Notes on a Biblical-Theological Framework in thinking about Race and Ethnicity
Update: Here is a sermon-lecture presented to The Master's University based on the notes below from our TGCLA Equip Meeting.
Baptist Faith and Message Article XV. The Christian and the Social Order
All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.
“In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism.”
What is a race? (Dictionary.com)
1. an arbitrary classification of modern humans, sometimes, especially formerly, based on any or a combination of various physical characteristics, as skin color, facial form, or eye shape, and now frequently based on such genetic markers as blood groups.
2. a socially constructed category of identification based on physical characteristics, ancestry, historical affiliation, or shared culture: “Her parents wanted her to marry within her race.”
3. the human race or family; humankind: Nuclear weapons pose a threat to the race.
What is racism?
PCA: "an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races"
Carson: “racism occurs wherever anyone is dismissed or disowned or demeaned or stereotyped for no other reason than his or her race or ethnicity.”
There is only one race, many ethnicities – according the Bible. I will tell the story in a bit, but notice the 3rd definition in the dictionary is distinctly contradicting the previous definitions.
13 statements for a biblical-theological framework to think about race and ethnicity.
- All humans are made in God's image - Gen 1.26
- All humans descended from Adam and Noah - Gen 5.1, 10.1
- All humans have the cultural mandate - Gen 1.26-28, cf. 9.1-7 - Image bearing via marriage, babies, travel, settling, and building societies; OR reflect God by reproducing, ruling, and resting
- All people groups were originally broken up by language (not skin color) because of corporate rebellion - Gen 11.4-7
- Babel did not eradicate the sin of self-centeredness and corporate rebellion - Gen 11.9ff to the rest of the Bible (sin continues)
- Ethnocentrism (what some call racism) was born at Babel - Genesis 11.9 - rebelling against God and building ones own name continued, but now the name was centered on an ethnicity to be built over against and in godless competition with other EPGs.
- Israel is royal priesthood for the nations (cultural mandate continues in a different covenantal context) (Exod 19.5-6, Deut 4.5-8, Solomon and the nations)
- God promises to gather all nations - Isaiah 66:18–21 --18 “Knowing their works and their thoughts, I have come to gather all nations and languages; they will come and see my glory. 19 I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations—to Tarshish, Put, Lud (who are archers), Tubal, Javan, and the coasts and islands far away—who have not heard about me or seen my glory. And they will proclaim my glory among the nations. 20 They will bring all your brothers from all the nations as a gift to the Lord on horses and chariots, in litters, and on mules and camels, to my holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. 21 I will also take some of them as priests and Levites,” says the Lord.
- God the Son becomes a human and then dies for the sins of all nations - Revelation 5:9–10 --9 And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slaughtered, and you purchased people for God by your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.
- Jesus commissions his people to gospelize and disciple all nations - Matt 28.19-20
- Jesus creates the church to be made up of the nations - Ephesians 2:14–16 --14 For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, 15 he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. 16 He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death.
- Jesus creates the church, made up of nations, as a new and holy nation (EPG) - Philippians 3:20 --20 but our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:9 --9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
- People redeemed from every EPG will worship the Father and the Lamb - Revelation 7:9–10 --9 After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
Additional theses on addressing the issue today:
- Corporate sin exists - Rev 2-3; Daniel 9; Israel
- Unintentional sin exists - Lev 4.2
- Corporate unintentional sin exists - (logical extension of 1 and 2)
- Inheriting sin nature exists - (Being born during divided kingdom)
- Being born into sinful cultures with sinful systems of which each person and generation is accountable exists
- Forgiveness is available to every individual and church who repents from sin and believes in Jesus. (The church is the only corporate entity that can truly repent as a group.)
- ]Love for neighbor demands (caring for their individual need and) caring about evil structures that perpetuate brokenness - i.e. loving a person enslaved to prostitution.
- The church is the place where unity and diversity of opinion can exist in the midst of diversity of ethnicity. We have the resources for sustained unity in the midst of robust conversation, disagreement, and processing. (Christ, Bible, Spirit, Gospel, Doctrine, Commitment to one another)
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