A Conversation on Race and Reconciliation -- By: Timothy George

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 08:2 (Summer 2004)
Article: A Conversation on Race and Reconciliation
Author: Timothy George

A Conversation on Race and Reconciliation

Timothy George

Robert Smith Jr.

Timothy George is the founding Dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and an executive editor of Christianity Today. A prolific author, he has written more than 20 books and regularly contributes to scholarly journals. Dr. George has pastored churches in Tennessee, Alabama, and Massachusetts, and previously served as professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Robert Smith Jr. is Professor of Christian Preaching at Beeson and has served for twenty-five years as pastor of New Mission Missionary Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Smith has also served as professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. George and Dr. Smith have co-edited an anthology of sermons by White and African American ministers entitled, A Mighty Long Journey: Reflections on Racial Reconciliation (Broadman and Holman, 2000).

(Editor’s Note: SBJT asked Dr. George and Dr. Smith to join us in a conversation about the theme of this issue.)

SBJT: Let’s start by getting your definitions of racial reconciliation.

Dr. George: Whenever I think of reconciliation I always think of it in terms of what Paul says about reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” Racial reconciliation is not totally separate from the primary reconciliation that we have with God through Jesus Christ. In fact, the reconciliation that Christ has won for us on the cross impels us to racial reconciliation. Not to be involved in racial reconciliation is to deny the primary reconciliation that Christ has won through his death on the cross. The Greek word for reconciliation is katallage which involves more than simply a bringing together of parties at war in a truce; it involves a transcending of the deep structural differences that divide and a bringing about of what Paul calls “a new creation.” That’s what katallage is. And we are brought together in this way only through the work of Christ on the cross. So I want to put it in those Christological terms myself.

Dr. Smith: I like the way Clarence Jordan paraphrases that verse in his Cotton Patch version of the New Testament: “God was in Christ hugging the world back to himself.” So racial reconciliation for me can never be achieved rationally, intellectually, unless there is some contact. I have to hug you, and you have to hug me. We have to be in contact with each other, a sense of eating out of the common bowl that a lot of missionaries experience in Africa and other places where they lay down their protocol and their...

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