Tag: Reconciliation

More Than Mere Ecumenicism: #FortheUnityoftheChurch

Party-Spirit is something explicitly rejected in Scripture, yet it is something the Church in America has openly embraced. A New Reformation may be one of restoration, the question is will we join the Holy Spirit or fight against Him?

Jonathan David Faulkner

Authors Note: There is a bibliography attached to this article for your further reading. I pray you will prayerfully consider both sides of this issue and deeply consult scripture concerning these matters.

One of the places I would most like to visit in life is the Gravestone of Dr. Philip Schaff which reads: “He worked for the Unity of the Church.” The great church historian’s legacy is one we should aspire too, he was able to work across lines that were even more fervently drawn in the sand, and which would become more-so as the nineteenth century would draw to a close with the rise of reconstructionism and its particularly schismatic brand of fundamentalism that claimed to be: “the only true church.” Schaff understood what the Reformers after Luther did not, that the church is meant to be defined by its historical definition, that is as “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.” That no matter how many lines we drew in the proverbial sand, this is how scripture instructs us it should be and tells us a violation of through party spirit is tantamount to Antichrist. Schaff provides the Anti-Thesis to Hodge’s idea that schism is necessary to “Preserve the Gospel” pointing out that Hodge assumes it is a work of man that the gospel is preserved and not through the work of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Hodge’s inability to see the church as an organic body made one by the Holy Spirit and defined by its Love for one another (John 14:21) gave Schaff pause and it should give us pause as well. Schaff was right to say of the American Church that we were a Church without History, working so hard to preserve salvation by grace through faith that we neglected everything after thus reducing Christianity to mere conversionism where we bring people to the cross, but never into discipleship. If Billy Graham said in the 70’s that Christianity in America is “A mile wide and an inch deep” how much worse are we today?

Brothers and Sisters, I love the Church, not the brick and mortar buildings that we call the Church, but the flesh and blood, Spirit indwelled people that is the biblical church. I know the argument is: “Well that’s how it should be, but this is how it is and we cannot make it how it should be.” But if this is how it should be then why are we not falling on our knees, asking God for the unity of the Spirit that Jesus prayed we would have in John 17. The scriptural view of the Church is possible by the Holy Spirit and yes, if we are living out what scripture says the Church should be, it won’t make sense but to the outside world but Jesus promised us it wouldn’t and our refusal to even try, our demands that we keep up the dividing wall of hostility between one another that Christ worked to tear down. Our capitulation to Party-Spirit as some follow Presbyterianism, some follow Congregationalism, some follow Lutheranism, should absolutely break our hearts that in doing this we are doing exactly what Paul warned us against in 1 Corinthians 1:12 and 3:4. I love the church so much that our current reality has made me weep, as a pastor and as a member of the Body. We have taken the very thing Paul warned us against and, ignoring the questions: “Is Christ Divided?” We have cut him into twelve pieces and shipped him to the four corners of the globe. Oh God, please forgive us.

But before I get accused of being a romantic or emotional or even an ecumenic I want to make clear what I am saying here. Schism and Sect and Segregation do not preserve the Gospel, they divide up Christ. Going out and finding a church that meets our preferences and refusing to fellowship with churches that do not, divide Christ, Spreading rumors about the pastors of other churches or hoping that the other churches in town die so you can absorb them is sin and divides Christ. We have become so arrogant that we stand over the church and dictate to it how it should serve our preferences and theological viewpoints instead of relying on the living word of God which we claim is our ultimate authority.

These things even find their way into how we translate the Creed. For instance, in a hymnal your Creed may read: “I Believe in the Holy Spirit, The Holy Catholic Church, The Communion of Saints…” or that second line might read: “I Believe in the Holy Church” or “Holy Christian Church” I even saw one hymnal that said: “Holy Presbyterian Church.” The translation “Holy Christian Church” comes out of reconstructionism and fundamentalism that arose in the 1890’s, from a group claiming they were the “Only true expression of the Church and all others were apostate.” This is the height of party spirit; this is the people in 1 Corinthians 1:10 who said: “I Follow Christ.” The super-spiritual who looked down in mocking jeers at their peers who follow “Paul” or “Apollos.” We see the word “catholic” which in the Creed simply means “universal” or “part of the whole” and think it means “Roman Catholic” instead of digging deeper we just let our prejudice run wild. We then go a step further and try to make our denomination the only true denomination, rebuilding the walls of hostility that Christ worked so hard to tear down (Eph 2). This is sinful and denies both the power of scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit to the point of both quenching and grieving Him. Oh God, please forgive us.

I am not talking about mere ecumenism here; I do not just want denominations to work together across denominational isles. I am talking knocking down the walls of denominationalism altogether in favor of the biblical and historic definition of the Church. I want us to stop acting like our expression of the Church is how it is meant to be and return to a biblical model of the Church. I want the church to be what God intended the Church to be, a universal, set apart, family united by the Holy Spirit that bears witness in our words and actions to Christ and follows His teachings. That would make us the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church that we read about in scripture. Denominations are not even the problem, it is the human sinfulness, the hardness of our hearts towards the things of God and our neglect of those things in favor of what we want, not even what we find in scripture, but what our individualism says we deserve. Brothers and sisters, this is sin, this denies scripture, breaks fellowship, grieves the Holy Spirit and divides Christ.

What is interesting is that God is starting to heal these divisions. All over the united states now there are churches that are combining. Black Churches with White, Older churches with younger, Rich churches and poor. God is starting, by His spirit, to erase these lines sometimes even against our will. We seem to be at the beginning of a new era of reformation one not marked with unintended schism but with God-driven restoration. There is even a Church near me here that is made up of multiple Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches.

I have said before and I will say it again. Sect, Schism and Segregations are the unbiblical luxuries of the Church in Power, we are no longer in power, we are even starting to see persecution. Instead of grasping at the last vestiges of the “glory days” of Christendom, instead of denying this work of God of restoration. We should actively embrace it, work to see it through by the Holy Spirit and return to what the Church is biblically meant to be. We do not have the luxury of our consumeristic mindsets in the Church anymore and that reality is only going to keep growing and the church gets pushed more and more to the margins.

And this is a good thing, it may surprise you to know that the places in America where the Church is growing the fastest are places where the Church has already been pushed to the margins. Places like New England where the Pew Research Center recently found that the church in New England is actually “Thriving” when they expected to find it on death’s door. God is doing a work, but it is not the work we have been taught to expect Him to do with our late stage revivalism, unless you read scripture. God is calling His people back to himself, away from all their “isms” and back to one another. The Church in the Majority world has already experienced this and knows that a united church is better than a divided one.

Brothers and Sisters, I plead with you, do not divide Christ or let Him be divided. Our mission is meant to be carried out as one, not several splinters trying to do the same, or not doing what God has called us too, but trying to make sure our own preferences are met and our seat at the table of influence bought and paid for. John Williamson Nevin writes that: “The Church is One and universal (catholic). Unity is essential to her existence.” We no longer have the luxury in America, just as our brothers and sisters in the Majority World have never had the luxury of dividing. Secular Society is looking at us and our bible and asking us if we truly believe what is in there and telling us that if we truly believe then we should practice it. The Doctrine of the Organic Unity of the Church is an essential doctrine of Scripture. It pervades the entire text; it is one of the central themes of three of Paul’s Epistles. It is what Jesus prays for in John 17 and what the Holy Spirit living community of Acts demonstrates for us.

As I said earlier, I love the Church, but not the brick and mortar buildings that are the gathering place of the church, but the people, indwelled by the Holy Spirit who make up the Church who are the Body of Christ. If the government came in and locked all our church doors today and told us we could not gather, that would not be an end to the church, we would just have to follow the example set forth by many of our Asian brothers and sisters who have had to meet in secret.

The ironic thing is this may be the only way to preserve the Church in Rural America, by choosing to live out Gospel unity in a manner that gives up willingly our denominational lines drawn in the sand. This seems to be the path the Spirit is already leading us on as we see it happening more and more in towns and cities across the nation. The question is, are we going to fight against the Holy Spirit or join Him in the work of restoring His people, teaching us again that we are to be “Members, one of another” (Rom 12:5).

So let’s reject party spirit and do that which God has made clear in His word that we are to: “be eager to maintain a Spirit of Unity and the Bond of Peace” (Eph 4:3). So that we can carry the message of the Gospel to the ends of the Earth “Making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:20).



Charles Hodge, A.A Hodge . 2001. Discussions in Church Polity . Scarsdale : Westminster Publishing House .

Debie, Linden J. 2008. Speculative Theology and Common-Sense Religion: Mercersburg and the Conservative Roots of American Religion. Eugene : Pickwick Publications .

Evans, Tony. 2011. Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom and how we are stronger together. Chicago , IL: Moody Press .

Ford, John T. 1988. “Ecumenical Studies .” In A Century of Church History: The Legacy of Philip Schaff, by Henry Bowdenn, 245-293. Carbondale: Soutern Illinois University Press .

George Marsden. 2006. Fundamentalism and American Culture, . London: Oxford University Press .

Hodge, Charles. 2017. “Response to the Principle of Protestanitsm (1845) .” In The Mercersburg Theology Study Series VIII The Devolopment of the Churh: The Principle of Protastantism and the Historical Writings of Philip Schaff , by Lee C. Barnett, David W. Layman, David R. Bains, Theodore Louis Trost W. Bradford Littlejohn, 209-224. Eugene : Pickwick Publications .

John Williamson Nevin, Sman Hendrix Jr. Charles E. Hanbrick-Stowe, David W. Laymen. 2017. One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic, Tome One: John Nevin’s Writings on Ecclesiology (1844-1849) . Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

Miller, Samuel. 2016 . A Treatse on Mercersburg Theology or Mercersburg and Modern Theology Compared (1866). Philadelphia : CrossReach.

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Antichrist: Or the Spirit of Sect and Schism (1848) .” In The Mercersburg Theology Series Vol Vi: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome One: The Ecclesiological Writings of John Williamson Nevin (1844-1850) , by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 160-245. Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Catholic Unity.” In The Mercersburg Theology Study Series Vol VI: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome One: The Ecclesiological Writings of John Williamson Nevin, (1844-1850), by John Williamson Nevin, David W. Laymen, 112=133. Eugene : Pfpf & Stock .

Philip Schaff, . 1964. “The Principle of Protestantism .” In The Lancaster Theology Series on the Mercersburg Theology V: VI , by J.W. Nevin, Ed Bard Thompson Philip Schaff, 48-219. Philidelphia : United Church Press.

Saneh, Lamin. 1995. “Global Christianity and the Re-Education of the West. .” The Christian Century 112.22 715-718.

Strange, Alan D. 2017. Ecclesiology of Charles Hodge. Phillipsburg : P&R Publishing .


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

A Broken Fellowship: This Is Not Reconciliation

The Gospel demands that we be made new, but if we cannot admit our wrongs and ask for forgiveness how can we expect to be transformed or even be reconciled to God or one another?

Jonathan Faulkner


I woke up Wednesday Morning of last week to the same images you did. Brandt Jean hugging Amber Guyger, his words “I forgive you” hanging in the air. The full transcript of his words touching the human heart and bring tears to the eyes. USAToday headlined it as a “touching moment” and compared it to when members of Emmanuel AME forgave Dylan Roof who walked into a bible study in the historic Charleston Black Church and killed 9 people at a bible study. “It was so powerful” one Facebook friend wrote. “God’s forgiveness is so powerful, wow” wrote another. Below was the link to the video or the video itself. It really was a touching moment, but as soon as I saw the video something instantly sparked in me and another Facebook post I read later in the morning helped me put a finger on it.

First, I want to say I do not think that Brandt’s forgiveness was disingenuous, I think it was likely the real thing born out of actual Christian love and faith. It was also an extremely brave move during what I am sure is deep pain in the Jean family from the life that has been taken from them. My point here is not to question Brandt’s sincerity, but to point out a flaw in the western or distinctly American view of forgiveness and reconciliation. Especially since some act like acts of forgiveness like this are akin to reconciliation. It is as if we go: “He forgave her, now we can all move on and rest in peace.” The problem is, forgiveness and reconciliation require an admission of guilt by the party who caused the hurt in the first place, that is, forgiveness that leads to reconciliation and restoration. One can forgive in their heart, and indeed should, but just because the injured party has forgiven, if the injuring party is unwilling to acknowledge the action or actions that led to the injury then restoration and reconciliation have not happened, indeed, if the person who committed the injury or crime or injustice is unwilling to change their way but expects the person to simply forgive them and bring them back into full relationship, the stage is just set for that harmful behavior to continue in a pattern.

In fact, this idea that the injured party needs to just forgive and move on as if nothing happened does nothing but infantilize the injured party. As one of my mentors said recently: “It is basically how we tell little kids to forgive one another, but adults should be willing to listen and change their behavior when someone comes to them and says: “That behavior has hurt me.” Adults should be able to reach restoration and reconciliation because they are supposed to be the mature ones who can handle their issues like adults. To use the phraseology of psychologists: adults should be able to: “Do their own work.”

Whether we like it or not, this is precisely what the message WASP communities have been telling Black communities since the beginning of chattel slavery. One can find records of slaves being told by white preachers they need to; “forgive their masters the moment they whip them.” During Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement Blacks were told to just “Get over the injustices and forgive white people.” There was no effort on behalf of WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) communities to even encourage them to do the work within themselves to seek forgiveness for Slavery, Jim Crow, Bussing, Red-Lining and many other injustices committed against ethnic minorities in this country by white dominated power structures. Yet the message those victims has been plainly: “Forgive and move on” as if victims of those injustices were children on the elementary playground who were told they couldn’t join the pickup football game. This has been the modus operandum for the last 400 years, in fact it would be hard for one to say: “Well I did not own slaves, so I shouldn’t be expected to seek forgiveness” because the notion of infantilizing Black and other minority communities is part of the American Zeitgeist and has been for 400 years. It goes beyond infantilization to dehumanization as this site has documented in the past. Yet the average person thinks these problems are a “part of our past” and when you say something along those lines you shut down conversation and the one who has been hurt goes again unheard, the pattern continues.

Or, to make ourselves feel better, we try to state events in the positive. We say: “Look how much that whites have done to amend our wrongs towards you, affirmative action, equal housing and employment laws, so on and so forth.” As if our benevolence somehow makes up for all the injustice that is still practiced in certain areas even though it is against the law. These are mere band aids when we think the small gains made last sixty years make up for the previous 340 (hint, they do not) and when they are used as excuses for why we should not be held accountable for modern forms of injustice or historical ones.

Which brings me back to Brandt Jean and Amber Guyger and their exchange yesterday afternoon. Brandt’s forgiveness, though likely sincere, does not release Amber Guyger from guilt or excuse her from doing her own work. In fact, to my knowledge there has never been one admission of guilt of Guyger who enacted the Castle Defense, insisting throughout the entire trial she thought she was in her own apartment. There are records on racist texts, one even including an admission that she is in fact, racist herself. Amber Guyger has not, to anyone’s knowledge, done her own work, nor has Dylan Roof who admitted gleefully to what he did and who stood there stone faced as members of Emmanuel stood to say they forgive him. Roof is getting the sentence he deserves, Guyger is getting off easy.

The fact is, Amber Guyger was off duty, walked into the wrong apartment where her neighbor was easting Ice Cream and shot him because she did not take the time to check her situation and her emotions and killed an innocent man. One cannot even argue on the job stress, and yet it is not her who has to repent of her actions, the court is holding her barely accountable, but Brandt that has to forgive? Welcome back to the schoolyard, forgive the bully, but do not expect the bully to change. Are we adults?

I am not saying Brandt should not forgive Amber, or that I should not forgive those who have wronged me. Scripture commands that I do, but there is never going to be restoration and reconciliation until the people who have done the hurting, in this case WASP communities going back 400 years, are willing to do our own work and ask for forgiveness. That is where we reach biblical reconciliation and full biblical forgiveness.

Mathew 5:23-24 tell us: “Therefore if you bring your offering to the alter and remember your brother has something against you leave your offering there and first go and be reconciled to your brother and then go and make your offering.” The point is this, if you hate your brother or sister and realize he has something against you for that hatred or if you have mistreated your brother or sister and fellowship has been broken because of that mistreatment, then you need to go and do your own work internally and seek to have your relationship restored lest you offer your sacrifice still committing murder by the hatred in your heart.

The reality is there are a lot of people in WASP communities that come to offer praises to God on Sunday while they are still unreconciled to their brother or sister. And I do not mean just their Black or other minority brothers and sisters but also many of their own white brothers and sisters. Its endemic in our own community too as we infantilize one another, insisting that we do not have to change, treating the crucifixion of Christ as nothing more than a get out of jail free card rather than atonement for sins that makes it possible for us through the power of the Holy Spirit to no longer sin habitually.

Our hands are extremely bloody, both across ethnic lines and within our own communities. And please do not comment with “whataboutism” and trite folk religious sayings that are actually contrary to scripture. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the goal and all of us (in WASP communities) are guilty of embracing a sinful and rampant individualism that says: “I do not have to change, you should forgive me for my sin anyway.” That is not how this is supposed to work.

So, to my fellow WASP brothers and sisters, let’s stop this and take the time to do our own work. To then go humbly to our brothers and sisters both in our own culture and those of other cultures whom we have infantilized and harmed and abused and enslaved and killed off and so on and so forth and humbly ask for forgiveness. Lest we one day stand before the judge unreconciled and are thrown into prison.

What I would love to see in this case is Amber Guyger come to faith, because there is no evidence she is a believer, confess her sin of murder, both the murder of Botham Jean and the sin of her hatred at the root of her racism and be reconciled to everyone in the Black community. I would like to see the same thing among those who call themselves Christians who literally have no excuse not to do their own work and seek forgiveness where it is needed.

What might it look like? I have told this story before, but I repeat it here because it is necessary. By the way, it has taken me years to do my own work and reach a point where what racism I did pick up as a kid was anathema to me and I could repent of it and ask my Black brothers and sisters for forgiveness for it. So I praised God when on a flight here to Iowa from Boston I sat next to an older Black woman from Framingham who upon hearing my last name said: “Faulkner, there is a lot of baggage with that name isn’t’ there.” She was referring to the southern Faulkner family, wealthy plantation owners in Mississippi and North Carolina who fought on the side of the Confederacy during the civil war. They were also among those who stood on the doorsteps of southern churches to make sure freedom riders could not enter their all-white churches during the Civil Rights Movement (you can read this history in Carolyn Renee Dupont’s book “Mississippi Praying” where several Faulkner’s are mentioned by name). Though not my immediate family they southern Faulkner’s are related to the northern Faulkner’s as cousins who came over from Ireland before the four brothers I descend from. They are still family members though and some of those same racist attitudes are still present in current descendants of the northern family. Because I have done my own work on this issue I was able to admit that this was a sin my family had committed against Blacks, slave holding, fighting to uphold slavery, fighting the civil rights movement and those who still hold racist viewpoints in the modern era. This woman was aware of that history and in that moment I could have arrogantly defended the actions of my family or myself by saying I am not them, but instead I owned their actions that though I did not commit, the name I bear still recalls in their minds and apologized, asking for forgiveness. My hope is that she and I left that plain ride reconciled, though we will likely never meet again. Not so I do not have to stand before the judge unreconciled (for my own gain) but for the mutual gain of our Christian Faith and the glory of the God whom we serve.

That is the reconciliation we want, so let’s do our own work and get there…together.


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

Why Didn’t the Awakenings Bring About an End to Slavery?

Jonathan David Faulkner


It seems like a harmless enough question, although I should know by now that there is no such thing when discussing reconciliation and American History. When Pastor Bryan Lorritts asked it I felt myself rouse for a fight. After all, I am a historian of that time period and though I have spent the better part of Seminary studying 19th Century Eucharistic Reformed theology (Mercersburg) I have read everything we have in print by Jonathan Edwards and wrote a major paper on the debate between Edwards and Charles Chauncy over the First Great Awakening and traced out how that particular controversy began a series of controversies, divisions and fights that culminated in the Fundamentalist / Modernist controversy of the early 20th century. I am currently preparing to write my thesis on the controversy between Mercersburg and Princeton, the sectarians and the Revivalist in the 1840’s. So, when Pastor Bryan asked the question: “Were the Great Awakenings real revivals because they did not bring about an end to slavery?” I was more than ready to answer yes and bring the full authority of my historical knowledge with me, but then I thought about it and though my answer is still yes, it is a yes with a caveat.

Before I go on I have to establish some historical guidelines before talking about this subject. There is a tendency in the modern study of history to commit the fallacy of Present ism; present ism is reading our own cultural attitudes and actions back into history while making no effort to understand how the people of that time period thought or acted. The famous musical Hamilton would be a case of present ism, though because it is a creative art and not a major history paper I have no problem with their presentation. The other thing I want to do is acknowledge my bias, In school I learned a white-washed history of this time period, as I did in college and for years I brought that bias to my study of historical figures. The result was a one-sided view of historical figures, it was not until I read George Marsden’s book on Jonathan Edwards that I knew he owned slaves. So this question and seeking to answer it requires me to do what I claimed to do when I first presented my theory of method for studying Church History, examining every angle of a topic to answer the question.

Because the fact remains, Jonathan Edwards owned slaves, by every account he treated them well: “As part of the family”[1] as one historian puts it, but that does not and will never justify owning another human being, that is indefensible. Inconsistently though, had his family and the powers that were in the Massachusetts colony had listened to Edwards when he insisted on treating the Indians with respect and dignity we likely would have avoided the escalation of fighting in the French and Indian War. His contemporary and fellow Awakening Preaching George Whitefield also had a troubled history with slavery. He had preached and written an anti-slavery pamphlet in Virginia but was told that no one would come to hear him preach if he published it. Shortly after that he worked to convince the governor of Georgia to adopt slavery so he could build his orphanage, a task that he was successful at.

Anyone who is familiar with the story of the Hymn Amazing Grace knows that John Henry Newman was a slave trader who later repented and was the wise council behind the young parliamentarian William Wilberforce who fought for and succeeded at passing the abolition of the English slave trade. In the states the revivalist Charles G. Finney fought for abolition twenty years before the Civil War though he speaks in the same bigoted language of many of his 19th century contemporaries (the only place I have not found it is in the Mercersburg Theologians, one of whom was a German who had theological issues with slavery, the same kind we wish others would have formed).


The Awakenings were incredible things, especially if you read Edwards accounts of them or the accounts of the revivals led by Finney or the later tent revivals led by D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. In all three Awakenings men and women and children came to faith in droves, and those in first would sit for upwards of 3 hours to learn what they were getting themselves into. But even after slavery was abolished, during the Civil Rights years and the Graham Crusades left the late Billy Graham lamenting that he wished he had done more to advance the cause of Civil Rights.

The church during the Awakenings and Civil War grew divided on this issue, especially as the Abolitionists grew stronger and won the abolition of slavery in the North. As Lincoln moved forward to prevent the spread of Slavery into new territory succession began and the divide between the churches grew. On January 4th, 1861 Henry Ward Beecher stood in his pulpit in Plymouth New York and called Slavery: “The most alarming and most fertile cause of national sin.” Meanwhile, in the south James Henley Thornwell, a preacher in South Carolina asserted that slavery was a: “Good and merciful way of organizing labor which providence has given us.”

A revival may be defined as: A move of the Spirit of God, directed by God, working towards the outward and inward transformation of the individual or group through drawing them to God or through their own personal decision. Because this outward change is lost in the third Awakening (it was an awakening focused on the inward change) many, myself included, do not consider it a legitimate awakening. But since the other two still did not abolish slavery, was it a legitimate awakening?

As I said earlier, I do believe it was, in fact, I agree with Edwards that an Awakening is an Awakening if it produces outward fruit and in the case of the First and Second Awakenings it is hard to deny that there was some form of outward fruit. Even Charles Chauncey, who was hostile to the New Lights admitted in Seasonable Thoughts on the Sate of Religion in New England that fruits were evident in some who had been “so affected.” In Religious Affections Edwards asserts that the only true mark of an inward work of the Spirit was “the fruit of such a work.” As C.S. Lewis would say two hundred years later in his lectures on Christianity, the evidence was not that nice men became nicer, but that “new men become new.” One had to show they were truly transformed and redeemed. One of the issues that John Williamson Nevin would raise in the 19th century with Finney’s “Anxious Bench” is that it forced “disingenuous conversions.” Though Finney would be the flagbearer for revivalists for a century even to the point of a redaction of his social theology.

The trouble was that there was a concerted and conscious effort to oust any social theology that upset the “Status quo” or was “Outside Accepted Christian Doctrine.” That meant that those who redacted Finney’s works removed any mention of the abolition of Slavery. Thankfully Garth Rosel has restored these manuscripts for us and we can learn more about Finney’s social theology than ever before. At the time though, the accepted thought patterns of the day in America were bigoted and maintained an order of Racism. It would take something catastrophic to dismantle that system of thought.

I do however, think that God was working against the evil of slavery, working to dismantle that system and that is why we had two Awakenings and then a Civil War. The spirit was working to change the lives, inward and outward, of the people and that should have naturally brought about a hatred of and contempt for the institution of slavery. The issue is that those systems of thought were so ingrained that even when the Spirit turned Finney against Slavery, his bigotry remained.

David French made an interesting point in a national review article recently when he said that: “of all the worlds history of slavery, the west was the only part of the world to look at this institutional and call it the evil it was.” Even so, as the Spirit of God tried to move us in that direction through two Awakenings and then the terrors of the Civil War, instead of letting Him complete the work and bring reconciliation, which Grant and Lee wanted not just between North and South but between Whites and Blacks, the church, especially in the south, upheld and supported Jim Crow and segregation, some of whom were my own distance relatives. There are still those who call themselves Christians who continue to espouse bigoted thought and support racist systems. Men like Jerry Falwell Jr. fail to realize that the Church, the people in the pews on Sunday are, according to sociologist Peter Beinart is “Less likely to be racist, bigoted or misogynistic their unchurched counterparts.  The Church today is also integrating racially and socio-economically, the latter of which is not happening in communities that are racially integrating. But this is three-hundred years after Edwards wrote “On Revivals” and almost 200 years since the Civil War and is an extremely new development in Church History as we look to be entering an ecumenical age of the Church.

I think the Revivals were legitimate, I think they were genuine awakenings. The people living in their time largely considered them to be and it would be dishonest for us to tell them they were wrong because we have the perspective of three hundred plus years. However, I think they were incomplete and that the spirit was working against slavery but because people of that time were so enculturated to think in the terms of their time. The entire system of thought was corrupted and needed to be completely torn down. I think one of the reasons we ended in Civil War is because the Spirit was doing that work against Slavery and a war was the only thing that might tear down that system…and even that did not. In the church we are moving towards a total rejection of that system of thought, towards what I would consider a more biblical view with a definition of humanity rooted in the Imago Dei and a call to treat all with deference and love.

Part of the reason for this is that the institutional church, as a whole, has lost the position of power it enjoyed during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries respectively in America (and since Constantine in Rome). Secularization has made it possible for people in some parts of the country to be ignorant of the location of church buildings. Church Leaders recently released a poll that found that 95% of unchurch people polled had never met a Christian. On top of that, the narrative pre and post-election of the current president has been extremely unfavorable to Christians as well as painted an extremely inaccurate picture of American Christianity. The lack of Churches added to the diversifying of neighborhoods and small towns means we are worshiping with brothers and sisters from many ethnic backgrounds. Unfortunately, though, if you ask the spokes people chosen by the Media to represent Christianity, or who serve on the president’s advisory board, they are unaware of the current trends in the Church. If they would talk to their people, they would find a very different Church then the one they think they are representing.

The problem has been that each event that has meant to be catalytic has only shaken the foundations of the system of thought. It has taken the election of our current president for many of us to realize just how divided we have become and had been. I know, I know, research tells us that people are more comfortable in homogenous groups. But we are moving well beyond a time when homogeneity will be the expected norm and likely will become the exception as communities and churches integrate. Therefore, we must be willing to listen and respond with compassion and, if need be, repentance, in the hopes of healing broken relationships between ethnic groups. After reconciling us to God, as I said in last week’s article, God works to reconcile us to one another, and we have been stubborn and even indignant in allowing God to do that.

I think the Spirit has been working at this reconciling work for a long time. First working to get rid of the institution of Slavery, then working to change the hearts and minds of the people during the Civil Rights Era and now through drawing us together in our communities and churches. I also think this has taken so long because man is despairingly depraved and has fought against such a change on nearly every front. Now, secular culture, though aimlessly so, is fighting for reconciliation, though it is an incomplete one without Christ. We should have been and can be, leading in this area and leading by example.

Maybe that’s what the spirit intends?

I hope we’re open to it…

I Am.



[1] This may have just been an attempt to paint Edwards in a favorable light, though Marsden makes this same point and even acknowledges that Edwards freed the first slave he bought and had many free men in his congregation at Northampton.


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel in the North Shore of Boston and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. 

A Cardassian and a Bajoran walk into a Bar: Star Trek and Reconciliation.

By Jonathan David Faulkner;

“You can’t judge a whole race of people…based on just one” – Miles O’Brian.

The Earth of the 24th century is a perfect Utopia, sort of like the one desired by the Democrats only this one actually works, there is no pain, no suffering, no poverty and no racism. Yes, in the twenty-fourth century Earth has eliminated race wars and riots, reconciling all people groups and now, species from other planets.

That is, of course, unless you live out on the Frontier where Star Trek’s 2nd spinoff Deep Space Nine takes place. Set right after the Border Wars of 2347-2363 (on the Star Trek Timeline), and the Cardassian pull out of the planet Bajor. Where they had enslaved an entire people group and stripped their planet of all its resources to support the war-effort. The first two seasons depict the struggle to rebuild the Bajoran society and the continued Cardassian attempts to send the Federation packing and reclaim Bajor and the Wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant that DS9 stands at the entrance of.

As you can imagine, the prolonged enslavement of the Bajorans by the Cardassians and the fact that they Cardassians left the Bajoran people in ruin to fend for themselves. There were no good feelings to be had between the Bajor and Cardassia. In fact, in an episode in season two called “Cardassians” we find that Bajorans have been raising Cardassian Orphans that were left behind to hate their own kind. Calling them “Butchers” and even assaulting them.

Of course, Bajoran’s are not the only ones who carry this hate, Chief Miles O’Brian, a foot soldier during the Border Wars, is openly hostile towards Cardassians. Calling them names and saying things like “Those Bloody Cardies” (O’Brian is a good Irishmen), and making other openly racist remarks. There is an open Hostility towards the Cardassians by most everyone who fought with them. They are not the nicest aliens in the Galaxy, their society is run by the Military and they are known for their narcissism and arrogance, they truly are unreasonable and nasty people. That’s how the writers of the show portray them, it’s fiction.

DS9 also deals with how Earth reached the point of Utopian Society, how they eliminated racism and created the perfect world. There is even an episode where Commander Sisko (Station commander) and the crew found themselves back in time and living in a ghetto designed to keep the poor (of all races) from the public eye. The actions of the character played by Sisko would lead to the reforms that would bring about that perfect world (after the Eugenics wars of course).

Star Trek is fiction, but the writers of DS9 remained true to the original intention of the show’s creator Gene Rodenberry almost 20 years before. To address social situations and make commentary on Society. The Original Series dealt with race in episodes like the “The Balance of Terror” (Season 1) and “Let that Be Your Last Battlefield” (Season 3). Neither series is far off in addressing racial tensions both in the 2960’s when Star Trek first aired or in the 90’s when Deep Space 9 was on the air. I wonder what the new Star Trek series, Discovery, will have to say about this issue.

Chief O'Brian fights off the 'cloud monster' on Bajor.
Chief O’Brian fights off the ‘cloud monster’ on Bajor.

The solutions offered for race and ending racism in Star Trek and interesting, and even worth considering, there is even a Next Generation episode where all the major races discover a common ancestry planted in the DNA codes of all the warring parties at the beginning of the time. Scientifically this is a form of Evolution, DNA dropped into the Primordial gene pools of various planets so that all sentient species (yes, including Klingons) could trace their genetic material all the way back to one race, a proto-humanoid race that had long ago died out.

Of course, we do not live in the Star Trek Universe, and we do not live in a Utopia and we still have conflict between human beings and between races. It is increasingly hard to turn on the news or see the faces of the hurting protestors and the families of those who were lost in shootings whether they be Police Officers or African American or whoever has been the victim of the latest series of violent acts committed by those who have little regard for life. You cannot ignore it, you should not turn it off, you should let yourself feel the pain and reach out to those who are hurting so that healing can begin.

Because there is a common thread that runs through all humanity, we all hold a common image. We al have a common origin, we all came from the same stuff. Dust of the Earth and Adams rib. We are all made in the image of God. As was the goal of the Aliens in The Next Generation, wanting each race to look at each other and see their commonality, God created us in His own image. In the words of Scripture: “So God make mankind in His own image, In the image of God He created them, Male and Female he created them” (Gen 1:27). This is our common heritage, created in the image of God. For the Christian, this is the starting point to define how we should treat one another, care for one another, mourn with one another and even live with one another.

The Imago Dei is an essential Doctrine within Reformed Theology, if we are created in the image of God then we are all united through the bond of the Spirit that is refining that image, reworking us into the image that has been distorted by sin. We all share in the bearing of the image of God, we are all sons and daughters of God, as I’ve said before, we as believers are being refined into this image, we are realizing, and one day will fully realize this reality. The Non-Believer, though he/she has not accepted the free gift of Salvation by faith through grace by the Work of God (Eph 2:8-9). They have not realized the work of the Holy Spirit that is refining them into the image of the living God, in contrast to the believer. Like a parent sees the reflection of themselves in the face of their child God sees His image in us and out of love for us He works to refine that image through the Holy Spirit.

But what does that mean in response to the recent violence and cries for reconciliation? In Star Trek the realization of common ancestry did nothing for the Cardassians, Romulans, Klingons and Humans. But what about reconciliation between White, Black, Middle Eastern, Asian and so on. What about reconciliation between man, at least among Christians:

This is where I believe the hard work of Reconciliation begins in the church, recognizing that element of our make-up that exists within every man. We all share in the blessings as sons and daughters of GOD. We all stand on the same common ground and hold the same identity in Christ. This is the truth, it was put within at the very dawn of creation. It is our common heritage, we are all descendants of Adam, we are all made in the image of GOD. To begin the process of healing it is essential to focus on what unites us. Meeting on common ground will make it easier to talk about that which divides us and to begin to start the healing process.

This will not be easy, as I have said before, reconciliation takes work, hard work. There is a lot of things that need to be let go of for reconciliation to take place. Letting go begins with accepting the commonality between us, when we accept what we have in common it makes it easier to talk about what divides us…and we need to actually talk about those things.

Yes, it takes work, no, it won’t be easy, yes, it can be done, no, it is not going to happen instantly. All we can do is pray that God will give us the grace and do the work within the individual that needs to. That we can be open to His guidance and transformation. Because ultimately, just as we are made in His image and He is doing the work to refine that image, It is He who does the work of reconciliation between man and between races.

And that’s something that the writers of Star Trek, could never really understand.

A Cardassian and a Bajoran walk into a bar and have a drink, they sit across the table from one another and talk about culture and architecture, religion and philosophy. The Bajoran cracks a joke as the Feregni waiter refills their glasses and the Cardassian laughs. It is 100 years after the Border Wars and Bajor and Cardassia have learned to live in mutual admiration and respect. They both remember a time when their species hated each other, but today, they are friends, and that is just how it should be.


Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry