Does the Bible Condone Racism?

By Mark A. Kellner
Posted August 07, 2019

Recent mass shootings in the United States, including the one in El Paso, Texas, have raised the question of whether such incidents were in any way inspired by racism supposedly found in the pages of the Bible.

However tortured the logic might be to justify such things, the simple fact of the matter is that nowhere does the Bible teach racism or contempt for those who are of a different nationality. If anything, the teachings of Jesus and His disciples expanded the notion that all are equal in God’s eyes and should be treated equally by those who claim to follow Him.

Among the very first words of Scripture are these found in Genesis 1:26: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” This would suggest that all humanity reflects God’s image, and thus stand on equal footing. There is no race or group of people that is “superior” to another in God’s sight.

In the New Testament book of Acts, we read of God that “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). If we all come from “one blood,” then hatred based on any other characteristic denies the very creation that God made and would disqualify them from being regarded as an authentic believer.

And yet the notion persists that the Bible somehow condones racism. An exhaustive discussion of the question is beyond the scope of this overview, but there are some key thoughts that might be helpful when considering the question.

The Bible Is Not a Buffet to Confirm Prejudice

There are people who have tried to piece together a theology, or even a theory of racial “superiority,” by plucking verses from different parts of the Bible and arranging them to form an argument, much in the way someone might arrange a meal by going through a buffet line and selecting one item while neglecting another.

Although the Bible does support its major themes across the 66 books that make up the Old and New Testaments—you find the theme of redemption from Genesis to Revelation, for example—the Scriptures do not comprise some kind of heaven-sent buffet line from which one can carve out a confirmation of their prejudices.

A sad example of what some people try to do is found in Genesis 9, where Noah pronounced a curse of servitude on the children of his son, Ham. (Instead of covering Noah’s post-flood nakedness, Ham gossiped about it, earning his father’s enmity.) This has been interpreted over thousands of years as legitimizing the enslavement of all sorts of people, including those of African descent.

But that’s just not true. “This is not a curse on a race,” Pastor Doug Batchelor said in a presentation on the subject. He added, “This is a curse on those who practice what Ham practiced. There is a curse on those who do not respect their parents.”

Noah’s condemnation is not a justification for racism, not at all. Nor are the various scriptures that allow for what some call “slavery,” but is actually indentured servitude. Those Hebrews who end up over their heads in debt without a way to repay could attach themselves to the households of their creditors and work off their debts. But those servants, God said, must be treated with respect and kindness, and must be freed during the Jubilee year.

Indeed, when actual slavery was the fate of the Israelites in Egypt, God eventually heard their cry and sent Moses and Aaron to liberate them. God hated, and never condoned, the kind of slavery manifested by Pharaoh and that which was later found in parts of the United States.

How Shall We Live Together?

If man and woman were created in the image of God, as they were; if all come from “one blood,” as they do; and if there is no biblical basis for either “cursing” a race of people or for allowing the subjugation of an entire race, it would suggest that the Bible is a book promoting egalitarian relationships among all peoples.

Jesus in His earthly ministry went out of His way to associate with all classes. Even when racial or nationalistic differences presented themselves, Jesus transcended these and blessed—even healed—Jew and Gentile alike. The disciples, seeing His example, came to regard no man as “unclean” or unworthy of both salvation and fellowship.

Writing to the early believers in Galatia, Paul, a one-time Pharisee who had to deal with his own views of culture and race, offered this counsel: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

In Christ’s Object Lessons, noted Christian author Ellen G. White offers this explanation: “No distinction on account of nationality, race, or caste, is recognized by God. He is the Maker of all mankind. All men are of one family by creation, and all are one through redemption. Christ came to demolish every wall of partition, to throw open every compartment of the temple, that every soul may have free access to God. His love is so broad, so deep, so full, that it penetrates everywhere” (p. 386).

As we study the Bible, we can gain a better understanding of God’s love for all of His creation: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). If God loved the world, then He loves all its people— including every “nation, tribe, tongue, and people,” as Revelation 14:6 describes the final preaching of the everlasting gospel.

One more thought: If “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” as Romans 3:23 tells us, then no group of people, no race, can claim superiority over another. We’re all sinners, we all have missed the high standard God has set, and we all need a Savior. That levels the playing field, doesn’t it?

The ultimate cure for racism will be the Kingdom of God, when Jesus returns to establish paradise on a new earth. Between now and then, those who believe in Christ can—and must—take the lead in modeling the opposite of racism, by accepting and loving as brethren all who cross their paths.

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