Part of this conversation has to do with “Kinism” and “Kinists.” In case you are unfamiliar with the term, here’s a brief definition of “Kinism.”
Kinism is the belief that the God-ordained social order for man is tribal and ethnic rather than imperial and universal. Mankind was designed by its Creator and Law Giver to live and to thrive in extended family groups, and all other "alternatives" to this pattern are inhibitory of the chief end of man, which is to Glorify God and to enjoy life with Him forever.
As usual, my interlocutors’ words appear bold and italicized. May God add His blessing to your reading.
"I can understand being racist - supporting slavery, etc. If I was in the South at those times, I probably would have been quite racist (Dabney was). . . . But, modern day? When all around you is that all people are equal, especially at the level of race, it has to be a willful desire to be racist."
You've put your finger on a sticking point for me. I've heard folks calling Kinists “heretics” and "cancers," etc. And yet, as you observe, R.L. Dabney was racist.
And he's far from the only example. Jonathan Edwards owned slaves, as did some Puritans. What little I know of Kinism, it seems to me that--statistically speaking--ALL Christians, before the 1950's and 60's, espoused views on race similar to Kinists.
I've read some very hateful words--written by Christians--directed towards Kinists. But it seems to me that the Kinists are closer to our Christian forebears on race issues than most of us.
Are we guilty of a double standard? (What's heretical today MUST have been heretical before the civil rights movement. And morality hasn't changed since the 1950's. Right?)
Please understand, I'm not talking about race-based slavery. I'm only speaking of the Kinists and the Christians of the not so distant past in how they view race. (Also, I don't suppose Kinism is monolithic and so I'm sure there's a whole range of views and opinions amongst them. Thus, I'm speaking in very general terms here.)
"I have never believed that all Kinists are certainly not saved. So, I think people are overstepping to say that Kinism is 'heresy' if by that they mean 'damnable heresy'.
However, if I went back in time to Dabney's day, with my current beliefs, I would never attend his church. I would start my own ahead of joining anyone who held his views on race."
The Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, Dabney, etc. were very much acquainted with people of color, and they were experts in the scripture. I believe they were entirely Christian.
So, what has changed? How is it that we know better than they? Do present day Christians better understand the Bible? Hardly! Do present day Christians better understand people of color? Maybe.
My question is: Why are today's Christians so much more "enlightened" about race than yesterday's Christians? From whence does this enlightenment come? Did our understanding of scripture have some kind of "advance" in the 1950's and 60's? (As I alluded to already, this seems HIGHLY unlikely!)
Again, why do today's Christians know so much more than yesterday's Christians when it comes to race? What is the basis for this increase in knowledge?
(One reason I'm interested in this discussion is the way in which the terms "racism" and "racist" are—in my opinion—being overused and abused these days. A couple of weeks ago, I addressed this:
"Did our understanding of scripture advance from the close of the cannon around 69AD? Does the church merely advance in numbers? Although I have great respect for the Puritans, reformers, church fathers, ancient creeds, etc, nothing takes the place of scripture and that interpreted by scripture itself. We err to idolize anyone or anything in the past."
I think the church's understanding of scripture has advanced since 69AD, yes. I'm sure we could produce specific doctrines and corresponding verses or passages.
(For example--though I disagree with this position--Dispensationalism. Prior to the mid-19th Century nobody was a Dispensationalist! However, Dispensationalists argue that their understanding of eschatology is biblical, and they have lots of verses to which they appeal--though nobody before the mid-19th Century believed such things. Hence, in their mind, their belief system constitutes a genuine theological “advance.”)
That being said, what do you propose the scriptural advance is in the 1950's and 60's? What verses or passages, pertaining to race, do we now understand more clearly than the Christians before this time?
We are agreed that "nothing takes the place of scripture." So, I'm wondering: What are the biblical bases for Christians' views on race BEFORE the civil rights movement and what are the biblical bases for Christians' views on race AFTER the '50s and ‘60s?
In other words: Are the racial opinions of contemporary Christians, which are at odds with those of historical Christians, actually rooted in specific scripture? (Thus, our differences are a matter of hermeneutics perhaps?) Or, were their views THEN and our views NOW, regarding race, shaped by things other than the sacred text itself?
"I agree with it is not a simple issue. . . . Cultural norms and majorities do impact Christianity - ten years ago, I would have laughed at you if you told me that I would know Calvinists who support same-sex marriage. . . . Marriage is one area where we understand it worse - race is one area where we understand it better.
Was there an improvement in our understanding of Scripture? I'd say yes - from Wilberforce to John Newton, it was certainly a re-finding of biblical truth . . . ."
Thank you for recognizing the complexity of the issue. I've given this topic a fair amount of thought. Yet, it is such a "touchy" subject that folks are hesitant to discuss it in a calm, contemplative manner. We rarely get beyond "race-baiting" and name calling (99.9% of it from the Left).
I don't know the SPECIFIC verses upon which our forebears based their views on race. Frankly, I don't know the SPECIFIC verses (beyond Gen 1, Acts 17, and Gal 3) upon which we base our present day views on race.
(The aforementioned passages seem to go no further than teaching that all men are from the same parentage and are therefore image bearers of God and are equal in value and worth. Though I certainly do not downplay the essential importance of these truths, racial views seem to entail much more than this.)
This being said, it seems sensical to me that our views of race are mostly based in culture, not in scripture. Perhaps in this one area of race (again, I am NOT talking about race-based slavery) our culture is morally superior to the cultures before the 50s and 60s; thus our views of race are an improvement upon our forebears'.
Perhaps this is the case. However, I don't know that I can come up with a single other category in which our present culture is morally preferable to the cultures which precede it. (By "culture" I am referring only to Western cultures influenced by Christianity.)
Finally, you mentioned Wilberforce and Newton: I'm guessing (I'm only GUESSING because I really don't know!) that their views on race were more similar to the Kinists' than to ours. (From reading his own words, I certainly believe Abraham Lincoln's racial views were quite similar to the Kinist position.)
That's the extent of our discussion, but the "conversation" needn't end here. In fact, I think we all know that it will not, it must not, indeed it cannot end here. Thank you for reading and thinking.