SUMMARY: White men have had a monopoly on Biblical interpretation in the West and the United States for hundreds of years, and many voices of women and minorities have not been allowed to bring their valuable insight into Biblical analysis. Dr. Esau McCaulley‘s Reading While Black is his attempt to add to the cannon of black biblical interpretation in the steps of James Cone, Dr. Martin Luther King, W.E.B Duboise, and countless others.
“Black ecclesial tradition, of which I am one of many heirs, has a distinctive message of hope arising from this reading of biblical text,” McCaulley pens. “This message of hope is not simply a thing of the past; it is living and active, having the ability to provide a way forward for Black believers who continue to turn to Scripture for guidance.”
McCaulley establishes in his first chapter the need for “Black ecclesial interpretation” before devoting the next six chapters to policing, the political witness of the Black church, justice, the Bible and Black identity, Black rage, and slavery. Reading While Black won a plethora of awards in 2020 and 2021, but a word of caution – this was published by IVP Academic, and many of the awards McCaulley won are for books that tackle orthodoxy or theology. In our humble opinion, this is not a book geared towards the masses but those in ministry, seminary, or have a passion for the two.
As a result, McCaulley’s elevated language sometimes makes his message unclear. He is tackling complex issues, giving them historical and Biblical context, while bringing them into a modern framework. That is sometimes tough to follow on its own, but throw in the fact that McCaulley uses words such as exegesis and hermeneutic, and at times his point can get lost in the weeds.
With that said, when he does articulate a point simply, he knocks it out of the park. For example, in chapter two on policing, he eloquently explains why Black people lament that they have to live in fear. He ties this back into a Christian theology of policing which is a theology of freedom – a freedom without fear. The chapters on Black rage and slavery (chapters six and seven) stand out as he integrates those with Scripture.
We have listened to him on several podcasts where he is an insightful, witty interviewee and have read many of his articles. We highly recommend The CRT Debate Distracts from God’s Justice.
KEY QUOTE: “As Christians, it is part of our calling to remind those charged with governing to create an atmosphere in which people are able to live without fear. This has been the Black person’s repeated lament. We should not live in fear. Good should be rewarded and evil punished. The United States, historically and in the present, has not done that. Instead it has used the sword to instill a fear that has been passed down from generation to generation in Black homes and churches — but that fear has never had the final word. Instead Black Christians remembered that we need not fear those who can kill the body. “
BONUS: If you don’t have time to read the book, listen to Dr. McCaulley‘s interview with Preston Sprinkle on the Theology in the Raw podcast.
BONUS II: There is corresponding video curriculum available at SeminaryNow.com. ($)
DID YOU KNOW? Sunday to Saturday has a Good Reads page where we post all of the books we have read – even the ones that didn’t make the cut.
Our latest curated media on reading the Bible:
There seems to be a common assumption that if we just pick up the Bible and read it then it will make sense. And while we want to acknowledge that God can choose to reveal insights to individuals we also want to highlight that God also provides us with resources, such as historical documents and books, to enhance our understanding of the Bible. With honesty and humility How (Not) to Read the Bible provides indispensable reading tips while tackling some of the seemingly anti-women, pro-violence, and pro-slavery texts.Read more