James Cone

Doctrine as Translation

This post develops a proposal for a role of doctrine in a post-Christendom, global church. It explores writings by George Lindbeck and Kevin Vanhoozer, arguing their contributions restrict the potential for translation through calls to unity. To move forward I engage the function of doctrine, drawing on James H Cone and Ellen T Charry. They show doctrine needs to be transformative, meeting people in their contexts and drawing them into the mission of God. Finally I examine the potential of the role of doctrine as translation; a process empowering both the renewing and rebirth of past expressions of doctrine, and the emergence of entirely new forms built on the endless array of communal and individual experiences of God.

“Doctrine should do something. It should compel the Christian, drawing them into, or sustaining them through, the struggle for liberation and freedom for the oppressed.”

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To Hear Humanity Read Over Us

When the post-exilic community hear the Law of Moses read aloud they are moved to tears, what a thing to be reminded of your humanity after living amidst a dehumanising system/society. This piece explores James Cone, Slave Spirituals, Kendrick Lamar, and Sia as examples in this lineage of speaking humanity over the oppressed. It also asks what does it mean for me to be reminded of my humanity in a system designed to celebrate it above all else.

It is in the Law that they hear their humanity spoken over them. In the Law that they hear that they are created in God’s image, created for freedom not bondage, and that God is for them and not on the side of their vainglorious oppressors. What a thing that must be, when for 70 years you have heard (and witnessed) nothing but the opposite. What a thing it must be to hear that you are known, valued, and a person when the society around you has demonstrated their belief, in no uncertain terms, that you are lesser, disposable, a non-person.

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James Cone and #BlackLivesMatter

How James Cone’s ground-breaking, earth-shaking, woke-inducing, God of the Oppressed connects with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and speaks into (or against) the unfortunately too common response of ‘all lives matter’.

Image of James Cone speaking at the Rall Lectures in 1969 in the Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful.

“Cone’s work grants a new perspective on those who criticise “Black Lives Matter”, insisting on the adoption of the ‘universal’, “All Lives Matter”. Cone (dealing with this before we had #’s) counters, that yes, all lives do matter, just as all are oppressed, but when the person contending that is not a member of the oppressed it becomes another way to silence those crying for liberation.”

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