25 January 2024
By Dr Adi Schlebusch
A couple of years ago I attended a church service in which the sermon on James 2:9 focused on the so-called "sin of discrimination." This verse states that “if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” In the sermon the pastor predictably presented discrimination as inherently sinful. Within the first five minutes of the sermon itself my wife and I decided to leave the service, determined never to return to that particular church. This misinterpretation and misapplication of scripture is, in my view, a reflection of a broader trend within the Western Church, which has long been conforming to the tenets of a Cultural Marxist public religion. In response I will start by delving a little deeper into the context of the passage from James 2 so as to allow the reader to gain a better understanding of the verse in question.
James 2 and Discrimination
Following the exegetical principle of analogia fidei, where Scripture interprets itself, allows us to reconcile another section of James 2—verses 14 to 26 which discusses faith and works—with other scriptural teachings, particularly those by St. Paul on justification by faith alone. This approach reveals that James’s message on faith and works is perfectly in line with the apostle Paul's writings as well as the teachings of Christ concerning believers being recognized by their deeds (Matthew 7:16-20). The emphasis of the different passages of Scripture, all inspired by the Holy Spirit, merely vary in terms of emphasis when different challenges across different contexts are addressed. This of course necessitates an interpretation that always takes into account the historical context, other scriptural passages, and central Christian doctrines that can be clearly derived from Scripture. Applying this approach to James 2, I argue that the pastor's interpretation deviates from the actual teaching of the text.
James's letter must be viewed as a New Testament parallel to the Old Testament's wisdom literature, emphasizing living in accordance with God's Law. James 2:1-9, especially when viewed in light of Christ’s beatitudes, can then be seen as practical advice for living in accordance with Biblical principles. The Greek word for “partiality” in verse 9, προσωπολημπτεῖτε, means “to show partiality” or “to have respect of persons,” and echoes the biblical law against favoritism when it comes to the administration of justice (Leviticus 19:15).
The Duty of Righteous Discrimination
Discrimination itself is an inescapable aspect of life. Modern definitions of discrimination often tend to automatically describe it as being unjust, which contrasts with older interpretations that viewed it as a neutral or even positive ability to discern. This semantic shift reflects a change in the underlying moral framework of society, from a Christian to a more Marxist worldview.
Compare, for example, the commonly available online dictionaries with the definition of the same word in Samuel Johnson’s 1755 A Dictionary of the English Language:
Discriminátion. n.s. [from discriminatio, Latin.]
1. The state of being distinguished from other persons or things.There is a reverence left to be shewed them on the account of their discrimination from other places, and separation for sacred uses. Stillingfleet’s Def. of Disc. On Rom. Idol.
2. The act of distinguishing one from another; distinction; difference put.A satire should expose nothing but what is corrigible, and make a due discrimination between those that are, and those who are not the proper objects of it. Addison’s Spectator.By that prudent discrimination made between the offenders of different degrees, he obliges those whom he has distinguished as objects of mercy. Addison’s Freeholder, №. 31.
3. The marks of distinction.Take heed of abetting any factions, or applying any publick discriminations in matters of religion. King Charles.Letters arise from the first original discriminations of voice, by way of articulation, whereby the ear is able to judge and observe the differences of vocal sounds. Holder’s El. Of Speech.
Whereas in modern English dictionaries either the first or second primary definition of the word is provided with an exclusively negative meaning, Johnson’s Dictionary gives three primary meanings all of which are either positive or neutral. There is a quite simple explanation for this: a change of the public religion (or theocratic order) of Western Civilization as a whole and the Anglosphere in particular from the seventeenth century to the early twenty-first century. Even until late in the eighteenth century, England was a renowned Christian nation, producing the likes of Edmund Burke, arguably the most famous opponent of the anti-Christian French Enlightenment.
Following the Enlightenment, with this shift of public religion, a shift in hamartiology, i.e. the doctrine regarding sin, has also occurred. This is reflected in dictionaries. Wikipedia starts of its article on hamartiology by defining the concept as “a branch of Christian theology.” This is incorrect. Hamartiology is a branch of all theology, Christian or non-Christian. Islam has a concept of hamartiology. You’d probably never get a Buddhist to admit it, but Buddhism also has this concept. And so does the religion of Cultural Marxism, the public religion which all of Western Civilization (at least in Western Europe and North America) has today. It is often claimed that modern society cares nothing for the concept of “sin,” but this cannot be further from the truth. The concept is recognized as much as ever—and yes, also in the so-called “secular” public domain, where people are constantly persecuted for violating what is effectively the blasphemy laws of the secular democratic state.
In liberal democratic societies discrimination is often labelled as inherently sinful, especially when it concerns race, sex, religion, or class. However, biblical law and created reality dictate that discrimination, when practiced righteously in accordance with God’s Law, is not only permissible but necessary.
Liberals may claim that the Enlightenment liberated mankind from the “oppression” of true liberty by the Medieval Church, but they have no idea what they’re talking about. The simple fact of the matter is that in 1755, discrimination was (rightly) regarded by English society not as a sin, but as an inescapable part of human life, which can be used for good (when executed in accordance with God’s Law) and bad (when executed unrighteously). However, because the modern atheistic state is unable to appeal to a higher moral standard than itself, it has to continually resort to forms of deception in order to make its order appear more acceptable to the general population—this is evident in its declaration of discrimination as sinful. Marxism portrays discrimination as sinful per se, but only after re-defining discrimination as unjust discrimination against other (groups of) people on the basis on race, sex, religion, or class. Furthermore, of course, by continually selectively applying this standard through public discourse, everyone becomes aware of the “fact” that while not wanting your country to be overrun by Muslim hordes is discriminatory, victimizing those who oppose abortion, for example, is simply necessarily to defend “freedoms” and “human rights.” Note, for example, these striking similarities between the primary definitions of discrimination provided by modern dictionaries and certain anti-discrimination clauses in modern constitutions:
Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race, or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.
~ Article 1 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (adopted in 1983)
No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone . . . on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed . . . is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair.
~ Section 9 (3-5) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (adopted in 1996)
It is clear that a certain institutionalized religious notion of sin, with the state and its appointed judges as supreme moral authority, is also reflected in the dictionaries produced by the society living under this establishment. This holistic societal upheaval of the authority of biblical law and the war against its recognition of divinely ordained distinctions has resulted in the revolting and immoral zeitgeist which we have to endure today, where for example unisex bathrooms, a direct threat to the safety of women and a violation of the privacy of all, may be publicly instituted. At the same time, even in what is supposed to be the public worship of the Triune God on Sunday morning, we often hear the calls for increased conformity to the law of Satan—“thou shalt not discriminate.” Contrary to this, Biblical Law demands discrimination by both the people and the state, and often on the basis of religion, sex, ethno-racial background, and sexual orientation. Conclusion The root problem of the absurdity that Cultural Marxism has brought upon our formerly Christian civilization lies in the fact that the willful declaration of discrimination’s intrinsic sinfulness is far removed from all divinely created realities reflected in God’s Law. This includes divinely sanctioned distinctions which cannot be disregarded by any society if it is to function sensibly. Discrimination is an inescapable part of human existence—in fact, it is an integral part of what makes human existence possible and sensible. All humans discriminate almost every day in almost every decision we make. Therefore, to declare discrimination as sinful, as this “Reformed” pastor with his sermon on James 2 did, is nothing short of resorting to the heresy of Gnosticism. The only coherent solution to this societal problem is a return to the biblical law of partiality, which demands of every Christian to live a life marked by the continual exercise of righteous discrimination.
The root problem of the absurdity that cultural Marxism has brought upon our formerly Christian civilization lies in the fact that the willful declaration of discrimination’s intrinsic sinfulness is far removed from all divinely created realities reflected in God’s Law. This includes divinely sanctioned distinctions which cannot be disregarded by any society if it is to function sensibly. The portrayal of discrimination as inherently sinful, as exemplified in the aformentioned sermon on James 2, deviates significantly from the divine ordinances in creation as well as God’s Law. Such distinctions are essential for a sensible and functional society. Discrimination is a natural and inescapable part of human existence, and to condemn it categorically is to fall into a form of heretical thinking. The solution lies in a return to the biblical understanding of righteous discernment, demanding a life of judicious discrimination in alignment with Christian values.