I am examing this article. I want people to be able to access it so they don’t have to take my word for what the article says. Secondly, I will not be looking at the entire article and so people can access this link to make sure I’m not taking matters out of context.
The author of this piece is Rev. Rich Lusk. Lusk was a significant player in the Federal Vision imbroglio. Federal Vision was rife with contradictions. I mention that because I believe there is a consistency in the embrace of contradiction in what we see below.
Rev. Lusk (hereafter RL) begins,
I think you’d be hard-pressed to discover the fact of varying levels of melanin just from the Scriptures.
Lusk presupposes here that race is merely a matter of skin color as if race can be reduced to melanin levels. Of course, race is never less than melanin levels but it is always more than melanin levels. If race were only about melanin levels then people of different races could provide bone marrow transplants for one another. If race were only about melanin levels then forensic scientists would not be able to determine race based on skeletal evidence. If race were only about melanin levels violent crime rates would be universally the same across varying races. If race were only about melanin levels that Pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t develop drugs that are race-specific in their effect.
Second, right out of the gate RL is reducing knowledge to whatever is explicitly said in Scripture. This is an extreme form of Biblicism that even Gordon Clark would condemn. I am convinced that is a nonstarter. One could just as easily say I think you’d be hard-pressed to discover how babies were made just from consulting the Scripture, therefore it is not important to know how babies are made.
Yes, Scripture acknowledges different ethnicities, tribes, languages, etc., but it is (oddly, to modern sensibilities) totally silent about the relation of ethnicity to skin color. In fact, it is almost totally silent on skin color altogether. This is really astounding when you think about how much we focus on skin color in the modern world. Jeremiah 13:23 mentions the Ethiopian’s skin, but only in passing.
Actually, Jeremiah 13:23 unsays everything that Lusk says in the above paragraph.
23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
Here we learn that an ethnic people (Ethiopians) are black. We also learn therefore that Scripture most certainly is NOT totally silent on the relation of ethnicity to race. Jeremiah obviously notices the difference or else he would not have used this illustration. Note something else here that will apply to what RL says elsewhere and that is that obviously non-black people could not be part of the ethnic Ethiopians or else Jeremiah’s illustration would not work. If ethnic Ethiopians included 20% white people those whom Jeremiah was addressing might have said … “Umm, wait a minute.”
The fact that this is mentioned “in passing” is just RL’s opinion. Probably an opinion born of the necessity to wave away this passage as significant.
If we are biblical, shouldn’t we imitate this total lack of emphasis? The Scripture acknowledges the existence of different people groups and nations (more on this below), but never ties this to skin color, so why should we? Biblically, language, culture, and ultimately faith determine the identity of a people, not melanin. Biblically, a person’s identity is never defined by his melanin any more than it is defined by other incidental physical features.
Hmmm … what of
“Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire:”
Clearly, the Scripture is emphasizing race here.
As noted above with ethnic Ethiopians as married to their blackness Scripture does tie ethnicity to race.
I think RL is hanging on a weak branch to say the ancients were unfamiliar or uninterested with race — and that as something more than melanin.
“Biblically, language, culture, and ultimately faith determine the identity of a people, not melanin.”
Perhaps there is one exception in Numbers 12 when Moses marries a Cushite (Ethiopian) woman….
Both Calvin and Matthew Henry as well as many other reputed scholars do not believe that the woman in relation to Moses in the passage cited above is anybody but Mirriam. In other words, Moses did not marry a black woman.
But the Scriptures are full of marriages between people of different ethnic groups (e.g., Ruth and Boaz), different melanin levels, etc. Scripture does not require us to marry people of the same skin color any more than it requires us to marry people of the same eye or hair color. The only real issue in Scripture is faithfulness to the Lord. What modern people call race is a non-factor in marriage.
First, Scripture is NOT full of marriage between people of different ethnic groups. There may be some but to say it is full of such examples is a complete exaggeration. Even Ruth is disputed as to whether she was a Moabitess or an Israelite who lived in the former territory of Moab and so a Moabitess. Much the same way one might refer to a Puerto Rican living in New York City as a “New Yorker.”
Scripture may not explicitly forbid us from inter-racial marriages but neither does it explicitly forbid us from doing any number of unwise things.
Next, sans Lusk, race should be a factor in marriage. If RL took the time to look at the stats he would see that divorce levels for inter-racial marriages are higher than divorce rates for intra-racial marriages. In 2002, the Center for Disease Control published statistics about divorce rates that showed interracial marriages were more likely to end in divorce than same-ethnic marriages — 41 percent versus 31 percent. So, we see that RL is just in error when he says that “race is a non-factor in marriage.”
All that to say: our modern obsession with race is just that – a distinctly modern obsession. It has nothing to do with the Bible or godliness at all, and therefore cannot serve a biblical agenda for missions, ministry, etc.
Modern obsession? I’m not sure what RL is calling modern but I suspect he is wrong even here. As far back as the 185o’s Americans were what Lusk calls obsessed with race as evidence by the Lincoln Douglas debate,
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”
But maybe Lusk lump’s Lincoln’s obsession as a modern obsession with our putative modern obsession. Then there are Rudyard Kipling’s various poems on this theme. The point is, I hardly think this is a modern obsession.
All of Lusk’s opining is based on the assumption that all peoples are the same and since they are all the same (a Gnostic assumption if there ever was one) then mixing and matching is not a problem. Jesus did not assume what Lusk assumes as seen in his dealing with the Syro-Phoenician woman. Neither the Holy Spirit nor St. Paul shared Lusk’s assumption. If they had they would not have written what they had written about Cretans.
This is not to deny that all men can come to Christ. The ground at the cross is level for all peoples. All are commanded to repent. All those repentant will be received by Christ. This is to affirm that grace does not destroy nature and conversion does not make different people groups all the same. As such, strong Christian marriages ought to seek out not only the harmony of faith but also the harmony of backgrounds in totality.
Indeed, if our mission and ministry work are concerned about melanin, it’s a sign we are being shaped by some agenda other than the Bible’s. (Perhaps this agenda comes from Charles Darwin? The full title of his most famous work is The Origin of the Species By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. The modern obsession with race is as much a legacy of the racist implications of Darwin’s theory of evolution as any other factor.)
Lusk writes a diatribe against those he ends up accusing as being Darwinists (it’s OK… I think him Gnostic) while going on and on about “melanin” and yet suggests that his imagined opponents are the ones obsessed by race. Irony much Rich?
Let us say again… Rich has reduced the issue of race to melanin. Those of us who think Rich is nuts believe that race is about much much more than melanin.
I am not claiming the Bible requires us to be “color blind” in every sense. In some ways, it is appropriate to be “color blind” while in other ways it is appropriate to be “color conscious.”
Now, Lusk goes all contradiction on us, trying to have it both ways.
We do not need to blind ourselves to the fact that the human race is a veritable kaleidoscope. We do not have to ignore biological and cultural differences between us in our relationships.
Earlier, it’s just about melanin levels. Now the human race is a veritable kaleidoscope with biological differences. Does Rich only mean here we do not have to ignore the different melanin levels that biology creates? Why should melanin alone create cultural differences Rich? Maybe the cultural differences have something to do with race that goes deeper than just the melanin differences?
End Part I