Promise Keepers and Racial Unity
April 30, 1996
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Sixty-thousand men filled the Seattle Kingdome this week for the second Promise Keepers conference in the Pacific Northwest. The first was held in 1995, and it, too, packed out Seattle's largest sports stadium. The coverage this conference received in the secular media was the most extensive I have ever seen for a Christian meeting in this part of the country. In a religious and social sense, there can be no doubt that these massive Promise Keepers conferences are significant events. (Washington state is very secular. It is second in the Union for the fewest number of people who attend church.)

The theme of the conference was breaking down the walls between races and denominations. The front page story in the Seattle Times was titled "A Matter of Unity" and "Promise Keepers Stress Racial Harmony." We have exposed the error of the Promise Keepers ecumenism, but we have not before dealt much on its emphasis on racial unity.

We believe racism, in the sense of pride and hatred and prejudice and exclusiveness, is wrong. White racism is wrong. Black racism is wrong. Asian racism is wrong. This week I heard of a church in Texas which is in a neighborhood which was once white but which has been taken over by Latinos from Mexico. The church took a vote and decided not to welcome the Latinos into the congregation. In my estimation, that is unscriptural and ungodly, and it is no surprise that this church is dying. Our church here in Oak Harbor, Washington, is racially diverse, and we praise the Lord for it. The church my wife and I established in Nepal was racially diverse. There were many nationalities and tongues and skin colors. I enjoy visiting the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Vancouver, British Columbia, because of its amazing racial diversity. This church is pastored by a friend of our family, and it is a great blessing to see God's hand of salvation extended toward the various nationalities and to them dwelling together in harmony and in Christian love in a sound New Testament church. We are opposed to racial exclusivism.

Having said this, I hasten to add that I do not believe the Promise Keepers emphasis and teaching on this subject is scriptural. Let me develop this thought:

1. PROMISE KEEPERS' EMPHASIS ON RACIAL RECONCILIATION CANNOT BE SUPPORTED IN SCRIPTURE. There certainly is no focus on racial unity in the Old Testament. It is God who created the various nations and races (Acts 17:26-27; Deut. 32:7-8), and the Israelites were commanded by God to be separate from the other nations. This does not mean that other races were excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. Other nationalities were always welcome to integrate into Israel by worshipping Israel's God. Rahab the Canaanite and Ruth the Moabitess, for example, were incorporated into Israel through their faith in God and were found in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:5). I am simply saying that the Bible does not emphasize racial unity. The New Testament does not impose any sort of regulations about racial segregation, nor does it impose any sort of regulations about racial integration. It is almost silent on the subject, in fact. For Promise Keepers to make such a focus on racial unity is not a biblical focus. The New Testament focuses on many things, but not on this.

The verse used by Promise Keepers leaders to support their focus on racial reconciliation is 2 Corinthians 5:18: "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation." PK founder Bill McCartney cited this verse in Atlanta and said, "If the gospel is not the gospel of reconciliation, then what is it?" We would reply that 2 Corinthians 5:18 has nothing whatsoever to do with racial reconciliation. It is speaking of spiritual reconciliation between God and man. The following verses made this plain, "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:19-21). For Promise Keepers to use this passage to defend their push for racial unity is an incredible misuse of Scripture. The Apostle Paul did not preach racial unity; he preached Jesus Christ. There is no record that the Apostles conducted Promise Keepers-type reconciliation ceremonies whereby the various races confessed the sin of racism one to another.

IF THE PROMISE KEEPERS EMPHASIS ON RACE DOES NOT COME FROM THE BIBLE, FROM WHENCE DOES IT ORIGINATE? We believe this emphasis is a product of Promise Keepers' worldliness. Racial harmony is a politically-correct emphasis in the world today. It is the emphasis of the liberal secular media. It is the emphasis of the United Nations. It is the emphasis of the World Council of Churches. It is the emphasis of humanistic educators. It is the emphasis of many cults. I recently saw a sign advertising the Bahai faith with these words: "World peace through racial unity." It is an emphasis of the New Age movement. It was emphasized, for example, at a recently held Summit on Ethics and Meaning. An ad for this meeting appeared on page four of the March/April edition of New Age Journal. Participants at this interfaith gathering included Black leader Jesse Jackson, Harvey Cox of Harvard Divinity School; Matthew Fox, New Age former Catholic priest; Jim Wallis of the Evangelical Sojourners magazine; and Tony Campolo, a popular Evangelical leader. This mixed multitude emphasized racial harmony. In the book New Age Politics, author Mark Satin focuses on racial unity. He believes racism is one of the greatest hindrances to the development of the New Age.

Am I saying that Promise Keepers is a New Age movement? No, not directly. Not in the same sense that channeler J.Z. Knight is New Age. But I believe Promise Keepers is influenced by the spirit of the world just as the New Age movement is, and this is why both have similar focuses in some areas. Neither movements are founded upon the Bible. Both are humanistic in the sense that they are founded upon man's reasoning rather than God's revelation. Both are products of the spirit of these last hours. Promise Keepers uses the Bible for proof texts, but as a movement it is not solidly founded upon Scripture. The Bible gives no authority for such a movement apart from the New Testament church. The Bible gives no such commission as that pushed by Promise Keepers. There is no biblical commission to push racial reconciliation. The Gospel is to be preached to all nations that men might be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), but that is not the same as pushing racial reconciliation itself.


A key verse on the nations or races in the New Testament is the following--"And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation" (Acts 17:26).

Note two important biblical truths taught in this verse: (1) All races are made from one blood. The differences between the races are real, but they are external and cultural. The spiritual characteristics of all men is the same. All were made in the image of God. All are fallen sinners. All need salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. All are called to be saved through the same Gospel. (2) God made the races and the nations and has set their boundaries. I believe this is why people of one race and nationality ordinarily and naturally seek out their own and are most comfortable with their own. This does not mean it is wrong for the races to intermingle and co-exist. I don't believe interracial marriage, for example, is wrong. I believe it can create some very difficult problems which can affect the children, but that does not mean it is wrong. Moses was interracially married. His wife was an Ethiopian (Numbers 12:1). The Bible does not say interracial marriage is wrong, and though I would not encourage it, I also do not oppose it.

3. RACISM AS A SPECIFIC SIN IS NOT MENTIONED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. Biblically speaking, racism is merely one aspect of the pride and animosity which flow from man's old carnal nature. The Lord Jesus Christ said, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; These are the things which defile a man..." (Matthew 15:19,20). Racism is not mentioned in this list because it is not a separate sin dealt with in Scripture. The Bible condemns murder and variance and anger, but it does not deal with A SPECIFIC KIND OF variance and anger called racism.

The focus in North American society today is not really on racism in general, it is on one type of racism: white racism. Black racism, Chicano racism, Asian racism, etc. are almost totally ignored. Promise Keepers is perpetuating the same type of focus. They might mention other forms of racism, but the focus is on white racism. The Bible does not support this. Whites are not more hate-filled than any other race. Man's chief problem is not racism; it is sin. America's chief problem is not racism; it is spiritual rebellion, idolatry, and apostasy. America's chief problem is not the improper relationship between the races; it is the improper relationship of its citizens with God.


At the Atlanta Clergy Conference, Jack Hayford, a white man, confessed the sin of whites who have mistreated black people in America. Another speaker, a white man, confessed the sin of his forefathers in mistreating Native American Indians. In each case, a representative of that race verbalized forgiveness in the name of his race. George McKinney, a black bishop, said he forgave Hayford and the white man. Tom Claus, an American Indian, said he forgave the white man for stealing their land and slaughtering 50 million buffaloes. There is nothing like this in Scripture. In the Old Testament we find Israel's prophets and kings confessing the sin of that nation. Daniel did this (Daniel 9). Nehemiah did this (Neh. 1:4-11). But there is nothing like this in the New Testament. Why? Because Daniel and Nehemiah stood in a position in which they could confess the sins of their people. They could confess the sins of Israel because they were proper representatives of the nation Israel. But I, as an individual, cannot effectually confess the sins of generations past in the sense of racial prejudice because I am not a proper representative of those generations. I have no official or God-given position by which I can assume such a prerogative. I can confess my own sins. If I have hated someone, if I have been at variance against someone, if I have mistreated someone, I need to confess my sin, and God promises to forgive it (1 John 1:7). I can also confess the sins of my immediate family, because I am a man and therefore God has assigned me the position as the head of that family. If my family has been unfaithful in some way before the Lord, I can confess that sin and do something to make it right. If I am a pastor, I can confess the sins of my church, if those sins are corporate. If the church, for example, has failed to exercise biblical discipline, if it has been slack to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth, if it has a worldly testimony in the community, if there has been some scandal, etc., the pastors can confess those sins and do something to make them right. God has given the pastor a position and an authority by which he could do this. A leader of a nation could confess the sins of his nation in certain corporate areas because he sits in the seat of authority. It is ineffectual, though, for an individual to attempt to confess the sins of some past generation. Confession must be made first to God, and there is no indication in the Bible that God will forgive the sins of some past generation because of my individual prayers. And there is no indication in Scripture that one private individual can offer forgiveness in the place of a race or a nation. This is an exercise in feel-good vanity.

Dear reader, I hope you are saved through the blood of Jesus Christ and that you have your bags packed for Heaven. Preparations are frantically being made for a one-world government and a one-world church. The hour is very late, and the Lord could come at any moment.

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