Why Racism is Material Heresy and Ought to be Formal Heresy : Outline 2, “Is Christ divided?”

Communion of Saints

[We have summarized Outline 1 in our last post as follows: Christ bore the whole of human nature by bearing the nature of a specific race. If races as such can differ by superiority and inferiority, then they, by the very meaning of race, must differ in nature (substance). So, Christ either only bore the substance of one race, or races as such cannot differ by superiority or inferiority. 

The focus of the first outline was quite narrow and restricted only to the claim of superiority or inferiority of races. Here we will expand out to include another form of racist belief and confession. For methodological concerns, including the elusive definition of “racism” and “race,” please see the beginning of “Outline 1” and “Responding to Questions/Objections.” As before, the target is clearly specified; if your particular brand of ideology does not fall under the stated target, then the critique does not apply.

And again, please remember this is just an outline. It is my prayer and hope that others will expand on these concepts, and that churches would consider how to implement with wisdom.]


Men may be seeking eminence and distinction by arguments which link them [“negros”] with the brute; but the instinctive impulses of our nature, combined with the plainest declarations of the word of God, lead us to recognize in his form and lineaments—in his moral, religious and intellectual nature—the same humanity in which we glory as the image of God. We are not ashamed to call him our brother.

The above words were preached by Dr. J. H. Thornwell to a Presbyterian congregation in Charleston, S. C., on May 26, 1850. Truthful words indeed. So Christian. So unwilling to give in to the popular arguments of other politicians and ministers of his day; so unwilling to give in to the notion that the “negro” was inferior to himself and his congregation. A truly commendable rejection of the superiority or inferiority among races, deemed heretical in our last Outline. But, we may wonder, what then was the occasion of this great egalitarian proclamation? Especially in Charleston 1850? Oh, well, it was the dedication sermon of a new “negro” church, financed by slave owners for their slaves. It was, according to Thornwell, “a triumph of Christian charity.” Certainly the “negro” has “sinned as we have, and he has an equal interest with us in the great redemption,” but it was equally certain for Thornwell and his ilk that “negros” and whites could not worship as one congregation, let alone in the same building.

Men like Thornwell believed themselves to have advanced in godliness beyond those who would claim inequality between “negros” and whites; the mantra, of course, would become “separate but equal.” To be sure, included in this separation was also a preference for one’s own “kind” and kindred. As fellow Presbyterian minister Robert Dabney explained,

I, for one, say plainly, that I belong to the white race, and that if I must choose be­tween the two results, my philanthropy leads me to desire the prosperity of my own people, in preference to that of an alien race. I do not see any humanity in taking the negro out of the place for which nature has fitted him, at the cost of thrusting my own kindred down into it. (The Negro and the Common School)

Would that this were just an ancient sentiment of an isolated past, but “separate but equal” and preference for kindred are confronted every day by real families all around the world—and of nearly every race and ethnicity. As an extended example, consider the following declarations of the largely Presbyterian Kinist movement in America, in answer to the question, “What is Kinism?

That race is Biblically defined as common patrilineal descent. That, in consequence, race is the sum total of all the attributes a man inherits from his ancestors that he holds in common with his relatives, both near and distant. …That the God of the Old Testament, who forbade interracial, interreligious marriages to His covenant nation, is the same as the God of the New Testament. …That unequal yoking in marriage or in society at large is destructive of Christian harmony, association, and growth. …That in the New Covenant era, the elect come from all nations. That, nevertheless, God graciously made Europe the historic seat of Christendom. … That culture is the external expression of religious belief in union with race and place. …That multiculturalism is destructive. …That all men are equal only in the sense that we have a common origin and federal head in Adam. That we are equal before God’s Law in the sense that it applies to all men; recognizing that in points it applies unequal treatment to the sexes, to believers than to unbelievers, to the native than to the alien. …That Christians, the native born, and property owners, have a greater claim to wielding power, whether that be holding a position of leadership, voting, land ownership, or freedom of movement. That hierarchy is the natural and proper structure of human society. …That human responsibility is Biblically regulated by relationship, such that we have a greater responsibility to our own family, race, town, state, region, and country, than we do to “the other”. That Christians should favor the native and the normal over the alien and the novel. …That transracial adoption is one common form of burden-bearing in the post-Christian church. That sacrificing one’s family to become a foreign missionary is another common form. …That transracial or international adoptions should not occur. …That our responsibility consists only of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

(Of course, such kinism is not limited to any one race, but is found in many cultures and among many ethnicities.)

It is my contention here, just as in Outline 1, that this racist belief and confession is not only sinful and unbiblical, but is de fide error, leading to the corruption of essential doctrines, and is therefore material heresy. As before, we will assume an article of an Ecumenical Creed and show how this specific racist belief and confession contradicts the article, necessitating that one either affirm the ecumenical faith and reject racist ideology, or reject the ecumenical faith in favor of racist ideology.

Outline 2

Creedal Assumption: “I believe in…the holy catholic church, the communion of saints….” (The Apostles’ Creed)

The “communion of saints” (communo sanctorum) has been confessed through the Apostles’ Creed since at least the late 4th Century and continues to be confessed by every orthodox branch of Christianity to this day. The following seven points, according to the Scriptures and the confessions of both East and West, constitute the substance of the doctrine, and as such lay bare the fundamental contradiction between all forms of segregation and preference for kindred and the fundamental Christian confession found in the Apostles’ Creed.

(1) The basis of the Communion of Saints, according to the confessions and catechisms of the Eastern, Roman, Lutheran, and Reformed churches, is the union of the one, holy, catholic Church with its Head, our Lord Jesus Christ.

“But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ” (Luther’s Larger Catechism [1529]); “that believers, all and every one, as members of Christ have part in Him and in all His treasures and gifts” (The Heidelberg Catechism [1563]); “All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by His Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with Him in His grace, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces” (The Westminster Confession of Faith [1646]); “there is, both by their common relation to one Head, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by mutual communion with one another” (The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox Church [1823]); and “Since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others…. We must therefore believe that there exists a communion of goods in the Church. But the most important member is Christ, since he is the head” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church [1992]).

This is precisely why this article follows our confession of “the holy catholic church”: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6).

(2) This union of the Church with its Head is effected by the Incarnation of our Lord.

In order to redeem man, it was necessary that the Son of God “in all things…be made like His brethren” (Heb. 2:17), and “inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same” (v. 14). Accordingly, the universal Church confesses that Christ, “for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man” (Nicece Creed), and is “at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin” (Definition of Chalcedon), and is “God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of the substance of His mother, born in the world. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting” (Athanasian Creed).

The purpose of Christ’s bearing the true and perfect nature (substance) of man was so that “He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified” may be “all of one” (Heb. 2:11), that is of one nature; that through the instrument of faith and the operation of the Holy Spirit, there might be true flesh and blood, body and soul, union with Jesus Christ our Head. As St. Paul explains in the Epistle to the Ephesians,

Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body…. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (5:23, 30-32)

(3) As such, the Church is the Body of Christ and we are individually His members.

Now the body is…for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. …Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? …[H]e who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. (1 Cor. 6:13, 15, 17)

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (Rom. 12:4-5)

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. (1 Cor. 12:12-14)

But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. …Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (1 Cor. 12:20, 26)

(4) We, as the members of His Body, share in both a mutual dependency and communication of goods, both spiritual and physical.

[T]he eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Cor. 12:21-26)

This is also affirmed in the confessions and catechisms of the Church:

Luther’s Larger Catechism, 51-52:

But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms.

I am also a part and member of the same, a sharer and joint owner of all the goods it possesses….

The Heidelberg Catechism:

(55) What do you understand by the “communion of saints”?

First, that believers, all and every one, as members of Christ have part in Him and in all His treasures and gifts; secondly, that each one must feel himself bound to use his gifts, readily and cheerfully, for the advantage and welfare of other members.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. XXVI:

(I) …and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

(II) Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offers opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus. (Ch. 26)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 946-948:

After confessing “the holy catholic Church,” the Apostles’ Creed adds “the communion of saints.” In a certain sense this article is a further explanation of the preceding: “What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?” The communion of saints is the Church.

“Since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others…. We must therefore believe that there exists a communion of goods in the Church. But the most important member is Christ, since he is the head…. Therefore, the riches of Christ are communicated to all the members, through the sacraments.” “As this Church is governed by one and the same Spirit, all the goods she has received necessarily become a common fund.”

The term “communion of saints” therefore has two closely linked meanings: communion in holy things (sancta)” and “among holy persons (sancti).”

And we see the example of the First Century Church:

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. …Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. (Acts 2:41-45)

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. (Acts 4:32)

Who were these people?

Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs…. (Acts 2:9-11)

[As I have been called a Marxist already, I must note here that I am not endorsing communism. In terms of the communion of physical goods, I am only arguing what the Apostle Paul likewise argues: “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack’” (2 Cor. 8:13-15). There is an “equality” required within the church, both of physical and spiritual needs, to be mutually met by its interdependent members. And it is important to note, that in the context of 2 Cor. 8, Paul gathering money from various Gentile nations to bring to the Jerusalem church.]

(5) By union with the Head, the Church of God is also the one household of God, and as one family supersedes all relations of the flesh, kinship, and common progeneration of physical descent.

St. Paul declares both Jews and Gentile believers to be members of the one household of God:

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (Eph. 2:19)

Further, this household is one body in Christ, by the Spirit, with God as the one Father of all:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph. 4:4-6)

Again, this one household is effected by the incarnation of our Lord, such that we share in one nature. As such, our Lord Himself calls us His brothers:

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren… (Heb. 2:10-11)

Jesus Christ was sent by the Father that He might take up human nature for this purpose, that He might be the firstborn among His brothers:

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom. 8:29)

By faith, all believers are members of God’s household, transcending all “common patrilineal descent” and relations of the flesh:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:26-29)

[T]here is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. (Col. 3:11)

St. Paul, in his own testimony, counts all relations of the flesh—natural stock, nation, and tribe—as “rubbish,” preferring to be found “in Christ,” in union with His body and spirit:

[T[hough I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him (Phil. 3:4-9)

And elsewhere, the Apostle notes that we who are in Christ no longer regard any man after appearances, or according to the flesh:

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. (2 Cor. 5:16)

Even Jesus Christ, our Lord, answered the request to leave a particular communion of saints for His kindred of flesh with the following:

But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:48-50)

And John the Baptist allowed no preference or prestige for “common patrilineal descent”:

[D]o not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. (Luke 3:8)

[Again, I must note that I am not denying that there are particular duties required between spouses, children, and parents, as enjoined by the Scripture. But the brotherhood of Christ, and the one household of God transcends even these commitments. But, as God has ordained, the Church itself is primarily to be composed of such families, not just individuals. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).]

(6) The Lord’s Supper is the Sacrament of this holy communion of saints, and all who divide this union are to be barred from participation.

The communion of the saints is sacramentally exemplified in the Supper of our Lord, the “communion” of the body and blood of Christ, signing and sealing the union of believers with Christ in one body as “one bread.”

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. (1 Cor. 10:16-17)

And in giving instructions on properly administering and partaking of the Supper, the Apostle Paul upbraids the Church of Corinth for dismembering this one body and bread, due in part to divisions and preferential treatment. He commands that none partake who do not in this Sacrament recognize its significance, or discern the body of the Lord, the ground of our unity as one body:

For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it, [etc.]. (1 Cor. 11:18 ff)

All leaven of unrepentant and obstinate sin, including heresy, is to be purged out of the household of God and removed from the Table of our Lord—from participation in the New Covenant Passover Feast:

Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. (Tit. 3:10-11)

(7) By virtue of the Incarnation, there is a sense in which Jesus Christ is the Head of all mankind.

In his Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas considers the question, “Whether Christ is the Head of All Men?” He answers:

It is written (1 Tim. 4:10): “Who is the Saviour of all men, especially of the faithful,” and (1 John 2:2): “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” Now to save men and to be a propitiation for their sins belongs to Christ as Head. Therefore Christ is the Head of all men.

I answer that, This is the difference between the natural body of man and the Church’s mystical body, that the members of the natural body are all together, and the members of the mystical are not all together—neither as regards their natural being, since the body of the Church is made up of the men who have been from the beginning of the world until its end—nor as regards their supernatural being, since, of those who are at any one time, some there are who are without grace, yet will afterwards obtain it, and some have it already. We must therefore consider the members of the mystical body not only as they are in act, but as they are in potentiality. Nevertheless, some are in potentiality who will never be reduced to act, and some are reduced at some time to act; and this according to the triple class, of which the first is by faith, the second by the charity of this life, the third by the fruition of the life to come. Hence we must say that if we take the whole time of the world in general, Christ is the Head of all men, but diversely. For, first and principally, He is the Head of such as are united to Him by glory; secondly, of those who are actually united to Him by charity; thirdly, of those who are actually united to Him by faith; fourthly, of those who are united to Him merely in potentiality, which is not yet reduced to act, yet will be reduced to act according to Divine predestination; fifthly, of those who are united to Him in potentiality, which will never be reduced to act; such are those men existing in the world, who are not predestined, who, however, on their departure from this world, wholly cease to be members of Christ, as being no longer in potentiality to be united to Christ. (III, q. 8, a. 3)

As noted before, we confess that Christ, “for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man” (Nicene Creed). By bearing the substance of man, the human nature, He was made like all men—predestined to glory or not—in every respect, save sin. As such, all men are potentially His brethren, being of like nature with Him. Just as we all have shared the like nature of the first Adam, so Christ has become the “Second Adam” and the “Last Adam” by assuming the same nature into His own person. As all men share in the self-same human nature that Christ even now bears, so all men are capable of union with Him and thus are potentially so, should they receive and believe His gospel. While only those predestined will ultimately be united to Christ by faith and love unto glory (reducing the natural potentiality to mystical actuality), the fact that Christ has borne the flesh of all mankind unites the whole race of man around the new and perfect man. Upon the resurrection of this Second and Last Adam, we read,

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations….” (Matt. 28:18-19)

By His incarnation, Jesus Christ is the Head of all mankind, so long as they live. And for our purposes, this includes the fact that all men are by virtue of a shared nature fit objects of His redemption, no matter what race, ethnicity, kindred, or “common patrilineal descent.”


To confess the Communion of Saints is to confess that our Lord Jesus Christ was incarnate by the Virgin Mary, sharing the same substance and human nature of all mankind, such that we, His Church, might be united to Him, “of his flesh and of his bones,” and united to one another as members of His one body, “members of one another.” In particular, to commune as saints is to be interdependent, just as the members of one natural human body are dependent on one another; “the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”

To confess the Communion of Saints is also to confess a communication of all goods, both spiritual and physical, “that there may be equality” (2 Cor. 8:14). This union as one body also constitutes one household of God, transcending all relations of the flesh, whether it be “common patrilineal descent,” “stock,” “kindred,” or “tribe.” And this communion is covenantally exemplified among the members of this one body and one household in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, such that all members are of one bread, and those that pollute and leaven this sacred feast with unrepentant sin or heresy are to be excluded from this communion. And last, we must acknowledge that by the incarnation of our Lord, the Last Adam, and by His union of flesh with all mankind, every race, kindred, and tribe are invited to be members of the same communion, sharing in it already by natural potentiality.

In the words of the Pan-Orthodox Synod of 1887, “in the Christian Church, which is a spiritual communion, predestined by its Leader and Founder to contain all nations in one brotherhood in Christ, racism is alien and quite unthinkable.” To be sure, to believe in and advocate for the separation of saints according to “common patrilineal descent,” to believe in and advocate for “separate but equal,” or to believe in and advocate preference for one’s “kind” or kindred, is to reject the one body of Christ and the communion of saints that it entails; as the Apostle rhetorically asks, “Is Christ divided?”

To reject or overtly contradict such an essential doctrine—an article of the Apostles’ Creed itself—is to commit material heresy, no less and no more so than to compromise any other essential doctrine of the faith.


3 thoughts on “Why Racism is Material Heresy and Ought to be Formal Heresy : Outline 2, “Is Christ divided?”

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