The Heresy of Racial Superiority — Confronting the Past, and Confronting the Truth
Among Christians, the word heresy must be used with care and precision. Not every doctrinal error is a heresy, though all doctrinal error is to be avoided. A heresy is the denial or corruption of a Christian doctrine that is central to the faith and essential to the gospel. The late theologian Harold O. J. Brown defined heresy as a doctrinal error “so important that those who believe it, who the church calls heretics, must be considered to have abandoned the faith.”
That sets the issue clearly. Premillennialists consider postmillennialists to be in error, but they do not consider postmillennialists to be heretics. Those who deny the Trinity, on the other hand, are heretics, and the believing church must consider non-trinitarians to have departed the faith. The same must be said of those who deny the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. Far more can be said about heresy, but the word must be used with care and accuracy.
Protestants, rightly standing with the Reformers, have insisted that justification by faith alone is also central to the gospel of Christ and essential to any proclamation of that gospel. Martin Luther, for example, considered justification to be articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae — the article by which the church stands or falls, and so it is.
Today, we just recognize and condemn another heresy that has reared its ugly head in recent days, and murderously so. The killing of nine worshippers gathered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina is a hideous demonstration of the deadly power of this heresy. The young white man charged with the killings has not, as yet, claimed a theological rationale for his acts. Nevertheless, he has been exposed as a young man whose worldview was savagely warped by the ideology of racial superiority — white superiority — and the grotesque and wretched ideology that drove him is now inseparable from the murders he is charged with committing. Keep reading
Going Deeper after the Charleston Murders
Evil like this calls for both anguished lament and better theology.
Last night after one of our editors and I were emailing about the brutal Charleston church shooting, an email appeared in my inbox with the subject line, “another new church attacked last night.” My heart sank and I blurted out “Oh no!” assuming it was a copycat crime, with another white supremacist attacking another black church.
I opened the email to read, “The new Rock Church in Hangzhou (same Zhejiang province as Wenzhou city) was demolished last night.” You can imagine my relief.
But not for long. It just reminded me that evil roams this world and often sets its laser sights on the church of Jesus Christ. In America, it’s clear that evil has taken the vile form of murderous racism, and we have to deal this particular manifestation. Keep reading
The Enduring Effects of White Supremacy in American Culture
Dylann Roof, a white male with a white supremacist ideology, shot and murdered 9 African-American Christians gathered for a Wednesday night bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church—a historic African-American church in Charleston, SC. This evil act supports that the sin and evil ideology of white supremacy still holds a grip on parts of American culture. The Charleston shooting is the recent, most violent expression of white supremacy in America. The constructs of race and racism are very complicated, but white supremacy is basically an ideology that believes the European/white race is biologically superior to the black/African-American race. White supremacy had its racist fangs in the ideology of American culture from this country’s beginning.
Thomas Jefferson, one of American’s founding fathers, believed that blacks have a natural inferiority to whites. In his day, Jefferson suggested that the black “race” was inferior to whites. In his Notes on the State of Virginia in the 1700s, Jefferson stated “I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind” (Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 138-143). To be fair, Jefferson’s notes do not state that he believed his views of blacks were scientifically verifiable. It is clear, however, that he thought blacks were nevertheless inferior to whites. Jefferson is the same man who signed the Declaration of Independence, which affirmed that “all men are created equal.” He, along with many other founding fathers, embraced a white supremacist ideology that believed the white race was superior to the black race. But from where did the American construct of race and white supremacy come and why does current American culture both consciously and subconsciously continue to affirm this construct?
The English term “race” first referred to human beings as a term of classification in English literature in the 16th century. In the 18th century, the term “race” was applied broadly to the diverse populations of Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans in England’s American colonies. In this historical context, the term “race” developed into a hierarchal ranking system, which reflected the dominant English attitudes toward the diverse groups of people. The conquered Indians were segregated from Europeans, exploited, or expelled from their lands for new colonists. The enslavement of Africans and their offspring was eventually institutionalized in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. By then, many Africans were identified as property and sources of wealth. Keep reading
The Confederate battle flag, which the armies and the navy of the Southern Confederacy used during the American Civil War, has become the symbol of white supremacy in the United States.