Book Review of Race, Church and Society, by Frank J. Smith.
Published by Presbyterian Scholars Press, 226 pages. $14.99. (Available on Kindle for $9.71)
How wonderful is it when a faithful professor sheds biblical light on one of culture’s thorny topics? How brave is it, when ‘faith’ ventures into the briar-patch of current controversy? We have such a book in Frank J. Smith’s Race, Church and Society!
But it’s even better than that: In this case we have the skillful theoretician/theologian – who has put his money where his mouth is! He planted a thriving church in Urban Atlanta, in the so-called inter-racial war-zone of “the Bluff.” Joyfully and enthusiastically, the Rev. Dr. Frank Smith and his wife Penny – labor to bring the epitome of biblical joy, the Gospel of Christ, to bear on the sadness of broken America! He loves his people, and his people love him.
As the title suggests, Smith deals with modern America’s ideas about Race, Church and Society – from a redemptive/biblical perspective – examining our modern pagan cultural myths in the light of God’s inscripturated biblical insight. He does this in an easy-to-read luminous manner. This book has to be one of the great books of 2021. His work is summed-up in Chapter 8’s title: ‘The Audacity of Cross-Cultural Mission!’
Professor Smith deals with ‘Race’ and its definition, People-Groups and ethnic superiority/inferiority, Cultural differentiation, God’s relevant Covenant of Grace to the nations, Racial Conflict, Cross-Cultural Missionology, Koinonia, Cultural analysis, Black Lives Matter, Social Justice ‘Warriorship’, and Reparations.
While these themes currently divide and embroil America – most people have no clear definitions or clarifying insight about them! Frank Smith does; and grounds his opinions in God’s millennia-old insight.
It’s humbling to consider the challenge of this book – given the heat of our moment – but Dr. Smith consummates courage with insight as he works his way through his topic.
An example would be his treatment of ‘Reparations).’ This concept presents itself as an extremely complex ethical issue, involving ethics itself, situational application, time, and cultural context! Smith shows how this must fit into a wider ethical context (the previous chapter), and then shows how modern approaches are in reality impossible! Using the logic of the reductio absurdum Professor Smith shows the reader how impossible it would be to successfully negotiate a righteous program of ‘reparations.’ It might sound appealing using an infantile definition of ‘love’ – but in the end – if an idea is unworkable – is it not also a sign that the idea is flawed?
So, ‘reparations’ work neither ethically nor pragmatically. He grounds his explanation on historical occurrences and references that are frankly surprising. He knows his history and its enlightening insights – pulling from English Saxon/Baron history, Robert Lewis Dabney, and various historical Presbyterian reports and papers! Smith is as conversant with Black Conservative Thomas Sowell as he is with Dr. Glen Loury, the first Black tenured African-American economic Professor at Harvard. Smith argues that while reparations might benefit our cultural mandarins (the bureaucratic class) it would actually be destructive to the kind of people to whom he ministers!
Coupled with the meat of this study are its other resources, as are found in the author’s index and bibliography. Smith presents a cornucopia of resources for further study, as well as a capacity to search RCS for its positions and insights. His Scripture index alone is almost worth the price of the book, as he opens up scores of pertinent verses that the average reader has probably never considered!
Race, Church and Society is a must-read – from both the perspectives of our concern for people and modern progress. If we truly love people and want the best for them, then we must eshew the demonic – which presses so insidiously upon us with its tentacles of deceit and false faith – and listen to God. Professor Smith helps us precisely here, with his twin spades of biblical and historical insight.
Race, Church and Society is both a good book and a necessary book. Get it!
Review kindly submited by the Rev. Dr. R. E. Knodel, Jr, Pastor at Southwest Ohio RP Church
The Rev. Dr. Professsor Frank J. Smith is a Ph.D. published author who currently lectures at Georgia Gwinnet College in Atlanta. He’s married to Penelope who enjoyed a distinguished career in the British Royal Air Force! Frank is a widely published author, editor and journalist – who’s received an honorary doctorate from the Methodist Episcopal Church (USA) for his work in ecclesiastical journalism and interchurch relations. Simultaneously, he labors at the Atlanta Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) in Atlanta – doing street-evangelism unto building a local church in the ‘Bluff’ area of Urban Atlanta.