The Woke Canon

We’ve  been working through various topics regarding social justice, BLM, and variegated race issues that are front and center in just about every area of life right now. These are issues that dominate the political discussion, but in many ways, have become a major focus of the church.

In fact, we are currently seeing a major divide take place in the church right now.

Deep lines have been drawn that seem to become deeper every week. People are leaving churches they have attended for decades. Long-standing friends are rapidly becoming enemies. Many churches are fractured, and have already split over these issues.

This is not something that is going away, or can be swept under the rug. We see this as a water-shed issue for the church. People are demanding their pastors take a position, and they should. Vague, generalized statements simply will no longer do-- and frankly, they shouldn’t.

While many desire unity (which is a good thing), only disunity seems to keep prevailing.

So, this is not a happy time for the church right now. Many see what is happening, and think it is bad, because disunity seems to be the definitive consequence of these discussions. Others see what is happening, and think it is good, because it is revealing of the true church.

Regardless of where you may land, the church is currently experiencing an increasingly tumultuous time right now.

In many ways, it is simply reflecting the division that is taking place in the broader culture of America.  I think we can all agree that that is sad, and ought not be.

One of the contributing factors on this whole issue within the church, however, is the presence of what many have started calling a “new canon.”

Now, what does that mean?

Well, “the canon” is a theological term that simply means “rule,” “measure,” or “regulation.”

In other words, it is the standard, or determinative authority for what controls the church-- how we think, how we live, how we order our lives under God’s rule to His purposes.

In terms of evangelicalism, our canon is the Bible alone. It is our only standard of legitimate authority. It is that final arbiter of truth, and only principle to which we submit ourselves.

In light of the Social Justice movement, there seems to have arisen a new canon. That is, there are many books now outside of the bible, which are regarded as “must reads.”

People are quoting them, and referencing them almost authoritatively. 

In fact, many people simply will not engage in conversation with you unless you have first read these books. They seem to have become far more than simply “must reads.”

Rather, you are essentially forbidden to speak on anything related to race (within the church) unless you have first read these. Simply, your voice has no place.

It does not matter if you have framed your statements out with Scripture, and have developed a true biblical theology of race and reconciliation. Unless you have read these books (and essentially, agree with these books), then you are not yet allowed to speak.

In other words, these books are being appealed to, as if they possess inherent authority.

And it has been interesting to watch people within the church, especially pastors, post on social media what they are reading.

The virtue signalling is transparently obvious, and all of it speaks to the rise of a new canon.

Now, of course, many are good evangelicals, and so they would never say these books are authoritative over the Bible.

But the consistent misquoting of Scripture, and the utter lack of faithful exposition of Scripture, and the constant appeal to analytical tools like CRT, intersectionality, and even experience, all bespeak of what is truly holding functional authority right now.

And all of this is being pushed forward in these books (i.e., this ‘new canon’).

Further, the fact that many are told to simply be quiet and start listening (and based upon your skin color), is also the evidence of a new canon.

In fact, when people make those kinds of statements, it proves that Scripture is functionally insufficient (in their minds) to address these issues.

Rather, you need to listen, or read certain things before you are allowed to speak.

And, if you walk away with a different conclusion, apparently, you have not yet listened.

In fact, if Scripture was truly sufficient, as the sole authority and canon, then experience has no place in determining truth.

All that matters is what the bible has definitively declared.

(And what’s sad is how many evangelicals will now squirm at that statement).

In many ways, the great division that we see within the church right now, is actually revealing the perspective that many professing Evangelicals truly have on the sole authority of Scripture as the only canon.

The sad reality is that the Bible has simply become functionally insufficient.

A new canon is beginning to hold sway.

Well, we have read many of these books with a critical eye, and pencil in hand.

And so, what we plan to do is to start giving a basic review of some of them.

We already did one on the Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby-- we’re going to do one today-- and, then, we’ll see how many more we feel like doing.

Now, many in-depth, critical reviews have come out on all these books (from every possible perspective), and so, that is not our goal.

Rather, we simply want to give you our basic thoughts as two pastors, who have had some of our own people inquire, or express interest in reading some of these books.

Woke Church - Eric Mason

We would say that of all the books we read this is the least problematic. 

It is a little book coming in at only around 160 pages. It is readable and clearly put together in a manageable way.

It is controlled by four “Be’s” making up four parts.  Be aware, Be willing to acknowledge, Be accountable, and Be active.

It comes across like a four part sermon series that was the basis of the book.  It is filled with stories, anecdotes and illustrations making the reading very easy and quick.  However, this also makes it a bit dangerous in that it can get the reader lulled into a place of comfort and they become carried along with the actual argument without engaging it and comparing it with sound theology.

He wants us, according to page 24, to be more concerned with knowing Christ and one another than those things that make for distinction between people and organizations.

In other words, he wants to have us preserve the unity of the Spirit as stated in Ephesians 4.

His definition of “woke” is on page 25:

“Pan-Africanists and Black Nationalists use the term ‘woke’ to refer to no longer being naive nor in mental slavery.  We have borrowed the term and redeemed it to be used in the context of being awakened from deadened, sinful thinking.”

He goes on in the next paragraph to enlarge on this saying, “Woke is a word commonly used by those in the black community as a term for being socially aware of issues that have systemic impact. . . . Being work has to do with seeing all of the issues and being able to connect cultural, socio-economic, philosophical, historical and ethical dots.”

It is interesting how in the first part he says it is being awakened to sinful thinking that you were unaware of. But, quickly this shifts to now it is being aware of so-called systemic  impacts of various sociological factors. It is key to realize up front that the one does not equal the other.

Add to the confusion and concern is on page 26 he enlarges even more the idea of being “woke” by favorably quoting W. E. B. Du Bois. Remembering that Du Bois was an avowed agnostic or atheist and we are unsure we would call him a great man like Mason does. Especially since his work is rooted in some seriously problematic thinking.

In chapter 2 he deals with justice and the gospel.

He states on page 41 that Christians are called to pursue a ministry of reconciliation, referencing 2 Cor. 5:18.

The way he uses this passage is common, but it is also going beyond the text.  The reconciliation that is in view is not person to person but sinner to God. But Mason, like many others, makes it a social reconciliation between people.