What is the Gospel?
"[For the LORD] cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth." (Ps 96:13)
"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame [and] everlasting contempt." (Daniel 12:2)
Every person who have ever lived, including all of the dead, will one day stand before God to be judged for the things each has done in his or her life on this earth. That judgment will decide how each person spends eternity. The eternal state of all sinners will be condemnation, "everlasting shame and everlasting contempt" in an eternal lake of fire originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41).
According to scripture the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way through His grace to escape this coming condemnation and to live with Him for eternity. To provide this Way, God, once and only once in history, to be born through a woman as a man -- as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, according to prophecies written long before in the Old Testament scriptures (Jesus is called "the Son of God" because His mother Mary was a virgin until after He was born, and because He has no human father -- Matt 1:25; Luke 1:31, 34, 35). As scripture explains:
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Co 15:3-4). Finally, the Gospel is exclusive: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." declares John 14:6. Peter reaffirms in Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
According to the Bible, that is the Gospel. Any philosophy or teaching that differs from this Gospel and claims to offer a different basis for salvation or a different path to God is called by scripture "another gospel," a different gospel, a gospel contrary to scripture. According to scripture, no follower of Jesus Christ is to accept another gospel or accept as an authority anyone who would present such (Gal. 1:6-8).
Womanist theology is a feminist theology that was created starting in the mid-late 1980s by a sector of black feminist academics from secular theological schools and universities. It was actually based on feminist theology and black liberation theology, both of which themselves draw from liberation theology1. The stated purpose of womanist theology was to address what this sector saw as key shortcomings in feminist theology and in black liberation theology. For them, feminist theology did not adequately address the issues and social situations of black women, particularly poor black women, while black liberation theology was male-oriented and did not adequately address the issues of women.
Womanist theology does attempt to offer a form of affirmation for black women, particularly black feminists. This can be and is constructive and in accord with scripture, if done in a manner consistent with the Bible's principles. Actually, much of womanist theology focuses on positive and constructive affirmation, actively and thoughtfully discussing contemporary issues black women face, and even from time to time highlighting important writers like Toni Morrison4, someone who has made positive contributions that have uplifted and edified Christians and non-Christians, women and men, of all races (though unfortunately Alice Walker, who has been quite negative, especially towards black males, is a much more frequent subject of admiration by womanists).
Though it is overall affirming, womanist theology departs from and contradicts scripture in a number of its core defining principles, making it "another gospel" by the Bible's stated definition of "the Gospel". The most basic departure from scripture in womanist theology is its being defined in terms of human philosophy, not scripture: "Womanist theology draws on sources that range from traditional church doctrines, African American fiction and poetry, ...conjuring and syncretic black religiosity, and womanist ethnographic approaches2...." Some womanist theology adherents go even further and flatly deny the gospel of Jesus Christ itself: "The Kingdom of God is not interpreted as private property of the Christians, but as a promise to all people," asserts womanist theologian Doreen Hazel3.
But the Bible says Jesus is the only salvation and the only way to God. No one can know God except through Jesus Christ: "He that believeth on [Jesus Christ] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18). Any Christian does well to heed the Bible's warning, "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son." (1John 2:22)
Another area where womanist theology contradicts scripture is its openly endorsing behaviors, particularly sexual behaviors, that the Bible explicitly forbids (1Cor 6:9-11). This issue is so important in scripture that anyone who promotes such behaviors and practices in the church is considered to be a false teacher following the ways of Cain and Balaam (Jude), two examples scripture uses to illustrate the complete opposite of what the Gospel stands for.
Womanist theology has at least two more scriptural problems. The first is endorsing what Thomas represents as "the empowering dimensions of conjuring". Simply put, "conjuring" is casting spells or attempting to call back spirits from the dead. This is embracing and promoting witchcraft, spiritism and related practices (feminist theology embraces these practices as well). Far from being 'empowering' in any scripturally acceptable way, these occultic pagan practices are inseparably associated with Satan, the devil, the enemy of God and all that God stands for. The Bible calls conjuring "necromancy", or "having a familiar spirit." Practicing such things is absolutely forbidden by the Bible. Embracing, endorsing or promoting any such practice is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. According to scripture it is a doctrine of the devil, not of God at all: "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times [astrologer], or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee." (Deut 18:10-12)
Another area where womanist theology contradicts scripture is in embracing what Thomas calls "syncretic black religiosity". This refers to religious syncretism, or the blending of religions. This may work with other religions and philosophies but it absolutely does not work with Christianity, as scripture makes clear: "...for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee." (Ex. 23:33). Though obviously associating with people of other religions and beliefs in normal life is not a problem in itself ("we are in the world, but not of the world," says the Lord Jesus), in terms of personal religious belief and of individual or doctrinal commitment to God there is no blending permitted by the Bible between faith in Jesus Christ with any other religion, no possibility at all for syncretism. The claims and demands of Jesus Christ are absolutely exclusive. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the only true God come in the flesh. Jesus said there is no other way to God but Him -- no other path, no other way, no other gospel: "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am [He,] ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24).
The Bible is true on this point or it is not. There is no middle ground. "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:" says Jesus (John 10:26-7) "And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. (John 10:5). "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" asks the prophet (Amos 3:3). The committed born-again believer in Jesus Christ knows the answer is "no." He or she cannot walk towards God by mixing faith in Christ with another way and he or she does not try. Jesus is the only Way.
Conclusions for the Christian
Womanist theology considers itself a theology of liberation. However, by building itself on human philosophy instead of scripture, by denying the exclusivity of faith in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, His burial and rising physically from the dead as the only hope for salvation and the only way to God, and by endorsing and promoting practices the Bible disapproves of, it cannot offer liberation from the Bible's perspective, for "There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD." (Prov 21:30)
These are strong words from the scriptures, true, but people's eternal lives are at stake, and those stakes are far too important to God to allow any human philosophy to compete with His holy word, the Bible. The stand of the Christian must be firm, clear and uncompromising: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;..." (2Cor 10:5)
There is only one true Gospel, the gospel of faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God, His shed blood on the cross and His physical resurrection from the dead. The Christian is to believe only that Gospel and reject all other teachings. The Gospel of the Bible offers a sure foundation, a heavenly affirmation and a genuine liberty and hope which no man-made theology or philosophy can offer. "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," commands the Lord Jesus (Matt 3:2). God wants us to enter His kingdom through the only Way that He has ever created -- faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and in the Holy Scriptures that He inspired. The way of the Bible offers everlasting life, greater freedom and liberty, and a better way to achieve any worthy goal than any way this world can offer, and that Bible Way is the only Way that the Christian should follow.
1 See "Free Articles" on the Christian Research Institute web site www.equip.org Search on "liberation theology" for a summary of these theologies' core teachings.
2 Linda Thomas, "Womanist Theology, Epistemology, and a New Anthropological Paradigm" articles, parts 1-3 on BlackandChristian.com.
3 Doreen Hazel, abstract from "Daughters of Ham: theology from an Afro-European Womanist Perspective"
4 Karen Baker-Fletcher, "Tar Baby and Womanist Theology"
Rev. Robert Ash is co-pastor and youth minister
of Euphrates Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland, California. He has
18 years of preaching, teaching, evangelism and apologetics experience
in church, prison, college campus, and street ministry. He holds a bachelor's
degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a master's degree
from Stanford University.
The opinions expressed are those of the author. This article is used by permission. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read The People of Color in the Bible series by Rev. Ash on BlackandChristian.com.
Copyright © 2001 by Robert Ash.