All Men are Created Equal? A Brief History of Racialism…

Are all men created equal?  Yes, they are, but how can we know this for certain?  Some people, if they were forthright about the matter, would have to say no.  For example, the secularist shuns the idea of mankind being created at all.  And, if we were to consult  Darwinism on this question we would discover a philosophy which teaches that some so-called “human races” are more favorable than others – debunking the idea of essential equality among humans.  For example, Darwin’s work entitled “The Origin of Species” – Originally had an alternate title, which reads –

“The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle of Life.” 

Now Darwin’s notion of such racialism (the idea that some races have more favorable qualities than others), is clearly displayed in his writings – particularly in this cryptic passage, where he says: 

“At some future period… the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes will no doubt be exterminated.  The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.” 

Darwin believed that those with dark skin were more closely related to primates.  Most modern copies of “The Origin of Species” will conveniently omit Darwin’s alternate title in an effort to dissociate the hypothesis of evolution from the notion of racialism – but discerning minds should know better. 

But should one dare argue that Darwinism is the root source of racism…or does the idea of racialism have an earlier beginning?  I would submit to you that all men, by virtue of sinful pride and arrogance, are naturally prone to believe in some form of racialism.  As an illustration of this, we see that ancient Athenian mythology (for example) was used in order to advance a very aggressive form of racialism.  The ancient Athenians believed that they were autochthonous – meaning that they were literally derived out of their own native soil.  In addition to this, they believed that they originated through a complex interaction of several deities.  Through the union of Gaia and Hephaistus – came a child named Erechtheus (Erechthoneus)* – who was said to be begotten out of the earth and was then raised by the goddess Athena.  This mythological genealogy was so important to the Athenians that they often refered to themselves as Erechtheidai (sons of Erechtheus).  Such a name as this reminded them of their supposed superior lineage.

This is just one historic illustration of how mankind is inclined to believe in the notion of “favored races” – especially when they themselves possess whatever traits are deemed as favorable.  Clearly, Darwin didn’t invent this idea of “favored races” – this is an ancient notion that is rooted in historic mythology and paganism. 

Now think for a moment about those ancient Athenians.  What if you had the opportunity to speak to a crowd of these ancient “Erechtheidai” – these proud and superior descendents of Erechtheus?  Well – the Apostle Paul did just that when he preached in the city of Athens.  We read about this event in Acts 17:

Acts 17:22-26: 22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 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…

What Paul declared in the city of Athens was very bold.  He began by explaining that the Athenians were worshipping in ignorance of the truth (a bold enough statement by itself).  But he went further by teaching them that mankind is not divided by distinct races, but that we are all members of a single race – called the human race – and that the one true God created all the nations of mankind through one human source.  With this one brief sermon, Paul had exposed the ignorance of Athenian racialism, while revealing the supremacy and Lordship of the one true creator of everything.  For Paul to say these things to a group of people who were convinced of their own supremacy would be like visiting a clan rally and proclaiming the biblical truth that God is not a respecter of persons – whether their skin is white, black, yellow or brown.  What Paul did was quite bold – but for the sake of the Gospel, it was necessary.

The Bible refutes the fallacious notion of multiple races, because by definition, the notion of race is rooted in genealogy – not skin color.  And since all men are derived from one human source by the handiwork of the one true God, it makes no sense to speak of multiple races.  To be sure, there are differing tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations (Rev. 5:9) – but there certainly is no such thing as “multiple races,” nor is skin color to be seen as an important distinction among men.  To say that race can be defined by means of skin color makes as much sense as saying that race can be defined by eye color or even hair color.  The legacy of this form of thinking is indeed horrific – and it reveals that those who want to believe in a “favored race” do so by means of great pride, arrogance, and mostly – great ignorance.

So how confident can we be to utter the saying that “all men are created equal?”  Very confident, because our basis of assurance on this matter is established from the authority of the One who made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…”

Those who wish to compel others to look at the world through the prism of skin color, rather than our shared humanity and individual character, only serve to increase the fear and resentment of racism in our nation and in the world.  And many of these individuals are actually undoing the best achievements of the civil rights movement by placing such a stilted emphasis on the color of one’s skin – as if this were the most significant aspect of the human experience – such an emphasis as this is nothing less than sin.  And such racialism cannot end apart from the transforming work of Christ through the power of the Gospel…

*Note: The original identity being Erechthonius, but a possible later descendent named Erechtheus became prominent within the overall mythology.  By the time that Paul preached in Athens, the Athenians made no distinction between the two names/identities.

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