Manosphere blogger Dalrock criticizes Matt Chandler’s vision for the Acts29 Network. Three of the values named – planting churches that plant churches, being known for holiness and humility, and earnestly proclaiming the gospel and seeking conversion – are good and godly, for which God bless Acts29. But Mr Chandler’s third hope for Acts 29 is ‘that we might boldly and unapologetically become a radically diverse crowd over the next few years’. In pursuing this agendum, especially with the commitments they have implied, I think Acts29 and the Gospel Coalition are not wise. May the Lord enlighten us.
The Church itself is meant to be diverse, for the Lord intends – and will surely accomplish! – that it encompass all nations. And indeed the biblical vision of ethnic and racial harmony is that, in Christ, there should be intercourse among the nations, that all these parts of the Church catholic should recognize that they already belong to one Body: If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? Yet God has so created man, and the Church embodying man’s redemption, that not everyone is an eye, nor everyone a foot. Though fitted together, the peoples of the earth are, like the parts of a natural human body, to be distinct but not separate.
And in particular places this natural order means that trying to become ‘a radically diverse crowd’ is often misplaced. For the diversity of the earth to work rightly, a hand or an eye, even while subservient to the needs of the whole body, has also to maintain its identity as a hand or an eye. To turn a cold shoulder to those of other nations is a sin; to bar a Black man from entering on the mere basis of his Blackness is abhorrent. But racial integration, or its appearance in the political mythology of America, has not stopped the breakup of Black communities, nor has it led Black and White American Christians to embrace their brotherhood. Rather, the end of segregation has sometimes done little more than destroy Black businesses serving their local Black communities and tear at the social fabric of Black America. Many Black Americans have called for stronger Black families and neighbourhoods, including Black churches. Locally, rather than trying to be ethnically diverse in itself, a mostly White congregation may do better to accept and even to embrace being largely White, and to affirm that God honours its cultural Whiteness, but make a real effort – such as has often not been made – to comfort and support existing historically Black churches in their work. What is most ædifying?
I used to think that a local church’s ideal form was a microcosm of the catholic Church which approached the diversity of the heavenly kingdom as a whole, but I have since changed my mind. Even in those days, I valued for the sake of the Chinese community those churches in the United States which held Lord’s Day services in Chinese and allowed Chinese parents to bring up their children in their own language and some form of their own culture. The microcosm is not in every assembly of the Church, for naturally men will meet with men, and women with women, and others with those who are in certain ways like themselves. In such homosociality there is nothing unseemly. More than in this temple or that, however, the local church is the visible expression of the Church in a place, the Church visible in every part of the commonwealth. And it is in the space of the commonwealth that the Church shows forth the gospel’s catholicity – for it is indeed a call to everyone – and the righteousness of God in every part of life. The Church, as a royal priesthood, is bound to welcome all sinners to the love of God; but the form of welcome is not the obliteration of either self or other, nor must it destroy the natural inheritance also given by God.
To have fellowship, to testify against the alienation caused by sin, humanity in the gospel must also affirm the natural gifts that God has kept for us and even developed in history by the wisdom of his providence. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. No less, the fathers who begot us and the mothers who nursed us we are not free to despise, nor to forsake; throughout all generations, our descent from Adam through Noah and our children and children’s children are witness to God’s keeping us, to his love for us and our kind beyond the womb and beyond the grave. It is in our particular inheritances that we recognize our common humanity, and in the particular saving acts of God that we see the grace of God shown to all mankind. To rejoice in the particular glories of our own line’s recognition of God’s law is to give thanks for our creation, præservation, and all the blessings of this life; only in this position can we bless him for the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace does not destroy nature.
That said, it is a sickness when Christian congregations are bound more by homophily than by the gospel of Christ. If the spirit be not of love but of unconcern, it is a sickness unto death, the spirit of silent schism. The Church gathers not as a social club but as the witness of Christ to the nations, and if it does otherwise it grieves the Holy Spirit. When affluent White Christians do ‘urban ministry’ looking for ‘diversity’, with no regard either for God’s work in Black Christians already working in the same place or for the plight of poorer Whites in Appalachia, they seek to please men and not God. Believing that theirs is the Lord’s work, they have neglected certain men for the sake of their own itch, and they have set up an image in the sanctuary of the Lord, to whose gold they have bowed at the trumpet. The Lord purge them, that tried by his Spirit they may become pure gold. For the love of the Lord is pure and perfect, and his people are merciful by his eye. Let them not be deceived who refuse to welcome those to church who are unlike themselves, and let them not be deluded who think the idol of diversity will sanctify the Church.