W.E.B. Du Bois and the Apostle Paul: Tweeking my Theological Imagination

The ability to connect with people from all types serves as a prototype for the Apostle Paul’s uncanny relationship with the Law- old testament teachings. Paul relationship with the Law is captured picturesquely when compared to W.E.B Du Bois thoughts on the Negro in America:

“…the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,–a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,–an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”[1]

As Paul writes to the Galatians and Romans you feel the same intensity that is engulfed in the writing of Du Bois. As Du Bois tells the story of the African American journeying through the history of America, Paul shares his tension with the Law. Both being great teachers, you experience the pain and suffering as they wrestle with critical evaluations of themselves and their community. Du Bois choose the context of blacks being introduced into society as free men, while Paul was trying to understand a freedom that was afforded to him by the Gospel of Christ.

Dr. Cornel West says of Du Bois’ work “a double consciousness in black America, a dual lens through which they saw themselves…the dialectic of black self-recognition oscillated between being in America but not of it, from being black natives or black aliens.”[2] F. F. Bruce details that the Paul’s experiences as “exchanging his former quest for righteous status in God’s sight through keeping the Law for the way of acceptance made available in the gospel suggests that he found his former quest inadequate.”[3] As with Du Bois, Paul takes on the dualism mindset that forces him to deal with the Jewish cultural aesthetics of his faith while really living as a full fledge believer in the paradigm that Jesus has set. Du bois’ double consciousness fits the frame of Paul as he wrestles with his newfound perspective while juxtaposing his life under the law. He has in him as Du Bios writes, “two unreconciled strivings.” [4]

Paul is forced to readdress past concerns that are arising as he reintroduced to those whom he has wronged. In this, he now has to become the man from whence the new perspective of the Law has been sacrificed in order that the New Covenant can be shared. For Paul this was an easy and instantaneous moment which gave him an outlook that was a little different than Du Bois. There was no process or movement but this was an act of God performed on the road to Damascus that produced one of the greatest  theological minds that the world will ever know. From this experience Paul was now commissioned to get the Gentiles pass the Law unto Christ.

[1] W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk.(Kansas: Digireads Publishing, 2005)p6

[2] Cornel West, Cornel West Reader. (New York: Basic Civitas Books,1999)p58

[3] F.F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free.(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,1977)p188

[4] Ibid., W.E.B Du Bois, p6

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