I just saw a great Day of Discovery program on television. The month of February is Black History Month. This month was selected because it contains the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. I’ve been noticing that Day of Discovery has been observing this by airing several of their programs which feature the contributions of great Christian African-Americans in American history, many of which I’ve seen in the past. This weekend, however, they kicked off a three-part series called Africa & the Bible. I got really excited about the first one, The Myth of a Cursed Race (at this link, you can watch the video online!). Part of the introduction of this video on the Radio Bible Class website reads, “Are all races created equal in God’s eyes? Down through the ages, some people have viewed those with darker skin as somehow less human—using skin color as an excuse to enslave and marginalize people.”
The reason I found this program so exciting was the fact that, in the past, during my sojourn in the worldview of “Ruckmanism,” I was taught this view that is among the historic blemishes that tarnishes the reputation of Christianity, along with such low points as the Crusades, Inquisition, and the Salem Witch Trials. The view espoused by Europeans and Americans to justify the forced slavery of generations of Africans did not originate in the turmoil which led to the American Civil War, but is centuries old, and is ingrained in the thinking of many in some form or other, to this day.
There are three books by Peter Ruckman in which he perpetuates this harmful interpretation of Genesis 9:20-28, which has been used to subjugate and generally look down on the African race. Their titles are, Segregation or Integration, Discrimination: The Key to Sanity, and Genesis: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series. Not that I recommend your buying these books, but for your information, these titles may be found at Peter Ruckman’s PDF bookstore catalog.
Segregation or Integration is found on page 15 of the 16 page PDF file; Discrimination: The Key to Sanity is listed on page 9; and Genesis: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series is on page 1. These writings by Peter Ruckman persuade many of his readers to adopt a racist worldview in relation to the African race. I was persuaded to believe it for a while. I was persuaded to believe it, not because I have any animosity toward black people from my own experience, I was persuaded to believe it because I wanted to believe that Peter Ruckman was a great Bible teacher. Many of his readers adopt this racist view out of a similar motivation. They’re not bad people. They are misled people.
I am thankful that before I adopted the extreme views of Ruckman, I had had enough exposure to the greater evangelical world and its way of thinking that as I forced myself to subscribe to Ruckman’s bankrupt views, I was always aware of the evangelical views, or at least attitudes, which highlighted to various degrees, the holes in his teachings. Luther once wrote that “reason is a whore,” being able to serve whatever purpose you want. For a period of a few long years, I prostituted my mind to this tragic worldview called “Ruckmanism.”
But my mind had a prior commitment to learning the truth. In my late teen years, back when I was considering the claims of charismatic theology, I determined that before I run off willy-nilly from the Independent, Fundamental Baptist tradition in which I was raised, I would first learn exactly what it is that the IFB tradition teaches, and only if they are in error, will I ever leave the tradition in which God had me raised. As I read and thought, I came to the conclusion that the strain of teaching I need to follow is whatever is the most conservative Baptist teaching that I can find. So as I began my journey toward the “right,” eventually I found myself dangling by my fingernails from the lunatic fringe clutching the writings of Peter Ruckman under my other arm. Because I considered Ruckman one of the most “conservative” writers I’d ever read, I figured his were the views I needed to adopt. So, I began the process of assimilation.
I sincerely thought I was learning the truth. I sincerely wanted to believe that I was learning the truth. But even though I wanted to believe the views of this “most conservative” of Baptist teachers, the much more reasonable views of the greater evangelical world always haunted me–the kind that respected the King James Version, but had more confidence in the modern, critical, eclectic text of Scripture; the kind who confessed (whether in a creedal, or non-creedal way) “one holy catholic (universal) church,” as opposed to my “local church only” theology; the kind who thought Martin Luther King, Jr., was a genuine American hero, rather than merely an adulterous, communist-sympathizer who wanted to unleash a dangerous “jungle culture” on this Christian nation.
By God’s grace, as time progressed, and I continued to search for the truth, the holes in Ruckman’s teachings grew and grew, until one day I had to admit to myself, “You know, if I were honest, I’d half to admit that I simply don’t believe this stuff anymore.” In fact, I can tell you the exact spot where I stood when I was finally willing to have this thought. I was mixing ink at the Reformation Station (my nickname for the print shop at which I used to work with my friend, Gage Browning, but this was before he was hired), listening to R. C. Sproul on my Walkman teaching about the inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. This was the moment when enough light had pierced the dark views of Ruckmanism that I began the process of genuine Reformation.
This is the reason I found Day of Discovery’s program, Africa & the Bible, part one: The Myth of A Cursed Race such an exciting and enlightening program. I highly recommend it. In fact, I’m about to go back to RBC’s website and offer my “gift of any amount” to their ministry, so that they can thank me for my support of their ministry with the gift of this three part series. I’m sure someday in the future I will be able to share it with others in my future teaching ministry at church. And then at or around February 23, I’m going to the theater to view Amazing Grace, the film about William Wilberforce’s successful efforts to abolish slavery in England two hundred years ago.