This is the first part of a multi-part interview with Doug Logan, President of Grimké Seminary. (Next Post)
Joe Holland: You talk a lot about race—academically and personally. You and I have talked a lot about race in personal conversations. And what I love about you is that you always take the conversation back to the Bible and talk about racism from a biblical perspective. If you are going to offer advice to someone who is trying to come to grips with how to understand racism, how would you want to start that conversation? How would you like to frame that conversation?
Doug Logan: Well, I’m just an old preacher man. If I was going to start with a picture, it would be to encourage someone to view the topic from God’s perspective, from man in the garden at creation before the fall. The first two humans were made in the image of God, Adam and Eve. And I love that. Even after the fall in the garden, God’s intention that multiple nations would come from Adam and Eve wasn’t removed.1 God’s intended diversity, intended before sin entered creation, was not removed after the fall. And so, I would argue that a conversation about racism and ethnicity should begin with the concept of the imago Dei, the image of God, in man at creation with the intention that diverse nations would eventually come from Adam and Eve.
“My counsel to a Christian who wanted to think through or talk about racism: start with and argue from the Bible in light of the centrality of Jesus Christ.”—Doug Logan
Trying to describe what happened after the fall is a little more difficult, but we must stay rooted in the Bible. We can’t step out into the culture and use culture’s definitions. As a Bible-boy and a preacher, I’m always making the culture conform to Christ. I’m not conforming to the culture’s view. So, for me, God’s intention for the world to be filled with all nations was always the plan. There would be diversity but not division. But one of the products of the fall is division amid diversity. Adam and Eve were separated from God, they were separated from one another through sin. Satan’s temptation to Eve, and subsequently to Adam, was the temptation to gain supremacy contrary to the rule of God. It is from that root of evil, God-despising, self-exalting supremacy that other sins sprout, like classism, elitism, pride, and the desire for racial superiority. These are all the opposite of who Jesus is. So, racism is one of the symptoms of the fall, a symptom that must be dealt with through the promise we hear in the protoevangelium (Gen. 3:15). In that promise we learn that there is going to be a serpent slayer who’s going to come and make things right, healing the division between God and men and between men and men.
So, in light of that, when I look at racism, I see it as unaligned with the gospel of Jesus and unaligned with how God intends to restore biblical community as described in the New Testament. Ephesians talks about this multidimensional, multicolored picture of people reconciled to God and one another. The great commission talks about this. But the church in the New Testament isn’t diversity-centered. They aren’t united around the idea of diversity; they’re centered around the throne of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain. Paul says in Ephesians that God is using the church to bring about the manifold wisdom, the manifold picture of the revelation of what we’re looking for, a picture that was jacked up in the fall. So, when I consider how we should talk about racism, I look out at a couple of different pictures—the imago Dei in the garden, Paul’s description of the church in Ephesians—but one that I return to often is Paul’s confrontation of Peter, recorded in Galatians 2.
What is going on in this passage is more than racism, but I think we could use the term racism to describe it—Peter’s attempted supremacy over the Gentiles as a Jew—to describe the way that Peter puffed up, tried to swag out, and threw up full Jewish gang signs when he, just moments before, was listening to Jay-Z and eating bologna sandwiches with the Gentiles. Peter made a radical switch in how he acted based on religio-ethnic lines. When the circumcision party comes, he acts like he doesn’t know the Gentiles; he dismisses them. So, he sets himself apart as elite, he moves away from the family of God to puff himself up in something other than Christ against a whole people group. At that moment Paul does something brilliant. He doesn’t just call Peter a racist—not that he used that term—but he says, “Peter, what you’re doing is out of step with the gospel” (Gal. 2:14). And the thing he was doing that was out of step with the gospel pertained to people, it was a form of supremacy. The last thing I’ll say about that is that the only solution to supremacy or racism is the gospel. The gospel shows why racism is wrong. Period.
The gospel shows that the only answer to racism is justice—biblical justice. Yet in too many conversations, Joe, we’re advocating for anti-racism when we should be advocating for gospel justice. There is a big difference between anti-racism and biblical justice. Too often we’re calling a plumber for an electrical problem. We have to deal with the problem of racism from a biblical perspective.
Joe Holland: So, you mean that God’s prelapsarian design for humanity included diversity. It was sin that created division which led to a battle for racial supremacy. And that created the animosity between different ethnicities, an animosity that is being reconciled through Christ as a result of the gospel.
Doug Logan: Exactly. And so that would be my counsel to a Christian who wanted to think through or talk about racism: start with and argue from the Bible in light of the centrality of Jesus Christ.
- The diversity God intended come from the line of Adam and Eve can be discerned from various statements in the Bible, including Gen. 12:3; 17:6; Acts 17:26; Rev. 5:9. ↩︎