My God is a Rock: Listening to the African-American Spirituals (Open Forum) – Gospel in Life

My God is a Rock: Listening to the African-American Spirituals (Open Forum)

Tim Keller |  May 3, 1998

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  • Race
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Open Forums are specifically designed for skeptics or those wrestling with the claims of Christianity. Each Open Forum included a brief concert by guest artists followed by a talk and open mic Q&A with Timothy Keller. This audio recording includes the talk only.

1. The experience

We’re looking at the rich, emotional African-American spirituals that were born out of the hardships of slavery. These songs show both joy and sadness from being enslaved. We’ll also look at how slavery was a normal part of life in Britain and America, including the cruel practices like splitting up families, beating slaves, and denying them their rights. The faith and strength of African-Americans are highlighted, while it’s pointed out how the European-Americans were spiritually blind. Lastly, we’ll learn from Jonathan Edwards about the need for everyone to be saved by God.

2. The form

African-American spirituals are unique. They are marked by their on-the-spot creativity, hidden messages, community participation, stories from the Bible, and repeated rhythms. These songs give us a special viewpoint on how God is both beyond us and with us. They show the importance of being able to change without losing who we are. These spirituals can teach all Christians about the importance of adjusting and being creative.

3. The message

The idea of God as a constant, reliable rock, found in both the Old Testament and African-American spirituality, challenges the idea that what’s right and wrong changes based on the situation. People like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, who fought against racism, were inspired by their belief in a God who never changes and who sees all people as equal because He made them in His image. The life-changing power of the good news of Jesus is seen in stories of people changing, like a man who used to be racist, but was humbled and changed by the teachings of his Afro-Caribbean maid’s church.



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