Colson on Racism and Repentance

14 Responses

  1. Otto Wetzel
    Otto Wetzel May 4, 2010 at 1:13 am | | Reply

    Would not segregating churches fall under the same category as, say, Peter refusing to have table fellowship with the Gentiles?

  2. admin
    admin June 9, 2010 at 11:12 pm | | Reply

    Otto, pardon the delay, and thanks for visiting.

    No, it would not. The race issue there was intrinsically tied up with the change in covenant administration. To say that Paul opposed Peter for refusing to eat with formerly estranged cov members is not the same as Peter opposing a white elder board for refusing to include Negroes to his church roles when there is a Negro church suited for him down the road.

    The gospel does not remove the freedom of a body to define its local membership–especially when the body sees such boundaries as self-preservation, and a prophylactic against miscegenation and thus race-destruction. Churches acting this way is but an extention of a Christian father telling his daughter whom she cannot marry. I’m not denying a negro man a Christian marriage by denying him MY Christian daughter. Nor is a church denying the grace of God by denying a seeker membership on THEIR roles.

  3. Lois
    Lois June 11, 2010 at 12:41 am | | Reply

    I feel no guilt about wanting to live with my own kind. It was a strike against the European white people, the Civil Rights Act, and stopping segregation. I believe in small communities of like kind. I don’t dislike anyone, but I feel I should have the right to live with whom I want. The enemy within, know that mixing, mingling the races, brings havoc…the white race are the big losers.

  4. Drew
    Drew July 19, 2010 at 4:27 am | | Reply

    I think it is not doing violence to your words to suggest that a key component of your argument for separation of the church into congregations of variant colors is that this separation serves as “a prophylactic against miscegenation and thus race-destruction.”

    I am at a loss to understand why miscegenation and race-destruction are antithetical to the propagation of the gospel, or, for that matter, why the homogenization of whites with blacks at the present time would differ from the permitted (if not prescribed) de-heterogenization of Jews and Gentiles nearly twenty centuries ago.

    I think that Dabney (whose “Defence” I am in the process of reading through) is instructive here. Treating him with what I believe is the same non-violence with which I have tried to treat your own words, I note that he writes: “this discussion [the "Defence of Virginia"] . . . must distinctly disclaim some extravagant and erroneous grounds which have sometimes been assumed. It is not our purpose to rest our defence on an assumption of a diversity of races, which is contradicted both by natural history and by the Scripture, declaring that ‘God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth’” (p. 10 on ) He shortly thereafter labels the diversity-of-races argument an example of the “extreme positions” (p.11) that he is purposefully avoiding.

    And what of Samuel B. How’s description of slaves in the 1850s, “many of whom are members in full communion in the same churches with their masters, and sit down with them at the same sacramental table” (p. 47 at Is the full communion to be regarded as a character flaw on the part of the white owners, because they brought their black slaves to sup at the Lord’s table together with themselves? I cannot see how inviting their black fellow-Christians to fully commune with them is in any way harmful either to the gospel or to the good order of the church.

    I’m also at a loss to puzzle out how your position on racial purity can be reconciled with Paul’s admonition in Colossians 3.8-12 (again, trying to avoid quoting out of context) to “put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 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. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering…”

    An answer would be desirable, though not, I suppose, requirable.

    1. admin
      admin July 20, 2010 at 8:27 am | | Reply

      Thanks, Drew, for your comment. Your tone is very respectable, yet rare for most who oppose our “evil, racist, Nazi, etc.,” message.

      The Dabney quote is puzzling for me since he elsewhere calls the Negro a depraved, savage race, obviously differentiating them from his own. He elaborates here:

      “But while we believe that ‘God made of one blood all nations of men to dwell under the whole heavens,’ we know that the African has become, according to a well-known law of natural history, by the manifold influences of the ages, a different, fixed species of the race, separated; from the white man by traits bodily, mental and moral, almost as rigid and permanent as those of genus. Hence the offspring of an amalgamation must be a hybrid race, stamped with all the feebleness of the hybrid, and incapable of the career of civilization and glory as an independent race. And this apparently the destiny which our conquerors have in view.” 352-353

      So the puzzlement is alleviated to a degree because he cannot be saying that there is PRESENT diversity of race. Perhaps he is denying an ontological diversity of race rather than a historical and Providential one. So while I’m not positive what he IS saying, I am positive what he is NOT saying, and that is what you think he is! :) To your credit, you had not finished the book before raising the question.

      Regarding Samuel B’s description of description of slaves in the 1850s, and your question whether the full communion of Negroes should be regarded as a character flaw on the part of the white owners, I would remind you that I never said Negro slave owning whites are not responsible to administer communion to their slaves; Indeed they are, as the Law requires–even Dabney defends that. But notice that while many sat with them at the communion table, the regular seating was commonly arranged by social position and thus everyone was not scattered abroad the pews the same. And I guarantee you the Negro was not a voting member of the congregation! Perhaps an exception, but I know not of any. Is it a character flaw for a master to commune with his slave but no allow him to vote for elders?

      Also, Paul, who penned Colossians 3: 8-12, also admonishes slave holders to treat their slaves properly and slaves to obey their masters properly, nowhere tinkers with the social positions of both classes. Quoting Colossians 3.8-12 as if it proves miscegenation is a non sequitur. Concepts such as anger, malice and wrath aren’t informed by post-1960 egalitarianism, but by God’s law. With no NT evidence that God has overturned the institution of slavery and the unequal social roles of slaves and masters, I could actually appeal to your text to prove that my position is without sin, and that one that contradicts it is. If the 5th commandment grants me the right to protect the inferiors of my household, then by extension I do not see how communities of like-minded families lose this right, whether at the neighborhood, church, state, or national level.

      Now enter our day where there are no Negro slave owners, and thus the issue of bringing them to the table on Sunday with us is immaterial. Negroes have enjoyed their freedom for over a century, and have had plenty a handout to get their families and communities in order to run their own churches, communities–even states.

      Thanks again for your interest in dialogue and argument, rather than the kind of guild posturing that dismisses our position with one swipe of the hand which is common by our Christian “leaders”. I’m also glad you are reading Dabney’s Defense.

  5. Otto Wetzel
    Otto Wetzel July 19, 2010 at 5:40 pm | | Reply


    I won’t presume to answer on behalf of the administrators here, but the first part of your post caught my eye because I just skimmed through Dabney’s “Defence of Virginia.”

    While Dabney does, early in the work, repudiate the notion of a multiplicity of races, he indeed proceeds to talk about blacks and whites as distinct “races.” He clarifies this seeming contradiction near the end of the work when he states that, although all nations are of one blood (Acts 17:26), blacks and whites constitute different “species” of the same race, the amalgamation of which will benefit neither.

    Likely, when he repudiates the notion of a multiplicity of races, he is referring specifically to the idea that the races of mankind share no common ancestor in Adam.

  6. admin
    admin July 21, 2010 at 7:58 pm | | Reply


    Sorry, but just saw your comment. That sounds spot on. I guess we need to be careful to notice these inadvertent equivocations. Race is used in once since to mean our common humanity in Adam, in another since to denote the different species (tribes, nations) of this cluster of humanity. Good catch.

  7. Drew
    Drew July 21, 2010 at 8:31 pm | | Reply

    Let me state, at the outset, that my immediate response upon finishing the “Defence” (yesterday) was to return here and retract my use of Dabney for its unintentionally non-contextual use. I was even going to cite the passage in which I found that I had erred in my understanding. But I discover now that both Otto AND the site administrator have pointed out the passage for me (and the site administrator has provided it in full), so I will simply state my retraction of the use of Dabney, with apologies to readers for misrepresenting him to them (and sadness that his meaning was not in fact what I originally took it to be).

    To the administrator: I apologize to you for setting up a straw man regarding the place of slaves at the communion table. I had supposed that the admittance of slaves to the communion table, along with their owners, would be deprecated to any who supposed the blacks to be a race rightly kept apart. (I also apologize for any future straw men that I may set up. I am rather new to arguments in defense of slavery as it existed in America prior to 1865, and I may assume ones to exist where they do not.)

    Additionally, in this regard, I apologize for misleading you on the question that I was trying to address. I incorrectly opened up the question of the scripturality of slavery in America, and you moved to discuss it. That is not, however, the question that interests me here. (I will simply state for the record that I think American slavery was out of accord with Scripture, readily acknowledge that you differ with me, and move that we lay that particular question on the table for the moment.) The question I really wanted to address, and want to continue addressing here, is that of separation of the races.

    I have decided to post the remainder of my comment (i.e. the substantive part) separately, because it is taking quite some time to assemble. It will appear in due course — by which I hope to mean sooner rather than later.

  8. admin
    admin July 21, 2010 at 8:43 pm | | Reply

    No problem, Drew. Thanks for your contributions here. Look forward to further dialogue.

  9. Drew
    Drew July 22, 2010 at 12:15 am | | Reply

    Following on from my last posting, to the site administrator on the question of the separation of races:

    What are the biblical grounds for doing so, in these last days? Or, put another way, how are the Old Testament demands for separation that you marshal in your article at all applicable to the segregation of blacks from whites in America? I should be careful to note that I am not a Socinian (Dabney is still ringing in my ears), or a gnostic, or anyone else who thinks that the Old Testament is a dead letter. I do not think that it ought to be quietly filed away into the trash can for being old-fashioned, erroneous about human relations, or for having instituted a system of rituals and sacrifices that were fulfilled in Christ. It is, after all, the major part of Scripture and should be treated as such.

    Nevertheless, in light of the Scripture and the principle of good and necessary consequences, I am hard-pressed to understand how the passages that you cite could have the application that you give them to the present-day American church. Let me treat each of them in turn, if I might:

    Deuteronomy 23.3: “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever.” Your commentary: “God banned for life certain racial groups from ever entering the assembly. Historically, racial segregation in churches was a procedural law to protect against racial amalgamation.” I confess that I cannot see how a specific prohibition against Ammonite and Moabite incorporation into the congregation could possibly be turned into a general prohibition against black incorporation into churches composed of white members, particularly in light of verses 4-6 (which specify the reasons WHY the Ammonites and Moabites were to be refused entry into the congregation) and verses 7-8, which apply a markedly different standard to the Egyptians and Edomites (again giving specific reasons). MY KEY QUESTION IS: What is the justification for expanding this prohibition against specifically named groups into a general principle, applicable to non-named groups (including blacks), and what are the biblical principles or commands that we should use to guide us in determining which non-named groups deserve the ban? As a corollary, if it IS indeed biblical to expand the prohibition to blacks, then how can blacks be admitted into ANY church at all that bears the name of our God and of His Christ, when the prescribed punishment is banishment from the assembly of God’s people? And if they are segregated out into their own assembled congregations, how can those congregations bear the name of God and of His Christ?

    Now to the passages to which you give the collective commentary of “either it is morally right to continue the racial distinctions of God’s providence and prescription [list of passages], or it is wrong and we should push towards a one-world, mocha-colored people.”

    Genesis 10.5, 32; 11.8 (I will expand, with your indulgence, to encompass 10.1, a clip from 10.2, 10.5, a clip from 10.6, 10.20-21, a clip from 10.22, 10.31-32, and then 11.8): “Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood. The sons of Japheth . . . By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations. And the sons of Ham . . . These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations. Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born. The children of Shem . . . These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations. These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood. . . . So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.” Taking the interpretation that you ascribe to this passage, namely that God prescribed the divisions of mankind at the time of the split of languages at Babel (I hope that is not misconstruing your position), I AM COMPELLED TO ASK: what are the divisions? Are they 3 groups (according to the sons of Noah), 16 groups (according to the grandsons of Noah), or 59 groups (according to the number of those who have none of their descendants named; my count was a little more cursory than it could have been on those, so I would be willing to accept a margin of error of plus-minus 5 on the number 59)? Or is there some other number of groups? I ALSO FEEL THE NEED TO INQUIRE: how are we to determine which groups each person living today falls into, so that we can maintain the proper divisions? ON THE OTHER HAND: if we are only meant to take from this passage the general principle that God ordained some number and nature of divisions among the human race, what principles does God provide us elsewhere in Scripture for determining the specific contents of those divisions? I am unsure exactly which of those 2 or 3 questions is most relevant to your position, so I’m asking them all.

    Acts 17.26: “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.” This I have always assumed to be an assertion of God’s sovereignty over all men and of His omnipotent power in creation. I presume that you take it further, as support that the nations all have permanent, fixed boundaries assigned to them, and that no change may ever be made to them. (If that is incorrect, I apologize in advance for trying to debunk it.) But He did not proceed to tell us where those boundaries are. To be sure, God gave specific prescribed boundaries to Israel and to each of its tribes, to be sure (Numbers 34, among other places), but He left us rather in the dark on the delimitations of the rest of humanity’s borders. In a situation like that, where direction is withheld by the Holy Spirit through the Word, is it not the duty of the church to grant freedom in choosing our habitations — while still upholding the truth that God knows the places where He decrees every one of us to live?

    Deuteronomy 32.8: “When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” I take this one out of order only because I think my comments in the previous paragraph on Acts 17.26 may be applied here as well.

    Deuteronomy 4.19: “And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.” I utterly fail to see how this is relevant to anything concerning relations between nations or races. All the nations HAVE received the gift of the sun, moon, stars, and sky as a portion passed down to them.

    I will take the final three together, since they are interconnected with each other. Deuteronomy 27.17: “Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.” Proverbs 22.28: “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” Proverbs 23.10: “Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless.” It’s clear that this is a definitive command. But if you read these in the light of Numbers 33.52-54 (and its follow-up in Numbers 34.16-29) and in light of the jubilee regulations in Leviticus 25 (particularly verses 10, 13, 23-24, 28, 30-31, and 40-41), it is hard to see how there is any possible allusion to racial distinctions here — or indeed anything other than the inviolability of the property granted to each Israelite family by lot.

    I will return, at this point, to your main contention: “either it is morally right to continue the racial distinctions of God’s providence and prescription, or it is wrong and we should push towards a one-world, mocha-colored people.” I think that what I have said so far demonstrates clearly enough my doubt that God has provided and prescribed the racial distinctions that you are defending, namely that of blacks from whites. I should also emphasize my ESPECIAL doubt that God has prescribed these racial distinctions inside His church. But this is all I have really said so far — that I gravely doubt that the God mandates black-white segregation in these passages. I have NOT yet said that He teaches racial integration. All I am putting forward at this point is that He is silent on the question of racial separation within His church.

    I will endeavor to move forward and demonstrate that God does in fact teach church integration in His Word, but before I do so, I will stand back and give you a chance to respond to the questions I have asked above and provide any exposition you feel would be worthwhile.

    1. admin
      admin July 22, 2010 at 7:34 am | | Reply

      Hi, Drew,
      I cannot fully respond now for I have to go to my day job. But I’d like you to think about something in the meantime. Your first question reveals where you are hung up on this whole ordeal.

      “What are the biblical grounds for doing so, in these last days? Or, put another way, how are the Old Testament demands for separation that you marshal in your article at all applicable to the segregation of blacks from whites in America?”

      Nations in the Bible are nothing more than descendants of a common patriarch, thus races. The passages I pulled from the OT were not meant to support white vs black separation per se. They were only quoted with the understanding that a nation in the Bible was not an arbitrary group of people who either believed in the Lord or who didn’t. They were races of people, some sharing closer consanguinity to Israel than others.

      Your position seems to be that because God’s separating Israel from other nations in the OT was based on their being a geopolitical redemptive community, and there is no such nation today as the church is Jew and Gentile in ALL nations, then all tribal/national distinctions are lifted and we are free to integrate if not amalgamate.

      I’m simply saying while there is no single covenant nation like Israel today, there are still nations nonetheless. Sure there is the greater difficulty of defining them, but there are principles fathers can follow that are a much safer alternative than your fallacy of continuum–such as can be seen here by Julia. That races and boundaries may be more difficult to distinguish today doesn’t negate that there are/should be national/racial boundaries.

      I shall reply to your individual objections at a more opportune time, but just a little food for thought. I would think that we have much conceptual spadework before us before you get to defending church integration! And that goes for me too, I made some assumptions in my article that were not easy to grasp. My apologies.

  10. Drew
    Drew July 22, 2010 at 1:44 pm | | Reply

    I concur on the point of “much conceptual spadework before us before [I] get to defending church integration.” I am also willing to wait as long as you need for the full version of your response. This is, after all, not an issue that arose recently, nor one that will “die on the order paper” (as they would say in Canada) at the expiration of the session.

    1. admin
      admin August 15, 2010 at 9:36 pm | | Reply

      By way of preface, please note that my article was rhetorically written for an audience that more or less understands Biblical race politics. In general, I write to encourage, incite, and sharpen the choir; I don’t write thesis papers for the unconvinced. I don’t say that to be rude, but only to offer a reason why supporting evidence is lacking. Also, thanks for the patience–this is one of many sites I try to keep up.

      You asked me to answer all your questions, which as I count are 11. That may be a bit to ask, but please allow me to address number 3, your key question.

      MY KEY QUESTION IS: What is the justification for expanding this prohibition [Deuteronomy 23.3] against specifically named groups into a general principle, applicable to non-named groups (including blacks), and what are the biblical principles or commands that we should use to guide us in determining which non-named groups deserve the ban?

      That’s not how I’m using Deut 23. I’m using that passage to show that there is biblical prima facie evidence for tribal/racial church membership. Thus, Colson needs more to denounce a church who bars Negroes as evil “racists”.

      Here is the important point: the banning is unqualified, meaning that no sensitivity is given to the generations of Moabites that did not commit the deeds the text offers as a rationale. That is, a generalization is made along racial lines—and that’s the real power this text supplies for my rhetorical point. Admittedly, the text gives us no formula for us today to determine which races we may bar from our particular churches. That’s simply left for the elders, who in acting in the interests of their daughters and families may by procedural (or utility) law ban races who, i.e., are generally more violent and parasitic, or with which they do not wish their daughters to amalgamate.

      This text is an interesting one for a other reason. While some dispute whether this text bans Moabites from membership, or merely church office (I reject the view that it bans them from taking Hebrew wives for that would cross the inter-tribal marriage strictures that are laid out elsewhere), it at least gives us an a fortiori argument: If our just God can ban entire races from ever entering (or serving office in) the only church in existence (Israel’s), then why cannot reasonable men today simply point their racial complements to one of several churches down yonder which is governed by their own?

  11. John Piper Is Still a Racist
    John Piper Is Still a Racist October 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm |

    [...] sure hope Johnny had a hanky handy when he wrote this. (See this post and the comments for reasons why defining one’s church membership isn’t sinful.) This was my [...]

Leave a Reply