In the first part of this series, I discussed the context in which Steve Halbrook’s new book, God Is Just, provides a critique of racism. I dealt with his appeal to Numbers 12 and the supposedly colorblind character of God’s revealed law, and then provided a critique of his views on Adamic descent vis-à-vis racial equality. However there are more comments that can be made concerning his section on racial equality.
Further Considerations of Racial Equality
As any discussion of equality and egalitarianism can involve, the term “equality” needs to be carefully specified. In itself, equality cannot be considered either righteous or sinful to promote. God created this world with inequalities, the most fundamental of which is the Creator-creature distinction; and it is not ours to attempt to correct these. Certain forms of inequality are natural and good, while other forms are evil, such as an unwillingness to treat all men with equal standards of justice.
The requisite clarification needed for the important term “equality” is why Halbrook’s rhetoric can be seen as so reckless. To prove that the Bible is anti-racist, he says, “All races are made in the image of God and are therefore equal.” As implied above, this can be affirmed in a good way, but it can also be affirmed in a bad way. No defender of kinism would propose that some races of mankind lack the capacities associated with the imago Dei, yet no defender of common sense would propose that all men are endowed with equal gradations of moral rectitude or natural powers. These are unequal from person to person, and therefore there is no prima facie reason we must suppose these characteristics to be equally distributed from people-group to people-group. In this case, then, the doctrine of the image of God does not entail equality of characteristics. It does not entail inequality of characteristics, either, but it does leave the question of racial or ethnic inequality to the findings of empirical investigation.
Now, all I have quoted Halbrook as saying is that “all races are made in the image of God and are therefore equal.” Since I concede that there is a sense in which this is true, it would be poor of me to immediately assume he is injecting such a statement with a heretical meaning. But the later context demonstrates that he is. After his excursion involving Moses’s allegedly negro wife and God’s colorblind law, Halbrook tries to show how secularist humanist thought led to beliefs in racism (pp. 340ff.). He divides secular humanism into its two fundamental branches of Enlightenment rationalism and Darwinian evolutionism, and critiques both for their implications of racism, all the while assuming his premise of undefined and amorphous racial equality.
Racism, the Enlightenment, and Darwinism
In his critique of Enlightenment principles, Halbrook fails to demonstrate two fundamental premises: first, how distinctive Enlightenment principles are the catalyst in entailing racist conclusions, and second, how these racist conclusions are morally, rationally, or biblically objectionable. He essentially just quotes Enlightenment thinkers, provides a loosely connected but ultimately unconvincing rationale, and then expects the reader to be instinctively outraged at their racism.1 For example, see this excerpt:
[S]ecular humanism deifies reason, which results in viewing a man’s worth on the amount of (secular) education he receives. This gives races that are, at least ostensibly, more educated than others a pretext to consider other races as inferior. The Enlightenment popularized the deification of reason. The natural outworking was that Enlightenment thinkers considered “nonenlightened” groups “irrational.” This included racial groups, such as Africans, as well as Native Americans, whom Enlightenment humanists called “savages.” In other words, in the Enlightenment worldview, some races are smarter than others and thereby superior to others (p. 300).
All of his aforementioned errors arise here. In the first place, it is not a fair representation of secular humanism to say that its adherents view a man’s worth as contingent on his level of education. Many humanists today go to great lengths to ensure that uneducated people become educated, therefore showing their concern for the uneducated people as people, not viewing them as lower on some chain of being. I do not doubt that there is some connection between our modern view of secular education and the exalted view of human reason professed by Enlightenment thinkers, but this connection, whatever it may be, must be carefully identified and formulated. Upright criticisms of our intellectual opponents can be no other way.
Second, the idea of rationality and education as valuable in themselves is alone requisite to view irrational and uneducated people as inferior in that respect. Consequently, there is nothing distinctive about Enlightenment principles which would lead to this portrayal of other races as inferior. This sort of inferiority does not entail that dumber races are subhuman or to be treated unethically; but it still exists meaningfully, and it is a necessary corollary for anyone holding to the innate value of rationality and education, not just for Enlightenment thinkers.
Third, what is wrong with saying that certain races are rationally and educationally inferior? What is wrong with calling certain races “irrational” or “savage”? Individual people can be irrational, and individual people can be uneducated, so what is wrong with expressing this fact? Scripture states that God distributes talents unequally (1 Cor. 12:4), and this implies superiority and inferiority. There is no moral problem in stating racial inequalities, so long as they are genuinely evidentially grounded, but Halbrook just assumes that all races are of equal ability and quotes race-realists to garner emotional knee-jerk responses.
Halbrook’s error on this third point is of particularly evil consequence. One of the great evils of our day is envy: people, especially non-whites, utterly loathe the fact that others are superior to themselves in wealth and ability. Halbrook perpetuates this idea with his unbiblical myth of equality. Whenever people are led to believe that different races are of equal ability, then any observation they make of unequal abilities or unequal success will lead them to believe that these inequalities must have arisen through a series of injustices; and this sense of injustice will then generate moral indignation. In theory, these inferior people will be expressing supposedly righteous anger at the systematic inequalities of “institutional racism,” while in practice, inferior people will be burning with envy at the superior talents of others. In providing such a basis for envy, Halbrook’s racial egalitarianism is heretical and deserves to be destroyed.
The other half of secularism which Halbrook discusses is Darwinism. In discussing this, he commits the same error as with Enlightenment thought: quoting racial-realist passages from Darwin that do not depend on evolutionist principles, and expecting an emotive response.
Darwin’s evolutionary worldview caused him to view some races as naturally superior to others, including in areas of morality and the intellect. . . . For Darwin these distinctions were more than skin deep. He believed that whites were civilized but blacks were not, and that “civilized” races were intellectually superior (p. 302).
As above, there is nothing sinful about believing different groups to be differently abled. If Halbrook has any substantial objections, they should be to the particular evidence Darwin provides for his theses, not to the conclusion Halbrook finds uncomfortable. More importantly, why would Halbrook be so insane as to place “civilized” in scare quotes? Who would be so reckless as to deny that whites are more civilized than blacks? The recent waves of flash mobs, including the “youths” whose race is never mentioned, those hordes of thieves and murderers who assault innocent whites and ransack shops, are sufficient to evidence this point. Halbrook needs to be blind not to recognize these native and behavioral differences, and may God forbid that his error will place anyone he knows in danger.
The Material and Biological Nature of Mankind Suppressed
Part of Halbrook’s critique of the so-called scientific racism of the Enlightenment involves some commentary on the relation of humanity to the animal kingdom. Halbrook quotes George Fredrickson:
Whatever their intentions, Linnaeus, Blumenbach, and other eighteenth-century ethnologists opened the way to a secular or scientific racism by considering human beings part of the animal kingdom rather than viewing them in biblical terms as children of God endowed with spiritual capacities denied to other creatures.2
While Halbrook corrects Fredrickson’s error that all humans are children of God, he still agrees with the substance of Fredrickson’s idea, that we should not view humans as part of the animal kingdom. Certainly Halbrook is correct in the sense that man, possessing the imago Dei, is more than an animal; but he inadvertently brings up a topic that is important to address in the context of race. Though he does not espouse any specific error in his opposition to man’s categorization as an animal, Halbrook still brings up a topic which shows his racial views to be heretical.
In particular, man’s biological and animal components need to be preserved in our anthropology and soteriology. Many Christians in their view of race take a gnostic approach to it. For example, Russell Moore has been quoted on this site as saying, “If God personally regenerates repentant sinners, both white and black, how can we see people in terms of ‘race’ rather than in terms of the person?” Moore views race as irrelevant, refusing to acknowledge it as a real, persistent category, and therefore he views it as especially inconsequential when people of different races convert to Christianity. He views conversion as an abstraction from the material world, rather than as a redemption of it.
This involves a terribly twisted doctrine of the relation between nature and grace. Grace does not replace nature, but redeems it and builds upon it.3 God does not destroy the sinner to create some new spiritual being, but redeems as much of the sinner as possible by destroying only that which is sinful in him. Salvation is therefore of a fundamentally ethical character, for the original and formal constitution of man as a material and spiritual being is preserved; man’s animal aspects are not to be saved from, but to be redeemed as a constituent part of himself. God created matter good.
Of course, most Christians will not profess to view salvation as an escape from this material world, but whenever they torture Galatians 3:28 to view unity in Christ as a reason to erase or downplay racial distinctions—which is ever-present with race-deniers like Halbrook—this gnostic heresy inevitably follows. Christians ought to have a higher view of the materiality with which God constituted man, viewing man’s racial identity as being not destroyed but sanctified in salvation.
To extend this concept further, it is important to note that God has made His creation in a way He has deemed good. He created everything “according to its kind” (Gen. 1:11-12, 21, 24-25): kinds are objective, divinely created categories of creation. These kinds can be interrelated and interconnected in various ways, but they still fundamentally retain their own distinctiveness. It is this idea of distinct kinds which undergirds a healthy understanding of gender roles—seeing them as grounded partly in nature, rather than socially constructed—in addition to every other category of natural thought. Without these kinds created by God, the plurality of the world is mythical. Once these kinds are acknowledged, however, it becomes clear from experience that race is itself a kind—one to be preserved in our affairs, and one which God aims to sanctify in His plan of redemption. To deny this is to sow the seed of Gnosticism.
Halbrook needs to repent. He has written sloppily on the supposed sin of racism, implicitly teaching heresies in the process. He perpetuates the Marxist view of racism as, in essence, a critique of non-whites. He blindly assumes that any derogation of the abilities of non-whites is the evil, wicked sin of racism, and allows no consideration of any empirical evidence on which these claims may be legitimately based. He denies the goodness of God’s material creation by reducing a large part of our social and corporate identity to mere skin pigment, and in so doing promotes a gnostic anthropology. His argumentation is rationally poor, and works only to incite anti-racist emotions inculcated in readers by the propagandistic media. All his errors are alleviated only by the racial-realist quote of Morecraft he provides at the end of his chapter. The church needs to embrace the whole counsel of God, including the goodness of His material and racial creation, especially in a corporate body as blessed as the white race. The church needs to reject false teachers like Steve Halbrook.