I’ve been reading about the Reformation lately because next Tuesday marks the date 500 years ago when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg church, and I couldn’t help but think of a striking connection between a fundamental error of the White Lives Matter movement coming to Tennessee this weekend and the value of one of the reforms stirred by the Reformation.
Diagnosing the Problem Correctly
As with most reform movements, both good and bad sprang from the Reformation.1 But I believe one of its reforms relates to a fundamental error in the Black Lives Matter and the White Lives Matter movements, as I understand them.
The reform of which I speak concerns the Reformation’s return to the Augustinian understanding of the fallenness of humanity. Into the teachings of the Church had crept the influences of the Renaissance, which Russell Kirk described thusly in The Roots of American Order:
[T]he Renaissance amounted, often, to a denial of the Christian understanding of the human condition. The Renaissance exalted man’s egoism . . .
Consequently, one of the positive things the Reformation did was re-emphasize the fact that the problem with the human condition, which encompasses our personal lives and the culture and civilization we produce, is our fallenness, or what theologians call sin.
There is much that can be said about this—and it will be part of Restoring the Vision on November 11th—but by the “Fall of Man,” Christianity has historically meant that something alien to the original good creation has entered into our existence and perverted it. Albert Wolters, in his book Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview, put it this way: “Sin, an alien invasion of creation, is completely foreign to God’s purposes for his creatures.”
The implications of this are manifold, but one is that we see the problems we encounter as something intrinsic to the human condition rather than alien to it.
Again, Wolters states it well in describing the “danger” that comes with blurring the line of demarcation between God’s original creation and the perversion of it through the Fall:
The great danger is always to single out some aspect or phenomenon of God’s good creation and identify it, rather than the alien intrusion of human apostasy, as the villain in the drama of human life.
And that “danger,” it seems to me, is demonstrated in what I understand to be at the heart of the “lives matter” movements, namely, that some group of people is the problem, some ethnicity, or some difference in skin color produced by different levels of Melanin. In other words, some aspect of creation itself is our problem.
Diagnosing the Solution Correctly
Getting the problem wrong, however, necessarily leads to the wrong solution. If our solution is no longer something alien to our environment, then it must be our environment. That means if we can just change our environment, our problem will be solved. (That’s also why politicians put so much emphasis on programs addressed to changing the environment that “victimizes” us.)
And this is where the White Lives Matter movement gets it all wrong. Removing people of a different color or ancestry from around them (or our country) will not solve their real problem. All that “solution” does is create more problems.
The Question We Need to Ask
And that’s why I ask this question, Which came first, Black Lives Matter or White Lives Matter? Be careful; it’s a trick question.
The answer is neither. The Fall and sin came first, and if we don’t address the evil in our own hearts, then we’ll never make any life matter in the way God intended when He created us, not even our own.
- As with most reformers, Martin Luther had his faults, but my focus here is on just one part of the theology that the Reformation put back into focus, not the theologian Luther, who said and wrote many things inconsistent with the point I intend to make regarding racial views and attitudes.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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