Last week, Doug Wilson and I carried on an internet conversation about his book, Black and Tan, and about the Bible’s teaching regarding slavery. I began the exchange with an explanation for responding publicly rather than privately, then continued by first attempting to summarize Wilson’s views on race and slavery as I understood them in Black and Tan. I followed that post by attempting to engage the underlying logic of the book as I saw it. Wilson responded very graciously in a post that that centered the discussion on the difference between the formal authority of Scripture and actual lived obedience to it. The discussion continued with my treatment of the biblical texts regarding slavery, which included an argument for immediatism in abolishing slavery.

As you can imagine, or perhaps have experienced, such conversations across ethnic lines are potentially explosive. Feelings can run high. Tongues can run loose. Hearts can run away with us.

So I have been completely delighted to see the Lord’s blessings on our exchanges. It seems to me that Wilson has worked hard to be charitable at every point, to engage the substance of my critiques after first accurately summarizing them, and to respond with further insight and clarity. It’s been the best kind of conversation about the hardest kind of topic. What more could we hope for?

Well, we could hope for some agreement. And, by God’s grace, Doug’s last post, “Love Is Never Later,” commits to a significant amount of agreement regarding the Bible’s teaching on slavery. I was surprised to learn our exegetical approach was more or less identical. I’ll let Wilson summarize the points of agreement as he sees them:

I agree completely with his first point about the authority of the global texts. The Golden Rule, to do as you would be done by, is absolutely relevant in discussions of slavery. Not only is it relevant, it would be relevant in intensely practical and immediate ways.

I agree with his second point about Philemon also. In fact, the only thing I differ with in this section is his apparent assumption that we differ. Speaking of the release of Onesimus, Thabiti says: “It seems to me that Paul expects this ‘favor,’ his ‘appeal on the basis of love,’ to be granted immediately—not gradually as Wilson argues in Black and Tan.”

But I agree completely with Thabiti about the manumission of Onesimus. Given the strength of Paul’s argument, I believe Onesimus was set free immediately, or within a very short time.

I agree with his third point about Paul pushing in a particular direction (toward liberty) in his household code instruction. Paul is working in the same direction as the Spirit of God is working, and that is always in the direction of liberty. That is what the gospel does.

With regard to his last point about the prohibition of “man-stealing,” I agree with most of his point, but not all of it. I do agree that the prohibition of man-stealing (or man-trafficking) is not only in effect when an ocean is involved. I believe that running domestic slave marketplaces would not have been a lawful occupation for believers at that time, any more than being a maritime slave-trader would have been. But it is when you get out to the end of the road and to the simple fact of ownership that the issue gets more complicated. That is where and when I believe the household codes of the New Testament provide some boundaries and some instruction, in the context of love. So I say this agreeing with Thabiti that, everything else being equal, a Christian master was always and everywhere under the law of Christ to seek the best interest of his slaves, as though he were in their position.

I thought it good to let Wilson’s last post soak in over the weekend. There’s so much agreement here to appreciate. In fact, in reflecting on Wilson’s post it seems profitable to scrap posts on the potential differences we might have on the nature of Southern slavery and discussion of Wilson’s post-mil views of the South as a Christian nation.

I’m fully aware that discussants have varying views on how bad slavery was or how “Christian” the South was, especially in light of slavery. Suffice it to say that there were atrocities well beyond the atrocities some have been willing to admit, and there were kindnesses well beyond anything some others would admit. Most slaves were not on large plantations with ruthless overseers, but in households of four or so. Plantation life could be dull while households could be cruel. The everyday existence of slaves and owners could both confirm and violate every stereotype and expectation we might have. So while discussions of the nature of slavery have their place, given the agreements we’ve already reached about immediate abolition treating those topics would be straining at so many gnats. Instead, it seems profitable to move to the exceptions that Wilson mentions in his last post, which perhaps (?) illustrate one key point of remaining disagreement about the nature of slavery.

Wilson writes:

I think the word immediately might need to be qualified somewhat. What about a slave-owner who never bought or sold any slaves? He inherited the plantation, and everybody was already there. Or suppose he just had two slaves, both in their eighties? Or what if he, like Jefferson, would not sell a slave family unless the family itself approved of it? I agree that Paul heavily leans toward setting slaves free, but there are other times when he does make lesser appeals for the meantime. He urges masters, for example, to “forbear threatening” (Eph. 6:9). And he tells slaves who have masters who have not yet picked up on the compelling logic of Philemon to not despise them (1 Tim. 6:2).

So Thabiti and I have agreed on the need for immediate, practical obedience. But immediate obedience might not mean immediate manumission. Wherever it did mean that, Thabiti and I agree. But suppose I am a pastor in 1858, and a young man who is a fine Christian comes to me for counsel. He has just inherited the family plantation, owns 25 slaves as a result, is troubled by the situation, and wants to know what to do. My counsel would be designed to get him (and his slaves) out of that circumstance as quickly as possible — so long as it was consistent with the well-being of everyone. In other words, start implementing the law of Christ today. But because of the outside circumstances, the full process might take years — freeing the children when they were born, teaching literacy and productive trades, providing for the elderly, etc.

In these comments Wilson qualifies his sense of immediacy with a concern for the well-being of the slave to be freed and some attention to the particulars of a situation. I agree with Wilson that there may be situations where an instant manumission may not be practical—as in the case of very young children being freed without support, family, education, or trade.

Exceptions that Reveal the Rule

But, Wilson’s proposal raises a question for me that I think is pertinent in most of the exceptions Wilson imagines: Why not free the slave while at the same time providing for the now former slave’s needs anyway?

Excepting the case of very young children separated from natural parents, most of the people Wilson imagines could make their own decisions about their future and should be granted the right to do so with material support from their former owners. That support, I would argue, would have been part and parcel of the slave owner’s genuine repentance and indeed owed to the slave whose labor was never properly compensated.

If we agree that man-stealing is contrary to the gospel (1 Tim. 1:10) and that the system built upon it was likewise sinful, then it seems clear we must reject the very notion of one man owning another under those conditions. This is important because the most dehumanizing offense of American chattel slavery occurs at precisely this point. The abuses of body were one thing. But the abuses of human spirit, including the innate desire for liberty, were more significant crimes. That one man would constrict the liberty of another man at his whim and for his pleasure violates every natural inclination of humanity. Such bondage is contrary to even the natural spirit of liberty, the same animating spirit that prompted another war (some would say unjust) called the War of Independence, where already-free White men fought for even more freedom from an absentee government that had the gall to tax them without representation. If the spirit of liberty was alive and justified then, it seems we ought to allow that same spirit to thoroughly leaven our discussions of slavery’s end a hundred years later.

I realize we’re down into hypothetical exceptions at this point. And it’s not difficult for me to imagine that on many exceptions Wilson and I would likely be in complete agreement. But, even in these exceptional cases, I’m arguing for a recognition of the deeper principle: Unless a person sells himself into slavery (see Lev. 25, for example), no man has a right to own another man. Even in the exceptional cases of old age, very young age, disability, etc., we should apply this principle while simultaneously ameliorating the effects of enslavement as best as possible.

Why Do People Think Wilson Defends Slavery?

I’m pushing for this principle for another reason also. I’ve watched many people leaving comments vigorously contend that Wilson “defends slavery,” and I’ve watched Wilson vigorously deny the charge. He’s been just as consistent in denying the charge as people have been in making it. So we’re left wondering why so many readers of Black and Tan think he defends Southern slavery when he insists he does no such thing.

I think it has to do with this issue of working the call for immediate abolition down into the bone and marrow of our view of Southern slavery. When Wilson calls for a Southern “gradualism” and “reformation” rather than “revolution,” he appears to leave open the possibility of slavery’s continuance in the South. When he contends that slavery in the South wasn’t “Apocalyptic Evil” but “Normal Sin,” he appears to suggest that the continuance of slavery would be in the bounds of tolerance, the kind of normal indwelling sin that will be with us until we’re freed from these bodies of death. When Wilson expresses his appreciation for some Southern theologians who themselves defended slavery in ways Wilson does not, or exhorts “patience” as part of the remedy to the ordinary sins of slavery, he appears to side with the oppressors over the oppressed. When he argues the South was an advanced “Christian nation” and that it “has long carried the stigma of racism and bigotry,” he appears to defend and laud that nation and time despite the “abomination” (his word) called slavery.

Taken together, these minor points (I take them to be minor given his stated agreements above) take on a prominence in Black and Tan. Protests to the contrary fall flat because these sentiments, peppered throughout the book, occur with such regularity and rhetorical force the reader can be forgiven for thinking they’re actually a bigger part of Wilson’s thinking than perhaps they are.

It seems to me that Wilson’s firmer exegetical ground would be strengthened if it were unencumbered by statements that could reasonably be interpreted as defenses of American chattel slavery. His clear denunciations of racism and “racial vainglory” and white supremacy would be heard more clearly if they weren’t spoken in this din of potential counter messages.  Moreover, his pastoral concern for obedience to the Scripture when the Bible is most unpopular and Christians are most likely to be embarrassed or bullied (see this for a right now example) would be seen and valued for the prescient insight that it is. In short, the aspects of Wilson’s thinking that would be most helpful to the Church of our Lord are being drowned out by these uncertain trumpet sounds.

So much would be gained if Wilson dropped those points or restated them in a manner more consistent and proportional to his true views of slavery and its abolition. I don’t presume to tell him what is worth defending, explaining, or revising in this history. I really don’t. But, with the apostle Paul, I would appeal to Wilson on the basis of love for future writing that continues the kind of measured and charitable tone he has used in our exchanges. It would make a significant difference for the unity of the church and learning from one another when we differ on important but secondary matters.

 

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75 thoughts on “Sometimes the Exceptions Reveal How Far We’ve Gone with the Rule”

  1. Josh McGee says:

    It has been very enjoyable following this conversation. May God bless you both, and may the rest of us conduct ourselves with as much grace.

    One of the reasons it seems there is so much agreement between you and Wilson up to this point is that the specific examples in the recent posts dealt with how Christians, specifically, ought to relate to their slaves. I do not know the degree to which the South was Christian, either in word or deed, but it seems a relevant question is: what should/can a Christian reasonably expect/demand of a non-Christian on such a question as this, or even a Christian in name but not in deed.

    The assumption in these examples is that those involved are willing to submit to the will of God, in obedience. But what if confronted with a society where 1/4 or 1/3 or 1/2 or 2/3 of the population is not Christian, or is at least only minimally open to what true obedience really looks like (Christian in word but not deed)? For me, that is still the heart of the matter when it comes to addressing such ugly societal ills, be it slavery, abortion, or something else altogether. We never find ourselves in a society where everyone is Christian and everyone desires obedience to the Gospel. There is always a mix of some sort.

    This is troubling for Christians who are taught that fanning the flames of war in relation to violence would be horrible even though it might root out a great societal evil, but a war that cost over 600,000 people their life (that would be 6 million if adjusted to 2010 census numbers), more than a few of whom did not participate in slavery, was a glorious thing….because it rooted out a great societal evil.

    This, to me, is still a chief source of conflict not fully addressed in the exchange. When a Christian today says we should not resort to violence to root out evil, and this includes the evil of slavery, some hear that as, “We should not have fought for those oppressed,” whether that was what was meant or not. (One wonders what the aborted would say about our current position, too). When one says that we should not resort to violence to root out evil, but in that one case it was justified, they believe they are hearing special pleading, whether that is the case or not.

    I would still love to hear your thoughts about how this should be reconciled.

    Again, prayers for all in the exchange, and thank you for what you have done to this point.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Josh,

      Thanks for joining the conversation and for the encouragement. It’s been a consuming (in a good way) conversation and I’m thankful for the grace of God shown throughout.

      I agree that one of the difficulties in this conversation is that society is always wheat and tares–the church is always wheat and tares. They grow along side one another and we’ll have to await the final reaping for the Lord of the harvest to separate them.

      This is why I think any expectations for gradual gospel reform must be chastened. I’m not post-mil, and Doug in an earlier comment thread admitted that his post-mil views affect his perspective on this question. I don’t think the Scripture or history give us much reason to be happily optimistic when it comes to a gradual progress toward righteousness in situations like this. For every evil stamped out we find another outcropping elsewhere. I believe it’ll be that way until the Savior consummates His reign.

      At some other point I may write a longer post on the subject of the War and whether it was just. In brief, I dobelieve it just for a nation to fight in defense of its most vulnerable citizens against another nation. If we view the South as a separate nation, then the Civil War represents a conflict between two sovereign powers. That’s miles away from an individual shooting abortion doctors.

      Moreover, at some point those concerned about the 600,000-650,000 thousand lives lost in the Civil War (a concern we should all have) need to also add to the ledger the millions of lives lost in slavery. Conservative estimates put the toll at 1.2-1.4 million lost in the Middle Passage alone. An untold number of millions during the nearly 270 years of slavery’s practice. The calculus is not 600k lost in war versus zero lost in a gradual approach. It is 600k lost in war versus millions lost in slavery. But to see that, we have to value black life at the same rate we value white life. All the loss of life is tragic, but I contend the toll would have been much higher had there not been a painful war fought.

      I’d hold this view even if we deemed the war “unjust.” An unjust war may produce just results; but just results can never be the grounds for future unjust actions because we can never reliably predict the results.

      Unless we commit to pacifism, we have to take seriously what our constitution purports to guarantee–“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And if we’re morally consistent, we have to guarantee those “inalienable rights” for all of our citizens.

      T-

      1. Andy Persons says:

        Pastor Thabiti,

        Thank you so much for your careful and gracious exchange with Pastor Wilson. It has been enormously edifying to watch and learn.

        Regarding your above response, wouldn’t your statement: “All the loss of life is tragic, but I contend the toll would have been much higher had there not been a painful war fought”, as well as your final paragraph apply even more to abortion, with its 40+ million dead?

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Andy,

          Thank you for your question. I do think the same basic responsibility to protect the most vulnerable applies to abortion and protecting the unborn. No question. And I think Christians and people of good conscience should actively work for abortion’s immediate end.

          But to then leap to “let’s declare war” seems to me to compare apples and oranges. Who’s the “we” making this declaration of war? What right do they have to make such a declaration? These were questions easily answered in the Civil War precisely because that war involved two nations. The combatants were military combatants. There are always war crimes whenever wars are fought, but by and large civilians and civilian sites were not the targets.

          With abortion, there are no nations in the conflict. A declaration of “war” would have to be made against civilians and civilian installations. We’re not terrorists, and because of that I have complete sympathy with what Wilson sought to head off when he wrote Black and Tan–more shootings of abortion doctors and the like. That’s not just or courageous or wise or gospel.

          So, while the basic principle of protect vulnerable life applies, we can’t rush past the very great differences between the Civil War and abortion. Which, by the way, is why I argue that Wilson commits a mistake in logic (genetic fallacy/similarity fallacy–) in Black and Tan. That basic fallacy is what makes the question about the comparative use of force in ending abortion and slavery seem so powerfully pointed. But, in fact, the question rests on the faulty premise that circumstances at the Civil War are similar to circumstances in today’s anti-abortion/pro-life work.

          I hope that helps.
          T-

          1. Andy Persons says:

            Thank you, Thabiti. That does clarify things. I appreciate your response!

          2. Hi Thabiti,

            I know I’m jumping into the discussion late, but I thought I’d offer a thought to consider in evaluating the morality of the Civil War.

            The position of the Lincoln administration is that there were *not* two sovereign powers involved in the conflict, but only one. A comment on a blog is not the place for me to go into detail about the legal reasoning behind this position, or to explore the way it affected the administration’s dealings with subdued states, so suffice it to say that this “one nation” doctrine was what he believed gave him the constitutional authority to act as he did. The Southern states never left the Union, but rather illegitimate state governments were in rebellion against the Union and had in fact started the shooting.

            We might argue today that such reasoning is semantics, quibbling about words. For my own part, I don’t think it is. But I offer it as food for thought.

      2. Josh McGee says:

        Pastor Anyabwile,

        Thank you very much for taking the time to reply to my comment. It certainly helps clarify. The entire discussion is much to think – but especially pray – about. If we don’t get to shake hands in this life, I pray we may do that and more in the next. God bless.

  2. Amisho Baraka says:

    Amen to this:

    If we agree that man-stealing is contrary to the gospel (1 Tim. 1:10) and that the system built upon it was likewise sinful, then it seems clear we must reject the very notion of one man owning another under those conditions. This is important because the most dehumanizing offense of American chattel slavery occurs at precisely this point.

    I greatly appreciate your humility and posture while addressing this book. Although I haven’t read each exchange between you and the Mr.Wilson (which I plan on doing), I personally believe the above point on “man-stealing” can put to rest much of the book and many discussions that have grew out of it. I will reserve further comment once I read all the rebuttals but I thank you once again brother for your faithfulness to the scriptures and truth.

  3. Tom says:

    “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Col. 4:6.

    Thank you for your grace and obedience and for the blessings and encouragement resulting from the way you have written about this entire topic. Wonderful!

  4. Robert says:

    Thabiti,

    Thanks again for the post. You write:

    “That support, I would argue, would have been part and parcel of the slave owner’s genuine repentance and indeed owed to the slave whose labor was never properly compensated.”

    I agree with you here, but would like your thoughts on the extension of this: Would the great-grandchildren of the slave owner owe the slaves something if they were still lacking because of their past slavery? Furthermore, do white people in America still owe black people in America compensation for the disadvantages passed on through the generations?

    Thank you

    1. AL says:

      That’s a great question. I also wonder how long does compensation need to continue for “sins of the fathers”…Slaves vs Slave Holders, Native Americans vs Settlers of the Americas…Germans vs Jews (and other occupied nations during WWI and WWII) Chinese “Head Tax” etc, etc.

      1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

        Hi Robert and Al,

        Thank you for the questions. I’m not quite sure how to answer because I’m not sure if you’re asking me a moral or a political question. So, let me attempt some thoughts on both.

        Morally, I think a case can be made that if succeeding generations of persons materially benefit/continue to benefit from such an injustice then they’re obligated to right the wrongs they’re enjoying. You might think of something like the Japanese American internment reparations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_American_internment). There, payment to individual internment survivors was possible. That’s clearly a cleaner situation. But if a connection to individuals cannot be established, then it would seem individual persons should not be held liable.

        Now if we view these things societally, judging that an entire society has perpetrated a crime against a people, that society ought to make some form of reparations for the crime. It’s not enough to say, “Oh, we were wrong… sorry,” and leave the situation unaddressed. The society which profited from forced labor ought to repay that labor in some way. I’m thinking here of something like the reparations agreement between Israel and West Germany (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reparations_Agreement_between_Israel_and_West_Germany).

        I don’t have any wisdom about how long or how much ought to be paid. That would take keener minds than mine.

        Now, I’ve heard the loud chorus of voices that oppose reparations because they claim today’s African Americans have suffered little to nothing in comparison to slaves centuries ago, or they claim that white citizens and black citizens are unable to establish any connection or responsibility. In my opinion, many of those voices are simply continuing to dodge any sense of moral culpability for this country’s oppression of African people. There is a sense in which people want to think that slavery was so long ago that time must surely have made the playing field even such that African Americans as a people have little legitimate claim to disadvantage today. From where I sit, that’s willful ignorance. For not only has this country enslaved Black people for nearly three centuries, it followed that enslavement with a counter-Reconstruction effort, Jim Crow segregation, and legal prejudice on the basis of race. That lasted until the 1960s–which is in the lifetime of a lot of Black and white readers of this post.

        Which brings us to the political question. If there were a political will, there would be a political way. In light of the fact that apologies for slavery have only come in the last couple decades in this country, it seems the political will was much like that among most Southerners and many Northerners just before the Civil War. The political will may not be there, but the moral ought is, imo.

        Grace and peace,
        T-

        1. Hi Pastor Anyabwile,

          Your points are all true. The one thing I would suggest that undermines the case for reparations is that it can be argued that the US already paid them in the high price it paid, in blood and treasure, in freeing the slaves in the Civil War.

          If one added up the price to prosecute the war and then the lost income of about 300,000 United States soldiers and their never-born descendants, the price would be very high. As Lincoln said, for every drop of sweat stolen from the slaves, a drop of blood was spilled.

          What I think most needs to be done in the white community is what the liberation theologians call “conscienzation”: making people aware, such as what US soldiers did to German civilians living near concentration camps in former Nazi Germany: make them see it so they would have the reality of what the Nazis did seared into their consciousness. So often I feel it is a lack of being really aware of what was suffered by African-Americans that makes them say stupid things, like calling themselves “paleo-Confederate” or arguing over technicalities of constitutional law when there are vital issues of justice at stake.

  5. Aaron says:

    Thabiti,

    This is a great summation of the discussion so far. I left a comment similar to this on Rev. Wilson’s blog about leaving off some of the more inflammatory aspects of his case so as to help the continuing conversations about state’s rights, obeying scripture, etc. . .not get drowned out.

    I wonder if you would interact with Robert’s question here, and also the question raised previously (and by Rev. Wilson today) about the validity of a war then or now when a grave injustice is in effect. Again, I think we can have that conversation about the civil war, or the current abortion debate without getting into the differences of history, the virtues of southern slave owners, and the obfuscation of the issue by pointing to South America, Africa, etc. . . No one should need those points to have a discussion about state’s rights.

  6. Bill says:

    Another issue I see in Doug’s writing is a paradigm of us vs. them when speaking of African-Americans, rather than finding ways to connect with, commiserate, celebrate etc with people that he is writing about. I have seen this sense of separation in his blog posts (as charitable and thoughtful as they have been)
    So is it worth considering the question that Bryan Loritts asks – ‘How many friends do you have that look different than you?’ to Doug Wilson? I feel that this could be another reason why people feel that he is defending slavery.

    1. Dan Glover says:

      Hi Bill,

      Can you give us some examples of the us vs. them paradigm regarding B&T or Pastor Wilson’s posts? Could this “us vs. them” feel you sense possibly be due to the fact that Pastor Wilson is writing about the past (and wasn’t there himself)? I think that sometimes the us vs. them paradigm has been used by people who want to fully identify or pronounce solidarity with southern slaves but who have very little or no real basis for identity with them, perhaps other than a racial one. Please don’t be offended, I am trying to honestly and plainly state something I have seen. I am thinking, for example, of God-denying, multi-millionaire gansta rap artists who are singing against the white man trying to keep them down as they stand in bling up to their waists and treat women as chattel. And for the record, there are plenty of white millionaire musicians, crooks, politicians and business men (I guess those last 3 categories could have significant overlap) who do the same thing.
      And when Bryan Loritts asks Pastor Wilson about how many friends he has who look different than him, I think we need to recognize that this question does not an argument make.

      1. Bill says:

        Dan,

        I think this is more of an argument from silence. I think you’re right to point out that in writing about the past, there will naturally be an us/them paradigm. Here’s the issue – I have never seen Doug demonstrate or describe his affection and appreciation and solidarity with the many wonderful African Americans in our country. If he were to do so, and do so consistently, it would go a long way to assuaging the issues that Thabiti has pointed out. Otherwise, it seems to imply that Doug’s experience with African Americans extends no further than what he sees on the evening news.

        Bill

    2. Nigel Hunter says:

      I find Loritts’ question to be a tricky and unnecessarily unfair one. If the charge is racial insensitivity, it makes sense. But that sets an incredibly high bar on any type of criticism. Loritts ought not be able to question Pastor Doug because he has no pale-Confederate friends himself and isn’t fairly representing their position. Neither does Pastor T, at least not before he began engaging with Pastor Doug, and would be disqualified from this series of posts. To feel that Pastor Doug is defending slavery is not to read “Black and Tan” from an objective position but rather to defend a prejudiced or uninformed opinion. Just because I didn’t like it, didn’t make it wrong. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying there are better reasons to object than “he hurt my feelings and hasn’t walked a mile in my shoes”.

      1. Bill says:

        Hi Nigel,

        I’m not worried about qualifications as much as the central issue of love. In my response to Dan above your comment, I described how I view that issue a little more – its an issue of the fact that Doug’s silence on expressing love towards African American brothers in Christ (and African Americans in general would be good too) causes people to believe that Doug makes it difficult to believe him when he denounces racism (which can sometimes exist as omission and not just commission)

        Thanks, Bill

        1. Dan Glover says:

          Hi Bill,

          While it is certainly biblical to say that a given sin in a particular area can either be one of commission or one of omission (or frequently some of both), it is a far cry to accuse someone of committing the sin of racism because of what they haven’t done. It would be one thing for an African American family to show up at Doug Wilson’s church one Sunday and say that they got the cold shoulder from everyone, especially the pastor. That would be a real problem. It is quite another thing to say that you’ve never seen Pastor Wilson in pictures with African American people, and that you don’t think he has enough friends who have a different skin colour. There is a good chance that you haven’t seen this because you don’t know what his life is like…you haven’t walked a mile in his shoes. And his shoes are primarily located in Northern Idaho.

          1. Bill says:

            Dan and Nigel, I agree that there is a dimension to this that involves personally knowing someone. I haven’t accused or judged Doug of anything though – I’m asking whether his failure to acknowledge, celebrate, affirm etc. African Americans is an explanation of why people accuse him of racism. I do think that this needs to be asked, because I find it to be a strange silence that could help Doug’s case and wouldn’t cost him anything. I think it also needs to be asked because their are too many white people in the world that simply do not notice or care for African Americans or their culture. That doesn’t equate to me making a judgment that someone is racist but we need to acknowledge the more nuanced issues that cause strife in these discussions, which is what Thabiti was seeking to do, and what I wanted to add to.

        2. Nigel Hunter says:

          Bill-

          I absolutely agree. But there is a huge difference between saying “Doug Wilson is racially insensitive because he has no black friends” and “Doug Wilson is a racist because because he has no black friends”. Do you see his lack of love expressing itself as insensitivity or racism? And do you see that as a result of ignorance or intent?

          I am arguing this because, as a black man, I have met Pastor Doug a handful of times and never felt uncomfortable around him personally. I didn’t love “Black and Tan” but I didn’t think he wished my great-grandfather hadn’t been made a freeman. I was incredibly offended by Loritts’ personal dismissal of him, saddened by Bradley’s tone towards him, and disappointed that Mason pulled out of Wilson’s conference last fall. How can he have black friends when no one wants to come play with him?

          All that to say, Pastor Doug is in Moscow, Idaho which is not a place that any black men feel comfortable in but the place the Lord has called him to be. We may not agree with his conclusions, or his starting point for that matter, but he isn’t disqualified to comment on this matter because he has been appointed to minister in a homogenous environment.

          There is an important distinction between racism and insensitivity. One requires repentance, the other allows us to consider environment. Neither call for Loritts’ personal and uncharitable dismissal.

      2. Dan Glover says:

        Nigel, I think your comment is fair and balanced. There is a sense in which the “walk a mile in my shoes” argument is valid – when we take it to mean “do unto others as you would be done by -but you’re right, it seems a little too handy and hollow when it comes from someone who themselves haven’t made the attempt to do just that for the person they are critiquing. Walk a mile in my shoes often gets used in place of an argument or evidence in matters where offense is involved. In order to rightly do unto others what we would have them do to us, we need to be able to understand and sympathize with them, which in turn requires that we listen to them. Thankfully, both Pastors are listening to each other. Some of the comments indicate that there are still people following this conversation who are still primarily listening to only one participant or the other rather than giving an honest and fair hearing to both and allowing them to speak for themselves without imputing to them a set of pre-conceived assumptions about what they must “really” mean.

      3. hans Maja says:

        Nigel wrote: “Loritts ought not be able to question Pastor Doug because he has no pale-Confederate friends himself and isn’t fairly representing their position. Neither does Pastor T, at least not before he began engaging with Pastor Doug, and would be disqualified from this series of posts.”

        Well Nigel, you must know both well enough to make such an assertion. It does not matter whether you are black, the heart of the matter is Dough’s position in his book. The fact that you are completely comfortable in Dough’s presence is immaterial. Read what he says about you as a black man, incapable of culture maturity. This is what must be addressed, and many here are doing just that void of emotions, in brotherly love.

  7. Nigel Hunter says:

    Couple thoughts:

    1-In the discussion of immediate freedom, proposing freedom then providing skills seems good at first glance. The question would be, what happens when that freed slave is picked up in town? If he can be proven to be the property of his master whose kindness exceeds the kindness beyond admission, then he can be returned to that master. If he is found to not be the property of anyone, under the Fugitive Slave Act, he can be stolen back into slavery to a master whose atrocities exceed the atrocities beyond admission. Again, it is a hypothetical response to a hypothetical situation but one worth considering rhetorically. But legal freedom and personal freedom is not a hypothetical and one I am seriously wrestling with as a result of this discussion.

    2-The degree of offense is a significant idea. Not so much that we ought not be offended from our historical vantage point, but rather that an increased offense would lead to the eventual end of slavery.

    3-If 2 is granted, I would offer that is why the gay rights and pro-life movements have been so successful. Both of them feed off the offense of their opponents. Wilson’s argument for a violent response then and now is one I can sympathize with when I think of Kermit Gosnell.

    4-I understand why there may not be a need for Pastor T and Pastor Doug to sit down together. This discussion has shown that when men choose to be charitable, a true conversation results by the grace of God and the humility of Christ. But I don’t know that Loritts and Bradley will let Pastor T speak for them. A scheduled, public and recorded conversation would be more beneficial on this issue in the future. But only for those who choose not to read. So I am satisfied, but still pulling for it.

    Finally, a huge praise to Jesus for the Church He has built from Moscow to the Cayman Islands and everywhere in between. And thank you to Pastor T, Pastor Doug, and those leaving comments here and Blog and Mablog. This has been a blessed and critical 2 weeks for me.

    1. Dan Glover says:

      Hi Nigel,

      Responding to the last sentence from your 3rd point above, I think you have misread Pastor Wilson. He is not making a case FOR a violent response then or now but has been arguing all along that we shouldn’t be using violence/war to end such evils as southern slavery and modern day abortion. He has been asking for someone, whose position on the issue of southern slavery is that the “civil” war was justified in order to end the evil of slavery, to expound on what they think ought to be done today about the issue of abortion. He has been asking someone to show how a person can affirm the position that the civil war was justified to end slavery but deny that violence is permitted in order to end abortion. Thus far, I haven’t seen anyone answer this question. I think its an honest question and that biblical interpretive and applicational consistency demands that it be answered.

      1. Curtis says:

        Hey Dan:
        You said:
        “He has been asking someone to show how a person can affirm the position that the civil war was justified to end slavery but deny that violence is permitted in order to end abortion. Thus far, I haven’t seen anyone answer this question.”

        Here you go:

        “At some other point I may write a longer post on the subject of the War and whether it was just. In brief, I do believe it just for a nation to fight in defense of its most vulnerable citizens against another nation. If we view the South as a separate nation, then the Civil War represents a conflict between two sovereign powers. That’s
        miles away from an individual shooting abortion doctors.”

        What would a war against abortion look like?

        1. Andy Persons says:

          Curtis:

          Is it then only the difference of whether or not it involves sovereign powers? If a sovereign power was involved, whether through states seceding or a foreign invader, it would be moral to wage bloody war to end abortion?

          1. Curtis says:

            Andy:
            I simply pointed out that Thabiti did in fact answer the “war” / “violence” question.

            Now I kind of feel like Dan/Doug. You never answerd my question. What would a war on abortion look like? I know what violence aganist abortion looks like, we all do. How do you or anyone else envision a war?

            Just so you know, I loathe abortion. It hurts my heart that 500,000 are murdered in the womb each year by my fellow African Americans. Little ones of mine according to the flesh, never given a chance, slaughtered by their own mothers, it’s simply heart breaking. I also want you to know, that I get real mad when I think about it sometimes. Especially when so many pulpits in our (AA) communites are silent on the issue, it is utterly shameful.

            With that said, I am most uncomfortable with the comparison to slavery. I think it is the height of insensitivity and moves the conversation nowhere. White folks ought to cut that stuff out, it does more harm than good. When one compares something to slavery, whatever the intent, the conversation stops and it’s going to seem like slavery is getting a pass. Please hear me good on this, STOP using slavery as an analogy.

            Sorry for the rant, do you have an answer to my question?

            1. Andy Persons says:

              Hi Curtis,

              I don’t know exactly what a war against abortion would look like. I believe it would be horrific and bloody and not glorifying to God.

              You’re right that Pastor Thabiti did answer the question and I followed up with questions of my own to him in the thread. I shouldn’t have directed them at you since you were only quoting him.

              Like many others, I’ve been greatly interested and edified by this exchange between Pastor Thabiti and Pastor Doug. Both men have been careful and gracious and I believe God has been glorified in it.

              I thought Doug’s point about thinking through the choices we make in resisting societal evils was relevant and I wanted to explore Thabiti’s response further.

              In affirming the evil of abortion, I certainly am not giving a pass to slavery. Both are an abomination in His sight. I do think we should to be able to think these things through and not unilaterally rule it off limits.

        2. Dan Glover says:

          Hi Curtis,

          I’m not totally sure what a war on abortion would look like, but I think it would have to be, if at all, as a last resort after all other godly and prudent options were attempted. Perhaps it might start something like the scenario I have sketched below, near the bottom of the comments??

          If Christians were going to fight it, their stated objectives would need to be made clear, including that they do not wish any civilian lives to be endangered and including a chance for any pro-lifers in the pro-abortion states, whether in government, in bureacracy or in the military/police to walk away from their posts in consciencious objection to the authorities of their states. And I think that in such a hypothetical war, the aggression would likely start from the Federalist-big gov’t side trying to get the rogue pro-life states back in line. I think that in the lead up to such a conflict you would see mass migrations across state borders as the two positions on the issue took up sides.

          Much better that widespread repentance would sweep the whole nation and not ever come to this. I don’t think that currently Christians are doing all we can to fight abortion within the bounds of the law and culture as it stands. Perhaps we all need to re-read Francis Schaeffer’s “A Christian Manifesto” and grow a spine.

      2. Nigel Hunter says:

        Dan-

        It is what Pastor Doug wrote that caused me to think through that way. If, as he argues, the Civil War was a just response to an atrocity, why wouldn’t a violent response to a worse atrocity be appropriate today. Wilson offers that is part of the reason why he is arguing this point in “Black and Tan”, he does not want to be equated with abortion violence.

        If Pastor T is correct and slavery and abortion are different because of the sovereign nature of the Confederate States, then the issue of war is solved.

        However, there is still the question of the an appropriate response to the murder of a child. If the child is outside the womb and the violence happens outside an abortionists office, are you justified in physically intervening? And to what degree? And on and on and on.

        I hope you see that I am agreeing with Pastor Doug, because I’d like to see more of the discussion of a Christian’s responsibility to a known abortion provider.

        1. Dan Glover says:

          Nigel –

          Perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying before just because of how it was worded or how I took it. Clarification: Pastor Wilson isn’t arguing that the civil war was justified to end slavery. He is arguing that those who do think it was justified to end slavery have to apply their logic consistently and answer why they don’t think war is justified to end abortion. Are we in agreement on how we understand Wilson’s argument?

          1. Nigel Hunter says:

            Dan-

            Perfectly agreed. I am very thankful for Pastor T’s response. Still chewing on it all and pricked that I am doing as little as I am for mothers and fathers considering abortion with even less consideration of why I am not.

            Thank you for taking time to clarify. I’ve appreciate you in these threads.

            1. Nigel Hunter says:

              Sorry, “appreciated”.

            2. Dan Glover says:

              Nigel,

              Great, that’s clear. Yes, we need to think through all the implications of biblical truth on the issue of abortion and all of us need to apply biblical truth consistently. I’d love to see a whole discussion on that, taking into account the history of how the US got to the place where the slaughter of millions of babies is not only acceptable but seen as a “human right” and funded by tax dollars, much of it coming from Christians.

              I have also appreciated your input in these threads. While I am not African American as you are (actually, I am a white northern Canadian), I am glad to call you “brother” in the deepest sense, a sense that doesn’t ignore skin colour, history or culture but that transcends them, in our common Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

      3. The crucial difference about whether to take up arms against slavery and against abortion is the lack of a competent authority leading us to to oppose abortion. One of the criteria of a just war (besides a just cause) is whether a competent authority is
        leading it. Wilson maybe right in condemning John Brown’s raid and also, today, violent attacks against abortionists. But then to cast that same doubt about the legitimacy of the United States’ cause in the Civil War is to confuse the issue. John Brown did not have competent authority to raid Harper’s Ferry. Abraham Lincoln did have competent authority to put down the Confederacy. It could well be argued that the Southern states had competent authority to form a Confederacy, but since their cause was unjust (the preservation of slavery), they fail the just war test. If a competent authority called for the armed suppression of abortion, — for example, even a state government, like Texas, declaring that it would jail abortionists and it’s national guard would resists any federal attempts to stop them — then, in that case, we might have a legitimate ethical debate on our hands. Until then, your apparent attempts to cast our now lack of legitimacy to use violence to stop abortion back onto the United States’ cause a century and a half ago, is simply confused and confusing.

        The US’s cause in the Civil War had all the marks of a just war: called by a competent authority; to achieve a just result, etc. The South’s lacked the just result. The pro-life cause today (so far) lacks the competent authority.

        1. Dan Glover says:

          If we view the North and South as two separate and sovereign nations, then in what way was the North defending “it’s” most vulnerable citizens? By default, the slave population of the South couldn’t have been citizens of the North.

          If we view them not as two separate nations, is it a fair assessment to say that the North had a just cause (abolition of slavery) but did not have the compentant and constitutionally appropriate authority to declare war on the South, making their fight unjust; and the South did have appropriate constitutional authority to defend themselves but they did not have a just cause (preservation of slavery), making their fight unjust?

          And this doesn’t allow for the fact that both North and South undoubtedly had mixed motives.

          1. The CSA was a “nation” (so they say) committed to race-based slavery. As such, it was evil and deserved destruction.

            Second, the United States did have competent authority to put down the Confederacy. As a matter of fact, the USA never recognized the CSA as a nation and so never declared war. Legally, the Civil War was not a war but a suppression of an illegal rebellion. The constitution gives the president the right as commander-in-chief of the military which Lincoln exercised. Thank God.

            But for Christians, the over-riding issue is not the technical legality of one side versus another. God has shown us, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of us. It is not, to do constitutionality, love legality, and walk humbly with our paleo-confederates. It’s to do justice and love mercy. One cannot obey that by countenancing the furtherance of slavery. And, hence, one cannot be a “paleo-confederate” and be walking humbly with our God.

  8. Terry says:

    Thabiti,
    I really appreciate your thoughtful posts on this subject. Your exchanges with Doug Wilson have been more enlightening than anything I’ve ever read on the subject. Thanks to both of you.

  9. Mark says:

    Thabiti,

    I’m wondering if you do have plans to address Doug’s line of reason that says, “If gradualism was wrong then (in the case of slavery), it’s likely wrong now (in the case of abortion).”

    That is, do see chattel slavery as an ethically unique circumstance or is it one of many historical atrocities for which broader, more universal principles may be found and applied.

    And, perhaps most pointedly, do you preach, teach, and write against abortion in the same manner that you would’ve expected a faithful Southern Presbyterian (or Baptist) minister to do in 1850?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your questions. Please see the comment above Josh, Andy, Robert and Al.

      As for my preaching, being a regular expositor, I preach and make application where the text warrants it.

      T-

      1. Mark says:

        So, if you’re a “regular expositor” of the Scripture in 1850’s Mississippi, convinced that your brethren were guilty of a great and terrible sin, you wouldn’t preach on it except where you happened to hit a text and the application to slave-holding seemed somewhat natural. If it walks and talks like gradualism…

  10. Joshua Butcher says:

    Pastor Anyabwile,

    Did/Does pastor Wilson’s stated intentions for writing Black & Tan factor into your most recent assessment? It seems that his purpose in responding to radical anti-abortion Christians makes more sense in light of this chief point of gradualism in abolishing slavery.

    Also, I asked a question before that was overlooked, that I hope you will answer if I ask it again.

    What is your perspective on the way in which the U.S. Federal government handled the abolition of slavery, and for comparison, the British government for that matter? I ask because you seem to advocate a grassroots approach of individual slave owners revoking their ownership, out of the kind of love advocated by Paul to Philemon.

    Thanks!

  11. Sam says:

    Thabiti, this is not at all a comment on the current subject.

    Would you please be kind enough to write out the proper pronunciation of your first and last names? When I read them on the screen, I don’t know how to make them sound in my head. And unless you come to Raleigh and let me take you to lunch, I’ll never hear you pronounce it in person.

    I’d very much appreciate it.

  12. John K says:

    To the question at the end of the article: why do people think Wilson defends slavery?
    1. The fact that Wilson calls himself a “paleo-Confederate” contributes to the perception of defending slavery. Alexander Stephens directly associated the formation of the Confederacy with slavery based on race and racism. Secession was in response to the election of a president who would not let slavery expand. Georgia incorporated the Confederate flag into its state flag in the 1950’s as a negative response to desegregation. Certainly the white segregationist leadership in Georgia made the connection; not hard for other people to make that connection for the wrong reasons.

    2. Has he ever apologized for and publicly retracted or repudiated his first work on slavery, before Black and Tan? As they say “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Publishing it was bad. Apologizing for it and making a statement of retraction would’ve worked toward undoing some of that damage. He needs to take responsibility for what the other guy wrote, since both their names were on it. If Wilson has done this, I have never heard of it, and if not me, I’m sure many others haven’t.

    3. In Black and Tan, the seeming skepticism toward evidence, and the bad historical assumptions involved concerning Southern slavery make people assume he has an agenda rather than just saying he’s an incompetent historian. I thought Wilson was too smart to be incompetent, but maybe that’s giving him too much credit?

    4. Statements like calling Abraham Lincoln a white supremacist don’t help, particularly as, if I’m correct, its the only thing that Wilson said directly about Lincoln in Black and Tan. It looks like he is trying to completely discredit Lincoln. If he just wanted to give a corrective to the popular perception of Lincoln for balance, he could’ve done it far differently. The fact that he kinda did a drive-by makes one wonder why, and its not a very big leap to say its to serve an agenda which involves impugning the mythical “apostle” of emancipation.

    5. The statement about comparing the safety of a black in the womb today vs. a black in the South before the Civil War can give the perception of minimizing how bad slavery was, which makes some people think of defending it. Yes, Wilson makes a lot of statements about slavery being bad. He just doesn’t think it nearly bad enough or widespread enough in the South. He seems to think that abuses were occasional and sporadic. Many people like me think they were widespread and systematic.

    1. John K says:

      Point #4 I’ll correct to say “its not a very big leap to think it might be to serve an agenda” That’s more what i was trying to say

  13. Michael says:

    Perhaps, this type of book should have been written by the two of you TOGETHER and the whole conversation would be different?

  14. Lawrence says:

    I am so grateful for the both of you. I’ve learned a lot in this discussion about the issue at hand and both of you have helped me clarify questions in my own mind. Most of all, the example you have set for how such discussions can and should be handled is priceless.

    God bless,

    LK

  15. People think Wilson defends slavery because . . . he defends slavery. To identify oneself with the Confederacy (as he does) is, in fact, to support slavery. That he denies that is the case is only evidence that he is confused.

    1. Jason Kates says:

      It seems your need to pick nits with Wilson is overriding other attempts at an earnest back and forth. It also is the direct opposite of the way Anyabwile went about things in his previous post where he restated Wilson’s beliefs in a manner with which Wilson agreed (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2013/03/13/doug-wilsons-views-on-race-racism-slavery-and-the-bible/).

      In contrast to your attitude, I am grateful to Anyabwile for his attitude, tone, sincerity, etc. in this series of posts. (Likewise to Wilson, but this is not his blog so I shant address him here.) I am but loosely familiar with both men, but this back and forth drew me in completely. I loved it. I hope we see more dialog like this, from others, in the future.

      1. As below, I’m grateful that Anyabwile is taking Wilson on in a charitable way. However, if he is not going to accept the truth, repent both of his historical falsehoods, unBiblical values (especially his utter disregard for justice), and, then, his insensitivity to those who would still be slaves today if his preferred cause had triumphed and his offense given to all (of whatever race) who love their neighbor as themselves (even more than their political theories!), etc., at some point some major evangelical leaders is going to need to deal with him in more decisive way. His opinions on this subject are repugnant, not simply to the “feelings” of a minority but to historical truth and to Christian principles.

        This isn’t just an academic exercise for the entertainment of spectators who love to see a good (and civil) debate. It has to do exactly with the issues Christians are called to be committed to: truth, justice and love. Wilson’s statements on this issue lack all of those. His manner may indeed be civil (perhaps even apparently loving). But that the real-world result of his opinions, if they had succeeded, would mean the enslavement of millions, means that it lacks love, as well as truth and justice.

        1. Jason Kates says:

          What does an ad hominem attack on your opponent accomplish? Calling Wilson a hateful, unjust liar – by saying he lacks truth, justice and love – advances your claims/the discussion/unity how exactly?

          1. Please stop with your false accusations. If you can’t advance your case without making false accusations, then just stop.

            I never made an ad hominem attack. That’s simply false.

            I wrote: “But that the real-world result of his opinions, if they had succeeded, would mean the enslavement of millions, means that it lacks love, as well as truth and justice.”

            Did I say “he lacks love”, etc. No. I said “it”, i.e. his opinions. His opinions are historically false, take no account of justice, and would have resulted in the continuance of slavery and thus are not loving. That’s a statement about his opinions, not the man himself. And my statement is true.

            1. hans Maja says:

              John: You are spot on. Pastor T has been civil, and this gives the impression that there is nothing wrong with Doug’s views. Finally, we are must stand before the judgement seat of Christ, where the judging rod shall be the Word of God, and not the constitution of the USA!

  16. I was a former teaching assistant for Robert W. Fogel, a professor at the University of Chicago who won a Nobel Prize in economics for his work on American slavery. Wilson uses some of Fogel’s findings to bolster his case. For those not familiar with Fogel’s work, this can look impressive. I can assure you that Wilson is cherry picking Fogel’s findings and distorting them, coming to exactly the opposite conclusions as did Fogel. Fogel found that slavery was profitable and efficient and that it was causing the Southern economy to grow at twice the rate of North’s in the decade prior to the Civil War; that if the Civil War had been delayed much longer, the South would likely have won and then spread slavery; slavery was on the ascendancy, not the decline, prior to the Civil War. Fogel himself a self described “secular Jew” believed it was the work of evangelical Christians who ended slavery, not economic forces. Evangelicals did that by so preaching against slavery and the rights of the slaves (loving them as neighbors), that enough voters in the North were willing to elect a president opposed to slavery.

    I am appalled at Wilson’s opinions. They are not only offensive, but historical false and contrary to Biblical principles. I’ve said so in several statements to him at his own blog, one of which I will copy below.

  17. To Douglas Wilson:

    The obstacle to unity, in this case is untruth: You are wrong. This isn’t a case of emotionally-driven people being offended by uncomfortable truths; or, if it is, you are the emotionally-driven person, fond of your nostalgic (and fundamentally idiotic) view of the South and you are offended by the truth. For example, claiming, like a typical post-modernists, that your kind of “confederate” is not the same as those (real, historical) confederates who were racists. You are supportive of a movement committed (not to limited government, it’s absurd to argue that a country self-consciously committed to slavery was genuinely about limited government) to race-based slavery.

    The evidence that the South (which you said you would have fought for) was committed to race-based slavery is overwhelming: from the secession statements of several of the states, to Alexander Stephens’ “Cornerstone” speech, to the defacto result of the continuation of slavery in the result of a Confederate victory, to their willingness to return to the Union if that could forestall the passage of the 13th amendment, to the fact that racists policies continued in the South for about a century even after the Civil War and the 13th and 14th amendments, etc., etc., etc. To deny that the South was committed to slavery is the American equivalent of holocaust denial.

    Robert Fogel has shown slavery was not gradually diminishing. It was fantastically profitable, efficient, and causing the Southern economy to grow at twice the rate of the North’s in the decade prior to the Civil War. It wasn’t going to go away if only the North started to speak to them more sweetly.

    Since the South was fighting for race-based slavery, your support of the South (e.g. calling yourself a “paleo-confederate”) is supporting racism and slavery. You can say it is not. But you are wrong. Rommel may not have hated Jews or been wanting to carry out the holocaust. But if he had succeeded as a German general, he would have furthered the holocaust. If the South had succeeded, it would have furthered slavery.

    Your moral sense, at least on this issue, seem to have been loosened from an Biblical tether. You seem more opposed to “centralization” than you are to the oppressiveness of slavery. That is, you appear to care more for a political conviction than you do for justice. You want to fight the United States because it was more federal than you wish, even if the result of getting your way would, in fact, mean the indefinite servitude of others. Frankly, there’s nothing remotely Christian about those values.

    Of course, you’ll protest that slavery could have been dealt with another way: the fantasy solution. But slavery was not fading away. That’s what Fogel proved, whose research you have cherry-picked.

    I’m grateful that an African-American evangelical leader is taking you on in a charitable way. However, if you’re not going to accept the truth, repent both of your historical falsehoods, your unBiblical values (especially your utter disregard for justice), and, then, your insensitivity to those who would still be slaves today if your preferred cause had triumphed and those other Christians who love their neighbor as themselves (and even more than their political theories!), etc., at some point some major evangelical leaders are going to need to deal with you in more decisive way. Sir, your opinions on this subject are repugnant, not simply to the “feelings” of a minority but to historical truth and to Christian principles.

    American evangelicalism doesn’t need the moral equivalent of a holocaust denier to have to be apologize for.

    1. Jill says:

      For those interested in Doug’s reply to John Carpenter, please see Doug’s blog:
      http://www.dougwils.com/The-Bible-Culture-and-Race/patrickt-qnostradamusq-henry.html

      1. Jill says:

        Forgot to mention that both the comments from Carpenter and the response from Doug will be found in the “comments” section at the end of the blog post.

    2. Dan Glover says:

      John C,

      It is clear that you hold very firm opinions on this topic and that you have given it much thought and study. I am glad that you can agree with Pastor Anyabwile and Pastor Wilson that the slave trade and slave ownership was a moral evil (sin) that needed to come to an end. I am also glad that you agree with both Pastors that the principle of liberty woven throughout the gospel of Jesus Christ is the reason why slavery was wrong and needed to cease.

      It would be encouraging to see you acknowledge at least this much agreement with Pastor Wilson, especially as Pastor Anyabwile has himself acknowledged such agreement to this degree, and actually much further. Such acknowledgement would likely foster a more constructive discussion, since biblically informed likemindedness is ultimately the end goal for Christian dialogue of this nature. The accusatory spirit and adversarial nature of the bulk of your posts directed toward Pastor Wilson, on his blog and this one, don’t seem to desire, much less foster, such a spirit of unity.

      As you have self-identified as a brother in Christ and as I have no reason to believe otherwise, I will treat you as one and, in Christian love, “believe all things and hope all things” about your commitment to the Triune God and His Word, written and incarnate. In light of all you and Pastor Wilson agree on about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Scriptures as a whole, and even about this issue, to an admittedly lesser but still real degree, can you commit to:
      – praying for unity in the truth with Pastor Wilson
      – speaking to him in the way you would wish to be spoken to
      – writing comments in the same way you would speak them if you were face to face with Pastor Wilson and if his wife (and yours, if you are married) and a gaggle of young children, some related to him and some to you, were sitting there watching you both with wide and impressionable eyes?

      I know that man to man discussions can be quite heated and still be cordial and brotherly, but this isn’t man to man. There is a big group participating here, some actively, others only watching. This is a public forum that both Pastors agreed to in their original interaction and both have graciously left the comments features turned “on” on their respective blogs. I think the least we can all do as participants in this discussion is emulate the spirit of the two primary participants, even and especially where they and we might disagree.

      1. I appreciate your concern here. Like you, I also appreciate Pastor Any striving for a charitable tone with Wilson and proving that he’s grasped Wilson’s logic before putting “the hammer” down on it. It’s good that he do so. It’s also important, I believe, that Christians who do not appear to have a racial vested-interest take up “the hammer” with some passion, for two reasons: (1) Wilson’s crime here is not a misdemeanor and this is not a merely academic discussion for scholars to civilly joust; his historical claims are factually false (e.g. claiming that slaves and masters were big, happy families), his reasoning is distorted (being for a slave-based society in the name of being for limited government; claiming to be for a political solution to the problem while then supporting the side that was opting out of the political solution; using the failure today to stop the injustice of abortion as a rationale for not stopping the injustice of slavery, etc.) and his priorities are anything but Christian;
        second, for the sake of both Christian unity and racial unity, it’s useful that our black brothers and sisters see white brothers and sisters indignant over this issue. It is easier for them to be cool and civil, if they know we share their offensive. And we should, because the offense is not just against a race but against all people who care about doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

        Finally, being truly loving is really not a matter of speaking civilly. Often civil discourse can be a veil over very unloving hearts. Love is a matter of the practical impact of one’s life. And what Wilson has advocated would result in the practical out-come of slavery. That’s anything but loving, no matter how civil his rhetoric is about it.

  18. Joel Taylor says:

    Thabiti, my dear brother in Christ,

    Your continued insistence that the South stole men as slaves is most lacking in historical knowledge and based entirely on preferential beliefs of government education. The historical truth is, if only you would do your homework, that the South purchased – and took great concern for the health and well-being of – their slaves. They purchased them from the northern states, of which Massachusetts was the first to pass laws regarding the handling of slaves. Slavery begam in the Northern states, yet you continue to bash the South as an evil people. Your historical accuracy is shamelessly incorrect. I must strongly object, and intend to answer your accusations and your historically wrong thinking publicly. God bless, my brother.

    1. Hi Joel,

      First, your point (even if true) is obscurantism. You are obscuring the truth by bringing in irrelevant, diversionary material. It’s what Bill O’Reilly calls excusing bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior.

      Second, your statements aren’t true. You say that slavery began with the North. Fact Check: the first slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. The first northern colony was Plymouth which did not begin until 1620 (and without slaves at the beginning.)

      Third, in law you are responsible for what you pay others to do for you. If someone pays a hit-man to kill someone else, they are not innocent of a crime simply because they didn’t pull the trigger. Southerners may have paid for their slaves but they were then paying for others to do their kidnapping for them.

      Finally, if you’re going to tell others to “do your homework” and charge them with historical inaccuracies, it’s important that you know what you’re talking about. I’m grateful for Pastor Thabiti being willing to take on a subject like this in the civil and reasonable tone he has adopted.

      1. Joel Taylor says:

        The truth is irrelevant? Your “fact checks” are a regurgitation of the Lincoln cult and, I might add, without foundation. You give only your opinions brother. I can give you recorded facts from library of congress and those who were there that would make you look as if you never knew the facts. It’s sadly amusing. Would to God that you would actually read history before commenting on things you have absolutely no knowledge of, which is obvious.

        1. Hi Joel,

          1. Even if the slaves came from the North in the 1700s, that’s irrelevant to the cause of the Civil War in 1861.

          2. I didn’t give only my opinion. Your statement that I did is simply a lie. Please stop lying and until you are willing to stop lying, then stop pretending you are a brother of those who don’t lie.

          The fact that slaves came to Virginia in 1619 and Plymouth was founded in 1620 are not “opinion” but historical facts.

          You spew lies and insults. You need to examine your heart as to whether you are really a Christian at all (2 Cor. 13:5).

  19. Paul Tauschek says:

    Well Said!

  20. Dan Glover says:

    Pastor Anyabwile,

    Here’s a scenario I posted on Pastor Wilson’s blog as well. It is for both Pastors:

    Let’s say that 8-10 years from now, some of the states pass legislation making abortion illegal. Let’s say further that, with support from their representatives in the Senate and Congress, they ignore the Federal Supreme Court’s decisions striking down their state anti-abortion laws as unconstitutional and the states also don’t budge when the president tells them to smarten up and tow the line. Further, their own various state courts uphold their respective state legislature’s decisions to make abortion illegal in those states. The anti-abortion states close down all abortion clinics, halt all hospital abortions, order all previous abortion practitioners to cease and desist upon pain of jail sentence, and churches in those states open care homes for women who would have otherwise considered abortion. Now let’s say the future president (this is 8-10 years from now, recall) threatens to roll in the tanks to force the these rogue states to reinstate federally funded abortion services and to “stop denying this basic human right to women.”

    I’d like to know where you both would stand on this and how you would counsel your congregations to respond.

    1. It seems to me that the over-riding Christian concern is for justice. Micah 6:8.

  21. William Harris says:

    On this Sunday afternoon, I also want to commend you for the tone and substance of the discussion. I not only found it profitable, but deeply, movingly God-honoring. Thank you.

    You asked a very pertinent question, as to why so many think Rev. Wilson is a racist. I would suggest that the answer lies as much with the era of Jim Crow as anything else. This is our narrative lens. The assertion of white hegemonic supremacy in the South came with direct and legislative violence against the very forces of gradualism in the region. (Stephen Norrell’s biography of Booker T. Washington, Up from History documents both the gradualist approach and its rejection). It is this history that guides our understanding of what is or is not racist.

    As to the historical questions of slavery, undoubtedly slave-holders were Christian, in that mixed-up we all are, striving to live our lives in the context of the cultures and times we’ve been given. Of course, Rev. Wilson would have fought for the Confederacy. And? I the proper Yankee child would have willingly fought righteously for the North. But such discussions hide one other item: that we use historical what-if’s as a means of hiding from ourselves, the “what next” with my neighbor. I don’t need to re-fight the Civil War, I do need to meet and respond to the people in my time, here in my city.

    1. hans Maja says:

      William” Amen brother.

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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