Race – the Long War Against God

Race – the Long War Against God

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Race – The Long War Against God

Preached by Nathan Muse 21 June 2020

Ephesians 2:11-22

Grace Church International – Kogarah, NSW

Introduction

Recently, around the world, the topics of Race, Racism and Injustice have once again been placed in the spotlight. Yet, if Christians are not careful, their desire to work against injustice may lead them to uncritically accept patterns of thought and action that directly violate God’s Word, the Bible, and the distinctly Christian worldview that Christians are to possess.

Let me ask you three questions:

  1. Can you marry your relative?
  2. Where do the races come from?
  3. What causes racism?

How you answer those questions will reveal much about your worldview. A worldview is like a pair of glasses and dictates how you see the world. All worldviews must answer the big questions of life: who am I, where am I going, what is the purpose of life etc.

Regarding worldviews, Natasha Crain, a Christian blogger and writer, in an excellent blog post, recently stated that many Christians are allowing themselves to get swept up into a secular worldview in their response to the current situations. She sees this happening in several ways:

  1. Christians are too quickly jumping on social bandwagons hitched to secularism. But Christianity is now a minority. That means if a significant portion of the population is jumping on a particular bandwagon, there is a good chance it is not aligned with Biblical-Christian values. Therefore, Christians must show considerable discernment.
  2. We are unknowingly getting caught up in Critical Theory. These are the patterns of thought that underly most of the responses to injustice, race, and racism today. But these critical theories are not based on God and His unchanging word. Rather, they often claim priority over God and His Word and directly contradict a Christian worldview by setting up an alternate and secular one.
  3. We are neglecting opportunities to demonstrate how a secular worldview fails and how a Christian worldview succeeds. For instance, we are being told that every life is valuable. That is true, but only a Christian worldview can objectively account for that value. Such an idea as innate human value and dignity cannot be supported by a god-denying worldview.[1]

In short, Christians must not go to critical theory, race theory, the culture, secular psychology, political science or sociology to answer these or other questions. Ultimately, to say that these are the tools that must be used first and foremost is a blatant attack on the Bible. It is nothing more than autonomous man claiming that he and his thinking is superior to the unchanging Word of God and that the Bible is not sufficient.

I remind us that the Bible is not just about how we can be forgiven and made right with God. It also tells us how to live in proper relationship to others and the world at large. The Bible is sufficient for all things pertaining to faith, practice and a complete world-and-life view. Romans 12: 1-2 tells us the following:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This is a sermon about how to develop a Christian worldview and practice Godly discernment just as Romans 12 says. This is accomplished by taking God at His Word and applying it to real-life situations. The particular situation we are considering at this moment is that of Race. What does God’s unchanging Word say on the subject? You might be surprised by the answer.

But first I should mention a type of warning: this is not primarily a sermon on the current situation but rather a consideration of what God says on the topic of Race. As such, we will not be considering specific political, cultural or policy issues. Rather, we want to go back to first principles, understand where concepts of race came from, what the Bible has to say about them and then derive some principles from that foundation. The current political climate is based on values which are based on principles which are based on first-principles embedded in a worldview. To say it differently, if you do not understand the source of an idea, you will find it difficult to understand why people starting from a different source come to such different conclusions. Or to put it more bluntly: ideas have consequences. If we want the right outcomes, we must have the right ideas.

Understanding the Jew and Gentile Distinction

Because of who God is, He always has the right ideas. Therefore, let us consider God’s view of Race. First, it should be understood that God made a particular distinction in the Bible between Jews and Gentiles. Many people with a basic familiarity with the Bible understand this, even if they are not exactly certain what caused the distinction. Ephesians 2 speaks about this distinction and provides much needed clarity. In the first ten verses (Ephesians 2:1-10), we are informed that we are naturally dead in our sins but that through Christ, we can be reconciled to God – our relationship with God is restored. Then in verses 11-22, we are told that this reconciliation with God is the foundation or the basis for us to be reconciled to other human beings as well.

In these verses, three distinctions are spelled out between Jews and Gentiles. First, the Gentiles were separated from Christ (2:11-12). Second, they were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. Third, they were strangers from the Covenant of promise. The result of these three negatives is that they have no hope and are without God in the world. But notice that none of these distinctions are racial, they are relational. That is because the idea of race is not a Biblical idea.

In Genesis 1-3, we are told that God made the first man and woman (Adam and Eve) in His image. Later, in Gen 9:5-6, we are told again that all human beings are created in the image of God and have inherent value. You are born with this inherent value; no person can give it to you or take it away from you. In the New Testament, in Acts 17:26, Paul tells us that all people come from Adam and that “God has made of one blood all the nations of the earth.” This means we are all related, we are all one race. The Human race.

I began with a question about whether you are allowed to marry a relative. If you are thinking with a Biblical Worldview, the answer is yes, because every human being is ultimately related since we all go back to Adam. Every human being is related to every other human being because we all have a common source in our family trees. This means that the idea of “race” is a social construct based on secular thinking. There cannot be multiple races of humans if we all go back to the same source. According to a genetic study by Harvard University, there is only a maximum 0.1% difference between different “races” of human beings as we think of them. This means the differences are superficial, but in history, humanity has often seen them as substantial or even essential.

The primary difference, seen throughout history, has been the amount of skin pigment, called melanin, in the skin. There are a few other minor differences such as “eye shape” and “hair types” etc. but the main difference is this skin pigment. Subsequently, if we all have the same skin pigment, just different amounts, this means there are no such things as “white people” or “black people”. All humans are simply different shades of brown. We are not different colours, but different shades of the same colour. One obvious application of this fact is that we dare not think that because we have more or less melanin in our skin, that this somehow makes us better than another person or worth more as a human being. For people like myself, I have to be satisfied with a lot less melanin than many people. I suppose you could say that I am “melanin-challenged”. But even so, I have more melanin than some and less than others – the same could be said of every individual on the planet.

This means racial categories are artificial – they are not Biblical or genetic. – they are a fabricated social construct by sinful human beings based on a worldview that has rejected God and His Word. Because of this fact, whenever I have to fill out a form and it asks me my race or ethnicity, I try to always pick the “other” option. What race are you? The human race. There is only one. Genetics is finally catching up to the Bible on this issue, with several genetic studies concluding that there is only one race.[2] If they had just picked up their Bibles and taken God at His Word, they would have found that out a long time ago.

The Distinction that Really Matters: Not Racial but Covenantal

This brings us back to Ephesians 2. It turns out, according to God, the only true distinction that matters is not racial but covenantal (2:13-17). If we look back at the history of Israel, we find that when God called Abraham, He did not change his genetics. Remember that Abraham was from Ur of the Chaldeans. They worshipped the moon god. God called this pagan (Abraham) to be a worshipper of the one true God, but in calling Abraham, God did not change his DNA. Rather, God made an external change – circumcision. The Jew/Gentile divide is not a racial or genetic divide. You cannot make it a racial divide. God invited others (Gentiles) into the special covenant relationship He established with the Jewish people. That would be impossible if this was a racial divide and Gentiles are really a different race.

Some look at the Old Testament prescriptions against the Jewish people marrying into other people groups as racially motivated. But this was not because the other people groups were a different race, but because they were a different religion. Time after time, God warns the people not to be led astray to worshipping false gods. Remember how God said to Abraham: “through you all the peoples/nations of the earth will be blessed”. This is exactly what we see in Israel’s history. Here are a few examples.

  1. Ruth was a Moabite who chose to worship the one true God, join the Jewish community and eventually marry Boaz, from whose line King David would eventually come.
  2. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite before she married David. This seems to indicate a high likelihood that she was originally born a foreigner as well as her husband but that they had joined the Jewish people.
  3. Rahab was a prostitute from Jericho and chose to trust the one true God. As a result, she became part of the Jewish nation. All three of these women are mentioned in the family tree of Jesus Himself (Matthew 1). Clearly, Jesus had no issue celebrating the diversity of His own family line.
  4. The city of Nineveh, part of the Assyrian empire, had Jonah preach to them and they repented and turned to the one true God. Jesus even uses them as a positive example to confront the religious leaders (Matthew 12). The Ninevites repented when God confronted them through Jonah, but the Jewish religious leaders would not repent even though God was in their midst in the person of Jesus.
  5. Also, Joseph’s wife was an Egyptian, but from her came Ephraim and Manasseh, two of the 12 tribes of Israel. If we think about it, all of the 12 sons of Abraham would have had to marry non-Jewish wives, because they were the only “naturally born” Jews in that time.
  6. Perhaps the most obvious and stark example is that of Moses. Moses’ wife was a Cushite. That means little to the modern reader, but the Cushite people inhabited what is modern day Ethiopia and Sudan. This means she was almost certainly “black” while Moses was a lighter brown middle-easterner. We find that Mariam, Moses’ sister, did not like the fact that Moses had married a Cushite. She created a big row about this and other issues. God Himself stepped in and pronounced judgement on Mariam for her prejudice and attack on Moses and gave her leprosy as a result. Clearly God took her ridiculous, and seemingly racist, accusations very seriously.
  7. Finally, in the Jewish laws, there were prescriptions for how the Jewish people were to treat foreigners and aliens in their country. In summary, they were to be treated the same way that God treated the Jewish people when they were in slavery, with kindness and generosity. God expressly says that by showing them a proper and positive view of the one true God and His people, these other people groups may also join the covenant family of God.

The problem regarding these topics of race and racism today is that we allow fictitious, man-made categories to divide us, but God’s Word says that is a lie, stop believing it! I never cease to be amazed at even Christians on this issue. Many do not seem to have read their Bibles very carefully. They elevate the small level of differences between people groups – primarily skin tone to ridiculous levels just like the world around us. When they do this, they are not representing Christianity, but the secular thinking of the world. For Christians, if Christ died to save us from our ultimate problem: sin, alienation from God and eternity in Hell, then surely slight skin-tone differences are microscopically small by comparison.

But now, a brief history of the modern ideas of race will be helpful. It should be made clear from the start that racism has always been around in this sinful world. To give two examples, in the ancient world, the Greeks believed they were descended from the gods on Mt. Olympus and others were not. Because of this, Plato and Socrates speak of those who are born as lesser human beings and are only fit to be slaves. The Romans too distinguished between “civilized Romans” and “barbarians”. If you were not Roman, you were a barbarian, and as a Roman, it was perfectly legitimate to do whatever you liked with barbarians. These two historic examples merely illustrate the point that racist views and ideas are represented throughout history: it is a long-standing problem. Racism is a historic problem because sinful humanity enjoys finding other people to sinfully look down on. This is exactly what the Bible tells us about the sinful human condition.

Where did Modern Ideas of Race Originate?

But where did the modern ideas of race and racism come from? These ideas can be traced back to the enlightenment and Charles Darwin. In the enlightenment, many philosophers, authors and scientists suggested that with modern science, mankind no longer needed a concept of God. So, they came up with a secular worldview that suggested there is no God and mankind could figure out truth and how to govern itself by using autonomous human reason. From this worldview eventually sprang Charles Darwin who popularized a theory of evolutionary change by means of natural selection. Many people are familiar with Darwin’s book, but few know the full title of the book as it was originally published: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. One might wonder who these “favoured races” were that Darwin was talking about? In this first book, he applied these evolutionary principles to animals, but his second book The Descent of Man applied them to mankind which he saw as simply a higher animal. So, both in the animal world and the human world, Darwin suggested there were different levels or races of beings.

Darwin taught that those humans with lighter skin are more highly evolved than those with darker skin.[3] He also said that “we should not let the worst animals breed” – meaning the worst human races.[4] Additionally, He thought that women naturally lacked the same intellectual ability and capability as men because of evolution.[5] This is just a sampling, but isn’t it amazing that in our politically correct world where a politician or businessman can have their entire career ruined by one ill-advised statement, no one seems to care about this blatant racism and sexism in Darwin’s work? Someone has suggested that these two books by Darwin have influenced people in the modern Western world more than any other books with the exception of the Bible. I would tend to agree. Yet Darwinian Evolution is taught in every school in this country (Australia) and in most schools throughout the Western World, and he is lauded as a hero.

Ernst Heackel, called Darwin’s bulldog, because he pugnaciously applied Darwin’s thinking. wrote that the lowest of human development are the Australian Aborigines, some Polynesians, . . . and some negro tribes in Africa. Many Australians are likely familiar with the “stolen generation” in Australia history, but were you aware that it was taught for decades that Aborigines in Australia were the closest missing-links between humans and apes? For instance, in 1924, the New York Tribune announced that aborigines were the missing link.[6] There was even a pamphlet published around that time giving detailed instructions about how to hunt Aborigines, kill them, skin them, plug up bullet holes and boil down their skulls in order to preserve them as examples of the missing link in museums around the world. Sadly, most people are not aware that museums still have hundreds of these skeletons in storage.

We could also look at the case of Ota Benga who was a pygmy from the Congo in Africa. After his entire tribe was killed in the name of Darwinism, he was taken captive and eventually put on display at the Bronx zoo in New York city in 1906. He was placed in a cage with monkeys to show that he was a missing link between them and humans.[7] But the repercussions of this thinking did not end there. Darwinian Evolutionary thinking on Race was also prominent in Hitler’s thoughts and actions. This is why at the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany Hitler walked out of the stadium in a huff when Jesse Owens (a black American runner) won the gold medal in his race against the German competitors. Hitler was reported to have said as he left the stadium that “my men should not have to run against animals”. Later on, Hitler carried through his ideas by killing 6 million Jews, and as many gypsies in Europe as he could find – because he considered them inferior races.

The same could be said of Stalin and his killing of more than 20 million of his own people whom he considered inferior. The Armenian Genocide, where 1 million Armenians were killed, and countless other acts of “ethnic cleansing” in the history of the modern world serve as a terrible set of examples from this worldview as well. This was also the thinking taught to the Japanese soldiers concerning the Filipinos who they treated with such horrible cruelty during the time period of World War II. It is the same thinking that drives subjugation of certain people by the Chinese government, both in history and in the present day. This thinking on Race was also the reason for the Eugenics movement which was responsible for involuntarily sterilizing certain populations so they could not have children. Additionally, it was a major argument for the installation of abortion on demand in the world – in order to lower the population of inferior races, especially black people. Yet few will openly speak of these things in the modern debates.

Now I wish to be clear, I am not suggesting that Darwin was completely to blame. He did not originate these ideas but merely popularized them and gave them a false, scientific veneer. Nor am I suggesting that everyone who believes in Darwinian evolutionary theory is an inherent racist. What I am suggesting is that ideas have consequences and that when mankind rejects God and comes up with his own religious/philosophical systems, it is little wonder when terrible sinful outcomes follow.

God’s Word warns us that when mankind rejects God and His Word, their actions will match that rejection. This is exactly what we see happening in this area of race and racism. Furthermore, if we do not understand where ideas and actions originate, we will never be able to properly confront them. The moral is this: when people reject God and act out that rejection, there are consequences and they are terrifying to behold. Darwinian Evolution is not the ultimate cause of racism, sin is. (Darwinian Evolution is only a vehicle for that sin) That sin is located in each and every human heart.

This is the real issue, the heart. The issue is separation from God because of the sin in each human heart. In verse twelve, Paul says it plainly; “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ.” And this separation from Christ is something the whole human race experiences. That means that any real reconciliation will have to deal with the problem of sin before any real progress can be made. Paul goes on to say in verses 13-16:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

He tells us that the blood of Christ makes us one-man (v. 15) or one new united unit. Just as my wife and I are not closely related by blood, but she is my closest living relative – my next of kin. The same thing happens with Gentiles. We are told in Gal. 3:26-28:

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

These verses do not mean that there are no differences whatsoever, but rather that all are equal at the foot of the cross. No one has a better chance of receiving God’s mercy because they have more melanin than someone else. Gender, class, nationality, ethnicity, none of these are part of the equation when it comes to Christian salvation.

Here we should make a careful distinction between ethnicity, which is usually based on language and geography, and race. One, ethnicity, is temporary. You can change your ethnicity and culture over time, but race is fixed. Yet this is only fixed because it is an artificial social construct with no basis in reality. But the Bible says that Jesus is the second Adam. And it is His blood that overcomes the real distinction which is separation from God (v. 17 read). This real problem that God has overcome is so much more important than some man-made artificial distinction like Race.

Applications

The passage goes on to say not just that Jesus has taken care of the real issue, human sin, but that He also invites all who will come to him to join in His new program for the world (vs. 18-22). How can we join in this new program? Here are 13 applications of these truths for our consideration.

  1. Refuse to use the word “race”. It comes from an ungodly source and produces ungodly actions. It is not Biblical and there is no genetic basis for this purely human construct. It is destructive and unhelpful. We can easily substitute something like “people groups” instead. Other terms do not have the baggage that “race” does. Furthermore, these other terms do not indicate any concept of superiority or inferiority. Furthermore, if there is no such thing as race, then what is racism? Nothing more than sinfully looking down on others for made-up reasons. When we realize this reality and change our vocabulary, it will be much easier to respond to those who are acting and speaking in racist ways.
  2. This teaching of the Bible means there is no such thing as interracial marriage. Here is yet another term that Christians should not use because it gives a false and anti-Christian impression. You cannot have two humans from different races marry each other because there is only one race – the human race.
  3. Be careful of the desire to marry someone of the same “race” or “ethnicity” as you. Some would rather your children marry someone of the same “race” even if that person is not a Christian. I hear things like the following: “I am _______ so I will only marry another _______.” But unless you fill in the blank with the term “Christian”, you are likely elevating something (ethnicity, class, nation, etc) to a higher level than God does. Christian parents, do not think this or say it to your child. Young Christian, do not make such a false goal. When you do this, you are saying “race” is more important than “God’s grace”. If you really act in such a way, then your identity is not in God, it is in your social construct of race or nationality. That is a massive problem. As a Christian, your primary consideration for a marriage partner is if they are a follower of Christ. Don’t you dare insert “race” and skin colour into the equation as more important. I realize most of us have immigrated here from other countries and so it is a terrible temptation to hold on to your background at all costs. But my friend, if you are a Christian, then Jesus is your identity. I also realize that there are many reasons to consider someone as a potential partner in marriage. But the main thing is whether or not they are a Christian and love the Lord. Everything other consideration is of far less importance. In essence, we must emphasize what God emphasizes. Additionally, some might say that it is simply easier to marry someone of the same culture or ethnicity as them. This may be the case, but once again it is not the primary consideration for a Christian marriage. Christian marriage is not about what is easy, but about representing Christ. This certainly offers food for thought.
  4. Learn more about what God’s Word has to say on this issue. Two books I might recommend to you: One Blood One Race, Book and video (Ken Ham & Charles Ware) and Bloodlines (John Piper). Both of these resources emphasize what God’s Word says on the subject.
  5. Realize that people will always find something to dislike and a reason to mistreat others. If it is not “race” it may be classism, nationalism or something else. Until a person comes to the foot of the cross, they cannot have a heart change.
  6. Invite people of different ethnic backgrounds to church with you. Certainly, do not stop inviting people from the same ethnic background but fight against that being the default because it is easier. And then welcome others at church that do not look exactly like you. Seek to meditate on and live out Ephesians 2.
  7. Care less about the nationality stamped on your passport and more about the image of God stamped on your person. And if you are a Christian, you also have the stamp of Christ on your eternal soul, making you a child of God for eternity. That is where your identity lies.
  8. Ponder the cross of our Lord Jesus and what it means when applied to this area. Remember the words of Jesus when nailed on a cross: “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing” and “love your enemies.” We have our marching orders and Jesus is our example to follow.
  9. Do not fall for the same trap twice. Darwin and others popularized and gave a scientific veneer to racism and the ideas of race. Now we are being told to trust man’s fallible opinion once again when it comes to ideas of race and racism by trusting critical theories. But trusting man’s ideas over the unchanging Word of God is exactly what got us into this mess to begin with. Don’t fall for the same con twice.
  10. Realize that the racism we see around us is exactly what we should expect from the human race who has rebelled against God in sin. Until the sinfulness inside each of us is dealt with, no number of external factors will truly change the real issue. That does not mean we do not fight for just laws, but it means we also do not get side-tracked from the real problem that causes racism and injustice.
  11. As C. S. Lewis said: realize that “there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”[8] And as he said in Prince Caspian: “you come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve. And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.” We must see others as being made in the image of God.
  12. The Gospel is only good to members of the human race. Unless you are related to the first Adam, you cannot receive the gift of salvation that Jesus, the second Adam offers. This is why this matter is so crucial. We are by nature related to Adam and Eve and we bear the same guilt for our sin. But if you come to Christ, you can be forgiven for that sin and restored.
  13. Only in Jesus do we find the tools needed to deal with race and racism. Study His Word, stand firmly on it and let it lead you to a Christian worldview and then reach out with the true Hope only Jesus offers.

 

Conclusion

If you long for equality, acceptance, and the tools you need to fight sin and its consequences, like racism, then come to Jesus. Seek His forgiveness and the restoration with God only He offers. Then stand boldly on His unchanging Word and in His strength offer hope and love to others. Be a part of the real solution, the new thing God is doing in the world – the gathering of people from every nation, tribe and tongue who have embraced Jesus. This new thing will last for eternity, and the unity and diversity of peoples who will one day gather around God’s throne and sing His praises together will reflect the unity and diversity of our great triune-God.

[1] See Natasha Crain’s full article with much more thought-provoking content: http://christianmomthoughts.com/5-ways-christians-are-getting-swept-into-a-secular-worldview-in-this-cultural-moment/

[2] For instance, consider this quote: “evidence continues to collect that the term race is meaningless, used to point out differences in people that are not definitive.” Susan Chavez Cameron and Susan Macias Wycoff, “The Destructive Nature of the Term Race: Growing Beyond a False Paradigm,” Journal of Counselling and Development 76, no. 3 (1998): 279.

Also consider: Dr. Venter, leading the Human Genome Project who “unanimously declared, there is only one race -the human race.” Natalie Angier, “Do Races Differ? Not Really, DNA Shows,” New York Times, Aug. 22, 2000.

[3] Darwin, Descent of Man p. 336 (Great Books of the Western World 1952

[4] Ibid, p. 168 (1871)

[5] Ibid, p. 557.

[7] See Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo. St. Martins Press, 1992.

[8] The Weight of Glory

 

Race the long war against God Manuscript sermon