Justifying Injustice with the Bible: Slavery.
“Complementarians” are absolutely convinced that what they teach on the man-woman relationship is what the Bible teaches. To reject their teaching is to reject the Bible, and because the Bible is literally God's words, to reject that teaching is to disobey God himself. After giving a lecture outlining CBE's position, one Sydney theologian told me publicly, "You reject what Scripture plainly teaches. Those who disobey God go to hell."
When faced with such weighty opposition, it is helpful to note that we find exactly the same dogmatic, vehement opinion voiced by the best of Reformed theologians in support of slavery in the 19th century and Apartheid in the 20th century. They too appealed to the Bible with enormous confidence, claiming that it unambiguously supported slavery and Apartheid.
However today, virtually all evangelicals believe they were mistaken in their understanding of the Bible, that the Bible condemns slavery and Apartheid, and that these things are not pleasing to God!
In Part 1 of this series, we will examine the biblical case for slavery. In Part 2, we will explore the biblical case for Apartheid and compare the complementarian position.
In the 19th century, the best Reformed theologians in America gave their able minds to perfecting a "biblical theology" in support of slavery. They defiantly set themselves against the human liberation abolition represented. Those who made the greatest contribution in support of slavery were the best evangelical and Reformed theologians and scholars of the day.
The Biblical Case in Summary.
"The curse on Ham" (Gen. 9:20-27) was thought to be the divinely-given basis for slavery. The Genesis text tells us that when Noah woke from a drunken stupor to discover one of his sons, Ham, had seen him naked, he cursed him saying, "a slave of slaves shall you be to your brothers" (Gen 9:25). Ham was taken as the father of the African race, Shem the father of the Semites, and Japheth the father of the white race.
The fact that all the patriarchs had slaves was judged as greatly significant. Abraham, "the friend of God" and "the father of the faithful," brought slaves from Haran (Gen. 12:50), armed slaves born in his own house (Gen. 14:14), included them in his property list (Gen.12:16, 24:35-36), and willed them to his son Isaac (Gen. 26:13-14). What is more, Scripture says "God blessed Abraham" by multiplying his slaves (Gen. 24:35).
In Abraham's household, Sarah was set over the slave, Hagar. The angel tells her, "return to your mistress and submit to her" (Gen. 16:9). Joshua took slaves (Josh. 9:23), as did David (2 Sam. 8:2, 6) and Solomon (1 Kings 9:20-21). Likewise, Job, whom the Bible calls "blameless and upright," was "a great slaveholder."
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