The Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) sprang from the Southern branch of the American Presbyterian church resulting from the North-South break in 1861. Its two spiritual fathers are considered to be Rev. James H. Thornwell and Rev. Robert L. Dabney, even though both died relatively soon after it was created, with their defense of conservative Christian social order and Southern slavery firmly rooting the denomination in biblical traditionalism and conservatism until the mid-twentieth century, when the nationwide slide into liberal Marxism began to take hold. One man who stood against this slide into perdition as a true heir to Thornwell and Dabney was Rev. Guy T. Gillespie, D.D. Gillespie was a pastor in the PCUS and president of the denomination’s school of Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi. Thus he can definitely be considered one of the leading men of the denomination at the time, at least of the conservative wing, and not just some fringe member. Two weeks ago, I posted excerpts from a sermon given by the eminent fundamentalist preacher Bob Jones, Sr., entitled “Is Segregation Scriptural?” While his scriptural reasoning is primarily sound, Jones relies primarily on a single Bible verse to make his point. Now that verse is more than sufficient to prove Jones’s point, yet being a Presbyterian myself, I prefer exhaustive systematic preaching to the more Baptist-esque “pick a single verse and make an entire sermon out of it.” Rev. Gillespie provides this in an address given to the Synod of Mississippi of the PCUS on November 4th, 1954, entitled “A Christian View on Segregation.” The full address is too long to post here, but it covers not only scriptural proofs, but also logic, history, and experience. Gillespie makes six main points:
- Segregation Is Not the Child of Race Prejudice
- Segregation Is One of Nature’s Universal Laws
- Segregation Tends to Promote Progress
- Segregation Does Not Necessarily Involve Discrimination
- The Principle of Segregation May Be Defended on Biblical Grounds and Is Not “Unchristian”
- Segregation Is a Well-Considered and Time-Tested American Policy
As we are most interested in the direct biblical arguments, while in no way discounting the value of the others, we will only post the fifth section in full. However, I highly recommend that you read the entire address.
The Principle of Segregation May Be Defended on Biblical Grounds and Is Not “Unchristian”
While the Bible contains no clear mandate for or against segregation as between white and negro races, it does furnish considerable data from which valid inferences may be drawn in support of the general principle of segregation as an important feature of the Divine purpose and Providence throughout the ages.
Concerning matters of this kind, which in the inscrutable wisdom of God have been left for mankind to work out in the light of reason and experience without the full light of revelation, we dare not be dogmatic, but we do well to examine with open mind some of the more pertinent references.
(1) The First Separation (Gen. 4:11-26).
A mark is placed upon Cain, and he is separated from the other branch of the human family, represented by Seth and his descendants. From Cain were descended men of great vigor and inventive genius, from Seth were descended men who began to call upon the name of the Lord, and were evidently those elsewhere referred to as “The Sons of God.”
(2) The Demoralization Resulting from Intermarriage (Gen. 6:1-7).
The promiscuous intermarriage of the Sons of God, that is, the descendants of Seth, with the “Daughters of Men,” who were apparently the descendants of Cain, resulted in the complete breakdown of family life and such widespread immorality and wickedness as to provoke the Lord to destroy the earth with the flood. A possible though not necessary inference from this tragic story is that the intermarriage of dissimilar groups, whether the differences be moral, cultural, or physical, is not conducive to the preservation of wholesome family life or to morality, and therefore is contrary to the purpose and will of God.
(3) New Divisions After the Flood Stemming From Sons of Noah (Gen. 9:18-29).
After the flood the three sons of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth, became the progenitors of three distinct racial groups, which were to repeople and overspread the earth. The descendants of Shem migrated eastward and occupied most of Asia; the descendants of Japheth migrated westward and ultimately occupied the continent of Europe, while the children of Ham moved generally southward toward the tropics and occupied the continent of Africa, and possibly southern Asia and the islands of the Pacific.
This brief record, the accuracy of which has not been successfully disputed by the anthropologists and ethnologists, while affirming the unity of the [human] race, also implies that an all-wise Providence has “determined the timed before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” Which same Providence by determining the climatic and other physical conditions under which many successive generations of the several racial groups should live, is thereby equally responsible for the distinct racial characteristics which seem to have become fixed in prehistoric times, and which are chiefly responsible for the segregation of racial groups across the centuries and in our time.
(4) Origin of Linguistic Differences (Gen. 11:19).
This indicates that the Confusion of Tongues, which took place at Babel, with the consequent scattering of the peoples was an act of special Divine Providence to frustrate the mistaken efforts of godless men to assure the permanent integration of the peoples of the earth. Incidentally it indicates that the development of different languages was not merely natural or accidental, but served a Divine purpose, in becoming one of the most effective means of preserving the separate existence of the several racial groups.
(5) Abraham Called to a Separated Life (Gen. Chapters 12-25).
Abram, later changed to Abraham, was called to separate himself from his home and his kindred in Ur of the Chaldees and to live as a “stranger in a strange land.” Under Divine guidance and blessing he and his household lived peaceably with the inhabitants without mingling with them socially or intermarrying with them. The Covenant of Circumcision instituted by God provided a sign or seal which was to distinguish and set apart in a most significant way the “Seed of Abraham,” or the Hebrew people from all the other peoples of the earth throughout all generations. Many incidental circumstances, such as the refusal of God to allow the son of Hagar, the Egyptian bondwoman, to become heir of the covenant promise, the great care exercised by Abraham to secure a wife for his son Isaac from among his own kindred rather than from among the Canaanites [Gen. 24:1-4], and a similar concern manifested by Isaac and Rebekah concerning wives for their sons, all emphasize the importance which is attached to the principle of segregation, and doubtless paved the way for the emphasis given to it in the Mosaic economy and in the subsequent history of Israel.
(6) Prohibitions Against the Mingling of Diverse Things (Lev. 19:19).
According to the law delivered to Moses, the crossbreeding of diverse strains of cattle, the planting of mixed seeds, and the mixing of wool and linen in a garment were forbidden. We are not told the reasons for this curious law, but it seems impossible to escape the conclusion that if such intermixture of diverse elements in the lower orders of animal and plant life were unseemly and contrary to the Divine purpose, the same principle would apply with even greater force with respect to human relations.
(7) The Warnings of Moses Against Intermarriage With Other Peoples (Deut. 7:3).
Moses strictly warned the Israelites against allowing their sons and daughters to intermarry with the pagan peoples with whom they came in contact, under the penalty of bringing upon themselves the Divine wrath and judgment. This warning was emphasized repeatedly, and was specially burned into the consciousness of the nation by the terrible penalties which were inflicted upon those who committed whoredom with the daughters of Moab at Baal-Peor (Numbers 25:1-8).
(8) Ezra’s Condemnation of Mixed Marriages (Ezra, Chapters 9-10).
After the return of the Jews from Babylonish captivity, it was discovered that great numbers of the prominent Jews had taken wives from among the heathen people of the land. This caused Ezra to rend his clothes and tear his hair, and cry unto God for mercy upon the sinning nation. The drastic steps which were taken to purge out this evil practice emphasized anew the vital importance which was attached to the preservation of the purity and integrity of the racial stock by the leaders of the nation and by their Divine ruler.
(9) The Attitude and Teachings of Our Lord—The Four Gospels.
There is no question but that the emphasis placed by Our Lord upon the love of God for the whole world (John 3:16, and other passages) was intended in part at least , as a rebuke to the bigotry and intolerance of the Jewish leaders, and to counteract the attitude of contempt and indifference which the Jewish people as a whole manifested toward the other peoples of the world. Likewise his declaration as to the supreme worth of the human soul (Matt. 16:26) and His last great command to His followers to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20) make it abundantly clear that the redeeming love of Christ knows no limitations of class or condition or nationality or race, but like a mighty river sweeps across every national or artificial barrier to bring the water of life to the thirsty souls of men. He used the story of the Good Samaritan to rebuke the smug complacency and narrow-minded prejudice of the Jews, but he did not ignore or denounce racial distinctions, nor did he set plans on foot to abolish them and to bring about amalgamation of the Jews and the Samaritans, or of any other races. As a matter of fact, in sending out the twelve on their first Gospel missions he directed them to go “only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6) and in dealing with the Syro-Phoenician woman he takes particular care to emphasize the different status of the two races, before granting the request. The Golden Rule, as proclaimed by Our Lord, must unquestionably be applied to the field of race relations as well as to all other human relationships; at the same time no reasonable interpretation of this great principle requires to do unto or for, the individual or the race, for the sake of some fancied benefit or momentary satisfaction, that which we have reason to believe will in the end imperil the stability of the social order and the future welfare of the race.
(10) The Attitude and Teachings of the Apostles—The Acts and the Epistles.
The Gift of Tongues at Pentecost was undoubtedly a prophecy that the Gospel should be preached to all nations and that every people should hear the Gospel in their own languages, but it gives no hint that all linguistic, nation, or racial differences are to be wiped out in the Gospel Dispensation.
Peter’s Vision on the housetop in Joppa, his subsequent visit to the home of Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, his baptism of the household after they had received the Holy Ghost, and his statement that ”God is no respector of persons,” marks the removal of the Jewish traditions and prejudices which barred the entrance of the Gentiles into the household of the faith, and sets the pattern for Christianity as the new religion for all nations and all the peoples of the earth.
Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, naturally had more to say concerning this question than any of the other New Testament writers. In his notable speech to the Greeks at Athens he said: “God . . . hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitations” (Acts 17:24-26). Writing to the Colossians he said: “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him; where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision or uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all in all.”
In the first passage Paul affirms the unity of the race based upon a common origin, concerning which there can be no difference of opinion among those who accept the authority of the Bible. In the second passage Paul asserts the unity of all believers in Christ, regardless of their racial differences, but this unity is a spiritual relationship resulting from the mystical union of each believer with Christ Himself, in which all enjoy the same spiritual privileges and benefits. That Paul had in mind the absolute uniformity of believers in external relations and the wiping out of all distinctions of race, nationality, social status, sex or cultural heritage, is disproven by the fact that Paul never ceased to identify himself as a member of the Jewish race, and he made very practical use of his right to Roman citizenship. He recognized the master-slave relationship prevalent in Greek and Roman society, and enjoined obedience to the reciprocal duties arising therefrom. He also clearly recognized the status assigned to women by social custom, and denied to women some of the privileges and functions exercised by men in the churches under his supervision.
(11) Preview of The Church Triumphant (Rev., Chapters 4-7).
The Seer of Patmos was permitted to behold in wonderful symbolism a preview of the Church Triumphant, the grand consummation of redemptive purpose through the ages. Before the rainbow circled throne set in the midst of the heavens, he beheld “a great multitude which no men could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples and tongues,” uniting in a mighty chorus of praise to God and to the Lamb upon the throne. It would be presumptuous indeed to say exactly what this symbolism means, or to rest the validity of any conclusions upon such interpretation; nevertheless it accords well with the whole scheme of creation, Providence and redemption to see in the rainbow which circled the throne a fitting symbol of the spectrum of redeemed humanity made up of the peoples of every nation, kindred, race, and language blended into a beautiful and harmonious unity, and yet each preserving its own distinctive genius and virtues, the better to show forth the infinite riches and diversity of the Divine glory and grace throughout the ages to come.
(12) Summary of Bible References.
There are doubtless many other parts of Scripture which may have some bearing upon this question, but which we cannot undertake to deal with in this discussion. But to summarize the interpretations of the passages above considered, the following conclusions would seem to be warranted: (a) Since for two thousand years the practice of segregation was imposed upon the Hebrew people by Divine authority and express command, and infractions of the command were punished with extreme severity, there is certainly no ground for the charge that racial segregation is displeasing to God, unjust to man, or inherently wrong; (b) Since Christ and the Apostles taught the love of God for all mankind, the oneness of believers in Christ, and demonstrated that the principles of Christian brotherhood and charity could be made operative in all relations of life, without demanding revolutionary changes in the natural or social order, there would appear to be no reason for concluding that segregation is in conflict with the spirit and the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, and therefore un-Christian.
And thus the movements of “civil rights,” “social justice,” and alienism are damned. As I said in my posting of Bob Jones, Sr.’s sermon, I’m posting these older sermons on race-related topics to show that both our views and our proofs match those of our forefathers by blood and the faith. We are the true heirs of the Christian faith, and our views are the ones holding continuity with the past. Do not flinch when we are named heretics by moral and intellectual midgets who have adopted the morality of the pagan culture in place of true Christian principles, for we stand with Christ and our fathers.