When I first saw the title ‘Reconstructing the Gospel’ I was very intrigued.
Was this book going to say that we have gotten the gospel wrong?
Was it going to suggest ways in which we could ‘fix’ the gospel?
However, these questions were not the content of the book instead it was more of an analysis of the American church with the history of what Wilson-Hartgrove describes as ‘slaveholder religion’.
Possibly one of the problems, when I was reading the book, was that the racial division that Wilson-Hartgrove speaks of in regards to the American church is unfamiliar to me. Being a Scot I haven’t seen the division within the American church over race, but only heard of it.
However, this book does give a good insight into the racial issues that seem to be unfolding within the American church and it is a helpful insight for people, like myself, who maybe don’t fully understand the situation.
The first half of the book is the author’s journey about how he came to see the racial history of America and the damage that it has caused. Whilst this part is interesting, it can be quite confusing and somewhat jumbled. But the second half of the book, when Wilson-Hartgrove gets to the gospel, it is more thought through and structured.
Wilson-Hartgrove’s premise is that the racial history of the U.S. is a problem that is preventing the gospel from reaching different groups of people across the racial divide, whilst this might be true in the U.S. (something I can’t comment on) I’m not sure if that is the real problem.
The problem seems to be that, in the past, people have used Christianity and the Bible to justify slavery and the ill treatment of slaves. However, the problem is not with the gospel but the problem is with the corrupt hearts who have misused and misapplied the gospel.
Wilson-Hartgrove says that ‘a gospel that doesn’t confront racism is no gospel at all’ whilst racism is obviously the point of this book, I think the problem of people misusing and misapplying the gospel is far wider than just racism. A gospel that doesn’t confront sin and humanities fallen nature is no gospel at all. Christians need to learn from the past and learn not to read their prejudices into the Bible, nor exegete it according to their culture, but take the Bible as it is the Word of God.