The Social Construct of Race

by David Petterson

I have to admit that when I’m filling out a form and asked to select my race, I’m tempted to write in another option – human. Cultural and even physical differences among people groups are fascinating and point to the genius of our Creator. It is fine and proper to speak about different people groups or ethnicities (Rev 7:9), but certainly not different races. There is only one race – the human race. Paul said, “From one man he [God] made every nation of the human race” (Acts 17:26 NET). Understanding this should lead us to treat one another equally. Belief in multiple races is a social construct based upon a handful of quite shallow external observations. According to Darwin, such a belief was a scientific construct, but it is not a scriptural one.

Whether you agree with the concept of systemic racism or not, we shouldn’t be surprised to hear people debating it since Darwinian evolution has been embraced in classrooms for generations. After all, it was Darwin who wrote that “at some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world.”1 Though his views about “civilised” versus “savage” races are rejected today, for generations Darwin gave legitimacy to sinful attitudes that have existed since the fall of man. The heart-breaking effects of adopting such an ideology still linger.

But we need to recognise who is really behind the rise of this social construct of race, especially when we consider all the reprehensible atrocities that have been committed throughout history connected with it. Satan, the god of this world, who specialises in division and destruction, has successfully seized upon fallen humanity’s many insecurities (including differences in physical appearance), and misled the masses to accept this concept of different (and even inferior) races. This acceptance has left in its wake a tragic trail of tears – expulsion, enslavement, the Holocaust, etc. The way to root out this sinister construct is to get back to the Bible and the foundational belief in a Creator who made us all in His image (Gen 1:27).

Because the Bible teaches that there is only one race, the word “racism” is not found in its pages. But the sinful behaviour we refer to as racism today is most certainly addressed and condemned. Racism falls under the much broader term of “partiality”. James writes, “If you show partiality, you are committing sin” (2:9 ESV). Partiality includes treating people differently based on not only skin colour, but on social class, economic status, education level, relation within the family, etc. We might be quick to pat ourselves on the back and claim to be not guilty of racism, but can we really make the same claim about favouritism?

It goes without saying that among the Lord’s people racism and a spirit of partiality have no place. Take a moment to reflect upon how you treat others around you. The devil will use anything to divide us, whether it is your level of education or the level of melanin in your epidermis. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are all in one big spiritual family, the family of God (John 1:12). And technically, because there is only one race, every human being is part of the same biological family, just more distantly related to some than others.


Originally published in “Truth and Tidings”.


  1. Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (London: John Murray, 1901), 241-242.