In the seventeenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul , after being driven from Thessalonica and Berea, arrived in Athens. He sent away for Silas and Timothy and, while waiting for them, he told people about Jesus in the synagogues and the market place. There, a number of philosophers from the Epicurean and Stoic schools heard him and they brought him to the Areopagus where they could hear him speak at length. His sermon is recorded in verses 22 to 31.
St. Paul began his sermon by noting how religious the Athenians are, how they have altars to various deities all over the place, and even an altar to “the Unknown God”. This became his way of introducing them to the Christian God: “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you”. He told them about the God Who created and rules over all things. He told them that this God:
hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us (vv. 26-27)
In these verses, St. Paul declares that all peoples on the world are related. This was clear in the Old Testament. Adam and Eve are depicted as the father and mother of all human beings in the first chapters of Genesis, and later all people after the Great Flood are said to be the descendents of the survivors – Noah and his wife, and their three sons and their wives. The Book of Genesis includes a genealogical table showing how all the peoples known to the ancient Israelites were descended from one or the other of Noah’s sons.
While the idea of a common descent for all human beings was not unknown to the ancient Greeks it was far from being the only view on the subject. St. Paul clearly brought it up in order to emphasize that the God he was telling them about was not the god of some foreign people but the God of all peoples.
Some Christians have surprisingly taken to using verse 26 to baptize the left-wing doctrine of racial nihilism. This is surprising for two reasons. First, the authors of the book One Blood (1) are evangelicals involved in creationist ministry. Fundamentalists are not exactly noted for their love of left-wing, progressive, and liberal viewpoints. The primary author of the book, Ken Ham, the Australian born founder and director of Answers in Genesis. His co-authors are affiliated with his ministry. The second reason is that the verse clearly does not support the interpretation Ham has given it.
If all Ham had said about the verse was that it upholds the idea expressed in the children’s song “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world” then he would be obviously correct. He takes his interpretation a bit further than that, I am afraid.
Ham would like us to believe that the statement, that all nations are “made of one blood”, means that racial categories and identities are completely arbitrary and man made with no real existence. The idea of “race” he argues, is dangerous, because it leads to racism and Nazism. The idea of race, he says, is the product of Darwinian thinking and therefore should be considered suspect by believers and followers in the Biblical God.
What, however, is the pedigree of the idea that race is an arbitrary category, a social construct with no real existence?
The first person I am aware of to make this astonishing claim was Franz Boas, the German born father of the American school of Cultural Anthropology. While Boas was a noted opponent of the teachings of evolutionists like Sir Francis Galton, this was hardly born out of a concern for Biblical orthodoxy and a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Boas was a progressive with revolutionary sympathies. What he opposed in Galton’s teachings was the idea that man’s inherited nature shapes his behavior – a view that has a lot more in common with Christian orthodoxy than the opposing viewpoint, championed by men like Boas, that human nature is a “tabula rasa”, a blank slate for the progressive to write upon, malleable putty in the hands of the progressive social experimenter.
Boas passed his views on to his students, the most famous of whom were Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Ashley Montagu. Montagu expounded upon Boas’ views at length in his book Man’s Most Dangerous Myth (2) and would later write a report on the subject for the United Nations.
Later, Harvard biologists Richard C. Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould would promote the same idea. Both men were noted for their far-left ideology and their willingness to blend politics with science. They were both associated with the radical group “Science for the People” for example, and Lewontin once said that “There is nothing in Marx, Lenin or Mao that is or can be in contradiction with a particular set of phenomena in the objective world”. Trofin Lysenko felt the same way. In the early ‘70’s, Lewontin published a paper entitled “The Apportionment of Human Diversity” (3) which argued that because a far greater portion of human diversity was to be found between individuals within racial populations, than between different racial populations themselves, therefore race was an invalid biological classification. This argument is pure boloney. It is also true that there is a far greater amount of diversity between individual females or between individual males, than there is between the sexes. Sex is determined, after all, on the basis of a single chromosome out of 46. Does that mean that sex is an invalid biological category?
At the time Lewontin made his famous argument the human genome had yet to be mapped. Later in the century, the American government would fund the Human Genome Project. The HGP and Celera Genomics, a private research organization headed by J. Craig Venter competed against each other to produce the first map of the human genome. Upon the completion of the sequencing in 2000 Venter announced that they had proven that race was “not a scientific concept”. The reasoning behind this irresponsible statement, however, is subject to the same criticism as Lewontin’s.
The idea that race is an arbitrary social construct and not a biological reality began with and was propagated throughout the 20th Century by scientists who held far-left revolutionary ideas (and who were generally atheists) and who did not seem to feel the need to separate their science from their ideology. That a Christian would try to find support for such an idea in the Bible, while at the same time accusing the opposite view (that race exists and is important) of being a “Darwinian” idea is truly astonishing.
The reason for it is not difficult to deduce however. In the post-WWII era “racism” has climbed to the top of the totem pole of sins condemned by Western societies. Ken Ham and his associated undoubtedly wish to show that something so vehemently condemned by the society in which they live is also completely against the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.
Acts 17:26 however, does not prove that race does not exist or that it is important. On the contrary, it establishes the exact opposite. For the verse does not say that God took all the nations and peoples of the world and erased the differences and distinctions between them, making them one people. Rather it says that that He took one blood – that is one blood line, one lineage – and out of it made the many different nations of the world. St. Paul clearly states that God is the author of the nations of the world. How can we call unimportant that which God has created?
“Nations” and “races” are not the same thing, of course. The concepts, however, overlap like the circles in a Venn diagram. Both words, in their root meanings, point to the concept of biological descent. Both words identify groups composed of people with a common ancestry that sets them apart from other people giving them a distinct identity. Such a concept is quite compatible with the common ancestry that identifies people of all races and nations as human. If two people are both Englishmen, indicating a common national identity, it does not follow that they are both members of the Smith family. A nation, is a large people group with a common ancestry, that is distinguished from other groups primarily by cultural characteristics – language, religion, attire, manners and customs, history, etc. A race is a large people group with a common ancestry that is distinguished from other groups primarily by physical characteristics – skin colour, facial structure, etc.
When we talk about “racism” as a sin or a social evil we are not speaking in accordance with Scriptural truth. This is because the recently coined term “racism” is too broad and vague in its meaning. It is used to cover everything from serious racial injustice (genocide, enslaving another race, etc.) to more trivial matters such as telling ethnic jokes, to things which are not sinful at all such as merely distinguishing between races or having patriotic attachment and affection towards one’s own people. The last mentioned is not only not a sin but it is even a virtue.
It would be more in keeping with the Scriptures to condemn “racial injustice”. For while that phrase is no more found in Scripture than the word “racism” the much simpler concept those words represent is clearly against Scriptural teachings. “Racial injustice” simply means being unjust to a racial group, or to an individual because he is a member of a particular racial group. This falls under the category of injustice in general which is condemned in the Scriptures, Old and New Testaments.
In the Old Testament we find that God included a number of regulations, in His covenant with Israel, governing how they were to behave towards “strangers”, i.e., non-Israelites amongst them. They are told not to oppress the stranger and are reminded of their own experience of oppression in the land of Egypt . (Ex. 22:21, 23:9, Lev. 19:33). This was also stated positively as a command to love the stranger for the same reason (Lev. 19:34, Deut. 10:19). There was to be one law for both the Israelite and for the stranger (Ex. 12:49, Lev. 24:22, Num. 15:15-16,29). The stranger was to be provided for along with the poor, widows, and orphans (Lev. 19:10, 23:22, Deut. 10:18, 14:21,24:19-21, 26:12-13). The stranger was to receive justice (Deut. 1:16; 24:17, 27:19) and to have the same legal protections as the Israelite (Num 35:15).
If all of that sounds like a recipe for racial liberalism of the kind that exists today, there are other provisions in the Law that need to be taken into consideration. The “one law” for the Israelite and stranger did not forbid the Israelite from charging the stranger for the use of money lent, although he was forbidden to lend to his “brother” (fellow Israelite) this way (Deut. 23:20) . The stranger in Israel was excluded from the Passover (Ex. 12:43) unless he and all males in his family agreed to be circumcised (12:48). He was not allowed to eat things consecrated on the altar (Ex 29:33, 22:10, 13) and this prohibition extended even to the daughter of a priest if she happened to marry a stranger (22:12) unless she return to her father’s house without child (22:13) . The stranger was not allowed to come near the tabernacle upon pain of death (Num 1:51, 3:10, 38, 16:40, 18:4, 7). He was excluded from ruling over Israel as king (Deut. 17:15). He was expected, while sojourning in Israel, to keep the Sabbath (Ex. 20:10, 23:12, Deut. 5:14), to refrain from eating blood (Lev. 17:12), to keep God’s statutes and not commit any abominations (Lev. 18:26), and to not commit blasphemy (24:16), whatever his own custom may be.
In summary, the Israelites were told to treat aliens among them justly, but this justice did not include full social equality with the Israelites.
The Old Testament law was a covenant that functioned as the constitution for a particular nation. It was not a universal template upon which every nation was to build its constitution and should not be treated as such. That does not mean, however, that it should be treated as irrelevant to the contemporary situation by Christians.
In this case, the passages of the Old Testament law that pertain to the stranger, do not cover the situation created by liberal governments in the 20th Century. After WWII, liberal governments in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Europe began actively seeking large numbers of immigrants. However much the Torah told the Israelites to treat the stranger well it nowhere commanded the Israelites to actively seek to bring strangers into their midst. Furthermore, 20th and 21st Century liberal governments have been actively recruiting these masses of immigrants at a time when they have established affirmative action policies that give immigrants preferential treatment over people born in their country. While the Old Testament law demanded that the stranger be provided for and treated with justice it never hinted that the Israelites should treat him better than they do their own people. Finally, liberal governments began encouraging mass immigration at a time when domestic fertility rates were below population replacement levels. Those rates have remained low ever since and liberal governments show no indication that they will stop the mass importation of immigrants any time soon. When governments encourage long-term mass immigration at a time when fertility is that low that means they have essentially decided to replace their people. There is absolutely no support for such a policy in the Old Testament.
Nor is there any in the New Testament.
This has not prevented clergy and other Bible teachers from reading support for such policies into the New Testament text. The most common texts chosen for such eisegesis are passages which teach that God is the God of all people and that the Gospel is to be preached to all people, such as the Acts 17 passage we looked at earlier, the Great Commission, and St. Paul’s statement in Romans that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation “to the Jew first and also the Greek” and passages which teach the spiritual unity of believers from all people groups in the Church and in the Kingdom of God.
Nowhere in any of these passages is there any indication that Christ wants His Church to try to bring about the political and social re-unification of mankind. The statement in Acts 17 that God is the Author of the nations, Who determined beforehand when they would rise and fall and what would be the boundaries of their territory presents an excellent reason why Christians should not support such efforts.
It has been argued that because Christ has dealt with sin once and for all in His Atoning death that therefore all judgments on sin, all curses, in the Old Testament are reversed. The division of the world into the nations in the Old Testament is presented as being such a judgment, this line of reasoning goes, therefore after the world’s redemption in Christ, the curse is lifted and God now desires the union of that which in judgment He separated.
There is some truth in that, like there is in all heresies, but it is only partial truth mixed with a tremendous amount of error.
The account of the separation of the nations is found in the 11th chapter of the Book of Genesis. Prior to this chapter was chapter 10 giving the genealogical table of the nations which follows immediately after the end of the account of Noah’s life in chapter 9. After the Flood God had told mankind to “Be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth”. At the beginning of chapter 11 they had not quite done that. They had multiplied but instead of replenishing the earth they had all dwelt in the plain of Shinar. It was there that they under the rule of King Nimrod (10:10) built the city that would become Babylon. In it they began construction of a huge tower. This was done in express defiance of God. They said their tower’s top would “reach unto heaven” and that they were building it “lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” which they would have to be if they were to fulfill God’s command to “replenish the earth”.
God, the chapter tells us, was not impressed. He paid a visit to their ziggurat and confused their tongues, making it so they spoke different languages and could not understand each other. By doing this God “scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth”.
Is there any indication in the New Testament that God wants this reversed?
Not in the way such Christian teachers who have jumped on the anti-racist bandwagon think. The reversal of a scattering is a bringing together in unity. The New Testament does speak of a bringing together of people from all nations, who have been made one in Christ. This however, takes place not on earth but before the throne of God in heaven:
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. (Rev. 5:9)
This unity of the redeemed from all people groups in the Kingdom of God in heaven is not a unity accomplished by political efforts upon the earth in the present age.
The Kingdom of God does have a manifestation upon earth in the present age. That is the Christian Church. If there is to be any transnational unity accomplished upon earth in this age with God’s blessing it will be within the Church. Lo and behold, that is exactly where the New Testament locates such unity.
In the second chapter of the book of Acts we have the account of the first Christian Pentecost. Fifty days after the Lord’s Resurrection, ten after His Ascension, the Apostles were waiting in the upper room in Jerusalem, when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Filled with the Holy Ghost that first Whitsunday, they went to the window and addressed the multitude of people, who were present from all over the Roman world in Jerusalem that day. Each man heard them speak in his own tongue.
This event is widely considered to be the official founding of the Christian Church and it is here that we see the earthly manifestation of the heavenly unity spoken of by St. John in the Book of Revelation. Those who heard the Gospel in a multitude of different tongues on Pentecost and believed, were united into one body, the Church. These were all Jews but later in the Book of Acts the Gentiles would be brought in to the Church as well when they too heard the Gospel and believed.
Thus St. Paul would write to the Church in Ephesus about the how in Christ, the Law as a barrier between Jews and Gentiles had been removed, and to the Galatian Church he would write:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
St. Paul clearly does not mean that these distinctions were to be eliminated altogether. Had he meant that, his instructions to the Church of Ephesus about the way husbands and wives, and masters and slaves, should behave towards each other would be meaningless nonsense, as would a number of other passages in his epistles. What he was saying here is that all believers, regardless of their race, sex, or status, are full partakers in the grace and blessings of God in Jesus Christ to Whom they are united in faith and therefore made one with each other.
There is no mandate there for the Church to try to eliminate these distinctions in civil society or for the Church to attempt to eliminate the political and social distinct identies of people groups.
The Scriptures teach that mankind was created in God’s image, that man fell into sin and was exiled from Paradise, that Christ has redeemed man from sin through His death and resurrection, and that He will bring redeemed man to Paradise once more. That will only be accomplished, however, by His grace in the age to come. The belief that Paradise can be restored to man through human effort has been the fundamental error of every leftist movement throughout history. Attempts to do so result in conditions that resemble Hell far more than they do Paradise.
This is as true of the attempt to achieve Paradise though unity by rubbing out or at least minimizing the importance of the lines between different people groups as it is of any other leftist utopian scheme. Consider the results of anti-racist and multi-culturalist policies in Western countries.
Laws which prohibit racial discrimination on the part of private property owners and businessmen do not produce “color-blind” business practices. They produce affirmative action practices where companies hire a certain number of employees from racial minorities regardless of their qualifications in order that they cannot be sued for discriminatory practices. Laws and government policies that force members of various ethnic groups together in various social contexts do not produce mutual understanding and racial harmony. They produce ethnic tension and racial conflict.
Anti-racism forces people to lie to others and to themselves. It requires people to assert, against all observable evidence, that racial groups differ from each other only in the trivial matter of physical appearance. It recently produced the spectacle, at once comic and tragic, of the world’s most powerful country patting itself on the back because beyond its racial past. What was the event that prompted this round of liberal self-congratulation? The election of the first president in the history of the United States chosen largely for the color of his skin.
Consider the effect of laws against “hate”, which make a crime a hate crime with stiffer penalties if it is motivated by racial prejudice. The relatively small number of such crimes committed by white people are treated as a serious epidemic of hate that needs to be eliminated from society. Meanwhile, the astronomically larger numbers of violent crimes committed against white people by members of certain racial minorities are not considered “hate crimes” even though racial hatred obviously plays a large role in these crimes. Or, consider laws against “hate speech”. Violent language calling for the murder of white people in quite common in certain forms of music and literature. This never seems to be considered “hate speech”. Far more irenic writing than this has caused people to be dragged before Human Rights Tribunals. The atmosphere of self-deception generated by laws like this could have come out of George Orwell’s 1984.
Anti-racism encourages people to behave dishonorably towards friends and loved ones. A person accused of “racism” becomes a pariah and that person’s friends are expected to disown and denounce him or else risk becoming tainted with guilt by association.
Anti-racism produces serious injustice towards a number of different people groups. The white farmers of Rhodesia were the victims of the influence of anti-racism in Western governments as much as they were the victims of Robert Mugabe and his thugs. The Afrikaners in South Africa are currently being murdered at genocidal rates because of the same influence of anti-racism on Western governments.
The worst form of injustice anti-racism produces, however, is ethnic suicide. A tremendous number of nations – all who would fall within the racial category variously called white, European, or Caucasian – are in danger of demographic death due to the combination of low fertility and high immigration over the same long period of time. The anti-racist considers genocide to be the greatest of all sins. Genocide, however, is still genocide even when it is committed against your own people. Indeed, that genocide is far worse than any other kind of genocide because it is a betrayal of people to whom you have specific duties and are supposed to be loyal. (4)
In The New Science of Politics, (5) Dr. Eric Voegelin identified as a characteristic of gnosticism, the ancient heresy against which the leaders of the orthodox, Apostolic, Christian Church contended in the early centuries, attempts to create on earth in the present age, the Paradise promised to the believer in the age to come. To do so was to “immanentize the eschaton”. This Gnosticism lies at the heart of all progressive, utopian movements – including anti-racism and multiculturalism.
Orthodox Christians of all branches of Christ’s Church should reject this Gnostic heresy in its ugly contemporary manifestation.
(1) Ken Ham, Carl Wieland, Don Batten, One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism (Green Forest: Master Books, 1999).
(2) Ashley Montagu, Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942).
(3) Richard C. Lewontin “The Apportionment of Human Diversity” in Evolutionary Biology 6 (1972), pp. 381-398.
(4) Regarding affirmative action and minority set asides, Dr. Thomas Fleming wrote “Such disgusting and immoral policies are worse than any form of racism I have encountered because they teach us to hate precisely those whom we are most supposed to love”. Thomas Fleming, “The Audacity of Hate”, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, , October 2008, p. 11.
(5) Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics: An Introduction, (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1952).
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