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The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity [Paperback]

By Thabiti M. Anyabwile (Author) & Mark A. Noll (Foreword by)
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Item description for The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity by Thabiti M. Anyabwile & Mark A. Noll...

Social psychologist and pastor Anyabwile offers a challenging and provocative assessment of African American Christian theology from its beginnings to the present. Arguing that modern representations have digressed from their origins, he traces a weakening of doctrinal direction from one generation to the next---and concludes with an unflinching look at contemporary figures.

Thabiti M. Anyabwile is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. He has a strong professional and educational background in community psychology, with special interest in the history and development of the African American church.

Publishers Description
Who were Jupiter Hammon, Lemuel Haynes and Daniel Alexander Payne? And what do they have in common with Martin Luther King Jr., Howard Thurman and James Cone? All of these were African American Christian theologians, yet their theologies are, in many ways, worlds apart. In this book, Thabiti Anyabwile offers a challenging and provocative assessment of the history of African American Christian theology, from its earliest beginnings to the present. He argues trenchantly that the modern fruit of African American theology has fallen far from the tree of its early predecessors. In doing so, Anyabwile closely examines the theological commitments of prominent African American theologians throughout American history. Chapter by chapter, he traces what he sees as the theological decline of African American theology from one generation to the next, concluding with an unflinching examination of several contemporary figures. Replete with primary texts and illustrations, this book is a gold mine for any reader interested in the history of African American Christianity. With a foreword by Mark Noll.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity by Thabiti M. Anyabwile & Mark A. Noll has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Books & Culture - 09/01/2009 page 26

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Item Specifications...

Studio: IVP Academic
Pages   254
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.03" Width: 6.48" Height: 0.75"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 14, 2007
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN  0830828273  
ISBN13  9780830828272  

Availability  5 units.
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More About Thabiti M. Anyabwile & Mark A. Noll

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Thabiti M. Anyabwile (MS, North Carolina State University) serves as a pastor at Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC, and is the author of numerous books. He serves as a council member of the Gospel Coalition, is a lead writer for 9Marks Ministries, and regularly blogs at The Front Porch and Pure Church. He and his wife, Kristie, have three children.

Ligon Duncan (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is the chancellor & CEO and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He previously served as the senior minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, for seventeen years. He is a cofounder of Together for the Gospel, a senior fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and was the president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals from 2004-2012. Duncan has edited, written, or contributed to numerous books. Ligon and his wife, Anne, have two children and live in Jackson, Mississippi.

D. A. Carson (PhD, Cambridge University) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He is a cofounder of the Gospel Coalition and has written or edited nearly 120 books. He and his wife, Joy, have two children and live in the north suburbs of Chicago.

TIMOTHY KELLER is founder and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. He is the best-selling author of The Prodigal God and The Reason for God.

Thabiti M. Anyabwile was born in 1970.

Thabiti M. Anyabwile has published or released items in the following series...
  1. 9Marks
  2. Gospel Coalition Booklets
  3. Profiles in Reformed Spirituality

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Books > General Interest > Ethnic & Cultural > African American

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity?

Methodologically flawed  Jun 28, 2009
The argument in this book is methodologically flawed at various levels since the author depends on the fact that some African American Christians during the early colonial era were Calvinists to conclude that Reformed orthodoxy is the proper measure for the rest of the African American tradition since. This is like saying that because the original Puritan pilgrims were Reformed, and the Reformed theological point of view is no longer the dominant one in the contemporary American landscape, we might as well talk about "the decline of American theology!" Of course, we have heard David Wells make such arguments over the last 20 years, but the difference is that he has always been an apologist for the Reformed tradition whereas this is Anyabwile's first book entering into the discussion of African American theology and this group of churches has never been monolithically Reformed, at least not in the last 200 plus years! There are other methodological critiques - including his selective reading of the slave material, his assessments of various black church traditions past & present, and his attempts to correlate Reformed orthodoxy with African American theological sensibilities - but these will have to be taken up on other venues. To be fair, Anyabwile's commitment to the Reformed tradition is to be applauded, but he should have instead written a companion piece to Anthony Carter's excellent _On Being Black & Reformed: A New Perspective on the African American Christian Experience_ (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co, 2003) - rather than trying to argue that all developments in the African American tradition away from its Reformed "beginnings" (loosely understood) constitutes a decline!
African American Survey of Biblical/nonBiblical Christianity  Aug 21, 2008
The Decline of the African American Theology - From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity. Written by Thabiti M. Anyabwile.

This book is an excellent survey varied Theological thought in the African American community in the past 250 years. Does this book make the argument as stated in its title? My thought is no. The title is quite ambitious. It is one thing to clearly write about different schools of thought and quite another make statements and arguments how prevalent those ideas and beliefs are held in society. The author clearly claims the African American community of Christians in the first half of the 19th century held more Calvinistic views. He also states John Wesley was a major factor in moving the African American Community away from this theology. The author explains very clearly various schools of thought. I just wish he felt freer to state these beliefs had a major impact or a minor impact at the time. How persuasive is that way of thinking in today's African American Community?

The author does communicate the fact the Civil rights movement and the Social Gospel were interconnected. James Cones' Liberation explain clearly and exhaustive. How his thoughts and ideas affect the African American Community as a whole is missing. On the whole the thoughts and ideas are expressed very clearly. Jupiter Hammon and Lemuel Haynes are held as the ideal preacher. From then theology in the African American this is the high point of theology at the turn of the 19th century. Thabiti M. Anyabwile also expresses Calvinistic theology as the ideal theology. The book is organized into six theological topics and within each topic perspectives of theological thought is organized chronologically.

The doctrine of revelation, the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Christology, the doctrine of Soteriology, and the doctrine Pneumatology are the major divisions in the book. From reading the book Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne (1811 -1833) was the only influence on the theology of revelation up to the time of the civil war. Pages 28-37 are dedicated to a short biography and his thought (theology) about God. The views of William Adams are expressed briefly within the Payne's theology of revelation. Adams believed revelation through the Holy Spirit was more prevalent. This is included in the subdivision within theological divisions of Early Slavery Era through Abolition period. 1660 1865. This is by far the longest time period subdivision. The other time divisions are:

Reconstruction Jim Crow segregation, great Migration and the New Negro Movement

Depression and World War II 1930-1949

Civil Rights Era 1950 - 1979

End of the Century, Postmodern era 1980- 2007

The doctrine of Soteriology and Pneumatology are the most interesting in this book plus the authors concluding remarks included in the afterward. The three are interrelated: what most I do to get saved, "getting in De Spirit", and the author's thoughts how the African American Church has moved away from doctrine supported by the Bible.The church has moved away from Salvation from ones sins, the doctrine of Heaven, and many a church express the outward spectacular signs of the Spirit over the sign of obedience and the comprehension of God's word.The book is a wealth of information about theology, even if the author does not always tie the title and its implicit conclusion to what is shared.

Good Research, But...  Apr 7, 2008
Anyabwile does a fantastic job in summarizing the development of several pertinent themes in African American theology. He must be commended for his thorough research and fascinating insights. Other reviews have detailed the contents of the chapters, so I will get straight to my brief critique.

Let me start out by saying that I am not one who believes that I have to agree with the conclusions of a study in order to appreciate its contributions to the field of learning. Consequently, while I give this book four stars for the clearly proficient research, I am compelled to chastise it for it's troublesome conclusion.

Actually, the problem is not just in the conclusion but in the presuppositions that drive the study. To be more specific, Anyabwile takes a dogmatic approach that assumes the correctness of reformed and orthodox theology. This has led him to question the legitimacy of liberation theology and other aspects of African-American theology that challenge eurocentric theological arrogance. Why can't the Bible be the test for the validity of African-American theological expression? Why does all theology have to conform to a Reform model?

It seems to me that Anyabwile has been captivated by a powerful culture--it's just not African American or biblical culture.
Very informative  Feb 23, 2008
The author is well informed in Christian theological matters. I appreciate his linkage of theology with African American history to make the important point about the decline from faith to culture.
An Important Work!  Jan 27, 2008
In this volume, Thabiti Anyabwile explores various theological voices of African Americans from several historical periods. The author gives thoughtful consideration to how the African American Slaves, former slaves and contemporary African American writers have understood God, the Bible, and expressed those concerns in relation to their American experience. He traces the progressive state of each period, analyzes them and carefully demonstrates the decline of African American Theology.

This piece is not a treatment on slavery and race, but a historical narrative of various theological thoughts emerged in the African American community in various eras. Nonetheless, the issues of theodicy, the concept of God, divine providence and sovereignty, slavery, racism, are not jettisoned by the author but carefully treated in response to the analyzed data and personality. Some of the issues are treated in passing, while others were given more attention. For example, the development of Black Theology espoused in the Civil Rights period, advanced by James Cone, is critically assessed. The theological worldview (s) of individuals such as John Jea, Jupiter Hammon, Lemuel Hayes, Marcus Garvey, Daniel Alexander Payne, Howard Thurman, and T.D. Jakes were subject of considerable discussion. Some of these men in the past upheld a reformed view of God's sovereignty and providence, believed in the Trinity, whereas others either denied such doctrines or dissociated themselves with them. (It must be acknowledged that the author is reformed in his theological perspective and has taken such approach in this present volume). For example, one biographer observes,

"Indeed, Calvinism seems to have corroborated the deepest structuring elements of the experiences of such men and women as they matured from children living in slavery or servitude into adults desiring freedom, literacy, and membership in a fair society. From Calvinism, this generation of black authors drew a vision of God at work providentially in the lives of black people, directing their sufferings yet promising the faithful among them a restoration to his favor and his presence. Not until 1815 would African American authors, such as John Jea, explicitly declare themselves against Calvinism and for free-will religion" (68).

In contrast, Benjamin Elijah Mays argued that "the Concept of God evolved in response to the changing social contexts African Americans encountered, developing according to a three- par typology." Furthermore, he remarks,

"God may be defined as the power of force in man and in the world that impels man to seek to transform life in the interest of a healthier and more resplendent life for mankind individually and generally. The ideas are not other-worldly. They place one under obligation to adjust him to a life of peace where all may enjoy the fruits necessary for resplendent living. They go far beyond the limits of race, but the needs of the race are met in the universality of the ideas of God presented. They are constructively developed in terms of social reconstruction that is universal" (83).

Anyabwile's interaction with Mays is succinct, indicating further works need to be done on the subject. His interaction with James Cone's writings is plausibly defended from a biblical perspective. He makes very strong arguments against many tenets of Black Theology. However, it appears that Anaybwile's treatment of Black Theology, well argued by James Cone, suggests that the historical contexts in which the movement emerged (and various theological essays were written) were not well taken and considered. Furthermore, one has to take in account the social and historical milieu of African Americans, which gave birth to a host of contextual writings during the Civil Rights Era (1950-1979). For example, the quest for freedom, racial equality, and identity continue to be critical issues of great importance for many Blacks in a land that many still feel their voice are not being heard, their opinion do not matter. African American theologian such as Cone feels that essential matters such as racism, slavery and a host of others are belittled by former and (his) many contemporary white theologians. Cone emphasizes the praxis of such biblical concepts such as God is love, divine transcendence and immanence, one's love for God and neighbor. The biblical scholar must be sensitive to cultural issues. He must speak against injustice and promotes reconciliation among the people of God, and all peoples. This should be a concern of every Christian. Biblical theology is very practical at its core. For it is rooted in Christ's redemptive work. It changes lives, transforms sinners and unifies people to the glory of God.

The basic purpose of Anaybwile's work, his undeniable passion, is the theological rehabilitation and reformation of the African American Church. The presentation of this volume has given clear indications of the author's familiarity with the subject. References made to primary sources substantiate his thesis. Overall, the book is well written and balanced. I am very thankful for Anyabwile's boldness to tackle such important issues. "The Decline of African American Theology" is a significant contribution to the study of African American Christianity, Black Church and Theology in America.

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