I’ve been listening to a lot of Tim Keller lately. Today I listened to an old interview in which he said something that got me thinking. He asserted that, for many or most people, whether they are religious or secular often depends on their social influences. I suppose this would mean parents and family as well as peers. Richard Dawkins, the famously vocal atheist has said similar things: what religion we are depends to a large extent on the society in which we grew up.
Keller supported his thesis with anecdotal evidence from his own experience. He says, for him, he was religious initially because he wanted to gain the favor of people closes to him. What does that say about the power of social interactions? What does it say about our beliefs? If Richard Dawkins and Keller are right, how authentic are anyone’s beliefs?
Jesus doesn’t tackle the issue of racism or diversity directly, but He lived in a complicated time. He was Jewish, living in a tight knit Jewish community, which was governed and ruled by foreigners, the Romans. The Jews had a history of living alongside foreigners and were at various times throughout that history governed by them against their will.
Many of the foreigners were actually very closely related, like the Samaritans, who were of Jewish descent, and the Canaanites before them.
The Jews believed there were only two types of people: Jews and everyone else (Gentiles). They seemed to have forgotten that the very first words God spoke to Abraham, when He chose Abraham and his progeny, was that God chose them to be a blessing to all the nations. (Genesis 12:1-3) God didn’t choose them to bless only them, but to bless all nations through them.
Jesus was that blessing. Jesus is traced back to Abraham. He is from the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the root of Jesse’s seed, father of David. Jesus is the Promised One. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh, so, how Jesus viewed others is the key to understanding what the Bible says about racism and diversity.
We have been exploring the answer to the question: whether the Bible is sexist and racist. The discussion was introduced in Part 1, sexism was tackled in Part 2 by looking at the sweeping theme of the Bible in dealing with men and woman, and an overarching view of what the Bible has to say about racism was addressed in Part 3. In both cases, with the topic of sexism and racism, we looked at the beginning, where the Bible expresses God’s general ideals and purposes in creating humankind, and we looked at the end where we catch a glimpse of things as they will be.
In regard to the issues of sexism, Genesis provides a window to peer into God’s motivations, intentions and purposes. We find that God created an idyllic habitation for men and women to live in harmony with Him and nature, but He allowed people to have free will.
Free will introduced the possibility that people would choose their own values over God’s values and go their own ways. We are told Adam and Eve, the first people (or representative people) did choose their own way, and that choice introduced sin into the world.
Sin means “to miss the mark”. The “mark” would include, among other things, God’s values. People have chosen their own values over God’s values, and the result is that we live in a world in which God’s values are distorted from what He intended. But what are God’s values?
God created men and women as counterparts who, together, reflect the image of God. Neither one is valued higher than the other. We see that God intended them to be fruitful and multiply, to diversify, and not to hunker down in one place with one language in a homogeneous civilization. God wanted diversity. These are the overarching themes of the Bible.
The Old Testament is largely the story of how God chose one people through whom He intended to bless all the nations of the world, but His chosen people continually chose to go their own way. They largely did not reflect God’s values in the way they lived. The Church, today, also often does not reflect God’s values as revealed in the Bible. Paul says, though every man may be a liar, still God is true. (Romans 3:4) We can’t judge God’s values by what we see people doing – even church people.
In fact, only one person in history, we are told, truly reflected all that God is – Jesus. Jesus was “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and the “exact representation of His nature”. (Hebrews 1:3) Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) In this segment, therefore, we will look at what Jesus said and did that can be applied to the subject of sexism.
This is the third part in a series on whether the Bible is sexist and racist. We introduced the question in Part 1 and explored whether the Bible is sexist in Part 2 by going back to the beginning, back to the creation story, where God introduces us to the crown of His Creation, Adam and Eve. We will explore what the Bible reveals to us about God’s view of racism in this Part 3 of the series before turning to what Jesus had to say about both sexism in Part 4 and racism in Part 5.
As we try to understand what the Bible has to say about racism, we go back to Adam and Eve. They are depicted in the Bible as representative of the human race. Genesis, therefore, has application not only to gender relations but to race relations as well. In Genesis we will look at clues for what God intended when He created the world and the people in it, and then we will go to Revelations to glimpse of how things will ultimately be when the redemption of the world is complete and God’s purpose is fulfilled.
This sweep, from Genesis to Revelation, from beginning to end, will show us an overarching view of race as God sees it.
Racism, sexism and oppression are themes in the story of man’s relations to other men (and women) throughout history. Many people today have the notion that the Bible perpetuates those things, and that enlightened men and women know better. But is that really true?
We introduced the question, “what the Bible says about sexism and racism”, in Part I. In this second part in the series, we look at what the Bible reveals to us about sexism. In Part 3, we begin to explore how the Bible addresses racism. In Part 4, we observe what Jesus reveals about sexism, and Part 5 tackles racism through the life of Jesus and what he taught.
In regard to sexism, to get an idea of what the Bible reveals about God’s idea of the interrelationship of men and women, we need to go back to the beginning, back before sin entered the world. There we are told God created Adam and Eve, the first (or representative) people. In the creation story, we get a glimpse of what God intended, and we begin to see how God views men and women in their original, intended state.
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?
In a naturalistic world in which there is nothing supernatural, nothing other than the material world, and everything there is can be summed up by what we can touch, see, hear, feel and measure, survival of the fittest reigns. In a world like that, what is wrong with genocide?
Genocide is like the ultimate survival of the fittest. The superior people group dominates, overcomes and wipes out the inferior people group. What could be more Darwinian? What could be more natural in a naturalistic world?
This, in fact, is largely the history of the world. Why, then, is this expression of survival of the fittest wrong?
Thankfully most people today recoil from such a notion, but on what basis?