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What The Bible Really Says About Race

God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth… —Acts 17:26

Race and Racism

Very few people know the complete title of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859).  Modern editors won’t put it on the book cover or even on the title page.  In the 2003 facsimile  edition of the book, the full title  appears thirty pages into the text.  It’s no wonder.  The full title of Darwin’s book is actually this:  On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.  Note the words “Favoured Races.”  No doubt some readers want to believe Darwin had animal species in mind only.  But isn’t the whole point of Darwin’s theory that man is a species of animal, a species that has endured and triumphed in the struggle for life?  Darwin’s later book, The Descent of Man (1871) reveals where he’s really headed:

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world.  At the same time the anthropomorphous apes…will no doubt be exterminated.  The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider; for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla (193).

Look closely at what Darwin has just said:  the “Negro or Australian” is closer to the gorilla on the evolutionary ladder than is the Caucasian race.  Yep, both of these “savage races” are headed for extinction, according to Darwin.

But Darwin wasn’t the only evolutionist who drank this flavor of Kool-Aid. Evolution was, and is, by nature, racist to the core.  It has to be.  Race would precede all other divisions in humanity’s evolution.  As time passed, the various races would experience uneven pressures from the environment, so that some races would evolve faster than others.  In the end, a few races, maybe only one, would be genetically superior to all the others.  At the end of the day, Darwin’s view boils down to something that simple.

Since World War II and the Holocaust, evolutionists have tried to find mechanisms for evolution that will eliminate Darwin’s racist implications.  But overhauling the entire system has proven to be anything but easy.  In fact, there are still voices in the scientific community that claim, for instance, that some races are intellectually inferior to others and foolishly point to IQ tests as evidence.  But for most evolutionists, racism, eugenics, and white supremacy are now simply politically incorrect.

Red and Yellow, Black and White?

The book of Revelation shows us the redeemed worshipping before the throne of God and tells us that this multitude comes out of “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” (7:9).  Please notice what classification is missing.

Race.  The Bible never uses the concept.  Not once.

The Bible’s focus is covenantal.  It groups men and women, not by their blood or skin color or genetic make-up, but by the covenants they keep or break.  Marriage is a covenant, and the family grows within that covenant structure.  Every political commonwealth rests upon a covenant, often expressed in a constitution or charter.  The Church is defined by the Covenant of Grace revealed in Scripture, and every congregation is a covenanted body.  Humanity itself has a covenantal unity, or did at one time. We stood and fell together in Adam, a federal, or covenantal, relationship.

A covenant is a personal and legal bond of union and communion, a bond enforced by divine sanctions.  Covenants are religious relationships and involve mankind’s deepest personal commitments.  They are also legal arrangements.  They structure the lives of those who are bound by them.  They provide the social glue for societies, fellowships, and communities. Covenants are the basis of familial love, humble patriotism, and Christian fellowship.

As the book of Revelation surveys the vast multitude of the redeemed, it recognizes, with one exception, only covenant groups.  There are nations, people bound together by a civil or political covenant.  There are kindreds, extended families who live under some sort of tribal government.  There are peoples, a word sometimes used of a tribe or family, but also applied to God’s covenant people, whether Israel under the Old Covenant or the Church under the New (1 Pet. 2:10).  In fact, one of the recurring summaries of the Covenant of Grace is God’s promise, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 8:10; Rev. 21:3).  In other words, the redeemed are to be God’s covenant people.

What matters to God then, is not man’s genetics or skin color, but his ethical orientation.  Does this man keep covenant with God or not?  Is he a covenant keeper or a covenant breaker?  What is the religious direction of his heart and life?  Is he is a friend of God? (John 15:15; Isa. 41:8; Jas. 2:23).   Does he trust in Jesus?

Babel Again

There is in Revelation, though, one categorizing term that isn’t as obviously covenantal.  Revelation 7:9 speaks of “tongues,” or languages.  This takes us back to the Tower of Babel.  Genesis 11 describes the conspiracy of a united humanity against God.  Mankind wanted to build a tower whose top was in or unto heaven (v. 4).  In other words, the Tower of Babel was supposed to bridge the gap between aspiring humanity and divine transcendence.  It was supposed to make God and man neighbors—not covenantally, but ontologically.  The Tower represented the deification of humanity.

God then brought judgment on this unified humanity by diversifying their common language.  This was a covenantal judgment, and it operated along familial or tribal (covenantal) lines.  Genesis 10 tells us that the division at Babel was according to tongue, family, and nation (vv. 5, 20, 31).  So while today we may not think of language as a covenantal classification, scripture intertwines diversity of language with the original division of tribes and nations that followed the judgment at Babel.

Evolution, Racism, and Language

Of course evolutionists don’t believe in the judgment at Babel.  They believe that man’s language developed and diversified over the long millennia of his genetic and cultural evolution.  They also refuse to believe that language is a divine gift in the first place.  They’re certain that the origin of language in intertwined with the beginning of human intellect and the beginning of the human race.  But after much discussion through the mid-19th century, evolutionary linguists lost confidence.  No one could propose a sensible mechanism that could bridge the gap between animal voices and human speech.  No historical records would ever be available that could show scientists how the speech of Homo sapiens evolved out of the grunting and howling of forebears.  Scientifically and tactically, it was best to leave not-so-well-enough alone.  Only within the last few decades have linguists begun to poke restlessly at the matter again.

While the evolutionist places the origin of language and the division of mankind in a misty and mythical past, Bible chronology places it less than ten thousand years ago.  The evolutionist grounds that division in genetics, in race.  Scripture grounds it in covenant and ethics, and sees the outward division in terms of language and nation.  In fact, Genesis even gives us word-chart or genealogy that maps out that original division.  That word-chart is called “The Table of Nations.”

The Table of Nations

The Table of Nations appears in Genesis 10.  It falls into three sections:  the children of Japheth, of Ham, and of Shem.  It contains 70 names that represent the fathers of all the nations.  A few are immediately familiar to those who know something of ancient history, or at least of biblical history.  Madai is Media; Javan is Ionia (Greece) [v.2].  Cush is Ethiopia; Mizraim, Egypt; and Canaan, Canaan (v. 6). Philistim are the Philistines, an offshoot of the Egyptians (v. 14).  Sidon is Sidon on the Phoenician coast (v. 15).  Asshur and Aram are Assyria and Syria, respectively (v. 22).  Most of the other names are well known to historians and Bible scholars.

The Table is unique in the ancient world for its breadth and accuracy.  It is marvelously free from ethnocentricity.  But in a sense, it isn’t all-inclusive, for it only includes the nations that existed when Shem drew up the Table (11:10).  Eventually, men and women broke off from these nations to colonize the rest of the world.  Some moved to Asia—others to Australia.  Some crossed by an Ice Age land bridge or well-designed boat to the American continents.  But in the end, the entire world was settled by Noah’s children.

Biblical history leaves no room for racial bigotry.  God created humanity once—in Adam and Eve.  There were no other races, sub-races or Morlocks.  The Flood destroyed all life, except that in the Ark.  No “race” or nation avoided the judgment.  All the original nations of the world were scattered from Babel, and all existing nations share the same blood (Acts 17:26).  We all have a common ancestry, a common origin, and a common humanity. Likewise, we all have a common requirement: To love and worship God.

For further reading, see:

Ken Ham, Carl Weiland, and Don Batten, One Blood, The Biblical Answer to Racism (Green Forest, AR:  Master Books, Inc., 1999).

Henry Morris, The Long War Against God, The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict (Grand Rapids:  Baker Books, 1989).

Bill Cooper, After the Flood, The Early post-Flood History of Europe (Chichester, England:  New Wine Press, 1995).

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