How the Race Is One

Biblical Truth Is the Antidote to Modern Science's Racist Legacy

The Bible teaches that all human life is sacred and that men and women were created in the image and likeness of God. As historian Tom Holland describes the Christian view in Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, the image of God was something to be found "as much in the pauper, the convict or the prostitute as it was in the gentleman."

The Apostle Paul said that God "made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth." He agreed with the lines from pagan poetry that in God "we live and move and have our being" and that all "are indeed his offspring." This Christian teaching about our common ancestry and shared blood means there is only one human race. This is also affirmed in ancient liturgical texts still in use today that refer to "the race of man."

There are no races other than the one human race. Strictly speaking, the term racist could be applied to all who believe there are different races, regardless of whether or not they think one "race" is to be preferred over others. To view all of humanity through the lens of races is in this sense racism. This is one legacy of the scientific racial theories that arose several hundred years ago.

Modern racial theories began in the 1600s, when Europeans made contact with the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Asia, and Africa. The theories flourished in the 19th century and varied widely. The great biology classifier Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) thought there were five varieties of the human species, while the American Founding Father Benjamin Rush speculated that dark skin color was the result of a curable skin disorder. Scientists competed to explain the "races," comparing skull sizes and shapes and other anatomical features.

An Insidious Combination

Combined with the theory of evolution, racial theories veered toward the view that there is a hierarchy of human races, that some are more "evolved" than others. European scientists naturally assumed and taught that the "white" race was the most evolved and the "black" race the least, given the differences in African and European accomplishments at the time.

The American paleontologist and biologist Edward Drinker Cope (1840–1897), who opposed some aspects of Darwin's theory, is quoted by Tom Holland: "We all admit the existence of higher and lower races, the latter being those which we now find to present greater or less approximation to the apes." A hundred years earlier, Samuel Johnson recorded in his journal that on his way to Aberdeen, Scotland, he had "dined at Lord Monboddo's, the Scotch judge who has lately written a strange book about the origin of language, in which he traces monkeys up to men, and says that in some countries the human species have tails like other beasts." In 1854, an illustration in Types of Mankind depicted "Negroes" between chimpanzees and Greeks, but the authors, one an American anthropologist (and slave owner), believed each race was created separately by God, disagreeing with Darwin, who saw human beings as one species, but with some "races" more "evolved" than others.

Racial theories, though confused and contradictory, allowed for the idea of superior and inferior peoples, whether created separately by God or of a common ancestry but at different stages of evolution. A typical scheme put "whites" at the top and "negroes" just above the primates. Such notions created space for the concoction of brutal "master race" theories, as well as for Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger to urge the suppression of Negro birthrates.

Not Even Skin Deep

All of this goes against the timeless truth that all mankind bears equally the image of God. Science cannot lead us away from current "racial tensions." It has nothing helpful to say to "critical race theory" or charges of "systemic racism" (see "Wisdom" on page 6 and "All Black Lives" on page 49), unless it emphasizes that skin color is literally superficial, not even skin deep.

Harmony can only begin with deep mutual respect for each man, woman, and child as created in the image of God. Anything else is based on human theories and will do more harm than good. The Bible has it right.

is the executive editor of Salvo and the  Director of Publications for the Fellowship of St. James.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #56, Spring 2021 Copyright © 2024 Salvo |


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