Neither Male nor Female, Jew nor Greek

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Harry at Little Geneva has been blogging about me again. (Do a Google search. I'm not linking to it.) Well, it's more throwing links around in a derogatory manner than any serious discussion of anything in my post, but that's standard procedure over there. I even responded in a comment, only to receive insults in response (oh, and what seems to be an admission that he refuses to handle the level of argumentation required to engage in reasoned discussion). It's kind of sad that Harry should have such a huge following at a blog that promotes such a reprehensible view as what he calls Kinism, which is really just racism, despite all his insistence to the contrary. Just read some of his statements all over his main page about the moral character of various ethnic groups. Whenever he links to me, I get a flurry of hits, with no one either at my end or in the comments of his post actually interacting in an intelligent way with anything I said. For a while Little Geneva was near the top of the Blogdom of God simply because so many Christian blogs link to it, until Adrian Warnock noticed it and decided that there should be limits on what sort of blog can be in the Blogdom. [I'm not sure if this is the best place to put this, but I noticed after I wrote most of this post that someone unrelatedly found my blog last night by searching for badlands little geneva. This search was performed on a computer on the house.gov network. I'm not sure what to think of that.]

But occasionally I'll see an interesting argument at Little Geneva. I noticed one yesterday in a different post lower on the page (Feb 2). He notices that many of the people who promote miscegenation (which for Harry doesn't really mean promoting it as better than anything else but simply means acknowledging that there's nothing wrong with it) will point to Gal 3:28, where Paul says that the divisions of Jew, Greek, male, female, slave, and free are broken down in Christ. Harry notes that many conservatives will insist that this doesn't mean the male-female distinction is completely broken down to the point of irrelevance. Paul was simply saying that in Christ all have the same access to salvation. It doesn't mean men and women have to be treated as if they are the same gender or as if they have no gender. I agree in large measure with all that, so it's interesting to see what Harry then concludes. He says someone who says that then has no right to use Gal 3:28 as a basis for thinking there are no morally relevant race distinctions because it mentions the Jew-Greek barrier broken down in Christ. Now I think this is a very interesting argument, even if it ultimately misunderstands what Paul is saying (and what those who think there's nothing wrong with miscegenation are saying), so I wanted to record my thoughts on the matter.

I want to say that I'm not writing this for Harry. He doesn't usually interact with anything I say, choosing instead either to insult me in place of any argument or simply deleting comments he doesn't know how to answer (both of which happened in the comments on his latest post, with two deletions occurring with on-topic discussions unrelated to race and the insults appearing when I corrected his false statements about what my post said). The most he will occasionally do is offer a one-liner that's wrong on so many levels that responding would require me to write more than he (by his own confession) would bother to read. Rarely do I see this sort of interesting argument, though, and I'm responding to the argument because I think the argument itself commands a response, not because I think he deserves one. This argument could just as easily have come from an absolute egalitarian perspective on gender, such as that held by many evangelicals who seek to resist the biblical role distinctions in Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, I Peter 2, I Corinthians 11, I Corinthians 14, Titus 2, and I Timothy 2. Since it was a real argument that someone who cares about intelligent discussion could make, it does require a response, and I thought it worthwhile to work through how that response should go, even if the person who happened to have offered it really doesn't care what I think (and has said so repeatedly).

I think the answer is fairly simple. First of all, the view complementarians about gender roles want to defend does not generally say that Paul's statement in Gal 3:28 is merely about equal access to salvation. Paul is saying that there are no barriers in Christ between male and female, between Jew and Greek, between slave and free. All are equally members of the body of Christ, and all are equally gathered around the throne of God in heaven spiritually speaking, worshiping together. Thus in the lived reality of the earthly manifestation of God's kingdom, there's no justification for division among those who in Christ are not separated according to lines of ethnicity, gender, or role in society. All are equal in Christ in that sense.

Paul's statement is consistent with thinking there are morally relevant differences between slaves and free (or the contemporary equivalent), between men and women, and between Jews and Greeks (or any other ethnic groups). Harry is right about that. But where his argument goes wrong is in thinking that the kind of morally relevant differences complementarians about gender roles find in scripture are anything like the morally relevant differences Kinists take there to be between ethnic groups.

Paul doesn't remove all sense of distinction. He doesn't deny that men are not women and women not men. Slaves are not free with respect to their slavery, even if they are free in Christ in another sense. Jews are not Greeks, and Greeks adopted into the family of God are not ethnically Jewish even if Paul speaks of Gentiles in Christ as spiritually descended from Abraham. These are still clear distinctions, and people remain in the category they are in when they begin to follow Christ. Slaves remain slaves (though that can be changed if they are freed). Women remain women. Norwegians remain Norwegians. These are real distinctions.

Furthermore, these can be morally relevant distinctions. Paul elsewhere commands slaves to obey their masters. He also very strongly suggests that Philemon should recognize the basic equality in Christ that he has with his runaway slave Onesimus and thus set him free. Those are obligations that can come only if the distinction has moral significance. This is fairly similar to differences in obligations between employers and employees in our contemporary setting. Those are morally relevant distinctions as well. Such moral distinctions did not in the ancient world prevent slaves from being elders in a local congregation that included their masters as members, just as they don't now prevent employers from being members of a church where one of their employees happens also to be their part-time pastor/elder (which in fact was the case in the congregation I grew up in).

My being an American citizen gives me an ability to shape the direction of this country in a way that someone who is not an American citizen cannot, and that might give me a moral obligation to steward what God has given me with responsibility and care, which means seeking to vote responsibility and to influence the political scene in other ways in a righteous way. This is consistent with recognizing that my primary citizenship is in heaven. Being of a particular ethnic community might give someone some responsibilities to others in that community, just as being in a family does (though not to anywhere near the same level). If one ethnic group has historically been persecuted, it might allow for treatment by other groups that acknowledges that and seeks restitution. These are indeed moral distinctions that Gal 3:28 should allow, since it does not deny that these real distinctions in the lived world are not a basis for division in any way. Recognizing distinctions is fully consistent with refusing to allow divisions on the basis of those distinctions.

So too with complementarian views on gender distinctions. Physical differences between men and women might result in differences in how we should treat each other (though not necessarily in a way that justifies the exact conventions any given culture happens to adopt on that basis). If there are differences in roles God has assigned in marriage, the equality in Christ doesn't minimize those but simply means that there's nothing lesser about either set of roles, and this goes also for those who take Paul seriously in restricting the eldership and the teaching role (when men are present) to men. It's clear in I Cor 12-14 anyway that role differences in the body of Christ do not justify seeing someone as better or worse, so the kind of equality in Gal 3:28 that does not allow division but insists on loving cooperation as a reflection of our unity in Christ can easily recognize role distinctions without thereby allowing divisiveness.

So I have no problem with moral distinctions along slave-free, male-female, or Jew-Greek (or any other ethnic group) lines. What Harry is trying to argue, though, is that we can similarly say that blacks and whites, for example, should be able to segregate themselves and not have any interaction with their brothers and sisters. If his own behavior is any clue to his view, then he must even think Gal 3:28 is consistent with using derogatory terms and insults about those of another race simply because of their race and speaking very nastily to those who seek unity in Christ rather than the division Kinism insists on. But even if you don't take it to the purely racist level that Harry's behavior demonstrates but merely insist on the technically limited Kinist view that he professes, it involves valuing a kind of divisiveness that true unity in Christ should consider anathema. Indeed, serious and unrepentant divisiveness is one of three characteristics in John's epistles that serve as grounds for excommunication (along with serious and unrepentant immoral living in other ways and serious and unrepentant teaching of doctrinal errors).

I just can't see how any of Harry's conclusions could possibly follow from the original point. Kinism seems to violate outright the very kind of unity in Christ that Paul is talking about, and you can fully acknowledge morally relevant differences between ethnic groups while saying that. Equality in Christ is consistent with different roles (or we couldn't have elders with spiritual authority and others under them), but it cannot tolerate deliberate exclusion across any lines that Christ has broken down. It can tolerate different treatment based on legitimate distinctions. It doesn't allow for those who insist on furthering the divide that Christ has removed, which is what Kinism seeks to justify.

Harry seeks for like to associate only with like, for cultures to remain stagnant by ignoring and osctracizing the entire rest of the people of God rather than being influenced by the good in other cultures, because each culture contains some good despite some resistance to the things of God, and each one can learn from any other culture that hasn't got the same elements of the world offering up resistance to godliness. Kinism seeks for those who are in Christ to act in practice as if large segments of others in Christ are irrelevant to them and not part of the same body of Christ. Does Harry's argument really mean to suggest that Gal 3:28 would allow something like this along gender lines if the complementarian interpretation is correct? Only then would someone adopting a complementarian interpretation of Gal 3:28 be forced to accept Kinism as well. But there's no way that Paul would tolerate the kind of sex-segregated body of Christ that would be analogous to what Kinism does with ethnic groups, and no complementarian I know of holds such a view. Harry's argument rests on that analogy, but the kind of complementarianism required for the analogy to work isn't one that anyone holds.

So I don't think this argument should raise any worries in the end for complementarians who recognize that racial lines are not to be barriers in Christ, but working through exactly why has, I think, helped me clarify some important distinctions relevant to several key issues.

10 Comments

I couldn't agree more. The arguments of Harry & Co. are little more than racist nonsense which if followed will simply divide Christ's body up along racial lines in a manner similar to the way Paul's opponents were in Galatia.

I think it's what Paul would refer to as "another Gospel" - if indeed Kinism can be called a Gospel at all.

There's a wonderful old book by Will Campbell called Race and the Renewal of the Church, one I found in a library sle a few years back. I know it would be near impossible to find, but it made some great points about this issue. One would be that Galatians itself makes the point that racial division is in fact denial of the gospel.

The other thing I found interesting, just due to my own ignorance, was that presbyterian (and presumably other) churches stationed deacons at the doors to keep black people from entering back in the 50's. There was something of a missions movement towards black communities, but the churches planted through those efforts were always kept quite separate from the main body.

This was interesting to me because it gave me some perspective on how the situation of church segregation came to be, or, more precisely, how some of our forebears took active measures to continue it. While I think reconciliation is/has to be the way forward, I'm learning what sort of an uphill climb it is.

I just went through their blogs. Nothing but a bunch of bunch of skubala. (B*llsh*t in koine greek.) lol.

Raj

I don't have high interest ( therefore low argument quotient) in this topic, but it occurred to me as I read your post that it has parallels with anti-Arabic sentiment that I find in some highly politicized posts on some blogs I've read (no names),pertaining to this idea of "the morally relevant differences Kinists take there to be between ethnic groups".

It is disturbing that Christians wouldn't realize this is so close to the dangerous racism that has a true slippery slope into genocide. I could argue tht point, but I think you are doing a better job of dissecting the issues than I could.

Keep on keeping on in fighting the good fight,Jeremy.


I strayed into this debate and only wanted to add that, in my perspective, the way to identify a false prophet is that he attacks the person not the doctrine (ultimately resulting in insults, humiliation and death)and that a true Christian could never get onto the "slippery slope of genocide" since he is called to love his enemies - just a thought and a few months too late, it seems

It's never too late at Parableman. I read all comments, and I respond to any that need a response, even if the post is from 2003 (when I started this blog).

Thank you!

I'd like to know if you think ending segregation requires promotion of miscegenation.

It depends on what you mean by segregation and what you mean by promotion. I do think it's evil to view miscegenation as bad, so any prohibition on it or negative attitude toward it is a negative in terms of racial harmony and progress. Do I think it should be promoted as a good thing? Yes. Do I think it should be promoted in the sense of trying to convince people to marry and reproduce interracially? I don't think there's a strong obligation to do so, but I do think there's a strong moral obligation to consider doing so, and I do believe in promoting that. Do I think segregation will continue without that? Probably. One reason for self-segregation is the desire to continue to maintain cultural connections within a community, which is ok short-term but in the big picture has unfortunate consequences, and it would be nice to weed ourselves off of racial identities to the extent that it's consistent with how society treats people (which right now is not given racial disparities and structural harm due to unconscious practices, never mind deliberate and attitudinal racism).

I'm WAAYY late to this one, but to the guy who said skuballa means "B*llsh*t", well...it's more like "crap": it's not obscene in Greek, in all its semantic meaning: it is hard, but not obscene. "Dung" is another way to put it, but "crap" these days seems to be more fitting since it's not obscene, but not the most friendly of words: though "crap" is used flippantly in our language, whereas Paul uses skuballa, but not unduly.

: )

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