Does the Bible excuse American slavery?

(Fernando callejas) #1

How do I answer a question about slavery .my son was raise in a cristian home
Now he’s in his late 20th on his a non believer .now he is. Saying that the US not cristian ,because of slavery ,not letting illegals immigrant come in ,and health care. For everyone .he even said he wants to move to Canada .I’m afraid I’m losing him .like the bible says .“bad company spoiles good morals” how do. I answered this biblically

(SeanO) #2

@Looking4truth Good question. Regarding slavery in the Bible, I have included some helpful threads to look at below. Regarding social justice issues such as illegal immigrants and healthcare, why don’t you ask your son how he believes Jesus would have treated these individuals? While some Churches are conservative politically, that does not mean that Jesus would always agree with conservative politics. When we encounter issues like the treatment of illegal immigrants we need to remember that God loves all people from all nations and that these are very complex questions. They are not questions with simple answers.

Did your son have an specific Bible passages that frustrated him?

(Kathleen) #3

Hi, @Looking4truth! I echo what @SeanO said about conservative (or even liberal) politics not necessarily being “Christian”.

But I’m interested in how his disagreement (or disenchantment) with certain political policies (past or present) signals a rejection of Christianity? Is he objecting to Christianity because he thinks the Bible condones slavery? Or is he rejecting America because he believes her political policies are not Christian enough?

Praying that you can have constructive dialogue with him!

(Fernando callejas) #4

Sorry .I did not explain my self correct .the issue of slavery as in the US early days .

(SeanO) #5

@Looking4truth If you read the provided articles you will see that the Bible condemns the form of slavery practiced in American history as inhumane, unjust and horrid. By first understanding what the Bible means when it uses the word slavery, you will see that the people in America’s past who used the Bible to justify slavery were misusing and abusing the Scripture - they were twisting God’s Word to justify their own evil actions.

(Fernando callejas) #6

I think has to do with political point of view .he’s dating a liberal girl . he has not attended church in years .I’m afraid that she’s has influenced him.I’ve been praying. That God would bring him a good cristian girl a Rebecca. And get rid of this one .

(SeanO) #7

@Looking4truth May the Lord Jesus draw both your son and his girlfriend to himself - opening the eyes of their hearts to His love and truth :slight_smile:

(C Rhodes) #8

@Looking4truth. Maybe a good way to approach your son’s questions about slavery, illegal immigrants or the U.S. is too consider with him what it means that he has become so aware of these issues.

It is too easy to speak of some other person’s or country’s fallen nature. The obviousness in noting these inconsistencies is in answering, what can I do to bring a solution to this issue? How can I be led by GOD to make a difference? Recognizing failure in others is not about condemnation but in finding a way to balance the wrong. While problems occur throughout our fallen world we are often guilty of giving lip service or blanket condemnation to situations.

What is needed is a heart for the disenfranchised and needful where ever we find it. I would encourage my son to prayerfully consider what he can do beyond judging and by all means, including his girlfriend in the plan of action. How much more significant it would be if he could lead her to the Spirit that infused Rebecca.

(Fernando callejas) #9

Thanks .c rhodes
Great answered .please pay for me as, I deal with him .and to all the read this post please pray for me .

(Warner Joseph Miller) #10

Hey there, Fernando!!! Thanks, so much, for your question, man AND – as your site name suggests – “looking for truth”. With regard to the “slavery question”, as I’ve 'dis’affectionately called it, I must admit that it has been something I’ve grappled with and honestly have not reconciled to 100% satisfaction. I’ve read and heard many different explanations, and few have settled the mind and heart. The irony is that the same affinity for asking questions and thinking deeply to acquire thoughtful answers that lead me to apologetics, is the same quality that doesn’t allow for acceptance of hole-filled reasoning and flimsy, bumper sticker answers with regard to slavery in the Bible and the Christian’s advocacy of slavery that existed in America. I don’t say that with respect to the resources that others on this thread have cited. I genuinely appreciate their thoughtfulness.

The slavery that existed in America in the antebellum southern United States and how the Bible/Christianity were used in perpetuating the institution of slavery was for me (and for many, continue to be) one of the major bones of contention for why some African-American (and other minority Americans) choose not to consider the truth of Jesus Christ and validity of Christianity. Admittedly for some, it is just the latest excuse for why they would rather yield to their own lusts and passions and not to God. However, for others – and possibly your son and his girlfriend – it could be a legitimate sore point. I get it. For many, particularly, African-Americans, the sting and resentment of American slavery and Christianity’s apparent endorsement of it is still fresh. The reality is that the American institution of slavery didn’t end thousands of years ago; far, far away. It was 1865. A little over 150 years ago. And even when it “ended”…it didn’t really come to a hard, complete stop. To put it in perspective, I am the great-great grandchild of a slave. I’m only a few generations removed. Other friends and family are even closer. And I can guarantee that there’s no one in Africa or native of Africa with the last name “Miller”. The thought and reality of that can be sobering. It can be disheartening and breed angst. Some of the affects of the institution are even now still felt. So the resentment, distrust and even rejection of Christianity – although not excused – are completely understood.

For me, I eventually came to Christ because Jesus and His claims about Himself and me are true (Truth) – not necessarily because all of my questions were satisfied and answered. Period. I’m in agreement with what author, detective and adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola Univ., J. Warner Wallace said:

“I’m a Christian because it is true. I’m a Christian because I want to live in a way that reflects the truth. I’m a Christian because my high regard for the truth leaves me no alternative.”

If the claims of Christ were not true I would not be a Christian. That’s the blunt reality of it. My submission to Jesus Christ and relationship to God through Christ don’t hang, primarily, on my understanding everything, or having all my questions satisfied or even (and especially) the atrocities and blind spots of some of our current or past “heroes of the faith” who owned slaves and/or advocated the enslavement of human beings, ie Johnathan Edwards, George Whitefield, etc. As the song goes and rightly declares, “my hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness”. So…with all that said, I would like to share a bit of an understanding that I do have and have graciously been given with regard to slavery and the institution’s relationship with the Bible.

So, the question is, why does the Bible not speak out strongly against slavery? Why does the Bible, in fact, seem to support the practice of human slavery? I think that that is an honest and legitimate observation and question.

The Bible does not specifically condemn the practice of slavery. It just doesn’t. It gives instructions on how slaves should be treated (Deut.15:12-15, Eph.6:9, Col.4:1) but does not outlaw slavery altogether. Many people I speak to see this as the Bible condoning all forms of slavery. Again, I get it. However, what many fail to understand is that slavery in biblical times was very different from the slavery that was practiced in the past few centuries in many parts of the world. Now, that explanation alone used to rub me the wrong way. I’d reason: “So what if it was different! If slavery is wrong, then it’s wrong!” Here’s the difference, though…a significant difference. The slavery in the Bible was not based exclusively on race. People were not enslaved because of their nationality or the color of their skin. In Bible times, slavery was based more on economics; it was a matter of social status. People actually sold themselves as slaves when they could not pay their debts or provide for their families. In New Testament times, sometimes doctors, lawyers, and even politicians were slaves of someone else. Some people actually chose to be slaves so as to have all their needs provided for by their masters.

This is different to what existed in antebellum (pre-Civil War) Southern America. The slavery of the past few centuries was often based exclusively on skin color. In the United States, many black people were considered slaves because of their nationality; many slave owners truly believed black people to be inferior human beings. The Bible condemns race-based slavery in that it teaches that all men are created by God and made in His image (Genesis 1:27). At the same time, the Old Testament DID allow for economic-based slavery and regulated it. The key issue is that the slavery the Bible allowed for in no way resembled the racial slavery that plagued our world in the past few centuries.

In addition, both the Old and New Testaments condemn the practice of what’s known as “man-stealing” which is what happened in Africa in the 19th century. Africans were rounded up by slave-hunters, who sold them to slave-traders, who brought them to the New World to work on plantations and farms. This practice is abhorrent to God. In fact, the penalty for such a crime in the Mosaic Law was death. “Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death” (Ex. 21:16) Similarly, in the New Testament, slave-traders are listed among those who are “ungodly and sinful” and are in the same category as those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, adulterers and perverts, and liars and perjurers (1 Tim.1:8–10).

Now, here’s another crucial point that I had to come to terms with. The ultimate purpose of the Bible is to point the way to salvation, not to reform society…not directly, at least. Please hear me when I say that this is not to say that Scripture doesn’t clearly lay out social instructions inclusive of what some would call “social justice” like loving our neighbor, caring for the marginalized and disenfranchised, ie the poor, the widows, the immigrant, the fatherless, seeking justice, etc. The Bible very much speaks to that! However, centrally and fundamentally, Jesus – and by extension, Scripture – approaches issues from the inside out. If a person experiences the love, mercy, and grace of God by receiving His salvation, God will reform his soul, changing the way he thinks and acts. A person who has experienced God’s gift of salvation and freedom from the slavery of sin, as God reforms his soul, will realize that enslaving another human being is wrong. He will see, with Paul, that a slave can be a brother in the Lord. (Philemon 1:16).

(Fernando callejas) #11

Brother Miller .thank you so much for taking the time to answer this question .I think you hit. The bullseye .as read your post I felt your passion .thanks .I would have my son read this .thanks God bless

(Greg Tarbutton) #12

If one reads the history of the world it is apparent that slavery is not an American invention . In fact in the Roman empire estimates are that over 65% of the population of Rome were slaves of all colors . If one reads Ephesians 6:9 Paul’s instructions to slave masters was revolutionary for that time. If Paul had said don’t be a slave run away it would have been an instant death sentence for the slaves. What Christianity did was begin a process where slavery was gradually eliminated where the love of Christ took hold. Sadly in the world today slavery still exist; in some countries child and woman sex slavery is a thriving business. The folks who are opposing it and speaking out against it and indeed in some cases buying the victims out of bondage are Christians. I agree with the person who recommended Paul Copan as a source his book Is God a Moral Monster gives and excellent discussion on his question. I work with a lot of youngsters and most of them are unaware of history and judge everything based on their own time ( something I was guilty of in my 20’s) . ― Mahatma Gandhi “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Gandhi was sadly right about some folks who claim Christ but do not know Him. Second what I might consider is telling your son you would like to read what he is reading because you consider his questions valid and want to really consider his point of view. It might allow you the opening to suggest he read Dr. Copan’s book which deals not only with slavery but the topic of the Bible being unfair to women. I will be praying for you as I have been where you are.