Book Brief: “Bloodlines”
John Piper’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian is an oft-recommended book on racial reconciliation, and rightfully so. From the outset, Piper explains, “The bloodline of Jesus Christ is deeper than the bloodlines of race. The death and resurrection of the Son of God for sinners is the only sufficient power to bring the bloodlines of race into the single bloodline of the cross” (14).
How the Gospel Speaks to Unity
At its core, Bloodlines is about the hope of the gospel for racial reconciliation and its power to overcome racism and ethnocentrism in the church and beyond. Piper clarifies at the very beginning that readers should understand racism as “an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races,” a definition focused on a racist’s heart and behavior; though he doesn’t wish to exclude the expression of racism in structural ways (18).
But before Piper explains the biblical foundation for how the gospel is the remedy for racism, he discusses issues raised by natural bloodlines. It’s clear to Piper that in a world full of racial and ethnic tension and injustice, “only the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring the kind of racial and ethnic harmony that we were made to enjoy” (28).
This perspective was borne out of Piper’s own vulnerable story of recognizing he was a racist for much of his youth until God transformed his heart. The rest of the book’s first half focuses on the diversity of Black perspectives on America’s racial situation and competing strategies for progress related to individual responsibility and systemic injustices.
Although most people are prone to polarization, Piper takes a both-and approach that points to Jesus. He writes, “The gospel of Jesus does not come to the controversy between personal accountability and structural intervention and take sides. It calls both sides to repent and believe in Jesus and be born again and make the glory of Jesus the supreme issue in life” (85). Ultimately, Piper calls his readers to “learn from both sides about the potentials and pitfalls of each… and make the gospel prominent in all our personal and structural action” (102). Christians are called to be truly counter-cultural.
The Gospel’s Role in Undermining Racism
In the second part of the book, Piper aims to motivate Christians to anchor a steadfast commitment to racial reconciliation and justice in the truth of God’s Word. Piper writes, “From the standpoint of the Reformed faith, every aspect of the way God views and saves sinners is designed to undermine racism and lead to a new reconciled and redeemed humanity from every people group in the world” (131). Thus, it is the five solas of the Reformation and the five points of Calvinism that “advance racial and ethnic diversity and harmony” (131). Since people of every color are united in depravity and condemnation, God’s unconditional election and one’s justification in Christ undermine racial superiority.
Christians who recognize that the gospel of Jesus saves people of every color will be transformed by that same gospel to pursue racial and ethnic diversity and harmony, both locally and globally, all to the glory of God.