Book Review: The Biblical Offense of Racism
May 24, 2010
“The Biblical Offense of Racism” is a very brief book by Douglas Jones that lays out what the Bible has to say about racism and compares the strength of the Biblical arguments against racism to the secular humanist arguments.
He starts by laying out the four most common arguments from secularists to explain why racism is wrong.
1.The irrelavance of race. This argument notes that race is just not relevant and therefore should be ignored.
2.Immorality of presumed inferiority
3.Prejudice based on uncontrollable circumstances
But Jones argues that all three of these principles rest on the idea of innate human worth and questions on the ability of a secularist to assert this principle.
4. Finally the argument proposed by Peter Singer says “If one of my proposed actions will cause another individual to lose more than I stand to gain, then I should not act.”
Jones provides two additional critiques for this approach
1. It assumes that we could accurately weigh pains and pleasures involved.
2. It can be used to justify racism (if a redneck feels pain/displeasure being around African-Americans)
Jones spends a very brief time talking about how historic non Christian racism has worked in terrible ways. He notes that evolutionary theory allows for various branches of homo sapien development. This aspect of the theory has suggested to some that the other races have arisen from lower evolutionary branches. Some have used this to support inferiority hypotheses. He notes that collectivism has been advanced by Marxist, Socialism and Fascism and Statism; and that collectivism creates the possibility of harming individuals or minorities for the good of the masses. He quotes historian Paul Johnson who asserts that, “Christianity was content with a solitary hate figure to explain evil: Satan. But modern secular faiths needed human devils, and whole categories of them. The enemy, to be plausible, had to be an entire class or race.”
Jones next lays out the Biblical case against racism. He starts with the sixth commandment, ‘do not kill’. He correctly notes that Christ in the Sermon on the Mount explains that the implications of the commandment go much deeper than simple murder. Christ says that it also opposes vile mockery and hatred of heart and commends charity toward others.
Jones continues to say that because of the Creator, all nations are of one blood in the Image of God. He quotes the Apostle Paul who said that God, “made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). Because all nations reflect the image of God, to treat a member of another ethnic group as inferior is to despise the face of God. And to despise the face of God is to invite His wrath.
Jones argues that the Bible actually commands us to go beyond mere tolerance. He notes that the Bible commands us to consider others more important than ourselves. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard another as more important then himself.” (Phil 2:3) This means that not only should we not hate, we should serve and promote the welfare of others regardless of race.
Jones than looks at the applications of these biblical principles. He explains that the sixth commandment applies to the state as well as individual Christians and therefore the state can not legislate in such a way that deems one racial group inferior to another. He quotes Deuteronomy 1:16-17 that commands the state, “Do not show partiality in judgment; hear both great and small alike.”
As for the Church he explains that the church must not exclude or otherwise show partiality for racial reasons. This extends to ministry, the Lord’s supper and all other ministries. He says this extends to the family and that to forbid interracial marriage is to violate 6th commandment as well. He points out the biblical story from Numbers 12 where Moses marries an African. Moses’ sister Miriam apparently was bothered by this and God judged her ironically by turning Miriam’s skin white with leprosy for a time.
Jones argues that these principles apply to private associations but distinguishes between sins and crimes and emphasizes that the enforcement is better done by the church rather than the state. Racism in business, friendships and etc should be brought before the Church and the offender should be called on to repent or be excluded from communion and fellowship.
All and all, I appreciated what this book had to say. My major critique was that it was very short (less than 50 pages) and I kept wanting more examples and more detail (particularly on the history portion).