Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanks, MLK, and Hero Worship

Martin Luther King, Jr. was both a driving force behind the Civil Rights Movement and a spearhead of the same. So when you find yourself not having to stand outside a restaurant to eat while patrons of another race get to sit down and eat inside and out in the sun, cold, or rain, you can thank Dr. King. You can think of the same when go to a voting booth or apply for a job. The works and accomplishments of Dr. King in the area of civil rights are not to be diminished.

With that said, the man was also not perfect. Adultery, plagiarism, leanings toward socialism: the evidence is all there. However, perhaps worst of all is the theology Dr. King. I mention it because Dr. White of has a peculiar interest in dredging up and highlighting the bad theology of Dr. King, and he has done so recently.

From (“The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus,” February 15, 1950):

The orthodox attempt to explain the divinity of Jesus in terms of an inherent metaphysical substance within him seems to me quite inadaquate. To say that the Christ, whose example of living we are bid to follow, is divine in an ontological sense is actually harmful and detrimental. To invest this Christ with such supernatural qualities makes the rejoinder: "Oh, well, he had a better chance for that kind of life than we can possible have." In other words, one could easily use this as a means to hide behind behind his failures. So that the orthodox view of the divinity of Christ is in my mind quite readily denied. The true significance of the divinity of Christ lies in the fact that his achievement is prophetic and promissory for every other true son of man who is willing to submit his will to the will and spirit og God. Christ was to be only the prototype of one among many brothers.
The appearance of such a person, more divine and more human than any other, andstanding and standing in closest unity at once with God and man, is the most significant and hopeful event in human history. This divine quality or this unity with God was not something thrust upon Jesus from above, but it was a definite achievement through the process of moral struggle and self-abnegation.

If it appears that Dr. King is denying the deity of Christ yet retaining the language of Christ’s divinity so that Dr. King may remain within the Christian fold, appearances may not be deceiving. From

The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr, Volume 3, by Martin Luther King (Jr.), Clayborne Carson, Ralph Luker, Penny A. Russell, Louis R. Harlan, “A Comparison and Evaluation of the Theology of Luther with That of Calvin,” p. 189-190:

Hence, we must affirm that Christ is a unitary personality, and this unity we find in his own ego. There is nothing in rational speculation nor New Testament thought to warrant the view that Jesus had two personal centers. We must then think of Christ as a unitary being whose divinity consists not in any second nature or in a substantial unity with God, but in a unique and potent God consciousness. His unity [with] God was a unity of purpose rather than a unity of substance.
Concerning the work of Christ the two reformers stressed a substitutionary theory of atonement. They maintained that christ actually took the place of sinners in the sight of God, and as a substitutee suffered the punishment that was due to men. But all of this is based on a false view of personality. Merit and guilt are not transferable from one person to another. They are inalienable from personality. Moreover, on moral grounds, a person cannot be punished in the place of another.
Another weakness in this theory of atonement is that it is based on the assumption that the chief obstacle to man's redemption is in the nature of God. But there was never any obstacle to man's redemption in God himself. The real obstacle to man's redemption has always lain in man himself. It is from this standpoint, therefore, that the death of Christ is to be interpreted. Christ's death was not a ransom, or a penal substitute, or a penal example, rather it was a revelation of the sacrificial love of God intended to awaken an answering love in the hearts of men.

Yes, he moves from denying the deity of Christ to denying that the death of Christ was a substitutionary atonement, despite the likes of Isaiah 53 or Matthew 20.


Of course, Dr. King is not the only one who is flawed. Over the years, Dr. White’s treatment of issues concerning the Trinity has not always been coherent and has never truly covered all the bases. Moreover, I think one can find that Dr. White also has had a reprehensible glib dismissal of the idea that certain non-Christian persons worship the one god that exists. And other unflattering things can be said of other religious leaders.

The point is this: When it comes to heroes, one should follow the words of Lush and “just take the bits you think that you can use.” Admire and remember the admirable actions of these heroes and thank them for their works, but do no more than this. If you do otherwise, you are bound to be disappointed by these heroes and their human flaws, or else lie to yourself to save face on their behalf.

Second point, in closing: Thanksgiving without thanks to God is nothing, period. Happy Thursday all!

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