Having Bacon with Their Bible: Southern Christians and the “Race” Question

(system) #1
Are only white people descended from Adam & Eve?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/having-bacon-with-their-bible-southern-christians-and-the-race-question

(Dr. Ted Davis) #2

I hope you’re finding this mini-series as interesting as I am. Monte Hampton (@mhhamp) is available to respond to questions and comments.

My only comment is to point out that their belief in the biological unity of all human “races” did not prevent southern Presbyterians from owning slaves, or otherwise supporting the slave trade. I’ve often heard it said that “evolutionists” promoted racism, while “creationists” did not. That’s partly right–scientific racism based on evolution was rampant and virulent for about a century after Darwin published On the Origin of Species. Nevertheless, the Antebellum Christians who supported race-based slavery, which required the implicit or explicit assumption of racial inequality, were all creationists of some sort, to the best of my knowledge (if there were any exceptions, they were indeed exceptional).

When it comes to science, racism is one of those things that I call a VAT, a value-added thought. It’s not inherent either to creationism or to evolution; rather, it’s something that one brings to either view, seeking support from the science to bolster one’s prior commitment to it.

(Richard Mason Williams Jr ) #3

i thought the issue revolved around the sons of noah and the hametic verses condemning africans to serve their brothers more than it involved descent from adam&eve.

(Monte Hampton) #4

Certainly, some nineteenth-century American Christians justified their racism by appealing to the curse pronounced on the descendants of Ham and Canaan (Genesis 9: 20-27). Benjamin M. Palmer, a minister from New Orleans, was one Southern Presbyterian who appealed to this text. Many other Southern Presbyterians, however, appealed instead to a general divine providence (perhaps manifested in the cumulative effects of environmental differences impacting difference races historically) to justify the enslavement and then segregation of blacks. Either way, they affirmed both the propriety of slavery and the unity of all races in Adam and Eve. James Woodrow, for instance, in 1888 responded to an article in the New York Independent which had lambasted Southern Presbyterians for upholding slavery as a biblically approved institution and for attributing African-American enslavement to the curse of Ham. While Woodrow affirmed the former, he rejected the latter, exclaiming that it was “no Southern Presbyterian opinion at all.” (in Marion W. Woodrow, ed., Dr. James Woodrow as Seen by His Friends, Columbia, SC: R. L. Bryan, 1909), 591.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #5

Thanks, Mr. Hampton for sharing your work here.

It caught me by surprise (but not too much I guess) that pro-slavery people would feel committed to monogenism. On the surface, it would seem they would be eager to enlist polygenism as a further bolster to their institution. But if I understand your article correctly, that was mostly not the case. Very interesting.

(Monte Hampton) #6

Plenty of southerners welcomed polygenism because of its pro-slavery implications, but Southern Presbyterians vehemently maintained their monogenist convictions. This attests to their deep commitment to scripture, which they believed demanded acceptance of the unity of all human races in Adam and Eve. Also, some Southern Presbyterians expressed concern that giving up monogenism, a doctrine that the Bible so clearly affirmed, would amount to giving up biblical authority. And since they believed the Bible supported slavery, upholding the authority of the Bible actually meant strengthening the pillars upon which their “peculiar institution” (slavery) rested.

(system) #7

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