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"Free at last!" It has been more than thirty years since Martin Luther King Jr. shouted those words to a crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. His speech, "I Have a Dream," is now familiar, even famous. But has his dream been realized? In Free at Last? Carl Ellis offers an in-depth assessment of the state of African-American freedom and dignity within American culture today. "Free at last!" It has been more than thirty years since Martin Luther King Jr. shouted those words to a crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. His speech, "I Have a Dream," is now familiar, even famous. But has his dream been realized? In Free at Last? Carl Ellis offers an in-depth assessment of the state of African-American freedom and dignity within American culture today. Updating and expanding his examination (previously published as Beyond Liberation) for a new generation of readers, Ellis stresses how important it is for African-Americans to know who they are and where they have been. So he begins by tracing the growth of Black consciousness from the days of slavery to the present, noting especially the contributions of King and Malcolm X. He also pays particular attention to traces of a "theological soul dynamic," an authentic manifestation of Christianity in Black culture, which runs through American history. It is this dynamic faith, says Ellis, that promises true freedom--the realization of King's dream--for African-Americans today.


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"Free at last!" It has been more than thirty years since Martin Luther King Jr. shouted those words to a crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. His speech, "I Have a Dream," is now familiar, even famous. But has his dream been realized? In Free at Last? Carl Ellis offers an in-depth assessment of the state of African-American freedom and dignity within American culture today. "Free at last!" It has been more than thirty years since Martin Luther King Jr. shouted those words to a crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. His speech, "I Have a Dream," is now familiar, even famous. But has his dream been realized? In Free at Last? Carl Ellis offers an in-depth assessment of the state of African-American freedom and dignity within American culture today. Updating and expanding his examination (previously published as Beyond Liberation) for a new generation of readers, Ellis stresses how important it is for African-Americans to know who they are and where they have been. So he begins by tracing the growth of Black consciousness from the days of slavery to the present, noting especially the contributions of King and Malcolm X. He also pays particular attention to traces of a "theological soul dynamic," an authentic manifestation of Christianity in Black culture, which runs through American history. It is this dynamic faith, says Ellis, that promises true freedom--the realization of King's dream--for African-Americans today.

30 review for Free at Last?: The Gospel in the African American Experience

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I think this is the most helpful Christian book on race I’ve read. “Divided by Faith” is essential sociology for church leaders; here is the history and theology to complement it. Some chapters are better than others, and some parts are a bit dated (the first edition was published in 1983, the second in 1996). On the whole, though, it’s a book filled with fascinating historical analysis and stimulating insights for today. Carl Ellis is a gift to the church. Read “Free at Last?” carefully; it wil I think this is the most helpful Christian book on race I’ve read. “Divided by Faith” is essential sociology for church leaders; here is the history and theology to complement it. Some chapters are better than others, and some parts are a bit dated (the first edition was published in 1983, the second in 1996). On the whole, though, it’s a book filled with fascinating historical analysis and stimulating insights for today. Carl Ellis is a gift to the church. Read “Free at Last?” carefully; it will richly repay.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Philliber

    It was an important, passing meeting. At the time I belonged to a Christian sect that was convinced only our tribe was being saved and redeemed by God. Some of the members of our teeny church came from the black neighborhood just up the road and had drawn me into a part of their communal life. On this day I was in that neighborhood helping with a community project when I met him; Old Mose (like Moses without the “s” on the end). That’s what they called him, and that’s how he introduced himself. It was an important, passing meeting. At the time I belonged to a Christian sect that was convinced only our tribe was being saved and redeemed by God. Some of the members of our teeny church came from the black neighborhood just up the road and had drawn me into a part of their communal life. On this day I was in that neighborhood helping with a community project when I met him; Old Mose (like Moses without the “s” on the end). That’s what they called him, and that’s how he introduced himself. Probably in his late eighties, wrinkled black skin and frail frame, yet genuine faith and love for Christ oozing from every pore. Here was a man who wasn’t of my theological tribe, and yet he had more faith in his little pinky than I had in my whole being. His gentleness toward me and confidence in God set me back on my sectarian heels. Though those few hours with Mose were over 30 years, I have never forgotten him, and have often given thanks to God for him. That chance meeting sent me on a reassessment of my perfectionist leanings that eventually brought me out of my soul-suffocating separatism. As I read the newly re-released Signature addition of “Free at Last? The Gospel in the African American Experience” by Dr. Carl F. Ellis, Jr. I thought of Mose a number of times. Ellis, Provost's Professor of Theology and Culture at Reformed Theological Seminary, Senior Fellow of the African American Leadership Initiative, and Academic Director of the Makazi Institute, penned an earlier edition of this manuscript in 1983, and it’s second version in 1996 was picked up by IVP as a Signature Edition. Now in 2020, this 296-page paperback is being re-presented to the world, and it is just in the nick of time! Between these covers lies a friendly, factual and faith-filled case study of Black heritage in America. Though it is friendly, it is not facile. The author will challenge readers, black, white, northern, southern, secularist, Christian, Evangelical, Fundamentalist and Reformed, right where each needs to be challenged. The factual comes from a man who has lived and sweat through many of the seasons he recounts. And the faith-filled is because the Gospel of Jesus Christ pulses through the arteries and capillaries of each chapter. After the intriguingly insightful forward by Amisho Baraka, Ellis takes his readers on a journey. This pilgrimage leads from Africa to America, and up the unfolding slopes and stages of the centuries. Our traveling companions and trail guides are African Americans who have pushed forward, trying to bring their fellow Blacks more fully into liberty and justice. The author maps out the ideological genealogies of various movements and endeavors. This was incredibly helpful, because it gave me a clearer perception of certain groups that now exist, and which ancestral stream they spawned from. There is also a chronicling of several of our guides and companions, which was similarly enlightening, especially regarding Malcolm X and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Finally, the glossary, which takes up one-fifth of the book, is an educational resource in and of itself. Though this volume is academically rigorous, it is not heartless or stoic. God’s grace comes through as the reason and the remedy. For example, while the author tackles oppression and resistance, he declares that “the oppressed, when they resist oppression, are resisting unrighteousness. It does not mean that the oppressed are more righteous than the oppressors. It does mean, however, that they have the opportunity to demonstrate more righteousness…resisting oppression is more righteous than giving in to it or inflicting it on others, especially if the oppressed resist righteously.” But then, unexpectedly, Ellis states clearly that the “oppressed must fight to break the back of oppression so they can seek God’s solution to their own unrighteousness” (29-30). Again and again, the author comes back to the sobering realities that save people and movements from utopianism and secularist perfectionism, for “the closer a people get to liberation, the more their own ungodliness and God’s judgment will show…Liberation is insufficient if it is not accompanied by the empowerment that results from a quest for godliness in every area of life” (189). I heard strong supporting strains from Martin Luther King and John M. Perkins in the background while Ellis was riffing through his topics. There was a tonal beauty that blends together in these pages to catch up a soul! “Free at Last?” is a work I will always be grateful for, not only because it reminded me again of Old Mose, but also because it gave me a greater appreciation for that aged man of faith. I look forward to seeing him again when, by the grace of God, we can gather together on the other side of the Jordan. If you’re a white Christian, especially in my own Reformed tradition, you need to snatch up this book and pour over it with a heart wide open before God. If you’re a black believer, I implore you to get a copy and make it your own. And together, with arms interlocked, let us rejoice together that God gives us dignity, and say together “if God is somebody, which he is, then I am somebody because I in some ways resemble God” (31). Yes, indeed, I highly recommend this book! Thanks to IVP for providing, upon my request, a gratis copy of “Free at Last?” It is the specific manuscript used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions, requirements, mandate, or malfeasance.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brice Karickhoff

    A history of black thought and theology. Totally enlightening for me! I think that this is a must read, particularly for Christians who are interested in racial justice and reconciliation. I think Ellis balanced biblical truth, historical integrity, and cultural awareness incredibly well. I am always extra-critical of a book when I have read the primary sources that the author uses, because I am hypersensitive to whether or not they use those sources with integrity. Having read most major works A history of black thought and theology. Totally enlightening for me! I think that this is a must read, particularly for Christians who are interested in racial justice and reconciliation. I think Ellis balanced biblical truth, historical integrity, and cultural awareness incredibly well. I am always extra-critical of a book when I have read the primary sources that the author uses, because I am hypersensitive to whether or not they use those sources with integrity. Having read most major works by Douglass, Truth, Washington, Du Bois, MLK, and Malcolm X, I was frequently reading Ellis's commentary on books I've already read. To my delight, he was true to the sources even when they contested his point. Only thing I didn't like about this book was that it lacked organization at times. Every now and then I'd be half way through a chapter and I'd get into that mode where you love individual sentences and paragraphs, but you've kinda lost the authors train of thought. Maybe that's on me though. I spent about three more weeks on this book than I do on most, so it makes sense that I'd forget what's going on sometimes. Anyhow, I'd strongly suggest it. and if you read it, PLEASE hmu with your thoughts.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Kassing

    This book is simply excellent. There is a reason IVP recently added it to their IVP signature classics series. If you are trying to understand the black experience from a theological perspective in America I would start here.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rendi Hahn

    Originally published in 1983, updated in the mid-1990s, and recently re-released, this book by Carl Ellis is an extremely helpful overview of the evolution of Black theology in America, going back to the earliest days of enslavement. Ellis looks at how the theology that sustained enslaved people morphed and changed over time, with the thread of the "soul dynamic" woven throughout. His description of the differences between the post-Reconstruction experiences of northern and southern blacks, his Originally published in 1983, updated in the mid-1990s, and recently re-released, this book by Carl Ellis is an extremely helpful overview of the evolution of Black theology in America, going back to the earliest days of enslavement. Ellis looks at how the theology that sustained enslaved people morphed and changed over time, with the thread of the "soul dynamic" woven throughout. His description of the differences between the post-Reconstruction experiences of northern and southern blacks, his analysis of the divergent movements following Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, his contrasts of classical theology vs. "jazz theology" - I learned a lot! After the primary text is an extensive glossary that highlights important names, terms and events in Black American history and the civil rights movement. Highly recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Mueller

    Man, what a gem this book is. This should be required reading for all Christians who care about bearing with one another and building up the local church here in the States! Particularly if you want more insight into the black experience with Christianity in America through the years, this book will serve you well. Ellis gives such an enlightening – and in many ways, prophetic – overview of the development of black theology over the years. He masterfully diagnoses the shortcomings of white evang Man, what a gem this book is. This should be required reading for all Christians who care about bearing with one another and building up the local church here in the States! Particularly if you want more insight into the black experience with Christianity in America through the years, this book will serve you well. Ellis gives such an enlightening – and in many ways, prophetic – overview of the development of black theology over the years. He masterfully diagnoses the shortcomings of white evangelicalism in America's youth up to today and the effect it had on black theological development. His description of the ways in which secular humanism has drifted into much of America's theological enterprise (both black and white) is so veracious it's frightening. Finally, I found his recommendations at the end of the book biblical, prudent, and reasonable. If you're a Christian, please read this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Wells

    Finally got around to reading this book. It was so enlightening for me. The history aspects and the glossary are worth the price of the book alone. But Ellis’s commitment to biblical Orthodoxy, irenic tone, and his criticism of black humanism and other ideological propositions make this a very balanced book on black theology and racial justice. One wonders if Ellis was a more of the leading spokestheologian of today’s revived interested in social justice and racial reconciliation that such movemen Finally got around to reading this book. It was so enlightening for me. The history aspects and the glossary are worth the price of the book alone. But Ellis’s commitment to biblical Orthodoxy, irenic tone, and his criticism of black humanism and other ideological propositions make this a very balanced book on black theology and racial justice. One wonders if Ellis was a more of the leading spokestheologian of today’s revived interested in social justice and racial reconciliation that such movements would be more fruitful and unifying for the church.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jared Wilson

    A must-read for our divisive and divided times, especially for pastors, ministry leaders, or really any Christian interested in listening well to the African American experience and in understanding the necessary gospel implication of racial justice.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eddie Mercado

    Long before “woke” was in the common vernacular of Western society, Carl Ellis was walking the walk and talking the talk in the area of racial reconciliation. This striving for reconciliation has largely taken place in a theologically conservative denomination (PCA), and has brought upon much fruit for the church to enjoy (and hopefully) to share. In this book, Ellis moves through black history and philosophical history in very broad strokes with the intention of building a case for the importan Long before “woke” was in the common vernacular of Western society, Carl Ellis was walking the walk and talking the talk in the area of racial reconciliation. This striving for reconciliation has largely taken place in a theologically conservative denomination (PCA), and has brought upon much fruit for the church to enjoy (and hopefully) to share. In this book, Ellis moves through black history and philosophical history in very broad strokes with the intention of building a case for the importance of “Jazz Theologians,” theologians who contextualize their beliefs about God and Scripture, applying them in their cultural context to bring about a sweeping cultural change that more embodies the ethics of the heavenly kingdom. Of course, this has important ramifications in a society filled with injustice (racism, classism, abortion, among others). It is commendable that through the years, Ellis has not been a political pawn (to quote Sho Baraka’s foreword), but has earnestly tried to bring God’s word to bear in all areas of life. That’s not to say I agreed with every line written, which is alright with me. While being aware of the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, I think Ellis stressed too much of the common Grace aspects of Malcom X, just to give one example. A Van Tillian cultural analysis would stress that antithesis precedes common grace. Ellis does indeed provide a theological critique of Malcom’s ideology, to be clear, but I tend to think that Ellis is painting a picture of continuity with Christian ethics that may be overstated. Another area of some critique that I’ll give concerns his application of the Theological Dynamic. It seems to me that Ellis is coming from a more Neo-Calvinist perspective. While I’m entirely sympathetic to supporting a more equitable society (equality of opportunity), when Ellis says the Church should [_____], I think he may be promoting ideas that go outside the bounds of the Church’s mission. But I think that his application could be more acceptable if we make the Kuyperian distinction between Church as organism and Church as institution. Finally, the end of the book contains a massive glossary. It proves to be a helpful resource for understanding black history better, given that the main manuscript does not get into black history as much as I thought it would. Overall, I commend this book for Christians and those who aren’t Christian alike. Ellis provides a helpful perspective on African Americans and their religious and socio-economic experience, while also providing an apologetic for why the Christian religion, rightly ordered to love of God and neighbor, provides the best answer to the racial strife that we have seen. While this book was last updated in the 90’s, it still proves quite relevant today.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Carl Ellis offers a carefully analyzed overview of the African American quest for freedom from a historical, cultural, and theological perspective. He argues that African American culture is historically theological. It is this "theological dynamic" that formed the black consciousness of inherent human dignity and fueled the fight for freedom through its various phases and movements. As a book written in 1996 it feels as if Ellis is speaking to 2020/1. I found Free at Last incredibly helpful in p Carl Ellis offers a carefully analyzed overview of the African American quest for freedom from a historical, cultural, and theological perspective. He argues that African American culture is historically theological. It is this "theological dynamic" that formed the black consciousness of inherent human dignity and fueled the fight for freedom through its various phases and movements. As a book written in 1996 it feels as if Ellis is speaking to 2020/1. I found Free at Last incredibly helpful in providing context for the past and vision for the future. Ellis laments the failed attempts of black secular humanism and black Islam to achieve that quest for freedom. His call in moving forward is a return to that theological dynamic, the only pathway to true freedom. He writes, "Freedom is being under the right authority; it is being home with my Lord... True freedom is not the right to do what I want, it is the power to do what is right."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Justin Lonas

    Full disclosure, Carl is a friend (and, more recently, a professor of mine—and I finally read his book for a class!). I've heard him talk through the themes of this book in classrooms, conferences, and at dinner tables, but seeing it all put together in writing still brings new facets of the story of the gospel and the African American story to light. This is a 1996 update of a 1983 book, and it still hits so many cultural notes just right today. More than just a fine history, this is a book of Full disclosure, Carl is a friend (and, more recently, a professor of mine—and I finally read his book for a class!). I've heard him talk through the themes of this book in classrooms, conferences, and at dinner tables, but seeing it all put together in writing still brings new facets of the story of the gospel and the African American story to light. This is a 1996 update of a 1983 book, and it still hits so many cultural notes just right today. More than just a fine history, this is a book of worldview, apologetics, and cultural discipleship that should be digested by anyone seeking to be a faithful disciple-maker on-mission in their community.

  12. 5 out of 5

    sam tannehill

    I read this book at the same time as "The Color of Compromise" by Jemar Tisby. This book by Carl F. Ellis is much better. The author covers much of the same history as "The Color of Compromise" but Ellis is more thorough with his analysis. Both books are addressed primarily to the Christian Church, but Ellis talks more about theology and Christian belief, where Tisby seems to be more inspired by politics. Both books also list recommendations at their conclusions; Ellis' focus is from Christian g I read this book at the same time as "The Color of Compromise" by Jemar Tisby. This book by Carl F. Ellis is much better. The author covers much of the same history as "The Color of Compromise" but Ellis is more thorough with his analysis. Both books are addressed primarily to the Christian Church, but Ellis talks more about theology and Christian belief, where Tisby seems to be more inspired by politics. Both books also list recommendations at their conclusions; Ellis' focus is from Christian grace, where Tisby's seems to be from equality of outcome. I would recommend reading both books, but I would not recommend reading "The Color of Compromise" without reading "Free at Last".

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    I really enjoyed aspects of this book- historical background and the focus on God’s glory vs. solutions that come from a secular humanistic worldview. I think where I struggled with this book is that for a Christian author focusing on Biblical solutions, the book focused so much on color as a prominent identity versus racism as a problem that issues from man’s fallen nature. I struggled to understand where the author was coming from at times.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Elliott

    From a midwestern, white pastor this was one of the books I would recommend to the church to open their eyes to the experiences of our black brothers and sisters. I am going to include quotes here but I must recommend all of chapter eleven (pgs. 157-171) as one of the best presentations of worldview, philosophy and the gospel that I have ever read. p. 19-It used to be said that Western historians had sol us a bill of goods, that what was portrayed as "objective" history was in reality White histo From a midwestern, white pastor this was one of the books I would recommend to the church to open their eyes to the experiences of our black brothers and sisters. I am going to include quotes here but I must recommend all of chapter eleven (pgs. 157-171) as one of the best presentations of worldview, philosophy and the gospel that I have ever read. p. 19-It used to be said that Western historians had sol us a bill of goods, that what was portrayed as "objective" history was in reality White history. Black history was almost completely glossed over as if we did not exist. The same could have been said about the other people-oriented disciplines, such as sociology, psychology and anthropology. This White bias was unseen by White society until the militant brothers of the sixties pointed it out. These Black thinkers showed us that when people grow up in a particular cultural context, they fail to see the cultural biases they have inherited. They think of their own value system as neutral, the standard for all people. But the Black leaders of the sixties showed us the folly in this. They pointed out that the White American system of values proclaimed that Black was not beautiful, that the system perpetuated the daily degradation of African-Americans. The system was not neutral when it came to us. p. 24-History is never an account of all the events of the past. It is instead an account of events that have been sifted and evaluated to determine their significance. History might be called a collection of significant events. But what makes an event significant? To some extent and event is significant if it changed the course of history! p. 25-Because of our limitations we have no way of knowing the contours of history. We are incapable of knowing what our destiny points to. Since God has the ultimate perspective and knows all things, he alone is able to guide us through the flow of history toward our true destiny. The Word corrects our understanding of reality and completes our picture of the world. p. 38-It is a disgrace that we have not learned to preach the "full counsel of God" through our history, the way Stephen and later Paul were able to preach through Jewish history (Acts 7:2-53; 13:16-41). We talk today about getting back to our roots. But have we shown our roots to be in God? It is a disgrace that we have not taken African-American history seriously. It is also a disgrace that we have not learned to disciple the African-American community through other cultural phenomena besides history. p. 48-It is within our oral tradition that we find historic Black theology. THe rich oral tradition of the Black church--its music and its preaching--is the locus of theology in African-American culture. Thus from the days of slavery up to the present moment, the African-American experience has been a struggle against personal, institutional and legal wrongs that attempt to negate our humanity, our culture and our constitutional rights. p. 49-Black theology emphasizes the event of worship empowered by "the move of the Spirit" and our participation in the event. This is why expressions are chosen not for their rational value but for their emotive value, not for accuracy but for beauty. Historic Black theology is not a spectator sport. The response of the listener is as much a part of preaching as the proclamation itself: "Can I get a witness?" asks the preacher. Celebration ist eh very cornerstone of Black worship; it is commonly called "having chu'ch." p. 117-The early optimistic thinkers had not anticipated this because they did not have a functioning biblical understanding of sin's effect on a people. They did not realize that achieving justice required a total, radical change in us as well as in our environment. We could not have a revolution without divine help. We found that the failure we criticized in White humanism showed up in Black humanism too. This failure meant falling short of our revolutionary goal because of unrighteousness (Rom. 3:23). p. 131-132-What we have learned about racism-speaking distinctly about a northern and southern stream From the southern stream we learned: 1. Racism is deeper than slavery or segregation 2. The melting pot is not the answer 3. The Bible is our basis for freedom and dignity. 4. We must develop the resources we already have and unite around them From the northern stream we learned: 1. White humanism is bankrupt, and any African-American strategy that depends on it is doomed to fail. 2. There is dignity in Black humanness and beauty in Black culture. 3. We need a radical change if we want justice. 4. If our community functions as a nation, we can move toward freedom and dignity p. 150[quoting Harold M. Baron's essay "The Web of Urban Racism] Maintenance of the basic racial controls is now less dependent upon specific discriminatory decisions and acts. Such behavior has become so well institutionalized that the individual generally does not have to exercise a choice to operate in a racist manner. The rules and procedures of the large organizations have already prestructured the choice. The individual only has to conform to the operating norms of the organization, and the institution will do the discrimination for him. p. 157-religion can be defined as the basic commitment to seek or avoid God and his revelation in every area of life. p. 159-A person, let's say a humanist, may accept the fact that there is a foundation to all existence and yet deny that the God of the Scriptures is that foundation. He would be denying that the Scriptures are the Word of God. Or he may take another tack in his search for a haven from God's authority: he may accept some aspects of scriptural teaching of a revelational environment but reject the Scripture's testimony that Scripture is revelation. He may even accept some of the scriptural self-testimony and reject the rest of it. No matter how he slices the cake, his decision as to which parts of Scripture are true and which are false rests on the notion the he himself is the highest authority in determining truth. But if God is not the highest authority, then God is not God, by definition. The secular humanist has made himself the god, the reference point of existence. p. 200 [commenting on the three goals to instill in the next generation-commitment to righteousness, goal orientation and excellence) Today's cacophony of conflicting voices indicate that too many of us are not "setting and pursuing righteous goals." We are still "reacting to unexpected oppressions."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Corey

    This is a great book about the history of the African American experience of the gospel in their quest for freedom. Using the Exodus narrative as a template for freedom today, African Americans have what Ellis calls "soul force," the key dynamic which helped them fight for freedom. After reading this book I was immediately struck by the parallels between MLK & Malcom X in their respective influence concerning race in America (Martin in the South and Malcolm in the North). I always knew about MLK This is a great book about the history of the African American experience of the gospel in their quest for freedom. Using the Exodus narrative as a template for freedom today, African Americans have what Ellis calls "soul force," the key dynamic which helped them fight for freedom. After reading this book I was immediately struck by the parallels between MLK & Malcom X in their respective influence concerning race in America (Martin in the South and Malcolm in the North). I always knew about MLK’s influence in the south, but never really new about Malcolm X’s influence from the perspective of power, law and economics. In particular, it was striking to note how they both moved closer to each other. The surprising lesson for me in this is that Ellis (along with many other believers) leveraged the work of a Muslim alongside MLK in learning how to fight for justice. As Christians today, we need to pay attention to non-believers if their insights and efforts can be biblically grounded. Ellis’s use and appreciation for Malcolm X’s work is a great example for Evangelicals today actually to listen others with whom they might have disagreement on substantial issues (e.g. Black Lives Matter) but who are striking at the heart of justice. In a similar vein, it was interesting to see how Ellis understood MLK's denominational influence. I didn’t know much about his more “liberal” education, but you can see that MLK did not merely appropriate liberal theology, though it seemed that he found a home there. He was seeking to bring a biblical paradigm to the social issues of his day. While contemporary evangelicals appreciate MLK’s Civil Rights achievements, evangelicals in his day were not so positive. Sadly, were MLK alive and attacking issues of injustice today, he would make many right-wing evangelicals uncomfortable. Perhaps he would probably be ignored or branded a "liberal." What a rebuke to our times. This book helped me see that regardless of the source, Christians can and should to learn from all who are seeking justice in this world knowing that we have the foundations for justice in God’s word.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jon Pentecost

    Ellis investigates the history of the African American pursuit for freedom. His discussion of the different stages in American history is helpful and clarifying. I especially profited from his discussion of MLK and Malcom X's contributions. His purpose in reviewing all these stages is to show both the roots of a meaningful African American identity, and the futility of building it on anything other than biblical Christian faith. Here is a picture of how the gospel truly is sufficient for the nee Ellis investigates the history of the African American pursuit for freedom. His discussion of the different stages in American history is helpful and clarifying. I especially profited from his discussion of MLK and Malcom X's contributions. His purpose in reviewing all these stages is to show both the roots of a meaningful African American identity, and the futility of building it on anything other than biblical Christian faith. Here is a picture of how the gospel truly is sufficient for the needs of a people that is neither simplistic nor diluted. Really helpful critiques of secularism as the true White Man's Religion, as well as other avenues Black leaders have pursued. His discussion of theological approaches as compared to classical and jazz music is a really useful image that I think bridges many misfired efforts of communication. The book suffers a bit from too many 'isms'. Ellis uses his own vocabulary to phrase things, which is helpful and catchy in some ways, but also felt overwhelming at points. I had too many definitions unique to him to keep up with. Also, he is covering huge swathes of history and thought in a short amount of space, so at times I felt like I was getting hit summary after conclusion after summary. I will need to re read to fully profit from the book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steven Evans

    The book I did not know I needed. This volume is really powerful. Ellis shows the unique contribution of black ethical theology to the errant liberal kingdom now social gospel and evangelical kingdom future personal salvation only. He shows how the power of the civil rights movement was in the application of the gospel to action on the situation of the time. His detailed historical overview of black movements and what was learned at each step is insightful. My only wish is that he would provide a The book I did not know I needed. This volume is really powerful. Ellis shows the unique contribution of black ethical theology to the errant liberal kingdom now social gospel and evangelical kingdom future personal salvation only. He shows how the power of the civil rights movement was in the application of the gospel to action on the situation of the time. His detailed historical overview of black movements and what was learned at each step is insightful. My only wish is that he would provide a commentary on the current movements (which perhaps he has elsewhere). I love his distinction of classical theology vs jazz theology. So very well articulated and something I have noticed but could not articulate. I found this book extremely helpful and would recommend it be picked up by others.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Love it. The “soul dynamic” in the hearts of the people led by “Jazz theologians.” Really helped me appreciate, again, what God can do in different human cultures. And!!!! Ya know, I’m a white dude, raised in a more classical/systematic theological approach, and subdued worship participation... so a book like this reveals what I’ve, what many in the white church, especially reformed circles, have been missing out on! And we’ve been missing out on a lot. It’s just so sad how sin can separate us from Love it. The “soul dynamic” in the hearts of the people led by “Jazz theologians.” Really helped me appreciate, again, what God can do in different human cultures. And!!!! Ya know, I’m a white dude, raised in a more classical/systematic theological approach, and subdued worship participation... so a book like this reveals what I’ve, what many in the white church, especially reformed circles, have been missing out on! And we’ve been missing out on a lot. It’s just so sad how sin can separate us from our brothers and sisters, from growing together, learning from each other, living together, and worshiping Jesus together as full individuals in whole and dynamic communities. Humility is huge, here. Without that we cannot learn, we cannot love, and we cannot be whole.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    For me, the initial value of this book is its history of the African American experience, told from a Christian perspective. The aim is to demonstrate the work of the Gospel through each major time period. Ellis's terminology has helpfully defined in a sizable glossary in the back. His conclusions were very similar to those I saw in Tony Evans' Oneness Embraced. An important point that Ellis raises concerns the relationship between the truth of the Gospel and Christian ethics. By the end of the For me, the initial value of this book is its history of the African American experience, told from a Christian perspective. The aim is to demonstrate the work of the Gospel through each major time period. Ellis's terminology has helpfully defined in a sizable glossary in the back. His conclusions were very similar to those I saw in Tony Evans' Oneness Embraced. An important point that Ellis raises concerns the relationship between the truth of the Gospel and Christian ethics. By the end of the book, I felt I better understood the background of the Civil Rights movement and how it relates to/contrasts the Black Lives Matter movement today. Not as inspiring as other books I have read, but helpful. I enjoyed the section on "classical" and "jazz" theology.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joshua D.

    This is a theological assessment of the development of the African American freedom movement from Carl Ellis, Jr. (Provost's Professor of Theology and Culture at Reformed Theological Seminary). This new edition also has a wonderful foreword by hip-hop artist Sho Baraka. For me this book was a lot of "listening in," as it is written by a black theologian largely to black Christians. "Free At Last?" invites this kind of listening in and learning from Christians of any and all cultural backgrounds. This is a theological assessment of the development of the African American freedom movement from Carl Ellis, Jr. (Provost's Professor of Theology and Culture at Reformed Theological Seminary). This new edition also has a wonderful foreword by hip-hop artist Sho Baraka. For me this book was a lot of "listening in," as it is written by a black theologian largely to black Christians. "Free At Last?" invites this kind of listening in and learning from Christians of any and all cultural backgrounds. The glossary at the end is especially helpful in bringing the reader up to speed. Highly recommended.

  21. 5 out of 5

    RSarge

    From the perspective of a white reader, it felt as if I was brought in to observe a family meeting, hearing the thoughts and perspective of a prominent leader of a polarizing subject (race and the American church). Dr. Ellis’ book cuts through political and ideological barriers, and seeks God’s word for wisdom in analyzing the African-American church, and the church in America at large. Specifically, his analysis on the impact of Martin & Malcom in the 60’s, and the history of White Secular Huma From the perspective of a white reader, it felt as if I was brought in to observe a family meeting, hearing the thoughts and perspective of a prominent leader of a polarizing subject (race and the American church). Dr. Ellis’ book cuts through political and ideological barriers, and seeks God’s word for wisdom in analyzing the African-American church, and the church in America at large. Specifically, his analysis on the impact of Martin & Malcom in the 60’s, and the history of White Secular Humanism struck a chord. Praise God for his work in the life of Dr. Ellis, and giving him the wisdom and capacity to write this timeless book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Wolgemuth

    Lots to learn and draw from in Ellis's wise classic. I love his commitment to a theology that undergirds everything...the belief that any element of our thinking that doesn't account for the reality of God, the Gospel, and the Bible is going to be faulty, incomplete thinking. The Sho Baraka foreword and Mirron Willis audiobook narration are strong additions to this new edition. Reviews of the book by Justin Lonas and Matt Smethurst are excellent snapshots. Lots to learn and draw from in Ellis's wise classic. I love his commitment to a theology that undergirds everything...the belief that any element of our thinking that doesn't account for the reality of God, the Gospel, and the Bible is going to be faulty, incomplete thinking. The Sho Baraka foreword and Mirron Willis audiobook narration are strong additions to this new edition. Reviews of the book by Justin Lonas and Matt Smethurst are excellent snapshots.

  23. 4 out of 5

    PD

    Excellent. This book, originally from the 1980s, has been recently republished. Dr. Carl Ellis wrote then as if he were observing now. He provides helpful historical backdrop and insightful analysis of multiple Various phases of African American consciousness from slavery to Post Reconstruction through Jim Crow to Post Civil Rights gets described throughout the book. The people, events, and thought found in this book is more than the “highlights” of any Black History Month. This book should be re Excellent. This book, originally from the 1980s, has been recently republished. Dr. Carl Ellis wrote then as if he were observing now. He provides helpful historical backdrop and insightful analysis of multiple Various phases of African American consciousness from slavery to Post Reconstruction through Jim Crow to Post Civil Rights gets described throughout the book. The people, events, and thought found in this book is more than the “highlights” of any Black History Month. This book should be read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marat

    I found this to be a really insightful exposition of the historical African American experience with systemic injustice. It does an excellent job of covering cultural, civic as well as religious aspects and reflecting on how these experiences affected the African American community. I appreciated the thoughtful and prophetic insights that powerfully speak both about the importance of the pursuit of racial justice as well as the inability of it alone to solve the deep-rooted problems within our s I found this to be a really insightful exposition of the historical African American experience with systemic injustice. It does an excellent job of covering cultural, civic as well as religious aspects and reflecting on how these experiences affected the African American community. I appreciated the thoughtful and prophetic insights that powerfully speak both about the importance of the pursuit of racial justice as well as the inability of it alone to solve the deep-rooted problems within our society and satisfy the deepest longings of human hearts for freedom, purpose, and meaning.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Narwhal

    A secondary source that provides the theological framework/ worldview to contextualize issues of racial injustice. Comprehensive glossary and history, and some very striking conceptual insights into the said history. Emphasizes the role of the African American church and the theological dynamic that arose from them. Also emphasizes the importance of a lived out faith, one that engages with culture. (I read the revised and updated second edition published in 1996)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Paul Herriott

    Truly a unique book, just when I thought I knew the direction he was taking things, Ellis would change or expand my understanding. The many influences on black faith in America are myriad, I appreciated most the work he did to include Nation of Islam and secular voices. This is certainly a book that challenges and confounds the "white christian narrative". Truly a unique book, just when I thought I knew the direction he was taking things, Ellis would change or expand my understanding. The many influences on black faith in America are myriad, I appreciated most the work he did to include Nation of Islam and secular voices. This is certainly a book that challenges and confounds the "white christian narrative".

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shirley Miller

    Everyone, regardless of skin color, should read this book! Ellis does a masterful job of chronicling church history in the United States as well as the ways both Blacks and Whites have strayed from the true gospel of Jesus Christ. His call for righteousness should convict us all, individually and corporately.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey Swanson

    Read this book if - you seek to understand the significance of the cultural black church in the strides for freedom in this nation - if you seek understanding of black culture - if you love God and those created in his image

  29. 4 out of 5

    J. Alfred

    Ellis is a Reformed pastor and professor, and he wants you to think about how theology can be done either like classical music or like jazz. He further suggests that you attempt a little jazz theology for your own self, for the sake of the world, for the sake of the greater glory of God.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Perry Orthey

    I had the awesome opportunity to hear the author speak when he came to my church. The book is edifying, pretty easy to read, and gives some good context for the history of the black church in the USA.

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