Black Religion, Black Theology: The Collected Essays of J. Deotis Roberts

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Black Religion, Black Theology: The Collected Essays of J. Deotis Roberts. Edited by David Emmanuel Goatley. African American Religious Thought and Life Series. Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 2003. ix + 244 pp. $26.00 (paper).

This book is the first to collect the essays of J. Deotis Roberts, a pioneer of black theology and modern American theology. David Goatley, the editor, carefully selects the best of Roberts's essays and thereby invites the reader into the discovery of why Roberts deserves a place in the hall of great American theologians. Next to James Cone, Roberts is the most prolific writer on themes of black theology. If one is not already familiar with key tenets of black theology it is possible to read this book and still gain the necessary context to understand the impact of Roberts's thought.

As for his theological anthropology, Roberts contends that because of historical and present-day attempts to undermine and destroy the humanity of African Americans, it is necessary to begin the theological enterprise by declaring the absolute dignity and sacredness of every person. As a theologian, Roberts acknowledges the sanctity and dignity of every person, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or class. Rut inasmuch as his own people have historically and contemporaneously been mistreated, he begins by affirming humanity's absolute dignity. Black dignity, he argues, is God-given. Human dignity, therefore, is fundamental to creation. It is both striking and significant that Roberts stresses the sacredness of the entire person, body and mind.

As for his doctrine of God, Roberts contends that God is thoroughly personal, which means at the bare minimum that God is capable of knowing and willing. Roberts develops the themes of the humanity of God, the goodness of God, God as suffering servant, and the God who shares the suffering of the oppressed. God "knows each one of us intimately," so much so that God is concerned to know and respond accordingly to all that happens to us in the world. God is love and goodness and is "all-powerful. …