Paul said, “From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.” He saw other people as present or potential members of the “new creation”: “The old has passed away and the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:16–17). The new creation, wrote John, is made up of people “from every nation (ethnous), tribe, people, and language” (Rev. 7:9). Nations (ta ethnē) in the New Testament world were often multiracial, like the United States, but typically united by a common culture. The early church recognized that culture was rooted not in skin color but in religious cultus.
When Paul said that “in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28), he was talking about how Christ brings unity based on religion, not race—for both Greeks and Jews came in various colors. He knew that skin color is skin deep.
For the apostles, the only two “races” were those of the old creation and the new creation. This explains the King James translation of Acts 17:26, in which Paul describes the unity of the human race in creation: God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” All men share the same blood. Ironically, Critical Race Theory teaches something similar: that races as we conceive them are not rooted in biology or anthropology, but are socially constructed.
But the apostles went much further, teaching that the work of Jesus does not destroy the old creation unity of the one human race but redeems it and brings it to its God-given destiny by the power of the Spirit. Grace perfects nature through the preaching and sacraments of the Church: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” and our unity in creation is “transformed into the image [of Christ] from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 5:17; 4:18).
Unfortunately, in their laudable and urgently needed efforts at racial reconciliation, many church leaders are using old creation perspectives that divide people by skin color. Moreover, they are employing secular methods that have been tried before and failed. In the 1970s, liberal Protestant denominations began trying to “diversify” clergy and congregations by using quotas and teachings about systemic racism. Millions of their members felt they were being forced to confess the sins of past generations as their own. They wondered why they should keep going to church when they could get the same thing at NPR. They wearied of being suspected of racism and sexism whenever they whispered that the gospel was being displaced by leftist politics. Eventually, they voted with their feet. There are other reasons for the decline of mainline Protestantism, but this is one of the reasons it is dying.
… As [Derryck] Green and others have noted, the new anti-racism has become a new religion with its own original sin (white racism), baptismal liturgy (confession of whiteness), and new birth (to wokeness). But there is no redemption, and its ethic encourages people to practice what Jesus condemned, “Do not judge, lest you too be judged” (John 7:1). It imputes motives to others based on skin color—bad motives to one skin color and good motives to other colors. This is racism by another name. It is also sinful judgment. Read more»
Gerald McDermott, “Race and Redemption,” First Things 11 June, 2020.