“Still Teaching and Exalting Christ through Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians…”

“Still Teaching and Exalting Christ through Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians…”

At Jesus Center Community Church, I’ve been teaching and preaching through the book of Ephesians since the month of January (2018). When I began this book series at the beginning of the new year, I thought it was going to take me about three months to complete it.

Four months later, we’re still in chapter 5. I plan to preach one sermon on Chapter 5: 1-21, and do three teaching lessons on vv. 22-33. There is indeed a lot to teach about on marriage roles in antiquity, stereotypes about male and female in antiquity, hierarchy, gender and submission issues, etc., as discussed in Ephesians 5:22-33. How did Paul respond to these complex issues? Hence, I will spend the next four Sundays in May in the fifth chapter of Ephesians.

In addition to the Bible, the sample texts below (see pics) continue to assist me in making sense of what Paul is doing in this beautiful book of Ephesians. If God willing, after I’m done with the series of preaching and teaching through Ephesians (hopefully, on the last Sunday of June: 6. 24.2018) I would love to write a small and practical book on Christian living and relations for the church and the people of God.

As the Holy Spirit continues to guide me and the people of God at Jesus Center through the ministry of preaching and teaching, in the first Sunday of July, we would like to begin a new series on the Sermon of the Mount, covering Matthew chapters 5-7.

Oh, how much I love the church and the people of God. I’m grateful to God for the ministry of preaching at Jesus Center Community Church.
What a privilege and honor to be entrusted with the souls of men and women, and little boys and girls!

Please continue to pray for my pastoral ministry at Jesus Center Community Church and the people of God at Jesus Center to truly live and embody the message of the Gospel in the city of Fort Pierce and its surrounding, and in all we do as God’s transformative agents to show mercy, kindness, hospitality, compassion, love, and care for the people in our city, the poor and the vulnerable.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Joseph

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“A Few Propositions on (Black) Liberation Theology and Liberal Theology”

“A Few Propositions on (Black) Liberation Theology and Liberal Theology”

This post addresses some of my Reformed & Evangelical friends who conflate (Black) Liberation Theology and Liberal Theology. (At the recent death of the Father of Black Liberation Theologian, James H. Cone, many evangelical Christians and reformed theologians correspondingly began to express their discontent towards Black Liberation Theology as if it is the worst theological system in the world.) While the former emphasizes the black experience in theological inquiry and thought, the latter rejects some of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity. (Black) Liberation Theology and Liberal Theology are two different theological systems that do not share the same methodology. They have different sources of origin, address different (theological) issues or (practical) concerns, and speak to different audiences or people. Black Liberation theology seeks to interpret the plight of Black people and the most vulnerable in our society from a theological perspective; in other words, the black liberation theologian examines the Christian Scripture carefully to discover what God has to say about the black experience (i.e. black death, black suffering, and black (cultural) alienation and (cultural) invisibility) and black life. Three fundamental questions black liberation theology attempts to answer theologically and biblically include the following:

1. What does it mean to be black (Black existence) and oppressed (Black oppression)?

2. Is God on the side of the oppressed, that is, is God in solidarity (or with) “black people” in their suffering and oppression?

3. Will the oppressed find justice or will God vindicate the oppressed and judge the oppressor?

Any theological system, whether reformed theology, black liberation theology, liberation theology, or liberal theology is always done from a particular experience and context: the cultural experience and context, and the value of the theologian and those of the people about whom the theologian writes/theologizes. (While all people’s experience or culture is equally valid before God, God does prioritize the suffering and painful experience of the poor and the lowly who calls upon him daily for deliverance.)

All theological systems and methods have both strength and weaknesses. There’s always room for improvement and more creativity. No theological system is from heaven or inspired by God. They are all human inventions or constructs. That does mean all theological systems are equally valid or purely biblical and theologically sound; some are more faithful to the biblical text and divine revelation; others are not. Some theological systems prioritize the life of the mind and undermine practical aspect of theology; other systems try to balance theology and praxis, and the life of the mind and the practical life of faith. While we must always pursue theological truths that are rooted in God’s revelation to humanity, we should not undermine the milieu and human environment in which God communicated his will, plan, and message to humanity. God’s revelation came in a contextualized form; all theologies and theological systems are contextualized forms and expressions. God always speaks in the context of the human experience and the culture of of the people who are the recipients of his gracious revelation. God is not (has not been) absent in any culture in the world. He has indeed spoken and revealed himself to all peoples and to all cultures.

Hence, Black Liberation theology is not an enemy of biblical Christianity, but an antagonist of certain theologians and theological systems that use the biblical data and the discipline of theology to dehumanize individuals and oppress people created in the Image of God and for whom Christ died. We should never interpret (Black) liberation theology as a theological category that is anti-reformed theology or anti-Christian.

Any theological system that bluntly rejects the revealed truths, what many Christian theologians have phrased the “orthodox doctrines and beliefs,” about the biblical triune God, humanity, sin, and God’s redemptive plan in Jesus Christ for the world is a rigged system. Any theological system that emphasizes academic theology while undermining practical theology and God’s passion for justice and his command to care for the poor, the oppressed, the orphan, the widow, and show compassion and hospitality toward strangers and the needy is inadequate and insufficient. The theological system that is silent on human suffering, pain, and oppression, as well as world hunger, exploitation of workers, and sex slave trafficking in the world is also a rigged system. These are “Gospel issues,” not merely “social issues”; they are equally human concerns that touch the deepest part of the divine heart and mind.

The Biblical God is a relational Being who is totally committed to the welfare and safety of his people and his creation. God is not the God of the philosophers and academics only, but also of those who cherish Him in their (theological) thinking, understanding, writing, and kind attitude towards the weak and the vulnerable. Any human phenomenon or activity that causes suffering and pain is a Gospel issue. Sin of any form or expression (i.e. cultural sins, political sins, racial sins, sins of the heart, theological sins) is worth examining through the lens of the Gospel.

Furthermore, theological thinking is a performance that is rooted in the theologian’s values, attitude, imagination, and worldview. No one does Christian Theology without assuming a worldview. Christian theology is not a set of abstractual propositions and principles the theologian articulates, promotes, and defends. Biblical theology never divorces theology and ethics, and the human experience and response to God and the cosmic phenomena; these are intermingled in the biblical notion of good religion and sound theological truth.

Being a Christian is not equivalent to be a reformed theologian or an evangelical thinker. One can be a Theologian who is black and embraces some of the tenets of (Black) Liberation Theology. Blackness does not mean divine condemnation nor does God expect the black theologian to renounce his or her race, gender, ethnicity, and experience when that individual theologizes about Who God is, his interplays with the world, and what He has done in Jesus Christ for our redemption and deliverance. Biblical and orthodox theological thinking always presupposes that the human experience is intertwined with our theological imagination and conclusion about the triune God, humanity, sin, and divine salvation. Consequently, one can be both a Black reformed theologian and black liberation theologian.

The Passing of Dr. James H. Cone (1936-2018)

The Passing of Dr. James H. Cone (1938-2018)

Dr. James H. Cone (1938-2018), Father of Black Liberation Theology, who declared that “God was Black” has left this world for another world. I published my first article on James H.Cone, Dutty Boukman, and Black Political & Liberation Theology seven years ago (2011):

“The Rhetoric of Prayer: Dutty Boukman, The Discourse of “Freedom from Below,” and the Politics of God,” Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion 2:9 (June 2011):1-33.

For many of us in the disciplines of (Black) religion, Theological and Biblical Studies, it was James Cone who framed the discourse for us by stressing Black agency and the contribution of Black and non-white scholars in these respective fields of knowledge. As he remarked, “Blackness is the image of God in Black people.” Cone also reminded us that our voice mattered to God and that we must unapologetically denounce cultural sins and oppressions, and to speak in the best interest of our people and the Christian Church—toward holiness, solidarity, human dignity and flourishing and to the glory of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Dr. James Cone has helped an entire generation to take seriously the Biblical imperative to care for the poor and God’s decisive commitment to justice and the liberation of the oppressed and the vulnerable. In his work, he emphasizes the importance of theological praxis, that is to embody the biblical faith and to live the message of the Gospel.

May the Lord comfort his family!

Race and Publishing!

“Race and Publishing”

True Story: Two months ago, I submitted a book proposal and a few sample chapters to a publisher, which I will leave unnamed; I also attached my c.v., as required.

The (Senior) acquisitions editor emailed me to acknowledge the receipt of the proposal. A week after, he followed up with me with a phone call. In the conversation, he began to articulate felicitous words towards me about my prolific writing and academic credentials.

To paraphrase him, he said to me, “As I was browsing through your numerous publications, I have noticed that you are not an “angry black man” like other “African American male writers.”

I was utterly shocked and couldn’t find the appropriate words to frame my feeling at the moment. (Those of you who know me know that I am not a confrontational person; I express myself better in writing…)

Two weeks after that “racially-insensitive conversation” occurred, I received the book contract in the mail from the publisher. I decided not to publish my work with this particular publisher and collaborate with this particular acquisitions editor.
I will not let anyone degrade me or undermine my human dignity for the sake of publishing and academic influence or reputation.

Haitian Intellectual History: Top 20 Books in Past 30 Years!

Haitian Intellectual History: Top 20 Books in Past 30 Years!

Below, I recommend what I believe to be the Top 20 Books that have been written in the English language, in the past thirty years, on Haitian Intellectual History. I list these texts by their year of publication and not necessarily by their impact on the field of Haitian Studies.

1. In the Shadow of Powers: Dantes Bellegarde in Haitian Social Thought (1985) by Patrick Bellegarde-Smith

2. From Dessalines to Duvalier: Race, Colour and National Independence in Haiti (1996) by David Nicholls

3. Haiti and the United States: National Stereotypes and the Literary Imagination (1996) by J. Michael Dash

4. Framing Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women (1997) by Myriam J. A. Chancy

5. Haiti, History, and the Gods (1998) by Joan Dayan

6. Haiti’s Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy (2002) by Robert Fatton

7. Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution (2004) by Sibylle Fischer

8. The Prophet and Power: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the International Community, and Haiti (2006) by Alex Dupuy

9. Universal Emancipation: The Haitian Revolution and the Radical Enlightenment (2008) by Nick Nesbitt

10. Red and Black in Haiti: Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change, 1934-1957 (2009)
by Matthew J. Smith

11. Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (2009) by Susan Buck-Morss

12. Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon (2011) by Kaiama L. Glover

13. The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti (2014) by Kate Ramsey

14. Spirit Possession in French, Haitian, and Vodou Thought: An Intellectual History (2014)
by Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken

15. Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865 (2015) by Marlene L. Daut

16. Vodou in Haitian Memory: The Idea and Representation of Vodou in Haitian Imagination (2016) edited by Celucien L. Joseph and Nixon S. Cleophat

17. The Vodou Ethic and the Spirit of Communism: The Practical Consciousness of the African People of Haiti (2016) by Paul Mocombe

18. Thinking in Public: Faith, Secular Humanism, and Development in Jacques Roumain (2017) by Celucien L. Joseph

19. Baron de Vastey and the Origins of Black Atlantic Humanism (2017) by Marlene L. Daut

20. Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa (2018) edited by Celucien L. Joseph, Jean Eddy Saint Paul, and Glodel Mezilas

A little clarification on Biblical Hermeneutics, Cultural Interpretation, and Same Sex Marriage

“A little clarification on Biblical Hermeneutics, Cultural Interpretation, and Same Sex Marriage”

In the past four weeks or so at “The Grove” at Jesus Center Community Center, in which we meet every Tuesday night at 7:00 pm, we’ve been exploring the Bible’s perspective on some of the most controversial topics such as transgender, gay marriage, same sex relations, etc. (Equally, we will be exploring what the Bible has to say on beauty, world hunger, hospitality, compassion, sympathy, mmigration, healthcare, teen pregnancy, abortion, adoption, environmental issues, politics, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, etc.) in contemporary American culture.

In this brief post, I would like to clarify a few issues on the relationship between “Biblical Hermeneutics, Cultural Interpretation, and Same Sex Marriage.” Below, I provide an example of cultural and biblical (textual) hermeneutics:

1. Cultural hermeneutics: The assumption that the Bible talks about same sex marriages.

2. Biblical (Textual) hermeneutics: The Bible discusses sexual relations between people of the same sex and gender.

To “discuss” an issue does not necessarily entail that the Bible allows it or permits it. The logical question we should be asking is this: how does the Bible discuss sexual relations between two individuals of the same gender? What is the nature of the Bible’s viewpoint on the subject matter?

In other words, the idea of “same sex marriage” is not a bibilical notion (Note carefully: I did not say that the Bible condemns or approves same sex marriage. I’m clarifying that the language “same sex marriage” is not a direct reference in the Bible); when we argue that the Bible talks about same sex marriages, we are actually about taking a cultural phenomenon and practice and impose it on the biblical text.

By contrast, the idea of “sexual intercourse” and “sexual relations” is a biblical teaching. Once again, the most reasonable query should be: what does the Bible say exactly about “same sex intercourse or relations” ?

***In this short post, I am not talking about what is biblically forbidden and what is biblically allowed.

“Rethinking about God theologically and biblically from the Haitian Context and Experience”

“Rethinking about God theologically and biblically from the Haitian Context and Experience”

If the good and gracious Lord grant me enough mercy and wisdom to see another day, in the next two years or so, I’m going to devote a substantial amount of time in research and writing to develop a new area (or strengthen) in Haitian Studies: Haitian Contextual Theology and Biblical Hermeneutics. I will be writing seven major articles on the subject matter.

1. The first article will explore the birth of Haitian Contextual Theology.

2. The second essay will study the sources of Haitian Contextual Theology.

3.The third article will investigate the doctrine of God in Haitian Folkloric Tradition.

4. The fourth essay will examine the concept of God in Haitian literary and intellectual tradition.

5. The fifth article will study Haitian contextual theological ethics and anthropology from the perspective of the Haitian Folkloric Tradition.

6. The sixth essay will construct creative ways and new models to do biblical exegesis from the Haitian cultural context, that is Haitian contextual biblical hermeneutics and interpretation.

7. The seventh and last essay will investigate the (use of ) Bible in the Haitian culture and experience.

Hopefully, these series of study will bring fresh ideas and new ways of thinking about the religious experience of the Haitian people and extend the contours of Haitian Studies. I also hope that my research will help to correct the seemingly shortcomings in contemporary scholarship on Haitian religion (s) that promotes a monolithic and homogeneous religious experience of the Haitian people.