A Biblical Basis for Diversity

God teaches in Scripture that the human race is one. As Paul preached to the Athenian philosophers, "From one man God made every nation of the human race, that they should inhabit the whole earth" (Acts 17:26). It is within this greater context of unity that humanity's diversity rightly appears. Human diversity is first mentioned in Genesis 1:27, with the creation of the one human race: "So God created the human race in his own image . . . male and female he made them." The text's singular term, "human race," is characterized as diverse in gender: male and female. Diversity is immediately advanced in the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28: "Be fruitful, increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it." This great command calls explicitly for the scattering of the race, a theme that recurs in Genesis, implicitly calling for cultural diversity.

Later, after naming Noah's three sons, Genesis recounts how "from them came the people who were scattered over the earth" (9:19). This reference to "scattering" hints at the dual nature of cultural diversity in Scripture. On the one hand, cultural diversity is a proper expression of the cultural mandate: by scattering and filling the earth, humanity subdues it piece by piece. On the other hand, it is an expression of the curse enacted at Babel in response to humanity's monocultural attempt to live in defiance of God: ". . . as one people speaking one language they have begun to do this. . . . Come, let us go down and confuse their language. . . . So the Lord scattered them over the earth" (11:6‑8).

It is precisely these dispersed and alienated peoples that God calls to faith and repentance through the gospel's ministry of reconciliation. God chose one person, Abraham, to be a blessing to the world. As God promised him, "all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3). Such blessedness does not terminate the diversity of the peoples. That was the mistake of the Judaizers, who sought to convert Gentiles into Jews before they could be received into the church as Christians. Rather, the blessedness of reconciliation affirms the potential validity of a multitude of cultural expression.

As people from various ethnicities come to faith in Jesus Christ, he reconciles them to God the Father and therefore to each other. Thus, the Universal Church has an inherent and God‑given diversity. As Paul wrote to the divisive Christians at Corinth, "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts . . . so it is with Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12). Paul himself experienced a rich and blessed diversity in the church of Syrian Antioch, where for the first time Jewish and Gentile Christians worshiped God together on equal footing (Acts 11:19‑26). John the beloved similarly witnessed a glimpse of diversity in heaven as he viewed “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev. 7:9)

As it is in heaven, so let it be on earth.