Every now and then, I’ll hear Christians musing about heaven. They might speculate about the future of marriage, the biology of immortality, or the extent of our supernatural abilities—“Will we be able to pass through walls?” But perhaps the most common question is “What language will we speak?”

The underlying assumption is that we’ll have the same language, human or heavenly. Many imagine that God’s original plan for humanity was for one people, speaking in one language. In this way of thinking, only sin—and the specific failure at Babel—led to a diversity of peoples, languages, and cultures. And in the new creation, confusion will be undone as all become one.

However, in Cultural Identity and the Purposes of God: A Biblical Theology of Ethnicity, Nationality, and Race, Steven M. Bryan argues that our desire for unity—and the biblical vision of it—requires linguistic and cultural diversity. More specifically, he contends that God’s plan from the beginning was to fill the earth with a multiplicity of peoples who together experience the reciprocity of mutual blessing.

In exploring God’s purposes for our diverse world, Bryan considers the prominent forms of cultural identity: ethnicity, nationality, and race. However, the book’s main emphasis is biblical and theological, not sociological. Bryan, a New Testament professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, depicts God’s unfolding plan for peoples from creation to new creation as revealed in Scripture.

The book blends rich theological reflection and deep cultural perception, drawing on the author’s 20 years of missionary experience in Ethiopia. Bryan includes several anecdotes ...

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