1/ I’d like to offer a some responses to several of the questions raised by Rev. DeYoung in his review. Some critics are suggesting that we focused on methodological concerns in our essay b/c we—intimidated by his arguments—had no substantive response. We predicted this reaction:
2/ Again, this is false. As explained, we regularly engage these questions & study them; they warrant sustained reflection. But we also believe DeYoung's methodology shapes/distorts many of his questions. This is why we sought to expose and critique his method first and foremost.
3/ What follows, then, are brief and provisional responses to some of DeYoung’s critical assessments. Importantly, they are offered against the backdrop of our previous essay. We continue to reflect on these questions & others, and invite you to do the same with curiosity & hope.
4/ First, (1) DeYoung argues that our book offers “nebulous,” “amorphous,” and ultimately specious moral grounds for its call for restitution. This is especially notable, he believes, (1a) in its handling of white supremacy and the way it is related to principles of restitution.
5/ One example: When we describe reparations as “restitution for the thefts of White supremacy,” he interprets this phrasing to mean something vague and ill-defined like “restitution … based on skin color” or “restitution for ‘White supremacy’” or “restitution with the world.”
6/ But these renderings, which allegedly illustrate the incoherence of our case, actually misrepresent what we plainly argue in the book. Restitution—the return of ill-gotten goods to its rightful owners—is the biblical response to THEFT according to the 8th commandment (Ch. 5).
7/ And THEFT, we argue, is the animating energy and demonstrable social effect of the cultural (dis)order called white supremacy (Chs. 2 & 3). Across history, this racist theft has found tragic and concrete expression in a variety of forms, not only as the theft of black *wealth*
8/ (as is often assumed in reparations conversations) but also the theft of *truth* (about black persons and history) and the theft of *power* (personal and political). If so, here is the key moral question: What is a biblical response to theft? One crucial answer: Restitution.
9/ This is simply what we mean by “restitution for the thefts of White supremacy.” The redress of racist evils—thefts that are relentlessly animated by the white supremacy.
10/ Another "unresolved ambiguity" that threatens the cogency of restitution, DeYoung argues, involves (1b) the passage of time. We acknowledge that time adds complexity to restitution's application; it can, by God’s providence & mercy, dampen the damaging effects of past evils.
11/ DeYoung cites an excerpt of John Tillotson’s Two Sermons (1707)—which states that the obligation to redress "injuries of a very ancient date" eventually "ceaseth and expires"—and he claims that this excerpt “undermines one of the central arguments of their book.” Does it?
12/ Consider: As observed by others, Tillotson reveals the time-horizon in mind when, to illustrate his point, he refers to the conquests of the Saxons/Normans in Britain—fully 600-1,100 yrs prior to his day. Compare: It's been 150 yrs since the abolition of slavery in the US.
13/ Moreover, in this section of his sermon, the bishop’s outlook is informed by prudential and pragmatic considerations more than strictly moral ones. Yes, he states that the obligation to redress ancient wrongs eventually ceases b/c the pursuit of this “ancient right” to seek
14/ restitution would cause “endless Disturbances,” and prove to be “a great inconvenience” to a well-ordered society. Crucially, however, he concedes that “time in it self doth not alter the Nature of things.” And in a section DeYoung omits from his block quotation,
15/ Tillotson qualifies his point with the following statement (below). Evidently, the bishop would have agreed with his contemporary Matthew Henry who wrote: “Time does not wear out the guilt of sin ... There is no statute of limitation to be pleaded against God’s demands.”
16/ IOW, Tillotson commends prudence & “reasonable” handling of (very) ancient injuries, but he is steadfast in his moral appraisal of those injuries. Namely, when an old theft is considered “simply in itself,” restitution may yet be warranted according to “the Nature of things.”
17/ Another instance of DeYoung's approach to the problem of time: At one point he acknowledges that “the obligation to make restitution may transfer to ancestors,” though he (arbitrarily) limits that transfer to one generation only. Very well. How, then, shall we respond to
18/ racial thefts that date back to the days of Jim Crow—only *one* generation ago? Would he agree that the responsibility to redress them, according to scripture, endures to this day—has not “expired” with so brief a passage of time?
19/ Another alleged "unresolved ambiguity" involves (1c) the parties responsible for making restitution. DeYoung is troubled by “the notion that restitution might be based on skin color.” Reparations loses its moral coherence, he argues, when “Whites like Thompson” are
20/ held responsible for past sins for no other reason than that they were committed “by people who look like you.” But our book doesn’t make the argument that White people writ large are responsible for reparations. Our attention is firmly fixed, rather, on the church.
21/ We argue that the Christian church—because of its social history (its historical role as perpetrators of, accomplices to, and negligent bystanders before the plunder of Black image-bearers and their communities), its ethical tradition, and its missional mandate—bears a
22/ singular responsibility to address this tragic history of theft. Reparations is an enduring obligation of churches in America, not “by virtue of their corporate identity as Whites” (as DeYoung claims we argue) but by virtue of their corporate identity as followers of Christ.
23/ (Perhaps this why DeYoung finds it so puzzling that I, as an Asian American, see myself as implicated in the multigenerational thefts of white supremacy. What could be the basis for this? Not racial pigmentation but ecclesial, corporate identification.)
24/ But this white people/church correction may prove unsatisfactory for DeYoung and others. As we observe in our essay, defining to their view of reparations is the tendency to evaluate (and critique) it through a narrowly individualistic lens. White people, churches—no matter.
25/ DeYoung is frustrated that we're not “absolved of guilt just because we were not personally the slave owners or the Jim Crow era oppressors.” He denies the corporate dimensions of restitution almost entirely—repeatedly reducing its concerns to that of the individual.
26/ But in doing so, he denies our Christian (and Reformed) ethical tradition. Baxter spoke of restitution for injuries of “whole nations, countries, or communities.” Hopkins & Calvin viewed the Israelites’ plundering of the Egyptians in Ex 12 as compensation for 430 yrs of toil.
27/ And these & numerous other divines also taught in their expositions of the Decalogue that DESCENDANTS of thieves—not just those who personally committed past thefts—are bound to make restitution. So are ACCOMPLICES, including those not personally present at the crime scene.
28/ Alas, responsibility is never *merely* individual/personal; it is also corporate. This is true of the Reformed tradition’s view of the biblical practice of restitution. And as DeYoung knows, this corporate dimension of ethical practice is a hallmark of our covenantal faith.
29/ Rev. DeYoung also argues (2) that our book’s ethical claims are fatally undermined by the alleged absence of any possibility of forgiveness or moral closure for those owing reparations: one “can never in this life truly be forgiven of the debts they owe.”
30/ On numerous occasions, he asks: “When and how can that debt be discharged?” First, (2a) as stated explicitly in our book, we believe that divine forgiveness is manifestly available to even the most repugnant perpetrators of racist plunder.
31/ Notably, according to our ethical tradition, one’s stubborn refusal to make restitution is viewed as an emblem of unrepentance (“unjust possession is a continual and prolonged theft” —Hopkins). Thus, Augustine declares: “no repentance, no remission.”
32/ However, if you are overwhelmed by unpayable debts, you must strive to do all you can to satisfy it—even to the point of poverty (Bullinger). And if you still cannot, you may “crave forgiveness and cast yourself on the mercy of” your neighbor (Baxter)—and on the mercy of God.
33/ But DeYoung is also concerned about the alleged denial of forgiveness bc of what it *represents*, namely, the unqualified embrace of a popular secular metanarrative that has much to say about complicity and confession and nothing to say about redemption. (More on this later.)
34/ He’s also concerned about what the neglect of forgiveness *does*, namely, deprives the guilty of any possibility of obtaining moral/psychological closure. As noted in our essay, this is one of DeYoung’s chief and concerns. But his case for closure is flawed in a few ways.
35/ He tends to overstate the specificity/finality with which restitutionary debts are discharged in scripture. (2b) Example: In his reading Zacchaeus knew definitively “HOW he had sinned, WHOM he had sinned against, and HOW to make it right.”
36/ But it’s far more historically plausible to assume that a tax collector could *not* have personally known or identified every one of the many travelers he had previously defrauded along the roads of Jericho. This is why one interpretative tradition understands Zacchaeus’
37/ relinquishing of half his possessions to the poor not as a spontaneous act of charity, but as a fulfillment of Mosaic requirements in instances when repentant thieves are *completely unable to locate* those to whom they owe restitution (Num 5:8).
38/ DeYoung’s need for absolute closure not only exceed the text of scripture, (2c) it also exceeds historical Christian thought on restitution. One example: In a sermon entitled, “The Nature and Necessity of Restitution” (1711), William Beveridge poses the question:
39/ “What must they do, who are conscious to themselves that they have wronged many, but know not who they were?” And he responds as follows:
40/ When DeYoung critiques our view as too “nonspecific” & “impossible to ever fulfill,” his point isn’t merely that it is too hard, unworthy of effort. He knows that some of the most worthy endeavors in the Christian life are “not in this life to be accomplished” (Owen).
41/ His point is that a “nonspecific” & “impossible” restitution is ethically invalid. Not so, according to Beveridge. In his view, the impossibility of specifically identifying one’s victims
42/ or fully discharging one’s restitutionary debt—even in an entire lifetime—neither undermines the cogency of restitution nor releases one from the obligation to earnestly seek to fulfill it.
43/ But there is yet another serious flaw to DeYoung’s case for closure that bears mentioning. (2d) As mentioned in our essay, his demand for forgiveness as an abstract principle almost entirely stripped of its original moral context. And that context is, of course,
44/ generations of repeated, unrepented instances of abject abuse—broken teeth, cracked bones, ravaged bodies, stolen livelihoods, trafficked children. It is only against this moral and historical backdrop that DeYoung’s interest in forgiveness can be properly evaluated.
45/ And it is against this backdrop that it becomes clear that DeYoung is expecting (demanding) a preemptive offer of absolution by an abjectly & generationally abused party before the accused party even admits that the sins to be forgiven have been committed in the first place.
46/ And it remains unclear how long he *expects* it should take to address the unspeakable harms of millions of acts of theft that have been sheltered by millions of Christians & their churches across hundreds of years—an unfathomable and incalculable moral debt? Truly, how long?
47/ And how long must our Black brothers and sisters endure these agitated demands for forgiveness? These repeated interjections are reminiscent of the mindset of abusive spouses that we have pastored (and that DeYoung likely has too) over our years of ministry.
48/ Upon being confronted with their destructive, cyclical behavior, they prove to be far more furious that they have not *already* been forgiven than they are penitently undone by the untold evils they have committed and the lives they have destroyed.
49/ In short, the relentless focus on moral closure for the perpetrator is terribly misplaced. The prioritization of exonerative relief for the allegedly guilty and the protection of White people from an “unjustified and unrelenting condemnation” represents an AUDACIOUS REVERSAL
50/ of the reparations conversation—the very aim of which is healing, if not a kind of *closure*, for *Black* people in America and in our pews. What ever happened to unrelenting concern not for the swift & final discharge of our debt to African Americans but for the debt itself?
51/ Indeed, the extent to which DeYoung centers the psychological and spiritual condition of White Americans to the utter neglect of Black Americans is not only stunning at times; it is revealing.
52/ This brings us finally to DeYoung’s claim that (3) the moral vision of our book, while sincere, dangerously traffics into the church a secular religion that is fundamentally incompatible with the Christian gospel and the redemptive narrative of scripture.
53/ Having already explained that the formulation DeYoung’s critique is itself flawed (essay), I’ll comment briefly. Ours is a “religious vision,” he insists, one that does not inherently depend on “Christian categories or the Christian story.” It's not “distinctively Christian.”
54/ At this point, we could offer a lengthy rejoinder detailing how our book does in fact rest upon a singularly Christian foundation of faith, hope, and love. But as many of our readers have already witnessed for themselves, it’s all there in the book—
55/ the nature of racism as sin/corruption, the emancipatory power of repentance, the possibility/promise of forgiveness, the radical cruciformity/supernatural source of neighbor love, the redemptive story that frames the work of reparations. We won’t tire you with redundancy.
56/ But we will invite you to consider: What precisely is this “distinctively Christian” vision that leaves not one moral inch of room for reparations? What articles of faith and what account of the world lead Reverend DeYoung to dismiss the arguments of our book so decisively?
57/ As we argued in our essay, while this “distinctively Christian” project is perceived to be an exclusively scriptural and theological project, it is in fact—because of its unarticulated methodology—a cultural one that justifies itself theologically.
58/ Thus, even if we had answered all of these questions satisfactorily, even exquisitely, DeYoung still would not change his mind on reparations. How do we know? He told us so in his concluding paragraph:
59/ A stunning admission, to be sure. Rev. DeYoung will refuse to loosen his grip on his predetermined assessment that reparations is insufficiently “distinctively Christian,” and will persist in rejecting wholesale the call to faithfully seek it
60/ EVEN IF we were proven correct in our evaluation of America’s “bad” history, namely, that White supremacy is original to America, pervasive across its institutions, and enduring to the present day;
61/ EVEN IF we were proven correct that the animating energy and social effect of White supremacy on African American life was and still is a hellish, multi-dimensional, multi-generational theft, a mass and grotesque violation of the 8th commandment;
62/ EVEN IF we were proven correct that the church bears corporate responsibility for these thefts, having served as perpetrator, accomplice, and willfully silent bystander before the plunder of African Americans;
63/ EVEN IF our exegesis of scripture and our appeal to centuries of Christian ethical reflection on the principles of restitution we were proven sound;
64/ and EVEN IF ALL this proved to be not only true but also good for our nation—morally, spiritually, socially, materially—and our local Black communities, not to mention Christ’s church.
65/ STILL Rev. DeYoung will refuse to loosen his grip on his predetermined assessment that reparations is insufficiently “distinctively Christian.”He will persist in rejecting the call to its faithful engagement. He has told us so.
66/ Indeed, his is a cultural vision rather than an exclusively theologically informed one (as he perceives it to be)—a mode of reasoning and approach to racial redress that is demonstrably neither “distinctively Christian” nor “clearly shaped by the gospel.”
N.B. We recognize that MANY have read Rev. DeYoung's review and our response(s)—and formed strongly held opinions—WITHOUT HAVING READ THE BOOK. If you want to engage in this conversation in a substantive way and truly learn from it, please read the book: reparationsproject.com

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Duke Kwon

Duke Kwon Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @dukekwondc

20 Jul
This essay is intended to be more than a response to one review. It’s also not just an essay about reparations. It is also an attempt to address one important reason why the Reformed and evangelical tradition(s) has repeatedly, across centuries, thefrontporch.org/2021/07/sancti…
found itself in collusion with the worst embodiments of white supremacy in America even while presuming its orthodoxy at each juncture. The answer, we believe, is found in its methodology—its culturally captive mode of theological reasoning/application— thefrontporch.org/2021/07/sancti…
and the implicit theology it engenders. It is one that centers white cultural concern, performs the basic impulses of white supremacy. It masquerades as sound—and mere—theological reflection. thefrontporch.org/2021/07/sancti…
Read 7 tweets
18 Jul
Deep basketball thoughts:

• Booker is very good at basketball

• Giannis is not good at free throws

• The Suns like playing at home

• The Bucks need to score more points, and stop the Suns from scoring so much, if they want to win
• When your team starts a game making all of their shots, eventually they will regress to the mean
• When a player misses all his free throws, eventually he will regress to the mean
Read 4 tweets
4 Jun
1. You have heard it said that restitution is required only if *specific* victims of theft can be identified. But I say to you, this is simply not true according to historical Protestant (and especially Reformed) ethical thought.
2. Baxter, for example, explains that "public oppressors, who injure whole nations, countries or communities" are bound to make restitution (CD). He cites as examples unjust judges, oppressing landlords, and deceitful tradesmen, who repeatedly steal from nameless multitudes.
3. Further, those who are guilty of theft but cannot locate their victims are still required to relinquish the stolen goods by returning them to God. And the best proxy for God in this scenario is THE POOR, says Watson, Ridgley, Beveridge, Baxter, et al, based on Num. 5:8.
Read 6 tweets
1 Jun
The response of local White clergymen to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre:
Rev. C. W. Kerr, First Presbyterian Church: Image
Rev. Harold Cooke, Centenary Methodist Church Image
Read 6 tweets
30 May
Appreciate @pmatzko's analysis of the "neo-fundamentalist view of America" re: racial justice. Indeed, the extent to which even avowed "apolitical" evangelical leaders go out of their way to defend the sanctity of America and its history is ... notable. s/1398744012836769793?s=20
But there is no way forward without a sober recognition of the complexity of American history and American church history — their virtues and vices, faithfulness and failures, what Mark Noll calls its mind-boggling "co-mingling of contradictions, antinomies, and paradoxes."
In light of this, I appreciated the perspective shared by @DavidAFrench this morning: "Remembering our nation’s virtues helps give us hope. Remembering our sin gives us humility. Remembering both gives us the motivation and the inspiration necessary to repair our land."
Read 5 tweets
24 May
8 lessons about the Unity of the Spirit from Ephesians 4:1-16:

1. Unity is a Christian priority. It is an essential expression of our call to Christ (v. 1). Christ himself prioritized our oneness in his prayers (Jn 17:11). Unity is not optional for followers of Christ.
2. Unity is a human impossibility. It is "of the Spirit" (v. 3)—supernaturally produced and given by the Holy Spirit. As such it is not based on natural affinity—common interests, culture, politics, personality. The church is an assembly of recovering "natural enemies" (Carson).
3. Unity is a mark of maturity. As the body is built up in unity of faith, the church becomes "mature" (v. 13), "no longer children" (v. 14). A splintered and divided church is an immature church. It is also a vulnerable church, subject to false teaching and deception (v. 14).
Read 15 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!