John Bachman - The Doctrine of the Unity of the Human Race

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John Bachman was born in 1790 in New York. He moved to Charleston, SC in 1815 to serve as Lutheran Pastor there. He became one of the most important leaders of Lutheranism in SC. At his recommendation, the local ministerium set up an academy to train pastors which has since expanded into Newberry College.

In addition to his parish work serving segregated congregations of blacks and whites, he worked with JJ Audubon in a survey of the quadrapeds of North America. And he was a part of a great debate in naturalist circles. Are Human Beings one species, or are the separate races different species.

This book evidently started as a series of discussions where he defended the biblical view of the unity of the human race. But there is actually very little theology or exegesis in his treatment. Instead it is a survey of the how Naturalists of the time dealt with what is a species and is not. His command of the field, while certainly dated, is impressive.

The more I read it, the more disturbing I found it to be. Wikipedia quotes some negative reactions to Bachman's racism - which is certainly there, and which I must add, I find revolting. Because of this, I was certainly slow to work on this - and seriously questioned if this work is better left in the past. Should I finish making the PB? Should I release it?

And yet these debates still influence us today. At least here in the United States we still debate about what is Racism. We debate about the value and meaning of this past. And often how we treat that debate is with generalizations instead of treating the actual views (and there were many on both sides) which lead up to our Civil War. This book of John Bachman is an intelligent primary source, and Bachman himself was well enough respected in SC that he was the one giving the prayer when SC voted to leave the union. And the source for this edition is the digitizing of the National Library of Medicine of the NIH - who have seen fit to preserve this historical source back in 2012.

I certainly do not want to lift up his views as being a model for today. And yet, I also think it is good of us to be exposed to - and intellectually wrestle with - those with whom we differ. Perhaps dealing with the truth of our nation's past can help lead to some eventual reconciliation.

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jun 10 2018 6:40 AM

Thanks Ken for your careful sharing of this primary resource and for the work you did to compile it. I do think that it is important to understand how this type of thinking developed and, as you say, dealing with the truth of the past might lead toward more reconciliation.

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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jun 11 2018 7:26 AM

Yes, thank you for your work on this. It's useful to understand the history in this area.

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