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Monday, July 20, 2015
Is God A Racist?
Lonnie C. Hendrix/Miller Jones
The Church of God International has posted a new "web chat" entitled "Revisiting the Biblical Origins of USA and Britain" with Pastors Bill Watson and Wayne Hendrix (this blogger's father). For those interested, you may see the video at this address: http://cgi.org/armor-of-god-web-chat/2015/7/8/revisiting-the-biblical-origins-of-usa-and-britain
This production seeks to rebut the argument that the church's teachings with regard to the physical ancestry of the English speaking peoples are inherently racist. In their attempt to make the doctrine of British Israelism more palatable, they seek to distance themselves from the teachings/writings of Herbert W. Armstrong and the various proponents of it over the last almost four hundred years. Mr. Watson and Mr. Hendrix insist that God only segregated the Israelites because "He" is a jealous God and didn't want "His" people to be worshipping other gods. They point out the fact that Ephraim and Manasseh were themselves the product of an interracial marriage (between a Hebrew and an Egyptian) as proof that God didn't really care about the physical ethnicity/ancestry of the folks in question. Of course, the entire discussion is based on the premise that the Bible is an infallible account of God and "His" purposes and plans for mankind.
However, for those of us who do not share this view of Scripture, several objections immediately come to mind regarding their defense of this obnoxious doctrine. There are numerous statements within the Bible that make plain that the Israelites were regarded as God's special people - above all of the other nations on the face of the earth. The Israelites were instructed in numerous places not to intermarry with other folks (pagan, heathen, uncircumcised Gentiles). In fact, they are instructed in several places to annihilate non-Israelites - to completely destroy the people and their culture. In numerous places, God is portrayed as fighting on behalf of "His" people and against other people. Interestingly, the Israelites often enslaved the people they conquered, and there are numerous provisions within the Torah which outline the proper treatment of those slaves.
One could argue that the whole Bible is a book about Israel. Moreover, even in the New Testament, we find much evidence that the Jews looked down on the Samaritans, Greeks and Romans. In fact, the context makes quite clear that the Jews regarded themselves as being superior to those other folks - not even worthy for a Jew to associate with them. The Israelites themselves are often described collectively as being a "stiff-necked" and sinful people.
Google defines racism as "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior." Clearly, based on the evidence of the scriptures themselves, we would have to conclude that the human authors of Scripture were mostly racists.
There is, however, another view of race expressed within the pages of the Bible. It is a view that American Abolitionists found to be more compelling and believable than those noted above. This view is presented in numerous places where God's care and concern for all of the peoples of the earth is made clear. This view is found in the places where it is made clear that God chose the Israelites for a special mission - to be an example to the other nations - to tell the other folks about "Him." John the Baptist told the Jews of his day not to rely on their physical descent from Abraham. He went on to tell them that God could raise up offspring to Abraham from the stones at their feet. This view is found in Christ's parable about the Good Samaritan, and in his instructions to his followers to make disciples of all nations. It is made clear in the vision that was given to Peter about what (who) should be regarded as clean or unclean. Finally, it is also made plain in the ministry/writings of the Apostle Paul that God does not regard one people over another - that Christians lose their Jewish or Greek designation when they are baptized into the Church. Paul went on to say that God considers Christians to be Abraham's descendants, and the proper heirs of the promises made to him.
And if all of that is not enough to convince us, we would still have the very plain statements of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians and the author of the epistle to the Hebrews to completely discredit this teaching. Paul wrote: "The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say 'and to seeds,' meaning many people, but 'and to your seed,' meaning one person, who is Christ." (Galatians 3:16, NIV) Likewise, after recounting the stories of many of God's faithful people down through the ages (including Abraham), the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us: "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:39-40, NIV) In other words, there doesn't have to be any fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham in this life! And, when those promises are finally fulfilled, they will be fulfilled through those who belong to Jesus Christ (from all nations)! Likewise, Christ is the fulfillment of the promises made to King David. Christ is the one who will sit on his throne forever and ever. It is ridiculous to suggest that the British royal family has any role to play in fulfilling that promise!
Hence, there is legitimate reason for Christians of good will to say that God is not a racist. Nevertheless, for those who cling to this pernicious doctrine, you are stuck with defending a teaching that is racist at its core. It is unfortunate, but the Church of God International (along with all of the other descendants of the Worldwide Church of God) cannot escape the baggage that this doctrine carries with it, no matter how hard they may try to do just that.