We’re soldiers in a war. We have orders from our Captain. We dare not involve ourselves in civilian affairs. We must please the One who enlists us (2 Tim. 2:4). What good soldier would set aside orders from his Commanding Officer in order to enjoy the pursuits of civilian pleasure? Leaving his post would most definitely imperil his company.

Consequently, we must be very careful about the entanglements we choose. We must be careful to discern the difference between biblical marching orders and matters important to the many civilians who live around us. That’s particularly true of the pastor, a kind of lieutenant to the Commanding Officer.

Doug Wilson has offered a response to my last post, a post which appealed for two things: (1) a more radical (in the old sense of the word, meaning at the root) application of the Bible’s command to love and (2) a continuance of Wilson’s charitable tone in our discussion in future discussions of race, slavery, the Bible, etc. On this second point, I opined that Wilson might be more effective at communicating his points and less encumbered by false perceptions of his views if he would disentangle his rather clear statements against slavery and racism from statements that seem to celebrate the Old South, defend slave owners, and minimize the negative aspects of slavery.

Wilson responded, in part, by saying he fears “the racial situation in America has gotten so inflamed, people like me are not allowed to treat issues in isolation. Writing Black & Tan was racially insensitive? But so is orthodox Trinitarian theology anywhere in the neighborhood of T.D. Jakes. If allowed to speak on racism in a vacuum, I think I would do fine. But we don’t live in vacuum; we live in this messy thing called history.”

His next paragraph illustrates the intertwining of his views of political history and slavery:

I have said before that I would have fought for the South, despite the convictions I hold on the ungodliness of racially-based chattel slavery. I would have done this for various reasons — for limited constitutional government, against the Whig/Republican drive toward centralized federal government, against the tax/tariff policies of the centralizers, etc. Someone might urge me, “Why don’t you just drop the whole issue? Slavery is gone, man.” Right, and I never would have fought to defend slavery as such. Right, slavery is gone, but the centralizers are still here. The anti-constitutionalists are still here. The federal government is still here, as arrogant as ever. All the taxes and then some are still here. The Bible is still here, and its description of homosexuality as an abomination is still here. Fifty million Americans, 30% or so of them black, would have been here if somebody hadn’t twisted the Constitution into a surgical device for dismembering babies, red and yellow, black and white.

By intertwining these things, Wilson does not mean to suggest he shrinks back from the responsibility to denounce racism. “Now I still think it is my obligation to be crystal clear on the racism issue — because I believe genuine racism is a gospel-threatening sin — but our public discourse in these troubled times is structured in such a way that it is virtually impossible to speak God’s truth in a number of areas without incurring spurious charges of racism.” He simply means he cannot make such denunciations without involving himself in a number of other contested issues he sees as related.

I’ve tried but I’ve been unable to understand why Wilson sees the denunciation of racism as inseparable from “this messy thing called history” and “a number of areas… incurring spurious charges of racism.” Scores of writers distinguish those two things nearly every day in everything from blog posts to articles and opinion pieces to book-length treatments of either subject. We can pick up tomes on race and racism that make no mention of whether the Civil War was a crisis in constitutional polity or any mention of the Old South. Likewise, we can read numerous pieces on the Civil War that focus little on race and racism. In short, these issues are not as intertwined as Wilson thinks them to be. At least not where I sit and according to the plethora of treatments that avoid such commingling of issues.

Moreover, choosing to entangle the issues hurts both causes—either a stalwart, unclouded denunciation of racism or a revision of the South’s history and perception in popular, political or academic discourse. When entangling these topics revisionists of Southern history hurt their cause by leaving themselves open to charges of racism while opponents of racism hurt their cause by hitching their arguments to Old South revisionism. Neither side gains an audience.

Our Entanglements Sometimes Keep Us from Asking and Answering Other Important Questions

The cost of blending these topics run quite high. When Wilson writes, “I would have fought for the South, despite the convictions I hold on the ungodliness of racially-based chattel slavery,” it seems to me he fails to ask a critical question required by love: What about the lives, rights, and futures of enslaved African Americans? Are not these lives as important as the constitutional issues at stake? Are not the constitutional issues important precisely because lives are at stake? What about the constitutional issues makes them more important than one’s personal convictions “on the ungodliness of racially-based chattel slavery”? Do these considerations really trump human life?

Writing “I would have fought for the South, despite the convictions I hold on the ungodliness of racially-based chattel slavery” (emphasis added) can only mean that one was willing to countenance and take action to secure the continuation of “ungodliness.” Would we oppose God in order to secure the civilian affairs of the Old South? If we take the War to be a judgment upon the nation, why with the advantage of history’s hindsight would we still be committed to a cause that God condemned in judgment?

I find here a great inconsistency and mismanagement of priorities. Surely human life must rank higher in importance than governments. Though governments are appointed by God, they are appointed to preserve justice and life (Rom. 13). It seems Wilson’s commitment to the cause of the Old South prevents him from asking or ranking African American life above constitutional disputes. I think that’s the wrong set of priorities for a gospel minister, an ambassador of Christ, and a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. It seems to me that those priorities entangle us with civilian affairs, and those entanglements cost us clearer vision, consistent application of the Scripture, and human life.

On Terrorists and Freedom Fighters

As I read Wilson’s last post and skimmed over sections of Black and Tan, I couldn’t help but think of the old adage, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighters.” Wilson, siding with the Old South, sees himself as fighting for the freedom of the Southern States to secede from the union and organize life under their own constitution. I can’t help but see that as an act that would have further terrorized enslaved African Americans. I couldn’t help but ponder why Wilson would preach 1 Tim. 6:2 to enslaved African Americans rather than 1 Cor. 7:21.

Then I thought of my heroes in the dispute—the many African Americans who escaped to fight for the North, freedmen and free-born men who invested their precious life to join the Union Army, men and women who led the Underground Railroad, or “radicals” who mounted insurrections as occasion permitted. For me (literally, for me) they were freedom fighters—some more radical than others. Meanwhile, for others they were terrorists.

There are forms of “radicalism” other than the John Brown Harper’s Ferry variety. I think of the radicalism of a Martin Luther King, Jr., who, without recourse to violence, lived out the most radical sacrifice the Bible calls us to make: to love. To love our God, to love our brothers, to love our enemies. He wrote an impassioned letter explaining “Why We Can’t Wait.” The clergypersons who wrote to King asking him to “be patient” no doubt had their cultural, social, and political reasons for attempting to slow King’s movement. But “radical” that he was, he could not wait. With a preacher’s eloquence and biblical texts, he called a country to love and to the freedom love demands. I’m glad he didn’t wait. Because he didn’t wait I can write publicly to disagree with a White man and not fear loss of life or have to flee the southern city in which I now sit. I’m glad all those who heard the call of love chose to disentangle themselves form the laws of the day and to actively resist in nonviolent protest so that we might have a greater measure of freedom and justice for all.

Perhaps this is where Wilson and I reach an impasse. But I have no doubt that were the shackle on the other foot, every White reader of this conversation would have been seeking their freedom rather than rushing to biblical texts that seemed to require their acquiescence. When the founding fathers of America thought their liberties were contracted in unfair taxation, they fought a war against their own crown government, though their lives weren’t in immediate peril or their bodies bound. They didn’t wait or choose to fight for the oppressor they knew to be in the wrong. And when White southerners thought their way of life was compromised in the mid-1800s, they too fought a war for their freedom. Wilson says he understands that “natural inclination.” I believe he does. I would simply ask and hope that he might fight for the right of everyone to feel and pursue the same impulse to freedom and dignity that he has.

 

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144 thoughts on “The Cost of Our Chosen Entanglements”

  1. Moe Bergeron says:

    Excellent post and reply. I wish those thousands of men who died on both sides during the Civil War were as zealous for the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ as they were for issues such as states rights, federalism, or slavery one way or the other. Our first loyalty is to King Jesus and the expansion of His kingdom. The world, including these United States of America, is not the friend of the Christian. We are but aliens in a foreign land.

    1. Moe Bergeron says:

      Applying myself to learn a little more about the Civil War I discovered that approximately 360,000 Union troops died during the War. Could it be that these men did not give their lives to set slaves free and that their efforts were more closely tied to the preservation of the union? Whatever were their motives in my lifetime I cannot recall a single celebration dedicated to these men who took up arms to deliver men out of bondage.

  2. Darius T says:

    I think the disconnect comes from not recognizing how the loss of states’ rights IS a form of slavery. And Christ brings freedom. So to be zealous for the Gospel, as Moe mentioned above, necessarily means being zealous for federalism. If you are a follower of Christ, you should desire freedom for all mankind, not just white or black. Note who the aggressors were in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War… that will tell you who was in the wrong. Gospel-driven war is never the aggressor (not if it’s a just war), except when Christ comes back to lead the final war.

    1. The aggressor in the Civil War was the South. They seceded (to keep slaves) and attacked Fort Sumter, etc.

    2. I. Ojetayo says:

      Darius,
      I implore you reread the 1st two paragraphs of Pastor Thabiti´s post and meditate in 2Tim 2 4. Are you willing to die on on the altar of ¨state´s rights¨at the expense of gospel. For you to compare American chattel slavery to loss of state rights is alarming and says a lot about the sort of entanglements we are warned about in 2 Timothy.

      1. Darius T says:

        Mr. Ojetayo,

        The abortion plague and many other evils in this country are largely due to the loss of states’ rights. And based on my understanding of the Bible, abortion is a greater wrong than slavery… and it’s not really all that close.

        Thanks.

        1. Darius,

          The abortion plague (as you well put it) is due to a culture of death; a “sensate culture” that only cares about itself feeling good now. It’s not due to “states rights.” Besides, the power of the Supreme Court to impose a ruling like Roe v. Wade (or Dred Scott v. Stanford) was not the result of the Civil War but of Marbury v. Madison (1803), or, some say, the constitution itself. There is no connection between the Civil War and Roe v. Wade.

        2. hans Maja says:

          Sin is responsible for all this?

  3. Paul M. says:

    I’ve enjoyed and been rebuked by the gracious tenor of your posts and your care to well-represent Douglas Wilson’s point of view.

    This is beyond the scope of what you were trying to accomplish in this post, but I think you could also push against Wilson’s historical beliefs.

    For example, Wilson assumes that the Civil War was fought as a defense of states’ rights against federal centralization. Confederate rhetoric certainly said as much at the time, but their actions give the lie to their rhetoric. (Politicians are, unfortunately, the same, yesterday, today, and forever.) Prior to the war, the slave states pushed through the Fugitive Slave Act which expressly required non-slave states–including state and local officials–to enforce southern fugitive slave laws. Oppenents of the Act, including many abolitionists, accused its supporters of violating states’ rights to regulate the terms of slavery within their own borders. Arguably, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 represented the greatest expansion of federal authority over the states up to that point in time.

    Southern Democrats were generally opposed to some kinds of federal economic intervention in the forms of tariffs and internal improvements, but their support for slavery entailed an expansion of federal power, not its limitation. (We shouldn’t be surprised at the internal dissonance of antebellum southern political ideology, I don’t think, given the tensions today between the libertarian and socially conservative wings of the Republican Party.)

    The record of southern secessionists in the months leading up to the war was not friendly towards state sovereignty either. Pro-secessionist activists bullied unionist state legislators in several southern states into secession, sometimes using illegal means. In one instance, secessionists locked unionist legislators in a cloakroom in order to get a secession resolution passed. See Charles Dew’s “Apostles of Disunion” for a nice overview of southern secession commissioners.

    Finally, I’ll point out that within a year of two of the war’s beginning, many southern states resented the Confederate government, accusing it of being as tyrranical as the federal government it replaced. The Confederate conscription act of 1862 was a particular flashpoint, not least because it was the first mandatory conscription act in American history and predated the Union’s Enrollment Act by nearly a full year. (It didn’t help that plantation owners were fully exempted from conscription, leaving many lower class southerners disenchanted with fighting a rich man’s war, hence great tension between upstate yeoman farmers and downstate plantation owners in places like Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas.) Likewise, the Confederate government, like the Union government, suspended civil liberties and impressed crops and animals.

    I put all of the above to say that Wilson has a distorted view of history because he takes the rhetoric of Confederate politicians at face value. In reality, Confederates talked a nice states’ rights game, but that rhetoric often masked less idealistic motivations.

    1. Daniel Kleven says:

      John Robbins wrote an article on confederate hypocrisies, restricting the rights of their citizens, etc. Your points are good, basically, even if State’s Rights is your cause, you probably don’t want the Southern States as your heroes. The case for State’s Rights might be better made without the hypocrisy, confusion, and slavery that come with the Confederate Cause.

    2. Excellent contributions by you and Daniel. Thanks for it. The fact is that the South’s secession was in reaction against the rights of the Northern states to elect Lincoln.

    3. rcjr says:

      The same principle is at work, though on a different scale with the civil rights movement. One could argue against forced integration on the grounds of freedom of assembly. But Jim Crow laws were laws, not social norms. That is a state legislature forbidding a man to serve a black man at his lunch counter is just as tyrannical as a federal government saying he must be served. Am really grateful for Paul’s point on the fugitive slave act as exposing the dishonesty not of state’s rights, but of those clamoring for them.

      1. Lou G. says:

        “That is a state legislature forbidding a man to serve a black man at his lunch counter is just as tyrannical as a federal government saying he must be served.”
        Huh?

        1. rcjr says:

          Lunch counters did not refuse to serve black men freely, but by force of law. If I owned a restaurant, or a bus line, I could not, by law, in 1950, in the south, serve those black customers (or in the case of busses, I could not allow blacks to sit in the front). That is wicked on two counts, because it is racist and because it is tyrannical and intrusive. The state has no business telling me whom I must do business with. After the civil rights movement the law required me to serve all who wish to be served. This is happily not racist but is nonetheless tyrannical as the state still has no business telling me with whom I must do business. Make sense?

    4. Shayne McAllister says:

      Paul,

      Great comment to be sure. I’m reading through Shelby Foote’s history of the Civil War now and resonate with your comment greatly. Let’s say the worst of the Confederacy’s politicians’ intent played out and slavery was the law of the land for some dozens of years after the war. Then came Roe V. Wade, would the South, with its history and religion have allowed anything like Roe v. Wade to proceed from the Supreme Court as if it were the law of the land for reals? This is one point where I think Wilson has a good moral leg to stand on. Is the relative servitude of one people that worse a situation than tens of millions of another people not seeing the light of day through abortion?

      Your old buddy since diapers,

      Shayne

      1. John K says:

        Nobody really knows. Some other elements may have come in that would’ve completely changed things. To try to draw causation between the Civil War and Roe v. Wade is, imo, speculative at best.

      2. First, it wasn’t just the “worst of the Confederacy’s politicians” who were for slavery. Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the CSA, identified race-based slavery as the “cornerstone of the Confederacy” in a major speech, directly on that subject around the time of it’s founding; several of the Southern states named the preservation of slavery as the cause of their secession in their official secession statements passed by their legislatures.

        Second, as the work of Robert W. Fogel has suggested, slavery would not have only lasted a dozen or so year. It was fantastically profitable and was already beginning to be integrated with industrialization. That it took about a century after the Civil War for official racial policies to be abolished and that by federal action, suggests that slavery would have lasted indefinitely, probably until this day.

        Third, evangelical Christianity was not strong in the South prior to the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War the South had a reputation as a spiritually “dark” place (Francis Wayland); the North still had a strong remnant of the Puritan legacy. The South became more religious during and as a result of the Civil War.

        Fourth, the Supreme Court’s authority derives from Marbury v. Madison (1803), not the Civil War.

        1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

          “Third, evangelical Christianity was not strong in the South prior to the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War the South had a reputation as a spiritually “dark” place (Francis Wayland); the North still had a strong remnant of the Puritan legacy. The South became more religious during and as a result of the Civil War.”

          Looking at today, it seems that the Southern United States has a more vibrant love of Christ and His Bride than the North East United States such as Massachusetts.

          To put it in contemporary political lexicon, more Red States in the South while North Eastern States are Blue.

          In broad general terms for today:

          North East seems like progressive, Social Gospel liberals.

          South seems like conservative God-fearing Constitutionalists.

  4. Kris Drees says:

    Pastor Thabiti,

    This white reader agrees wholeheartedly with you. I think your last paragraph is especially true. If it were my family, friends and neighbors, then I believe I would have fought in much the same way as Dr. King. At least, I hope I would have had his courage to do so.

    I am preaching through the book of Revelation right now, and it is reinforcing the truth that we live in a foreign land. Believers should not live in this world as though it is the promised land or the new heavens and earth. I lament the fact that Pastor Wilson refuses to view this world apart from his mistaken lens of post-millenialism. Also, I lament the fact that so many Christians view the USA as the promised land. We gain nothing by mixing Christianity with American politics. We should allow the Bible to influence out politics, but far too many allow politics to influence their reading of the Bible.

    Again, I am extremely grateful for your blog and especially these recent posts. They have helped open my eyes to where I may have been unloving in the past. I believe that they will help me to be a better Christian, parent and pastor. Thank you!

    1. Philip Larson says:

      To Kris Dees: It is not at all the case that one with Pastor Wilson’s view will regard this world as the new heavens and new earth, that he confuses the USA with the promised land, or that he unduly mixes Christianity with politics.

      One can establish his eschatological view by resorting to the clear biblical data on the nature of Christ’s present kingship. In this case, John’s Apocalypse is not a fulcrum that decides such a question, but non-apocalyptic (or clearer) data are.

      I guess this is part of why this is a vexing problem. Northerners have great difficulty understanding Southerners, whites have great difficulty understanding blacks, and amillennialists usually don’t understand postmillennialists. And vice versa.

      So these blogs are a wonderful introduction to working through these issues. Perhaps, in God’s mercy, these issues can be put behind us.

      1. Kris Drees says:

        Philip,

        I agree that we are not to base the present kingship of Christ on Revelation, but on clearer passages of Scripture. Jesus is quite clear when he claims to be reigning presently. He is, also, quite clear when he claims his kingdom is not of this world. I do believe that postmillennialism is correct in asserting the first and incorrectly misses the second.

        My point was not to attack postmillennialism itself. I have sat under postmillennial pastors in the past, and I doubt they would come to the same conclusions as Dr. Wilson on this particular issue. The problem isn’t his postmillennialism. The problem is that he comes to incorrect conclusions on history and politics due to his postmillennialism. I don’t believe that all postmillennialists would agree with these conclusions.

        I tend to disagree with you. I know different groups have trouble understanding each other. However, I don’t think that is the problem here. Both pastors seem to understand each other very well, yet still disagree. Since I believe in absolute truth, that means that one is in the wrong. If this wrong is sin, it should be repented of. I happen to believe that it is Pastor Wilson who is in the wrong. I don’t believe this because I’m black. I’m not black. I don’t believe this because I’m northern. I was actually born in the southwest and have lived in both north and south. I don’t believe this because I’m an amillennialist, although I am one. I believe he is wrong because he is being unnecessarily unloving toward our African American brothers and sisters. This is what pastor Anyabwile has so lovingly and patiently pointed out.

  5. Hi Pastor Anyabwile,

    That’s an excellent appraisal of the situation. Wilson’s approach is confused and fundamentally unloving. To say, on the one hand that one is for limited government and then, on the other, to support a government committed to slavery is absurd. A government that enslaves is the most unlimited of all. Of course, what lies behind the failure to comprehend that is what you touched on: had the shackles been on the other foot. With all the discussion of constitutionality, legalities, the irrelevant and confusing insertion of abortion (as though the failure today to stop the injustice of abortion justifies refusing to stop the injustice of slavery) etc., there appears to be a fundamental failure to take seriously the fate of the slaves. That, tragically, is a failure to love. The greatest failure of all.

    Love is not a matter of the tone of one’s conversation but of the practical impact of one’s life. I don’t really care if Mr. Wilson’s tone has been amicable. His policy recommendations are enslaving and his historical opinions are the moral equivalent of holocaust denial.

    1. Chris says:

      “Love is not a matter of the tone of one’s conversation but of the practical impact of one’s life.”

      Not sure that is true. This is not an either/or situation but a both/and situation. We need both a loving tone and loving deeds.

      “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

      Do you think your comments on this blog and Wilson’s are full of mercy and good fruits?

      1. The fruits of Wilson’s “wisdom”, if they had been implemented, would be slavery and entrenched racism. So, no, I don’t think Wilson’s “wisdom” bears good fruit.

        As for tone, have you ever read Matthew 23?

        1. Chris says:

          John,

          I agree with your conclusions but think you should work on your tone, brother. 1 Timothy 5:1 “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers.” Would you talk to either your brother or your father the same way you talk to Christian brothers on this blog? If my understanding of this passage is incomplete, I welcome instruction (honestly).

          I have read Matthew 23. Have you read anything else? ;)

          With respect,
          Chris

          1. Actually, the relative lack of outrage here is the problem. Wilson’s views are false on history, absurd in reasoning, and anti-Christian in principle. That Christians want it treated like a back-yard game of croquet is disturbing.

            1. JLu says:

              Amen John!

              You’ve nailed my main running concern. The passive nonchalant tone has actually been quite disturbing…

          2. Bryan Lorrits, pastor of Fellowship Memphis, ended his mournful critique of Wilson’s book with: “I just…I just want someone to care enough to stick up for me. Someone who doesn’t look like me.” (http://www.fellowshipmemphis.org/bryanloritts/?p=213/)

            Why are you only concerned for Wilson’s feelings?

  6. John Sather says:

    Pastor Anyabwile, your articles have been RIGHT on! I am saddened to see my friends, who are African American, see a leading thinker of Christian thought so wrong in his thinking and so hurtful. I am in agreement with John Carpenter that “…Mr. Wilson’s tone has been amicable. [Yet] His policy recommendations are enslaving and his historical opinions are the moral equivalent of holocaust denial.” May God help us!

    1. Darius T says:

      Seriously? We’re equating Wilson to a Holocaust denier?? The tenor of this discussion is going downhill fast.

      1. Someone who claims that the slaves and their masters were living as harmonious family-members, that the South wasn’t really fighting for slavery but limited government (how is a government that enslaves people “limited”), etc., is the equivalent of a holocaust denier.

        From the wikipedia page on Douglas Wilson: “Historians such as Peter H. Wood, Clayborne Carson, and Bancroft Prize winner Ira Berlin condemned the pamphlet’s arguments, with Wood calling them as spurious as holocaust denial.” (“The Late Unpleasantness in Idaho: Southern Slavery and the Culture Wars”. By William L. Ramsey. History News Network. Published December 20, 2004. Accessed June 16, 2009.)

      2. From that article:
        “Peter Wood of Duke University claimed that it was “ridiculous to even ask if slavery was a harmful institution.” He equated Wilson and Wilkins with “holocaust deniers.” Clayborne Carson of Stanford University also responded to our hardworking Daily News reporter. “I haven’t heard of this argument,” he told her over the phone, “since the pre-Civil War period when people actually believed the slaves were really happy with their lives … why would anyone want to waste their time with this argument? It’s incomprehensible.” U.C. Berkley’s Saidiya Hartman, an expert on the WPA narratives, called Wilson’s and Wilkins’ arguments “obscene.””
        http://hnn.us/articles/9142.html

    2. Darius T says:

      It’s sad that some people don’t recognize Carpenter for the vitriolic troll he is, and even worse, some actually agree with him!!

      1. I noted you commented critically to Anthony Bradley’s blog, defending Wilson’s view. Apparently, you defend him at every turn, no matter how false his “history” is proven, or absurd his “logic” is shown to be, or unChristian his principles are.

        Anthony Bradley, professor of theology at the King’s College, wrote, “anyone this utterly incorrect about the history and culture of the South isn’t to be taken too seriously.” (from the wikipedia page on Douglas Wilson.)

  7. Pastor Anyabwile, Thanks so much for your efforts in this debate. As an inner city white pastor serving in a racially diverse church and ministry – your thoughtful and biblical defense of this issue has been very helpful. Particularly, in the homeschooling community in the south, I run into this line of thinking Wilson promotes a lot and it often becomes the justification for non-involvement with the poor and subtle racism. I believe your paragraph “I find here a great inconsistencey and mismanagement of priorities. Surely human life must rank higher in importance than governments…It seems to me that those priorities entangle us with civilian affairs,and those entanglements cost us clearer vision, consistent application of the Scripture and human life.” – this paragraph nails the discussion from my view point. Doesn’t it always come back to real biblical love? What do we love the most? Jesus and our brother or our reputation, our position, our heritage, our livelihood – it is always the point of contention in my own heart. LORD, increase my love. Thanks again.

    1. John Sather says:

      Well stated Joe B.! My prayer–starting with my own heart–is that we would understand the impact of wrongful thinking and the pain and hurt that those words create in another person heart/mind. As a ‘inner city’ missionary (who happens to be white) I am always learning and listening to my friends (who many happen to be men/women of color–mostly African American)who feel the pain and hurt of words/thinking that men like Doug Wilson brings about. I respect Doug Wilson thinking in so many areas but on this journey of race he is just WRONG! Thanks Joe for your words!

      1. Yes, you’re right. Those of us who are white but deal significantly and regularly with African-American brothers and sisters realize how hurtful Wilson’s words are. And as someone who assisted the world’s leading expert on slavery (Robert W. Fogel), I can attest that Wilson’s words are hurtful not just because some people don’t want to hear them, but because they are historically untrue.

  8. One last comment – Loritts originally commented that it was sad that no White evangelical leader had stepped up to speak to Wilson’s errors – I hope your leadership and example as an African American man will give spine to some of the white leaders to address these errors as well. Perhaps the words from that corner might be used by God to turn Wilson’s heart.

    1. amen. This isn’t just a “black issue”. It’s a Christian issue. It’s a justice issue.

  9. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    As an aside, what lessons can we learn from the history of the Civil War to prevent another civil war from happening in the United States?

    There have been symbolic acts of secessionism by Texas and other states in response to Obama’s re-election. There is a great deal of unhappiness in the country.

  10. Dan says:

    This has been an informative debate and I have greatly appreciated the respectful tone. I agree with everything on which Thabiti and Doug have agreed. The slavery they both abhor, I also abhor. The admonition of Paul to Philemon is a wonderful model.

    I think Thabiti neglected to address Wilson’s strongest argument in this post — the biblical one from his last post articulated in his last 6 paragraphs.

    That said, I have one question to ask both Thabiti and Doug. It may be that both Doug and Thabiti are involved (to some degree) in the entanglement Paul warns about. Isn’t the entanglement mentioned in Timothy at least partly referring to using political means to accomplish justice that can only come about by the effect of the gospel on the hearts of men? Perhaps I am naive about the Christian’s role in politics, but a clarification on this could have some bearing on how we approach not only the definition of justice, but our role in accomplishing it.

  11. AGT says:

    I have enjoyed this exchange. Grace has been over-flowing from both lead writers on this subject and I am grateful for the congeniality of the discussion. As I read commentary of the validity of war as a justifiable means to an end, I feel moved to comment largely because I’m a strong opponent of war—ANY WAR. As the child of a war vet who lived in the aftermath of PTSD, depression, self-medication and the like, I cringe at the free manner in which we propose taking up arms. On this point, I empathize strongly with Wilson. But when he then states “I would have fought for the South,” then I realize that we are from different camps completely. And that’s okay. For my position, I believe the war (means to an end) discourse ultimately clouds the fundamental Christian argument: What was God’s will in all of this? Slavery is gone. That’s a fact. And because it is gone, it was clearly His divine will that it should end. I ask all to consider: What is your opinion about the appropriateness of “war” as executed by Joshua to liberate the Promised Land for the Jewish people in the OT? I would imagine that NONE of you would argue about whether Joshua’s actions were just or appropriate. God’s will prevailed, as it did in Egypt. In truth, sometimes He uses seemingly harsh means to gain a desired end. Amen.
    As for the continued reference to war in support of unborn children as an appropriate parallel to war against chattel slavery (which is arguable as to whether slave liberation was the true intention of the Civil War per numerous excellent comments on this post), I would further like to state that a war waged against the killing of innocent, unborn children would not be a war against brothers fought on political fronts: It would be a war waged in living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and kitchens, against husbands and wives, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, sisters and sisters, oh yes, and brothers and brothers. Indeed, that is what the Civil War was! I get it. But, the difference is that a war against abortion wrongs would be protracted, it would be soul-destroying and it would be ineffective. Why? Because the Civil War effectively ended the practice of chattel slavery, as defined outside of today’s penal system. Sadly, a war against abortion would not as effectively end the practice, as individual will does in fact preside over the affairs of the body (whether we like it or not) and the unborn child (unlike freed people) CAN NOT defend itself. Said another way, it is fundamentally the freedom and right to bear arms which ultimately checks the practice of chattel slavery from re-appearing in the now or foreseeable future. So, the paradoxical immovable object met the unstoppable force and bowed to the Sovereignty of God’s will. Amen.
    As it relates to the defenseless unborn child, here is where the true paradox lies. But it’s one we live every day. Why? Because if my neighbor decides to kill me while I’m sleeping, what can I do about it but to die? The law would not stop their action though it certainly would state the obvious position on whether the action was lawful or just. Magnified to the level of society, people are killing their neighbors on the streets and in schools everyday and we don’t propose taking up arms to defend the defenseless. It’s rather impractical, isn’t it? Who would we kill? The proponents of the right to bear arms? The individuals doing the killing? If so, who will those individuals be tomorrow? And what about my right to NOT be defenseless? So perhaps a more appropriate, more loving, less blood-thirsty call is the continued lobby for legislation to overturn Roe vs. Wade. In this manner, the law would clearly define killing as a crime in ALL circumstances and sanctions and penalties to be levied as appropriate. In like manner, this action would be most effective IF coupled with a template for community action plans to outline local systems to finance and establish counseling centers, orphanages and adoption agencies to handle the natural effects of this new law—because this law would have real social and economic costs. So for example, motherhood retreats could be set-up to support these often very young women at a very difficult time of life. To argue that these costs should be borne by the individual grappling with their life’s challenges (so as to avoid further taxation) would be to deny WHY such a law could ever have been palatable in the first place: We collectively don’t want to pay for the cost of all of these babies. As a former director of a home for teenage mothers (financed by the church), the challenges that these women face are multi-faceted and REAL: ostracism, blame, shame, illiteracy, self-loathing, feelings of powerlessness, abuse, ignorance, depression, lack of discipline—did I say ignorance? To leave them with the child in the absence of a more loving society in which to receive, nurture and support them would lead to many murders, suicides and mental health challenges. Yes, many women don’t want or need this type of support; many NEED sanctions. But the girl that stands out in my mind most when I think of these discussions is one of my former, favorite residents–Karen: A precious country girl of 16 who was left to be cared for by neighbors when her mother left her with them to go overseas. She was raised by a misfit couple until the woman could no longer stand the abuse of her mate. She left and left Karen behind. At 14 years of age, Karen became the mate of her caretaker. With nowhere to turn and no one to tell, she became pregnant. She got the nerve to run-away when she realized what her future held as a pregnant teen living with an abusive father-figure. Karen would have likely aborted her child or committed suicide if she had the means and wherewithal at her disposal to do so. Instead, she had support. She became a wonderful and nurturing mother largely because she had somewhere to turn in a time of deep trial and suffering. She became a mentor for other girls in her situation. That is a more loving alternative than war. In the absence of such loving support systems as these, I sadly deduce that God’s will is prevailing in this matter as well, as it did for 400 years of chattel slavery. Amen.
    I am ever-grateful for the dialogue which has been most edifying and respectful to all, and I remain ever enlightened.

  12. Dan Glover says:

    Pastor Anyabwile said: “When the founding fathers of America thought their liberties were contracted in unfair taxation, they fought a war against their own crown government, though their lives weren’t in immediate peril or their bodies bound. They didn’t wait or choose to fight for the oppressor they knew to be in the wrong.”

    This raises a fair comparison. It seems somewhat inconsistent to support the War of Independence but to oppose the cause of abolition in the Civil War (and yes, I know that the South was fighting for limited gov’t like the colonies were, but even with all the caveats about the mixed motives of the Civil War and even with the understanding that the South was looking for political independance from the Union similar to the colonies looking for political independance from Britain…). I think there were far greater opportunities for gradual change in the policies of the British Crown toward the colonies than there was in the minds of most Southern slave owners or political leaders a century and a half later, and in the first war, as Pastor Anyabwile points out, lives were not immediately in danger or enslaved. A strong case could be made that the gospel demanded the colonies at the time render unto Caesar that which was Caesar’s. In the states at the time of and leading up to the Civil War, the group with the greatest encroachment on liberty was not the whites in the South who were trying to limit the powers of the federal gov’t and protect their private property and way of life but the slaves who were part of that private property and had no independant way of life.

    I know that one can’t be certain when speaking in historical hypotheticals but it’s interesting to think that if the American colonies had reached a gradual political solution to the taxation without representation policies of the British Empire (as many other colonies did, including Canada), slavery would have been abolished as an act of British parliment in 1833 which would have been enforced throughout the American colonies as it was in Canada, and that without a war.

    1. Ray Nearhood says:

      Pastor Anyabwile said: “When the founding fathers of America thought their liberties were contracted in unfair taxation, they fought a war against their own crown government, though their lives weren’t in immediate peril or their bodies bound. They didn’t wait or choose to fight for the oppressor they knew to be in the wrong.”

      Actually, Pastor Anyabwile’s facts here are wrong. When the founding fathers of America thought their liberties were contracted in unfair taxation, they peacefully protested (dumped tea into the sea) and pleaded their case to the deaf ears of Parlaiment. Being unheard they declared independence and seceded the 13 colonies from the crown rule. Britian declared war. The newly formed America defended herself.

      As for gradual change. The colonial representation issue was not new and the attempt to secede was peaceful. Also, the taxation solutions for the other British colonies were probably peaceful because of the American rebellion.

      1. John K says:

        Did they dump their own tea, or someone else’s? If they dumped someone else’s tea against that someone else’s will, that can hardly be considered peaceful. That they may have had good reasons to do so doesn’t make it peaceful.

        1. Ray Nearhood says:

          Peaceful in that no blood was shed.

          1. John K says:

            There was the threat of bloodshed, plus there was violence toward someone’s property in that it was essentially destroyed. “Bloodless” would be a better word than peaceful.

    2. I challenge the idea that the South was fighting for “limited government.” I know that’s what they claim. But the founders of the Confederacy also said they were fighting for slavery. How is a government that enslaves some of its populace “limited”?

  13. Chris Erwin says:

    Hey brother — really been enjoying the posts re: Black & Tan, and I agree with your critiques 100%. I would, however, say that I think the comparison of American colonists fighting against the British to abolitionists fighting to end slavery is an apples and oranges situation. Reason? American racial slavery was a clear moral evil, and like any sin needed to be done away with immediately; paying taxes, even when they’re higher than we’d like, is positively commanded by God.

    I would have been a Loyalist, I’m afraid. :)

    1. LG says:

      Oh dear, another person who thinks the American war for independence was about a bunch of people indignant that they had to pay taxes. It wasn’t. It was about the tyrannical abuses of the British crown against its colonies, which were taxed unfairly, disproportionately, and without representation, in order to fund the wars and mismanagement of Britain.

      /threadjack

      1. Dan Glover says:

        LG,

        And how were the wars and mismanagement of Britain any worse than the wars and mismanagement (and outright attrocities – including slavery) of the first century Roman empire into which Christ spoke these words specifically addressing taxes: “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” ?

      2. Chris Erwin says:

        LG — I understand all that. Please show me where in Scripture Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, unless in your judgment what Caesar asks for is ‘unfair’ or without your consent.”

        1. John R. says:

          Chris — Your comment seems to imply that “what is Caesar’s” means “Whatever Caesar wants.” Please justify this assumption biblically. The story of Naboth’s vinyard in 1 Kings 21 would seem to argue strongly against your assumption.

          “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” does not mean “Whatever Caesar SAYS is his is his.” And even less so in a nation of laws, as America is supposed to be, and as 1770’s-era England was.

          1. Darius T says:

            Exactly, John. Using Mark 12:17 as Chris does is not faithful to Jesus’ original intent. Defending one’s liberty is a far cry from paying a poll tax.

          2. Dan Glover says:

            John R.

            1770s England was a nation of laws, and also of a king. The king’s face was on the coins that the colonies were told to pay their taxes with. This is a direct application of Jesus’ teaching to render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Do you think the Roman Empire’s tax burden was easier than Britain’s? The colonies could pay their taxes to the King under protest (and even had the support of some of the parlimentarians and populace back in England), arguing their point and still being within the laws.

            Present day tax levels are much higher in the US than what they were under British rule, yet we still must render to Caesar what bears his image. However, unborn babies bear the image of God, in whose image they have been knit together. It is wrong to render them to Caesar’s institutional plans for destruction in the name of human rights and population control. It could also be argued that it is wrong for Christians to render to Caesar’s schools of state indoctrination our children who bear God’s image when we ought to be teaching them God’s truth in all things (Deut. 6), thus rendering their minds unto God.

            1. John R. says:

              Dan,

              I actually agree with much of what you say here. I homeschooled my children for precisely the reasons you stated, and I believe our children should not be “rendered unto Caesar.”

              That having been said, in a constitutional republic, there is no “king.” The closest thing we have to “Caesar” is the Constitution–the overarching, supreme ruling document of our nation. And that document expressly limits the federal government from doing many things. Thus, my point to Chris still stands: the command to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” in no way implies that “government gets whatever it wants, and you are obligated to hand it over.” The Bible’s teaching runs directly contrary to this, including Paul’s explanation of the proper role of government in Romans 13, and the story of Naboth in 1 Kings 21, where the King is condemned by God for, among other things, stealing Naboth’s property. That means it IS possible for the Caesar to steal, and that the government is not automatically entitled to our private property (which includes our money) merely because it WANTS it.

            2. John R. says:

              And if we want to get hypertechnical about who the money actually belongs to, or whose picture is on it, I’d note that A). The people who are taking my taxes are not pictured on my money, so even under a hyper-literal reading of Jesus’ words, they’re still not entitled to it simply because they WANT it, and B). our money is issued by the Federal Reserve (which, though the arrangement is unduly murky, is considered an independent central bank) rather than the government. Even if we buy the fallacious assumption that the U.S. Government equals the biblical Caesar, the currency STILL isn’t “Caesar’s.”

            3. Dan Glover says:

              John R,

              Your comments about how a constitutional republic work are technically correct. However, the US hasn’t functioned like a constitutional republic for quite some time. It has become a democracy (which is not the same thing), where the will of the majority, heavily influenced as it is by media, politicians and self-interest, variously ignores or reinterprets the constitution, as do the courts, political partisanship and academia. I only have to watch the evening news to see that the constitution has very little to do with the way things effectively function in US politics and society today. The president is far more like Caesar throwing bread and putting on games for the people while he lights his evening garden parties by burning clauses from the constitution. This is very similar to the situation Jesus spoke into when he instructed Israel to pay the taxes Caesar demanded, and it was to a Caesar and his provincial underlings who had slaughtered large numbers of Israelites within very recent memory, some of them in the temple. Comparing injustices, it was far worse in Jesus’ day and yet he tells his hearers to pay the taxes that a godless, wicked and overbearing regime demands of them.

  14. Mark B. Hanson says:

    So now Pastor Wilson’s beginning question raises its head: If it was right to go to war immediately to free the slaves (who had life but not liberty), why is it not equally right to go to war for the sake of the life of the unborn?

    Is it simply and solely that there is no government unit similar in scope to the Northern state bloc that could justly declare such a war? Time for political action!

    Is it because unborn humans have a lesser value than born ones (3/5 maybe – or zero)? That is exactly what our modern leaders try to tell us.

    Or is it that maybe we would have to leave our churches and do something about it – something dangerous to our own life and liberty – and we are too comfortable where we are?

    Else, how are things different in principle?

    To be sure, I am not advocating such a war, but am looking for the same sort of consistency from other commenters on the abortion issue that Wilson attempted to bring with his own comparison to slavery.

    For myself, I see the crisis pregnancy and adoption movements as the modern equivalent of the underground railroad. It was this same kind of behavior opposing abortion and exposure (and taking in the abandoned children) during the Roman empire that brought about the initial growth of the Church, and gave them an amount of moral authority in that area.

    1. According to long-standing Christian just war theory, the answer would be your first choice: there is no competent authority leading us to suppress abortion by force. If there were, I believe such action would be justified. There was such an authority in the Civil War (i.e. the federal government). For that reason, and because their goals were attainable and their cause just, the United States war was justified.

      Your comparison of the crisis pregnancy and adoption movements as the modern equivalent of the underground railroad is very apt. I agree.

  15. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Ditto to Mark Hanson’s comment above.

    Chris Erwin: “American racial slavery was a clear moral evil, and like any sin needed to be done away with immediately”

    Abortion is murder, and a clear moral evil on the same, if not greater magnitude than racial slavery, yet there is no civil war over the issue of abortion which has murdered 50+ million unborn babies since the legalization of Roe v. Wade.

    1. Chris Erwin says:

      Truth — agree that abortion, like slavery, is a grave moral evil that should be done away with immediately. Hope I didn’t suggest otherwise.

    2. Yes, that’s all true. But our failure to deal with the injustice of abortion now does not mean that we were wrong to deal with the injustice of slavery in the past.

      The reason we cannot yet use force to suppress abortion is because of the lack of a competent authority leading us to. Once we have such an authority, then I believe force would be justified.

      1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

        “The reason we cannot yet use force to suppress abortion is because of the lack of a competent authority leading us to. Once we have such an authority, then I believe force would be justified.”

        I hear ya. However, and unfortunately, the argument cuts both ways. Liberals employ the same logic and reasoning for their ends as well.

        Consider a liberal employing your argument in the era before legalized abortion:

        “The reason we pro-choicers cannot yet use force to suppress anti-abortionists is because of the lack of a competent authority leading us to. Once we have such an authority, then I believe force would be justified.”

        Once the liberals were able to secure SCOTUS’s decision in Roe v. Wade, SCOTUS being a “competent authority”, they were then able to use force to suppress some aspects of anti-abortion activity. I.e., some pro-life protesters have been forcibly jailed.

        “Competent Authority” is in the eye of the beholder. Liberals want political power in all three branches (judicial, executive, and legislative) from the federal level down to the local level so as to enact their Romans 1 agenda. Conservatives obviously want to restrain the liberals’ grab for power by obtaining it for themselves.

        To be perfectly fair, liberals disdain and distrust the Conservatives’ choice of a “competent authority”, and conservatives disdain and distrust the Liberals’ choice of a “competent authority”.

        1. Well, you’re right about that. But “competent authority” isn’t the only aspect of a “just war” (or just use of force). It also requires an attainable goal (or else the bloodshed is wasted) and a just cause.

          You’re right that abortionists have a “competent authority” on their side. But their cause is unjust.
          The United States in the Civil War had both a competent authority (the federal government) and a just cause (rule of law, end of slavery).
          The Confederacy had a competent authority (state gov’ts) but an unjust cause (preserving slavery.

          1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

            “Well, you’re right about that.”

            Thanks John.

  16. B.C. Askins says:

    The elephant in the room remains how are we to respond to the analogy between historical slavery and the present abortion crisis: with Wilson’s gradualism or Anyabwile’s (violent?) radicalism?

    1. Chris Erwin says:

      B.C. — why the dichotomy? I think Thabiti is suggesting a third path: Through the legitimate use of governmental force aimed at stopping something the duly elected representatives voted to stop.

  17. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Didn’t Britain (and other countries) abolish slavery without engaging in Civil War?

    Incrementalism or Immediatism?

    If a nation legalizes the murder of unborn babies, anyone object to God withdrawing his blessing and/or hand of protection and/or even cursing that nation?

    1. Yes and in the US the election of Lincoln was the first step toward a political solution. But the South short-circuited that by seceding. They seceded for the very purpose of avoiding a non-violent, political end to abortion.

      And here is yet another of the absurdities of Wilson’s position: He claims we were wrong to engage in a Civil War to end slavery because we should have opted for incremental political change and yet he says he would have fought for the side that abandoned the possibility of a political solution.

      1. John K says:

        As John is referring to, and I have mentioned before in these threads, Lincoln was very close to the gradualism Wilson proposes. As a presidential candidate and at the beginning of his presidency he had no desire to deal with slavery where it already existed, but was firm that there would be no new slave states or territories if he had anything to do with it. He suggested that if expansion was stopped, it might take 100 years for slavery to end, but it would end in the best way for master and slave. And the South appreciated this gradual approach and greeted his election with gladness. I’m being sarcastic about the Southern response, of course. Actually, they branded Lincoln a Black Republican and 7 Southern states seceded between his election and his inauguration, the others following soon. And after about 1 year of Civil War, Lincoln left gradualism behind.

        Of course, Wilson stated in Black and Tan that the end result of the Civil War was God’s wrath upon the South. If Wilson is correct, what kind of conclusions should we draw about the possibility of ending Southern slavery gradually?

        1. Hi John K,

          All excellent and accurate observations by you. Thanks for them. Not only is what you say true, but with the findings of Fogel’s research on the economics of slavery, and my own living in the South and still confronting the entrenched racism here, the fact that official segregation only ended after even more federal imposition, etc., I regard it as sheer fantasy to think the South was going to give up slavery voluntarily.

  18. Darius T says:

    Yeah, which means it’s ridiculous to think that our country couldn’t have gotten rid of slavery without a war.

  19. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Sir/Ma’am,

    Three questions to ascertain what you think is the greatest moral evil (other than unbelief and rejection of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior):

    (1) Racial Slavery or Abortion?

    Me: Abortion

    (2) Human Sex Trafficking or Abortion?

    Me: Abortion

    (3) Gay Marriage or Abortion?

    Me: Abortion

    If folks wanted to legalize Same-Sex Marriage, Slavery, and Human Sex Trafficking and are willing to trade that legalization for the illegality of abortion, and the sensible Biblical enforcement and punishment for violating laws against abortion, it’s a trade that’s probably worth making.

    1. Dan Glover says:

      Ouch, that’s pretty shaky ground you’re on there. Your conclusion sacrifices faithfulness to God and his Word in all of life in the name of political pragmatism. The church’s stance toward society and the principalities and powers isn’t one of plea bargaining but one of uncompromising obedience and proclamation anywhere Scripture touches life, which is to way everywhere. I wouldn’t advocate saving the lives of the unborn in order to one day sell them into sexual slavery, would you?

      1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

        That wasn’t the point of the comment, although I can see how you might read it that way.

        The point of the comment was to show that the moral evil of abortion is greater than that of racial slavery, human sex trafficking, and same-sex marriage.

        1. Dan Glover says:

          OK, but I don’t think you do show that the moral evil of abortion is greater than these three other evils combined. You just assert that it is without showing any biblical proofs or reasoned argument.

          1. Darius T says:

            Life > liberty. For if you don’t have life, there can be no liberty. Hence, anything that directly leads to the loss of innocent life is worse than anything that leads to “only” the loss of liberty.

            1. Melody says:

              Can we put you in with a group of homosexual rapists to test that?

              Abortion is a horrible horrible thing. To try and say it matters more than slavery shows why liberals accuse religious fanatics of only caring about the pregnancy and nothing of the human being after he/she is here.

              What are some of you men picturing when you think slavery? What do you think sex trafficking is?
              Is it because you cannot comprehend the evil that some are subjected to or is it just some abstract argument that you can’t be bothered with the souls? Some of you need to educate yourselves on sex trafficking before you continue any farther. Please

            2. Ray Nearhood says:

              Melody,

              Sex trafficking is much, much, more than slavery. One aspect of the sex trade is slavery – the loss of liberty – but there is also the manner in which the child or young woman is brought into that servitude; there is also the matter of forced prostitution; there is sexual abuse; there is the anguishing personal abuse; etc…

              None of these things – the stealing and selling of the person, the forced prostitution, the sexual abuse, the personal abuse, etc… – are slavery. These are things, terrible things, piled on top of the slavery of the victims of the sex trade.

              Does that make sense?

            3. Tuad says:

              Sex trafficking is against the law in the United States.
              Abortion is not against the law in the United States.

            4. Do you realize that slave owners could kill their slaves without penalty? Slavery too is taking a life, just in a more economically rational way.

            5. John K says:

              To quote a past comment Thabiti made that has application here: “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”

              This of course also applies to comparing lives lost from Roe v. Wade and Southern Slavery. And don’t forget that slavery killed many slaves way before their time.

    2. Melody says:

      Sir clearly you have never been subjected to a life of torture thru multiple rapes at the hands of MEN’S evil perversions making it near impossible to even imagine there is a god. Aborted babies spend eternity with God. Sex trafficked children spend a life of hell having their souls murdered.

      You might want to rethink that one.

      1. Melody says:

        I didn’t mean that test comment literally. I apologize how it sounds.

      2. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

        “Sir clearly you have never been subjected to a life of torture thru multiple rapes”

        You’re right! I haven’t. Have you?

        “Aborted babies spend eternity with God.”

        Is that how pregnant women who murder their babies rationalize their murder?

        “Sex trafficked children spend a life of hell having their souls murdered.”

        Truly tragic. May all these children have men like Liam Neeson’s character as the dad in the movie Taken who rescues his daughter from sex trafficking.

        1. Melody says:

          Have I ever known anyone sexually abused or raped???

          Someone close to me or possibly myself???

          Yes SIR I have.

          Have you ever been aborted?

          1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

            Melody: “Have you ever been aborted?”

            What kind of question is that?

            1. Andrew Lohr says:

              Don’t you get her point? She knows closely about a horrible experience. Abortion as a killing can be considered worse, and she might agree, but you haven’t experienced it. Whatever you think about it, you aren’t that close.

            2. Melody says:

              A stupid one to match yours. The difference is that I knew it was stupid but you didn’t know that yours was stupid and INSENSITIVE.

              Anyone that thinks that one abuse is worse than another abuse when they have experienced none of them has no business being in the conversation.

            3. Darius T says:

              One’s experience does not determine the morality of the action. The Bible determines the morality. And abortion is far worse according to God’s standard.

            4. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

              “One’s experience does not determine the morality of the action. The Bible determines the morality. And abortion is far worse according to God’s standard.”

              I agree with you Darius T. Thanks for voicing this helpful reminder.

          2. KLewis says:

            …And I agree with Melody. Thanks to her for pointing out the real elephant in the room: that being culture and gender privilege. Sure lets talk about slavery in an abstract manner because we have no [immediate/evident] cultural ties to the ill effect of if. And sure lets point out the ills of abortion even though [most of us] have no relational ties to those led to it. The real question is… With all this talk about Wilson’s [pompous] views on abortion, what are each of us men (assumed) doing about it? How are you individually and personally ministering and reaching out to these oft’ maligned abortive mothers? How are you individually and personally coming alongside the fathers who encourage this outrageous atrocity against these image bearers? You want to gauge which is worse? How are you helping to make it better? How is Wilson? Through debates at secular universities where he gets booed, boycotted and “persecuted”? How has this helped the abortive rates that you lament so vigorously (even to the point of calling for rebellion or war)?

            We can talk about this in hypotheticals all day or we can actually get honest about the horrible nature of slavery and the EQUALLY outrageous nature of abortion. Good to know that one image bearer is more important than another on your chart there Truth. Also good to know we are gauging and weighing sin.

            Thanks Melody for your comments… The aborted retort made reading all 120 comments well worth it!

  20. Josh McGee says:

    I still can’t thank the two of you enough for this exchange. Both you and pastor Wilson have given much to consider.

    I honestly don’t know who I would ‘side’ with (I hate to put it that way – we are all on the same side – so I hop you understand what I mean) in this debate if I had to vote. The only thing I would add is that the way this aspect of American history and Southern culture as sometimes taught gives the impression that those of us living today are somehow ‘better’ than that culture, more refined and civil, and therefore have less to repent of in our own life than they did in theirs. But from the drug culture, to the family culture, to the violence of guns in some of our cities it is not obvious to me that this is so. After all, people still also talk about things like Southern manners and chivalry that linger to this day – an indication that some good things did come from that era and culture. And I also come across stories like this one:

    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_ABORTION_CLINIC_DEATHS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-03-19-02-54-43

    This sort of thing is surely at least as awful as the most awful things in the slave culture. Yet, one is presented as horrendous and with it, often times, an entire region and civilization is condemned. Yet the other is not condemned by society (defended by many of our leaders, even, who do support partial birth abortion!) and we often consider ourselves better than those wicked Southerners.

    So while I agree that we can indeed confuse the issue by making analogous things that aren’t (or, at minimum, don’t need to be) analogous, we nonetheless sometimes need to draw the comparison in order to draw the living to repentence. In this I am thinking about when Christ prophesied to the towns where he had performed miracles that if he had done those things in Sodom, the Sodomites would have repented. He drew a comparison between two eras and different locations, each guilty of different sins, but he made the comparison to illustrate to the living just how haughty they had become and just how far they had fallen.

    Prayers continuing for the two of you – may the Kingdom be multiplied by your example.

    1. Nicolas Rivera says:

      A loud Amen to what Josh said, both his commendations and his take way.

      To me it is not so much about the past than about the present that we treat in such a cavalier matter when we judge anything that occurred in the past — be it Nazi Germany, Southern slavery, the Crusades, the evils of the Roman empire, and on, and on it goes. We ignore how guilty we are ourselves of the very same things, only in a different context.

  21. Alex Burgess says:

    Regarding constitutional rights, the Confederacy was the epitome of hypocrisy. There was virtually no free press (contrary to the North, where Lincoln allowed vehement opposition) or free speech. It was against the law in many parts of the South to speak against slavery publicly! Southern politicians were even able to extend this ridiculous gag rule to Congress. Professors were known to lose their posts and clergy their pulpits if they dared to oppose slavery. (And incidentally, the slave population in South Carolina was greater than the white population at the time of the Civil War. How can we even call that representative government?)

    Paleo-Confederates and neo-Confederates alike live in an historical fantasy-land.

    1. Alex Burgess says:

      As for federalism, this is another Confederate-sympathizer fantasy. In the Dred Scott decision, which the South applauded, Chief Justice Taney basically voided northern anti-slavery laws by asserting a constitutional right to own black slaves (and he did specify race) ANYWHERE in the United States. Not exactly friendly to states’ rights on the question of slavery, I’d say.

      It should also be remembered that constitutional guarantees for free blacks in the South got increasingly worse in the antebellum period. I freely grant that being a free black in the North was also no cakewalk, but spare me the self-righteous claptrap about constitutional liberties in the South. Free blacks were denied many basic rights, and what they had left was quickly vanishing.

      I don’t deny that there were many good people in the South, but Southern society as a whole was blind to justice and fundamentally committed to the denial of the Constitutional liberties for just about everyone not part of the plantation class.

  22. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “It was against the law in many parts of the South to speak against slavery publicly! Southern politicians were even able to extend this ridiculous gag rule to Congress. Professors were known to lose their posts and clergy their pulpits if they dared to oppose slavery.”

    With the speech codes of Political Correctness, and people losing jobs and corporations being attacked for affirming biblical marriage, your comment seems analogous to today’s liberals.

    Substitute a few words in your comment to come up with this:

    “It was against the law of political correctness in many parts of America to speak against same-sex marriage publicly! Liberal politicians were even able to effectively extend this ridiculous gag rule to Congress. Professors were known to lose their posts and clergy their pulpits if they dared to oppose same-sex marriage.”

    1. Alex Burgess says:

      Excellent point, Truth Unites. There seems to be a temptation on all sides to suppress free speech, and the extreme left is probably most guilty.

    2. Excellent observation and contribution. And it shows the lie of the claim that the South was committed to “limited government.” Besides the fact that they enslaved certain people, they also suppressed dissenting speech.

  23. LT says:

    It seems like for all the discussion about Wilson’s views, perhaps we are missing a main point of his argument (about federalism).

    Thabiti has shown that Wilson was against slavery and racism but believes the means used were wrong means for several reasons particularly federalism.

    So let’s pose it in terms of a question: If Wilson is correct that the north fought for a view that has legitimized abortion, is not Wilson also correct that the civil war was the wrong way to go about solving the problem?

    In other words, the tactics used to eradicate slavery led to the systematized murder of 30+ million people.

    Wilson doesn’t disagree with Thabiti about slavery or racism. Their disagreement seems to be about the means used to eradicate it. Thabiti seems pragmatic (that the end justified the means). Wilson seems more principled (that the end was good, but was achieved by a wrong means that has ultimately done more harm than good).

    1. David says:

      I think you’re onto something here.

    2. John K says:

      This also gets into issues of whether a government has a right to suppress rebellion and the right of secession. I think that surely we can say that from a biblical perspective the states should’ve exhausted every possibility before seceding, whether one believes that secession is just biblically in Romans 13 or not. Because the slavery issue including the desire to expand it was so prominent and the main reason for secession, I would say that it was definitely not appropriate; it was a terrible reason to secede. If a state should secede, it should be for a very good reason. But even if we set that aside, the South failed miserably at exhausting every single possibility before seceding.

    3. hans Maja says:

      You are wrong, Thabiti is not being pragmatic, he supports the fact that war was required to end slavery, and that is principled.

  24. L.T. – I don’t think that is a fair summary of the argument THabiti is making. Thabiti has shown that Wilson values a style of governmental system above a love for the African-American who was enslaved. Wilson says he holds that position because it ultimately is more loving towards the unborn and all of us (himself included) who might eventually get their rights taken away by the federal government that got more power by successfully stopping slavery. Thabiti looks at what was happening “in the present” and says love for my brother must move me. Wilson looks “at the prospect” of future problems and lumps in abortion and says – “what might happen in the future” moves me.

    B.C. – Thabiti has answered the “If we would have fought to end slavery, why don’t we fight end abortion question.” I am copying it below:
    “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.”

    1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      That’s helpful. Thanks Joe and Thabiti.

    2. Andrew Lohr says:

      Pastor Thabiti cares about “the present” and pastor Wilson about “the future”? They’ve been discussing US slavery, all of whose perpetrators and victims are dead. Wilson thinks the way we ended US slavery empowers not just possible future evils, but present evils. (I haven’t seen a peep about Sudanese slavery or genocide. Anyone care to get as worked up about this present evil–by a state against which war could be declared–as about the slavery that ended almost 150 years ago?)

      1st degree official racism here–I emphasize “official”–pretty much ended by the time Martin Luther King was murdered, eh? We have hearts and details to work on, and that is indeed serious unfinished business, but trying to improve laws gets us into dubious and debated means: busing, affirmative action (anti-white official racism?)…

      Pastor Thabiti mentions the cost of lives in the middle passage, but most of that was over by the time of the Civil War (I think the Union hanged one slave trader as a pirate.) The British and Brazilians ended slavery peacefully in the Victorian age: why not the US? And wouldn’t it have been better for the US to do so? Possible scenario: let the South secede. The North outlaws its own slavery peacefully, perhaps gradually, and stops returning fugitive slaves to the South. Fugitives now need only cross the Ohio, not the St Lawrence. The South bleeds slaves. The South has enough sense not to start a war with the North to try to recover slaves. (It tries cotton diplomacy, which fails.) The South becomes a rather nasty, isolated country. Some Southern states decide the North would be a better bet. The South has to let them go, on its own principles. Eventually secession collapses, with gradual peaceful emancipation, and no war deaths.

      Getting back to the Bible, pastor Thabiti writes of privileging either I Tim 6:1-2 or else I Cor 7:21, but surely we should ask how to reconcile them? And I would say, Christians should prefer freedom (masters and slaves both)–and that’s the trend of the whole Bible, not just those texts–but it need not be immediate freedom in every case: that would be a legalism. The preference for freedom does not mean that slaves must kill anyone preventing their freedom, nor that they must run away. It would allow for earning freedom, for instance. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon, not beyond the Roman frontier; and I agree that Philemon probably freed Onesimus right away, as Paul desired. And if Onesimus spent enough time with Paul to be useful to him before Paul sent him back, is that not a gradualism that cuts both ways? It may be radical in that Paul did not turn him over to the authorities, but Paul did send him back without laying down the law that his enslavement was sin.

      And OT slavery for cause, in which freedom with supplies after 6 years was routine, differs from old South slavery, even if the same word is used. Roman slavery didn’t hinder manumission nor teaching slaves to read, did it?–thus also different from old South. One might allow slavery for cause (crime or debt), on the Mosaic model, and prefer it to today’s massive imprisonment, without defending the old South’s system.

  25. All, I added another short post on the question that was raised about the American War for Independence.

    http://www.dougwils.com/The-Bible-Culture-and-Race/resisting-the-slavers.html

    1. Dan Glover says:

      Thanks for this, Doug. It is interesting to balance this out with the perspective of “gradualists”, both loyalists and those who only reluctantly joined the revolutionaries, who advocated for continuing to try to work within British law and who saw their oath to the king as more binding on their conscience than the cause of no taxation without representation. As to the revolutionary’s (or Patriot’s, if you prefer) treatment of 15-20% of the population of the American colonies who chose to remain loyal to the British Crown, in the shadow governments set up by the revolutionaries, they denied any representation, or opportunity to run for office, to the loyalists.

  26. Henry says:

    State of the Debate:

    1) I think Thabiti’s objection that the exceptional situations Doug mentions do not prevent slaves from being granted freedom is good. I don’t think that point has been answered. Although the answer seems to me to be that Paul did not understand love to require granting slaves freedom.

    2) The clearest and most obvious objection to American slavery is Ex 21:16. The Bible does not prohibit all slavery (it even gives express permission in Lev 25:44-46), but it does seem to prohibit the unlawful acquirement of slaves, as per Ex 21:16, which is very applicable to American slavery.

    3) Appeals to 1Cor7:21 and 1Tim1:10 as defenses of Paul wanting masters to free slaves are shaky, would still be good to see someone engage more with the translation issues there. Ditto with Philemon, though there has been some mention in the comments.

    4) Brother Thabiti: “I couldn’t help but ponder why Wilson would preach 1 Tim. 6:2 to enslaved African Americans rather than 1 Cor. 7:21.” I’m sure the good brother does not intend it but this sounds like a “pick and choose” approach to God’s Word, as though 1Tim6:2 is a sub-human verse. I’d still be curious to know how brother Thabiti receives that verse and the others like it.

    Thanks to both brothers for the excellent and charitable discussion. I’ve certainly learned a lot and am sure many others have. I hope you will both be good friends in the future.

  27. Henry says:

    I’d be curious if anyone know what were considered lawful means of acquiring slaves to the ancients.

    Suggestions:

    1) Voluntary enslavement e.g to pay off debts, better standard of living (cf indentureship in OT). (Is it true that approx 1/3 of Roman slavery consisted of this?)

    2) War captives

    3) Punishment of criminals

    4) Parents selling a child into slavery (cf the passage one of the passages in Exodus I think?)

    Others?

  28. Henry says:

    Some comments on the translation of 1Cor7:21. From: http://www.bible-researcher.com/slavery.html

    …the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:21… some recent Bible versions have paraphrased the verse in such a way that it appears to be telling slaves that they should seek emancipation. But this interpretation is anachronistic and does violence to the context. In fact the meaning is quite the opposite. It is an instruction to slaves that they should care so little for worldly freedom that they should not even take notice of any opportunities to become free, as in the following modern versions:

    New English Bible (margin). Were you a slave when you were called? Do not let that trouble you; but even if a chance of liberty should come, choose rather to make good use of your servitude.

    Revised English Bible (margin). Were you a slave when you were called? Do not let that trouble you; but even if a chance of freedom should come, choose rather to make good use of your servitude.

    Today’s English Version (margin). Were you a slave when God called you? Well, never mind; but even if you have a chance to become a free man, choose rather to make the best of your condition as a slave.

    New American Bible. Were you a slave when your call came? Give it no thought. Even supposing you could go free, you would be better off making the most of your slavery.

    American Standard Version. Wast thou called being a bond-servant? care not for it: nay, even if thou canst become free, use it rather.

    Revised Standard Version (margin). Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition instead.

    New Revised Standard Version. Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.

    The Church Fathers (early writers of the Church) favored this interpretation. See, for example, the commentaries of Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Theophlact. Here are Chrysostom’s words on the verse:

    “Let each man abide in that calling wherein he was called. Hast thou been called, having an unbelieving wife? Continue to have her. Cast not out thy wife for the faith’s sake. Hast thou been called, being a slave? Care not for it. Continue to be a slave. Hast thou been called, being in uncircumcision? Remain uncircumcised. Being circumcised, didst thou become a believer? Continue circumcised. For this is the meaning of, “As God hath distributed unto each man.” For these are no hindrances to piety. Thou art called, being a slave; another, with an unbelieving wife; another, being circumcised.

    Astonishing! where has he put slavery? As circumcision profits not, and uncircumcision does no harm, so neither doth slavery, nor yet liberty. And that he might point out this with surpassing clearness, he says, “But even (All eikai dunasai) if thou canst become free, use it rather:” that is, rather continue a slave. Now upon what possible ground does he tell the person who might be set free to remain a slave? He means to point out that slavery is no harm but rather an advantage.

    Now we are not ignorant that some say the words, “use it rather,” are spoken with regard to liberty: interpreting it, “if thou canst become free, become free.” But the expression would be very contrary to Paul’s manner if he intended this. For he would not, when consoling the slave and signifying that he was in no respect injured, have told him to get free. Since perhaps someone might say, “What then, if I am not able? I am an injured and degraded person.” This then is not what he says: but as I said, meaning to point out that a man gets nothing by being made free, he says, “Though thou hast it in thy power to be made free, remain rather in slavery.”

    Next he adds also the cause; “For he that was called in the Lord being a bondservant, is the Lord’s free man: likewise he that was called, being free, is Christ’s bondservant.” “For,” saith he, “in the things that relate to Christ, both are equal: and like as thou art the slave of Christ, so also is thy master. How then is the slave a free man? Because He has freed thee not only from sin, but also from outward slavery while continuing a slave. For he suffers not the slave to be a slave, not even though he be a man abiding in slavery: and this is the great wonder.

    But how is the slave a free man while continuing a slave? When he is freed from passions and the diseases of the mind: when he looks down upon riches and wrath and all other the like passions.

    Ver. 23. “Ye were bought with a price: become not bondservants of men.” This saying is addressed not to slaves only but also to free men. For it is possible for one who is a slave not to be a slave; and for one who is a freeman to be a slave. “And how can one be a slave and not a slave?” When he doeth all for God: when he feigns nothing, and doeth nothing out of eye-service towards men: that is how one that is a slave to men can be free. Or again, how doth one that is free become a slave? When he serves men in any evil service, either for gluttony or desire of wealth or for office’s sake. For such an one, though he be free, is more of a slave than any man. (10)

    Early modern interpreters which follow this line include Camerarius, Estius, Wolf, Bengel, and many others. In the nineteenth century, de Wette, Osiander, Maier, Ewald, Baur, Vaihinger, Weiss, and Meyer. In recent years it generally prevails among scholarly commentators, as for example in C.K. Barrett’s commentary:

    “Were you a slave when you were called? See i.26 for the low social standing of many Corinthian Christians. Let not that trouble you, but even though you should be able to become free (emancipation could take place in a variety of ways, and was not infrequent) put up rather with your present status. A number of grammarians (e.g. Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, i. 247; ii. 165; Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, pp. 21, 167; M.E. Thrall, Greek Particles in the New Testament (1962), pp. 78-82), and many commentators, prefer to render, If you actually (ει και) have an opportunity of becoming free, by all means (μαλλον, elative) seize it. This finds some support in the aorist tense of the imperative (χρησαι), but does not make sense in the context; see especially the discussion, with references, in J.N. Sevenster, Paul and Seneca, pp. 189 f. (and the same context for a discussion of the Pauline and Stoic attitudes to slavery). Particularly important is the for (γαρ) with which the next verse begins: You need not hesitate to put up with your servile condition, for the slave who has been called in the Lord (that is, to be a Christian, one who is in Christ) is the Lord’s freedman; and similarly the free man who has been called is Christ’s slave.” (11)

    (11). C.K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 170f.

  29. Henry says:

    Some comments on the translation of 1Tim1:10. From: http://www.bible-researcher.com/slavery.html

    Sometimes 1 Timothy 1:10 is mentioned as one verse which might indicate that the Bible considers slavery to be sinful. This misinterpretation was often put forth in abolitionist writings of the Civil-War Era. For example, in 1836 Angelina Grimke (a feminist abolitionist who was neither a scholar nor a believer in the Bible) wrote, “how can it be said Paul sanctioned slavery, when, as though to put this matter beyond all doubt, in that black catalogue of sins enumerated in his first epistle to Timothy, he mentions ‘menstealers,’ which word may be translated ‘slavedealers’?” (12) The verse lists ανδραποδισταις “menstealers” along with other ungodly and sinful persons (murderers, fornicators, sodomites, liars, etc.), and indeed this word is translated “slave traders” in the New International Version and in the New Living Translation. The New International Reader’s Version (a revision of the NIV for children) even interprets it as, “people who buy and sell slaves.” This is in keeping with Grimke’s interpretation. But this is certainly not the meaning of the word. Thayer’s Lexicon explains that the word means “one who steals the slaves of others and sells them” or “one who unjustly reduces free men to slavery.” This crime was often committed in ancient times. Penalties for it are specified in the Mosaic Law (see Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7), and it is frequently mentioned by Greek writers as the crime of ανδραποδον. In the ancient Roman code known as the Lex Fabia (third-second century B.C.) these slave-snatchers were called plagiarii, and so the word is translated thus in the Vulgate. (13) So ανδραποδισταις in 1 Timothy 1:10 does not refer to all slave traders, any more than the word πορνοις “whoremongers, fornicators” in the same verse could refer all men who have sexual relations with a woman. It refers to those who engage in an illegal activity, kidnapping of slaves, and not the legal slave-trade itself. For this reason, most Bible versions translate the word “kidnappers.”

    Why have the translators of the NIV and the NLT used the words “slave traders” here, without even indicating the correct interpretation in a footnote? One might expect the NIV Study Bible, at least, to indicate the meaning, but even in that copiously annotated edition of the NIV there is no explanatory note here. We also observe that the recently-published English Standard Version has “enslavers” here, which is somewhat better than “slave-traders,” and it also has a note stating that the word means “those who take someone captive in order to sell him into slavery.” But this translation and this note are also incorrect for two reasons: In ancient times those who were taken captive in war were often kept or sold as slaves, unless they were redeemed by the payment of a ransom, and this military custom was not considered to be ανδραποδον. It was considered to be a merciful alternative to the massacre of defeated enemies. (14) Also, the crime of ανδραποδον often involved the kidnapping of one who was already a slave, not the enslavement of one who had been free. If the translators were not satisfied with “kidnappers” because this word does not indicate the connection with the illegal slave trade, they might have rendered it “slave-kidnappers,” but “enslavers” is not the meaning of this word.

    We suspect an apologetic purpose for these mistranslations. All of these versions were sponsored by evangelical publishers, and many evangelical apologists have used isolated misinterpretations of 1 Timothy 1:10 in support of their contention that the Bible does not really condone slavery after all. But however well-meaning this may be, and however expedient it may be for apologists, it prevents people from really coming to terms with the world-view of the Biblical authors—a world-view which is very remote from modern egalitarian values and agendas.

    None of this is to suggest that slavery is a good idea in the modern world. But it is a requirement of scholarly integrity, and of any true understanding of the Bible, that we should refrain from importing our own modern political and social values into the text.

    *****

    (12). Angelina Grimke, “Appeal to the Christian women of the South,” in The Anti-Slavery Examiner 1/2 (New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1836)

    (13). For details on the Roman law see the article “Plagium” by George Long in A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, ed. William Smith (London: John Murray, 1875).

    (14). It is not at all clear how this ancient practice can be called less humane than the modern practice of deliberately and wantonly destroying civilian populations by aerial bombardment, as was done by Allied forces during the Second World War. This policy of “total war” against the population of a foreign country, which is even now the plan of the American military in the event of nuclear war, can hardly be called more humane than slavery.

  30. Nate says:

    “Likewise, we can read numerous pieces on the Civil War that focus little on race and racism.”

    Unless you’re talking about books on battle strategy, I’m not so sure about that one.

    1. Hi Nate, He’s right about that. If you’re from the South, like me, you’ll know that Southerners can talk a great deal about the Civil War and never mention slavery and will adamantly deny that the Civil War had much of anything to do with slavery. One of the peculiarities of the history of the Civil War is that it is a rare case of the vanquished writing much of the history. Because the interest in the Civil War is much higher in the South, Southerners have tended to write a lot of the history of it and have tended to down-play (if not completely ignore) slavery.

  31. John K says:

    Wilson in Black and Tan says “I take it as self-evident that in the disastrous outcome of the War Between the States, God was pouring out his wrath upon the South. Since our God is never capricious or arbitrary in His judgements, this outpouring of wrath was just and righteous in every respect.” And yet Wilson, believing that now, would still now say he would choose to fight with the South, and thereby against that judgement of God. There were serious consequences in the Bible for people who fought against God’s judgements. Of course, there’s Numbers 14:20-44, where the people tried to invade after God said they wouldn’t reach the Promised Land. And Jeremiah, where Zedekiah was warned not to keep resisting the Babylonians, but he did and his sons were killed before him and he was blinded by them. I know that Wilson would equate the North with the Babylonians and the Canaanites here, but in this case, Wilson should just say he would sit the Civil War/War Between the States out and not fight on either side and certainly not against God. Or maybe he should reexamine this issue.

    1. Interesting point. Even if the North were the equivalent of the Babylonians (which wouldn’t really be true because the North was far more influenced by evangelical Christianity than the South at the time), then the prophet Jeremiah’s advice to Judah would apply to the South: submit to the yoke of Babylon/the Union.

  32. John R. says:

    One thing that’s quite clear from this excellent and brotherly discussion between Thabiti and Doug (notwithstanding some of the feverish assertions made in the comments section) is that Wilson’s position, whether one agrees with it or not, is far from some nutty, racist, careless apology for Southern slavery. Thabiti’s careful, precise, and respectful interaction with Wilson’s positions (and vice-versa) puts lie to the hyperventilating rhetoric of Anthony Bradly, Bryan Loritts, and some of the other bomb-throwers who’ve made accusations while failing to interact with a single point Wilson has made.

    As it turns out, the disagreement between Pastors Anyabwile and Wilson is, while perhaps significant, also rather narrow and specific regarding the best methods of political change–far from the broad-sided accusations made by those outside the discussion.

    So….considering Thabiti initially entered the discussion by claiming that Loritts and Bradley were “both correct to drop the heaviest hammer on such foolishness,” I’d be interested in hearing him address why nothing in the subsequent discussion has vindicated that initial tone. Having now worked through most of the discussion, does Pastor Anyabwile wish to claim that he too “dropped the hammer” on Wilson’s “foolishness”? Or would he rather say that there is a specific disagreement worth discussing between two godly, Scripture-loving men of good will, a disagreement which doesn’t admit of simple answers or sloganeering? I’d really like to see this answered, considering the starting point of the discussion. Is Wilson a foolish man who needed a hammer dropped on him, or not? I can find nothing in the discussion that indicated he is–or that Thabiti believes he really is.

    1. Alex Burgess says:

      I don’t believe Doug Wilson is a racist or a person of bad intent. I just think he’s way, way off in his understanding of the relevant history. Because his gross misunderstanding of antebellum Southern society is similar to many who are actually racists, he has burdened himself with the terrible yoke of persuading others that he’s not racist himself (hence the brilliant title of Pastor Thabiti’s post).

      I do pray for Pastor Wilson, who has unusually keen wisdom in many areas, that he will improve his understanding of the history of American slavery and the Civil War and thus liberate himself from such unfortunate associations.

      In other words, I don’t mind throwing bombs at Wilson’s absolutely ridiculous understanding of this period in U.S. History, but rest assured that this bombing is very tactical. I will spare Wilson the man in every other aspect and continue to appreciate his extraordinary gifts in many other areas.

      1. KLewis says:

        Amen. Well said Alex!

    2. John R.,
      Quite the contrary. Wilson has shown himself to be wrong on the facts of history, absurd in his reasoning, and anti-Christian in his principles.

      Wilson’s historical assertions are:“slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War [the Civil War] or since.” (“Southern Slavery: As It Was”, p. 38). Their praise of the institution is almost unbounded in places. “There has never been,” they argue, “a multi-racial society that has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” (ibid, p. 24).

      Wilson’s reasoning:
      That the South was committed to limited government, despite the fact that it enslaved some of it’s inhabitants and out-lawed criticism of that slavery.
      That the South was really interested in “States’ Rights” even though they were seceding in protest to the exercise of the rights of the Northern states.
      That there should not have been a Civil War because peaceful political processes should have been followed, despite the fact that the Civil War was caused by the South refusing to stay in the Union because they wanted to avoid the peaceful, political limitation (and perhaps ultimate demise) of slavery that the election of Lincoln suggested may be beginning.
      That the failure to solve the injustice of abortion today means the that the success at addressing the injustice of slavery in the past was wrong.
      That one can support a “nation” overtly committed to race-based slavery and yet not intend to support slavery.
      etc.

      Peter Wood of Duke University claimed that it was “ridiculous to even ask if slavery was a harmful institution.” He equated Wilson and Wilkins with “holocaust deniers.”
      Clayborne Carson of Stanford University also responded to our hardworking Daily News reporter. “I haven’t heard of this argument since the pre-Civil War period when people actually believed the slaves were really happy with their lives … why would anyone want to waste their time with this argument? It’s incomprehensible.”

      U.C. Berkley’s Saidiya Hartman, an expert on interviews with former slaves, called Wilson’s and Wilkins’ arguments “obscene.””
      See: http://hnn.us/articles/9142.html.

      Finally, even if Wilson was right about the value of “states’ rights”, it is perverse, from a Biblical point of view, to suggest that that value is higher than the lives and freedom of millions of African-Americans. See Micah 6:8.

      1. John R. says:

        Like I said: notwithstanding some of the feverish assertions made in the comments section.

        1. hans Maja says:

          John R.

          I think this discussion’s civility owes much to Thabiti than to Wilson. A pointer’ read Wilson’s patronizing and condescending response to the tweets that promoted Thabiti to launch these articles. I think Wilson is confused in his views.

  33. Justin says:

    Coming to the party late again, and perhaps this has already been said. But I weary of the notion that the South fought for states’ rights and decentralization. The Southern states had no problem using federal power to further their ends in preserving the peculiar institution — for example, fugitive slave laws and gag rules. It was when they did not get their way that they howled states rights or threatened nullification or secession.

    So I am not convinced, even though I live now in the Old Dominion and grew up in the mid-South believing that I was “American by birth, and Southern by the grace of God.” Nor am I convinced that we can draw the straight line from expanded federal power during the Civil War to abortion and homosexuality today. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc is a fallacy, not a way to reach sound conclusions.

    There is an actual discussion to be had on the connection between Roe and expanding federal power, as opposed to merely making assertions. But it requires a discussion of the doctrine of substantive due process in constitutional law, which probably lies outside the scope of this series of blog posts.

    1. Alex Burgess says:

      Excellent, Justin. Wilson buys into all that rubbish about about tariffs, states rights’ and all other such diversions. For the South, it was all about the expansion of slavery. Slavery was seen not as an unfortunate reality, but as a POSITIVE GOOD. The fact that Wilson doesn’t see this is an embarrassment. It wouldn’t be all that important, of course, except that his ignorance of history in this case is so hurtful to many.

      On the tariff question, let’s listen to Alexander Stephens in a speech to Georgia legislature in late 1860: “The next evil that my friend complained of, was the Tariff. Well, let us look at that for a moment. About the time I commenced noticing public matters, this question was agitating the country almost as fearfully as the Slave question now is. In 1832, when I was in college, South Carolina was ready to nullify or secede from the Union on this account. And what have we seen? The tariff no longer distracts the public councils. Reason has triumphed. The present tariff was voted for by Massachusetts and South Carolina. The lion and the lamb lay down together– every man in the Senate and House from Massachusetts and South Carolina, I think, voted for it, as did my honorable friend himself. And if it be true, to use the figure of speech of my honorable friend, that every man in the North, that works in iron and brass and wood, has his muscle strengthened by the protection of the government, that stimulant was given by his vote, and I believe every other Southern man. So we ought not to complain of that.”

      Did you catch that, Wilson? The tariff in place at the time of secession was supported by SOUTH CAROLINA as well as Massachusetts.

      Let’s be clear. The South did not believe slavery was a necessary evil that should be gradually abolished. The South believed that slavery was what God or Nature had ordained and that it ought to be expanded to the West. (Many even thought it should be extended to the North as it were the best social condition to be attained!)

      Lincoln hits the nail on the head in his letter to Alexander Stephens in Dec. 1860: “The South would be in no more danger in this respect [of losing their slaves because of Lincoln's election] than it was it was in the days of Washington. I suppose, however, this does not meet the case. You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us.”

      Dear Pastor Wilson, you can hold to your views on federalism while at the same time admitting that the Confederacy was committed to those principles in word but not in deed. Take hold of this easy chance to increase your credibility and prevent further misunderstandings of your views on race.

      1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

        President Lincoln: “You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted.”

        Amen! Amen.

        Adapting for Pro-Abortionists: “You think abortion is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted.”

        Restricted? How? Slavery was outlawed. Abortion should be outlawed.

        1. I agree entirely. And rather than the success to end slavery being held up as an example of a mistake, it should be held up as an example to be followed.

      2. Another excellent contribution by you. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

        Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the “Cornerstone Speech”.

        Speaking of Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, are you also familiar with his “Cornerstone Speech” (given in Savannah, Georgia, on March 21, 1861), defining what the Confederacy was all about? :

        Stephens stated that the secession of the Southern states and formation of the Confederate States of America will “put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.” He went on to say that Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence was fundamentally wrong, that all men are not created equal; that the races are not equal. He said, “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea [from Jefferson]; its foundations are laid, its corner–stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.”

        1. Alex Burgess says:

          Thanks, John, for your kind words. And I agree with you that the the “Cornerstone Speech” is superb evidence of the South’s intent.

          Perhaps folks will recall how the recent movie “Lincoln” depicted Alex. Stephens at the Hampton Roads Peace Conference. In his last ditch effort to persuade Lincoln not to pursue ratification of the 13th Amendment, Stephens laments the demise of slavery when he says, “We won’t know who we are anymore.” The film gets the history perfectly right here, and in my opinion, that quotation sums up pretty well the plantation South’s deep commitment to the institution of slavery. They simply couldn’t imagine life without it.

          1. Yes, you’re right. What I found particularly interesting about that movie (and I believe here it is historical) is that the South was willing to re-join the Union if by doing so they could stop the 13th amendment. Again, more proof that they didn’t really care so much for “states’ rights” but for keeping their slaves.

            By the way, I’m a Southerner and my ancestors were plantation owners!

            1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

              John Carpenter: “Again, more proof that they didn’t really care so much for “states’ rights” but for keeping their slaves.”

              This entire thread’s discussion has been informative (except for some occasional hysterical emotionalism). As someone who’s gotten burned by Liberals using high-minded slogans to advance their real underhanded agenda, I’m on high alert now to misdirection plays.

              For example, the Libs love to promote their “Anti-Bullying Campaign”. Who’s not against bullies? But they use this to shove pro-homosexual doctrine into the public schools. So devious and nefarious!

              So when you’re saying that the South was pushing State’s Rights when in reality they want to maintain racial slavery, I’m open to the possibility that that’s the case.

              ——-

              With respect to comparing the evils of slavery vs. abortion, abortion is clearly worse, as I suspect you agree.

              Abortion is the murder for hire of unborn children.

              With respect to slavery, we read this verse a few weeks ago:

              o They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? (Exodus 14:11)

              The Hebrew people preferred slavery over being killed!

              If you could ask a baby in the womb, “Do you prefer being murdered or being a slave (or even being a sex slave), which do you want?” I think the baby would say, “I don’t want to be murdered!”

              o Joseph was a slave. And he was used mightily by God as a slave. (Although as you mentioned earlier, slaveowners occasionally killed their slaves.)

              o I’m a slave. Albeit I chose to be a slave. Sometime within the last decade I learned of the word doulos. I have chosen to be a slave to Jesus Christ. A bondslave. He purchased me with His shed blood. Granted, I’ve not been a good slave to my Master oftentimes. But still, I’m a slave.

            2. Gloria says:

              Do you really think a baby would chose being a ‘slave or sex slave over being murdered?’ It seems to me that you or no one you know has been raped or repeatedly raped and have to live with the knowledge that both your body and mind has been defiled. Even Job preferred death that to continue to endure the pain and hardship he was experiencing.

              More over how do you propose to stop abortion? Through legislation? war? I think that most Christians in America have not thought this through. Look at the Bahamas and other countries within the Caribbean where abortion is illegal except for cases of incest. There are abortions being carried out everyday.

              It’s underground a dirty secret not spoken of. So America can outlaw abortion through legislation and the mill will continue because there are people willing to abort the babies and those willing to secede to those desires.

            3. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

              Gloria: “Do you really think a baby would chose being a ‘slave or sex slave over being murdered?’”

              Yes. Just like the Hebrews did: “They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 14:11)

              Between slavery and imminent death, they chose slavery.

              “More over how do you propose to stop abortion? Through legislation?”

              Your question is better directed to God. “God, how do you propose to stop murder (abortion)? Through legislation (The Ten Commandments)?

              There are murders (abortions) being carried out everyday. So God, the nations can outlaw murder (abortion) through legislation and the mill will continue because there are people willing to murder others (abort the babies) and those willing to secede to those desires.”

    2. Excellent comment, Justin. The idea that a government committed to enslaving people (as the CSA was) was committed to “limited government” (as Wilson says) is absurd. You gave more evidence of that.

  34. Wesley Roy says:

    Excellent Post! I am amazed at how you so clearly presented what I have always thought when someone has presented the “wait” and “slavery wasn’t that bad” arguments. How can we justify war to keep from paying taxes to England but demonize war to set human beings free from a slavery that reduced them to little more than animals even if they are black. Your patience and thoughtfulness is exemplary.

  35. Ken says:

    As a descendant of people who fled the American colonies rather than be disloyal to the Crown in the 18th century and now a liberal pinko Canadian, I find it hard to grasp the honour in choosing to fight for states’ rights at the expense of the souls of others. I find it hard to understand how the constitution of a country seems to trump the Scriptures that those opposed to a strong federal government claim to be defending. I find it hard to understand how someone can talk about the 15 million or so blacks whose lives were ended by abortion and not even think about how many blacks were never even conceived because of the premature deaths of slaves at the hands of owners, vigilantes, and unjust laws. Ah well, maybe that’s why my ancestors left. Maybe it’s just us. I am a Canadian after all – so – Sorry. You wrote a good piece Thabiti. Thanks.

  36. Tom says:

    If someone else named Tom has commented already, I’m not him.
    Anyway, kudos to both pastors here, although I think Pastor Anyabwile has a much better reading of American history than Pastor Wilson.
    That being said, this is about the thread rather than the post. I’ve seen, in numerous places, the idea that Wilson and his kind place anti-federalism and the Constitution above the lives of millions of blacks. While this is a possibility, there is another one. Perhaps Wilson and crew believe that overcentralization and an expansive reading of federal constitutional power will lead to worse consequences than slavery–and yes, such things do exist.

    1. John K says:

      You talk about the possibility in the last sentence as if it hasn’t been recognized or acknowledged in this thread. I don’t know completely about this thread, but that whole issue has been dealt with this and the other threads overall in Thabiti’s posts. You may want to look at all the threads. Look at when abortion is being compared with slavery; that addresses that. Also there’s the issue of drawing causality between the Civil War and abortion today. We’ve discussed that . Of course, there’s the question of whether Wilson minimizes slavery, which contributes to what you said, and that’s definitely been discussed quite a bit.

  37. Paul M. says:

    I was reminded of this post, today, while reading in Bill Leonard’s “Baptists in America” (p. 196):

    “The civil rights movement created a serious hermeneutical dilemma for many Independent Baptists, since some had linked segregation with biblical authority and divine sanction of the separate but equal laws in the South. Efforts that challenged that interpretation of biblical texts, especially by other Baptists, were a potential threat to the veracity of all Scripture.”

    There is a high cost to cultural entanglements indeed.

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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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