Similar to the early church, African American Christianity historically has focused more on survival in the midst of persecution and oppression rather than systematizing doctrine. This historical context left both groups vulnerable to false teaching. However, just as the early church birthed theologians and apologists to respond to these new challenges, African Americans have come to a point in their history where there is a need for a response to teachings that have capitalized on their vulnerability.
The Black Hebrew Israelites is one group that has infiltrated black communities to preach a gospel that is contrary to Scripture. A familiarity with the history of African American Christianity will shed light on the origins of this movement. Tracing the Exodus motif in early African American Christianity reveals that the claims of Black Hebrews originate from a shift from symbolic to literal identification with the biblical Hebrews. Furthermore, the claim that all African Americans are Hebrews ignores the historical and scientifically verifiable fact that African slaves were brought from a multitude of diverse countries in Africa. Consequently, the Black Hebrew doctrine conflicts with the ethnic diversity of African Americans.
Considering life’s most ultimate question—How do I get right with God?—the Black Hebrew Israelite doctrine is impotent. Pauline soteriology rejects any claim of advantage before God based on ethnic identification or attempts to keep the Law of Moses. Although Black Hebraism addresses important issues in black communities, their worldview is founded on an unstable foundation.
This Postmodern Realities episode is a conversation with Journal author Jimmy Butts about his 39:4 article “The Origin and Insufficiency of the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement”.
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