John Piper, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian (Crossway, 2011), 295 pages.
“I’m glad to hear it, that’s another N*&!$* off the streets.” These were the horrific, hate filled words my neighbor spoke to me as a 13 year old boy while growing up on 5th Street in Chipley, Florida, after a young, 6 year old African American boy was accidentally, and tragically killed after being hit by a vehicle and so my introduction to racism was complete. Obviously this wasn’t the first time I had experienced racism, but it was certainly the first time I had seen its ugliness in person and had felt its sad venom up close and personal. The memory from that conversation has never left me. Spending the next decade in north Florida and lower Alabama would continue to give me a close, and uncomfortably personal view of the inherent evils of racial division. Over and over I would see new ways in which racism had not just influenced, but had in fact often driven the culture of the south and it was disheartening. Maybe most discouraging was learning of Southern Baptist churches (my particular denominational tribe) within a 30 minute drive of my home who had clauses in their constitution which preclude minorities from joining. It was the height of gospel rejection – and that it would come from people who claim to be a gospel people is not just tragic, but is in fact demonic.
In this fantastic book from John Piper, he lays out a biblical claim that racial division is not just a horrible historical fact, but is in reality an example of demonic influence and must be rejected as sin, and beyond that, racial reconciliation is a necessary gospel step for the people who call themselves the reconciled, adopted children of God.
Piper breaks the book up into two parts, each of which feature a number of sections. Truthfully, it can get a bit confusing as you read through the book and attempt to sort through which part and which section you are in, not to mention then determining what chapter you are on. On top of that, it seemed to me that it took a bit longer to get from the introduction of the book to the actual biblical/theological content that I am used to from John Piper. Now, having said that, I do not really have much else to say about the book that would be negative in the least. This is a fantastic, and much needed, book.
Starting with the introduction offered by none other than Tim Keller, and weaving its way through the rest of the book, this is a tremendous book that lends itself well to the biblical resistance of racism and its claims on the American populace, in particular. Weaving stories and responsibility from his own racism childhood, Piper strikes back against this inherent racism with a knockout combination of scripture, theology & church history. Using Piper’s own testimony and then driving home the theological perspective opposing racism from scripture, and paying particular attention to the response dictated by gospel embrace, Piper blows apart any invitation to feel comfortable with racism on behalf of those claiming to be children of God.
In part two Piper begins with the story of William Wilberforce and then takes off from there to specifically highlight the influence of the gospel on racial attitudes and racial engagement. His exegesis at this point is incredibly strong (what else would one expect from Piper?) and his treatment of God’s destruction of racial preference is so needed in the church today. Finally Piper ends with a couple of practical issues, namely prejudice and interracial marriage, and in clear terms points us to Jesus while drawing biblical conclusions, conclusions that are necessary when so many Christians attempt to make arguments that circumvent biblical teaching in an effort to support their quasi racism in a manner that is culturally acceptable (i.e.e arguments such as “interracial marriage may not be a sin, but it’s not a good idea to mix cultures/races). Piper instead shows us a gospel response that reminds us that not only is interracial marriage ok, but it is a good picture of the gospel, much like interracial adoption would also be.
In a time when public perspectives on racism have increasingly improved, but private racism is still alive and well, I am glad to commend this book to you and would encourage you to swing over to Amazon and pick this book up soon. You will be encouraged in your walk with Jesus as a result of it; and you will be challenged to fight against racial division, but your fight will be encouraged with gospel tools which are ultimately the only tools worth having that will effectively accomplish the change necessary.
Click here to purchase the book.