Dr. Richard Land

‘The Charleston Way’ Shows Transformative Power of the Gospel through ‘Amazing Grace’

July 30, 2015

Nothing Ties People Together Like ‘Amazing Grace,’ Says Southern Evangelical SeminaryPresident Dr. Richard Land

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Those attending the funeral for 41-year-old pastor and senator Clementa Pinckney on Fridaymay have been expecting sadness, tears and questions of “why.” What they probably didn’t expect was a surprise rendition of “Amazing Grace” by the President of the United States.

But when President Barack Obama broke into a slow and soulful version of the hymn, those at the funeral stood and joined in—a testament to the transformational power of the Gospel and the unifying promise of grace, said Dr. Richard Land, President of Southern Evangelical Seminary (www.ses.edu).

Rev. Pinckney and eight others died on June 17, when a young, angry gunman allegedly entered a Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., and opened fire in a racially motivated attack. But since the tragedy, the family members, the congregation and the community have offered forgiveness on the path to healing and “amazing grace.”

“Nothing could have proved to be a more stirring, more effective testament to the transformational power of the Gospel than the message of ‘Amazing Grace,’” Land said. “When an African-American President shares these stirring words at a funeral for victims of a white supremacist gunman, we are reminded that ‘Amazing Grace’ is what ties us all together. There is nothing more powerful that we have in common. Our skin color differs, our beliefs sometimes don’t match, our views on society may be on opposite ends of the spectrum, but amazing grace, how sweet the sound, is a gift all of us are invited to receive. It’s unifying, transformational, powerful and amazing grace.”

Land added that many know every word to “Amazing Grace” but few may know the story behind the song—a story with ties to slavery and to the transformational power of the Gospel in another man’s life. John Newton was raised by a faithful mother, but she died when John was just 7. Newton’s life spiraled downward from there, and as an unsettled, arrogant and insubordinate adult, he lived with sinful abandon—working in the slave trade business on slave ships for years. But once Newton found Jesus, he was disgusted by his role in the slave trade, later penning “Amazing Grace”—words specific to his struggles and his ultimate forgiveness.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind but now I see

Land recently wrote about the Charleston tragedy in a column for the Christian Post, where he stated that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream lives on through “the Charleston way” because of the extraordinary reaction of the victims’ loved ones and fellow church members.  

“As Christians, through their heartbreak and personal loss, they confronted the perpetrator and told him they forgave him and prayed for his soul,” Land wrote. “What a profound witness to the transformative power of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. These black brothers and sisters, capturing and modeling the true spirit of the Gospel so vividly testified to two generations ago by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who proclaimed in the face of the particularly malevolent brand of evil that would blow up four little girls in church on a Sunday morning in Birmingham, ‘those you would change, you must first love.’

“To witness the faith and forgiveness of the African-American members of Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church is to expose the current generation to the life-changing impact and power of the non-violent, reconciling message of the 1960s civil rights revolution that transformed our nation in so many very important and critical ways,” he continued. “Dr. King and his followers refused to allow hate to stifle and shrivel their hearts and souls, and instead became ‘ambassadors’ of reconciliation, preaching that love conquers evil (II Cor. 5:17-21). They triumphed over the implacable evil of the KKK and the White Citizens Councils of their day, and in doing so liberated all Americans, black and white, victim and victimizer, from the corrosive evil of Jim Crow racism.”

Emanuel AME Church is being referred to as “historic” for its storied place in the formation of America. The church was built in 1816 when several parishioners broke off from a Christian Methodist Episcopal church. One of the founders, Denmark Vesey, led a slave revolt in 1822. Vesey, along with 34 others, was executed, and the church was burned to the ground in revenge for the revolt. The church members continued to worship underground and surreptitiously until after the Civil War. Dr. King also preached at Emanuel AME Church during his tragically brief ministry. 

SES is a leader in apologetics education—teaching students to defend their faith and talk intelligently, passionately and rationally about what they believe and why they believe it. Many courses focus on societal issues from a Christian worldview, delve into scientific apologetics or contemplate creation research.

SES’s 22nd annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics will be hosted by Calvary Church in Charlotte onOct. 16-17, 2015, with the theme, “Ideas Have Consequences: The Bigger the Idea, the Bigger the Consequence.” In addition to Dr. Land, confirmed speakers include Josh McDowell, Dr. Jay Richards, Dr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. Paige Patterson.

Land is featured in his nationally syndicated daily radio commentary, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” which airs on 200 stations on the American Family Radio Network and 100 stations on the Bott Radio Network. “Bringing Every Thought Captive” is also podcast daily on the free SES mobile app and airs locally in the Charlotte, N.C., area every weekday. The “Bringing Every Thought Captive” television program, hosted by Land, debuted in January on the NRB Network, and airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and midnight EST. This spring, it began airing on the Total Living Network, reaching nearly 2 million households in the Chicago area. For more information about stations, times, downloads and more, visit www.ses.edu/about-us/bringing-every-thought-captive.

Land has taught as a visiting or adjunct professor for several seminaries and has authored or edited more than 15 books. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University in England and his bachelor’s degree (magna cum laude) from Princeton University. Land also earned a Master of Theology (Honors Program) degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he received the Broadman Seminarian Award as the Outstanding Graduating Student. Dr. Land was the 2013 Watchman Award recipient from the Family Research Council for his leadership on moral and cultural issues. He also received the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth from Biola University in 2010. Land served previously (1988-2013) as president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s official entity assigned to address social, moral and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families. In 2014, he was appointed as a Senior Research Fellow of the ERLC’s Research Institute, and in 2015, he was named in the top 15 of Newsmax’s “Top 100 Christian Leaders in America.”

Southern Evangelical Seminary invites visitors to its web site to join the more than 20,000 people who have already downloaded the SES Apologetics App for Windows mobile devices and Android and Apple phones and tablets. Those with the app can get the very best news and information in Christian apologetics, including articles, audio, video, blogs and more from today’s most able defenders of the Christian faith—William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, William Dembski, Frank Turek, Hugh Ross, Gary Habermas and other well-known speakers, authors and teachers.

Southern Evangelical Seminary has been ranked as the top graduate program for General Christian Apologetics by TheBestSchools.org’s “Top 10 Graduate Programs in Christian Apologetics.”

For more information on SES, visit its web site at www.ses.edu or its Facebook page, follow the SES Twitter feed, @sesapologetics, or call (800) 77-TRUTH. For more information about "Ethics in Emerging Technology," visitwww.ethics.ses.edu.


For information on SES or to set up an interview, contact Deborah Hamilton at 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096, ext. 102, or Beth Harrison, 610-584-1096, ext. 104Media@HamiltonStrategies.com.

Southern Evangelical Seminary is a leader in apologetics education—teaching students to defend their faith and talk intelligently, passionately and rationally about what they believe and why they believe it. The accredited Christian college and seminary offers a wide variety of bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees. Programs can be completed through residence in the Charlotte area or online. The award-winning education at SES is distinctively Christian and focused on evangelism and world-engaging defense of the Christian faith—Christian Apologetics.