‘The Question of God and Race’

‘The Question of God and Race’

This year’s Stob Lecture Series featured Willie James Jennings, associate professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale University. The Stob Lectures, a joint effort of Calvin Seminary and Calvin College, invite conversation on important issues in theology, apologetics, and ethics; Jennings was a clear choice for the series, due in part to his 2010 award-winning book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race.

After his talk at Calvin College as part of the January Series 2019, Jennings spent the afternoon at Calvin Seminary as part of the Stob Lecture Colloquium, where he was interviewed by Calvin Seminary professor Danjuma Gibson.

Their conversation moved from Jennings’ childhood in Grand Rapids, Mich., to the theology of Martin Luther King Jr. Much of the conversation between Gibson and Jennings centered around the topic of theological education and how many scholars today are wrestling with one big question for themselves. As for Jennings, he pursues “the question of God and race.”

Digging deep into this question has brought Jennings to study how an “intensely Christian” city like Grand Rapids is also intensely segregated by race. Through his teaching and writing, Jennings finds he is “at war with the racial configurations of this world,” looking to God for answers to troubling realities.

Through his roles at Duke Divinity and now at Yale, along with his consulting work through the Association of Theological Schools, Jennings has been able to speak into these configurations and move Christians toward diversity and unity at theological schools throughout North America.

As Jennings wrestles with the question of God and race, he also works with scholars to find their own questions to pursue. This leads him to work with students who are looking into various questions of “life and death”—practical questions about theology and justice.

Jennings is motivated and humbled by the opportunity to work with seminary students. Despite the challenges found in schools of theological education, Jennings’ enthusiasm is propelled by the fact that God continues to call people to ministry.

“This is the miracle,” Jennings said. “That’s unbelievably exciting, to work with people who have heard God.”

To watch the full video of the 2019 Stob Lecture Colloquium, visit calvinseminary.edu/news.

About the Author

Matthew Cooke, director of communications at Calvin Theological Seminary

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