Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity
· Author: Anthony J. Carter, Editor
· Publisher: Crossway Books (July, 2009)
· Category: African-American, Reformed Theology
Reviewed 05/06/09 by Bob Kellemen (Based Upon Advance Galley Proofs Submitted by Crossway Books)
Recommended: Life-changing accounts of God's providential leading in bringing African American leaders to the truths of salvation.
Glory Road author and editor, Anthony J. Carter, is an organizing member of the Council of Reforming Churches, and has previously authored On Being Black and Reformed and Experiencing the Truth. Carter has assembled a team of ten leading African American pastors and professors and asked one poignant question. "How did you come to embrace Reformed theology?"
Glory Road uses their personal accounts to trace their conversion to Christianity, their introduction to and embrace of Reformed theology, and the effect of such theology on their lives and ministries. In addition to the book's editor, Carter, Glory Road includes contributions from such notable African American Christian leaders as Reddit Andrews III, Thabiti Anyabwile, Anthony B. Bradley, Ken Jones, Michael Leach, Lance Lewis, Louis C. Love Jr., Eric C. Redmond, and Roger Skepple.
It is fitting that this book should be published in the year we remember John Calvin's five hundredth birthday. The authors are glad to consider themselves "the grateful beneficiaries of the Christ-centered, biblically-grounded theology he labored so diligently to teach and preach" (p. 12). In entitling the book as they did, their desire is that "when reading our stories, you will get a glimpse of God's glory and would be moved to come and share the road" (p. 13).
In an era when many relish bragging that their faith is "not your father's Protestantism," Carter and his co-authors return to the faith practiced not only by Calvin, Luther, and Edwards, but also by African American forebears such as Lemeul Haynes, who was often known as "the Black Puritan." Thus Glory Road is not just a "black thing," just as Reformation theology transcends ethnicity and race.
Readers may be anticipating a dull, dead, dry theology tome (which true theology never is anyway). The ten accounts in Glory Road are anything but lifeless. Each African American co-author tells his story without any sugar coating. We read of rebellion against God in their youth, of water-down, irrelevant theology in liberal churches during their upbringing, and of amazing conversion narratives. We also read the at-times conflicting battle to embrace a theology that some of their ancestors and peers found less-than-liberating.
So what led them to the rejection of other theologies and the embrace of Reformed theology? While the road was unique for each of these ten men, the path had some common markers. The most common was a lifelong pursuit of real answers for real problems. Reddit Andrews' experience is representative. "Though I regularly read the Scriptures, I was drowning in questions for which I had no answers" (p. 28). It was their fervent search for changeless truth in changing times that attracted these deep thinkers and honest seekers to the Reformed faith. Their faith commitment resulted in what Anthony Bradley describes as "applying the Scriptures to our real, day-to-day encounters with the brokenness in this world" (p. 49).
Reading Glory Road I was repeatedly struck with each writer's profound trust in and commitment to God's Word. Whether it was popular or not in their church environment, each pastor, each professor, took risk after risk to teach the sound doctrines of grace. They clearly convey that truth—absolute truth—is not the exclusive domain of any one race.
They also communicate that such truth results in life—real life. As Eric Redmond portrays it in his life: "I had learned the inherent truth of the gospel that united all of life, the cross, and the resurrection: God wants me to glorify him by enjoying him forever in every area of my life" (p. 147). "For me, Reformed theology is not about theories to be disputed in the blogosphere. It is about a theology to be lived out in the real world" (p. 154).
As a student of African American church history (see Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction, Kellemen and Edwards), my only disappointment with this otherwise powerful book is what seems to me to be an overemphasis on the "newness" of Reformed thinking among African Americans. The aforementioned Lemuel Haynes, along with Oluadah Equiano, Daniel Alexander Payne, and many other African Americans from Black Church history, professed and lived a similar faith. Linking more often to this historic legacy would, I believe, produce an even more influential argument. It would communicate that then and now Reformed theology is not just by and for "a bunch of dead white guys."
Still, these ten authors consistently echo the passion of the aging John Newton. "I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior." As Carter notes in his Afterword, all of his co-authors have at least three things in common: they are black, they are Reformed, but foremost they are Christians. Glory Road tells the riveting narrative of their heritage that transcends their ethnicity. As Carter puts it, "We understand that we have as much in common with Martin Luther as we do with Martin Luther King Jr." (p. 174). Glory Road shows the source of emancipation from the slavery of sin—Christ's gospel of grace. It shares life-changing accounts of God's providential leading in bringing African American leaders to the truths of salvation. And it encourages all who read its message to commit to the same foundation.
For a companion read, consider Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction
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