Martin Luther King: American Saint, Christian Apostate

The Legacy of King Must be Understood Rightly

Martin Luther King, as he is remembered

In June of 2019, the Anglican Church in North America, one of the major conservative-leaning alternatives to The Episcopal Church, approved a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer for liturgical use. The “Calendar of Holy Days and Commemorations” that it contains, beyond listing the traditional feast days, provides an ecumenical array of options for celebrating notable Christians gone before, from Thomas Aquinas to William “Billy” Graham. Included among these commemorations, listed for April 4, is “Martin Luther King Jr., Reformer of Society, 1968,” marking the date of the Civil Rights leader’s assassination.1

Martin Luther King is celebrated widely in the Christian Church catholic. Shortly after he was shot and killed, Pope Paul VI expressed his condolences for Dr. King, calling him “a Christian prophet for racial integration.” Two Sundays later, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bishops partnered with the National Council of Churches and the Synagogue Council of America to publish an interfaith statement remembering King as “a unique apostle of the non-violent drive for justice.” The Episcopal Church added their feast day for Dr. King in 1985, and presently title him “pastor,” “martyr,” and “prophet.” For the 50th anniversary of his assassination in 2018, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America co-produced liturgical materials with the Protestant Church in Germany for commemoration observances. That same year, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, coordinating with The Gospel Coalition, hosted a conference titled “MLK50: Reflections from the Mountaintop,” featuring big-name Evangelical speakers such as Russel Moore, Matt Chandler, and John Piper.

Certainly, Dr. King is no minor figure in American Christianity, no less so than in American politics. His name is invoked across the political spectrum as a high watermark for moral political activism and peacemaking. In 2023, the White House issued a statement anticipating Martin Luther King Day beginning, “Today, we honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by continuing his unfinished work to redeem the soul of America.” President Biden himself then marked the Sunday prior to the holiday by guest-preaching from the pulpit of Dr. King’s childhood church. The Republican National Committee, on the other side of the aisle, made their own contribution to the ceremonies by calling on the nation to heed Dr. King’s message “to live up to America’s highest ideal: that all of us are created equal and in the image of God.”

Similar statements were made in Congress in 1983 when King’s Federal holiday was being established. Said then-Speaker Tip O’Neill, “Martin Luther King changed America—all of America. He changed it not by a force of arms but by moral force. He asked us to become the country that we always claimed to be–a country of equal justice, of equal opportunity, a country where all men—all men—are created equal.” And Rep. John Conyers, spearhead of the movement to establish the holiday, said, “When we pass this legislation we should signal our commitment to the realization of full employment, world peace, and freedom for all.”2 Martin Luther King Jr. Day would shortly thereafter be signed into law by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

Martin Luther King, as he is not remembered

As may be apparent from the title, this article is going to be critical of Dr. Martin Luther King’s place in American Christianity. The following is meant to impress upon readers that one should be vigilant not to let popular cultural narratives dictate one’s role models, especially on the subject of public faith. The fact is, not only was Dr. King not a good example of public faith for Christians to follow; Dr. King, theologically speaking, was an enemy of God. As will be demonstrated below, using his own words which are freely available to the public, Dr. King rejected the Trinity; he called belief in the deity of Jesus Christ “harmful and detrimental”; he denied the Virgin Birth and the Second Coming; he claimed that the Bible contained spiritual insights buried under absurd “legends and myths”; he even told his congregation on an Easter morning that one’s belief about the bodily resurrection of Christ “isn’t important.” This is not speculation or opinion; all this and more is laid out below in extensive quotations straight from his own mouth and pen. By the traditional Christian definition, Martin Luther King Jr. was a false teacher—an “antichrist,” dispassionately speaking (see 1 John 4:22-23).

In writing this article I am not frivolously picking on a deceased man, and certainly not out of personal dislike; nor am I disparaging every word or belief he ever held. But doctrine matters, especially when we are pointing Christians and non-Christians to the “Christlike” in the public square. Across denominational lines, we have standards in the Church, and they are set by God’s revelation of Himself. Consider that if offering profane fire in the Tabernacle was blasphemous enough to merit mortal judgment upon the sons of Aaron, how much worse will it be for those who deny our Lord while speaking in his name? And what of those who knowingly excuse them?

Now, these facts about Dr. King, while being matters of public record, have strangely not become common knowledge, and so I am not insinuating that everyone who has ever held King up for a Christian example has a seared conscience. My guess is that the material below will be surprising or even disturbing to many readers. Nevertheless, I feel strongly that if so highly esteemed a model for public Christianity as Dr. Martin Luther King was actually anti-Christian in his confession, Christians must be alerted and informed before holding up Dr. King as an example. Spiritual leaders, especially, must beware lest they lead their flocks to poisoned wells.

The Evidence of Apostasy

In 1 Timothy 5:19, the Apostle Paul writes to the young church officer, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses” (NKJV). Every extended quotation you read below will be from Dr. King himself. What I am about to do is bury you in these quotations to drive home that I am not cherry-picking vague statements out of context, nor engaging in hearsay.

Martin Luther King entered Crozer Theological Seminary in 1948, the same year he was ordained a minister at his father’s church, Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, Georgia. Crozer Seminary, by all accounts, was absolutely poisonous to the Christian faith. Prominent faculty were intent on driving from their students any actual belief in the inspiration of the Bible.3 Even as a young man of 19, though, King had already become enamored by theological liberalism in college. Moreover, far from undergoing “academic brainwashing,” he would later recall that he had been harboring skepticism of the orthodox Christian faith almost since he was old enough to comprehend it. In 1950, writing on his early Ebenezer years for a seminary essay, King reminisced,

The lessons which I was taught in Sunday School were quite in the fundamentalist line. None of my teachers ever doubted the infallibility of the Scriptures. Most of them were unlettered and had never heard of Biblical criticism. Naturally I accepted the teachings as they were being given to me. I never felt any need to doubt them, at least at that time I didn’t. I guess I accepted Biblical studies uncritically until I was about twelve years old. But this uncritical attitude could not last long, for it was contrary to the very nature of my being. I had always been the questioning and precocious type. At the age of 13 I shocked my Sunday School class by denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus. From the age of thirteen on doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly. At the age of fifteen I entered college and more and more could I see a gap between what I had learned in Sunday School and what I was learning in college. This conflict continued until I studied a course in Bible in which I came to see that behind the legends and myths of the Book were many profound truths which one could not escape.


My days in college were very exciting ones. As stated above, my college training, especially the first two years, brought many doubts into my mind. It was at this period that the shackles of fundamentalism were removed from my body. This is why, when I came to Crozer, I could accept the liberal interpretation with relative ease.

“Fundamentalism,” as a term, had tended to mean different things to different ears. For clarity, then, here is what King meant by it, from an essay written for Crozer in 1949:

Unlike liberalism, fundamentalism is essentially a reactionary protest, [fighting] to preserve the old faith in a changing milieu. In a sense we may say that fundamentalism is as old as the Reformation, but as an organized movement it is of recent origin. We may date the beginning of the fundamentalist movement in 1909 with the Publication of The Fundamentals. [King cites S. G. Coe, History of Fundamentalism, 52.] This work was published in twelve volumes with the aim of re-establishing the “treasured faith.” This volume could well be called the “fundamentalist manifesto.” These men argued that there could be no compromise on the unchanging fundamentals of the Christian faith. To gain support for their stand, the fundamentalist claimed that they were reaffirming the faith as Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Wesley held it. Of course, in that claim they were undoubtedly correct. It was the Protestant Reformation which enunciated the doctrines which are now called “fundamentalist.”


[Other] doctrines such as a supernatural plan of salvation, the Trinity, the substitutionary theory of the atonement, and the second coming of Christ are all quite promin[e]nt in fundamentalist thinking. Such are the views of the fundamentalist and they reveal that he is oppose[d] to theological adaptation to social and cultural change. He sees a progressive scientific age as a retrogressive spiritual age. Amid change all around he [is] willing to preserve certain ancient ideas even though they are contrary to science.

Again, this is the “fundamentalism” King explicitly rejected in his higher education. Liberalism, by contrast, King described in the same essay as “a progressive movement which came into being in an attempt to adjust religion to all new truth.”

[T]he liberal stresses the primacy of experience. The liberal starts with experience and constantly returns to experience to test his findings. For an instance, the authority of the Golden Rule is not that Jesus proclaimed it. On the contrary, its authority lies in the fact that it has received raison d’être in the exper[i]ences of life. Of course, that Jesus uttered it, and more because he lived it, enhances our moral estimate of him.

Please take note of that remark about the Golden Rule and King’s “moral estimate of” Jesus. He continues:

The liberal would insist that he can never speak in terms of the absolute. He is humble enough to see that he is locked up in the prison of relativity. Moreover, he sees that we do not have an infallible science therefore truth must be discovered from age to age.  [King cites Sores, op. cit., 72.] The liberal does not discard old beliefs neither does he discard the Bible. On the contrary, he seeks the truth that is in them. With supreme reverence he joyously cherishes the religious heritage of the past. Only he feels free to bring it to all critical examination of the modern historical method. Thus he attempts to make the spiritual discoveries of the Christian traditions available for modern use.

When he refers to “the liberal,” King is essentially referring to himself. Properly speaking, though, he was not a liberal through and through. While in seminary, King described undergoing an intellectual shift regarding certain liberal doctrines. In an essay titled “How Modern Christians Should Think of Man” written for the 1949-50 term, King compared the liberal teaching on the spiritual estate of mankind with that of “neo-orthodoxy,” a school of theology that grew out of the 20th century as a corrective to liberalism. Despite what the name may imply, though, neo-orthodoxy was not a straight return to the historic, apostolic faith, but broadly shared with liberalism its skeptical criticism of the Bible and its adaptation of the faith to meet contemporary academic views on history and the sciences.4 That said, one of neo-orthodoxy’s corrections which King favored was its insistence on the sinfulness of man against the liberal belief in man’s basic goodness (although the movement never resoundingly affirmed the doctrine of Original Sin). Wrote King in his essay:

In this transitional stage I must admit that I have become a victim of eclecticism. I have attempted to synthesize the best in liberal theology with the best in neo-o[r]thodox theology and come to some understanding of man. Of course I must again admit that the insights which I have gained from neo-orthodox theology about man are quite limited. Its one-sided generalizations are by no means appealing to me. However I do see value in its emphasis on sin and the necessity [for] perpetual repentance in the life of man. I think liberal theology has [too] easily cast aside the term sin, failing to realize that many of our present ills result from the sins of men.

As King explains in the paper, his shift toward neo-orthodoxy’s anthropology was motivated by his experiences in the segregated South. In the end, though, King did not fully subscribe to neo-orthodoxy either; in an article for Christian Century titled “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” published in 1960, King later reflected back on this shift with a decade’s perspective:

In spite of the fact that I had to reject some aspects of liberalism, I never came to an all-out acceptance of neo-orthodoxy. […] In its revolt against liberalism’s overemphasis on the power of reason, neo-orthodoxy fell into a mood of antirationalism and semifundamentalism, stressing a narrow, uncritical biblicism. This approach, I felt, was inadequate both for the church and for personal life.

It is notable, though, that even a decade hence, in this piece King does not even make mention of his rejection of the orthodox Christian faith in seminary. His real quibble with liberalism concerned its over-optimistic view of the state of mankind. King does not repent of, retract, nor even comment on his earlier apostasy, as one could expect of an individual who had once been lost but had since converted to the living faith. A decade after seminary, King still rejected “fundamentalism” all the same. Thus, his seminary papers can be taken as insights into his essential thinking long past his seminary days. Evidently, he remained at core a theological liberal, tempered by neo-orthodoxy’s account of mankind, but nonetheless anti-Christian.

With the above for his foundation, the following is how Martin Luther King applied himself theologically in other of his writings and orations.

In a 1949 seminary essay lengthily titled “What Experiences of Christians Living in the Early Christian Century Led to the Christian Doctrines of the Divine Sonship of Jesus, the Virgin Birth, and the Bodily Resurrection,” King used the standard liberal methodology, taking for granted that the titular doctrines could not have been accurately and divinely revealed, and instead assumed that they must have been a byproduct of the early Christian’s experiences. King writes:

Each of these doctrines is enshrined in what is known as “the Apostles’ Creed.” It is this creed that has stood as a “Symbol of Faith” for many Christians over the years. Even to this day it is recited in many churches. But in the minds of many sincere Christians this creed has planted a seed of confusion which has grown to an oak of doubt. They see this creed as incompatible with all scientific knowledge, and so they have proceeded to reject its content. But if we delve into the deeper meaning of these doctrines, and somehow strip them of their literal interpretation, we will find that they are based on a profound foundation. Although we may be able to argue with all degrees of logic that these doctrines are historically and philo[s]ophically untenable, yet we can never undermin[e] the foundation on which they are based. As Dr. Hedley has so cogently stated, “What ultimately the creed signifies is not words, but spirit.”

“Strip them of their literal interpretation” is a key phrase. It is important to understand that King is explicitly denying the Apostle’s Creed, the unifying Christian confession for millennia, while freely co-opting its terminology. An example of this in action can be seen in an Easter Sunday sermon he delivered in 1959. Recounting highlights from his recent travels to the Holy Land and India, and after describing his experience at the site for the empty tomb, King said the following:

Whatever you believe about the Resurrection this morning isn’t important. The form that you believe in, that isn’t the important thing. The fact that the […] Resurrection is something that nobody can refute, that is the important thing. Some people felt, the disciples felt, that it was a physical resurrection, that the physical body got up. Then Paul came on the scene, who had been trained in Greek philosophy, who knew a little about Greek philosophy and had read a little, probably, of Plato and others who believed in the immortality of the soul, and he tried to synthesize the Greek doctrine of the immortality of the soul with the Jewish-Hebrew doctrine of resurrection. And he talked, as you remember and you read it, about a spiritual body. A spiritual body. Whatever form, that isn’t important right now. The important thing is that that Resurrection did occur. Important thing is that that grave was empty. Important thing is the fact that Jesus had given himself to certain eternal truths and eternal principles that nobody could crucify and escape.

Observe his craft. King says that “the grave was empty” just after saying that one’s belief about the resurrection, whether it was bodily or not, “isn’t important.” He suggests that Paul syncretized a “Greek philosophy” of the soul’s immortality with the “Jewish-Hebrew doctrine of resurrection.” A “resurrection did occur,” King maintains, even if it was merely spiritual, or only of the “eternal principles” Jesus stood for. The word “resurrection” itself is here being openly re-defined.

This skin-suit usage of Christian language, and King’s true meaning underneath it, becomes even clearer reading his seminary essay, “The Christian Pertinence of Eschatological Hope,” in which he describes the “pertinence” of the orthodox Christian doctrines of the End Times even while rejecting their meaningful content. In this essay, King denies the bodily Second Coming of Jesus, the general Resurrection of the dead, and the Final Judgment all in similar fashion, spiritualizing and re-defining them out of any orthodox sense—releasing them from the “shackles of literalism.”

Among the beliefs which many modern Christians find difficult to accept are those dealing with eschatological hopes, particularly the second coming of Christ, the day of judgment, and the resurrection of the body. In an attempt to solve this difficult problem many modern Christians have jettisoned these beliefs altogether, failing to see that there is a profundity of spiritual meaning in these beliefs which goes beyond the shackles of literalism. We must realize that these beliefs were formulated by an unscientific people who knew nothing about a Copernican universe or any of the laws of modern science. They were attempting to solve basic problems which were quite real to them, problems which to them dealt with ultimate destiny. So it was only natural for them to speak in the pre-scientific thought pattern of their day. They could do no other. Inspiration did not magically remove the limitations of the writers. It heightened their power, but did not remove their distortions. Therefore it is our job as Christians to seek the spiritual pertinence of these beliefs, which taken literally are quite absurd.

In another essay titled “The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus,” King elaborates on his denial of Jesus being the eternal Son of God, making quite clear that he rejects “orthodox” Christianity, going so far as to call belief in the deity of Jesus Christ “harmful and detrimental.”

Where then can we in the liberal tradition find the divine dimension in Jesus? We may find the divinity of Christ not in his substantial unity with God, but in his filial consciousness and in his unique dependence upon God. It was his [feeling] of absolute dependence on God, as Schleiermaker would say, that made him divine. Yes it was the warmnes[s] of his devotion to God and the [intimacy] of his trust in God that accounts for his being the supreme revelation of God. All of this reveals to us that one man has at last realized his true divine calling: That of becoming a true son of man by becoming a true son of God. It is the achievement of a man who has, as nearly as we can tell, completely opened his life to the influence of the divine spirit. 

The orthodox attempt to explain the divinity of Jesus in terms of an inherent metaphysical substance within him seems to me quite inad[e]quate. To say that the Christ, whose example of living we are bid to follow, is divine in an ontological sense is actually harmful and detrimental. To invest this Christ with such supernatural qualities makes the rejoinder: “Oh, well, he had a better chance for that kind of life than we can possibl[y] have.” In other words, one could easily use this as a means to hide behind […] his failures. So that the orthodox view of the divinity of Christ is in my mind quite readily denied. The true significance of the divinity of Christ lies in the fact that his achievement is prophetic and promissory for every other true son of man who is willing to submit his will to the will and spirit o[f] God. Christ was to be only the prototype of one among many brothers.

Contrast all this, again, with the “fundamentalism” that King continued to reject. These blasphemous words explain why he felt justified in subjecting Jesus to his own “moral estimate.” For King, Jesus was an inspired and exceptional man, but only a man. And take note of King’s description of Jesus as “only the prototype of one among many brothers,” which will come up again later.

Using liberalism’s higher criticism, King believed that the Bible underwent an evolution of doctrine over its many centuries of production. Religion, for the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, was merely a fallible, human project, a dialectical development for understanding the Divine. In “How to Use the Bible in Modern Theological Construction,” on the subject of higher criticism, King speaks of the Bible “not as a textbook written with divine hands, but as a portrayal of the experiences of men written in particular historical situations.” He explains:

The results of this modern study of the Scripture have brought about two great advances. First we have come to see that the old proof text method of citing Scripture to establish points of doctrine is both unsound and inconclusive. Secondly, we are now able to arrange the writings of the Bible in their approximately chronological order. This means that we can trace the great ideas of the Scripture from their elementary form to their point of maturity. This advance has revealed to us that God reveals himself progressively through human history, and that the final significance of the Scripture lies in the outcome of the process.

And here, King makes abundantly clear that he believes in a “God,” but not in the God of the Bible who has spoken plainly with mankind since the beginning. Instead, King claims that the very idea itself of “God” had to evolve out of crude and vulgar beginnings. Pitting the Old Testament’s “tribal” deity against the New Testament’s John 3:16, King opined,

As one realizes this immense [development] of thought, he immediately finds a growing understanding of the meaning and the relevance of the amazing things that Jesus revealed about God.

Once more, we are seeing the ancient Christian faith being ridiculed and subverted, stripped and gutted of its meaning, and worn like sheep’s clothing. Jesus supposedly was just a man from Nazareth who joined in the ancient human pursuit for the Divine, and by his efforts made something like the “most influential contribution to the field.” Recall, by the way, that King had been ordained and licensed to preach since the very year he entered seminary. When you take all this and the above together, the “Christian” religion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes into sharp focus.

Now, one might hope for charity’s sake, as some have, that while King may have apostatized as a young man, he came around to the faith sometime during his public life. John Piper for example (beginning in the video at timestamp 39:33) at MLK50, after concluding a sermon on racial harmony, told his audience that King in his younger days departed from several “great, objective, biblical realities” such as “Christ’s majesty as creator of the universe,” his “grace in suffering imputed guilt from others,” and his “all-encompassing authority” in rising physically from the grave. The pastor admitted to his audience, “I don’t know if he came home. Many believe he did,” and echoing an earlier panelist, speculated about an incident in Dr. King’s life from January, 1956, as a possible conversion experience.

As King recalled the incident in a sermon delivered either 1962 or ‘63, it was late one night during the heat of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott: after receiving a threatening anonymous phone call, King’s fears overcame him. He took those fears to prayer, and, as he described it, seemed to feel the presence of God drawing near, as if a voice were reassuring him that God would be with him. After that night, King would go on, assured, to lead his boycott to success by the end of the year.

There is no reason to doubt whether this incident occurred. But what Piper and many others today wonder is whether this was an actual conversion experience for King—an encounter with the true God. 

Unfortunately, the fact remains that King gave no sign of such a repentance—not in the 1960 “Pilgrimage” article, nor in his 1962/63 recounting of the ‘56 incident. No evidence of such a theological 180, or none that he wished to testify about publicly, has come to light. King may well have felt an inner voice seeming to say, “God will be at your side, forever,” but a spiritual experience or a “voice” inside you does not make you a Christian. Even under duress, prayer is not a conversion experience if it does not lead to the God of the Bible, no matter how sincere or eloquent the one praying.

To see this demonstrated starkly, consider this last set of quotations. They come from a sermon King delivered in 1959—well after the 1956 incident:

On Palm Sunday, 1959, not long after his trip to the Holy Land and India, and a mere week before telling his congregation that the bodily Resurrection of Jesus was not “important,” King stood up in a pulpit before an attentive congregation. He was already a huge name in the media after the success of the bus boycott, and many looked up to him for moral and spiritual leadership. But rather than preaching on the events of Jesus’ life leading up to the Crucifixion (as would be traditional for Palm Sunday), King asked his congregation pardon to deviate and tell the story of one Mohandas Gandhi.

He explained why in this way:

…I think I’m justified in doing this because I believe this man, more than anybody else in the modern world, caught the spirit of Jesus Christ and lived it more completely in his life. His name was Gandhi, Mohandas K. Gandhi. And after he lived a few years, the poet Tagore, who lived in India, gave him another name: “Mahatma,” the great soul. And we know him as Mahatma Gandhi.

Hindu activist Mohandas Gandhi, King proclaimed from a Christian pulpit, “more than anybody else in the modern world, caught the spirit of Jesus Christ and lived it more completely in his life.”

King drew from two texts from the gospel of John: the “other sheep I have which are not of this fold” passage from John 10:16, and the passage from chapter 14 which reads, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (verse 12). King continued,

And I believe these two passages of scripture apply more uniquely to the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi than to any other individual in the history of the world. For here was a man who was not a Christian in terms of being a member of the Christian church but who was a Christian. And it is one of the strange ironies of the modern world that the greatest Christian of the twentieth century was not a member of the Christian church. And the second thing is, that this man took the message of Jesus Christ and was able to do even greater works than Jesus did in his lifetime. Jesus himself predicted this: “Ye shall do even greater works.”

Now, remember: in King’s account, orthodox Christianity is merely an outdated experiment, one phase of a long struggle of mankind to know God. Jesus was “only the prototype of one among many brothers,”38 a normal man who nonetheless excelled in his dependence on God and thereby became an exemplar for others. All the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles were merely in the earlier stages of a great human journey of discovery, and they did the best they could, but now in our modern era their oracles are due for an update. In King’s reframing, it was otherwise normal men like Jesus and Gandhi who finally managed to reach up to God and truly get the big picture. And to be clear, King is not simply saying that Gandhi embodied some natural virtues as a pagan better than many Christians do as Christians. Instead, King ends his sermon on the “spirit” of Gandhi with the following words, and the following prayer. Prepare yourself.

And God grant that we shall choose the high way, even if it will mean assassination, even if it will mean crucifixion, for by going this way we will discover that death would be only the beginning of our influence. “I have other sheep,” says Jesus, “which are not of this fold. And if you will believe in me and follow my way, you will be […] able to do even greater works than I did in my lifetime.”

O God, our gracious Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for the fact that you have inspired men and women in all nations and in all cultures. We call you different names: some call Thee Allah; some call you Elohim; some call you Jehovah; some call you Brahma; and some call you the unmoved Mover; some call you the Archetectonic Good. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God, and we know you are one. 

And grant, O God, that we will follow Thee and become so committed to Thy way and Thy kingdom that we will be able to establish in our lives and in this world a brotherhood. We will be able to establish here a kingdom of understanding, where men will live together as brothers and respect the dignity and worth of all human personality. 

In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen.

This is vile, blasphemous filth, and that is putting it lightly. But I am here today to say that a Christian has no obligation to speak “lightly” about such things. Much the opposite. It should matter greatly to us when our Heavenly Father is mocked and blasphemed in our own circles.

All the “Christian”-sounding words of that prayer were put hand-in-hand with total blasphemy, which means—once more—that those “Christian”-sounding words had been stripped of their content, hollowed into husks, and filled with anti-Christian paganism. And it must be understood that this was apparently the practice of King for his entire public life. Claiming to profess “Christianity,” King instrumentalized Jesus’ name and the rest of the Biblical faith in service of his moral and political vision. He made Jesus an ordinary man who supposedly “caught the spirit” of God alongside non-Christians like Gandhi, and he lifted them up on account of their great deeds not for the glory of the Triune God, but towards a universal “brotherhood” of man.

The only way I see to refer to King as a “Christian” is in the hope of a last-minute conversion, but if there is any reason to ground that hope, I have yet to find it. By all accounts and indications, Martin Luther King Jr. was an apostate and false teacher—one who denied our Lord while wearing his name for “Christian” political ends. And you should not take my word for it. Check my sources; all of his quoted material is freely available to the public. If it were possible that the above is false, I hope it is so. With the Word of God near, come to your own conclusion.

Concluding thoughts and exhortation

Some Christians have expressed uneasiness about Dr. King’s noted Communist associations. King did publicly reject Communism as an ideology while, like many, he still hoped to extract from it the insights and critiques compatible with Christianity; this process, though, will have varying results depending on the “Christianity” that you profess. Other Christians have taken more concern with allegations of sexual misconduct, a topic which is murky given that pertinent FBI surveillance tapes that would prove the matter are still sealed until 2027. Yet even if it somehow turned out both of these were total, malicious slander, King’s own admissions of apostasy from the faith warrants us to distance from him as an exemplar for Christian politics and peacemaking.

Now, I do not doubt that some listeners of Dr. King’s words may have been drawn closer to the true Lord by them. As the Apostle Paul says of those who preach the gospel insincerely: whether a good intent or ill resides in the preacher’s heart, we may at least rejoice that Christ’s name is preached (Phil. 1:15-18). To whatever extent the Word of God is being delivered, as Isaiah says, that Word goes forth and does not return to Him void (Isa. 55:10-11). When the terms are taken at face value, Dr. King had some decent sermons. Indeed, to the extent that he spoke true words from his lips with blasphemy in his heart, “let God be true but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). 

But again: for the integrity of the Church and her confession, and for the honor of our common Lord, I am beseeching fellow believers not to allow Dr. King to be held up as a model for “Christian” politics, “Christian” ministry, or “Christian” anything. Not because a non-Christian can never exhibit skills, ideas, or natural virtues that we admire, but because certainly countless non-Christians have done noble things, and we are free to recognize and celebrate them. Rather, we must not entertain the comfortable lie that King’s skills, ideas, or natural virtues flowed from his Christian faith, for he manifestly had none. Indeed, if calling for nonviolent protest tactics is a sure mark of Christianity, then Mohandas Gandhi was one of the greatest Christians of the 20th century (something that Dr. King literally claimed). But as distressing as it may be, Dr. King fulfills the description of a deceiver and an antichrist. No amount of pastoral concern for the faithful Christians who hold him dear can change this. Instead, we must mark and avoid the false teachers. We must cast down the false icons. If the above is true, we must strike Dr. King’s name from every one of our however-good-intentioned “litanies of saints.”

The unfortunate fact is that, for generations, an American “saint” Dr. King has indisputably been. Time and again I have heard orthodox Christians hold up Dr. King as an exemplar for the faith; and although they make the qualifier that, yes, he was a “flawed” or “imperfect” man (usually in reference to sexual misconduct, or his plagiarism), it is simply taken for granted that he was living out Christianity in the public square, and that his “call” to American Christians was the Church’s final say. Broadly speaking, his place at the intersection of American religion and politics, and the necessity to “have him on your side,” is well established. To actually strike his name from the wall of American Christianity could cause a structural collapse.

But if the wall should collapse for this reason—for denouncing an apostate—then it deserves to. The confident Christian can build new walls.

We can and must look elsewhere for our Christian role models and heroes. In all things, we must cleave to Jesus Christ revealed in the Bible, risen in body, and seated at the right hand of God the Father in unity with the Holy Spirit. Lord, make haste to help us. Amen.


See this video by Virgil Walker for G3 Ministries on the same subject, including an analysis of Dr. King’s involvement with the “social gospel.”
Read J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism, now over a century old, to find in his description of the “liberal” a fairly accurate picture of Dr. King. Machen directly addresses the objection King gave above in “The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus,” which claimed that believing in the inherent deity of Jesus would be problematic by making Jesus good without internal struggle, and that this would be a poor motivator for sinful men to reform their ways.

Image Credit: Unsplash

Show 4 footnotes
  1. Anglican Church in North America, The Book of Common Prayer (2019), Huntington Beach, CA: Anglican Liturgy Press, 2019, 696
  2.  “Designation,” Congressional Record (Bound Edition) Volume 129, 22215.
  3. Patrick Parr, The Seminarian, Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 2018, 27; Parr, The Seminarian, 53.
  4. Ed. L. Miller and Stanley J. Grenz, Fortress Introduction to Contemporary Theologies, Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998, 14.
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Daniel Wright is a layman in the Reformed Episcopal Church.

27 thoughts on “Martin Luther King: American Saint, Christian Apostate

  1. It isn’t odd that Wright would contrast Machen with King. After all, Machen is as iconic to the orthodox Christian faith as King is to social justice. But we should note something else in that comparison, Machen held racist views and objected to Warfield’s plan to integrate the dorms at Princeton Seminary. King promoted the brotherhood of man, which is biblical when we consider that we are all sons of Adam. One has to wonder if people like Machen, there were others like him, made an association between Christian Orthodoxy and racial bigotry in King’s mind.

    I wonder why we don’t consider how the belief in white supremacy by esteemed historical Christian figures like Edwards, Hodge, Machen, and others greatly damaged the reputation of the Gospel and helped contributed to Critical Theory and Post Modernism. Here we should note that whole denominations held to beliefs in white supremacy. And if they so greatly damaged the reputation of the Gospel by how they viewed and treated people, then shouldn’t we question their friendship with the Gospel too? If we attempt to blame the times for their beliefs in white supremacy, then we should remember what Paul wrote in both Romans and to the Corinthians. In Romans 12, Paul tells us not ‘to be conformed to this world.’ To the Corinthians, he told them that the Corinthian culture was no excuse for being sexually impure.

    It seems like Wright is saying that heaven forbid that we learn from people like Mahatma Gandhi because of his religious beliefs. Should we say the same about King? Are we going to say that because we hold to Christian orthodox beliefs about Jesus, that we have nothing to learn from King and everything to teach him? Or are we going to look at all of Romans 2 to see how Paul challenged the religious people of his day not to look down on those he described in Romans 1 because those religious people have their own sins to account for? As was written in Romans 3:9, that the religious people were not better than unbelievers mentioned in Romans 1.

    King used the Scriptures to teach us about how we should relate to each other as people. Thus the degree to which King is exerting Christian influence then is not merely determined by his detraction from orthodox beliefs, but also by how correct he was in interpreting the Scriptures he used to teach how we should treat other. But Wright doesn’t seem to have mentioned that use of the Scriptures by King in assessing King’s Christian influence on people. That is where Wright’s article fails all Christians here. And so the question becomes this, why was Wright so selective in examining the religious beliefs that King had?

    1. I wonder what Paul and the other apostles would say about “having things to learn” from false teachers/apostates…

      “If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement.” (2 John 10)

      “Avoid such people.” — “In the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 3)

      1. Jordan,
        And so you are saying that we have nothing to learn from Martin Luther King’s words and examples? He brings no insights into our society, has nothing to contribute to our understanding of racism, poverty, economic exploitation, militarism, and war?

        What is the difference between an unbeliever and one who is apostate in terms of what they believe? For if their beliefs are basically the same, then doesn’t what you said about those who are apostate apply to all unbelievers. That, if we have nothing to learn from those who are apostate, then we have nothing to learn from unbelievers. And so we shouldn’t listen to those from either group. Perhaps the latter part of Romans 2 can be of help here.

        Or take a look at the characteristics listed in II Timothy 3:1ff and compare that with what King exhibited. Was King just a lover of self and money? So King did not love anything that was good? His examples of and teachings on external and internal nonviolence were not exhibitions of self control? Was he slanderous, heartless, ungrateful, disobedient to his parents and so forth? Yes, he had affairs, but was he sneaking into homes to exploit weak women? Despite all of his virtues, did all his failures qualify King as the type of person about which Paul and John were warning us?

        The problem I see here is one of distinguishing contexts. What is the context of the concerns that Paul and John listed? Is it the same context in which King spoke and worked? Isn’t it the case that while Paul and John were talking about who to accept into the fellowship of the Church while King was addressing society and telling us how we are to share society with each other? And so should we apply the same criteria to those with whom we can associate with in Church as we do with those with whom we share society?

        1. The rotten fruit of MLK’s ideas all come from the rotten root of his false theology. What good is a rotten tree for plucking its fruit to eat? None.

          1. Jordan,
            And so are his work and words that opposed racism rotten fruit?

            What about the following quote from King?

            I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

      2. Curt is offended that the article would dare to besmirch the good name of his god, MLK. He’s very clearly made an idol of the neoliberal order and that is what he has built his foundation on.

        1. Dylan,
          All you have shown is that you either have not read my comments on the above article or that you don’t understand them.

          What do you think about the racist views that Edwards, Hodges, and Machen had. Do you believe that their racist views were wrong?

  2. Curt,
    What is your view of Titus 1:12:

    “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies? This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”

    Here the predominant weaknesses of a whole group of people are identified and rebuked, so that they would be sound in the faith. Is it racist do this?

    Sure, all human beings are spiritually equal, and all totally depraved, in the sense that they have no ability to save themselves, see Ephesians 2. But does this mean that all individuals have the same weaknesses and to the same degree? Does it mean that God has given the same amount of common grace to everyone? Or, if you don’t like the phrase, ask yourself, does God restrain all human beings from sinning to an equal extent? If He is pleased to give more common grace to some individuals than others, or restrain some individuals from certain sins less than others, why not also groups of people?

    As B B Warfield said, Calvinism is just letting God be God.

    1. Joshua,
      It wouldn’t be racist a race isn’t being targeted, the people from a particular island is. If Paul was talking about all Greeks, then he would be making an ethnic, but racist, statement. And not knowing what Paul knew back then, I cannot speak to why Paul said that or criticize it.

      As for the rest of your note, I am unclear as to what it is addressing in my first comment. But I would say this, we need to evangelize for where common grace is in abundance as well as where it is in short supply. And while Paul made a general statement about a group, he was being used to write some of the Scriptures. That fact alone should make any of our statements that make generalizations about groups suspect from the beginning.

  3. Curt,
    Paul told Titus, not an inspired man, to take note of the predominate sins of a group of people and rebuke them for it.
    The letter to Titus is a pastoral epistle- intended to be guide for all ministers. Paul is teaching that to be faithful, ministers must at times identify and rebuke the predominate sins of a group.

    This is what you find in the writings of nearly all Christian writers until about the mid 20th century. That’s why one Christian writer after another is being canceled. Eventually Paul will be canceled too. Some have already canceled him because he has determined that a whole gender (women) are unfit for ruling and teaching offices in the Church.

    1. Joshua,
      I have no problem with rebuking King for his grievous theological errors and his sexual immorality. But that isn’t the issue here regarding King. The issue is whether we can we learn from King about social justice. In other words, we are not looking to him as a teacher in the Church, but someone to listen to regarding society.

      For that matter, can we also learn from unbelievers about social justice. Or can we only learn about that from fellow Christians who do not hold to serious theological errors and who lead a sexual pure life? But again, note that Machen was mentioned in the article and Machen held racist views. Charles Hodge believed that Blacks were inferior to whites. Jonathan Edwards owned slaves and believed that Native Americans were savages. Aren’t racist views and beliefs in racial superiority and inferiority grievous errors too?

      We can chalk up those horrible views and practices up to those people being a product of their times. But there is a problem with such thinking, actually 2 problems. If Paul taught the Corinthians about the need for sexual purity while looking at the Corinthian Christian’s as being the product of their time and place, he would not have insisted that those in the Church remain sexually pure. In addition, we have Paul’s instructions telling us not to conform to the world in Romans 12.

  4. By the way, Paul is quoting a heathen who made a generalistion about the Cretians. “Take note, Titus, about what a heathen Cretian says about his own group, and rebuke the sins he says that Cretians are infamous for.”

    Paul would have no objection to ministers analyzing the data produced by non Christian sociologists, who point out that certain groups of peope have much high divorce rates, high illegitimacy rates, violent crime rates, etc than other groups. Or surveys that show some groups of people are much more likely to say that there are more than two genders.

    1. Joshua,
      Yes he did, but again those statements were made about people from a specific location rather than about all people of a particular race. And so one can’t judge the comment as being racist.

      Is the comment prejudicial? It certainly sounds like that. But then again, I can’t speak to what he said because I don’t know what he knew. In addition, it is one thing to attribute to a group of people a specific behavior and another to believe that a group of people based on race or other ethnic attributes like religion, race, descent, language, national identity as being inferior to oneself.

  5. Curt, are sociologists all racist then? They make generalizations based on reliable data all the time.

    You need to define “inferior” before you accuse Christians of racism. I am inferior to many in intelligence. But my soul is equal in value to anyone else’s. What is true of me may be true of whole groups.

    No where does the Bible teach that all families, tribes, ethnicities, and nationalities are equal in every respect. Noah indicated as much when he prophesied that the Shemites would be more blessed than the Japhethites, and the Hamites would receive less blessing than either the Shemites or Japhethites. They are equal spiritually, all being made in the image of God, but beyond that there are many differences between ethnicities.

    1. Joshua,
      It seems that you are having problems making distinctions. Below is the definition of racism from the Meriam-Webster dictionary:

      a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

      Now if one was to use that definition of racism, how should one answer the question you are asking?

      BTW, I am not accusing every Christian of being a racist. I am repeating the reviews of or even the beliefs and actions of specific Christians who expressed racist beliefs and actions. Edwards had slaves and that slavery was based on racism. Hodge believed that Blacks were inferior and that belief was implied by Machen when he protested the integration of Princeton Seminary’s dorms which was proposed by Warfield.

      BTW, aren’t you aware that in the last few years that both the PCA and the SBC passed resolutions confessing their contributions to racism and denouncing them?

      Perhaps the following article by R. Scott Clark, which was posted in the Heidelblog website, will explain Machen’s case as well as give us an essential truth about anyone on whom we put on too high a pedestal (see ).

  6. Curt,

    I asked you to define inferiority and you responded with a definition that used the word superiority.

    Both words can be used rightly or wrongly. It is not wrong or unbiblical to argue that God may give less common grace to an individual OR group, resulting in more sin or less intelligence. He may give more or less common grace and abilities to a group over many generations, in consequence of the actions of a common ancestor, like Phineas, or Ham, Shem, or Japheth.

    It goes without saying that it gives no excuse for pride or oppression of that group. See 1 Cor. 4:7. In final analysis we are all sinners before God who deserve nothing but punishment. But that does not mean that every ethnic group will be equal in intelligence, civilization, or even morality.

    The Canaanites were a morally degraded people, even more so than the Israelites, which is why they were they were destroyed and replaced by a people who were more moral. There were some notable exceptions, of course, like Rahab and Uriah.

    Their moral degradation over many generations was due to a curse placed upon Canaan. This resulted in less common grace being given to the Canaanites as a whole. Deprived of this gracious restraint, they willingly and intentionally became more degraded than other peoples.

    Many would smear Moses as a racist for his observations about an entire ethnic group, but it is not sinful to observe what God has done in providence with the families of the earth.

    1. Joshua,
      The definition of inferiority is tied to the definition of superiority. For example, how Hitler defined some ethnicities were inferior was how they compared to the Aryan race. And with the proclamations of superior and inferior came entitlements for those he claimed were superior.

      BTW, did you read Clark’s article? I left a link to that article in one of my last comments to you. Was Clark smearing Machen when he talked about Machen’s racism?

      For Machen, and note what Clark’s article said about putting our heroes on too high a pedestal, he protested the putting together of blacks and whites in the same dorms because blacks were not as good as whites. For Hodge, he believed that blacks were not as good as whites but he also objected to abusive slavery. And for Edwards, he believed that whites could own blacks but not vise-versa. So the definition of inferior is tied to what considered to be superior. And those who were considered to be superior had entitlements that were denied to those who were defined as inferior.

      Why would it be unacceptable to you that all of our theological heroes have sins and flaws? Unless we are taking their words as being true without using the Scriptures to examine them, their sins don’t necessarily disprove their teachings. Consider how Jefferson’s unequal treatment of non-whites did not disprove what he wrote in the Declaration of Independence. The sins of past Christians, like ours, however, do hurt the reputation of the Gospel. But even Paul, in Romans 7, and James, at the beginning of James 3, talks about how all of us sin. It isn’t a smear to note what is historically accurate.

      As for Moses, was the issue that of one ethnicity being superior? Romans 9 does not seem to think so and Moses saw up close and in person the sins of his people.

      But if you want to argue from the curse pronounced in Genesis, realize that the curse was on Canaan and his descendants, it was neither on Ham nor his others sons. But then note Romans 3:9. After condemning unbelievers for their idol worship (Romans 1) and believers for their sins against God despite knowing God’s law, Paul says in Romans 3:9: Or consider Galatians 3 where Paul says that there is no difference between Jew or Greek, male or female and so on. In Matthew 1, one of the listed ancestors of Jesus was a Canaanite.

      The Canaanites did not live in Africa. And how the Israelites found the Canaanites to be then does not imply that is how they would always be.

      I would be very cautious if I were you about the road you are currently traveling with how you are interpreting Genesis. In the past, Christians justified atrocities and horrific treatment of certain groups of people because of the curse on Canaan.

      What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin

      Not only that, the pronouncements of inferiority and superiority had to do with ability and intelligence and on being fulling human.

      1. Just seeing this comments today as it’s been busy. Probably too late to reply now.
        Basically, you are assuming that the spiritual equality of all must necessarily entail the moral and intellectual equality of all. The Bible does not teach this.
        The Bible teaches that God gives unequal amounts of common grace and gifts to indivduals as well as ethnic groups.

        God predetermined, before Esau and Jacob had done any wrong, that He would show special favor to Jacob and his desendants. He would not show the same favor to Esau and his descendants. This would result in the Edomites, as an ethnic group, being inferior to the Israelites. “The elder shall serve the younger.” By nature they were spiritually equal. But by other measurements, they were inferior. That does not mean they were less human. It does mean they would, for most of their history, be in subjection to another ethnic group.

        The Gibeonites were perpetually consigned to servitude to the Israelites, because of the actions of their common ancestors. Again, they were spiritually equal to the Israelites. But their socio-economic status was perpetually inferior to the Israelites.

        You need to read Gen. 9 again. Shem was greatly blessed. Japheth was blessed. Ham was not blessed at all.

        There’s a reason why social justice leaders are never Reformed, or moving away from the Reformed tradition. They all reject God’s sovereignty, they reject the Old Testament which again shows that God does not give the same amount of grace and privilege to all individuals and ethnic groups. And when they find Paul affirming God’s sovereignty in making an entire ethnic group inferior to another, they reject predestination and sovereignty completely.

        1. Joshua,
          First, your last comments are not too late, thank you for posting them.

          Second, take a look at your use of Jacob and Esau and what you are countering. That they were spiritually equal is plainly put in the text. But Esau was the one who deserved Isaac’s blessing by human virtue, he was born first and thus entitled to Isaac’s blessing. And so the point of that passage does not have to do with spiritual or human superiority/inferiority. It has to do with God’s salvation that is given apart from any human merit; it has everything to do with salvation being a sole product of God’s promise that works without any human advantage.

          Now I agree that there are contexts in which there is spiritual equality among all and other contexts in which there is spiritual inequality. But, going back to your reference of Jacob and Esau, that spiritual superiority is not based on any human advantage or characteristic. And so going back to the discussion in Romans 1-3 between the unbelieving Gentiles with their sins such as homosexuality and those who believe in God with their sins. Again, neither group is better than the other.

          In another context, we have a significant degree of being delivered from dead works, but that is due to God’s grace, not any human advantage or trait. And even with that partial deliverance, Galatians 6 tells us that we need to be gentle when correcting others for their sins because we are so vulnerable to sin ourselves and Luke 18:9-14 suggests that we should never pray the prayer of the Pharisee from the parable of the two men praying.

          Again, when we see a growing spirituality, it isn’t something that we can generalize among people who share a human trait, especially an ethnic trait. The same goes to common grace. It isn’t based on ethnic groups, but on individuals. Romans 2 shows examples of that.

          As for social justice, times have changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament. For one thing, God’s people did not grow from evangelism in the Old Testament, it grew from families. And the Great Commission tells us to do something that was never suggested in the Old Testament. It tells us to evangelize. And evangelism includes telling people to repent of sins. And sins are not just individual, personal sins, there are corporate sins too. And that is what social justice aims at.

          And yes, you need to read Gen 9 again. For one thing, it was Canaan who was cursed, not Ham. Second, what tells us that that curse carries through to the New Testament where, in Galatians 3, there is equality between all? For if the curse continues, then Christians who are descendants of Canaan would be in an inferior position to Christians who are descendants of Shem and Japheth. But such is not the case.

          Also, consider that God’s designated people back then was a nation. Not so today because the Church unites all Jewish believers with all Gentile believers. In addition, the continuation of those blessings and curse was used to defend the belief in white supremacy as it was exhibited in slavery and Jim Crow.

          When social justice people talk about equality, they talk about it in terms of equality before the law. We also talk about it in terms human status. Also, think about individuals, we don’t regard a person who is more intellectually gifted as being worth more to any who are less intelligent. We don’t attribute that intellectual superiority to any ethnicity. That intellectual superiority is on an individual basis. Intellectual superiority crosses all ethnic lines.

          So what tells you that the blessings and curse given is to be continued during New Testament times? It seems that you are begging the question of time in your interpretation of the beginning of Genesis 9.

          1. There’s a quite a bit to untangle here, and I don’t have the time to sort it all out. I will give you just a few pointers to think about.

            1. You need to read the Reformers on the distinction between the things of nature and the things of grace.

            (1) In the realm of nature, there is inequality everywhere. Some of it is innate; some of it is due to sin. Women are forbidden to teach or rule in the church, for two reasons: they were created second, and the woman was deceived. This does not that they are less human, or worth less than men. The history of Christian missions shows that true Christianity consistently improves treatment of women. Nor does it mean they are less likely to be saved.

            All attempts to bring about complete equality in nature have been disastrous. In civil matters, it results in tyranny – trying to bring about equality by force (communism). It contributes to plummeting birth rates and threatens the existence of society itself. In ecclesiastical matters, it results in disorder and heresy – for example, the churches that were first to allow women ministers were also the first to accept sodomites.

            (2) In realm of grace, men and women are completely equal – in this realm, and in this alone, there is neither male nor female in Christ. But their spiritual equality with men does not mean they are equally qualified to teach and rule. Equality in the one realm does not make inequality in another realm to be sinful. Equality in one realm does not eradicate the distinctions and order of another realm. Paul does not teach that when people are converted to Christ, they become genderless or non-binary.

            2. You keep evading the full force of texts. You point out some things that are true, but won’t acknowledge the full teaching of the text. You emphasise that the curse fell on Canaan (true). You don’t acknowledge that Noah blessed Shem and Japheth, but did not bless Ham. This non-blessing had an impact on the descendants of all four of his sons: Mizraim (Egypt), Cush, Phut, and especially Canaan. Mizraim’s descendants had an empire for awhile, but were defeated later and never recovered. Ezekiel says they never will recover. Cush had an infamous son named Nimrod, whose name means rebellion. He also had a kingdom that was later destroyed.

            Noah’s prophecy has clearly, undeniably been in effect to this day. Just go to the Human Development Index and look at the maps and charts. They reveal socio-economic differences that have existed for millenia.

            Again, this does not mean that the descendants of Ham are less likely to be saved. In the realm of grace, all families of Ham will be spiritually blessed – the only blessing that really matters. But in the realm of nature, they will enjoy less temporal blessing than the descendants of Shem or Japheth. From the perspective of eternity, these differences are trivial – certainly not worth resorting to riots or overthrowing governments to establish communism (which many social reformers are sympathetic to).

            3. The Noahic covenant and prophecy was very comprehensive. It established the order of the post flood world. It was made not just with Noah and his descendants but also with animals and nature itself. As such it included the things of grace, but also the things of nature. As the reformed theologians taught against the Anabaptists, Noah was the head of the post flood world. God’s covenant with him, and Noah’s prophecy about his sons, has profound implications for the entire human race to the end of time.

            4. The abuse of any truth is no argument against it. Sure, lots of people have wickedly perverted Genesis 9 to justify oppression. So have people who read about the thief on the cross repenting just before he died. But it would be wrong for a preacher to avoid preaching about the thief, for fear that some people will delay repentance.

            5. Endless debate about the inequalities in nature distracts people from achieving the equality in the realm of grace – eternal life. It distracts from faith and repentance and results in eternal misery.

          2. Here’s Alexander Henderson, the great leader of the reformed Church of Scotland in 1638:

            “In the state there be superiors and inferiors; the Lord who hath appointed in nature the tall cedar and the low shrub growing at the root of it, the elephant and the mole, the eagle and the wren, the great leviathan and the smaller fishes, hath also in policy appointed kings, princes, and nobles, to rule and govern, and others of lower condition to honour and obey.

            “Anabaptists…and other such masters of confusion, do not distinguish between the common and particular vocations of Christians; betwixt a Christian equality, and a civil or ecclesiastic inequality. All Christians having alike precious faith, in respect of their common dignity and vocation, as they Christians and are in Christ, are equal among themselves; there is neither master nor servant, bond or free, king nor subject, pastor nor people, but all are one in Jesus Christ: but this hindereth not an inequality in civil or ecclesiastical respects. God who hath appointed them to be equal in one way, hath also appointed an inequality amongst them the other way.”

          3. Joshua,
            First, inequality where and based on what? In certain respects, there is inequality between those with government positions and regular citizens. But that isn’t the inequality we are talking about. why is his opinion important here? He simply describes his position, denounces everything about the Anabaptists, but never states why his position is true.

            And, again, you previously begged the question of the duration of the curse on Canaan, not Ham. If the curse on Canaan’s descendants, not Ham’s, was to last forever, then why shouldn’t it extend into the Church? If Henderson is referring to race, then are you agreeing with him in saying that whites are superior to Blacks? Of course here, you would have to distinguish between Blacks who are descedants of Canaan from those who are not. And you would have to say why Genesis says that descendants of Canaan are inferior. After all, the curse only says something about their positional fate, not about themselves as people.

      2. Clarification re what I said about Noah’s blessing in Gen 9:

        The chapter begins with the statement that God blessed Noah and his sons.
        Therefore, all the sons of Noah will, at the very least, enjoy the blessing of racial preservation to the end of time.

        Second, later chapters state that through Abraham’s seed, all the families of the earth will be blessed.

        But in Gen. 9:25ff, Noah Saya that Shem and Japheth will be blessed, and pointedly does not bless Ham, and instead curses one of his sons. (Another of Ham’s sons, Mizraim or Egypt would be consigned to being under perpetual political subjugation, Ezek. 29:14-15.)

        To see the harmony of all these passages, we have to make distinctions.

        1. All races will enjoy earthly blessings that will ensure their survival, Gen 9:1.

        2. All ethnicities will enjoy spiritual blessing through Christ (this motivated the enormous missionary efforts of “racist” Christians in the 1800s).

        3. But some ethnicities will also enjoy additional blessings that others will not enjoy, such as more common grace and gifts, or more prosperity and political power.

        Social justice warriors declared war against God over point 3 long ago. They haven’t won and they never will.

      1. Again, you need to compare the Bible teaching on superiority and inferiority with modern definitions of the same terms.

        Modern definitions do not recognize the fundamental parameter of human equality and worth: all are made in the image of God, and have immortal souls. Modern definitions focus on temporary, earthbound parameters of equality and worth and make them all important, such as socioeconomic status, etc

        1. Joshua,
          The problem I see is this, while unbelievers might not share the same basis for determining human value as believers, when they respect the equality of all people more than our fellow Christians do, they come out ahead in terms of regard and action. And so it doesn’t matter that their definitions focus on temporary, earthbound parameters if they act they way we should for different reasons. Again I would refer you to Romans 2.

          What is the Biblical definition of superior?

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