The term kinism was unknown to most people in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) until it became the subject of an overture to Synod 2019. In response to this overture, Synod 2019 declared kinism a heresy, but many in our denomination may still be left wondering: What exactly is kinism? Where did it come from? Is this something that our churches are actually dealing with?
In response to these questions, the CRCNA’s Office of Race Relations has put together this brief document outlining five things all of us should know about kinism as well as ways to recognize and have conversations about it.
The ideas and suggestions in this document would be excellent for discussing in adult education classes, intergenerational Bible studies, and youth groups.
1. What is kinism?
Kinism is a movement that began in the early 2000s in the United States in some Reformed theological circles and churches. It espouses the belief that God has ordained separation of races in all areas of life. Quoting the theology of John Calvin, Abraham Kupyer, and Louis Berkhof, kinists believe that God, through Old Testament witness, rejected all interracial marriages. With this in mind, kinists would use the force of civil government to establish policies similar to apartheid in South Africa before 1994.
2. What is the biblical evidence for kinists’ claims for racial separation?
Kinists hold that God wanted to maintain distinctions. They look at Old Testament examples to demonstrate how God forbade interracial marriages between Israel and other nations, and they use this to justify the statement that God must also forbid interracial marriage today. Kinists use Genesis 1:25 and 11:7-9 to state that God mandated life based on kinship or relationships with people of “the same kind.”
Synod 2019 declared that this type of thinking is a heresy. It is incorrect to read these passages and say that God was concerned about ethnic background or skin color. Instead, the issue that God was expressing in these Old Testament passages was about keeping his people free of the detestable practices of other nations. Israel had to remain a faithful covenant partner to God alone and not be corrupted by their neighbors. In the New Testament, Christ broke down the wall of separation between Israel and other nations through the cross. For more information, see Acts of Synod 2019, p. 489-505.
3. Why do we need to refute the heresy of kinism?
The teachings of kinism sometimes exist in Christian Reformed churches. This teaching must be refuted because we, as Reformed Christians, believe that all people are image-bearers of God. We also believe that any type of hate and prejudice should be actively opposed by us as individuals and communally as a church. Consider, for example, these passages:
“You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander,and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:7-10).
“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’” (Acts 2:5-11).
4. How did kinism come to light in the Christian Reformed Church?
The overture that was sent to Synod 2019 resulted from a specific situation. A CRC pastor had been teaching and preaching kinist theology in his church for about a decade. Several attempts to deal with it through ecclesiastical means were used, but they did not stop the pastor’s actions altogether. In addition, the pastor made his perspective known through social media posts and the church website, publicly giving the impression of a tie between the Christian Reformed Church to kinist teachings. The pastor and his church have left the CRC, but during the deliberations of Synod 2019, several delegates gave testimony that the pastor was not the only one sympathetic to kinist theology. They commented they knew other CRC members who warmed to kinist ideas.
5. How do we refute kinism theologically?
Synod 2019 declared that kinism is contrary to the CRCNA’s stated vision to be a diverse family of healthy congregations, assemblies, and ministries expressing the good news of God’s kingdom that transforms lives and communities worldwide. Here are a few sources that you could use to help you in thinking about a biblical response to kinism:
- Matthew 1:1-17
- Luke 3:21-38
From God’s Diverse and Unified Family principles (1996):
- “The unity and diversity of the human race and created reality reflects the unity and diversity of the triune God.”
- “A fundamental effect of sin is the breakdown of community.”
- “Reconciliation with God and reconciliation with one another are inseparable in God’s saving work.”
- “Already in the old covenant, the scope of God’s mission is racially and ethnically inclusive.”
- “The church, in its unity and diversity, is God’s strategic vehicle for bringing into being his new creation.”
Other sources for study:
- Acts of Synod 2019, p. 489-505
- Belhar Confession - Background & Resources
- Resources for Worship and Education About Racism
Ⓒ 2019, Office of Race Relations, Christian Reformed Church in North America