(The following article by Dr. Morton H. Smith originally appeared in the October 1964 issue of The Presbyterian Guardian, a now-defunct magazine that was closely associated with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Dr. Smith is a highly regarded Reformed Christian theologian, and it should be noted that his words from 1964 do not necessarily reflect his current views, nor should the republication of this article by Tribal Theocrat be interpreted as any sort of endorsement of this site by Dr. Smith. While I generally find this essay to be an excellent exposition of Kinist principles, it errs in a few points, the more glaring of which I have parenthetically added my own editorial comments. ~ Mickey Henry)
Some thoughts by a Southern White Christian: The Racial Problem Facing America
by Morton H. Smith
As I write this article, I would like to say that I do not pretend to have the answers to the problems facing our nation in the realm of race relations. No man has the answer, but God does. May I also say that this is not intended in any way as an attack on the two previous articles by Negro friends of mine which appeared in the July-August, 1964 Guardian. Originally, it had been intended that I should write an article to appear in that same issue, but due to my having to move from Philadelphia back to Mississippi to begin my work with the newly formed Reformed Theological Institute, the editor of the Guardian has graciously allowed me to defer my article until this time.
The spirit in which I write is that of a seeking Christian. It is my hope to search the Scriptures and determine what God has said, if anything, about this whole matter of race relations. One of the greatest needs in this area is for some genuine heart searching by all of us, both white and black, and also for some direct communication with one another on what we believe along these lines. Thus I shall set forth some of my present thinking concerning the whole matter of race relations. It is my desire to be open to the clear teaching of the Word, and thus comments on my thoughts will be welcomed, if given in the same spirit of Christian love and of seeking God’s will.
First, I shall set forth what I understand the Bible has to say about the unity and diversity of the human race. Next, I shall examine the question of whether segregation per se is necessarily sinful. Finally, I shall indicate something regarding our contemporary situation, and raise some questions that need to be raised.
The Unity of Mankind
As one studies the origin of man in the Bible it is evident that all men descend from a single pair of first parents. This is clearly set forth in the first chapters of Genesis, where the creation of Adam and Eve is presented. Not only do we find the unity of the race in the original creation, but again at the time of the flood, we find all humanity destroyed except for one family, from whom all the peoples of the earth have come. This unity of humankind is confirmed by the common nature that we possess. It is seen in the fact that we are all sinners. It is seen in the fact that the gospel is offered to all men alike.
The Apostle Paul affirms this unity in the Areopagus address, saying, “And He made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26). Paul in this sermon is addressing an audience of pagan philosophers. His main thrust is to the effect that though they indicate their basic skepticism and ignorance in worship, he comes to declare unto them the living and true God. Having spoken of him as Creator of all things, which is the most basic philosophic teaching of Christianity, he points out that all men are his creatures. And, even despite the differences of national and racial heritage among men, they are all one human kind, and thus should seek and worship the one living and true God. No race or group, no matter how civilized or educated or cultured, can escape this fact. We are all the creatures of God, and thus we all should seek his glory as our chief aim and goal in life.
On the basis of this unity of mankind the integrationist teaches that we are all brothers, and should thus ignore all external differences and mix as one race. There is a plea to forget racial and national differences and simply to amalgamate into one common brotherhood. It should be noted, in passing, that the biblical teaching on brotherhood is not primarily that of physical unity, but rather it is reserved for the spiritual unity that Christians, who know God as Father through Jesus Christ, have with one another.
The Diversity of Mankind
It is rather striking to see that the very verse used by the integrationist as supporting his position also speaks of the diversity of peoples. The verse reads: “And He made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). Notice that the verse not only teaches the basic unity of the human race, but it also speaks of the diversity of mankind in different nations and groups, whose bounds have been set by God. Granting that this may be speaking primarily of the national distinctions as being under God’s sovereign control, one who believes in God’s sovereignty over the history of the world must also grant that racial distinctions have arisen under his plan and control.
The question of whether the Bible has anything to say of the origin of such racial distinctions may be raised. Genesis 11 with its account of the Tower of Babel seems to indicate the origin of languages, and thus of national distinctions. It may be that racial origins are also to be seen as originating there. On the other hand, Genesis 10 with its account of the spread of the seed of Noah may give us some hint as to racial origins. Many of the names of the descendants appear in later times as the names of tribes and peoples. For example, the sons of Ham were: Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. These names became the names of various regions where these tribes lived. Cush is the Hebrew name of Ethiopia; Mizraim is the name of Egypt; Put denotes Lybia of North Africa; and Canaan was to become the name of the land we know as Palestine. The descendants of Shem are still known as the Semitic people. Though it is not absolutely demonstrable that the modern races stem directly from these three sons of Noah, it seems likely that the primitive origin of the races is to be seen here.
It should be observed in connection with the event of the Tower of Babel, that we have a divine intervention which broke up the unity of the people. Mankind was seeking to remain together, thus disobeying the command of God to replenish the whole earth. Prior to the flood the human race had demonstrated what it would become if allowed to develop as a single people. Thus God, by a judicial action, intervened, confused their tongues, and scattered the people. Though this was an act of judgment, it was also gracious on God’s part, for it prevented a repetition of the development of sin by the unified race in the proportions of the pre-flood situation. Thus God, by his common grace intervened, and by his act of judgment intensified the diversity or pluriformity that was inherent in his creation.
If from this we may conclude that ethnic pluriformity is the revealed will of God for the human race in its present situation, it is highly questionable whether the Christian can have part in any program that would seek to erase all ethnic distinctions. That such distinctions may be crossed over by individuals may be granted, but it is at least questionable whether a program designed to wipe out such differences on a mass scale should be endorsed by the Christian. It is this line of argument that the average Christian segregationist uses to back his view. He fears that the real goal of the integrationist is the intermarriage of the races, and therefore the breakdown of the distinctions between them. Many who would be willing to integrate at various lesser levels refuse to do so, simply because they feel that such will inevitably lead to intermarriage of the races, which they consider to be morally wrong.
The Practice of Segregation in the Old Testament
As one traces the account of God’s dealing with men through the Old Testament, one finds the principle of separation or segregation of a people from the world used by God to create and preserve a peculiar people unto himself. Abraham was called out from the other nations and peoples around him. His descendants failed to keep themselves separate from the people of Canaan, and God in his all wise providence brought them down into Egypt, where they were set apart by the Egyptians in a segregated area. It should be noted that this segregation of Abraham’s seed was done by God ultimately for the purpose of preserving their religious purity, yet it was accomplished by means of a racial or ethnic segregation. Of course, this is not the situation that faces us today, but it may be said that the principle of segregation as such is not necessarily sinful in and of itself.
Following the Exodus the Israelites continued the policy of segregation under the command of Moses (See Deut. 7: 3). The people were commanded not to intermarry with other peoples. This was to preserve their racial integrity, and especially their religious integrity. The first period of human history showed the tragic results of intermarriage between the godly seed and the ungodly (Genesis 6). Ever since that time such marriage of God’s people with the non-believer has been condemned. This remains true today, just as much as it was true in the days of Moses. Paul teaches that Christians ought not to be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (II Cor. 6: 15). Though this passage may include more than the marriage relation, it certainly applies to this relation.
The Israelites sinned and mixed with the pagans around them, and the result was the corruption of their faith and life. After the Exile, Ezra speaks again about maintaining their ethnic purity by not intermarrying with non-Israelites (Ezra 9-10). This is repeated again in the last of the Old Testament prophets (Malachi 2: 10-16).
The New Testament and Segregation
The question may be asked as to whether or not the New Testament sets aside this principle of separation. With the coming of Jesus Christ and the completion of his work on earth, we have the close of the period of particularity, in which God openly revealed himself to only one nation. With the giving of the great commission we have the opening of a new period, namely, a period of universality. This is a time in which God offers his grace and mercy to the whole world. Ultimately, the death of Judaism came with the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
And yet it was this very death of Christ that was to become the heart and core of the new form of the gospel, which was to be proclaimed throughout the whole world. Pentecost saw the beginning of this new universalistic period of the gospel, and it is not without significance that God, at Pentecost, answers the confusion of tongues of Babel with the gift of tongues to the Apostles, which could be understood by all people. This sign spoke of the universal offer of the gospel to all peoples, and it also points to the basic spiritual unity of all who accept the gospel.
Paul is very clear about this unity of all in the gospel. The Gentiles have been brought into the same body as the Jews (cp. Eph. 2: 11-22; Gal. 3: 28; Col. 3: 11). Galatians 3: 23 [sic] reads: “There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus.” Paul is speaking of the essential spiritual unity that we all have in Christ Jesus, and yet it can hardly be maintained that he meant to imply that there were no longer any distinctions or differences within the church. The Christian faith does not demand the erasure of all diversity between men. Rather, it teaches a unity in diversity and a diversity in unity.
This may well be a reflection of the unity and diversity within the Godhead. God is both One and Three. He is One God who exists in Three distinct Persons. The thrust of I Cor. 12 is that there is diversity within the body of Christ, the church. Even in spiritual matters within the church the Apostle makes a distinction between men and women. Women are to keep silent in the church. Throughout his epistles Paul makes distinctions, and gives different exhortations to different groups within the church. Thus Paul’s doctrine of the unity of the church should not be construed as teaching that the church should forget or erase the God-given distinctions. Rather, she should recognize them and develop them in their particular gifts.
There is to be found in Paul’s writings a recognition of the continued differences between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Some of the Jewish Christians continued to observe Old Testament practices, such as Sabbath observance and temple worship (Rom. 14:5-6; Acts 18:18; 21:23-29). Paul himself practiced certain Jewish observances at times, thus becoming a Jew to the Jews, and a Gentile to the Gentiles. It seems evident therefore, that Paul does not teach that the church should be a distinctionless mass, but rather the individuality of each person is recognized with all of his diversities.
Jesus, though he dealt primarily with Jews, did on occasion deal with non-Jewish people, such as the Samaritan woman and the Syro-Phoenecian woman. He did not ignore their differences or necessarily seek to erase them. Though he ultimately gave them his grace and mercy, as he did to all who came to him, he did deal differently with them. Thus Jesus too taught the principle of diversity in unity and unity in diversity.
Summation of Biblical Principles
Before looking at the contemporary situation, let us first summarize the findings thus far, and see if any conclusions may be drawn from these findings. First, it should be said that the specific question of race relations as we have it today is not dealt with in so many words in the Bible. There are certain principles to be seen there, however, which may be applied to the modern problem.
The first principle is the fact of the common unity of the whole of the human race. All share together in a common humanity, and thus all bear the image of God, or even better it may be said that every man is the image of God. Further all share in a common sinful nature, and thus all have the same spiritual need of salvation from their sins. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is adapted to all, and is to be preached to all in the same manner. The present writer feels that it would have been far better had separate churches never been established for the white and Negro races in the South following the War Between the States. Before the war the slaves worshipped with their masters in the same churches. After the war, however, under the influence of Northern white leaders, the Negroes established separate congregations and went their separate way.
Now, we are faced with pressure from Northern whites and blacks to abolish a custom and pattern that has become fixed over the past century. Again, it is the opinion of this writer that it would be better for all to be able to worship together. As a matter of practical consideration in a culture that has been sharply segregated for so long, it seems the point of wisdom to keep a segregated pattern in the sanctuary when there is joint worship. The fact is that most Southern white congregations would be willing to have Negroes attend, if they were coming for true worship, and would be willing to sit together. This has been the traditional pattern in the South, and it could be continued if it were not for the pressure groups seeking to integrate churches.
Most Christians throughout the rest of the nation and world are shocked to hear that Negroes are turned away from white churches in the South. The ground for this is the assumption that the reason for the coming of the Negro to the church today is not to worship, but rather to integrate and prove a point. That this is the case is shown by the fact that when offered segregated seating in the church, the Negroes refuse it. They insist that they should be allowed to enter and sit where they please. If they were truly interested in worship, it would seem that they would be willing to sit in any section provided for them. It is hard to imagine Jesus exhibiting the spirit of the modern integrationist on this point. The fact is that Jesus taught a spirit of humility. He taught that one should take the lowest seat at a feast, and then if invited up to a higher, how much better than insisting on a higher and having to be sent to a lower place.
The second basic biblical principle that we have seen is that God himself has established and ordained the diversity that is to be found in the human race. This being a fact, it is at least questionable whether the Christian should endorse any program with the design of erasing such distinctions. Abraham Kuyper, almost a century ago, delivered an oration on: “Eenvormigheid, de Vloek van het Moderne Leven” (“Uniformity, the Curse of Modern Life”) in which he repudiated the unscriptural leveling process advocated by the French Revolution. We might add that the principles of Thomas Jefferson as set forth in the Declaration of Independence were far from Christian. From the Christian viewpoint, one can seriously question the legitimacy of the American Revolution. Mr. Oliver cites the American Revolution as the same spirit that now motivates the modern Negro. He may be perfectly right in this, but one may still raise the question as to whether it is a proper Christian motivation. (The “Mr. Oliver” referenced here is Reverend C. Herbert Oliver, a mulatto egalitarian radical who advocated for the social gospel and a universalized identity in the July-August 1964 issue of the Guardian. ~ Mickey Henry)
May Christians Endorse these Programs?
The reason that so many see a Communist influence in the present movement is that the goal seems to be the same as that of the Marxist philosophy, namely, the leveling of all to a common uniformity. Even if the American Negro movement has not been started or backed by the Communist Party at first, it certainly plays into the hands of the Communists, especially when civil disobedience can be encouraged, and the law and order of a city, state, or nation threatened. Enough of this disorder, and the Communists or some other tyrants may be able to step into the situation and seize control of our nation.
Again, if diversity is God’s revealed way for mankind, one wonders about any program that advocates the intermarriage of the diverse races in a way which will eradicate the differences that God has established. Though the present writer has been raised in the South, and personally feels that the intermarriage of persons of two races is something most undesirable, he must admit that he is not able to find any clear teaching of the Scripture that would condemn individual intermarriage as such, except between the Christian and the non-Christian. (The practice of endogamy is Scripturally normative. Dr. Smith would have done well to considered the following verses: Genesis 24:3-4, 27:46 – 28:9; Exodus 34:15-16; Leviticus 21:14; Numbers 25:1-9; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Joshua 23:12-13; Judges 3:5-6, 14:3; I Kings 11:1-6; Ezra 9:1 – 10:44; Nehemiah 10:30, 13:23-27; and Ezekiel 44:22 ~ Mickey Henry)
The mass mixing of the races with the intent to erase racial boundaries he does consider to be wrong, and on the basis of this, he would oppose the mixing of the two races in this way. Let it be acknowledged that a sin in this area against the Negro race has been perpetrated by godless white men, both past and present, but this does not justify the adoption of a policy of mass mixing of the races. Rather, the Bible seems to teach that God has established and thus revealed his will for the human race now to be that of ethnic pluriformity, and thus any scheme of mass integration leading to mass mixing of the races is decidedly unscriptural.
On the other hand, integration of the races that does not necessarily lead to mass intermarriage is not necessarily unscriptural. The use of various public facilities in common is a matter that is simply not treated in the Bible. If the different groups are able to use such in peace with one another, then there would be no harm to such usage. If, on the other hand, it is necessary to separate large groups of different ethnic groups in order to preserve peace between them, there is no harm in such separation as such. Of course, such separation ought to be carried out with equality of opportunity and facility to all. (I take sharp exception with Dr. Smith regarding the desirability of equality of opportunity and facility. Equality of opportunity is not even possible, given the reality of our diverse existential qualities. Does a woman have the same opportunities as a man? Scripturally and practically, no. Does a foreigner have the same claim to rule as those who are native born? According to the law of kin rule, given in Deuteronomy 17:15, they do not. Do intelligent and unintelligent people have equality of opportunity? Rich and poor? Those born in the past and those who will be born in the future? Those born to Hindu parents in India and those born in the Convenant to multi-generational Christians in Alabama? Scripture denies equality of opportunity, and our diverse existential qualities make it an impossibility. Regarding equality of facility, I would ask who pays for such facilities, and what Scriptural principle allows a civil government to rob one group of people to pay for facilities for a different group of people? Shouldn’t the use of tax dollars from predominately white sources to provide public colored-use facilities be seen not as anti-black “racism”, but as robbery of whites to assuage false guilt, or, in the best light possible, as white generosity? We would all do well to avoid careless repetition of egalitarian bromides. ~ Mickey Henry)
Fair and Equal Treatment
It must be admitted that segregation as it has been and does presently exist in the South has not been with full equality to both races. It should be remembered that this grows out of a particular historic circumstance. That circumstance was one of a relation of master to slave. Even after the freeing of the slaves it was only natural that there should still exist an inequality of development between the two races, and thus an inequality of treatment of the two. It should be said for the Southern Negro that he has made tremendous strides during the century of freedom he has enjoyed. He has developed his own businesses, churches and schools. Generally speaking, he has lived at peace with his white neighbor.
It is striking to observe that the State of Mississippi, which is the most segregated state in the nation, has the lowest crime rate of all the states. On the other hand, other areas have suffered from an exploding crime rate, and the Negro race has played a leading part in this increase of crime, and this in the integrated society. One wonders, when he looks at the parallel of the great city planned at Babel, and the intervention of God to prevent sin’s growth, and the modern large cities with their high crime rates, whether the principle of separation started at Babel should not be continued today.
Having admitted that the Southern segregated culture has not always resulted in fair and equal treatment of the Negro, it seems to me that the real task of the Christian in the South is to strive for just and equal treatment of all. This does not necessarily mean the overthrow of the cultural pattern, but it does call for the distinct effort to treat all men fairly and justly. (Dr. Smith should have been more exacting with his terms. Our responsibility to others is not to treat them in a “fair and equal” manner, but to treat them in accordance with God’s Law. Biblically, we bear a greater responsibility to those who are relationally nearer to us, by measure of consanguinity and affinity, than we do to those who are relationally distant. Race simply being an extension of the family concept, we bear a greater responsibility to our own race than we do to the others. ~ Mickey Henry)
Believing as I do that the matter of a segregated or integrated culture is a matter of the liberty of the people of any particular area, I have not found it difficult to live in either type of society. It is and has always been my personal hope that I have treated and shall treat any man as a Christian should, whether it be in a segregated or an integrated society. It is the duty of every Christian to seek to be a good neighbor to all, and to love his neighbor as himself. As I see it, this may be done in either type of society that we have in America. (The reality of black envy and natural white social dominance makes our segregation essential to being good neighbors. Relative to their position today, blacks flourished under segregation. The excellent members of their race were able to rise up within their own social structures, unhindered by competition from whites, and without any expectation that a God-honoring black culture would necessarily be identical to a God-honoring white culture, other than in the essential categories of the Gospel and the Law. As Geerhardus Vos wrote, “Under the providence of God each race or nation has a positive purpose to serve, fulfillment of which depends on relative seclusion from others.” A harmony of interests, promoting Christian growth and association, is best served by our separation. ~ Mickey Henry)
Let me close with this thought. Our relations must be natural and Christian. No court or church can legislate our feelings toward our fellow man. Only as we receive the gift of love planted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit will we be able to love our neighbor as we ought, whatever the cultural pattern. May God grant us each a growth in grace and love, so that we each may manifest this love to our fellowman, unto the glory of our God.
(Dr. Morton H. Smith, professor emeritus of systematic theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, is the author of a number of theological books and was instrumental in the founding of the Presbyterian Church in America. The following blurb appeared with the original 1964 article. ~ Mickey Henry)
Professor Morton H. Smith, Th.D., is registrar of the Reformed Theological Institute (Box 270, Kosciusko, Miss. 39090). Beginning this fall, adult extension courses are being taught by Dr. Smith in the field of Christian doctrine at the Vine Street Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Ala., the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Miss., and the First Presbyterian Church, Kosciusko, Miss. Plans for the future look toward the establishing of a theological seminary in 1965 if possible.
Professor Smith has also begun a Bible Survey course on WLBT-TV at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday each week. It is reported that this will give television coverage of most of central Mississippi and into Louisiana and Arkansas. Basically an educational program, it can be made available on tape for other stations that would use it as a public service.