"From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race", (Apollos / InterVarsity Press, Leicester / Downers Grove, 2003) by J. Daniel Hays

In his ‘preface’ to this book, the fourteenth contribution to the series, ‘New Studies in Biblical Theology’, the Series Editor, D A Carson, describes the series – ‘In God’s universe, mind and heart should not be divorced: in this series we will try not to separate what God has joined together’ (9) – and commends this book – ‘This book deserves the widest circulation and the most thoughtful reading, for it corrects erroneous scholarship while calling Christians to reform sinful attitudes’ (10).
This is a book of the heart. The author, who served as a missionary in Ethiopia from 1982 to 1987 (11-12), writes with a passion. This is immediately evident from the first two pages of his ‘Introduction’ (17-18). He begins by describing ‘a conversation with … a Black professor and pastor’. The author described ‘the race problem’ as ‘an important issue for the Church today’. His friend ‘quickly corrected’ him ‘by stating emphatically that it is the most important issue for the Church today’ (17). Citing Emerson and Smith’s 2000 study, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, he notes their statistics – ‘there is a tremendous disparity between the way White evangelicals view the problem and the way that Black evangelicals view the problem … two-thirds of White Christians believe that the situation for Blacks is improving, while two-thirds of Black Christians believe that the situation for Blacks is deteriorating’ – , their analysis – ‘Whites tend to see the race problem in individual terms (how does one person feel about another person of a different race?) … Blacks usually see the problem as extending beyond the individual to societal structures, a much more complicated situation’ – , and their proposal – ‘limited success in dealing with the race problem in the Evangelical Church will occur unless Evangelicals engage with the societal structural problem as well as with the individual attitude problem’. When Hays quotes their powerfully challenging words – ‘Is the situation hopeless? If white evangelicals continue to travel the same road they have travelled thus far, the future does indeed look bleak’, the reader may expect that this is going to be a highly emotionally-charged book. This would be a mistaken first impression. While the author’s commitment to the cause of ‘racial reconciliation’ (11) is abundantly clear throughout the book, this is much more than an emotional appeal.
This is a book of the mind. Its scholarly character may by highlighted by observing the length of its extensive Bibliography (pp.207-230). Even the list of ‘Abbreviations’ runs to over two pages (14-16). Since this book is such heavy reading, the reader will appreciate that in each of the major chapters – five on the Old Testament (chapters 2-6) and three on the New Testament (chapters 7-9), the author provides us with a final section entitled ‘Conclusions’. The final chapter presents the book’s ‘theological conclusions’ and ‘appropriate applications’. In this excellent summary, the author shows himself to be a man of courage, e.g. ‘Racial intermarriage is sanctioned by Scripture … this conclusion … is the most difficult for some White readers to come to grips with … it is critical that we proclaim clearly and without ambiguity that the Scriptures approve of interracial marriages between believers … White Christians in the United States will make little progress toward racial reconciliation if they continue to deny this biblical truth’ (203-204). He is able to speak with the kind of conviction because he has put the time and effort into ensuring that his argument is well grounded in a painstakingly careful study of the Word of God.
In his ‘Final thoughts’, the author gives, in a single sentence, a most helpful summary of this book which has plenty of information and a good deal of inspiration:  ‘an exegetical and an emotional appeal to the White Christians in the United States to embrace a theology and a practice of racial equality and unity that is based on Scripture’ (206). The book’s value will be enhanced by its three indices – ‘modern authors’ (231-235), ‘Scripture references’ (236-239) and ‘ancient sources’ (240). Although the author had the situation in the United States firmly in view when writing the book, we, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world, should be most grateful for this work which is immensely impressive in both its competence and its courage.   

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