The foundation for our statement on diversity and unity is God’s holy Word. We believe that the Bible is a unique book, breathed out by God through the biblical prophets and apostles so that the entire Bible is a book of truth with no mixture of truth and error. The Bible is thus our only rule of faith and practice. Thus, we believe and teach:
THE SCRIPTURES: Shepherds Theological Seminary holds to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. We believe that all the words and all the parts of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament are the only inspired Word of God. The Bible is the product of men controlled by the Holy Spirit, and in the original manuscripts it is truth without any mixture of error. God, in His providential care, has also kept these Scriptures authentic and trustworthy from the time of their composition until the present time. The Bible is the center of true Christian unity and the supreme standard by which all human life and conduct will be evaluated and judged (2 Timothy 3:15–17; 2 Peter 1:19–21).
As such the Bible presents several key principles concerning diversity and unity.
First, the Bible teaches that everyone of the members of the human race was made in the likeness of God as to thinking, emotions, free will, and a moral nature. God’s intent in creation mankind was that humans would image or reflect God here on earth. Even though the likeness of God was marred by the Fall into sin, all members of the human race, male and female, all ethnic groups, handicapped or without handicap, are valuable as image bearers of the one Triune God. In these ways, there is unity in the human race. Thus, we believe and teach:
ETHNICITY: The biblical terms people and nation express ethnicity. A biblical ethnicity involves a human society, larger than a household or village, which finds its solidarity in descent from a common ancestor. A biblical people or nation is at minimum an extended family. Humanity was created as a single ethnicity. The division of languages at Babylon produced diverse ethnicities. God’s purpose has always included the salvation of entire peoples or ethnicities. As a spiritual people, the church finds its solidarity in union with Christ rather than from biological descent. Christians, who are united to Christ by the baptizing of the Spirit, receive a new primary identity that takes priority over all others. The churches of the New Testament were as ethnically diverse as the individuals who responded to the gospel.
RACE: The modern concept of race, comprising such phenotypical traits as skin and eye color, hair texture, and facial structure, is unknown in the Bible. The lack of such makes any such separation based on such characteristics unbiblical by its very nature. STS condemns, in the strongest possible terms, all forms of abuse, discrimination, and harassment in all its forms based on such characteristics. The Church is complementary by design and thus differences are ordained by God. As a theological institution we are committed to training Christian to more effectively minister based on the truths of Scripture rather than the questionable ideas of modern culture.
Second, the Bible teaches that the entrance of sin into human existence resulted in the very opposite of community: disunity and conflict in relationships between individuals and groups as well as between God and humanity. Thus, we believe and teach:
COMMUNITY: God created the first humans in a condition of true community and in fellowship with God himself. The entrance of sin into human existence resulted in the very opposite of community—disunity and conflict in relationships between individuals and groups as well as between God and humanity. This disunity is dramatically illustrated in the distortion of the relationship between Adam and Eve (Gen 3:16) and in Cain’s murder of his brother Abel (Gen 4:1–8).
Third, the Bible teaches that God’s plan of redemption includes bringing reconciliation between himself and humanity and between individuals and groups. Thus, we believe and teach:
In the midst of this fallen condition of disunity and conflict, God has been working out his promise to bring reconciliation between himself and humanity and between individuals and groups. The goal of this aspect of the plan of redemption is to re-establish the peace, harmony, and unity that humankind was meant to experience and enjoy. The decisive event in the re-establishment of this unity was the reconciling sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who reconciles both heaven and earth (Col 1:16–20; 1 Tim 2:5) and hostile factions of humanity to one another (Eph 2:11–22). Though authentic, the imperfect and partial reconciliation between diverse individuals and people anticipates God’s final eschatological renewal (Rom 8:18–25; Heb 2:8).
Fourth, the Bible teaches that there is valuable diversity within the human race. Thus, we believe and teach:
BIBLICAL MANHOOD AND WOMANHOOD: We believe that men and women were created in the image and likeness of God, equally blessed, and given dual responsibility over the created order (Genesis 1:26–28). We believe the Bible teaches that as part of the created order, distinctions in masculine and feminine roles were ordained by God, with Adam’s headship in marriage being established before the Fall (Genesis 2:16–18; 21–24; 3:1–13; 1 Corinthians 11:7–9). As such, we are dedicated to the biblical view of men and women and their relationship to each other in the home and church. Although men and women are spiritually equal in position before God, God has ordained distinct and separate functions for men and women in the church and home (1 Timothy 2:11–12). We affirm that God has honored women with many ministry opportunities within the church, parachurch organizations and ministries, educational institutions and mission agencies, but has appointed men and men only to the authoritative teaching role of the elder/pastor position within the local church.
Fifth, we at STS believe that we should approach diversity matters with the attitude and spirit of love. According to Scripture, the greatest commandment is to “‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Then the second command is to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). Further, Jesus explains who our neighbor is in his parable of the good Samaritan—someone diverse from us (Luke 17). Thus, we believe and teach:
CHRISTIAN LOVE: We believe that we should demonstrate love for others, not only toward fellow believers, but also toward those who are not believers, those who oppose us, and those who engage in sinful actions. We are to deal with those who oppose us graciously, gently, patiently, prayerfully, and humbly. God forbids the stirring up of strife, the taking of revenge, or the threat of or use of violence as a means of resolving personal conflict or obtaining personal justice. Although God commands us to abhor sinful actions, we are to love and pray for any person who engages in such sinful actions (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:44–48; Luke 6:31; John 13:34–35; Romans 12:9–10; 17–21; 13:8–10; Philippians 2:2–4; 2 Timothy 2:24–26; Titus 3:2; 1 John 3:17–18).
Our conviction is that Shepherds Theological Seminary belongs to Jesus Christ. We believe that faculty members and all students, whether preparing for ministry in counseling, the pastorate, missions, or education, should seek to imitate our Lord’s model of servant leadership. Servant leadership certainly includes:
• Respect for others
• Sensitive and careful communication
• Commitment both to truth and love
• Desire to give wise and helpful counsel
• Graciousness of actions
Sixth, the Bible teaches that though we are to love our “neighbors” who are diverse from us, we should not approve unbiblical sexual activities even though contemporary society endorses and promotes it. Thus, we believe and teach:
HUMAN SEXUALITY: We believe that sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman is sin. Any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderism, bestiality, incest, pedophilia, fornication, adultery, and pornography are sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex. God has created us male and female, and He desires that we find joy and contentment in His design (Genesis 2:24; Genesis 19:5, 13; Genesis 26:8–9; Leviticus 18:1–30; Romans 1: 26–29; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:1–8; Hebrews 13:4).
MARRIAGE: We believe that the term “marriage” has only one legitimate meaning, which comes from the Bible, and that is the joining of one man and one woman in a single, covenantal union (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:6–9; Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:10; Ephesians 5:22–23). Whenever there is a conflict between this institution’s position and any new legal standard for marriage, the institution’s Doctrinal Statement will govern our practices (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:6–9; 1 Corinthians 7:10, Ephesians 5:22–23). We believe it is God’s intention that those who enter marriage shall seek in mutual love and respect, to live, one man and one woman, in Christian fidelity as long as both shall live (Genesis 1:27; 2:24; Mark 10:9; Luke 16:18). We believe that sexual activity is to be exercised and enjoyed only within the covenant relationship of marriage between one man and one woman, and that God has expressly condemned sexual intercourse outside of the marriage covenant.
Seventh, the Bible teaches that Complete and final unity in diversity will be achieved only by God alone through the redemptive work of Christ which will culminate on earth with the arrival of the Kingdom of God (Isa. 2:2-4). Thus, we believe and teach:
COMMUNITY (continued): Though authentic, the imperfect and partial reconciliation between diverse individuals and people anticipates God’s final eschatological renewal (Rom 8:18–25; Heb 2:8). Thus, God is moving history toward his eschatological goal, which includes the full and final restoration of peace, harmony, and unity—reunion of humanity with God. In the meantime, as humans, we should embrace and encourage, as much as possible, God’s vision of that future (Eph 4; Rom 15:1–7). In the interim, the church must play a special role in modeling and extending God-honoring unity (1 Cor 12:25–27; Phil 2:1–16; 1 Pet 4:8–11). Just as sin is the culprit, Jesus Christ is the all-sufficient solution to the disunity and chaos that plagues humanity and the world.
1. We affirm that God has woven diversity into the fabric of creation itself. Variety, harmony, and synergy are the elements of his original beautiful creation (Gen 1–2). Thus, diversity was divinely instituted as a reflection of God’s own design and intention for the cosmos (1 Cor 15:39–41).
We deny that uniformity, discord, or conflict were intended in God’s perfect will for creation or that development and diversity are necessarily the result of sin and corruption.
2. We affirm that God fashioned humanity according to his image and likeness as a model for true community, with both unity and diversity (Gen 1:26–27; 5:1–2). Humanity’s corporate reflection of the image of God (Imago Dei) is multifaceted and best realized in true community.
We deny that the Imago Dei can be fully realized in a single individual or ideal race, culture, or community as the sole paradigm and standard for the Imago Dei.
3. We affirm that the Imago Dei includes the essential unity of a single, common human race “in Adam.” All people in every place and time, despite obvious or subtle differences, are equal in humanity, participating equally in the Imago Dei (Gen 9:6; Job 31:13–15; Prov 22:2; Acts 10:28; 17:26; Rom 2:9–11; 1 Cor 15:47–49; Gal 3:26–29; Eph 6:8–9; Jas 3:9).
We deny that the Bible’s clear teaching on the essential unity of humanity can legitimately co-exist with any form of racism or ethnocentrism. Thus, no race, ethnicity, or nationality is innately superior or inferior to another in status and inherent value.
4. We affirm that the Imago Dei involves relational unity—diversity of male and female, which implies complementarity in community (Gen 1:26–27; 2:18, 21–24; 1 Cor 11:8–12). Humanity was created “male and female,” and together they were to exercise dominion in unity of purpose (Gen 1:26–28; Ps 8:5–8; 115:16; 1 Cor 11:11–12).
We deny that either the male or female is innately superior or inferior to the other in status and inherent value, thus ruling out sexism and exploitation in attitudes and actions.
5. We affirm that the Imago Dei involves functional unity, the shared mission to fill and subdue the world. This demonstrates a clear distinction between humanity and animal life (Gen 1:30; 2:19–20; 9:1–3) as well as anticipates ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity (Gen 1:28; 4:2, 17–26; 9:1; Acts 17:26). Had unfallen humans obeyed God’s command, the result would still have been natural adaptations resulting in racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity (Gen 9:1, 7; 10:1–5; 11:1–8). God-ordained unity in diversity is itself a blessing to humanity and most conducive to human flourishing, both for the individual and the community. Humanity is purposely adorned with diversity by the grand design of God himself.
We deny that such racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity is a happenstance of misfortune or a corrupt effect of a cursed creation. Such diversity is neither an accident nor a punishment.
6. We affirm that the Imago Dei anticipates eschatological unity—a new community “in Christ” and under his rule, which will ultimately fulfill God’s original purpose that “every nation, tribe, people, and language” (Rev 7:9) would serve God and glorify him in their diversity (Ps 102:22; Dan 7:14; Rev 7:9–10). This eschatological unity is foreshadowed, in a real but imperfect sense, in biblically-grounded ecclesiological unity.
We deny that such eschatological unity can be achieved fully apart from the coming of the eschatological kingdom and transforming grace of God.
7. We affirm that God is the author and enabler of a diversity of gifts and abilities (Exodus 31:3–5; 35:35; 1 Cor 12:4–11) that actuate and accentuate both diversity and unity within a society or community. This diversity includes, but is not limited to, physical, emotional, and cognitive variety among humankind, and this variety reflects God’s design and intention (1 Pet 4:9–10).
We deny that individuality necessarily leads to unhealthy individualism or destructive disunity.
8. We affirm that God’s revelation of His will and character determines the basis for unity and the limits of diversity which, when heeded, result in greater unity, peace, fruitfulness, and order (1 Cor 12:15–29; 14:33; Eph 4:3–6; 5:17–6:9). True community as unity in diversity must be fortified with truth, justice, faith, hope, and love (Rom 14:1–15:13; 1 Cor 13). Failure to adhere to God’s revealed basis for unity and limits of diversity has resulted in human tragedy. Illegitimate diversity without truth and love leads to distrust, fear, hatred, violence, and warfare.
We deny that a biblical affirmation of unity in diversity necessarily implies the endorsement of any form of diversity that is contrary to God’s revealed standards and norms.
9. We affirm that in the present state of defection and depravity, divinely established limits of unity and diversity have been and are being transgressed individually and corporately. Manifold corruptions include forced uniformity, exploitation, and oppression, tolerated and celebrated deviancy, tribalism and nationalism/imperialism, conflict and brutality, ethnocentrism and racism, bigotry and prejudice, and materialism.
We deny that God’s intention for unity and diversity leaves any room for social injustice, moral relativism, segregation, sectarianism, warmongering, sexism, ageism, or other forms of injustice, whether individual or institutional.
10. We affirm that human remedies for the problems caused by disunity and conflict have often resulted in coerced conformity and uniformity, which muffles diversity, stifles creativity, and hampers meaningful growth and true unity (Gen 11:1–4; 1 Cor 12:21–22).
We deny that God’s intention of unity and diversity can be accomplished through radical forms of utopian ideological or political philosophies such as fascism, communism, totalitarianism, exceptionalism, or forms of socialism or nationalism that require blind obedience to human authority and ideology as the basis of unity.
11. We affirm that just as legitimate, God-intended diversity should be embraced, honored, and celebrated, as it contributes to the health of true community, so also illegitimate diversity, which is the effect of the fall, should be grieved, rejected, and overcome by redemptive and transforming grace. Illegitimate diversity that transgresses or defies biblical limits is the result of moral defection, which must be challenged and changed (Jer 3:12; Matt 4:17; Rom 12:2; Eph 2:1–10). On the other hand, some differences result from the present world’s subjection to corruption (John 9:1–12; Rom 8:21) and must be cared for in community.
We deny that legitimate diversity should be grieved, rejected, and overcome and that illegitimate diversity should be embraced, honored, and celebrated, all the while recognizing its negative consequences for families, churches, communities, and societies.
12. We affirm that as the God-ordained locus for redemptive and transformational community, the church is intended to display God’s original and eschatological design of unity in diversity. The church is to be a community that does not ignore diversity, but embraces and celebrates God-intended diversity to the praise and glory of God (Ps 34:3; 102:22; 133:1).
We deny that unity and diversity in the church precludes differentiation in gifting, roles, and responsibilities necessary for the efficient and effective functioning of the community (1 Cor 12:27–31; Eph 4:11–12), which order should promote, not stifle, growth in unity (Eph 4:13–16).
13. We affirm that in the midst of the present age of human depravity, the community of the redeemed must set as its ideal the divinely established basis and limits of unity and diversity (1 Cor 12:13). Thus, cultural, ethnic, social, and racial diversity is intended by God for authentic community (1 Cor 12:13, 24; Gal 3:28). The people of God should pursue a redemptive trajectory and goal, ever seeking to exemplify these ideals despite imperfection and failure.
We deny that race, social status, or economic prowess should be privileged within the church—and further deny that the pursuit of unity and diversity, peace and reconciliation, are ideals to be deferred until the eschaton while the church passively eschews its calling to be salt and light to a fallen world (Matt 5:13–16; 1 Cor 12:25–26; Jas 2:12-9).
14. We affirm that, as the unique community of the redeemed today, the church should maintain a posture of reconciliation with those of deviant ideologies, worldviews, and moralities (1 Cor 6:9–11; 2 Cor 5:20), calling all—without exception—to the grace of forgiveness and the mercy of repentance, encouraging all to conform to the unity and diversity as established by God and bounded by his revealed will (Rom 12:2).
We deny that the church is called to posture itself in judgment, hatred, or socio-political warfare against unbelievers who foolishly and defiantly embrace deviant diversity (1 Cor 5:12–13).
15. We affirm that in the future restoration of creation, the divinely established basis and limits of unity and diversity will be reestablished in perfection (Isa 11:1–16). This ultimate future order of idyllic harmony and peace serves as a vision of hope intended to be not merely informative but also transformative (2 Pet 3:13–14).
We deny that this eschatological ideal is to serve as a model for establishing present human societies and governments in such a way that they realize the kingdom of God on earth apart from the eschatological transformation of creation.
16. We affirm that in light of the future restoration, the community of the redeemed must simultaneously keep in view the original creative order as well as the future redemptive goal in which the diversity of “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” stand before the throne (Rev 7:9), united in submission to him as one Lord God, and one day experiencing perfect community with one another on the basis of perfect communion with him.
We deny that future glory will erase rich human diversity and result in a bland uniformity, the notion of which often reflects non-Christian views of the eschaton rather than a Christian view of unity and diversity in harmonious community.
(The section on “Affirmations and Denials on Unity, Diversity, and Community” is the position of Shepherds Theological Seminary and is used by agreement and cooperation with a sister seminary.)