Greetings from the Elders

The Death of George Floyd

Dear brothers and sisters,

When a society rejects God, it does not entirely reject morality. We are moral creatures, made to have a conscience, and we cannot deny ourselves. This has been obvious in the international outrage following the merciless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, an event that no reasonable person could fail to condemn.

Racism is abominable and has no warrant in Christianity; search as you will, you cannot find any scriptural advocacy of treating those of a different appearance with anything other than the dignity due to someone created in God’s image, however tarnished that image has become through sin.

Ironically, you will find grounds for racism in a central plank of the secular worldview held by many anti-racism protesters. Richard Dawkins famously wrote that Darwinism made it possible to become an intellectually-fulfilled atheist. It also provided an intellectual justification for racism. Certainly prejudice existed before the publication of the Origin of Species, but Darwin, with his theory of amoral survival of the fittest leading to the triumph of increasingly sophisticated forms of life, gave it a surer scientific footing in the eyes of many. Darwin himself anticipated a time in the future when the white Europeans would, as a necessary consequence of his theory, exterminate what he called “the savage races.”

The practical application of Darwinism by the Nazis, who believed they were doing good in assisting natural selection, led most people to recoil from its harshness and today you will find very few who would agree with Darwin’s racial vision. So why the detour into Darwinism when I began writing about morality?

The answer is that without God even our morality destroys us. The Darwinist Nazis served their abhorrent worldview with the approval of their consciences. And detached from our intellect and lacking any sure foundation, our moral sense can become just another expression of our own feelings. We use it to judge others, not ourselves, leading to division and hatred – as we’ve seen in the fallout from the George Floyd killing.

So how does reconciliation begin? It must start with the core problem, which is not racism but our alienation from God, the one who gave us our conscience in the first place. In Ephesians 2, Paul, a Jew writing to Gentile believers, reminds them that they had previously been marginalised outsiders: “Remember that…you were separated from Christ and excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners in the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Ordinarily, this was a situation which should have given rise to animosity and resentment; humanly speaking, it was as intractable as today’s racial divisions appear to be.

But the problem had no ordinary solution. God, sending his son to die for the sins of Jews and Gentiles at Golgotha, reconciled both to himself and consequently to each other. Differences remained of course but all participated together in the organic unity of the Body of Christ:

“His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which he put to death their hostility”.

(Eph. 2:15,16)

Let’s be thankful to God that we are not moralists, seeking to save ourselves and our society through our own efforts but doomed ultimately to self-righteousness and resentment. No, God has healed our divisions, first with himself and then with each other so that we can rejoice together in him as new men and women, being built up together – with all our differences – as his dwelling place. (Eph.2:22)

Mark McCormick (for the elders)