Presbyterians and the Political Theology of Race (Part 2): Old Testament Politics

In Part 1 of this series I observed that southern Presbyterian defenders of segregation emphasized the Old Testament as the authority for biblical norms regarding race over against the more New Testament oriented arguments of their opponents in the civil rights movement. The most prominent version of the southern Presbyterian argument was not the caricatured appeal to the mark of Cain, let alone to the curse of Ham, as we might like to imagine. It was much more sophisticated than that. It usually ran something like this:

In constructing the Tower of Babel human beings attempted to establish a socio-political unity in defiance of the natural law of God. God defeated this attempt by dividing human beings on linguistic and national lines. He then called Abraham out from the nations, and in his law he demanded that Israel likewise be separate. When the people of Israel intermarried with other nations, God punished them severely. The segregationists maintained that nothing in the New Testament suggests that God’s views have changed. To be sure, the Gospel is now universal; Pentecost is proof of that. But the unity of the church is purely spiritual and does not extend to temporal, social institutions. Thus the Old Testament remains a valid testimony to the natural law of God with respect to social institutions such as segregation.

To read the rest of this article please go to Reformation 21.

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About Matthew J. Tuininga

Matthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted on July 2, 2015, in African Americans, Calvin, Natural Law, Presbyterianism, Racism, Two Kingdoms and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Presbyterians and the Political Theology of Race (Part 2): Old Testament Politics.

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