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3.19 Acts -- He Made from One

  One verse in Paul's speech to the Athenians rings through the ages:

           "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth..." (Acts 17:26)

          This is elsewhere translated as:

          "And hath made of one blood all nations of men" (KJV)

          "And He made from one [common origin, one source, one blood] all nations of men" (Amplified)
          "And he made from one every nation of men" (RSV)


The RSV and Amplified are correct, because the original text does not specify one "what."   The sense of the verse, however, is to point to the unity of mankind, in creation and in nature.  Different races do not spring from different ancestors.  If they did, the entire Old Testament story of redemption would not make sense -- only Adam and Eve and their descendants reaped the curse of death and expulsion from Eden.  Only this race needs redemption from the curse, from death, and from sin.  Other "humans" alive at that time (some Neanderthals?) would not have provoked God's anger and received His judgment, and would still be alive on the earth today.


One would think that this verse would deal a death blow to racism, particularly in a Christian civilization.  But man is ingenious, and thinks up many ways to get around the plain teaching of Scripture.   Here is one example:

           "We are two separate and distinct races. We learn from the scriptures (Acts, xvii, 26), that originally we were all of one blood, and that all the nations on the face of the earth descended from a common ancestry. But this was a long time ago, and since then vast changes have taken place. The origin of the diversity of races is lost in the depths of antiquity; but our inability to account for this diversity is no reason why we should not accept the fact. It is true that the creation of God made us one, but it is also true that the providence of God has made us two; and what God has put asunder let not man join together. As God has made two races of us, there ought to be two; he would not have made two if one had sufficed. If infinite wisdom has thus decided on plurality, it is our highest wisdom to acquiesce in it. If God himself has drawn the color line, it is vain as well as wicked for us to try to efface it. The real well-being of each race, and of the human family at large, is best promoted only when each race preserves its integrity, and keeps itself free from admixture with any other. God's plan is the best plan, and His assorting of the races is the wisest, and any attempt to interfere with His purposes must be as disastrous in its results as it was wicked in its inception. Unfortunately, all this has, in many cases, been lost sight of, and an unnatural hybridism is the result. But the sooner the Caucasian blood which has intermingled with yours is so absorbed as to be lost sight of, the better it will be for your welfare, no less than for your honor.  It is evidently the Divine intention that like should consort with like; hence, as we find ourselves providentially divided into two races, let us so remain, keeping separate in all our social relations, living peaceably side by side, and each maintaining its self-respect by maintaining its own individuality."  History of the First African Baptist Church, by Emmanuel Love, 1888 (Google ebooks).


This writer is addressing the Negro race. He opposes slavery, and admits to a common origin between white and black.  However, it is "the providence of God" that has separated the races, and "what God has put asunder let not man join together"  -- a play on the marriage ceremony. God Himself "has drawn the color line," so any measure of racial inter-mingling "must be as disastrous in its results as it was wicked in its inception."  This is how Scripture is so easily accommodated to prejudice and inequality.  But it is nonsense: if we are to "keep separate in all our social relations," then that means separate political boundaries as well -- does he want to partition the United States along racial lines?  And why did God only mandate two divisions?  If "each race preserves its integrity," then by all means make sure there is no intermarriage between Greeks and Swedes, Spaniards and French, Germans and English, and all the other subcategories of the white race.  The writer has an easy conscience that makes him immune to issues of social injustice, and he ascribes his laziness and hardheartedness to the will of God.  


A second example is from the camp of the early evolutionists.  One would think that those who rejected the Genesis account of creation might have a more egalitarian attitude on racial issues.

           "The following facts should be noted and admitted: First, the negro race as a race is inferior to the white race. This idea is not due to Southern prejudice against the negro (the writer is a Virginian), but it is based on most unquestionable facts—facts of history and facts of science...Now, this contention that the negro is naturally inferior to the white man ought not to offend the former, since it is not prompted by Caucasian conceit but proved by facts, and since we are both derived from the lower animal. The white man has merely got a little farther away from his ancestral home than his black brother has, but they sprang from one stock. The writer agrees with Huxley, Tylor and other physiologists that there is no reason to believe that mankind sprang originally from more than one pair. Nevertheless, there are remarkable varieties of man as there are varieties of other animals....By reason of negro inferiority, the amalgamation of the blacks and the whites must be condemned, because it would injure both races."  (Topics of the Times,Howard MacQueary, 1891 (Google ebooks).


In this latest case, there is no argument about God's providence, or descent from Adam.  Instead, we have the purported "facts" of history and science to prove that blacks are inferior.  Both races are deemed to have one origin, but the white man has evolved further from the "lower animal."  Mankind itself is just another form of animal.

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