Racism is sin. It is a declaration that seems unambiguous enough on the surface and, dare I say, is one with which hardly anyone today – Christian or not – would disagree. Nevertheless, there is a broader context in which the aforementioned attestation should be understood. Which is to say, it does not suffice merely to declare that “racism is sin” apart from investigating first and foremost what is sin.
[Editorial Note: This is the fourteenth post in a series of posts in which we have invited the authors of “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” to expound upon the statement’s affirmations and denials. We encourage our readers to take the time to read through our prefatory editorial note at the beginning of the first post prior to reading through subsequent posts in the series.]
Article XIV: Racism
We affirm that racism is a sin rooted in pride and malice which must be condemned and renounced by all who would honor the image of God in all people. Such racial sin can subtly or overtly manifest itself as racial animosity or racial vainglory. Such sinful prejudice or partiality falls short of God’s revealed will and violates the royal law of love. We affirm that virtually all cultures, including our own, at times contain laws and systems that foster racist attitudes and policies.
We deny that treating people with sinful partiality or prejudice is consistent with biblical Christianity. We deny that only those in positions of power are capable of racism, or that individuals of any particular ethnic groups are incapable of racism. We deny that systemic racism is in any way compatible with the core principles of historic evangelical convictions. We deny that the Bible can be legitimately used to foster or justify partiality, prejudice, or contempt toward other ethnicities. We deny that the contemporary evangelical movement has any deliberate agenda to elevate one ethnic group and subjugate another. And we emphatically deny that lectures on social issues (or activism aimed at reshaping the wider culture) are as vital to the life and health of the church as the preaching of the gospel and the exposition of Scripture. Historically, such things tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel.
As stated in the above affirmation, racism is sin. It is a declaration that seems unambiguous enough on the surface and, dare I say, is one with which hardly anyone today – Christian or not – would disagree. Nevertheless, there is a broader context in which the aforementioned attestation should be understood. Which is to say, it does not suffice merely to declare that “racism is sin” apart from investigating first and foremost what is sin. In other words, what exactly is so significant about this small, three-letter word that makes racism the prideful and malicious attitude it is described as in Article 14 of the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel?
In considering these and other questions, I am reminded of the Westminster Shorter Catechism where, in Question 14, ‘sin’ is defined as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” But this definition of ‘sin’ begets yet another question, namely, what is the “law of God” to begin with? In terms of sheer numbers, God’s law consists of several hundred very specific commands given by God to His people throughout the Old and New Testament. Those commands fall, fundamentally, under two categories: 1) how you and I are to relate to God, and 2) how you and I are to relate to one another.