An interesting comment this afternoon on a blog piece I posted over a year ago. Back in November 2007 I wrote about "The BNP does Apartheid" and in that piece showed how the Constitution on the website of the Christian Council of Britain (a BNP front organisation – Rob West, the Moderator of the CCoB is an active BNP candidate) is simply a restatement of the theology of Apartheid and the Deustche Christen of the 1930s.
This is what Rob West wrote on my blog this afternoon:
I did not know that we in the CCoB had the backing of such a great theologian who is very highly respected in many circles. If you examine the CCoB line on the gift of race and nation, carefully, you will see that we in fact rejoice in all nations which are to continue into eternity, it seems – at least according to the apostle John in Revelation. I think that there should be more debate between persons of differing or opposing views on this subject; and perhaps it should be conducted in a politer and less emotive way to generate more light rather than heat.
We will be producing more material to show that Nations are a sound theological concept and that it is God’s will for them to continue; and we hope that you will review our propositions without giving way to lowering the level of debate to mere personal vituperation.
Revd RMB West, Moderator CCoB.
I’m not sure where the phrase "without giving way to lowering the level of debate to mere personal vituperation" has come from – anybody reading my original post will see that my approach on this subject has always been to discuss the theology, not simply to lambast on the grounds that something is "right-wing". Indeed, I’m on record here defending some political parties in Austria who the British Press label as "neo-nazi" but who are anything but.
The "great theologian" West refers to in his comment is of course Kuyper, who was one of the leading proponents of what is now referred to as Sphere Sovereignty. Simply put, this theology argues that everything in creation has been ordained by God, that all things have authority within their own sphere of society, and that one sphere does not have authority in another. As I wrote back in 2007, this idea was taken by the Boer theologians of the early 20th Century and developed into a theology of apartheid.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, theologians who had studied under Kuyper in the Netherlands went back home and combined this new theology of separate identity with Boer nationalism. The result was a potent mix of misapplied Scripture and a 100 years of struggle for Afrikaner survival. Not only was a separate Boer nation a political ideal – it was now an issue of holiness. To mix with other races and nations would be to disobey God. That was why the Boers had lost to the British in two long and bloody wars. It was their free mixing with the blacks who had come into the land they had colonised (to do the farmwork and labouring) that had led to God’s disfavour. The remedy? Separate living, a way of being apart from the other nations and races who lived in the south of Africa. Indeed, since the whites were the favoured nation of God, bringing the Gospel of redemption to the pagan blacks, it was absolutely necessary to maintain the distinctiveness of the white nation and race, for without it they could not do the vast missionary work that God has called them to.
And so Apartheid was born.
Of course, however well intentioned this may have been, Apartheid was implemented racistly from the start and had racist assumptions within it. Despite talk of “separate but equal development” and “Homelands”, in reality the white, Boer dominated, government ran South Africa less as an exercise in developing all the nations and races within its borders and more as a private hegemony to benefit the chosen Covenant people of God.
Ultimately since apartheid is a theological issue, so it must be tackled theologically. At the time I wrote this conclusion to my original blog post:
So while it is true that God has created nations and races to glorify him, the theology of Kuyper misses the point that it is the very being together of the nations and races in ekklesia which brings glory to God. Christ saves from every tongue and people and makes them one body in order to display his glory. He is eternally in relationship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so he creates us in relationship to speak of that.
One example to illustrate this point. Under Kuyperian theology each of the races and nations meets on its own to worship God. When bread is broken and wine is drunk, it is done in separate genetic groups. However, the catholic church has recognised for 2000 years that the Eucharist is a celebration of our togetherness not only with Christ but with all other Christians, and not just those Christians today but all down the ages. We share one loaf and one cup, not just metaphorically but actually. It is an offence to God and to what he has done in creating a multiplicity of nations and races to then exclude some people from Communion on the basis of their genes or national flag. The only Scriptural grounds for withholding the Eucharist is gross sin.
In Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew or Greek, slave or free. All who are in Christ are God’s sons and, far more importantly, all are Abraham’s seed (Gal 3:26-29). While God may have in the past used a specific nation and genetic group to do his specific purposes (and to receive his grace and favour), the coming of Christ destroys that racial boundary. All Christians are inheritors of Abraham – they are all his seed, destroying temporary notions of racial superiority. To even attempt to distinguish between them in the ecclesiastical dimension is to deny what God has done for us.
This then is the issue – not that God has ordained nations and races to populate the earth and to stand before him in that diversity in the presence of his throne, but rather whether such diversity is to be actively protected and maintained by national authorities. It appears to me that where Rob West is headed is in the direction that the Boer theologians took, that there was a divine mandate to maintain the separation of the races and nations. This seems to me to be a fundamental destruction of catholicity and the very meaning of the word "church" – gathering.
So I welcome Rob West’s comment and I look forward to him putting some more flesh on the bones of the constitution on the CCoB website. Let’s talk theology and let’s not hide behind defences of "you’re just being vituperific". I for one happen to think that the Boer (and Deutsche Christen) extension of Sphere Sovereignty is deeply unbiblical and therefore ungodly and I don’t, at present, see anything on the CCoB website or in their connections that convinces me that that is not the theology that West intends us to understand from the constitution of the CCoB.
In particular I look forward to a clear articulation as to whether the Kuyperian theology he holds to necessitates any separation of the nations or races. In fact, I think Rob West could happily settle that question fairly easily, and the lack of any response in this area might be understood to betray where his theology has taken him.