Monday, August 15, 2011

Responding to Anti-Miscegenation Arguments

Anti-miscegenation advocates suggest that it is either wrong or imprudent for people of different races to marry one another. The question of prudence may be a practical, pragmatic, and even utilitarian one. We cannot necessarily answer such a question in a dogmatic way. But we can answer the question of whether it is wrong.

First, we can cite the following passage, that states that we rightly consider all men to be of one blood. That is to say, there is not "white" blood and "black" blood - but "human" blood. In that sense there is but one race: the human race.

Act 17:24-28
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and 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 habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

Second, we can emphasize that while there are ethnic divisions amongst people there is one gospel:

Revelation 14:6-7 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters."

While there are divisions amongst men, there is a unity in the gospel. There is no separate gospel along sexual lines (one for men, one for women), not along national lines (one for Americans, another for Russians, and a third for Chinese), and not along language lines. While language may provide a real division between us, in that we cannot worship together in different languages, nevertheless we acknowledge an invisible unity on earth that will find its completion in heaven.

These points should be emphasized, even though anti-miscegenation arguments are not typically directly challenging the question of whether the gospel is for all men. It is important to acknowledge that there are real (even if artificial and more "providential" than "creational") differences and divisions that exist. It is also important for both sides to recognize that these differences and distinctions can and will be transcended.

Whatever you do, though, do not argue directly against anti-miscegenation based on the following verses:

Colossians 3:9-11 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 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 nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

Galatians 3:26-29
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Those are great verses for suggesting that we shouldn't have tribal churches, but they aren't about marriage. If the second one were about marriage, we'd have a real problem because of the whole "male nor female" bit.

Remember, as well, that we have Christian liberty, and marriage is (initially) a voluntary association. A man is allowed to use his personal taste in picking his wife. Likewise, as a father evaluating potential sons-in-law, a man can employ his own or his daughter's tastes in deciding what sort of man she should marry. He need not give every suitor the time of day, just as not every suitor must court every single woman.

Because the Bible does not forbid marriage between "races," or "tribes," or "families," we should not say it is immoral. If someone wants to bind our consciences regarding such a thing, they need to come up with a Biblical argument for their position. On the other hand, if they want to make some kind of practical, pragmatic, or utilitarian argument regarding the practice, they should be clear about what they are doing.

One final point: we are called to love our brethren in Christ. Paul is pretty clear that he has a special place in his heart for his brethren according to the flesh, namely the Jews. It's perfectly natural and acceptable for us to have those kinds of positive feelings towards our relatives. On the other hand, we should be on guard against negative feelings towards our non-relatives. Remember how Paul opposed Peter to his face for segregating himself from the Gentiles. Remember also that if we do not love our brethren in Christ (a brotherhood that transcends all divisions: national, ethnic, racial, and even sexual), then we do not truly love God.

So, any anti-miscegenation advocacy that springs from a hatred or antipathy for members of another race, nation, tribe, or the like is clearly immoral because of its source. You may love your own nation, ethnicity, or skin color, but you cannot use that love as an excuse for hate.



Turretinfan said...

Please don't make the pragmatic, practical, and/or utilitarian arguments for or against inter-racial marriage here. That's not the point of this post. I'm not saying that it is a topic that should never be discussed, but it is a topic that should not be discussed here.

Maggie said...

Before tackling the issue of interracial marriage (miscegenation, as you put it), I think we'd do well to ask what God's racial categories are. Does our society’s notion of race have a biblical basis?

In the US, we are particularly focused on physical characteristics like skin color, eye shape, and hair texture as markers of distinct people groups, and we have a set number of racial categories we use to describe people. These categories are not universal among men, however. More importantly, they are not defined by scripture. The Bible speaks of “nation, tribe, and tongue”—terms that describe political, cultural, genealogical, and linguistic distinctions among human populations—each of which can be found within any given “race,” as defined by the US Census Bureau.

Of course, the Bible acknowledges physical differences among people from different lineages. (Can the Ethiopian change his skin?) But the Bible does not break people down into a set number of distinct racial groups based on those physical differences, as we commonly do today. And if the Bible doesn’t define a schema of races, I don’t see how we can import man-made racial taxonomies into the scriptures and impose moral restrictions based on these categories.

The only two races I see clearly defined in scripture are Adam’s and Christ’s. In that schema, interracial marriage is, of course, wrong. :)

Turretinfan said...

"And if the Bible doesn’t define a schema of races, I don’t see how we can import man-made racial taxonomies into the scriptures and impose moral restrictions based on these categories."

That makes sense. I wonder, though, if the anti-miscegenation advocates would try to argue from other lineage-based categorizations in Scripture in order to argue that "race" is just one more such lineage-based categorization.


An37 said...

The most common pragmatic argument I've heard is that the cultural differences between what are variously categorized as races are simply too great a barrier to a successful marriage.

However, I think this claim is given the lie when the same individuals who might oppose the union of a white, suburban, mid-western American boy to the African-American girl who lives down the street, while saying nothing should the same individual choose for himself an urbanized, blond Scandinavian girl from Copenhagen.

I myself am married to a wonderful Christian lady from Indonesia. While there have been cultural issues, those have been the easy ones to resolve. Far more serious are the problems that arise from our selfish, wicked hearts.

Anonymous said...

MS asks: "Does our society’s notion of race have a biblical basis?

I answer, "no".

But having said that, any Biblical basis the Church can bring to this society's notion will be like salt as a preservative.

And, anyway, one can lay to rest this issue with these Words if one subscribes to them? Mistakes are made. It is our hope that when once the mistake is realized there will be sufficient Grace at work in the Body to bring about what is holy and sensible.

Here's the Words to consider, though:

1Co 7:35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
1Co 7:36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry--it is no sin.
1Co 7:37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.
1Co 7:38 So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.
1Co 7:39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

Any other reality here would be outside the Lord; and the Church needs to stay in bounds and not go beyond Christ's Doctrine so that all things are done in decency and order and only in the Lord!

Maggie said...

TF said "I wonder, though, if the anti-miscegenation advocates would try to argue from other lineage-based categorizations in Scripture in order to argue that 'race' is just one more such lineage-based categorization."

They would still be left with the heavy burden of proving scripture frowns upon inter-lineage unions in and of themselves (and not simply "inter-faith" marriages).

If you don't mind, I'd like to link to an external article from Answers in Genesis that directly addresses this question:

Here's a quote from the article that I think is particularly relevant to the question of whether inter-lineage marriages are malum in se, or whether the real issue is inter-faith marriages:

"...Thus the only form of interracial marriage the Bible talks and warns about is marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian. Even the Israelites were told not to marry the pagan Canaanites. However, a Canaanite appears in the genealogy of Jesus Christ—Rahab (Matthew 1:5). How could that be?
Obviously from the Jericho account in Joshua 6, Rahab stopped being a Canaanite spiritually and became an Israelite spiritually when she trusted in the true God. When she did this, she was free to marry an Israelite because she was then of the same spiritual race, which is what marriage is truly about."