Wednesday, March 24, 2010

who's not here?

It's on my mind almost any time I walk into church, or a classroom or a conference like ETS.  I hadn't put it into words, though, until just a few days ago.  Ken Baker asked this question in his thought-provoking session on cultural diversity in missions at ETS.  Who's not here?

I've already mentioned the fact that ETS is dominated by white men.  Their presence is not a bad thing, but the list of who's not here is rather longAre there vibes or assumptions or invisible walls keeping others away?  There are, of course, many evangelicals who believe that Bible teaching is a role reserved for men.  That accounts for the lack of women.  But why not black men? asian men? latino men?  Is the notion of an academic society too thoroughly western?  Perhaps.

I was delighted to find in my intital seminary classes that there was no majority.  Race, gender, age, denominational background, economic class ... our classrooms were a total mix.  Learning is rich in such an environment.  (It's hard for a Reformed student to build a straw Arminian and knock it down in class when he's sitting beside one!)  I have found, however, that this does not hold true for upper level classes (Hebrew Exegesis, for example).  Things are looking white, white, white (and in some classes male, male, male).  It's not as though I wish there were fewer white men in my classes, it's just that my list of who's not here grows longer.  And why does it matter?  Because if we only listen to ourselves our theology will be lopsided, no matter how hard we try to keep our eyes fully open to Scripture.  We need each other - brothers and sisters of other races and backgrounds - to help us understand the full message of Christ for the church.

According to Rev 7:9, we will finally be able to stop asking this question around the throne of God.  Then, finally, all nations will be represented.  But on this side of eternity, why do we keep to our own kind?  Ken suspects that we carry around in our hearts the belief that people who are not like us don't have anything to offer that we needOuch.  So look around and ask yourself, who's not here?  Because what - or who - you don't know can hurt you.


  1. Thank you for this. :) This was one of the biggest things that stood out to me when Chip and I were at ETS in New Orleans (especially when I compared the conference to the city).

  2. Excellent post and the last two paragraphs really hit the nail on the head. Why are we so afraid of people who are not like us? I suspect it's because we've placed a huge stake of who we are in our philosophies and someone who is different threatens not only our philosophy but our very selves. Maybe we need to get back to looking in the right place for our identities and the last I looked, that place is the face of Jesus. We also are lazy. Once we have our doctrines all figured out, we don't expect or want to do the hard work of reconsidering our positions. We just want to go on auto-pilot and live in our so-called theological "happy place".

  3. Carmen,
    Lynne and enjoyed sharing lunch with you today at Wheaton N T Wright seminar. We are encouraged by your question "who's not there?" and your love for others and God that is calling you to s
    Learn and serve.
    Rick & Lynne Bonetti

  4. Great question, Carmen. Being in a mixed race family has probably heightened my awareness of this, but so has just growing up in California. It's odd to see gatherings of monochromatic and mono-gendered people.


    P.S. Jenny Rae Armstrong posted a guest piece I did on mixed couples and the family of God:

  5. Thanks for this, Tim!

    It's great to know there are others out there who care deeply about this issue.


  6. Hi Carmen!

    I was linked to this post from a comment you left to Tim on The Ruthless Monk (back in May, sorry so late), in response to my comment on "Where are all the evangelical women". Just wanted to say thanks for your kind words, and for your encouragement!

    You have gained a new reader/subscriber, look forward to reading more from you.

  7. Welcome, Jenn!

    I'm cooking up a new post you might appreciate. Look for it in the next week.