Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012



Race Race is a category by which individuals, groups, and societies interpret diversity in the human family. As a way of making sense, race is founded in the interpretation of differences between human groups – most often differences in melanin content (colour), facial features, hair texture, and also culture. The primary function of race has been both to catalogue and, more significantly, to attribute meaning to these observed differences. The construction and continuing use of the category of race represents a particularly modern approach to a broader human tendency to construct regimes of knowledge that both ground and explain systems of socio-political hegemony by appeal to some putative substantial differences between peoples. While it has been a highly unstable category, race has been enduring in the modern period because of its presumed status as an objective description of reality. This use of race to legitimate systems of social power is a good point from which to explore the idea theologically. Such an exploration begins with some description of the interplay of religion and the social sciences during the formative period of modernity.

Race evolved as a sense-making tool during the period of western global hegemony – modernity – that also saw the rise of the modern physical and social sciences (see Natural Science). During this period Christianity (and religion more generally) was being challenged by the emerging scientific world view, yet during the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth century Christian assumptions about human history (including God's providential guidance of it) continued to frame the field of vision for these sciences.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Brace, C. L., Race is a Four Letter Word: The Genesis of the Concept (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Carter, J. K., Race: A Theological Account (Oxford University Press, 2008).
Haynes, S., Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (Oxford University Press, 2007).
Milbank, J., Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, 2nd edn (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005).
Milbank, J., Pickstock, C., and Ward, G., eds., Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology (Routledge, 1999).
Oliver, S. and Milbank, J., eds., The Radical Orthodoxy Reader (Routledge, 2009).
Smith, J. K. A., Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Towards a Post-Secular Worldview (Baker Academic, 2004).
Endean, P., Karl Rahner and Ignatian Spirituality (Oxford University Press, 2004).
Kilby, K., Rahner: Theology and Philosophy (Routledge, 2004).
Marmion, D. and Hines, M., eds., The Cambridge Companion to Karl Rahner (Cambridge University Press, 2005).
Rahner, K., Encounters with Silence, 2nd edn (St Augustine's Press, 1999 [1937]).
Dawkins, R., The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin, 2006).
Nelson, A., ed., A Companion to Rationalism (Blackwell, 2005).
Neville, R. C., The Highroad around Modernism (SUNY, 1992).
Kaufman, G., In Face of Mystery (Harvard University Press, 1993).
Marshall, B., Trinity and Truth (Cambridge University Press, 2000).
Moore, A., Realism and Christian Faith (Cambridge University Press, 2003).
Soskice, J. M., Metaphor and Religious Language (Oxford University Press, 1985).
Benedict, P., Christ's Churches Purely Reformed: A Social History of Calvinism (Yale University Press, 2002).
Brecht, M., Martin Luther, 3 vols. (Fortress Press, 1985–93).
Cameron, E., The European Reformation, 2nd edn (Oxford University Press, 2011).
MacCulloch, D., The Reformation (Viking Books, 2004).
Pettegree, A., ed., The Reformation World (Routledge, 2000).
Plantinga, A. and Wolterstorff, N., eds. Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God (University of Notre Dame Press, 1983).
Plantinga, A., Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford University Press, 2000).
Barth, K., On Religion: The Revelation of God as the Sublimation of Religion (T&T Clark, 2006 [1932]).
James, W., The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (Longmans, Green and Co., 1902).
Knitter, P., Introducing Theologies of Religion (Orbis, 2002).
Schleiermacher, F., On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers (John Knox Press, 1994 [1799]).
Smart, N., Dimensions of the Sacred: An Anatomy of the World's Beliefs (University of California Press, 1999).
Smith, W. C., The Meaning and End of Religion: A New Approach to the Religious Traditions of Mankind (Macmillan, 1963).
Ricœur, P., Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning (Texas Christian University Press, 1976).
Stiver, D. R., The Philosophy of Religious Language: Sign, Symbol, and Story (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
Wolterstorff, N., Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim that God Speaks (Cambridge University Press, 1995).
Hughes, R. T. and Allen, C. L., Illusions of Innocence: Protestant Primitivism in America, 1630–1875 (University of Chicago Press, 1988).
Littell, F. H., The Origins of Sectarian Protestantism (Macmillan, 1952); reprinted as The Anabaptist View of the Church (Baptist Standard Bearer, 2001).
Abraham, W. J., Crossing the Threshold of Divine Revelation (Eerdmans, 2007).
Dulles, A., Models of Divine Revelation (Doubleday, 1983).
King, R., Obstacles to Divine Revelation: God and the Reorientation of Human Reason (Continuum, 2008).
Mavrodes, G., Revelation in Religious Belief (Temple University Press, 1988).
Menssen, S. and Sullivan, T., The Agnostic Inquirer: Revelation from a Philosophical Standpoint (Eerdmans, 2007).
Mitchell, B., The Justification of Religious Belief (Seabury Press, 1974).
Kidd, T. S., The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (Yale University Press, 2007).
Ward, W. R., The Protestant Evangelical Awakening (Cambridge University Press, 1992).
Hanson, R., Tradition in the Early Church (Westminster Press, 1962).
Florovsky, G., The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, vols. V–VI: Ways of Russian Theology (Vaduz and Belmont, 1987).
Gnedich, P., Dogmat iskupleniya v russkoi bogoslovskoi nauke (Sretenskii monastyr, Moskovskaia dukhovnaia akademiia, 2007).
Gromov, M. N., Ideinye techenia drevnerusskoi mysli (Izd-vo Russkogo Khristianskogo gumanitarnogo in-ta, 2001).
Kornblatt, J. D. and Gustafson, R. F., eds., Russian Religious Thought (University of Wisconsin Press, 1996).
Valliere, P., Modern Russian Theology: Bukharev, Soloviev, Bulgakov: Orthodox Theology in a New Key (Eerdmans, 2000).