For the report on the legacy and history of racism and slavery in the history of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (mentioned in this week’s sermon) go here. The accompanying letter by Albert Mohler is worth reading and summarizes the findings. The letter models the, lament, brokenness, and humility we need more of when dealing with subjects like this. You might not agree with all of his conclusions, but I think you find it helpful.
Gavin Ortlund on “Why It’s Wrong to Say the Bible Is Pro-Slavery.” This article is very well done and Ortlund models a humble approach. I especially appreciate this analogy from his article:
“By analogy: I might say to my friend, “Go vote in the next election!” Does this mean my overall philosophy regards democracy as the ideal political system? Or what if I encourage a soldier on the battlefront to follow the orders of his commanding officers—does this reveal my complete perspective on the military, the war he is fighting in, or war itself? Not necessarily. You would need more information to determine that.
“Similarly, practices like slavery, polygamy, and divorce were common in antiquity. Biblical instruction that allows for them in certain contexts isn’t necessarily biblical approval. We must interpret them in relation to everything else the Scriptures say.”
He does not, however, deal with the ethnic-based, chattel slavery of Leviticus 25:44-46.
Thabiti Anyabwile on “The Puritans Are Not That Precious.” Anyabwile wades into the discussions around Propaganda’s “Precious Puritans” and the results are gold, an education for me. Here’s just one of his nine reflections:
“Fifth, good theology does not mechanically lead to good living. We need to understand this. It’s a commonplace Christian assertion that if we believe the right things we ought to do the right things. Then we’re perplexed when either people who believe the right things actually do vile things, or people with supposedly faulty theology actually live better than the orthodox. We’re left groping for explanations and defenses. How did the Puritans “miss it”? Why did “liberals” seem to “get it”? Well, “it” doesn’t follow mechanically, ipso facto, ex opere operato from some set of solid beliefs. There’s a whole lot of effort, application, resistance to the world, self-examination, and mortification that’s gotta accompany the doctrine in order for the duty to follow. As Flav put it, “They’re blind, baby, because they can’t see.” That’s why they missed it; they couldn’t see it. Their theology wasn’t a corrective lense; it didn’t fix the cataracts. It didn’t fix the degenerative sight of Southern Presbyterians who also missed it, or the Dutch Reformed of South Africa who not only missed it but supported Apartheid, or some of the German Reformed who missed it in Nazi Germany, and so on. And this is why I’m made slightly nervous by the tendency of some Reformed types to advocate “pure” doctrine and demur at “pure” social action. The Puritan movement was a movement in church reform and revival, and some of their heirs (I count myself one) can be too purely concerned about the purity of the church without a commensurate concern about the purity of social witness. We can stack our chips on theology, as though theology inexorably produces the social results we want with little to no attending effort. Mistake, I think. The Puritans prove that.”
Joe Thorne on “Precious Puritans (Pt 1)” and “Precious Puritans (Pt 2).” These posts on Propaganda’s song are very insightful. The first one includes an interview with Richard Bailey, author of Race and Redemption in Puritan New England. Just a wealth of great information. The second article has this from an interview with Propaganda:
“The song was really designed to be a bait and switch. The indictment on the puritans is really a secondary point. They were not perfect in living out their theology. They had issues just like all of us. And I'm just as much guilty as them. The real point is the last line, "God uses crooked sticks to make straight lines." God uses us despite our depravity. That's the main point...I'm guilty too!”
Want to go even deeper on the Puritans, slavery, and racism. Download and read Thabiti Anyabwile on “Jonathan Edwards, Slavery, and the Theology of African Americans.”
Aaron Menikoff on “How and Why Did Some Christians Defend Slavery?” This is so insightful. It offers highlights of a debate on the issue of slavery between two Christians in 1847. I really appreciate one of the points in Menikoff’s conclusion:
“Fuller’s fatal flaw was not finally his bad hermeneutic. It was his bad theology. He failed to see his black brothers and sisters as divine image-bearers. He commended himself for educating his slaves, giving them good medical care, and keeping them well fed. But he saw them all as fundamentally inferior to whites like himself. Because of his racism, Fuller believed he had a moral right to be a slaveholder.
“Mark Noll assesses the situation correctly: ‘It was acceptance of black racial inferiority that defended American slavery by appeal to Scripture.’ In other words, appealing to the faulty biblical hermeneutic of men like Fuller misses the point: their biblical exegesis masked their racist hearts.”
Someone asked me last week if I’d be addressing how some link the issue of racism with issues surrounding sexuality and sexual freedom. I said I would not be able to do this, but here’s a good start on that question: Rebecca McLaughlin on “5 Reasons to Disentangle Sexuality and Race.”