Today marks a day of remembrance for a man who pioneered one of the greatest developments in modern American history – the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Or, better articulated, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., helped open the doors of dignity and respect for our African-American brothers and sisters. For he knew, was correctly convinced, that these honors were due to all humanity created in the image of God.
And as I was pondering this morning who this man actually was and what he actually did, I realize that he embodied the Jesus of Scripture in a unique way, in a way that gets easily overlooked in our western evangelical context.
Think of this: When we imagine the Jesus we find on the pages of Scripture – all that he was and stood for and did – no one really stands back and says: “Whoa, what a man of theological precision!” Of course, we would agree that Jesus, as the living Word, was theologically correct. There’s not much argument there – though I would add that his theology was not so much propositional (simply words on paper, if you will) as it was very practical. Rather, we stand back in amazement at what God did through his Son.
And that’s just it. When we look at the life of Dr. King, we remember what he did and that for which he stood. It is those things in the life of King that remind us of the man, Jesus. He mirrored the One who stood for truth and justice like no other.
Jesus, as the servant of the Lord, came to proclaim good news to the poor, to prisoners, the blind and the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19). And while we want to “spiritualize” these folk, making it primarily an abstract statement for all people, it’s really a very practical statement about the people Jesus had come to reach and call. Find actual poor people, find actual prisoners, find those who cannot see through their eyeballs, find an oppressed people, and you can bank on Jesus being drawn to these folk. It’s not that Jesus isn’t for middle-class, fairly well-off folk like myself. I’d certainly hope he’s ok with folk like me. But Jesus was very interested in reaching the lost and outcast sheep of Israel, the despised half-blooded Samaritans and the rejected Gentiles.
Or, again, better summarized – the poor, prisoners, blind and oppressed.
It wasn’t just that he was for all “messed up” people, if I can use that term. He was for people who were “messed up,” but who also recognized their desperate condition, all the while longing for deliverance, healing, reconciliation and more.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
And more is found in Matthew 5.
Turning back to Martin Luther King, Jr., we all know he gave his life, literally, for the African-American community. He raised his voice to call for the dignity and respect and compassion that was due such a beautiful part of the human race. He did it all with the power of grace, the grace of powerful words. And I’m stirred to remember that he did it all without weapon nor violence. This, too, reminds us of the Jesus of Scripture.
Still, in our world today, I’m taken aback that so many Christian leaders are primarily marked out by whether or not they are theologically precise. It’s never about how much of the truth, or God’s kingdom reality, is lived out. I’m not saying theology is bad. I study it, have given my life to it, teach it, write it, love it. But I am convinced theological truth is essentially centered in practical living in the right ways of God, just as it was for the living Word.
A man of compassion embodies compassion. That is theological truth.
A woman of grace embodies grace. That is theological truth.
A man of justice embodies just-living. That is theological truth.
A woman of self-sacrificial love embodies love. That is theological truth.
We know this because Jesus embodied all of these characteristics and more. And he was the Truth.
Again, let me repeat: I’m not saying that the practices of biblical and systematic theology are out of bounds. No. But a man or woman who espouses correct doctrine can be set aside if they have not marks of living out the truth and just ways of the living Word. The parable of the good Samaritan reminds us of this. One can tell me about the doctrine of election all day long, writing volumes to impress. But if one doesn’t live out the doctrine of election, which is ultimately that we are called to be a blessing to the families of the world (as expressed to Abraham in Gen 12:1-3), then your thoughts on election are outlandishly rubbish.
So today we remember a man of truth, justice, compassion – a man who embodied Jesus in a way very foreign to what we hold highest. We remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He was a known flagrant, serial adulterer, who used his speaking engagements to bed strange women and he plagiarized his doctoral thesis, which record is today attached to it in the seminary. He is not “Dr.” anybody.
He was a whoremonger and a fraud. If this “embodied the Jesus of Scripture” it most certainly IS “in a unique way” .
Jesus was not a social activist Scott. A groovy bleeding heart flower child bringing justice to the earth. The HOLY spotlessly pure Lamb of God came to “save His people from their sins”. He did NOT come bringing a message of hiippified peace and love. He was and IS the message. Any proclamation of earthly fruit was the outgrowth of that, not the message or mission itself.
Ya know, I really cannot stand most of you emergent bible butchers, but for some reason I really like you. I can’t seem to get myself to just write you off even though I have every reason to.
Right toward the top of my list of things I’m grateful to God for is the fact that there are no tears in the resurrection. I would not be able to take watching the judgement of vaaaaaast multitudes liberal heretics who dared take His name while on earth.
1 John 3
“4-Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5-You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6-No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7-Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8-Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9-No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10-By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
This passage must not be in your bible.
You are an offense to me. Outright offense. There is a complete difference between actual humane and dignified discussion and the vitriolic diatribe that you have spilled out on my blog for the past couple of years. I know you will champion yourself as one of the true ones who stand for Christ. Very few could read this comment, and the plethora of others you’ve left, and come to such a conclusion. I have no problem with differing views and perspectives, but the ridicule, name-calling and outright un-Christlike way you approach communication is appalling.
Consider this your first and last warning, which could have been issued long ago.
Yes, thank you for bringing up King’s failures. He is still Dr. King, as if that is what actually makes one worthy of Christ and the gospel. He was and is no fraud, I guarantee you that. His voice still speaks 50+ years later.
You missed my point entirely Scott. He got that degree by stealing large portions of his thesis for which ANYbody else would have had theirs revoked. Who would dare do that to HIM though.
His flagrant numerous adulterous affairs are well known and even admitted to by close associates who try to make excuses for him while swearing that they aren’t. .
We’re not talking about a fall here. A man of God taken in temptation and subsequently broken in repentance. This was a lifestyle, a “practice” with him, (1 John 3 above) which makes perfect sense because he denied every single essential Christian doctrine as well. He died with ZERO acknowledgement or repentance for selling himself as Dr. under false pretenses OR for a life betrayal and debauchery against God and his wife,
1 Cor. 6:
” 9-Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10-nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11-Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
I refuse to be deceived. How bout you? Please tell me where I’m wrong. I will try to keep from giving you a reason to ban me too.
I read the same Snopes article. Linked to it in my comment. Read it carefully – he is still Dr. And all the stuff that’s out there is not mostly true, though I recognize what has happened. I’m not making excuses, but recognize what he did for an oppressed group of people, which modeled the life of Jesus himself did himself. Theology is practiced. He practiced the life of Christ in his work for our African-American brothers and sister. For that, I am deeply grateful. I’d hope you are as well.
In all, you have not displayed Christlikeness in your commenting history. Thus, I believe you are missing the point in interpersonal communication on my blog (if not all blogs in the blogosphere). You had better do what’s needed to learn how to healthily interact or you will be blocked from commenting.
I’m talking about what IS indisputably true. The committee called plagiarism, notated the document but failed to revoke his degree. If it were me, it would have been revoked in a second upon discovering my plagiarism. He is only still Dr. because the school was terrified of the publicity from treating him like anybody else.
He practiced a life of adultery and deception Scott. THAT’S what he practiced. If justification is by the works of the law then Christ died in vain. God is NOT impressed with do gooders who flagrantly defile His name with their sinful lifestyle. Please address the passages of scripture I have quoted in light of this man’s persistent practice of sin.
I will never give you another reason to block me. If you do, it will be because you don’t want me here. I’ll do my best to be good.
What I have brought is substantive dialog. This is your place, you are not obligated, but I’m asking that you please address the passages in light of what IS indisputably true about King. False reports don’t change that and I will join you in denouncing those who bear false witness. I’m talking about what IS indisputably.
I’m asking nicely. 🙂
Go back and read your first comment on this post (if not 90+% of your comments on my blog). That is what is massively problematic. This isn’t about being a “groovy bleeding heart flower child bringing justice to the earth.” Please get over it. Your communication patterns are troubling at a deeper level than black ink on white backgrounded blogs.
I am not condoning adultery, nor plagiarism. AT ALL. Please get over that. I still believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that King contributed something for the good of humanity patterned after the ways of Christ. Not wishy-washy mush. But real, authentic Christlike patterns for the poor, afflicted and oppressed. I might say the same of Gandhi, but I confess I don’t believe he is a Christian (though E. Stanley Jones’ would make you second guess putting Gandhi in the “out” group).
Let’s champion the cause of David, Solomon and Peter, but not King!
[Note of clarity: I do not condone the failures of David, Solomon, Peter, etc.]
Scott, I just read this article about Dr King’s theology. If even half ot this is correct, his theology was VERY far indeed from anything resembling orthodox Christian belief. And this article seems to be written by a person that was freindly to King’s position.
I can understand how folks today can look at Martin Luther King and call him a great social activist. But unless Christian belief is thoroughly removed from orthodoxy, I do not see how one can call someone like King a Christian activist. You truly have to redefine the historical orthodox definition of the word to do so.
I don’t have time to read the full article. But reading a few of the paragraphs, I think there are problems with his theological perspective, though the author seems also to appreciate King. However, I’d try to recognize him within his own setting rather than the one championed by a small portion of the Christian faith as represented by a particular American evangelical perspective. I am American and evangelical by background. But I recognize that Scripture didn’t flow out of a post-Enlightenment, American evangelical background.
On a side note, the author has a weird online name – connected to Scofield and labeled as “Zionist Conspirator”. Anyways…
Aw Scott, maybe you should read the whole article. (As an aside, I do not know that author at all and was not recommending him. He just had a very interesting assortment of King quotes and information there.)
Can you take the time to read this quite short aritcile? http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2012/06/03/the-thinking-and-theology-of-martin-luther-king-jr/
I don not know this author or magazine either. But he also seems to speak favorably of King.
Take a look at the areas where this man says that King departed from what we would call orthodox Christian bellief:
1) He denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
2) He did not believe in a literal heaven or hell.
3) He denied the literal divinity of Jesus
4) He thought the Bible was myth and denied literal interpretations of Christain doctrines.
There were more problematic areas covered in the first article that I linked.
Surely you can not assign such basic departures from orthodoxy as just a departure from the beliefs of a few American Evangelicals?
I read most of that in the other article. And I think both articles could be from the same guy.
Do those staements re his theological beliefs and the sins and “warts” not make any one wonder why he is revered as such a great Christian? A man that accomplished a lot as a social acitivist yes. But why is he so revered as a great Christian? That is what I do not understand.
Have we truly gotten to the place in the church in this country where such issues as serial adultery and plagiarism used to receive a doctirnal degree and his unorthodox doctrinal beliefs have no bearing at all on whether one is or is not considered a great Christian man?
Can we really do and believe anything we want to any more and so long as we accomplish some great things in other areas, we can still be known as a great Christian person? I truly do not understand the thinking of a great deal of the church in this country any more. In truth, it is a thing quite foreign to me.
I suppose some will consider King has having no great place in history, nor that he championed a Christ-like cause. I’m now aware of the failures out there. But I am convinced that, through warts, sin and all, he accomplished something important in the history of humankind, something that mirrored the work of God in Christ.
Good grief, I meant to say “doctoral degree” not “doctrinal degree.”
Sadly, this happens every year. People pick apart his theology in order to discredit his contributions. It’s painful to read and demonstrates a lack of concern for the plight of humans who have suffered injustice. Dr. King may not have adhered to orthodox Christianity but certainly Christian ethics drove his campaign to end the immoral treatment of African-Americans, especially in the South.
Here is an article that I think does justice to his motivation and service. That’s all I’ll say on the matter.
Thank you for your thoughts, Lisa.
Lisa, that was not my point at all in what I said. I do NOTunderstand how someone with core beliefs that contradict Christianity can be considered a great Christian man. If he denied the bodily resrrection of Christ, he is denying the very basis of Christian belief and salvation.
That would be enough to make me say that he can not be considered a great Christian man without the lifestyle issues that are also very problematic.
I don’t think one would ever be able to convince our African-American brothers and sisters that King did not accomplish something instrumentally important for a particularly oppressed group of the human race. And that he did embody something of Christ in that role as a defender of the oppressed. Just as Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Peter and others embodied Christ in significant ways despite their deep failures.
I’m not making excuses for sin, nor what could be off-base theology. But King was a champion of things near and dear to the heart of Christ. And do re-read my post. Nothing claims anything near to perfection, nor even using some of the descriptors you keep using. But he was who he was, including his Christ-centered work for African-Americans.
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone…” (Btw, great post, Scott)
If King was no Christian, shame on the orthodox Christians of that day who sat idly while he lead them in the work that should be the hallmark of our gospel mission. Open our eyes, Lord Jesus!