Thursday, February 16

Bloodlines by John Piper


Despite the progress that has been made regarding racial tensions in the last 150 years, we must sadly recognize that problems still exist. Even more unfortunately, there are even problems found within the church, especially where people misinterpret Biblical passages. Through a mixture of personal experiences and Biblical study, John Piper presents a vision of how the Bible offers hope of removing racial tensions and prejudices.

Bloodlines is broken into two parts: a look at the state of our world and why it needs change, and then a look at the hope the Bible offers.    In the introduction, Piper quotes extensively from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which is a powerful response to white religious leaders who criticized a peaceful demonstration led by King which resulted in King’s arrest.


“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’  But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim…when you have to concoct an answer for a five year-old so who is asking, ‘Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?’…when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next...then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.  There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”

In this book Piper does a wonderful job at presenting Biblical passages to support his view.  He doesn’t just list a verse and move on.  He dissects it.  He looks at the context.  He looks at why it may have been written in the first place, and what it means for us today.  He also addresses many current issues when it comes to race.

Chapter 5, “Personal Responsibility and Systemic Intervention” was one of my favorite chapters. He looks at two views of the problem of Racism, Bill Cosby and Michael Dyson. One says that much of the problem is an issue of personal responsibility, the other looks to structures in society. Piper examines each of these and displays the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments. His approach feels balanced and thought out. He also looks at political responses and the mess they have made with race relations.

“The gospel was meant to explode with saving power in the lives of politicians and social activists, not help them decorate their social agenda” – page 85.

One thing to note is that Piper often looks through a Calvinistic lens.  Here’s Piper’s explanation, “The theology is not valuable in itself.  It is valuable as a picture…One of the things that excites me about this picture of God – this reformed faith – is that it is a faithful summary of what the Bible really teaches.  In the end, what matters is not whether we are Reformed or not.  Label don’t matter much.”  I mention this in my review for two reasons.  If are deeply set against Reformed theology, this is likely not the book for you.  However, I did not think Piper tries to force it on his readers.  He uses it for examples and references it, but he does not expect his readers to completely everything that goes with it just by reading his book.

Some other things that Piper looks at: The issue of religious pluralism, interracial marriage, and justification.  Through it all, he presents a solid Biblical foundation that is well explained and thought through. He also includes an appendix of how his church attempts to foster racial diversity, and gives his vision for people of all race being able to come together under God.

4.5/5 stars

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