Study Papers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1965 to 1982)
|Minutes of the 144th General Synod, 4 May 1966, pp. 51- 54.|
Rev. Paul Alexander presented the report of the Committee on Racial Questions. Synod was led in prayer by Dr. Elmer Smick for patience and wisdom during the discussion of this report. It was moved, seconded, and carried that Synod go into a committee of the whole. The Moderator relinquished the chair and asked Mr. Noé to serve as chairman of the committee of the whole. The committee spent the next two or more hours in a very thorough study and discussion of the report, and made several admendments. It was moved, seconded, and carried that the committee adopt the statement, as amended, and arise and report.
REPORT ON RACIAL QUESTIONS
God commands all men everywhere to repent of their sin, trusting in Jesus Christ, the only name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. The church is entrusted with the proclamation of this saving message to all nations, for God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. This thesis lies on the face of the New Testament, in fulfillment of the promises of the Old. This is what the New Covenant is all about.
The question is, are we acting in consistency with the universality of God's offer and the demand laid upon the church to be faithful in making God's saving grace known to all? Does not the church have the responsibility to make the Gospel known to all within her reach regardless of educational, vocational, economical, cultural, national, or racial distinction, in accord with the parting command of our Saviour and Lord: "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20a, ASV)? This command, not only to preach the Gospel, but to make full disciples of all nations, compels us to give due consideration to the following passages of Scripture with regard to the racial question.
Acts 17:22-34. This passage has been used to support both segregation and integration. Verse 26 is used on the one hand to support the unity of the human race ("of one blood all nations") and on the other hand to support a division of the human race (hath determined . . . the bounds of their habitation"). The word "blood" does not actually appear in the Greek text, so the phrase is better translated "hath made of one (stock, or forefather) the whole race of men," or "every nation of mankind." The expression about the bounds of habitation is parallel to God's determining of "the times before appointed" and thus is expressing God's sovereign governance of geography as well as history. Whatever happens in human affairs, the turning points that divide epochs and the fluctuations of territory, are all determined by the living and true God. Paul, in speaking to the Athenians, who believed themselves superior to other peoples, is here emphasizing the unity of mankind, all of whom are called to repent because all will be judged by one, even Christ. There is a single Creator and Lord (24) and thus we are all in the same situation (27-29) and there is one redemption for all (30-31).
Genesis 9:18-27. The so-called Hamitic curse is often applied to the modern race problem. It has not been demonstrated exegetically, linguistically, or historically that negroes are descended from Ham; even if they were, the curse applies specifically to Canaan, father of those who later lived in the Promised Land. Whatever we take the "Hamitic curse" to mean, if it is relevant at all to the modern race situation, it is as a curse to be counteracted by the Gospel and Christian love. The curse the Jews pronounced on themselves at Calvary did not prevent Paul from wishing himself accursed for them. This is the Christian attitude. Jesus became a curse for us, who were under the Edenic curse.
Genesis 10:32-11:9. It has been argued from the Tower of Babel account that God opposes unification of mankind, including world government and the ecumenical movement, with which racial integration is often associated. It should be pointed out that the division of Genesis 11 was not at first racial, but linguistic. The descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth were actually intermixed geographically. More important, the Lord's apparent reason for dividing the people was because of their evil motives in developing a concentrated civilization (4, 6). Pentecost is an example of God's overcoming this very language barrier when the motive for association and unity was honoring to God. One of the biggest tasks of the missionary effort is to get over this obstacle of language; so again the Gospel overcomes such divisions.
Luke 10:25-37. The parable of the Good Samaritan is an illustration by Christ of the summary of the second table of the law, the Old Testament verse most quoted in the New Testament, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." The Samaritan occupied in Jewish society somewhat the position that the Negro and other minority racial groups have had in American society, and for good reasons -- as given in the account of their origin and religious practice in II Kings 17:24-41 and Ezra 4:1-3. The continued mutual distrust and enmity between Jew and Samaritan is reflected in the New Testament in the account of the woman at the well in John 4. Yet to illustrate the meaning of "love thy neighbor," Jesus uses the Samaritan here, pictured as neighbor to the wounded Jew. Samaria is also specifically included in the Great Commission (Acts 1:8), and in Acts 8 Phillip the Evangelist, who also testified of Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch, started the work there. Since the commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself" is the very essence of the Christian life at the level of our relations with our fellow man, it is of particular significance that Jesus uses the most despised of peoples as an example of this command. To the Jew of the Old Testament the application was specifically made to the "stranger" (Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19), to whom the Negro and other minority racial groups in America might be said to be analogous.
James 2:1-9. This passage quotes the command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," calling it the royal law, and applies it to the area of church attendance. Respect of persons in this area is regarded as inconsistent with the Christian faith and as actual sin. The first verse indicates that respect of persons cannot be held in combination with faith in the Lord of glory, before whom all human distinctions pale into insignificance. (Compare 1 Corinthians 1:27-29: ". . . that no flesh should glory in his presence.") James accuses the Christians of despising those whom God has chosen (5-6a). Verses 2 and 3 give a practical example of what respect of persons is: a distinction on the basis of race would seem to be no different from the distinction here made on the basis of wealth with regard to the main point of respect of persons. Verse 4 shows there is something wrong in the heart of the one who so discriminates. Deuteronomy 1:16-17 shows that God operated without respecting persons or, literally, "acknowledging faces," and in Deuteronomy 10:17-19, the concept of regarding not persons is directly connected with the command to love the stranger. God's way of dealing with man is not according to any racial or social distinction (Romans 2:6-11, Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:23-25). But not only is respect of persons inconsistent with the Christian faith; it is also actual sin, as James says in verse 9. Peter, like many Jews of his time, had such a prejudice to overcome (Acts 10:34-35); but even though he recognized the principle, he still found it difficult to apply in practice, and Paul had to rebuke him publicly at Antioch, as indicated in Galatians 2:11-14. Although it takes time for human blind spots to be recognized and changed, it is important here in the basic equality of all sinners before God (Romans 3:23) and of all believers in Christ (Colossians 3:11, Galatians 3:28). The guiding principle for Christians in such matters is the mind of Christ, which includes each esteeming other better than himself (Philippians 2:3-5).
1 Corinthians 6:15-17, 7:16, 30. These verses relate to the subject of intermarriage, especially the last verse and the last clause: "only in the Lord." While we are fully aware that our findings are open to revision on the basis of further study, it is striking that in all of Paul's discussion of marriage this is the only principle that is stressed in regard to whom one should marry. This is not to say that marriage to any Christian is necessarily expedient, but the only marriage clearly prohibited is that of a believer to an unbeliever. We can find no explicit Scriptural principle against inter-cultural marriage of believers. One cause for hesitation, however, would seem to be involved in the wisdom of marriage between diverse cultures and in the concern for the children of such a union being born into a prejudiced society, and we recognize that there may be further causes.
1 John 4:20-21, 3:16-19. These verses are included for the sake of application of the principles which have been set forth above. The basis of the love of our neighbor is the knowledge that he bears the image of God, his Creator (Genesis 9:6). For that very reason John argues that if a man does not love his brother he cannot claim to love God. The passage in the third chapter shows that this love for our brother must be manifest not in words only, but in action. We believe that this means that we must offer the right hand of fellowship in a genuine sense to brothers in Christ of other ethnic groups. If we know that it is the Lord's will that in heaven believers from every nation shall worship Him together (Revelation 6:9-10, 7:9-10), then let us sincerely mean it when we pray the petition: "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."
In summary, then -- the Bible maintains the unity of the human race before the one redeemer and judge, Jesus Christ; if the "Hamitic curse" applies at all to the Negro, it is as something to be counteracted by the Gospel; the confusing of tongues at the Tower of Babel was because of sin and in no way prevents unity for the glory of God -- in fact Pentecost indicates the opposite; the Good Samaritan points us to "love thy neighbor" as the essence of the Christian life and shows that this includes the most despised member of the human race; James' admonition against respect of persons rules out any discrimination in the matter of church attendance as contrary to the faith and as sin; and genuine love for God (and genuine salvation) is revealed in a genuine love for all the brethren.
We look upon our approach to the Negro, whether Christian or unbeliever, in a spirit of repentance, and we exhort one another to greater obedience to the Great Commissions to make disciples and to Christ's commandment to His disciples of whatever race, "That ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another" (John 13:34).
We move that this statement be adopted by Synod and sent to our church sessions for study.
The Committee and Synod heartily invite the comments and suggestions of our members and friends who may study this Report....
Upon motion, the Synod adopted the amended Report on Racial Questions. Upon motion, the Synod recessed at 12:30 a.m. and was led in prayer by Rev. Lynden Stewart.
[Documents of Synod, pages 385-387.]
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