Conservative Christian pastors, who believed in the Bible, were strong defenders of southern slavery

Holding on to good doctrines doesn’t prevent one from also having despicable beliefs. As recently as 150 years ago, Christian pastors, who affirmed Protestant orthodoxy, inspiration of the Bible, deity of Jesus, substitutionary atonement on the cross, etc, also advocated slavery. Here were their reasons (1):

BIBLICAL REASONS

  • Abraham, the “father of faith,” and all the patriarchs held slaves without God’s disapproval (Gen. 21:9–10).
  • Canaan, Ham’s son, was made a slave to his brothers (Gen. 9:24–27).
  • The Ten Commandments mention slavery twice, showing God’s implicit acceptance of it (Ex. 20:10, 17).
  • Slavery was widespread throughout the Roman world, and yet Jesus never spoke against it.
  • The apostle Paul specifically commanded slaves to obey their masters (Eph. 6:5–8).
  • Paul returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master (Philem. 12).

EVANGELISTIC REASONS

  • Slavery removes people from a culture that “worshipped the devil, practiced witchcraft, and sorcery” and other evils.
  • Slavery brings heathens to a Christian land where they can hear the gospel. Christian masters provide religious instruction for their slaves.

SOCIAL REASONS

  • Just as women are called to play a subordinate role (Eph. 5:22; 1 Tim. 2:11–15), so slaves are stationed by God in their place.
  • Slavery is God’s means of protecting and providing for an inferior race (suffering the “curse of Ham” in Gen. 9:25 or even the punishment of Cain in Gen. 4:12).
  • Abolition would lead to slave uprisings, bloodshed, and anarchy. Consider the mob’s “rule of terror” during the French Revolution.

POLITICAL REASONS

  • Christians are to obey civil authorities, and those authorities permit and protect slavery.
  • Those who support abolition are, in James H. Thornwell’s words, “atheists, socialists, communists [and] red republicans.”

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SOME BRIEF RESPONCES

FACT: Southern slavery was horrible, violent, sadomasochistic, barbaric, and utterly immoral. Southern slavers, believed all the doctrinally orthodox points modern evangelicals believe, but ALSO used the Bible to support their atrocious act of slavery

RESPONSE: Modern apologists are embarrassed by this fact, so they want to distance the Bible from Southern slavery as far as possible. So they make arguments about “difference.” They want to save face and distance themselves and their religious views as far away as possible from this slavery.

FACT 2: Certainly Greco-Roman slavery was different (Greco-Roman language, law, war, economy, infrastructure, etc was also “different”) however, it was not better. To be a Greco-Roman slave was not qualitatively better than a southern slave. Southern slavery is more known for being race-based (although arguments are made that Greco-roman slavery too was race based, see http://www.yale.edu/glc/events/race/Isaac.pdf). Yet, both types of slavery were utterly horrible for the slave.

In both (a) the slave could be raped, (b) the slave could be beat to death or tortured , (c) the slave was property not person, (d) the slave could be separated from family, children, spouse by sale, (e) the slaves children were born into eternal slavery, (f) the slave could be set free, but usually wasnt.

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