God’s provisions for racial reconciliation

May 12, 2014

In my first blog on racial reconciliation, I proposed a gospel-centered vision for racial reconciliation. I suggested that the historic fall of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden and sin are the fundamental reasons why racism exists and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution to the problem of racism. This sin entered God’s original, perfect creation through the disobedient act of humanity’s first parents, Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:17; 3:1-19). Their act of disobedience to God’s demand brought a universal curse on the entire creation. One aspect of this curse is enmity between humanity (Gen. 3:15; 11:1-9). Consequently, no natural means (neither governmental policies nor a movement as powerful as the Civil Rights movement) is capable of eradicating the problem of racism because racism is a theological and a spiritual problem (Eph. 2:1-10). In this blog, I propose that Jesus’ death and resurrection are God’s provisions for racial reconciliation. I will support this assertion by considering New Testament texts that present both Jesus’ death for all sins and for all nations and his resurrection from the dead as God’s provisions for all forms of racial hostility.

The universal power and problem of sin

In Romans 1:18-3:20, Paul offers a stinging indictment against Jews and Gentiles: Namely, both groups have sinned. They've failed to honor God to the degree that he demands, and are consequently guilty before him. Neither Jewish particularity nor Gentile ignorance will justify sinners in God’s law-court (Rom. 2:1-24). To the contrary, Paul asserts that neither group will be justified in God’s law-court by works of law because both groups fail to meet God’s standard of obedience and because both groups are in bondage to the law due to sin’s power (Rom. 2:1-3:20).

In Romans 5:12, Paul highlights the universal power of sin by emphasizing the root cause of it: Adam’s transgression. Paul asserts that Adam’s transgression introduced sin, physical death, and spiritual death into the world with the result that all sin. In the words of Romans 3:23, Adam’s transgression resulted in all people sinning and falling short of God’s glory. Paul develops the universal power and problem of sin even further when he describes sin as an evil tyrant that reigns over sinners (Rom. 6:12, 14) and when he argues that the universal power of sin increased when the law of Moses entered into history (Rom. 7:7-24).

According to Paul, the power of sin manifests itself in a variety of different ways. One way sin’s ugly face shows itself in the real world is by means of racism. This becomes apparent in Romans 14-15 by means of the presence of Jewish and Gentile divisions in the church. Interpreters disagree about the first century social setting that provoked Paul to write these words. In my view, Romans 14:1-15:13 reflects ethno-racial tensions between Jews and Gentiles. At a sociological level, these tensions probably arose in the Roman congregations due to the Gentile Christian minority becoming the majority in the Roman churches after the Roman emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2). Once Jewish Christians returned to Rome after Claudius’ edict expired, they likely found themselves to be the ethnic minority in the Roman churches, which were largely Jewish congregations prior to their expulsion.

In these verses, Paul’s comments suggest that ethno-racial tension due to some form of racism/ethno-centrism was alive and well in first century Christianity. For example, Paul uses ethno-racial language throughout these chapters. He refers to Jewish food restrictions (Rom. 14:2-3, 6, 15, 17, 20-21), the Jewish Messiah (Rom. 15:5-6, 8), Jewish circumcision (Rom 15:8) and he refers to Gentiles as recipients of God’s salvation in Jesus along with Jewish Christians (Rom. 15:9, 11, 12). The division between Jews and Gentiles in the Roman congregations becomes apparent from Paul’s exhortations to receive one another (Rom. 14:1; 15:7), not to judge one another (Rom. 14:13) and to bear the weaknesses of one another (Rom. 15:1). He more explicitly identifies the alienation between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:11) when he asserts that the latter had no ethnic connection to God’s promises of salvation to the Jewish people prior to their faith in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. Thus, sin firstly alienates people from God and secondly from one another. But God offered Jesus as the provision and the solution to the sin problem that produced a racism problem. The ethno-racial inclusive nature of God’s offering of Jesus for Jews and Gentiles is evident in Romans 3:29-30 when he asserts that God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Jesus Christ (see also Rom. 4:1-25).

God’s provision for racial reconciliation: Jesus’ substitutionary death and triumphant resurrection

After Paul argues that Jews and Gentiles are guilty before God and under his just condemnation due to their sin (Rom. 1:18-3:20), he then argues that God offered Jesus Christ to pay for their sins in order to justify them by faith and to incorporate them into the people of God (Rom. 3:21-4:25). In Romans 3:21-22 and in 3:24, Paul discusses God’s saving righteousness and justification. He asserts that God’s saving righteousness is revealed apart from the law by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-22). In Romans 3:22b-23, he expresses that God’s revelation of his righteousness is by faith because Jews and Gentiles have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God regardless of ethnic distinction. In Romans 3:24, Paul continues that all must be freely justified (declared to be in the right) by God’s grace through the redemption provided by Jesus’ death. To be justified by God’s grace in Romans 3:24 is a verbal way of referring to the revelation of God’s righteousness by faith in Romans 3:21-22. In Romans 4:6-8, Paul states that the reason God renders the verdict of not guilty upon those who have faith in Jesus Christ is because God reckoned/counted to Jesus’ account the sinners’ sins and he reckoned/counted to the sinners’ account Christ’s righteousness. This reckoning of sin to Christ’s account and this reckoning of righteousness to the sinners’ account exonerate sinners in God’s law-court. In Romans 3:28-30, Paul uses ethno-racial vocabulary in the context of justification. He asserts that God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles since he declares to be in the right both groups by faith and makes both groups his people by faith in Jesus Christ.

However, why does God accept both Jews and Gentiles by faith and why does he justify them by faith even though they are still sinners (Rom. 3:23; 5:8)? The answer is in Romans 3:25: God offered Jesus to be a substitutionary atonement for Jews and Gentiles so that he would propitiate his wrath due to their sins and so that he would forgive them of their sins by faith. Paul confirms this in Romans 4:7-8 and 4:25 when he affirms that God does not count the transgressions of the justified against the transgressors who have faith in Jesus (4:7-8) because he handed Jesus over in death as a substitute for their sins and raised him from the dead to achieve their justification (Rom. 4:24-25). The sufficiency of Jesus’ death for sinners is certain because God also raised him up from the dead for their justification. Consequently, the gospel of the crucified, resurrected, and glorified Lord and Christ freely offers to every tongue, tribe, people, and nation God’s solution for the problem of racism and his provision for racial reconciliation. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the one and true living God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the God of Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 3:21-29).

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24