In the second installment of my critique, I will be looking again at David Opperman’s essay, “A Biblical Defense of Ethno-Nationalism” which can be found here:
This post will address subsection, “The Purpose of National Distinctions.”
More on Babel
Opperman goes back to the Babel narrative in this section saying, “The first observation that we must make is that national distinction based upon heredity already existed at the time of Babel.” I’m not sure why Opperman insists that any national distinctions existed because according to his own definition there was only one nation. According to Opperman’s definition of a nation, nations are, “…based on common ancestry, language, culture, religion, and social customs.” Yet, there was only one nation at Babel, and there was only one nation between Noah and Babel.
Here’s why. Genesis 11 begins with a strong statement of unity. “Now the whole earth had one language and a common speech.” This makes sense coming after Noah. Noah spoke a language that he passed on to his descendants. That one language existed for five generations, from Noah to Peleg. In Genesis 10:21-31, we read about the descendants of Shem. Four generations after Shem, Peleg was born. As Opperman rightly notes, it was during the time of Peleg that the earth was divided. So, Babel was contemporary with the life of Peleg, at a time when all the people of the earth spoke one language, were the descendants of one person (Noah), and given that they were all in one geographic region, we can imagine that they all shared culture, religion, and social customs. Hence, between Noah and Babel, there existed only one nation. Opperman’s assertion that national distinctions already existed based on heredity is plainly false. The existence of family trees that continue as nations after Babel does not prove the existence of distinct nations before Babel.
So, what happened at Babel? Humanity had not learned the lesson of the flood: obey the LORD! The LORD told humanity to fill the earth, to be fruitful and multiply, but humanity stubbornly stayed together in one geographic region as one people leaving the earth without human stewards. What one people were they? They were the descendants of Noah. Miscegenation wasn’t the problem at Babel. There was no miscegenation because there was only one people. Rather, it was humanity’s stubborn refusal to obey the LORD and go into the world and fill it.
Of course, the text provides us with two practices of the people that the LORD found troublesome. First, they were as one people, descendant from one person. That particular situation is one that we should never see again in human history due to the LORD’s promise never to wipe out mankind again. Second, they spoke one language. By changing the language, the LORD caused them to become many nations. He caused them to do as he commanded even if they did it for reasons other than obedience. Do we need to be concerned that miscegenation will lead to one world nation? I would say there are a number of other social and cultural issues that we should be more concerned with if we are truly worried that one world nation is a possibility. I’d begin with language.
Kinism is very concerned with maintaining national distinctions based on race in part because of this text, but ignores language. We never hear Kinists express concern that people learn multiple languages. We never hear them complain that there are too many Spanish or French classes in our schools because learning such things could cause humanity to unite into one idolatrous nation. Yet, unity in language is clearly an essential component of nationhood. If a white man marrying a black woman puts us in danger of forming one global nation, then surely learning other languages (which happens much more often than interracial marriage) must also put us in danger. Many Kinists insist that marriage outside of one’s race is a sin, yet they do not complain that learning Spanish is a sin. Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.
Boundaries of Nations
Opperman goes on to discuss God’s sovereign setting of the boundaries of the nations, specifically citing Deuteronomy 32:8 and Acts 17:26-27. Deuteronomy 32:8 reads, “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.” Acts 17:26-27 reads, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”
Much of what Opperman affirms in this section I also affirm. God did sovereignly make many nations. He did so that people would seek him and reach out to him. The existence of many nations is a blessing to the world and it is a means by which the LORD sovereignly brings a people unto himself. I also affirm that many nations will be represented in the hereafter. We will see every nation and people.
However, Opperman seems to believe that all national boundaries are set in stone for all eternity. Certainly, the LORD didn’t just decree which nations would exist, but how long those nations would exist. Acts 17:26 clearly speaks of nations have an appointed time. Nations are not statically decreed, but they are decreed to rise and to fall. We no longer worry about the Edomites or the Assyrians or the Babylonians because those nations no longer exist. Their appointed time has ended. Yet, at the same time we will see people from every nation represented in the new heavens and earth because saints from every time will be represented.
Kinists would have us believe that miscegenation destroys the God-given diversity, but the only way this could happen would be through guided reproductive manipulation through many generations. Most people tend to be drawn to people of their own race. Culture and religion and social norms and language are all strong forces that tend to bring people of the same backgrounds together. Therefore, the appeal to the extreme of “one world of people colored light brown” is not something we should be concerned about. Additionally, miscegenation tends to increase diversity. If a black man and a white woman have a child, diversity is increased. The baby is neither black nor white. If an Asian man and a black woman have a child, diversity is increased. The child is neither Asian nor black. Diversity can only increase outside of forced reproductive manipulation, so we do not have to be worried about a homogeneous humanity.