Many people charge the Bible with being sexist and racist. Whether the Bible is sexist and racist goes to the heart of who the Bible says God is. What does the Bible say about these things? How does the Bible describe men, women, ethnicity, diversity and human life?
Is the Bible accurately portrayed in the media on these issues? Is it accurately understood by the common person? Is the Bible accurately followed by the people who claim the Bible as their guiding light?
These questions are relevant today as Black Lives Matters and women’s marches and gatherings make the news and immigration policy is being debated in the national media in the United States.
How do we value human life? What is the basis for the value of human life?
And what does the Bible really say about these things?
This begins a five part series that looks at the evidence of how God views sexism from a biblical overview and evidence of how God views racism from a biblical overview, followed by the evidence in the Bible of the way Jesus viewed sexism and the evidence in the Bible of the way Jesus viewed racism.
History is a chronicle of racism and sexism. The historical structures of our world have perpetuated those attitudes since time immemorial. Societies and cultures have treated “others” as second class citizens all throughout history. The strong have enslaved and oppressed the weak, and men have oppressed and lorded their strength over women since the beginning of recorded time.
The strong have always oppressed the week. The study of history is the study of the strong oppressing the weak. History is taught from war to war, which is the ultimate expression of racism, oppression and devaluation of human life. Humankind has tended throughout history toward seizing power and abusing that power at the expense of other people.
As enlightened as we see ourselves today, these themes continue even as we make active, intentional efforts to overcome this tendency of human nature. We have taken steps to eliminate racism and sexism, but racism and sexism persist. We abolish slavery, and the institution of slavery is replaced by Jim Crow laws and social structures that continue to oppress. We abolish segregation and pass civil rights laws, and they are replaced by systematic criminal justice policies that disproportionately imprison black men, and so on.
For all the women’s rights campaigns and laws aimed at eradicating the legalized oppression of women, women are still objectified everywhere we turn. Men continue their predatory behaviors and boast of it (even the President of the United States), and domestic abuse continues its toll primarily on women.
Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist who wrote The God Delusion, blames the God of the Bible for being oppressive and immoral, as do many people today. He says this:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
The fact is that the Bible has been used to justify racism, sexism and similar things. But, are those things what the Bible really stands for? Is that the message of the Bible? Is the Bible really racist and sexist?
I think the Bible is clearly not those things. Sexism and racism are not the message of the Bible, and the Bible stands against those ways of thought.
Anyone can use another’s words and twist them for their own purposes. Therefore, we should forget what people say, and consider what the Bible says for itself, which is what I do in this five part series on the subject.
I begin by considering the overarching message of the Bible on the issue of human value, racism, sexism, etc. I step back and consider the big picture – what the Bible reveals to us about the heart of God in these matters.
I believe the Bible answers these modern questions distinctly and gives us the foundation for declaring, objectively, that racism, sexism and oppression of other people is unequivocally wrong.
We can start in Genesis, where we are told that God created the world in the beginning and created people in His likeness. He created us in His image – male and female. It takes both male and female to reflect the image of God. He created us with a purpose, and we are told His creation was good.
I think we can all agree, however, that the world is not as it should be. The creation of people in God’s image with instructions to manage God’s creation implies that God has given us unique qualities that are similar to God’s qualities, such as the ability to manage and determine our own actions. This unique quality of human beings to determine their own actions explains the dystopia
The Bible calls that dystopia sin. Sin means, literally, missing the mark. Missing mark is one way to describe our actions that do not comport with God’s good intentions.
Sin is a distortion of God’s good creation and purpose. We are told that sin entered the world through choices humans made after the world was created. Some people blame God for the dystopia of the world, but the Bible places the blame on us.
Genesis gives us a brief picture of what God’s purpose and goodness look like before the distortion of sin. Things go wrong when the first humans exercise the choice to go their own way, and God banishes them from their idyllic beginnings. Their actions lead to struggle, pain, difficulty, and tension in their relationships.
As a timeless being, God certainly saw what lay ahead. We accurately surmise that an omniscient God chose to allow it. More than that, an omnipotent God not only choose to allow it; he chose to use it as part of accomplishing His greater purpose.
He gave human beings free will. He knew the choices they might make, the choices they would make! He knew – and He knows – how those choices play out. People are given the ability to choose to be like God or to to go their own way and adopt values that are different than God’s values.
God desires to accomplish purpose for humans created in His image with free will. No small accomplishment!
Sin is the exercise of that free will to choose purposes and values that are not God’s purposes and values. The banishment and subjection of human beings and, indeed, all of creation to the futile circumstance in which God’s good creation is distorted and warped is is God’s overarching response to that sin.
This is all part of the plan. It’s not as if an omniscient, omnipresent, eternal God was caught off guard by the development of sin. It was probably inevitable that any created being, if given the choice, might exercise that choice to act in opposition to God’s purpose.
Yet, the clear message of Scripture is that God’s purpose will be fulfilled. The Bible is the story of God’s delicate intervention in the world of human history – God’s redemption of the world that is going its own way.
God has slowly and steadily and surely revealed Himself to people who were willing and able to hear. Despite more setbacks than steps forward, God’s plan has been unfolding in time.
Since the beginning, human beings have muddied God’s water. We continually choose our own ways and values at odds with God. We know, though, that things are not as they should be. We each know in the core of our own being that we are not as we should be.
The Bible tells us the world we know is not the way God intended and purposed it to be when He created it, but it will be redeemed. We all sense that the world is not the way it should be, but we aren’t very good at fixing it because we all tend to want to go our own way (even in our attempts to fix the wrong in the world).
In the Old Testament, we are told that God provided a Law for His people to live by that was temporary. It was not ideal. People would try for a time to live by it, but they never did a very good job. Paul tells us in the New Testament that the Law was a stop gap. It was given as an instructor for a time to make us aware of our sin (showing us that we miss the mark). It was eventually replaced by a different law introduced by Jesus.
Actually, it isn’t replaced so much as the old law, the stop gap that pointed toward something else, is fulfilled in the new law. The law to which the old rules only pointed is revealed in Jesus. Jesus showed us by His life what living by the Law looks like because he kept it perfectly. At the same time, He pointed us beyond the Law.
If we want to get an idea of what God really intended for the world when he created it, and what He still intends, we need to understand that the world in which we presently live is not representative of God’s ideals. We need to go back and look at Genesis, and we need to look forward to Revelation where we obtain a glimpse of what it will be like when God restores the world to His purposes and ideals. We also need to look at what Jesus, who claimed to be God in the flesh, says.
With this backdrop, we will cover sexism in Part 2 and Part 4 of the series of articles, and we will cover racism in Part 3 and Part 5 of this series on whether the Bible is sexist and racist. I hope that you will keep an open mind to what the Bible says that is relevant to these issues. In the meantime, to get a flavor for where this is going, please take some time to view the video below.
Inspiration for this series comes from a presentation by Lara Buchanan: