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Christianity and Race

Jun 7, 2020

How should Christians think about race and racism?

With nearly 5200 articles on my site, it is rather surprising that up until now I have not really written entire pieces on the issue of race and racism – as far as I can recall. Yes, in the past I have looked at various radical leftist groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa which talk a lot about these matters but in a PC and revolutionary fashion.

And I have also done things like pen a two-part piece on the issue of reparations for slavery: billmuehlenberg.com/2019/06/15/reparations-for-slavery-social-and-political-considerations/

So I have done some writing on this, but more needs to be said on the matter of race and racism. As I just mentioned to someone the other day, the truth is, race was never an issue for me, and I assumed that all biblical Christians would feel the same. We know that God has made every single one of us in his image and likeness, that Christ died for us, and therefore we need to treat everyone with proper dignity and respect.

But I have not written much in terms of a biblical examination of the issue – till now. There are several reasons for this. One, the current round of race riots – as they are referred to – is a good reason to wade into the subject. Also, I recently took part in an online discussion on this matter. The social media debate involved one individual, but it would be reflective of many others.

In his case – and likely with many others – there was a fair degree of confusion about related but often quite different concepts and terms, such as race, nationality, ethnicity, culture, worldview, religion, and so on. So let me begin by offering a paraphrase of that recent discussion, and then look at some biblical and theological aspects to this.

A fellow had asked me if a lot of our current malaise is due to the “mixing of nations (races)”. I replied by saying that nations and races are not the same, and if what he meant was the failed policies of multiculturalism, then yes, that would be a cause.

He spoke of his native Scandinavia and how it is white, and asked about Indians in America. I said that some countries are more homogenous than others. I said that in the US you can have white Americans, black Americans, brown Americans, yellow Americans, etc. Failed multiculturalism is the real issue here, where different groups refuse to blend in and find common ground with others. I referred him to this article: billmuehlenberg.com/2010/01/25/whither-multiculturalism/

Then he said black people belong in African nations, white people in European nations, and so on. I said a short and simple ‘no’ – that is certainly not the biblical view, nor a true conservative view. He then mentioned again how places like Scandinavia are being transformed with Arabs and others coming in. I replied:

There are Arab Muslims and non-Arab Muslims. There are Arab Christians and non-Arab Christians. If an Arab Christian (or any other sort of Christian) moves into the West, generally speaking I have no problem with that. They share the same beliefs, values and worldviews as the West, for the most part.

However, if an Arab Muslim (or any other Muslim) moves into the West, that CAN be a problem, as they tend not to always share Western values, etc. In other words, race or skin colour has little or nothing to do with things. It is one’s beliefs and worldviews and values and so on that really matter.

He asked why God then created races, and said that he thought they should be kept separate. I said this: We are also made with two sexes – male and female. Do you think they should remain separate and apart as well? They are different but equal.

Races are different but equal as well. No Christian or conservative believes in the superiority or inferiority of races. Social Darwinists and others do, but not us. However, there may well be better and worse cultures, but that is an altogether different matter.

That was basically how that discussion went. But I did tell him I would need to pen a piece on race in which to offer further reflections on all this, especially looking at the biblical point of view on these issues. What follows is a very short look at this.

Biblical and theological considerations

A very brief and outline version of the biblical data would be something like the following:

-God created all human beings
-They are all made in his image
-There is just one race – the human race
-The Tower of Babel incident is where different “races” arose
-In Christ there is no difference between black or white or any others based on skin colour or ethnicity
-Our real problem is a sin problem, not a skin problem

Let me unpack some of this a bit further. In a sense, race is a sociological beat-up, not a biblical or even a scientific reality. We are all one race. The dispersion of peoples at the Tower of Babel did result in a diversity of people groups – that was God’s intention. Differences in skin colour can be traced back to this event as well.

As we read in Acts 17:26, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” We all come from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and after the flood, we all come from Noah and his family.

Christians are aware of the science here as well. As Batten, Ham, Sarfati, and Wieland remind us:

We all have the same colouring pigment in our skin, melanin. This is a dark-brownish pigment that is produced in different amounts in special cells in our skin. If we had none (as do people called albinos, who inherit a mutation-caused defect, and cannot produce melanin), then we would have a very white or pink skin colouring. If we produced a little melanin, we would be European white. If our skin produced a great deal of melanin, we would be a very dark black. And in between, of course, are all shades of brown. There are no other significant skin pigments.

So skin colour should be no reason for any kinds of separation. As to interracial marriage, I remember not long after I became a new Christian and went back home. My parents soon started going to church with me. One day my mom asked me about interracial marriage, saying it did not ‘feel right’ to her. I simply replied by saying there is no biblical or theological reason to oppose it.

American pastor and theologian John Piper who grew up in the south, and had to deal with, and repent of, his own personal problems with racism, has written much about race. In his book Taste and See he lists “eight biblical truths” about this matter, of which I offer some:

-God designed all ethnic groups from one human ancestor.
-Members of every ethnic group are made in the image of God.
-It is God’s purpose and command that we make disciples for Jesus Christ from every ethnic group in the world, without distinction.
-All believers in Jesus Christ, of every ethnic group, are united to each other not only in a common humanity in the image of God, but even more, as brothers and sisters in Christ and members of the same body.
-The Bible forbids intermarriage between believer and unbeliever but not between members of different ethnic groups.
-Therefore, against the rising spirit of indifference, alienation, and hostility in our land, we will embrace the supremacy of God’s love to take new steps personally and corporately toward racial reconciliation, expressed visibly in our community and in our church.

Much more can be said about this subject. One could also say more about the current protests going on, and the various radical groups involved. But see here for more on this: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/06/02/who-is-behind-the-american-rioting/

Let me finish with some quotes on whether Christians should align themselves with some of this radical leftism, or stick to biblical truth. I offer five quotes from black voices, and then one from a white commentator. Thomas Sowell said this: “Racism is not dead, but it is on life support – kept alive by politicians, race hustlers and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as ‘racists’.”

John Perkins writes, “The truth is that there is no black race—and there is no white race. So the idea of ‘racial reconciliation’ is a false idea. It’s a lie. It implies that there is more than one race. This is absolutely false. God created only one race—the human race.”

Image of One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love
One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love by Array Amazon logo

Candace Owens says this: “For so long black conservatives have not been able to have a voice, people who have bi-racial children, people in bi-racial relationships, it has been so black and white. I blame Obama. His eight years in office did a lot of damage in terms of race relations in this country. Hillary didn’t help much when she kept calling everybody racist and sexist… it is time for us to do some healing.”

Tony Evans has said, “While not seeking to diminish the impact of racism upon a culture, I also want us to recognize that illegitimate or continual cries of racism are self-limiting and self-defeating. They simply foster a victim mentality that reinforces a pathology of dependency. Victimology can be defined as nurturing an unfocused strain of resentment rooted in a defeatist identity through which all realities are filtered, rather than viewing challenges as opportunities to overcome.”

In his 2014 book One Nation, Ben Carson says this:

The left wing secular progressives love to invoke the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but only in their historical revision would his views be compatible with theirs. The last thing he would have wanted to see was the culture of dependency that has developed among the very people he fought so hard to free. A strong opponent of godless ideology, Dr. King also rejected the idea that human beings are not responsible for their actions, arguing, “One of the most common tendencies of human nature is that of placing responsibility on some external agency for sins we have committed or mistakes we have made.”

And Jonathan von Maren says this on not getting into bed with groups like BLM: “If Black Lives Matter was simply about seeking justice for George Floyd and Ahmoud Ahmary and Philando Castille, I would be happy to voice my support without qualification. But this movement is not simply about that. It is about remaking society and creating a progressive utopia out of the ashes of the society that we now inhabit. And that is why I cannot climb onto a bandwagon when folks with those beliefs are the ones driving it.” www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/why-christians-shouldnt-jump-on-bandwagon-of-progressive-groups-like-black-lives-matter

For further reading and viewing

On the issue of Christianity and race, there would be many books to choose from. Here are a few volumes well worth getting:

Evans, Tony, Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and How We are Stronger Together. Moody, 2015.
Perkins, John, One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love. Moody, 2018.
Piper, John, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. Crossway, 2011.
Wieland, Carl, One Human Family: The Bible, Science, Race and Culture. Creation Book Publishers, 2011.

Voddie Baucham has reminded us in “Irreconcilable Views of Reconciliation” that the concept of race is not biblical: we are one race. See his 54-minute talk here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qZdIseCkZc

A 2-minute excerpt of this is found here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUyA8TeR1Yg

And a 48-minute sermon by John Piper is worth watching:www.thegospelcoalition.org/podcasts/word-of-the-week/from-bloodlines-to-bloodline/

On the broader questions about race and politics, public policy, economics, affirmative action, and so many other related matters, there would be so many titles to point you to. Let me simply mention two Black American economists who have spent their lives writing about such matters; Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams.

Anything they have written is well worth reading. As to Sowell, I have often written about him. Perhaps you might start with this article of mine: billmuehlenberg.com/2020/04/19/this-is-why-you-must-read-thomas-sowell/

And one of my pieces featuring Williams is this: billmuehlenberg.com/2019/06/15/reparations-for-slavery-biblical-and-theological-considerations/

Important afterword

Do you see the photo above that I used for this article? It comes from Sydney yesterday. Here is the story behind it: “Right before the protests were scheduled to start, a male counter-protester had his ‘all lives matter’ placard ripped from his hands before he was handcuffed and led away by police. The man was shouted down from the Town Hall building steps by demonstrators before he was detained.” www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-06/arrests-at-sydney-black-lives-matter-protests/12329066

So in Australia if you believe that all lives matter you will be arrested. I guess that is one way to promote harmony and reconciliation.

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12 Responses to Christianity and Race

  • There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
    The Apostle Paul applies this specifically to Christians, & Christ’s church; however, the application can be broadened to all humanity as well.
    The expatriate Jews hearing the Gospel in their own mother tongues in Acts 2:3-13 is said by some commentators as a “reversal” of what happened at the Tower of Babel, bringing people together again in Christ.

  • Bill – excellent article again. Thank you. I’d be interested to know whether you’ve have heard of Canadian Arthur Custance. His books are long out of print, but one ‘Noah’s Three Sons’ has an interesting theory based on history- that the different descendent ethnos groups from Shem, Ham and Japheth each played a different role in God’s plan for humanity as they spread throughout the earth: Shem was responsible for the eternal view of the world(semitic peoples); Japheth brought abstract thought, language; Ham adapted technologies to the physical environments wherever they located to. Another interesting book is by Bill Cooper – ‘After The Flood’ This deals with the tables of nations and how many early chronicles of europeans (pre-Christian) can be shown to trace etymologically their original founders to the descendents of Japheth. An interesting study.

  • Thanks Peter. Yes I have 5 of his books, including 4 of his 10-volume Doorway Papers series, of which the book you mention is a part. But I don’t have that volume.

  • Also Bill – An Amazon review I found of the Custance book:

    “The basic thesis is that the tenth chapter of Genesis, the Table of Nations, is a statement about the origins of the present world population, and of how these descendants of the three brothers spread out over the earth. And it is further proposed that a division of responsibilities to care for the needs of man at three fundamental levels—spiritual, physical, and intellectual—were divinely appointed to each of these three branches of Noah’s family… In these Papers is the evidence for the technological genius of Ham, the intellectual character of Japheth, and the spiritual qualities of Shem. The interaction of these three contributions is the theme of this history.”

    https://www.amazon.com/Noahs-Three-Sons-History-Dimensions/dp/0310229502

    Blessings

  • Many thanks again Peter.

  • Actually I do believe there are races plural as I believe that racial diversity is part of God’s wonderful design but as with every good thing God created satan has perverted it with racism. Racial diversity is a wonderful thing and shouldn’t be down played with the whole one race thing (to me the whole one race the human race smells of leftist pyscobabel). Racism is a ugly thing and can’t be destroyed by pretending races don’t exist. Racism is based on hatred in the heart and can only be solve through a change of heart NOT through redefinition.

  • Thanks, Bill for that thoughtful piece, I would say that just as we are one in Christ when we become Christian that is the most important thing. However, just as we stay male and female – so we retain our Greek and Jewish ethnos so we also retain our Anglo-Celtic or other ethnicity. So race is part of our tribal identity and God has created the physical differences between us – which are considerable. It is part of God’s identity – notice how the evangelical establishment condemns it when white folks hang out with their own tribe, but for ethnic churches it’s seen as normal. This is because they have bought into the identity politics where no one cares about European minorities in Africa and notice how you never hear about the indigenous people in Europe! Ethnic Europeans are seen as less spiritual than so-called ethnics because they are not as connected to the land, earth etc. Just for thought…..best Stephen

  • Thanks Paul and Stephen. Since you both shared similar sorts of comments, perhaps I can reply to you together here. Yes I basically agree with both of you. Part of the issue is terminology, as I tried to explain in my article. While biblically and scientifically we can make the case for just one race – the human race – that is not to deny various ethnicities, cultures, people groups and so on.

    Thus while we are all one race, and all one in Christ, that does not mean that we lose all distinctives and differences. Real ethnic, tribal, cultural and national differences certainly still exist. How many of those will still exist in the next life is a moot point however. In Revelation 7:9-10 for example we read this about what presumably takes place in the future state:

    After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
    “Salvation belongs to our God,
    who sits on the throne,
    and to the Lamb.”

    Is this description of various groups only speaking of their differences in the past life, or do these differences still exist and carry over into the future life as well? That is a good question and I am not entirely certain of the answer to it. But there is certainly a real place for celebrating various differences, at least in this life. So I am not trying to call for a bland, monochrome homogeneous sameness here.

  • the fault I find with it is it seem to try to solve a complex issue, racism, by redefining what race is which to me is like solving homelessness by redefining home to be anything where you are (that car you live in is your home, the street you live on {no house just living on the streets} is your home, that burned out building you live in is your home) and thus you have solved homelessness because now no-one is homeless.

    Racism is at it’s core based on satan inspired hatred and no about of redefining will stop it. we can rename race people groups but the hatred is still there it will just be called groupism now. do we then say there is only one group the human group and find some other term for the diversity in the population?? that too will find it’s -ism and we eventually will run out of terms. I have no problem with recognizing and teaching we are ALL descended of Adam and of Noah but race tends to be a word give for groups based on ethnicity and geography and smoother characteristics to try to use it for all of humanity seems to be rewriting definitions to suit present sensibilities something the far left has done throughout history but God people really should avoid.

    Race has gotten a bad rap because of racism but you can’t through the baby out with the bath water you don’t reject something good because some have perverted it. So much has been perverted by sin but we don’t get rid of it, we would end up with nothing, we get rid of the perversion and keep the genuine article. Race is a good thing or God would not have made it. We can’t get rid of it just because satan has perverted it. (look at how much sex has been perverted yet we still keep sex just not the perverted kind. if christians stop all sex because it has been perverted by satan I think we would soon have a problem!)

  • Thanks again Paul. Not to belabour all this, but my article and comments cover this pretty much I think. You may have missed it, but as I said in my piece, God did not make many races at the beginning. He made one race – one human family. But the various differences seem to have originated at the Tower of Babel incident. And as I also said, we can often rightly celebrate various differences nonetheless, such as some different ethnic and cultural and regional differences. And the question remains: will all these differences continue on in the next life?

    So I and others are not being far left, but simply biblical and scientific when we argue that there is, as such, but one race, with various smaller differences found therein.

  • I am not really trying to argue with you just as a person with slight autism I am a bit of a stickler on some things, I think I get on people’s nerves because of it {sometimes I hate my life}, and race has always had a definition of being the groups that make up humanity based on the various differences those groups share with each other including geography. To me I see one race as redefining something, race, that is already understood and at the same time too simplistic to effectively root out racism. I didn’t mean you were far left, or that you are simplistic, but the whole “one race” thing to me always seemed more like a Kumbaya type hippie thing more than any true christian thing. I always thought that christians would argue for races based on babel and that all are still human because we all came from Noah and through him Adam.

    God knew about babel from the beginning and placed the proper DNA into Adam and Eve so when it happened races would emerge showing off even more of his creativity and abilities. So yes in the beginning there was just Adam and Eve in one race. After babel I guess it comes down to how you define race. to me and others, linguistically, races are the large groups those differences fall into.
    see genetic distance chart (seems to be about 6-8 depending on grouping)
    https://www2.palomar.edu/anthro/vary/images/DNA_tree.gif
    https://pumpkinperson.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/cavali-sforza.png
    http://www.humanbiologicaldiversity.com/Photos/HumanRaces.png

    Basically whatever we call it if we don’t deal with satan causing hatred and division based on it we still have problems. even in christianity, mostly because of denominational and worship style differences, worship time is the most segregated time in a christians life. Each race/ group in their own church. (even their own picture of Jesus. we can’t even agree he was a Jew and therefore looked Semitic) I’ll be glad for the Millennial Kingdom when we can live and worship together regardless of race/group. where we we celebrate our diversity not use it to divide us. the hyphen is the worst thing to happen to people.

  • Race is one of those really nebulous words. In everyday language race mean the Black, White, Yellow etc divisions amongst humanity, except that those boundaries aren’t clear cut, and even discussing them can be considered offensive by the Left. In fantasy universes race is a top tier division – human, elf, dwarf, orc etc, with the colour differences humanity focuses on being more akin to subraces – Uruk-hai (Orcs), Drow, Shield Dwarves etc. And then there’s the really atypical usage I recall out of a C.S. Lewis book where he talks of the race of Smiths or somesuch, where he uses race to refer to a particular branch of his family\ancestors and perhaps their common nature\traits.

    While this piece focuses on melanin\skin colour as being the racial divider, the fact is there are other criteria which are also included, or excluded. If skin colour counts then why doesn’t hair or eye colour? Red hair is common is Ireland (10% of the population) but also found in Uyghurs in China. Why are these groups considered different races if they have the same hair colour? Facial features also come into play – skeletal structure, Oriental vs European type nasal structure, epicanthic folds, and possibly vocal structure – heard though obviously not seen. Thus you can have 2 white people of different races, or a white and a brown (heavily tanned) person of the same race.

    Seems like much of the controversy about race really is quite ludicrous!

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