Top critical review
Truth mixed with error....
Reviewed in the United States on July 3, 2020
I have not found many reviews of the book “Be The Bridge” by Latasha Morrison that actually seek to address some of the many Biblical errors within the book. This is troubling because this book is on the New York Times bestseller list, is considered a Christian book, and yet uses God’s Word in a way that twists its original meaning, adds error alongside truth, and comes to conclusions that are not Biblical at their root.
Hopefully this review will help those who have read or want to read the book to do so with great discernment and truth. Or, maybe you don’t want to read this book but know many who have and want to know some its contents and ideas. This is for you. My intention is not to give only my opinion, but to hold up many of the quotes found within the book to the truth of Scripture.
In this review, you will find many quotes, and also why they are problematic with verse references to refute the ideas. Look up the verses. Grapple with them. Understand the ideas that are out there. Remember, Satan even used the Word of God to twist God’s own Words. How did Jesus refute Satan? Jesus used God’s Word to combat error with truth.
1. “When we lack historical understanding, we lose part of our identity. We don’t know where we came from and don’t know what there is to celebrate or lament. Likewise, without knowing our history, it can be difficult to know what needs repairing, what needs reconciling.” (p 2)
Yes! And NO!! The last part of the quote is entirely correct. Knowing history gives us an important glimpse into why things are the way they are now. History gives us perspective. History can open up our eyes. When our eyes are opened, it is easier to see the pain and suffering of those around us, easier to empathize, easier to have a succinct opinion and grasp as to how to move forward.
While it is good to know history, if you are saved then your identity is in Christ, not your past or the past of the group to which you belong. Your identity is not found in your history. Your identity is not found in your culture or your skin tone. As a believer, you are a child of God (Jn 1:12), forgiven (Eph. 1:7), set free (Rom. 6:6), a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20), in Christ and a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This is your identity. These truths are true, whether you lack historical understanding or not. You cannot lose this identity through life circumstances or lack of knowledge.
Think of the groups that existed during Jesus ministry: Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. These groups clung onto their group identities, and Jesus called them to a life of faith. He called them to saving faith in Himself. He was the answer to the division that existed among people, among groups. When they would accept Christ, they would no longer be divided, but brothers and sisters. They would be one family (Rom. 12:5, Matt 12:50, Gal. 3:28). That was the truth of their status with one another. Every other difference was superficial. They were now one in Christ, and called to live in unity (Jn. 13:35, Rom. 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 1:10).
2. “Jesus was hung because he opposed the dominant authority.” (p 28)
This is partly true. Religious leaders of the day did not like Jesus. They thought he was a threat, as He was claiming to be the Son of God. However, this statement is void of the bigger picture; namely that Jesus came to die, to give His life as a ransom, to pay the penalty for sin, to seek and save the lost (Mark 10:45, Luke 19:10). God had ordained that Jesus would sacrifice His life to pay the price for the sin of the world. This quote looks only at the surface/the visible and does not recognize the spiritual aspect. Jesus was killed on the cross because of our sin, our depravity and inability to save ourselves (Rom 3:10, 23, 6:23, Eph 2:8-9).
3. “See how Ezra acknowledged and lamented the truth of the sins of Israel? See how that acknowledgement and lamentation connected him with the guilt and shame of that sin? And identifying with that guilt and shame, Ezra cried out to the Lord… Like Ezra, Daniel had been personally innocent of the offenses against God, but he did not try to distance himself from the collective sin of his people. He owned his part in it as a member of the community…. As members of a group, they assumed the responsibility to confess and seek reconciliation on behalf of that group.” (p 68-69)
In this section, Latasha is setting up a case for corporate repentance. Here, she uses Old Testament examples of Ezra and Daniel repenting for the sin of Israel.
Ezra’s case is found in Ezra 9. In context, he had just received word from the princes that the people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites had intermarried with some of the people from the land. This was a problem, because God had specifically forbid this among his chosen people, the Israelites (Lev. 18:3, 24-30). The people of Israel were the chosen people of God, in covenant with God, and living under the law of God, which they had promised to obey (Deut. 7:6, 2 Sam. 7:23-24). It is in this context that Ezra finds himself. Ezra (a Jew/Israelite himself) arrives in Jerusalem and finds that the people (the Israelites) were not keeping their covenant with God. As a Jew, Ezra wanted them to be made right with God again, and as Israelites and a leader of the Israelites, he goes before God and repents for the sin of the nation of Israel.
Daniel is found in the same type of situation. He confessed to God that the Jews had sinned, acted wickedly, rebelled, turned aside from God’s commandments, been unfaithful, and not obeyed (Dan. 9:3-11). Daniel was a Jew. Being a Jew, he confessed as a part of the Jewish nation. He was a member of the nation that was in covenant with God, and had broken their covenant. Why is this important? It is important to recognize the responses of these men in connection with the fact that they were Jews, who as a nation were in a covenant with God. This isn’t just a community, group, or national sin. This was the sin of a nation in covenant with God and set apart to God.
To conflate the sin of Israel (a called out nation of God, in covenant, set apart, God’s people) with modern day America is a stretch. Is America as a nation in covenant with God? Are Americans set apart? Has God called America His chosen people? No.
“We won’t be agents of reconciliation until, like Ezra and Daniel, we take on the guilt and shame of our community and let it propel us toward confession.” (78)
I have already addressed the faulty assumption here that we are to take on community sin as our own. It was a completely different matter with the Israelites. To take the actions of these two Jewish men in covenant with God as Jews and say this is how America is to respond is completely pulling these examples out of context. But, let’s look at this quote. She says we must “take on the guilt and shame of our community and let it propel us toward confession.” Where in Scripture in the New Testament do you ever see a call to believers to take on guilt and shame? And, where in Scripture do we see God telling us to take on guilt and shame that is not ours, but someone else’s? I don’t see any Scripture that points to this. Of course, we are to confess our sin (1 Jn. 1:9, James 5:16). God can use our own guilt and conscience to bring us to a point of repentance, when needed (Acts 24:16). The message of the gospel is one of freedom. We realize that we are sinners and cannot save ourselves. We are guilty. Christ has taken our guilt and shame and nailed it to the cross, so we no longer have to carry it (Col 2:14, Rom 3:24-26, 8:1). We are not called to carry guilt and shame. We are called to freedom (Gal 5:1).
4. “Lord, we confess as a church that we have modified the meaning of the gospel to justify our lack of effort to pursue justice for the oppressed….We confess that we have created a gospel that is manageable so as to avoid entering into the pain, struggle, and discomfort of bearing one another’s burdens- and therefore we have failed to fulfill the law of Christ.” (121)
Latasha seems to be conflating the law and the gospel.
What is the gospel, according to Scripture? In 1 Corinthians 15, we have a clear definition of what the gospel is. “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Cor. 15:1-4). If we add to or take away from the meaning of the gospel, we no longer have the gospel. The gospel is not this truth + fulfilling aspects of the law. The gospel is the truth that Christ died, was buried, and rose again. Period.
Our response toward the truth of the gospel is one of two responses. We can either accept it/ trust in the work of Jesus through faith, or we can reject it. Once a person, through faith, believes in the truth of the gospel and is saved, then they have power to obey God and to be witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8, Jn. 14:12). Once saved, we have the power to live in a way that pleases God (Phil 2:13) and are commanded to do the good works that He has prepared for us (Eph 2:10, Titus 2:7, 3:8).
How are the gospel and the law connected? Scripture teaches that through the law comes the knowledge of sin. The law exposes our sin, because we cannot perfectly obey the law (Rom. 3:20, 5:20, 7:7-13). This is why we so desperately need the gospel. However, a believers’ obedience to God is not to be conflated with their acceptance of the gospel. The gospel and the law are not synonymous. These are two distinct things. Believers have not modified the meaning of the gospel if they stand on what the Bible teaches about the truths of the gospel. The gospel and works are connected in that acceptance of the gospel should lead to good works, but the gospel does not equal good works.
Paul criticized the church in Corinth and in Galatia for believing and following people who were teaching them a different gospel (2 Cor. 11:4, Gal. 1:6-9). If someone is teaching that the gospel is somehow the truths of 1 Cor. 15:1-4 plus something else, that is a false gospel. I would strongly suggest that according to Latasha’s own words, she has at best been very sloppy in her language- making the gospel and the law almost appear to be synonymous. At worst, she is the one who has modified the meaning of the gospel, and in so doing, is leading others into an understanding and belief of a false gospel.
Later, when discussing reparations, she refers to the work of reparation, as “That’s the work of the gospel.” (177)
The gospel does not require work (Rom. 3:28, 4:5). If it requires work, it is no longer the gospel according to Scripture (Rom. 8:3, 11:6, , Eph. 2:8-9, Gal. 2:21, 5:4).
Latasha Morrison finally gets to the finish line of her book: reparations. She uses two Biblical examples. Her foundation (based off of a faulty interpretation of the examples of Ezra and Daniel) is that we must make reparations for the past that we may have had absolutely not part in, because this is part of corporate repentance. Here are the examples she uses.
5. “Take Numbers 5:7, for example, where God tells Moses what people must do when they wrong another person. ‘They must confess their sin and make full restitution for what they have done, adding an additional 20 percent and returning it to the person who was wronged.” (p 155)
I find it odd that she uses this verse, because the verse is explicitly talking about an individual who wrongs another individual. It is saying exactly the opposite of what she is trying to make it say. She is using this verse to support her view, which is this: because white Americans and their ancestors have enslaved and mistreated black Americans and their ancestors, white Americans should make reparations to black Americans. That concept is not found in this text whatsoever. I do not believe that when God inspired the author of numbers 5:7 to write these words as part of His God-breathed revelation to us, He had in mind modern day, white Americans. The principle of the text is that if you steal, you pay back what you have stolen.
“But when Zacchaeus came face to face with Jesus, he knew that reconciliation could come only through restitution. So he declared, ‘I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!’” (p 156)
Again, he was repaying what he had taken from others. He was making restitution for his own personal sin. To take an example of Zacchaues and plop it right into modern day America is a sloppy use of Scripture.
What do both of these passages have in common? The reparations are a response to a personal sin committed against another individual/individuals.
6. “Jesus didn’t just come to restore individual people; he came to break down systems of oppression, to provide a way for his kingdom to appear on earth as it is in heaven. He came so that we, his followers, could partner with him in restoring integrity and justice to broken systems, broken governments, and ultimately, broken relationships.” (p 180-181)
Jesus came to save sinners- individual people. He came to give His life as a ransom and payment for the penalty of our sin (Mark 10:45, Luke 19:10, Rom. 3:25-26, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Tim. 1:15, John 10:10).
Did Jesus come to break down systems of oppression? Latasha does not reference any verses here, but where you find this idea in Scripture is in Isaiah 61:1-3 and also Luke 4:16-29. In Luke 4, Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:1-2a. He says that the Lord has sent him “to liberate the oppressed”. In verse 21 of Luke 4, Jesus goes on to say, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.” So, was Jesus saying that at that moment, he had liberated all of those who were physically oppressed? If that is what Jesus meant, He was lying because that is not what happened! We cannot take the meaning of this verse to be literal if we are to believe Jesus’ own words. If these things were fulfilled literally, then why was Jerusalem destroyed in 70 A.D.? Why did the Holocaust happen? Why are Christians persecuted in other countries and children sold as sex slaves etc.? Jesus’ first coming was not about liberating the oppressed in a physical sense, but a spiritual one. He was saying that salvation is available to those who would believe right here, right now, through Him. Jesus was the One who could set spiritual captives free. He was the One who could save the spiritual poor. He was the One who could save the spiritual oppressed. He was offering Himself to His people as the Messiah- the ONLY One who could save them from their sin problem.
“He came so that we, his followers, could partner with him in restoring integrity and justice to broken systems, broken governments, and ultimately, broken relationships.”
I would challenge those who hold to this view to actually find a passage in the New Testament written to the church where believers are called to “restore” justice and integrity to systems and governments that are broken. Was there a time in history when systems, governments, and relationships were not broken? Brokenness is a result of the fall. Even in the New Testament, believers were not called to dismantle systems of slavery, but to pursue Godliness and the fear the Lord (1 Tim. 6:1-6, Col 3:22-23, 4:1). Note: This is not to be read as an attempt by me to justify slavery!
The book of Philemon in the New Testament is a letter from the apostle Paul to a slave owner. Paul does not argue for his slaves’ freedom, but makes a case instead for reconciliation (Philemon 1:1-25). Believers are called to live in a just manner. Correct doctrine leads to Godliness (1 Tim 6:3). We are to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12).
In the future, when Christ returns and sets up His Kingdom on earth, there will be true justice in systems, governments, and relationships, ushered in by Jesus Himself (Isaiah 65:17, Rev. 21:5, Heb. 13:14, Isa. 11:2-5). Our efforts will not ever bring true justice, because we are sinners. Christ will one day restore all that is broken. Until then, we are called to walk with Him, be obedient, love others, walk in the Spirit, share the gospel etc.