Review of "Race Over Grace" by Charles H. Roberts

Race Over Grace, The Racialist Religion of the Christian Identity Movement, by Charles H. Roberts, iUniverse, 2002, 109 pp.
I’ve long had a fascination with oddities. I frequently read about cryptozoology, ooparts, and the JFK assassination conspiracy theories. More recently I’ve been following the blog of Jason Colavito, a critical skeptic of the ancient aliens literature and of various other dubious claims. On the religious side of things I often recommend Walter Martin and his excellent book The Kingdom of the Cults. But, even having had read extensively in “oddities” I was surprised to find a topic virtually unknown to me in Charles H. Roberts’ Race Over Grace.
The topic of the book is the “Christian Identity Movement,” a rather bizarre and fringe set of beliefs. Roberts details the history of the movement and its origins in British Israelism. Basically they teach that white people are the true Jews who are the lost ten tribes of Israel who wandered into Europe some time in antiquity, only they can be saved, non-whites are not made in the image of God, and the “Jews” today are counterfeit Edomites who are the seed of Satan. Yep, that is what they actually believe! (With some variation from person to person).
Roberts clearly shows the interpretative blunders of the Christian Identity Movement’s attempts to justify their doctrines upon Biblical grounds. But what might be a surprise to some is that Dispensationalism is shown to make many of the same mistakes. And of surprise to Pentecostalists might be in learning that Charles Parham believed some of this stuff!
After tracing the movement’s history, Roberts discusses their distinctive doctrines in two chapters (anthropology and the seedline doctrine), and then looks at the movement’s beliefs relative to historic Christianity in five chapters (the Trinity, salvation, Scripture, eschatology, and ecclesiology.) It is seen that there is little uniformity across the movement. The various preachers tend hold on to beliefs of their former associations in Christian or Mormon churches, but add the distinctive Christian Identity Movement doctrines with varying levels of success in achieving any consistency.
The book then addresses universalism, a doctrine seemingly at odds with the movement’s racial particularism, but not altogether surprisingly held considering their hermeneutics. And finally, a chapter is given to the question “Was Christ a Jew?” Despite the biblical evidence of Jesus’ Jewish parentage, the Identity movement argues that Jesus was not a Jew because he was a Galilean. Ultimately the movement is seen to put “race before grace” in thinking the defining factor of God’s people is not covenant but race.
The latter chapters of this book are valuable in showing the erroneous doctrines of the Identity Movement, but the historical information at the beginning of the book is alone sufficient to want to distance oneself as far as possible from such people and beliefs.

3 thoughts on “Review of "Race Over Grace" by Charles H. Roberts”

  1. Excellent post, Doug. It would be interesting to compare the “Christian” Identity Movement with Kinism. Both have similarities but differences.

  2. Working as a correctional officer at the Leavenworth United States Penitentiary for the past 23 years, I’ve had to deal with a number of Christian Identity members. Fun stuff! The Order, a Christian Identity sub-group, was particularly dangerous. One of its members, Bruce Pierce, murdered Jewish radio talk show host Alan Berg in 1984. He was one of my cell-block orderlies for many years. I discussed Scripture with him numerous times, but he was unrepentant and unpersuadable to the best of my knowledge. Only God knows if it did any good or not, but I tried to uphold the orthodox teachings of Scripture to the best of my ability.

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