Spiritual: March 2007 Archives

In a post about how white evangelicals often do but should not assume what he calls a "white presumptive" perspective (something I wholeheartedly agree with and have discussed in the past under the term 'normative whiteness'), Mark Dever says something in passing that I'm not sure I agree with.
African-American Christian history is more fundamentally Christian than it is African-American. I realize that may be a controversial statement, but inside the body of Christ, we must realize that our racial identities (while seeming in Revelation to last into eternity) are not as fundamental as our Christian identity.

Again, his main statement there is something I wholeheartedly agree with. Black evangelicals, in my experience, are more likely to resist this biblical truth than white evangelicals, at least in their explicit beliefs. But white evangelicals can often give it lip service to it without realizing how much they are in fact tied to their white identity, as instanced by the very occasion of Mark's post. Whiteness is invisible to most white people, and the fact that white people affirm this statement doesn't mean they really understand what it amounts to and how their lives would have to change were they really to incorporate its truth into their lives.

But the disagreement I have with this statement is not in what it says overall but in what he says in passing in parentheses. He says racial identities seem in Revelation to last into eternity. Is that true? Now it may be that the things that inform our identities racially do last into eternity. Does that mean we will still have races in eternity? I don't think that follows, but I think the question of whether we will have racial identities in eternity is separate from the question of whether the book of Revelation includes anything that should seem to indicate that racial identities will continue in eternity. There are strong indications that the believers gathered around God's throne is a united body of people from every tongue and nation.

But two things make me think it is not teaching that racial identities continue into eternity. First, these descriptions are not just about eternity. They are about the gathered people of God, who are spiritually speaking around the throne of God in heaven. This isn't a resurrection scene. It's a teaching about the nature of the church now. Second, it doesn't say that these are people defined in terms of racial identities. It says that there are people there from every tongue, tribe, and nation. These are people called out of the world and into the people of God. It doesn't mean racial identities are wiped out, but it doesn't say they're not. It simply says that people who were of all the tongues, tribes, and nations are gathered together as one.



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