Search of Wisdom: Faith Formation in the Black Church

Length: 1357 words

I. Author Information

Author Anne Streaty Wimberly is a Christian Education Professor at Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center where she has been teaching since 1997.  She pursued higher educational endeavor at Garett-Evangelical theological Seminary and Georgia State University where she graduated with Master and Doctoral Degrees on Theological Studies and Educational Leadership respectively.  Apart from being an educator, Dr. Streaty also serves as the director of a youth oriented theological program called Youth Hope-Builders Academy.

Evelyn L. Parker, on the other hand, is part of Dallas, Texas’ Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University Faculty where she acts as an assistant professor of Christian Education.  Prior to becoming an educator and author, Evelyn Parker took part in Perkins School of Theology’s Christian Educator’s Seminar, a two-week colloquium on teaching Christian Theology.  Similar to Doctor Wimberly, Parker she achieved higher educational attainment on Religious and Theological Studies through a joint curriculum between Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Northwestern University.

II. Overview of Content

In Search of Wisdom: Faith Formation in the Black Church, authors Anne Streaty Wimberly and Evelyn L. Parker establish a channel in which pastors, religious or spiritual leaders, and concerned individuals who help African Americans searching for a significant Christian life. Similarly, the book reflects

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on one of the central tasks of the Christian Church with emphasis on the extent of wisdom based on the doctrines of Christianity as Wimberly and Parker suggest that wisdom is not simply limited to humanity’s search for rationality but also involves guidance of lost and confused human beings into the path of discipleship and the grace of God through the resurrected Jesus.

Generally, such a task is, altogether, a challenging feat, but for African American people, the task is seemingly overwhelming.  Plagued by racial prejudice, personal dilemmas, and generations of separation, African Americans do not simply deem discipleship as a religious task, but as a means to enlighten their brethren of having a meaningful life under God’s divine grace. Wimberly and Parker, thus, use several Biblical verses together with African customs and beliefs to rouse the idea that the search for wisdom acts as an efficient method of guiding African Americans in their search for meaning and Christian discipleship.

In between the book’s chapters, both Wimberly and Parker practically entail how Christian sects are in need of seeking wisdom. [1] The book, in this sense, tells how the search for and discovery of wisdom is very reliant of faith in God, sincerity of faith in God, and assertion of God’s divine intervention in human existence.  The secret to achieving wisdom, hence, dwells on the idea that there is a distinct approach which welcomes the idea of compassion and contemplation in a personal level while accepting the material, communal, scriptural, and ecclesiastical aspects of knowledge and practice. [2]

As African American belief holds, wisdom is not simply limited to a person’s knowledge; but it also includes disposition, outlook, convictions, and actions that consequentially lead to a life filled with hope.   Likewise, it also instigates the African Americans’ innate reflection of their sense of self-worth. The aforementioned context of wisdom is applicable if the African American is to embark a quest for wisdom under Christian guidance, their churches must focus on forming a ministry of faith. [3]

Wimberly and Parker further imply that African Americans can gain wisdom through their adherence to the African oral tradition. The spoken tradition’s sagely nature with honored Biblical stories, hymns, and narratives from the lives of exemplary individuals provide a guide in which African Americans can conform to.[4] Apart from the moral lessons from spoken and written disciplines, the book also offers a myriad of similar paths that lead to enlightenment and discovery of wisdom.

In most disciplines, the avenue for the search for wisdom lies on experience and to a lesser extent, an individual’s sense of morality. In a Christian context however, experience is irrelevant as faith in God and obedience to His will lay the foundations on the search for wisdom.  In this sense, Wimberly and Parker suggest that formation of faith at an early age is crucial for the youth as the innocent mind of the young is consistently learning and evolving, thus, the path to discipleship can be paved for a person at an early age.  [5]

III. Evaluation

While In Search for Wisdom: Faith Formation in the Black Church’s authors isolate wisdom on the context of African American Christian sects, the key message of the book intends to resonate to every Christian man, woman, and child across the world. Faith in God, as per the words of Christianity’s central figure: Jesus Christ, is the core teaching of the Christian faith. Regardless of sect, race, ethnicity, and gender, all Christians believe in the relevance of faith as a path to salvation from torment.

Skeptics may argue that confidence or utter belief in the truthfulness of an entity or idea without logical explanation or physical evidence is nothing more than an obsessive absurdity.  However, faith in God, as implied by Wimberly and Parker, may not be what African Americans want, but it is what they need.  Search for wisdom justifies the author’s claims on the belief that faith is more than a last resort for a seemingly hopeless case, it is rather something for people to look forward to, a catalyst to a dynamic life of obedience and dedication to the person, thing, or idea being trusted

African Americans have endured a lifetime of prejudice and inequality.  Searching for justice on the aforementioned crimes is not the solution to end their seemingly eternal torment.  As such, Wimberly and Parker present a different approach through discovering the fullness of Jesus.  It may not be as tempting and fulfilling as the general perception of wisdom, but for people who have suffered from centuries of persecution, discovering and identifying with Jesus is a good way of enlightening African Americans of their worth

The book, despite the clarity, the plausibility, and the compassionate intent of its message, prematurely assumes that all African Americans will have violent reactions on the prejudice against them.  The ideals and concepts such as the one that involves helping lost and confused people back into God’s grace presupposes that African Americans have no moral consciousness and capacity to assess their own feelings toward the injustice they receive.  Moreover, the authors’ faith formation theory mildly enforces the idea that African Americans need to be guided just to realize that they need to cling on to God for their enlightenment.

IV. Application

Reliance to God may evidently be a principle or ideal that prompts an individual’s thoughts, deeds, and words, but is can also be seen as a guideline in asserting actions, weighing options, and deciding on what is right and wrong.  The compelling nature of faith, as constituted by Wimberly and Parker, likewise, gives a sense of comfort for people through the fact that beliefs are part of the human nature.  Even if an individual has yet to realize the existence of God, he or she believes in something or someone.

Take the case of how a new-born child’s sees his or her mother; in the eyes of a child, a mother is a hero.  There is difficulty in giving a universal definition for the term and person because of the varying roles a mother play.  But from the moment a child gains consciousness, he or she believes that his or her mother is the only person in the world who can defy the impossible and do everything.  A mother is the answer to a child’s problems, she can fix a broken toy, she can make a delicious snack, she can fight the monster underneath the bed.

After reading In Search of Wisdom: Faith Formation in the Black Church  by Evelyn Parker and Anne Streaty Wimberly, I have become enlightened on the numerous things faith in God can do.  I have learned that wisdom is not just about general and objective knowledge that can be attained through years of study, but a matter of believing in God without condition, without doubt, but with conviction.

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