Fortune reported recently that “DNA test kits are blowing up in popularity.” More people than ever are interested in discovering their ethnic heritage. 23andMe (the DNA testing company named after the 23 chromosome pairs that make up the human genome) has already performed over 5 million genetic tests for people who want to know more about their ancestry.
DNA test advertising reveals something important about our desire to know our past. In one well-known AncestryDNA.com commercial, a man named Kyle dances in lederhosen and tells the audience his family always thought they were German. His DNA test, however, revealed he was predominantly Scottish and Irish. This revelation seems to change the way he sees himself, and the commercial ends with Kyle wearing traditional Scottish garb, saying, “So, I traded in my lederhosen for a kilt.” The message here? Once you discover who you really are, you’ll begin to engage the world differently. Learning about your past will change the way you go forward.
My son, Jimmy, and his wife were recently given an opportunity to experience this for themselves when they received an ancestry DNA test as a gift. Jimmy was curious to learn about his own Scottish, German and Italian heritage, but when the results returned, none of his DNA was traced back to Italy, despite his strong Italian heritage through my mother’s side of the family. Why wasn’t Italy highlighted on his genetic map? Because our Italian ancestors (like many other Italians) trace their lineage through other parts of Europe or Greece (like France for Northern Italians, and the Balkan regions for Southern Italians). In essence, my son’s genetic test provided him with a snapshot of our family migration pattern, capturing our location prior to our arrival in Italy.
All ancestral DNA tests are similarly rooted in time. The people groups that came to Italy from France and the Balkans didn’t originate in those regions. If the test could take a snapshot one thousand years earlier, it would find them living somewhere else. The further back in time we go genetically, the smaller the number of people groups and the less diverse their locations. When my son learned his genetic history preceded Italy, he naturally wanted to know how far back in time he could trace it. Sadly, France (or the Balkans) was as far as he could go.
Unless Christianity is true.
The Christian worldview explains human origins in a way that not only satisfies our desire to know our past, but also helps us understand our identity so we can effectively move forward.
Christianity teaches that all humans were created by God and descended from a single pair: Adam and Eve. This means we are all genetically linked as siblings, cousins and distant relatives. According to Christianity, if our DNA technology was capable of even greater precision and historical “distance,” it would ultimately identify the Garden of Eden as our place of origin. This Biblical truth about our past, can help us navigate the future in a way that Darwinian explanations cannot.
If Christianity is true, there are no black, brown, red, yellow or white races. There is only one race: the human race. All the physical differences we see today are simply the product of geographic adaptation. According to Christianity, all of us are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and while we are often tempted to look at each other’s outward appearance, God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). “God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” (Acts 10:34-35 NASB).
The Christian worldview tells us something about ourselves that modern DNA tests cannot. We trace our origin back to the same place, from the same parents, for the same purpose. Our inclinations toward selfish pride and ethnic division are, therefore, misguided. Our desire to understand our heritage is important, especially if Christianity is true. Once we discover who we really are, we’ll begin to engage the world differently. Learning about our past truly can change the way we go forward.
This article first appeared at Christian Broadcast News.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Christian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.