Saved into Family
The Bible, unlike many religious texts and worldviews, gives a transcendent argument for equality. It says that we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1), we are all sinners in need of a Savior (Genesis 3, Romans 3), and that we all descend from the same first parents (Romans 5:12-21, Acts 17:26). But, the Bible goes beyond establishing equality in its account of creation and humanity’s deep and shared sinfulness, it includes equality in its vision of redemption.
In Genesis 12, God calls a man named Abram to be the founder of a new nation. But God’s call was bigger than just that one nation, as we see in Genesis 12:1-3, “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”
The father of Israel was called to begin a nation that would bless every nation, the whole world. This worked itself out in the Old Testament by Israel bringing in foreigners to become part of their worship and work. But, this call to bless the nations would become radically urgent when Jesus Christ came to be the Savior for the whole world, not just Israel, and to commission His disciples to bring the nations into the New Israel (the church).
One of Jesus’ disciples, the Apostle Paul, explains how being connected to Christ changes the fundamental relationships of everyone in the church. “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). In the church, because we are all in Christ, outward divisions don’t matter. The church has a radical unity and equality; we are all sons of God and brothers and sisters in Christ.
And, finally, we see the ultimate picture of how God’s plan of redemption will be realized when we get a vision of the throne room of God in Revelation 5:9-10, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’” The ultimate picture of worship at God’s throne is of people from every tribe, language, and people group. And what is true in heaven we should pray, and work, to become true on earth.
The problem, though, is that the Bible has too often been misused to undergird not only slavery, but segregation as well. Leaving the slavery issue for another time, let’s look at how the Bible was used as an apologetic for segregation.
One text that was used by segregationists was Genesis 1, where it repeatedly says that, as God created the animals that He made “each according to its kind.” This was used as a biblical prescription for keeping different kinds of races separate. But those words, “each according to its kind” are never used about humans. The only two kinds of humans created are male and female, and it’s pretty clear God didn’t want them separate.
Then, in Genesis 9, we read about the 3 sons of Noah. RC Sproul explains how this text was commandeered to give a biblical prescription for segregation: “Shem received a patriarchal blessing, and an enlargement of that was given to Japheth. Ham, because he looked upon his father’s nakedness, was cursed. ‘Cursed be Canaan’ was the malediction that Noah pronounced on Ham and his descendants. Some have neatly contrived… that this is the historic basis for the three basic generic types of human beings: the Caucasian, the Negroid, and the Mongoloid. They claim that this is the biblical justification for there being a curse put on the black race, and white people should have no intermarriage with them. This was cited, for example, in the early documents of Mormonism.”
Other biblical texts were misused to argue for segregation and against interracial marriage. Morton Smith, a founder of Reformed Theological Seminary and the PCA, claimed that in Deuteronomy 7:3 (and Ezra 9:1 and Malachi 2:11), “The people were commanded not to intermarry with other peoples. This was to preserve racial integrity, and especially their religious integrity.” This, of course, totally ignores that the person who wrote these words, Moses, had a black wife (not to mention the interracial marriages that God approves of involving Rahab and Ruth) and that God curses the people who criticized Moses for having a wife of a different race (Number 12). These texts, as well as texts like 1 Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14 are all about marrying someone who shares your faith in God. There was only one reason that God commanded Israel to be holy and not intermarry with foreigners, and that was to keep the faith of Yahweh and to keep them from worshipping false gods. There is nothing that prohibits marriage among different races, in fact, I would argue that interracial marriage is encouraged in Scripture.
So, if this all just ancient history? Just how people used to think? I wish. Last Fall (after an historic General Assembly of our denomination where we confessed the racist sins of our denomination), a group of people called Kinists went around to different PCA churches putting flyers on worshipper’s cars with the title “The PCA’s Increasing Liberalism.” The following is some of what these flyers said:
“’Racism’ is the unforgivable sin of modernity, yet is nowhere mentioned in the Bible, either explicitly or by implication… We submit that racism, as commonly defined, is a false sin invented by Cultural Marxists for the purpose of guilt manipulation of whites and the destruction of Christianity. “The Bible teaches that the races are ontologically equal; that is to say, we are equal in our being, having all derived from a common set of parents. Further, we have a general responsibility under the Great Commission to share the Gospel with all men, regardless of race. “Covetousness is the desire to have what is rightly another’s… Blacks have historically been very envious of white accomplishment, having been even further inflamed by the Talmudists who are largely in control of mass media, entertainment, and education. “Segregation was an attempt to deal positively with the vast differences between blacks and whites. It was an effort at keeping black envy at bay, to keep it from revolutionary levels [Haiti]. As Abraham and Lot separated in their day, and Paul and Barnabas in theirs, segregation was an attempt to keep the peace by increasing the social distance between 2 parties who would otherwise be in conflict. ”Interracial marriage is a form of unequal yoking that often results in marital conflict due to the inherent gap in understanding between two people with dissimilar identities. If consistently applied, it results in the soft genocide of existing racial groups. For white women involved in such relationships, it is often an attempt at self-justification, to relieve the guilt from the false sin of being white... “In contrast to the globalism, multiculturalism, pluralism, racial amalgamationism, and sexual confusion that passes [sic] for Christianity in the modern church, we advocate for the Biblical alternative: Christian Kinism… Kinism advocates that communities and social associations, both in society at large and in marriage, should primarily be structured on the basis of a similarity of religion, blood, language, place, history, and future goals, as a means of promoting a harmony of interests towards Christian growth and the greater glory of God. It recognizes the ontological equality of all men while emphasizing their functional inequality, both on an individual and racial scale… Kinists recognize that the elect include men of all races, and look forward to our eventual full fellowship in Heaven.”
So, in other words, they are saying, ‘we’re looking forward to being all together in heaven, but for now, we don’t want to really have anything to do with you. You were wrong, Paul, there are divisions in the church and the two have not become one.’ Kinism is insidious and antithetical to God’s plan for the church. It is an argument raised against what we know about God, and we must, as Paul instructs us, “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to Christ.” Jesus came to save people from every tribe, language, and nation, and to knit them all into one family, and we must work as hard as we can to make that diverse family a reality.