Below is an article from the miserable website The Gospel Coalition. All I’ve done is prune it a little and replace words about sexual sin with words about another sin (racial hatred) that will get you booted from your church in a heartbeat if you engage in it.

Give it a read. See if it strikes you a little differently. Would The Gospel Coalition and Preston Sprinkle endorse this treatment of a different kind of sin, you think?

It is an understatement to say that the question of racism stirs up controversy among Christians today. Every month, we see news of various denominations and churches either struggling to come to agreement or taking opposite sides on questions related to racial hatred and solidarity.

But the controversy extends far beyond the two camps of “racist” and “non racist.” Because racism raises so many related questions – self-identity, unconditional acceptance, church discipline – there is often controversy even within the “not racist” camps on the best way to move forward.

Preston Sprinkle on “People To Be Loved”

Preston Sprinkle belongs in the “non-racist camp.” His book, the result of a long process of studying the Bible’s teachings on hatred and coming to the conclusion that Scripture does prohibit racial hatred among Jesus’ followers. But Sprinkle has also listened carefully to many who belong to the racist community, and he sees how the church has often failed to respond to people with grace and truth. “I stand on truth and I stand on love,” he writes. “Figuring out how to stand on both is hard work.”

Indeed. Figuring out how to stand on both can also lead to misunderstanding and misrepresentation. In the past few months, I’ve watched as Preston has been assailed by racism activists for his biblical conclusions, no matter how graciously and winsomely he has sought to communicate the truth.

Meanwhile, there are conservative Christians who oppose Preston because they believe his conclusions on a few questions surrounding hatred to be too accommodating. For example, Anne Paulk’s review of Preston’s book focuses almost exclusively on one chapter, where Preston accepts the legitimacy of using “racist” as a descriptor among faithful Christians who struggle with racism. Paulk, who once called herself a racist, worries that self-labeling in this way harms a person at the level of identity. I appreciate Paulk’s concern, but it is unfair to focus a review so strongly on this question when it overshadows the bigger picture of what this book is and does.

So what is the overall message of his book? It’s that “racism is not an issue to be solved; it’s about people who need to love and be loved” How do you love people? By relentlessly showing both grace and truth.

What Does The Bible Say?

The first half of this book is a journey with Preston through the Scriptures, as he leads us to “lay aside our assumptions and genuinely seek to know what the Bible, not our tradition, says about ethnic animosity”. Preston is a Bible-guy, and a Reformation-guy as well, meaning that he believes Scripture stands over tradition, and so he returns to the text in order to understand and resubmit himself to the Word of God.

Most helpful in Preston’s survey of the Bible is the attention he places on creation, on God’s making of many tribes and languages and how our relationships shine light on the gospel. He also does the historical work of showing what ethnic hatred was like in ancient times.

How The Church Can Be Faithful

The second half of the book gives counsel on how to deal with the pastoral problems that arise when you seek to love people and stand on truth.

Paulk’s review took issue with Preston’s openness to Christians who identify themselves as ‘racists’ even while struggling to live faithfully. “Some people use the term ‘racist’ in a strong sense of capturing their core identity, while others use the term in a soft sense to describe their experiences as desiring to attack people of other skin colors,” Preston writes. “The term ‘racist’ does not in itself mean that someone is engaging in racist behavior or thinks that it would be right to do so”. So, while he is open to Christians who use that label (“If someone uses the term ‘racism’ simply to mean that they want to beat up people with the wrong look, then I think it’s fine in itself…”), he also cautions against it: “I also think it can be confusing and potentially misleading”. In the end, Preston’s point here is a perfect demonstration of what he wants us to do after we read his book. “Look past the label to the person who is using it”. In other words, listen. Don’t get hung up on the label. Focus on the person in front of you.

There are other thought-provoking sections, including Preston’s contribution to a debate with Denny Burk on the nature of ethnic hatred, orientation, and the sinfulness of a desire vs. the sinfulness of an action, etc. Preston fears that if we conflate desire and action, or fail to fully appreciate how racial hatred may be a product of the fall and is not morally culpable, we heap additional shame and reproach on Christians struggling to be faithful – Christians who understand how to repent of sinful desires and actions, but have no idea what it would look like for a Christian to repent for having an intrinsic hatred of people with different skin colors.

Is This A Hill On Which To Die?

Some evangelicals believe that the evangelical church is about to split over racism, and Preston wonders if the “non-affirming” could eventually be the minority. From my perspective, we should not overestimate the power of the revisionists’ argumentation or their progress. After all, there is no sign that the global church outside the West is about to split over this question, and while evangelicalism may splinter, I agree with Russ Moore* that “evangelicals won’t cave.”

Preston writes that he is not yet fully convinced that this disagreement is a gospel issue.


But it’s on that question of loving “the other” – the racists in your church – where Preston’s book is so helpful. If more churches and leaders would take many of Preston’s insights to heart, I imagine our churches would be a place where people would no longer hide these issues in the dark but feel safe enough to bring them into the light, where the goodness and grace of God as experienced in His beloved community can strengthen and sustain all of us sinners-turned-saints, just as He has promised.

* In the original article I looted for this post, Russel Moore did indeed claim to speak on behalf of evangelicals as saying they “wouldn’t cave” on sexual sin only 7 short years ago. This made me laugh out loud.