Okay, we covered quite a bit of ground in the first two parts of this mini-series and now we’re sliding into home plate. In the first article, I presented the idea that the biblical worldview provides a more substantive foundation for identity than the race-centric view of identity which appeared to be at the root of the riots in Charlottesville a few weeks ago. Our first step toward engaging my central claim was to review how the concept of race in our society does not align with the full scope of who we are biologically and is not an entailment of biological fact. As I stated previously, race is essentially a social construct which runs parallel with certain physical distinctives that we collectively grant social meaning to. This collective belief we call race has no weight to it on its own but rather thrives off of the validity we choose to give it. In the second article, we looked at race-centric accounts of identity through the lenses of Alt Right founder Richard Spencer and Pan-Africanist community leader, Dr. Umar Johnson. As it turns out they actually share the same lens. We also considered how—in the same way that biology cannot provide an objective base for the modern race concept—neither moral characteristics nor the achievements of this or that race provide an objective means by which value can be assigned to a race. This militates against the common sorts of claims that would suggest the superiority of one race over another.
The reason why I am spending so much time on this boils down to three simple points. First of all, I do not believe that the Christian worldview is impotent as it pertains to providing real answers to the questions of our time and real solutions for the problems of our time. The biblical worldview is not divorced from reality such that when I pray, read, the Bible, or sing churchy songs it has meaning or value but then I have to lay all that aside and get back to “real life” as I engage the hurdles society throws at me. Secondly, racism has been a part of America’s complicated history from its inception. Many moons ago mankind rebelled against God. As a result mankind now has to live in a world where sin robs us of the beauty for which this world was created including God’s intent for mankind to live in communion with Him and one another. Division based upon hatred, prejudices, and devaluing one another is a ripple effect of sin that has run throughout every culture in human history. In our present society this particular outworking of sin is packaged in what we recognize as racism. I believe the biblical worldview is based upon truth and has within it the ideological resources to disarm racism. The problem is, in my opinion, churches have not spent enough time equipping the saints so that we can engage racism we encounter with sound logical reasoning and the high ground of a biblical foundation.
Thirdly, I believe the best way to defeat a bad ideology is to overcome it with a better ideology. One thing that struck me when I first heard about what prompted the Unite the Right Rally was that Charlottesville is apparently a very “blue” town. I want to preface my next few statements by saying I do not align myself with either Republicans or Democrats. I personally think it is a sign of moral progress in America to see the legal and locally supported removal of a Confederate statue from a public park. But as I watched the Charlottesville riots on the news something occurred to me. When the next election cycle comes around, many if not most of those same folks who voted to have Bobby Lee removed and stood against the protesting Nazis in the name of racial equality will support politicians who uphold the “right” to elective abortion. A barbarous practice and moral stain on this nation that has claimed the lives of an estimated 17 million black children since 1973. It is a noble thing to stand against those who parade around representing groups that have traditionally trampled upon the human dignity of black people. But it doesn’t make sense to do that then turn around and support the legalized extermination of black people. Morally speaking, that is still like robbing Peter to pay Paul. What I would like to see—and what I think America needs to see—is people taking the biblical worldview to its logical conclusions to the degree that we are willing and engaged in eschewing evil across the board in whatever context it arises. More could be said there but for now I’ll get back on topic and leave it at that.
Finding Common Ground
In response to the Unite the Right protestors whose rallying point was obviously whiteness rather than rightness, we saw people condemn their race-centric perspective of identity and point to other things as points of unity. For example, a common counter point was to assert our humanity as the proper unifying factor as opposed to whiteness. I think appealing to humanity as a starting point of identity and sameness is a step in the right direction that ultimately falls short. In the past I have argued humanness in and of itself isn’t enough to bear the weight of the intrinsic moral worth each of us possesses. I will refer the reader to an article I wrote on the topic of human value a few months ago to see how I flesh that out.
In his initial response to the terrible events in Charlottesville President Trump did not appeal to common humanity in his call for peace and unity. In the President’s response he said:
“We have to come together as a Americans and love for our nation…and true affection for each other…Above all else we must remember this truth. No matter our color, creed, religion, or political party we are all Americans first…”
Now, given his role as President of the US, it is understandable that President Trump would look to American nationalism as a rallying point. However, I think we need something more than that. Consider what is said in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”
America was birthed with the notion of looking beyond itself to something, or rather Someone, who is the source of mankind and the innate rights that man possesses. The representative government is to be a steward over those rights which derive from God. While invoking our national identity to promote unity was a good try, I think the ideas we find in the Declaration of independence get us closer to where we need to be. With that said I now show you a more excellent way.
The Centrality of the Resurrection
In 1 Corinthians 15:14, the apostle Paul puts all of his cards on the table. He writes:
“and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith.”
Paul is telling us that as Christians all of our eggs are in one Easter basket—the resurrection of Jesus. Over the course of this 3-part series I have repeatedly made mention of the biblical worldview and my attempt to apply it to the issues of today. However, if Jesus is not risen then it’s game over for Christianity and nothing I have to say from a biblical perspective about identity, morality, or whatever else is of any importance.
I am glad to inform those of you who have read this far in this mini-series that I haven’t wasted your time with a bunch of pages full of stuff I don’t actually believe. In the same way that Paul put the full weight of Christianity on the resurrection, I have put the full weight of my identity on the resurrection and I do so with the utmost confidence. I’ll give you a shortened version as to why that is.
The Evidence for the Resurrection
For the next few moments I will be relying heavily on the work of Dr. Mike Licona and Dr. Gary Habermas who co-authored and excellent and reader friendly book entitled, “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.” We will be working our way through a quick rendering of what they call the “Minimal Facts Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus.”
What most people don’t realize about Christianity’s claim of Jesus’ bodily resurrection is that it is rationally defensible based on historical evidence that is agreed upon by a majority of professional historians today. There are a number of historical facts surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus that are widely agreed upon by both Christian and non-Christian scholars as being historically credible.
Examples of these facts would be:
- Jesus’ death by crucifixion.
- Jesus’ disciples had experiences after Jesus’ crucifixion which they believed to be encounters with the bodily resurrected Jesus of Nazareth.
- The conversion to Christianity of a persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus, aka the Apostle Paul.
- The conversion of James, the brother of Jesus, to Christianity.
- The tomb being found empty by a group of Jesus’ female followers.
Now, I want to emphasize the point that these are not “faith” statements. These are statements of history which are widely agreed upon by both non-Christian and Christian scholars who study this period of antiquity. By using the standard historical method that would be applied in verifying any other event in history, these facts are found to be well-evidenced.
When historians want to determine the historicity of an event they gather the relevant data together and then evaluate the hypotheses that would be adequate to explain the known facts. Two concepts that come into play as historians test an hypothesis are explanatory power and explanatory scope. In terms of what we are discussing here, explanatory power refers to the ability of an hypothesis to adequately explain individual facts. Explanatory scope refers to the ability of an hypothesis to explain all the facts together. When you stack up the data—taking into account the guiding concepts of explanatory power and explanatory scope—no naturalistic hypothesis about what happened to Jesus after His burial has been found to account for the collection of historical facts I’ve laid out. People have tried all these explanations and time after time these natural explanations come up lacking in their ability to explain our five facts. However, there is one hypothesis that has the explanatory power and the explanatory scope to account for these facts and it is the explanation the church has stood strong on for about 2000 years: God raised Jesus from the dead.
If Jesus rose from the dead, then at very least it seems to me we ought to take what He taught seriously. If Jesus affirms that the Old Testament is a revelation of God’s truth to mankind then I have good reason to take Genesis 1:26 to be true. In Genesis 1:26 we read:
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”
You and I are made in the Image of God. Therefore, there is something more foundational to who you are than your race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, etc. From what we see in Genesis 1:26, the reality is that our identity is too weighty to be grounded in a mere feature of who we are. As a matter of fact the basis of our identity isn’t grounded in us at all. If we want to discover the truth about ourselves we will have to look beyond ourselves. The foundation of who we are is not found in a pigmentation or a place but rather in a Person: Three Persons which constitute one Divine Being actually. God Himself is the bedrock of our identity. Also, in the Imago Dei we have a fixed point of common ground with all mankind packaged with the intrinsic moral worth God bestowed on us when He called all of creation good. This moral worth comes from an unchanging transcendent Source that provides a basis for how we value and treat one another.
In addition, one way or another God is reconciling all things to Himself. As it relates to us, God accomplishes this through the work of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the New Covenant which was sealed by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross we are restored to Him as His children. This is an essential aspect of who we are. In being made alive through Christ, God restores us back to who we were made to be. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
“If any man be in Christ He is a new creation, old things have passed away behold all things have become new”
In the beginning God created man in His Image and Likeness and through the New Covenant we are made a new creation in Christ. These two “creations” of man are like two pillars of human identity whether we acknowledge it or not. The centerpiece of man’s identity traces back to who God is and what God has done not whatever we choose to make it. This is the identity guidepost I mentioned in the first article of this series.
Not only is our identity rooted in a divine Being but it is also intertwined with a divine purpose. God made us for the purpose of being in loving communion with Him and with one another for eternity. We see this reflected in Jesus’ teaching on the two greatest commandments mankind is to abide by. In Matthew 22 :37-39 Jesus says:
“37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important[n] command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend[p] on these two commands.”
When we attempt to structure our identity around something that is divorced from our purpose we have at that point taken the first step on a journey from self-deception toward self-destruction. Racism, or anything else that works against God’s purpose for mankind, is a direct assault on the essence of who we are and who we were made to be. If we take the Biblical worldview to its logical conclusions, truth shines on racism of any sort and exposes it for the vile thing that it is. Racism is a parasite that seeks to deprive mankind of what God intended when He made us in His image and endowed us with value.
In the first article I began making the case that the biblical worldview provides a more firm foundation for who we are than a race-centric framework of identity. I argued that this is so due to the fact that racial identity as we see it applied in society is rooted in subjective claims about ourselves rather than something objective. We explored how the modern race concept is not an entailment of some biological fact.
We also took a look at how common race-based attempts to assign value or rigidly determine who we “ought to” align ourselves with are ultimately subjective and arbitrary. By contrast, we briefly considered the relation between the Resurrection of Jesus, God’s purpose for man, and a theistic foundation for identity. The historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus provides justification by which we can rationally affirm that Jesus rose from the dead. If Jesus rose from the dead then we have good reason to consider what He taught during his earthly ministry and take what He said seriously. Jesus affirmed that the Old Testament is God’s revealed truth to mankind and in Genesis 1:26 we find that God is the foundation of our identity as we were made in His image.
God’s intentions for mankind and the moral worth He endowed us with provides a basis for how we value and interact with others. On the biblical worldview, there is a “truth-making” property to our identity claim in that we have evidence from the Resurrection that Christianity is true and our identity traces back to Ultimate Reality– YHWH. In closing, my intent in writing this was not to inspire some sort of Kumbaya moment. Ideas are powerful and when the wrong ideas take hold of a culture the results are inevitably disastrous.
Racism is an outworking of ideas that do not align with reality as it actually is and is opposed to the way God intended things to be. As the church we are called to be that city on a hill which points people to the heart of God as we reflect His heart and his truth wherever we go. My hope is that we Christians take on the heart of God and militantly oppose destructive ideologies by presenting the truth in the public square in such a way that it transforms culture. The weight of truth is on our side and we can impact the world around us with it.
Habermas, G. R., & Licona, M. R. (2004). The case for the resurrection of Jesus. Kregel Publications.
“26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”