Every now and then I recommend a book not because I enjoyed it or agreed with it, but simply because it disturbed me so much that I have to tell somebody. Normally this happens when I read a book that I had great expectations for but turned out to be poorly written, and/or badly conceived. Then there are other times when I just completely disagree with the entire premise of a book. These are the times when I think to myself, “this book is so well written but soo WRONG!” I felt this way recently, when I read the first chapter and premise of Dr. Anthony Bradley’s new book Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and The Black Experience.
As one might surmise from the title, Dr. Bradley
(PhD Westminster Theological Seminary) is offering the newest critique of black theology. In the text Bradley calls the theological perspectives of Professor James Cone, Professor Cornel West, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright to task for promoting victimology, Marxism, and aberrant Christian doctrine. Not unlike critics before him, Bradley argues that black theology is dangerous because it abandons “biblical orthodox Christianity.”
In the near future, I plan to write a full review of this book for the Atlanta Liberal Christian Examiner, so I’ll spare you an in-depth analysis and just say in response to Dr. Bradley and his book, “WHATEVER SIR!”
I am rarely dismissive of any ideological viewpoint, but sometimes I’m left with no other choice but to go brain dead in disbelief. I mean, really. How many more times can scholars who categorize themselves as orthodox “bible believing” Christians write off the black theological enterprise and other progressive theological perspectives because it doesn’t measure up to their assessment of what “the bible says” and what they think Christianity encompasses.
And let me be clear, Bradley’s rejection and critique of black theology is not the issue. I am not a proponent of black theology per se and I am not bothered that Bradley isn’t either. My problem is Bradley, like Thabiti Anyabwile, refuses to acknowledge the extent to which Christianity is so culturally entangled and orientated that speaking of a pure heritage of Orthodoxy or biblical faith is nearly impossible. Moreover, certain scholars in classical and contemporary times have noted that actually there are “Christianties” not one pure brand of “Christianity.”
This is a fundamental point that is often missed in conservative theological critiques of progressive (liberal) Christian religion. And this is the fundamental flaw of Dr. Bradley’s argument against black theology. You can’t dismiss an expression of Christianity for being culturally derived and antithetical to the true practice of Christianity and not acknowledge that the true practice of Christianity (as you define it) is culturally derived as well. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so. The Editorial Reviews of the book are below, if you read it, tell me what you think.
Compassionately and Critically yours, Billy Michael Honor
"Anthony Bradley's analysis of black liberation theology is by far the best thing that I have read on the subject. Anthony's book is comprehensive and in-depth. He covers all of the bases, and thereby provides the reader with all of the information that he needs to understand the critical issues involved with black liberation theology. By covering such figures as James Cone, Cornell West, and Jeremiah Wright, we see all of the nuances involved with their approaches to the subject. His explanation of victimology, Marxism, and aberrant Christian doctrine make a noxious mix of ideas that would make any true Christian wary of anything even approaching black liberation theology. His keen insight into these ideas and his clarity of writing make this book a jewel. Anthony has done the Christian community a great service by writing this book. There was a significant need for a work of this type and its arrival is long overdue."
-Craig Vincent Mitchell, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
"I have read a number of books which purport to explain, define, or critique black liberation theology, but Liberating Black Theology is the easiest to understand. This is because Dr. Bradley unapologetically maintains a biblical, orthodox perspective while being sympathetic to the issues and concerns of black liberation theologians. The book should be required reading for any seminary class on biblical interpretation and for seminary students and pastors interested in understanding the history and struggles of the black church in America."
-Wy Plummer, African American Ministries Coordinator, Mission to North America, Presbyterian Church in America