Neither Jew nor Gentile: The Musings of a Modern Covenanter on Racial Reconciliation

By Barry York - Posted at Gentle Reformation:

[The] Covenanters mounted a witness against the sin of slavery unlike any other in both North and South. First, their antislavery ideals antedated even the Quaker abolitionist movement; Covenanters were some of the first people in Britain or America to take a public stand against the institution. Second, they created a unique biblical interpretation that did what neither abolitionists in the North nor pro-slavery Christians in the South were able to accomplish: they reconciled biblical literalism, with its clear sanction of slavery, and abolitionism…2

This past Friday I had the privilege of conversing with Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. In that short exchange, Dr. Duncan expressed similar sentiments to ones he later posted the next day on Facebook, which read in part: “Just as a little historical tip for those interested, no Presbyterian and/or Reformed denomination in America has a better record for taking a biblical stand on slavery and racism than the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. The Covenanters were right on this long before the rest of us caught on.” You can see the rest of his comments here.

His remarks sparked me to share the following article by Michael LeFebvre, Pastor of Christ Church in Brownsburg, Indiana, and Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary Board President. As you can see, Dr. LeFebvre recounts this history, not for the sake of any prideful boasting, but to encourage greater modern applications of the history where racial divides still exist. This article originally appeared in Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal, Spring 2017 (Vol. 3, Issue 2). Used by permission.



Several months ago, I was at a large Christian university. I was there for a conference, and a campus tour was offered during an afternoon break. On the tour, the guide pointed out the significant racial diversity of the student body. Indeed, there were students from many different ethnicities on that campus. But they were mostly huddled together in ethnically monotone groups.

Another conference participant on the tour noted that trend, and he later made a comment that stuck with me. But I need to explain one further detail about my fellow conferee before I relate his comment. This fellow conferee was an orthodox Jew. His remark reflected his view of the situation as it appeared through the lens of his Jewish theology. Viewing the ineffective effort, as he saw it, to integrate the races on that campus, my conversation partner simply observed that this was further indication God designed the races to live separately.

I share that anecdote1 because it illustrates one of the foundational controversies between a Christian and a Jewish view of ethnicity that goes all the way back to the conflicts between the New Testament Apostles and the Jewish rulers of that day. Racial integration was the first, social revolution which the Gospel brought to the New Testament world. And the New Testament presents interracial communion as one of the hallmarks of the redeemed in Christ.