Restoring Black Dignity with the Gospel
Review of ‘Urban Apologetics,’ edited by Eric Mason
Apologetics is the reasoned defense of the Christian faith. The term comes from the Greek word for a legal argument, apologia. That word appears in 1 Peter 3:15, a classic proof text for apologetics: “Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia]
to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Apologetics is a contextual discipline. In other words, it answers questions nonbelievers ask, and those questions vary. In Urban Apologetics, Eric Mason and 11 other authors offer a “defense of the Christian faith against Black objections,” as well as a demonstration of “how Christianity meets the unique needs and answers the unique questions of Black people.”
Specifically, Urban Apologetics answers the challenges posed to Christianity by “the Black Consciousness Community” or “consciousness community.” Because of the long centuries of slavery, segregation, and racism endured by Black people in America, the consciousness community views Christianity as a “white man’s religion” that is fundamentally inimical to the interests of Black people. Consequently, the urgent task of urban apologetics is “restoring Black dignity with the gospel,” as the book’s subtitle puts it.
I hope better understanding will lead to greater empathy with and support for Black brothers and sisters in America.
As editor, Mason divides the book’s treatment of urban apologetics into three parts:
Part 1 describes “the context for urban apologetics.” It focuses on how American racism has often “whitewashed” the experience of Black people, resulting in a distorted self-image.
Part 2 examines how “religious and ethnic identity groups” respond to this whitewashing with false gospels. Succeeding chapters examine the Nation of Islam, Hebrew Israelites, Kemeticism, womanism, Black masculinity movements, and Black atheism.
Part 3 then outlines “tools for urban apologetics,” including worldview analysis, personal evangelism, biblical literacy, and spiritual warfare.
Urban Apologetics is well-researched, clearly written, and gospel-centered. The authors
are subject-matter experts who affirm orthodox biblical theology and creatively and pointedly engage issues in the Black community. I recommend it as a resource to Black Christians ministering in urban environments. They are the book’s intended readers.
However, I also recommend the book to white ministers such as myself who work in suburban environments. Part 2’s discussion of religious and ethnic identity groups in the Black community provides an excellent introduction to groups, such as the Nation of Islam, that often make the news. Part 3 outlines helpful apologetic tools for all Christians, Black or white.
Part 1 is the most important section of the book for white ministers to read, in my opinion. Over the past year, Americans have engaged in intense, often heated, discussions about issues related to race and ethnicity. These discussions often break down along the lines of race, with Black and white Americans talking past one another. The five chapters in Part 1 helped me better understand the unique history and challenges that have shaped Black America, as well as the crucial mission of the Black church in that community.
better understanding will lead to greater empathy with and support for Black brothers and sisters in America. The unity of the Body of Christ requires this, for, as Paul wrote, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Restoring Black dignity should be a concern for white Christians, too.
Eric Mason, ed., Urban Apologetics: Restoring Black Dignity with the Gospel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021).