In part one of this series, I addressed the doctrine of total depravity and its particular application to different people with regards to its nature and degrees. In this piece I will be discussing its implications for the doctrine of race and nationhood.
That sinfulness is transmitted through genes is evident throughout Scripture. However, it is possible to concede this and also argue for equal depravity by contending that “there is only one race, the human race.” This argument, apart from being grounded in an erroneous and out-of-context reading of Acts 17:26a with a disregard for vv. 26b and 27, is contradictory to Scripture in other aspects as well. Furthermore, the genetic differences associated with gender have clear implications for the doctrine of depravity: the fall had a differing effect on man and woman (Gen. 3:16-19). The particular depravity of the man involves that he is responsible for working hard and caring for the woman, while the woman must be submissive and bear children. This differing effect of total depravity on the different genders is also emphasized by 1 Tim. 2:12-15, where Scripture reserves the office of verbi Dei minister to males on the basis of Eve’s original sin.
Just as the distinct genders are distinctly depraved with regard to their nature and degree (their Adamic descent notwithstanding), so nations and races suffer under the same yoke. The apostle Paul alludes to this in Titus 1:12-13, where he concurs with the assessment of the prophet Epimenides that “the Cretans are always liars.” John Calvin writes concerning this statement of the apostle:
How worthiness soever the witness may have been, yet the truth which has been spoken by him is acknowledged by Paul. The inhabitants of Crete, of whom he speaks with such sharpness were undoubtedly very wicked. The Apostle, who is wont to reprove mildly those who deserved to be treated with extreme severity, would never have spoken so harshly of the Cretans, if he had not been moved by very strong reasons. What term more reproachful than these opprobrious epithets can be imagined; that they were “lazy, devoted to the belly, destitute of truth, evil beasts?” Nor are these vices charged against one or a few persons, but he condemns the whole nation.1
We know that all men are by nature liars, since there is no truth outside of God. Yet Paul shows here that the Cretans are suffering from a particular degree of depravity with regard to lying, worse than other nations. Note also that Calvin points out that Paul here “condemns the whole nation.” This would be the equivalent (in our contemporary context) of saying that blacks are uncivilized and violent or that Asians are inconsiderate and childlike. Making statements like these may be considered prejudiced in today’s morally distorted society, but in the infallible Scripture the inspired apostle had no problem with stereotyping an entire nation with their particular deficiency in keeping the ninth commandment. It may be true that there are individuals in a white society who act violent or childlike, but it can by no means be considered a particular depravity of the race, as in the case of blacks or Asians. Paul, as a Jew, knew that the Jewish people did, of course, not always speak the truth, but we can safely assume that he considered his own people less inclined to lying than the Cretans. Likewise, Ehud Would rightly notes that blacks are certainly a race set apart, with a distinct and particular depravity. One can similarly say that the Mongoloid’s childish methods of stress relief,2 fascination with sanitation,3 blind idolization of leaders,4 and exploitation of other people for self-gain are practices and problems completely foreign to white, western society. (Particularly, Plato’s high view of civil obedience for the sake of Δικαιοις – righteousness, despite his criticism of leadership,5 proves that this racial difference of disposition towards political leaders is genetic and not purely religious.) Again, it should be emphasized that by nature all people are totally depraved and equally in need of redemption, but I hope to have evidenced that man’s equal need of redemption does not necessitate a belief in egalitarian depravity.
White people also have our own unique problems arising out of our depravity. We are certainly by nature less violent than blacks and less childlike than Asians, but our race’s emphasis on liberty, innovation, progress, and dominion does create problems of its own. No race in the world has produced so many effective and deceitful philosophers as the white race; think of all the Pelagian, Jacobin, agnostic, and atheist literature produced and promoted throughout the years in Western society. Think of the great (and greatly sinful) effects this has had upon the world. Furthermore, our greed and overtly philanthropic tendencies make us at times a race very much at enmity with the purposes of our Creator. An aggressive agnostic who performs his daytime job well and cares for his family is much more acceptable in white society than a thug, and rightly so; but in the end both are enemies of Christ.
All depraved enemies of Christ need to be reconciled with Him through the regenerating work of the Spirit, followed by a life-long process of sanctification. It is because of our particular depravity that sanctification is needed in the first place. This life of sanctification begins and ends with repentance, but for repentance to be purposeful and personal, one has to focus and repent of his particular weaknesses: sanctification needs to run parallel with depravity, just as one would use his particular gifts and talents to be most effective in glorifying God with his life. The true Christian will necessarily bear the fruits of his sanctification (Gal. 5:22-25; James 2:14-26), which is essentially a struggle against sin. Only a gnostic will deny that our struggle with sin continues throughout our entire life of sanctification. The apostle John writes in his first epistle: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). The devil will also, after our regeneration, tempt each of our own particular weaknesses; he considers his chances of best getting a grip over our lives and urging us to fall from grace, as he did with Job (Job 1:11). Therefore in our fight against our sinful nature, our focus must also be on those areas where we are weakest. As with individuals, it is the same for nations and races – and many of these weaknesses (and strengths) are genetic.
Calvin also continues to note in his commentary on Titus 1:13:
It was truly a wonderful purpose of God, that he called a nation so depraved, and so infamous on account of its vices, to be among the first who should partake of the gospel; but his goodness is not less worthy of admiration, in having bestowed heavenly grace on those who did not even deserve to live in this world. In that country so corrupt, as if in the midst of hell, the Church of Christ held a position, and did not cease to be extended, though it was infected by the corruption of the evils which prevailed there; for here Paul not only reproves those who were strangers to the faith, but expressly reproves those who had made a profession of Christianity. Perceiving that these vices so hateful have already taken root, and are spreading far and wide, he does not spare the reputation of the whole nation, that he may attempt the care of those [for] whom there was some hope of healing.
When Paul refers to the weaknesses of this nation of Crete, he includes also the regenerated Christians of that nation; he sets them and their weaknesses apart from the believers of other nations. Just like the believers of the Cretan nation were in particular need to focus on the ninth commandment, so it is with all races and nations, each with their own unique problems arising from depravity, as well as with their peculiar strengths endued them by their gracious Creator. These differing strengths and weaknesses do not miraculously disappear at the moment of regeneration, but are sanctified by the power of God’s Spirit throughout a life of continual repentance. Because this is the case, the sanctification of their strong points and infirmities should be differently approached by members of different races, in order for it to be purposeful.
My opponents might argue that all of these differences with regard to depravity are mere cultural phenomena and have no genetic origin, but this line of argument is both Jacobin in nature and contradictory to Scripture (Ex. 20:5-6). Furthermore, the fact that the different weaknesses derived from an inherent depravity persist among non-white races, even when they find themselves in Westernized societies, is practical evidence for the Scriptural view of genetic racial depravity.
In the final part of this series, I will be arguing for the formation of homogeneous churches as a means of sanctification for the races. This will focus on the various aspects of racial sanctification and the role the true church of Christ has to play in this.
- http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/calvin/cc43/cc43020.htm ↩
- http://www.stuff.co.nz/oddstuff/6192068/Stressed-Chinese-fight-back-with-pillows ↩
- http://www.stuff.co.nz/oddstuff/6167974/Tokyo-toilet-gleams-with-more-than-cleanliness ↩
- http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2102766,00.html ↩
- http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/crito.html ↩