A Biblical Perspective on Race, races, and Racism

All people belong to the human race. Because all people are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26–28), they are essentially equal. Bearing God’s image is an essential and uniquely human property, which is the irreplaceable principal locus of our human identity. Other identifying qualities drawn from experience or development do not and cannot supersede that locus in priority or importance in understanding and describing our humanness as image bearers of God. See also my article, A Practical Working Definition of Critical Race Theory

God later created multiple languages and dispersed the people into different geographical locations (Gen 11:7–9). Out of this scattered, geographically diverse, and multilingual human race developed different biologically common features in the various groups, more languages and dialects, cultures and subcultures, which became known as ethnicities, nationalities, and races (races thought of sociologically rather than essentially).[1] These groups are often characterized by a shared language, skin color, hair color or textures, facial features, size, and geographical origin. Accordingly, we understand all races and ethnicities in the sense of Gen 1:26–28, Gen 11:7–9, and other biblical distinctions such as tribe, people, tongue, and nation (Rev 7:9; 11:9). We may, therefore, note seven essentials that unite all human beings.

  1. All people belong to the human race (Gen 1:26–28).
  2. All people are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26–28).
  3. All people are created either male or female (Gen 1:26–28; 2:7, 18, 21–25; Matt 19:4)
  4. All people are fallen in sin (Gen 3).
  5. Christ salvationally loves and died for every person (John 3:16:2 Tim 2:4).
  6. Salvation is available to all by faith in the person and work of Christ (Rom 10:8–11).
  7. The saved are reconciled to God and each other and forgiven all their sins (Rom 8:1; Eph 2:10–20).

Race defined biblically necessarily rejects actual racism. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines racism as: “A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”[2] (italics added). While I agree with that definition, it can be more clearly and biblically explained as the virtually intractable belief that one race is inherently superior or inferior to another. In both definitions, the difference is inherent. Therefore, this difference is not a mutable trait such as being less educated, lacking skill sets, differing cultural predispositions, biases, preferences, or any differences that developed over time because that means it was not inherent in the creation of the person. By definition, inherent means it is a part of creation and, therefore, cannot be intrinsically added to or removed.

I add the words virtually intractable to qualify the word belief. This clarifier is to account for people who may, for a variety of non-racist reasons, hold to a racist belief or make a racist comment. They may speak truth flowing from their experience that, in another context, comes across as racist but is not so understood by the speaker or the context in which it was learned. Think of a small child repeating a racist comment they have learned, but the child is in no way a racist.

Additionally, the non-racist may hold some beliefs that are considered by some as genuinely racist, but he holds them tractably (willing to be corrected). He is more than willing to eschew any genuine racism once detected, whereas a true racist would not so easily disavow his racism. Moreover, it is a fallacy to assume someone who holds a tractable racist belief or says something that may be a racist statement ipso facto means the person is a racist. Such scant evidence does not make one a racist any more than someone holding a dumb belief or making a dumb statement makes them dumb; anymore than someone making a brilliant statement makes them brilliant.

Biblically, genuine racism is the sin of partiality, something the Scripture condemns (Lev 19:15; Jas 2:1–9; 3:13–18). Accordingly, the biblical perspective of race necessarily rejects race or racism as defined by critical race theory or as popularly used in American culture, which effectively reduces the words to a weapon to divide and silence anyone who disagrees with critical race theorists, but also anyone who dares to disagree with liberal or socialistic policies.

When there are discussions of race or racism, we must speak to that topic from a biblical perspective as summarized above. I believe it is helpful to use the term race to distinguish various groups of people, as is commonly done to connote varying sociological characteristics. But we must always remember that each person came forth from one human race created by God and are, therefore, ontologically equal. Accordingly, it is the biblical perspective on humanity that unites people in contrast to critical race theory, social justice, and Marian-socialism that degrade and divide humanity.

[1] The sociological distinction permits discussions of different people groups within the human race and recognizes how human experiences can vary because of these distinctions without providing legitimacy to racism, which would require essential, inherent distinctions among groups.

[2] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, s.v. “racism,” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism, accessed 2/5/20. Defined by Cambridge Dictionary, “racism,” https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/racism, accessed 2/5/20 is “the belief that people’s qualities are influenced by their race and that the members of other races are not as good as the members of your own, or the resulting unfair treatment of members of other races.”

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Ronnie W. Rogers