While this short series was first published over a year ago, we believe it could not be more timely. As worldly, corrupting influences seep into the church, we trust that these vital truths will help God’s people calibrate their hearts, minds, and words according to Scripture. The following blog post was originally published on May 6, 2019. —ed.
Can white people be saved?
That’s a ludicrous question, or so you would think. Today it’s an actual point of debate and discussion in the church. It’s also the title of a new book from InterVarsity Press. That the book even exists—and that it was released by a once-respected Christian publishing house—is emblematic of an alarming and escalating trend within evangelicalism: Some professing believers are making skin color into a gospel issue.
For example, Kelly Brown Douglas, a dean at Union Theological Seminary, doesn’t hesitate to give an answer: “You can’t be white and follow Jesus.” Douglas doubled down on her staggering assertion by declaring: “Just because you look like a white American doesn’t mean you have to act like one. The first step on the road to recovery is to own one’s whiteness and realize how it keeps you from your true identity as a child of God.” That kind of biased rhetoric is now pervasive among social justicians.
Another prime example is pastor Thabiti Anyabwile, a council member with The Gospel Coalition. While Anyabwile doesn’t go to the anathematizing extremes of Douglas, he still has no qualms accusing generations of white people of guilt by melanin regarding the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “My white neighbors and Christian brethren can start by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering a man who only preached love and justice.”
Unlike biblical justice—the precepts of which apply equally and indiscriminately to every person (Leviticus 19:15)—social justice classifies people into groups and pits them against one another. This mindset has even infiltrated the church, where words like privilege, oppression, whiteness, and blackness have become commonplace in evangelical sermon vernacular.
Ethnic distinctions are now fostering a new and emerging class structure in the church, where those with the greatest claims to victimhood are afforded the loudest voice. Effectively, social justicians want to fight the prejudices of the past by enforcing their own inverted hierarchy of prejudice. The entire movement has foolishly committed to replicating the sins of ethnic bias that they so vehemently oppose. In effect, they’re attempting to fight partiality with more partiality.
In simple terms, partiality is the application of an unfair bias, and Scripture repeatedly warns God’s people against practicing such prejudice—particularly against one another. That kind of favoritism, based largely on social status, was one of the key issues James addressed in his epistle:
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? . . . If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:1–4, 8–9)
The great affront of partiality is that it is antithetical to God’s character, “For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). Impartiality is one of God’s fundamental attributes: “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17). Consequently, we are commanded to reflect God’s impartial character: “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (1 Peter 1:17).
For those reasons, the sin of partiality—on any basis—has no place among God’s people. Left unchecked, it becomes a cancer within the church, eating away at the unity and oneness Jesus desires for His people. Moreover, it assaults the glorious new reality brought about by Christ’s reconciling work on the cross:
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26–28)
Put simply, the line of demarcation between who is—and who isn’t—a child of God can never be established on the basis of social standing, gender, or ethnicity. As John MacArthur explains in his commentary on Galatians,
The person who becomes one with Christ also becomes one with every other believer. There are no distinctions among those who belong to Christ. In spiritual matters, there is to be made no racial, social, or sexual discrimination—“neither Jew nor Greek . . . slave nor free man . . . male nor female.”
It is not, of course, that among Christians there is no such thing as a Jew, Gentile, slave, free person, man, or woman. There are obvious racial, social, and sexual differences among people. Paul, however, was speaking of spiritual differences—differences in standing before the Lord, spiritual value, privilege, and worthiness. Consequently, prejudice based on race, social status, sex, or any other such superficial and temporary differences has no place in the fellowship of Christ’s church. All believers, without exception, are all one in Christ Jesus. All spiritual blessings, resources, and promises are equally given to all who believe unto salvation.  John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1983), 99–100.
The ethnic distinctions championed by the social justice warriors in and around the church today are the very antithesis of New Testament teaching on true Christian unity. Christ is zealous for the unity of His people. In His high priestly prayer, He petitioned His Father on our behalf that we would “all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21).
Rather than pondering whether white people can be saved, we should be marveling that anyone can be saved. It was only through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that the impenetrable barrier between a holy God and sinful men was removed.
How dare anyone who claims to be united to Christ attempt to rebuild it.
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