A common argument that I encounter during discussions of Christianity and race on Facebook is the idea that racial differences are a tragic byproduct of the Fall of Adam and Eve. The argument suggests that without the Fall mankind would have remained one large undifferentiated mass of people without racial, ethnic, or tribal distinctions to divide us. This argument often sees racial distinctions resulting from the divisions at Babel and being gradually erased by the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations, beginning with Pentecost. This argument asserts that racial distinctions are a transitory solution to problems brought about by sin. Ironically many who are opposed to Kinism will insist that they love diversity and appreciate the differences between different cultures throughout the world, but their eschatology indicates that they gleefully anticipate a mulatto future. I’d like to briefly address and deconstruct this argument.
There are several problems with this argument. First, it is entirely speculative to surmise what would have come about had Adam and Even not fallen. Speculations of this kind might make for interesting discussion, but ultimately no argument can ever rest upon pure speculation. Secondly, this argument assumes that racial differences are simply the result of sin and that restraining sin is their only purpose. Even if this was the case, there is no basis for believing that racial distinctions would be dispensed this side of eternity.
There are two relevant examples that come to mind. There is a certain type of subjection of women to men that resulted from the Fall (Gen. 3:16), but Paul alludes to this principle in 1 Cor. 14:34-35 to indicate that the subjection of women to their husbands has abiding validity even among regenerate members of the Church. Likewise, Israel’s initial desire for a king was rooted in a sinful desire to be like the nations around them, and this meant having a king like other nations. Samuel warned them of the problems that having a king would inevitably entail, but Israel demanded a King anyway (1 Sam. 8). Nevertheless God accomplished His purposes through Israel’s sinful desire. Israel is given King Saul and then David after Saul’s failure and removal as king. David is given the promise that his royal lineage will be established forever (2 Sam. 7; 1 Chr. 17:11-14; 2 Chr. 6:16), and this is ultimately fulfilled in his descendant Jesus Christ (Lk. 1:32-33).1
This leads me to the next problem with this argument. Many argue that Christian unity renders racial differences obsolete. Certainly, one stated purpose of racial differences in the Babel narrative (Gen. 11) is to restrain men from the evil imaginations of their hearts, but this is not the only reason given in the Bible. The Bible states that it is God who directed the nations to their inheritances in their distinctive homelands (Deut. 32:8-9; Acts 17:26-27). National distinctions have a larger purpose in God’s plan than many people acknowledge. The same can be said of the example of wives submitting to their husbands.
Women were placed in subjection to their husbands in part as a result of the Fall, but the Apostles also taught the headship of men as derivative of the unfallen creation order (1 Cor. 11:2-15 and 1 Tim. 2:9-15). In one sense, the submission of women to men is a punishment for sin and a restraint upon greater evils, but in another sense the headship of men was always God’s intention and purpose. Christian unity of men and women does not overturn the natural headship of men, but instead sanctifies and reaffirms it. National distinctions work the same way. National distinctions have historically arisen in part because of sinful hostilities, but have also been God’s purpose from the beginning.
Jesus specifically directs the Gospel at nations, as nations (Matt. 28:18-20), and separate nations will come into the Heavenly Jerusalem to worship the true God (Rev. 21:24-26; 22:2, cf. Ps. 86:9). National distinctions help restrain evil and prepare men’s hearts for the Gospel by fostering a sense of generational continuity and national honor, but this is not their only purpose. The Bible clearly teaches that the distinction between nations is an end unto itself, because their unique languages and cultures display the glory of God.
The underlying issue with this argument is the nature of God’s sovereignty in accomplishing His purposes in history. It could be granted that racial distinctions arose, at least in part, as a result of mankind’s sinfulness, and this would not come anywhere close to proving that racial distinctions have only transient value, or that they are to be undone with the progress of the Gospel. It was always God’s intention that the Fall of mankind would happen in the Garden of Eden, and that the Fall would initiate God’s plan of salvation. Jesus Christ is truly the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
People generally speak as though the Fall somehow ruined God’s original intention for creation, but this does not accord with what the Bible teaches about God’s sovereignty. The Fall and all that is accomplished as a result of the Fall is Plan A. Erwin Lutzer, former senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, explains this well, “When we understand how omniscience combines with omnipotence and wisdom, we cannot believe that things have gone wrong from the divine perspective. Yes, there are terrifying evils in the world; God takes no delight in human suffering; and yet His eternal purposes are on track. Looked at from the standpoint of eternity, this is Plan A.”2
God’s providence and decree include national distinctions because God is glorified in the salvation of people from different languages, cultures, and races (Rev. 5:9, 7:9). Every one of us would recognize that Adam and Eve’s prelapsarian nakedness is not some eschatological goal that we should expect to resume in the New Heavens and the New Earth. This is especially true in light of verses that speak of the righteous in Heaven being clothed in white (Rev. 3:5, 3:18, 4:4, 7:9, 15:6, 19:14).3 In the same way, we ought to understand that national distinctions and diverse languages have a greater purpose in God’s plan that does not terminate when we die or in eternity. National distinctions, though sometimes forged through hostility and war, were always included in God’s providential plan.
- See also Is. 9:6-7, 11:1; Jer. 23:5, 30:9; Lk. 1:69; Acts 13:34; Rev. 3:7. ↩
- Erwin Lutzer, Ten Lies About God and How You May Already Be Deceived, pp. 138-139. ↩
- I believe that like much of the book of Revelation, these verses are metaphorical and speak to the purity of the perfected saints in Heaven (cf. Rev. 7:14), but these verses do seem to take for granted that the righteous are clothed in Heaven. ↩