Thursday, 29 June 2017

Some Christians Used the Bible to Support Apartheid

I first heard the “biblical” case for Apartheid at Moore College, Sydney, in the mid 1960’s from the lips of Broughton Knox, the principal, and Donald Robinson, the vice-principal. Twice while I was in college, Stephen Bradley, the bishop of the breakaway Church of England in South Africa, spoke to us students in support of Apartheid at the invitation of Dr. Knox.

The “biblical” case for Apartheid is as follows:

1. The world is predicated on a number of unchanging creation “orders” (i.e. God-given hierarchies, institutions, structures, and relationships), namely, the family, male leadership, the state, work, and race.

2.The Bible teaches that God has created different races. The story of Babel tells us that the separation of people into different races with different languages is God’s will. In Acts 2:5-11, Rev 5:9; 7:9; 14:6; and other passages, the Bible clearly states that God recognizes that people are divided and identified by race. For the Apartheid theologians, difference between races trumped any similarities.

3. Acts 17:26 was possibly the most important text for Apartheid theologians. “From our one ancestor God made all nations (Greek ethnoi) to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the time of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live.” This text was interpreted to mean that God had divided all the people of the world into different nations or races and allocated a region for each. They saw this as unambiguous endorsement of the policy of separating the different races of South Africa and allotting an area to each. Acts 17:26 was to them what 1 Tim 2:11-14 is for complementarians. This one text settled the matter. Those who accepted what it said were obeying God, and those who did not, were opposing God.

4. The government has the right to create laws and citizens must obey them (Rom 13:1-7).

5. No possible rational or moral objection can be made to the idea of different races each having their own geographical area to develop separately at their own pace. (Note the euphemistic language also common in complementarian theology. You would never guess from these words that Apartheid theology gave precedence to whites.)

This theology was backed by virtually every Reformed theologian in South Africa. The unambiguous and overwhelming support of Apartheid by the Reformed churches justified and legitimated the system. One of their most respected theologians, F. Potgeiter, summed up what was believed:

“It is quite clear that no one can ever be a proponent of integration on the basis of the scriptures. It would be in a direct contradiction of the revealed will of God to plead for a commonality between whites, coloured, and Blacks.”

Similarly, an official statement of the Reformed church stated, “The principle of apartheid between races and peoples, also separate missions and churches, is well supported by scripture.” [Source]

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