Ask RC: Is it a sin to marry outside ones race?
It is interesting that increasingly certain high profile leaders of Evangelicalism find themselves compelled to deal with the issue of inter-racial marriage. R.C. 2.0 seems to return to it with some regularity. John Piper is forever harping on the subject. It is also interesting that very few black preachers are giving the same answer to this question as most white Evangelicals are giving to this question. What black preachers are standing up and saying that it is sin for black families to oppose giving their daughters to white men?
R.C. 2.0 now “answers” his question.
“Yes, of course. Happily, in every jurisdiction I am aware of, it is not even legally possible to marry outside ones race. Though there are some arguing that such should be legal, even the “gay” “marriage” movement, by and large, disdains the notion. The Bible is abundantly clear that marriage is only for those of the human race, and to extend the institution beyond that is wrong.”
The confusion here is thick.
1.) R.C. 2.0 confuses race with species. The question that we began with was not, “Is it sin to marry outside of one’s species,” but was instead, “is it a sin to marry outside of one’s race.” Does R.C. 2.0 really believe that there are Christians somewhere confused over whether or not God approves of marriage outside of one’s species?
2.) Why introduce the issue of legality? Even if it were legally possible to marry outside of one’s species would that legality make any difference on whether or not such a marriage was sinful or not?
3.) It is not possible to extend the institution of marriage so that, for example, a man and a horse could marry. The word “marriage” has a objective meaning that can not be extended beyond men and women.
Within the circle of humanity, God does provide a number of other prohibitions. Marriage, for instance, is, according to the Bible, one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4 -5). Marriage is also only between either two believers, or two unbelievers (II Corinthians 6:14). Leviticus 18 gives us the laws of consanguinity, affirming that we may not marry those who are too close kin. The Bible forbids marrying those who have been illegitimately divorced (Matthew 19:9). The only other biblical prohibition that I am aware of is that one cannot divorce, marry another spouse, and then, after a second divorce, or the death of the second spouse, remarry the first (Deuteronomy 24:4).
Does the Bible forbid marrying outside ones culture, ones skin color, ones nation? By no means. Deuteronomy 21: 11-14 gives explicit warrant for a Jewish man to take a wife from among the women of a conquered nation. Though not as compelling, we in turn have biblical examples of godly men who married outside their national identity- Moses and his Cushite wife (Numbers 12:1), and of course Boaz and Ruth..
1.) One man and one woman. Normatively that is true, although there might be times where the non-normative might rear its head in the kind of polygamy we find in the Old Testament.
2.) Marriage is to be between two believers who share commonality. R.C. 2.0 certainly wouldn’t advocate that as long as a 80 year old woman and a 18 year old man were both Christians it therefore would be normatively the proper thing for them to marry. So, yes we agree that as far as Christians go they are to marry only other believers but we would add that they are only to marry other believers with whom there exists a shared extensive commonality between the two marrying — a extensive commonality that the common ground of both being Christian might not bridge. The man who is marrying is looking for a “Helpmeet” which means one who is a reflection or a mirror, an image of man, indicating that a woman must have something religiously and culturally in common with her husband. A man and a woman might both be Christian but because there cultures are so significantly different it still might be a sin of lack of wisdom of them to marry.
R. J. Rushdoony could offer on this point,
The new unit is a continuation of the old unit but an independent one; and there has to be a unity or else it is not a marriage. Thus, the attempt of many today to say there is nothing in the Bible against mixed marriages whether religiously or culturally is altogether unfounded. We do not have to go to the Mosaic law (Exodus and Deuteronomy) to demonstrate that, because here in the very beginning (Genesis) we are told that she must be a help meet—bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh—sharing his faith, sharing a common background, a common culture, a common desire to fulfill his calling under God. This, then, is the meaning of marriage in the Biblical sense.”
The Doctrine of Marriage
3.) We agree with R.C. 2.0’s theonomic reasoning where he affirms that the Old Testament law still applies in order to provide boundaries as to degrees of acceptable consanguinity for marriage and where the law forbids divorce and later remarriage to the previously divorced spouse subsequent to yet another divorce from a subsequent wife. Would that all Christians would reason with this kind of excellent theonomic mindset.
4.) Now we turn to the R.C. 2.0’s insistence that the Bible does not forbid inter-racial marriage, and I would say that is true to the same degree that the Bible does not forbid polygamy or trans-ageist marriages. I would say that just as there is no outright forbidding of polygamy in Scripture so there is no outright forbidding of inter-racial marriage and there is no outright forbidding of 85 year old Christian men marrying 16 year old Christian women. However, in all cases such marriages clearly are normatively not the better part of wisdom and so would be sinful to pursue.
R.C. 2.0 makes appeal to Deuteronomy 21:11 but I do not think this really works for him for this passage is referring to defensive wars that Israel was fighting, and as such, there are a couple of things here to keep in mind in considering Deuteronomy 21:11 as a proof text.
First, these wars fought by Israel would have been fought against local semitic nations who were closely related to Israel. Therefore these marriages were more akin to a Norman man taking and then marrying a Scott woman as booty of war then a Victorian Christian Woman marrying a Christian Hottentot man completely outside the context of war. We are not really talking inter-racial marriage in Deuteronomy 21.
Second, this could not have included Canaanites, who the Israelites were forbidden to marry.
Third, this is by no means an expression of what God considers normative for marriage. Deut. 21 also regulates but allows polygamy, but we wouldn’t cite Deut. 21 to defend the idea that polygamy is normative.
Fourth, even were we to use Deuteronomy 21:11 as a proof text it would not prove what R.C. is seeking to prove but would only prove that when Christians today go to war they may take war brides from peoples closely ethnically related to them. I’n not advocating that Deuteronomy 21:11 teaches such. I am saying that if you try to use it the way R.C. is trying to use it that is all it could teach.
5.) Doubtless R.C. 2.0 knows that the Reformed interpreters throughout the years have not agreed that Moses married a second wife. In point of fact if one examines the notes from the original Geneva Bible you will find advanced there what you find advanced by Matthew Henry and others that Moses did not marry a second wife.
Likewise there is considerable debate as to whether Ruth the Moabitess was a Jew who had relocated to Moab earlier or whether she was a original inhabitant of Moab. However, in both cases, as R.C. himself says, these argument are hardly compelling.
“There have, in the past, been fine and godly men who have argued otherwise. There are likely some fine and godly men who would still so argue. The Bible, however, despite the level of detail to which it does go on whom we may or may not marry, does not so argue. The ancient creeds of the church make no such argument. The great confessional statements of the Reformation make no such argument.
R. C. fails to mention here that the reason that these issues were never spoken to confessionally is that there has never been a need to speak confessionally to these issues. During the time of the Westminster Confession who was advocating for Cultural Marxism or Globalism or Multiculturalism? Since no one was advocating such philosophies, therefore we would not expect them to be dealt with confessionally.
The Bible nor the Confessions also do not spell out that we should not marry our tender aged sons to octogenarian women and yet who among us would suggest that because it does not speak in detail to such a situation therefore it is perfectly acceptable?
Some have argued that my own position is grounded in worldliness. Those outside the church are always seeking to break down barriers, to deconstruct cultures. Miscegenation, my critics would argue, plays right into the hands of the political and theological left. I would offer two retorts. First, a healthy understanding of the antithesis, of the great battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman doesn’t mean we are to be reactionary, that we are to embrace the opposite of what the world embraces always and everywhere. We aren’t called to walking on our hands because the unbelievers walk on their feet. Because those outside the kingdom of God retain the remnants of the image of God, we should expect to agree with them from time to time.
First, we must note that R.C. 2.0’s position does indeed play into the hands of the Cultural Marxists. We see how R.C. 2.0 is playing into the hands of the Cultural Marxists through this quote from R. J. Rushdoony,
“Now in the religion of humanism, the faith of the one world order, man is deified, and because man is deified and personified in this world order there can be no division, no disunity tolerated in the Godhead. As a result this means that the unity of mankind is a necessity. There can be no division, no differences, no separation, no discrimination between man and man in this (humanist) faith. All men must be brought together and made one without any differences. To permit any differences is to destroy the unity of the godhead….
But in any such theology the basic sin becomes no longer apostasy from God or what we would call moral evil but disunity. And they among the churches who are infected with this kind of thinking which have made the one world order their substitute God. And among those who are outside of the churches, the great sin is disunity. And different races, different churches, different organizations must all be brought together. And war which separates men and discrimination which separates men constitutes the real evil.”
So, we appreciate R.C. understanding why we are concerned about his position being born of “worldliness.”
R.C. invoking common grace is merely a begging of the question. Yes, there are times where we will agree with those who despise Christianity but the fact that there may be such times hardly proves that this is one of those times or one of those issues where we will or should agree.
“Second, even a cursory glance of the literature demonstrates that it is actually those who argue against marrying outside ones culture, that were most influenced by worldly wisdom. Darwin’s theory of evolution created a paradigm by which even Christians began to judge one “race” as genetically superior to another. It is true enough that some cultures are better than others. What makes one culture superior, however, isn’t genetics, but the impact of the Christian faith. Low levels of melanin didn’t build Europe, the gospel did. Matching levels of melanin in turn won’t make a godly marriage. The gospel will. Away with legalism that adds to God’s perfect law.
1.) Note that R.C. seems not to have a solid grip on the idea of culture. If culture is merely theology externalized, as many Christians insist, (more on that later) then advocating that a Christian might marry outside their culture, is a advocacy for marrying outside one’s Christian theology, if their culture is a faithful approximation of their Christ exalting theology. One simply cannot dismiss cultural issues when it comes to marriage as if those cultural issues are so much unnecessary flotsam and jetsam. Culture matters and for Christians to marry willy nilly across cultural barriers is not wise.
There also seems to be a latent assumption here by R.C. that all Christian cultures will look the same, as if a Christian culture of Japanese would be the same as the Christian Culture of Belorussians therefore meaning that Christians Japanese and Christians Belorussians would be a God approved match for marriage. And yet, do we really need to conclude that all genuinely Christian cultures will look alike?
2.) R.C. really must be aware that the whole concept of race well predates Darwin. No less than Shakespeare would incorporate race into at least eight of his plays as the great bard examined the inevitable frictions between the races in a way palatable to theatergoers. Such recognition of race in other literature also long predates Darwin. To suggest a racial consciousness is only explained by Darwin could be taken as an attempt to poison the well against those who disagree with R.C. 2.0’s muffled and muted multiculturalism.
3.) We half way agree with R.C. on the issue of melanin and culture building. Clearly, the acceptance of Biblical Christianity goes a long way towards explaining how culture advances. We would even argue that beautiful culture is not possible apart from Biblical Christianity. However, we think R.C. and those who reason like him communicate a denial regarding man’s humanity turning man into some kind of Gnostic being. It is true that what a man and men believes and believe has huge impact on what a man becomes and builds. We might call this man’s spiritual dimension. However, it is also true that what a man is, genetically and physically, has a huge impact on what a man becomes and builds. I can no more ignore my humanity when it comes to culture building then I can ignore my belief system. This is why we insist that culture is not merely theology externalized but rather would add that culture is theology externalized as that theology is poured over ethnicity. Yes, Europe is explained by the spread of Christianity but it is also explained by the physicality and genetic coding of the Europeans — physicality and genetic coding that was ordained and given solely by the grace of God — that built Europe as that Christianity was embraced by those very real humans. Men are more then just Gnostic beings with ideas floating around in their heads. Who they are in their divinely given corporeality matters.
4.) When R.C. throws the charge of legalism around (after throwing around the charge of Darwinism) he betrays how much angst this issues causes him. Earlier he noted that fine and godly men have argued differently from him but now he calls those fine and godly men Legalist and Darwinist. Which is it R.C.?
5.) R.C. seeks to reduce race to the issue of melanin. Such a view reveals again what a reductio view of our corporeal humanness that R.C. has. Anyone who has dealt with other races realizes that race is much much more then merely melanin.
That is why we are having this discussion.
6.) Where R.C. gets off in charging people who disagree with him as “Legalist” is quite beyond me. I wonder if he would mind too terribly in providing documentation where people are adding the work of proper marriage to God’s grace in order to be saved?