Are the BNP about to give us some proper Theology?
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.
I have come across your website again and your likening of my theology to that of Abraham Kuyper; but I am afraid that I have not read any of Kuyper.
Do you recall Dr Eck at the Leipzig debate with Dr Martin Luther and how Dr Eck accussed Luther of the Hussite "heresy", as though Luther had been reading Huss. Well Luther had not been reading Huss; Dr Luther had just gotten his doctrines from the same place that Huss had: the Bible! It is exactly the same with me. My holy doctrines come from holy writ and that is why I stand against the world, and the worldly church, which in its 'wisdom' does not know God and in some places has become an anti-church.
God has divided mankind into nations, each into their countries – not micro-homelands in an Apartheid South Africa. I am far from commending the multi-national state or polyglot, whether Apartheid or otherwise. My model would be Medinat Israel, not South Africa. The primary task of the State of Israel is to preserve and promote its Jewish nationality – a national home for the Jews, as the Balfour Declaration put it in 1917. That is the kind of thing that God has ordained and nothing can come against it and prosper. You must be aware of that from the Old Testament.
What I am commending to you from the pages of holy writ, no less, are nations and national states, not polyglots. That is a political theory that is in the Bible, not least in its concept of the chosen nation and of the heathen nations too, as they then were.
As for our ecclesiology and soteriology we know that the streams of grace are now become a river which is to bring the kingdom of God to all nations in their countries in all quarters of the world.
There is nothing there, however, about bringing all the nations of the world into our country so that we, or anyone else by the precedent set, should become the dispossessed of the Earth. The bringing of salvation is not to presage territorial dispossession or identity dissolution. To do that is to pit one part of the Word of God against another. (see article XX of the Church of England).
I think you should read some Kuyper and then some Dooyeweerd and Stoker. You will then see that what you are arguing for is essentially identical to the Apartheid theology of 1930s South Africa.
I am not arguing for a polyglot state, such as South Africa was, where you had many nations mingling together during work hours and then returning to their dormitory zones in one country at the evening and the weekend. Such a polyglot is something that the Lord did not ordain in Genesis 10, precisely the opposite! He dispersed the nations into their separate countries, not concentrate them in one.
I cannot comment on Kuyper: have we misread scripture, perhaps?
Scripture does not teach Apartheid in a polyglot situation; rather it teaches the avoidance of it! And that is something that the Boer theologians surely got wrong; and it is not something that we in the Christian Council of Britain are advocating. As I said earlier our model would be the national State of Israel, not any multi-national State be it South Africa, Austria-Hungary, or the Soviet Union.
Let me say it again Rob. Go and read some Kuyper and then some Dooyeweerd and Stoker. Then get back to us and explain how what you are proposing is different to the classical Apartheid theologians. I think you'll find you have far more in common then you think.
I totally agree with you, Peter! And, living in South Africa as I do, I am well aware of the racist abuse caused by this type of theology, which used a false, but supposedly 'biblical', essentialism of nationality and race to justify the oppression of black people under apartheid. Just google 'Apartheid Theology' and browse to your heart's content.
This type of theology also massively flies in the face of the New Testament, where the Holy Spirit breaks down barriers all over the place between races, nationalities, cultures and just about every other supposedly essential human characteristic. And the Old Testament, where Jesus' own lineage is mixed race and where God (temporarily) afflicts Miriam with leprosy in Numbers 12 when she and Aaron complain about Moses' black wife.
Rev. West you may express your points politely and in a well phrased manner. But I'm afraid that the theology behind your views is very ugly indeed, has a very well documented and infamous history, and has been responsible for immense worldwide suffering.
And as someone who is married to an African wife, I find your views deeply offensive. I can only suggest that you read your Bible more closely and ask the Lord to show you its truth.
I appreciate your comments and the strength of your feeling but the Bible does not teach, and neither do we, the oppression of any group.
What it does teach, very clearly – in Genesis 10, 11, Psalms 86: 9 – is that God has made the nations from one source/blood, Acts 17: 25, 26, and has separated them into their countries; to which the gospel is now to be sent.
The fact that "nationism" can be abused is no case against it, anymore than the fact that the law of God can be abused. Has it then become sin? Certainly not, says Paul. God has made a lot of things that man can abuse and misuse, such as, the two sexes and sex itself. But does that mean that what God has made is wrong? Certainly not.
It was He who made man male and female and has made us all into nations!
Of course, I wish you well in your private life but everyone has an entitlement to their views, and the peaceable expression of them. And our corporate public life is more, surely, than just the sum total of our private lives. The Bible does have a very definite nationistic political theory, not least in the doctrine of Israel and the chosen nation; and we must give its political theory due weight and proportion or suffer the consequences. There is a reason why God has done these things and it is our part not to complain about them but to comply with them, wherever we can.
With sincere regards. +
But nation is non-equivalent to race, and this is the HUGE stumbling block in your argument. For example, the nation of Babylon at it's height was a polyglot state of numerous races and people identities. This nation had its boundaries, quite rightly as you state, set by God, but within those boundaries it was arguably the first true multi-cultural nation. With boundaries set by God. God set the boundaries of a multi-cultural nation.
So, you need to demonstrate very clearly that the Scriptures teach racial separation, not simply separation of nations, before you can argue that races should be separate.
I think that the main problem with reading the theologians you suggest is that it takes us no further. May I point out, once again, Eck's point to Luther about Huss. We need a canonical authority as our guide rather than what others, however great, may have said; and it is only in the canonical scriptures that we get that word of prophecy made more sure. What they, the scriptures, teach is nations in their own countries, not an apartheid polyglot, for example, whether in South Africa or Austria-Hungary. That is precisely what we are not recommending. There is a big difference between a nation in its own country and a polyglot of nations "…sleepwalking into apartheid…" which is what the polyglot of Trevor Philips almost inevitably leads to.
But you haven't read them have you? You haven't even attempted to understand the Afrikaans settlement and thereby engage seriously with your allegation of the incorrect understanding of the polyglot nation. Did the Afrikaans theologians understand what they were doing in South Africa as polyglot? Can you even articulate accurately what they believed they were doing? I can – can you?
And the idea of pure racial separation is ridiculous! What about international trade? What about the sharing of intellectual ideas? Your notion of national separation is an economic and intellectual cul-de-sac in the strictest sense.
I'm posting a separate comment here to stop the narrowing that comes with further replies. It is however a response to both of Rev West's comments of 23 June as well as a follow on to Peter's comment. To start by saying the obvious – this topic is close to my heart because I am both living in South Africa and married to a black wife …
Peter goes right to the heart with his point that nation does not equal race and has never done so throughout history, including the days of the Bible. God's separation of people into nations after the Tower of Babel never directly entailed a separation into races. Peter's illustration of the ancient nation of Babylon is very relevant in this regard.
And, Rev West, if you believe in this theory so strongly you need to respond to my counter-illustrations in my earlier point of sanctified cross-racial relationships in the Old Testament, including in the blood-line of Jesus, and the radical non-racialism of the New Testament, where the Holy Spirit, from Acts 2 onwards, is almost continually breaking down racial barriers to form a community of new Christian believers from all racial and cultural backgrounds – the examples are far too numerous to cite in a single post.
The idea that South Africa under apartheid was a polyglot state is unsupportable. Under apartheid Africans had their South African nationality taken from them and they were given 'nationality' in the Bantustans, supposedly independent or self-governing states within South Africa. The old boundaries of two of them, Transkei and Ciskei, started a few kilometres from where I live and, as a development economist, I am very familiar with the system of government, politics and racial separation that the Bantustans entailed.
The apartheid racial nationalists, supported by the Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), were very clear that apartheid was strict racial separation and the evidence of their policies, speeches and sermons is voluminous if you choose to look. From even before formal apartheid, Africans required passes to be in certain 'white' areas and this was rapidly strengthened once legal apartheid began. With the creation of the Bantustans, Africans needed both passes and their Bantustan identity documents to be in South Africa and were deported, in their millions, if they did not have them. The creation of the Bantustans led to the infamous policy of forced removals from the 'black spots', isolated areas of land within 'white' South Africa where Africans historically lived, often on legal title to land. Between 1960 and 1983, 3.1 million people (official figure, which is generally reckoned to be a gross under-estimate) were forcibly removed from the 'black spots' to the Bantustans with all the brutality that this entailed.
The vast majority of white South Africans, including Christians, were so deceived that they genuinely believed that this policy was both humane and God ordained. They were very clear that separation into 'independent nations' was intended to produce separation of the races. Of course this policy was unworkable, both due to the gross oppression that it entailed and the massive demand for black labour in South Africa in industry, mines and farms.
To turn to what you state that you believe, a small fringe group of Afrikaners continue to believe that apartheid was humane and failed because South Africa continued to rely on black labour. They have established a small community, Orania, in the Northern Cape (see http://www.orania.co.za/english/) that is attempting to establish a community and economy dependent entirely on white labour, as a first step to establishing an independent 'BoerStaat'. It is a community largely of aging old-guard Afrikaners that is slowly falling in numbers and in serious economic decline. Is this the sort of policy for which are arguing, Rev West?
And finally, let's cut to the chase and the age-old issue that usually identifies the real racists! As a Christian, Rev. West, do you believe that my marriage to an African woman is a sin?
Spot on. Rob West's refusal to engage with the theological reality of Apartheid is because it is in fact identical to what he is proposing.
Peter: Now, now, you are definitely begging the question. As far as I can see I am not recommending Apartheid but you will have to allow me, in due time, to give my analysis; except to say, at this juncture, that we seem to be talking passed one another to a great extent, invariably due to a misunderstanding of terms. I see this happening a lot in debate over all kinds of issues but when I get a spare moment I will definitely come back to you.
Be my guest Rob. From my perspective you are denying that you teach Apartheid whilst simultaneously promulgating the exact same division of races that occurred under South African Apartheid. Your lack of knowledge of the Apartheid theologians is perhaps the reason why you don't realise just how close to them you actually are.
Do you feel like giving me an answer to the question at the end of my post this morning? I'm genuinely interested!
Thank you for your question. You will appreciate that I am busy with a lot of things and that I cannot answer everything at once, and I usually have to take some time thinking about it first.
But in answer to your question along the lines of "…is it a sin for a European to wed an African…" the answer has to be a clear "no"; and neither is the resulting relationship/wedlock a sin or void or voidable.
If you are both Christians, and have wedded for the right reasons, and are fulfilling, each to other, the role that God has ordained; then you should rejoice in one another, and in the time that God has given you each, to fufil His will in you for your lives together. "He came unto His own but His own recieved Him not; but as many as did receive Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God" (John 1: 11,12). Our Lord knew something of rejection from His own, and that must have been so painful; but their rejection was the enriching of the world (Roms 11:15). The black Africans I know have usually been very great in faith.
I wish you well in your private life. It is right that we should pray for one another in our personal relationships, and private situations; as well as for statesmen who have to take a stand on more corporate issues.
With sincere best wishes.
Thank you for the clarity of that reply. I trust that you will be equally clear and consistent in this view with members of the BNP and the CCoB within your circle.
I most certainly will, if it is raised by anyone in either the British National Party or the Christian Council of Britain, or my own fellowship.
This question has been raised by others on previous occassions, however, and the consistent answer from myself, as Moderator of the CCoB, and as the current religious affairs spokesman for the British National Party, has always been – to the press and to the radio (radio 4, radio Ulster and so on) or TV – the same: inter-racial wedlock is not, in and of itself, a sin and anyone's inter-racial marriage is, therefore, fully and formally valid.
You have cited some precedents of this from the life, I think, of Moses, one of the greatest Jewish nationalists. I think that some of our own BNP members have wedded foreigners.
There are some Old Testament passages that forbid inter-wedlock with foreigners but these are really about keeping within the religious covenant and in that latter respect only, are repeated in the New Covenant (1 Cor 7: 39).
With sincere Christian regards.