Racism and The Bible
Erick Cobb is a teaching pastor at Covenant Grace Church in Temecula. Check out Covenant Grace's Church, here is a link to their website http://www.covgrace.org/
1. Erick, does the bible support racism as many atheist claim?
I have heard that claim as well and I know that the Bible has been used historically to support racist practices. However, when you really immerse yourself in the biblical text you find that the Bible is actually the best possible resource to support racial equality and promote racial reconciliation. From beginning to end the Bible teaches racial equality. Here are some examples:
- According to Genesis 1:26 all people are made in God's image:
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
- According to Acts 17:26 all races have a common descent, we are all family:
"He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place"
- Paul reminds us in Romans 3 that we are all (regardless of race) are equally sinful:
"Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin..there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:9, 22-23)
- And in Christ all Christians (regardless of race) have an equal standing before God:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)
- At the end of the Bible John is given a vision of God's ultimate plan in redemption and what he sees is strikingly multi-racial:
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Revelation 7:9-10) I could give many more examples. The Bible is so rich and helpful on the subject of racial equality.
2. Do the OT writers endorse Jewish inclusion only and what does Jewish identity mean in the OT (in other words, does it have to do with skin color)?
The old covenant was certainly open to people of other races and included a clear pathway to join God's covenant people. Unfortunately, when it came to their interactions with other people groups Israel tended to be more exclusive than inclusive. However, we do have some great examples of people of other races joining the old covenant community. Rahab and Ruth are examples of Gentiles that came to trust in the God of Israel. These women were not only included in the covenant community, they also appear in the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.
3. How do the NT writers respond to racism in their churches?
Paul in particular dealt very directly with racism and racial issues. Paul's discussions of Jew and Gentile unity in his letters show that racial issues in the church were very important to him. It's helpful to read his letters to the Ephesians, Galatians, and Romans with an eye out for how he motivated racial unity. The solution is always found in the Gospel. We are all (regardless of our race) equally sinful, equally in need of a Savior, and yet in the Gospel share equally in Christ's righteousness. The cross of Christ shows that we are all equally needy and yet equally loved by God.
4. How should the modern church respond to racism?
We should speak about racial issues often. It shouldn't be a taboo topic. The grace environment of a Gospel-centered church is the ideal place to discuss such heavily charged topics. Both the church and our culture need to see how rich and helpful the Scriptures are when it comes to racial issues. The Gospel has the power to both forgive and free us from the prejudice in our hearts.
5. What are books you would recommend on this issue?