What is the biblical perspective on multiculturalism?Question: "What is the biblical perspective on multiculturalism?"
Answer: The concept of multiculturalism can be taken several different ways, though two are more commonly used. The first is the idea of cultural diversity within a certain political or geographic area. The second is a social or political effort to enforce a certain level of cultural diversity. The biblical view of multiculturalism deals with both aspects, though not in an overly prescriptive way. Practically, the Bible is strongly in favor of multiculturalism in the sense that various languages, foods, styles of music, and customs are part of our human heritage. And all people, of all cultures, are equally valued by God. Politically, the Bible has more to say about respecting authority than it does about specific policies. Theologically, the Bible does not support the idea that all cultural religious ideas are equally true or should be treated as such.
According to Scripture, multiculturalism, in the sense of practical diversity, is exactly what we will see in heaven. The Bible speaks of a vast number of people “from every nation, tribe, people and language” praising God at His throne (Revelation 7:9). The principle of multiculturalism is seen in the Bible’s teaching that race, culture, and gender do not separate us in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28; Romans 1:16). The Bible even encourages cooperation with cultural norms, so long as they don’t conflict with God’s commands (1 Corinthians 9:22; 10:33). So, in the sense that there are many colors, cultures, and races that God has created and that He values, multiculturalism is an extremely biblical concept. What God creates and values, we should also value.
Politically, the Bible has little to say about multiculturalism beyond the command to respect authority (Romans 13:1–2). By necessity, this means conforming to certain aspects of the local culture. Claiming an unlimited right to offend others is not only unbiblical, it’s unhelpful. An insistence on retaining a totally separate culture from one’s host nation or people is likewise not supported by Scripture. At the same time, love and care for our neighbors means tolerating a certain level of disagreement (Matthew 5:39; Romans 15:1; 1 Corinthians 8:13). So, a biblical view of multiculturalism involves a certain level of political submission and tolerance. At the same time, Christians are commanded to obey God before obeying men (Acts 5:28–29), so when laws or cultural norms directly conflict with biblical concepts, we are obligated toward civil disobedience.
The one area where a biblical perspective directly conflicts with certain styles of multiculturalism is theologically. It is common for multiculturalism to be taken to an extreme of “relativism,” where no particular viewpoint is seen as actually true, correct, or moral. Typically, this is only applied to religious ideas. The claim that all religious ideas are true, all concepts of God are equally valid, or every approach to religion is correct is incompatible with the Bible (John 14:6; 3:36; 1 Timothy 2:5; Exodus 20:2–3). Christians cannot participate in a style of multiculturalism that embraces spiritual error as if it were spiritual truth (2 Timothy 4:3; Galatians 1:8), even if their stand results in negative social consequences (John 15:19).
Multiculturalism, in practice, is simply an expression of God’s creativity. There is much to be valued in different ideas, perspectives, and tastes (Proverbs 11:14; Romans 14:5). To what extent a particular nation enforces certain choices on others is not so much a biblical question as a political one. The Bible does not support the transformation of multiculturalism into relativism, however. Christians are obligated to be loving, respectful, and tolerant (1 Peter 3:15–16; 2:17); at the same time, we are commanded not to participate in the sins of any particular culture (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 11:3), even those of our own culture (Romans 6:17–18; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11).
Recommended Resource: Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper
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