers to pastors in the room as black, white, “or otherwise”, and a whole group of people in America as white people. So, according to his definition of racism, a raging sin of injustice in America today, he is preaching a racist sermon. Can we all agree that, so far, this is silly?
I agree with him that there is only one human race in the world. I agree with him that there is no white or black in the church because of Colossians 3 (see James White’s exegesis). But so far all he has said, fundamentally, is, “Way back then, slavery! Back then, Jim Crow! Now, there are blacks and whites in the room! Amos 5 repentance!”
The sermon turns at the 25-minute mark, from racism because we say, “black and white”, to him seeking to make a case for institutional racism. And his first attempt at establishing the existence of institutional racism is in citing unemployment statistics from 1950 to now. “See, difference in unemployment! Racism!” Well, we should be intellectually mature and honest and recognize that difference is not always nefarious. “Look at the underrepresentation of whites in the NBA! Racism!” No, we don’t think that way. Racism as a cause is intellectually easy and emotionally satisfying, but not certainly true.
Income inequality is worse now than 40 years ago? Huh, what happened around that time? Are you telling me that things were better closer to Jim Crow? And worse after welfare? Interesting.
Overrepresentation of blacks in prison, cited because, apparently, race doesn’t exist in reality, just in statistical analysis, right? Well, are blacks also overrepresented in criminality? Does someone want to deny that, and deny the connection between committing a crime and going to jail? But, no, let’s just say, “Racism.”
Is it more likely for a white man to get a quality education? How about for whom is that quality education easier to obtain? If a white man has x test scores and grades, does someone want to challenge the assertion that a black man with x test scores and grades will be accepted into more schools, on the basis of his skin color, with prejudice working against the man with less melanin? You know, racism?
At 27 minutes, he says plainly that skin color affects the quality of one’s life in America, based on the things he has cited. But is that true? Is it true that a dark-skinned man will face challenges at an institutional level in America that are caused by his dark skin? Has Platt done the intellectual work necessary to establish causation?
Disparity does not mean racism. Anecdotes do not establish broader facts. Racist neighbors don’t establish racist institutions. And the behavior of Assyria is not that for which Israel was judged.
At around 29 minutes, Platt cites a common idea, that the church is one of, if not the most, segregated institutions in America today. But, again, difference does not necessarily shed light on reason. Find me a church that does not reflect its community because the members are not evangelizing certain people on the basis of skin color, or because membership is barred in practice to folks based on skin color, or because the book of James type partiality is being shown against people based on skin color, and there is a good conversation to be had. Otherwise, what’s the point? What’s the issue? Especially citing the differences in congregational demographics after citing the fact that many communities are often homogenous (no surprise there), this seems to be a flat argument.
He says that the church is a force for continuing racism, at 30 minutes. But he has not established that. In fact, he has argued that the ideal is to not consider people based on skin color, and then has built much of his talk in those terms, contra-Morgan Freeman, “Want to stop racism? Stop talking about race.”
By 31 minutes he is so bold as to say that “we will not be found to be worshiping God” if we do not repent. That is bold. We will not be found to be worshiping God if we don’t address what he has not established to be a sin rampant in our ranks?
By 35 minutes, he has called local churches to pursue true, multi-ethnic community. My thoughts on that: https://thevidette.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/diversity-woke/
With moist eyes and voice, he asks how he, with such zeal for the nations, can be so blind to such injustices in his own nation. Again, what racial injustices are we talking about? He has cited disparity, but he has not established injustice. So, still waiting on that. And, until it comes, logos will be lacking.
He cites big statistical voting differences between whites and blacks in the last presidential election. But that difference doesn’t highlight anything regarding racism. It highlights worldview differences, irreconcilable worldview differences. His prescription for how to respond to these voting differences well is to sit and the table and share life with brothers who are different and who think differently than us. He encourages us to be slow to speak and quick to listen and slow to get angry. I have heard that encouraged by many brothers. My suspicion, however, is that when they encourage this, they envision white Christians being silent, listening to, and agreeing with black brothers who believe that institutional racism is such a wicked and large-scale problem today that it is a sane thing to vote for Hillary Clinton. We can all affirm being slow to speak and quick to listen, but it seems that listening may have gotten redefined along the way as “change your mind”.
At 44 minutes, Platt encourages us to listen to podcasts, read articles/books, and cite quotes in sermons from men of a different ethnicity. He asks, “When was the last time you quoted an African-American brother in a sermon?” This is an ironic application for him to make since he began his sermon by saying that racism is still a problem in America today because we still feel the need to talk about people as African-American pastors, missionaries, etc. That is wrinkle-free irony. Furthermore, it is irrelevant. What sane pastor first tries to figure out what color Athanasius’ skin was before quoting him? Or Augustine? Who quotes Calvin because he was sickly pale? We quote him because of what he wrote, its substance being glory. This reminds me of my friend from the Caribbean. He is working on research for another friend who wants to have a good church history book republished as a new edition. What changes does he want? He wants more international sources cited. What’s the problem? All the good, deep theological writing on the topic has been written by Englishmen or men of English descent in America. There were some Jamaicans who worked on the topic, but they were faithful, illiterate brothers, and so their writing isn’t great. By the grace of God, English dudes were given great stuff to say, and others weren’t. It isn’t being a good manager of talents to pretend that the rock the Ghanaian has is fine china. It’s a rock. “Here, brother. That’s a rock. Please, use my china.”
He correctly says, at 52 minutes, that people love comfort, much more than crosses. I agree with him that consumerism in America is a problem. But the faithful response against that is not for pastors to say white people are a problem in America’s present problem of racism, mainly because America does not presently have a major racism problem (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phPXTWJhnYM).
And let me say this. Political differences are not matters of preferences. I vote against Democrats, contra the public counsel of Thabiti Anyabwile, because the DNC Platform is nakedly evil, promoting the destruction of life, family, and property in America. The DNC is the party of Satan in America today. That is not a preferential position. That is a claim regarding truth and goodness.
By 53 minutes, he has claimed that we are not preaching the totality of God’s Word unless we are preaching against racism. But, again, he has not established that the windmill is a monster. He claims that God will not be pleased with our singing as churches unless we stand against injustice in the way he and Thabiti and others are prescribing. He has not established his claim. Also, “having blindspots” is a charge often levied against men who disagree with those who claim that racial injustice is a major problem in America today. This is convenient, but cheap. “You don’t agree with me because you’re blind, as a result of your whiteness.” Maybe there is disagreement because one side has not persuasively established its position. Maybe folks have examined the facts, looked at the same things you are looking at, and have concluded that you are as wrong as Bernie Sanders’ multiple mansions.