When Race Becomes an Idol

“The issue of race is complicated today. In Scripture, the idea of race or ethnicity isn’t rooted in racist hierarchy whereby a majority group scientifically argues a non-majority group is biologically inferior. That’s nowhere in the Bible, but that’s exactly what race is in our modern experience. We must recognize this: put simply, the idea of race as a modern construct was developed by racists who believed non-whiteness—blackness in particular—was biologically inferior to whiteness. It’s from that construct racism was born.
This proves race can be an idol. Let me give you a few examples. We see the idolatry of race in certain white churches who assume that white cultural expressions of the Christian faith are biblical and normative. These are churches in which non-white expressions of the Christian faith are viewed as abnormal or ‘ethnic.’ And lest you think I leave minorities out: We also see the idolatry of race in non-white churches. When certain minority groups refuse to make the necessary multi-ethnic negotiations for our glorious multi-ethnic gospel, it proves that racial identity can become an idol we worship.  
We also see the idolatry of race when Christians from different racial postures reject what the Bible says about walking in the Sprit and the Christian’s transformed life—when Christians listen to or espouse the racist rhetoric of those within their own racial or ethnic group. We also see the idolatry of race when black and brown bodies are murdered, and someone responds, ‘Well, if he was only a good father, if only he had a job, he wouldn’t have gotten shot.’ Maybe, or maybe not. We see the idolatry of race when an angry black sniper wants to kill white cops. We see the idolatry of race when people speak about those who aren’t citizens as though they’re animals, not image-bearers of God. Sadly, this kind of language comes too often from the Christian community.”

Watch the important message above that Jarvis Williams, associate professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary in Louisville, delivered on the idolatry of race at the 2016 Canvas Conference. Williams will be leading a workshop, “Christ Died for Our Sins: Representation and Substitutionary Atonement in Romans,” at The Gospel Coalition’s 2017 National Conference, April 3 to 5 in Indianapolis. Register now for discounted rates!


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