7 thoughts on “Why Christians shouldn’t be ashamed of Slavery in the Bible

  1. Article 4.
    No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
    – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations

    I understand your logic, you argue for slavery to bolster your stance on gender roles. Great minds, secular and Christian alike have tried to justify slavery for centuries: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/slavery/ethics/philosophers_1.shtml

    What they agree on is that some people, by their very nature, were born inferior and ought to be ruled over by the ones who were born superior. It’s taken different forms, it’s the same thing with different wrapping paper be it conquerors / conquered or white / black. It’s a pernicious evil that human nature will always distort in a secular context and be irredeemable in a spiritual context.

    It still exists, even after these thousands of years. It’s said that more slaves exist now than they did back then, and they most certainly do not live under the Biblical version of it now. If one were to apply the New Testament household codes, then the institution of slavery would have been destroyed from the inside out. You see, people own inferiors, not equals.

    When Paul reminded the masters that they too, were slaves, he was putting them on the same level as slaves. Paul was doing the same thing with husbands and wives, putting them on the same level. Making them equals. Slavery is gone. It was never meant to be an industry or economic foundation for a society. It’s not the only thing that’s gone.

    In almost every Biblical story of a polygamous household, there’s dissension and strife as if to say that it’s not the ideal but describes what happened way back then over there. Isn’t that mutually exclusive with the ‘one man / one woman creation mandate’ stance, anyway? They can’t both be true. The NT says that leaders in the church must be a “one woman man” in other words, not be polygamous. Sounds like the foundation for monogamy as the rule to me.

  2. Jamie,

    Biblical slavery has NOTHING to do with some people being less human or more human. It really does not have to do with some people being inferior or other superior.

    What it has to do with is position.

    There those who govern(kings, national leaders) and there are those who are governed. There are masters and there slaves. There are husbands and there are wives. There parents and there are children.
    All of these people, the governors, the governed, masters, slaves, husbands, wives and children are all equally human and there is no human being that is more human than another.

    But the Bible is clear that we must respect the position we are in. Yes it reminds master that they and their slaves are both servants of Christ, but it still tells slaves to obey and reference their masters. Both a husband and wife are “join heirs” in Christ – but they are not equal in their positions within marriage. God continually calls on a wife to submit to, obey and reverence her husband. We are commanded to obey and respect those in in authority in Government as long as they don’t ask us to go against God’s commands.

    Was there some jealousy by wives in some polygamous relationships? Yes. But was there not also jealously by son’s of their father’s love as well?(i.e Joseph and his brothers) The wives who were jealous of their husbands sinned just as Joseph’s brother’s sinned in being jealous of their father’s love. I am don’t know what you are alluding to with the one man/one woman creation mandate? If you mean do I believe marriage is between a man and a woman – yes I do. But when a man is polygynous he has a separate marriage with each woman, so each of his relationships with each one of his wives is a relationship of one man with one woman.

    But from the other angle – some try to argue that since God created only one wife for Adam then monogamy was his design. But my response to that reasoning is – did God create incest(brothers and sisters marrying) as the model of marriage that he wanted as well? Because Adam and Eve’s son’s and daughters had to marry one another to make the first human beings.

    The New Testament’s “husband of one wife” stipulation on church leaders could also be translated as “husband of his first wife” – meaning he has never been divorced.
    In fact this same phrase is used of woman being put on the widows list in the church(where she would serve the church and be supported by the church):
    “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.” Since we know that polyandry(women having multiple husband’s was unheard of in the Roman empire) that could not have been what Paul was addressing. So I maintain that when Paul said the husband of one wife – it means he was still the husband of his first wife and had never been divorced. But even if he was disallowing polygamy for Church leaders, that would not be making this the policy for all church members or he would have clearly said so. In fact in the Old Testament Priests had stricter marriage rules than normal population(they could not marry widows or any woman that was not a virgin).

  3. Jesus undermined ‘position’ with every opportunity that presented itself. He would interact with women when the Pharisees would not. He was known to be a friend of tax collectors and prostitutes for which the Pharisees condemned him. If Christianity was all about position, then would he not have focused his ministry to the Pharisees and Saducees who had the authority to share religious teachings because of their position? Our great example denied his own position to show us what humility looks like in action.

    Humans just don’t have the capacity to ‘biblically’ own slaves or ‘biblically’ be slaves. Human nature tends to make for harsh masters and lazy or hate-filled slaves. For the same reason, men lack the ability to “biblically” lead their wives and women aren’t able to “biblically” submit – which is why the Christian church has such a terrible problem with domestic violence. People in positions of power are often corrupted by it – in politics, in church, and in homes, after all: “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Most complementarians teach that the creation mandate is that marriage is between one man and one woman and the man has authority over the woman. They often portray it as such: “God > Christ > Man > Woman”. or “God > Christ > Husband > Wife” they do not believe in or affirm polygamy or incest, but they do believe in this creation mandate because they say that it applies to all cultures. The problem with polygamy and incest and slavery and patriarchy is that God tolerated these things thousands of years ago on the other side of the world because that’s what the ancient world was. The modern world is none of those things. As I pointed out, the very act of owning another person is illegal in this country no matter how biblical it is. Using slavery to prove gender roles is a no-win argument.

  4. To gain a more nearly complete picture of slavery in England and in British America, the enslavement of several million Irish broadens the perspective.
    Over the years I have met Blacks who spoke of their Irish ancestry. A popular practice was to take young Irish slave girls and breed them with the best big, strong Black men to produce light skinned, wavy-haired Mulatto men and women. They were preferred by many slaveholders for house slaves, butlers, coachmen, maids and concubines. They lived in the masters’ houses. The really dark Blacks were assigned agricultural work and lived in small huts. The house slaves lived under the threat of being transferred to the field slave gang if they displeased the master or his wife.
    Many of the half-, three-quarters, seven-eighths Irish, Scottish and Saxon slaves, despite their privileged status, escaped to where they were not known and “crossed,” becoming White. The lighter and less negroid-appearing, the more likely they were to run off.
    The children of Mulatto, Quadroon, Octoroon and lesser degree of negroid were slaves like their mothers. The wives of slaveholders were often angered by the sight of their husbands’ bastard slave children and were sometimes very cruel to their mothers, as if the girls had any choice in the matter.
    Many of these children “crossed” when they grew up. This wouldn’t be possible today as almost everyone is birth-certificated and social security-numbered. We are state slaves; our labor belongs to our master, the state, to whatever degree the state decrees.

  5. It’s not quite true that White Americans could murder Black slaves with impunity. One of my forebears was on a jury – all White men – that sent a White man to prison for murdering a Black man.

  6. It’s not quite true that White Americans could murder Black slaves with impunity. One of my forebears was on a jury – all White men – that sent a White man to prison for murdering a Black man.

  7. It is not sinful for a Christian to buy a slave in a nation where slavery is both legal and customary. But if he is not a CINO (Christian In Name Only), he will not use force to hold the slave. If the slave doesn’t like being a slave, s/he can walk off. The Christian will not let the slave go out empty-handed, either, but will prosper him or her. — Deuteronomy 15:13, 14
    Many slaveholders who behaved as Christians would set their slaves up in business. It was common to give them their “papers” – their manumission or freedom papers – to put away for the day they wanted to be free.
    Christianity in countries that had slavery benefited the slaves. And Christianity eventually influenced governments to abolish slavery. Read the story of William Wilberforce and his lifelong crusade against slavery and the slave trade. He was a Member of Parliament. He, and his supporters, first got slavery abolished in the British Isles and then, at the end of his life, in the British Empire. Slavery had been endemic in the countries that became British colonies. Britain was able to abolish slavery in them.

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