Lutheran Church approves slavery: godly and biblical says theologian

Another blog by neil hart on gay stuff and the lutheran church of australia.

Hey. have a look at the slippery slope guy. Hes cool :)

:) Ahhh the slippery slope argument. thin edge of the wedge… the last refuge of a failed argument (just wikki it. you’ll get the idea). “A” must follow “B” and on to “C” and so on, all the way to the bottom, coz, well, life’s like that, isn’t it? like a unidirectional slide?

well, maybe your life reader. but not mine. mine has been much more like a maze than slide. I take half a step from A to B and then turn sideways into B1 (who seems to be wearing pyjama??) and then bacvk to A2 before a surprise leap to D5 (where i luckily hit an enemy submarine) and on it goes in all sorts of weird and wonderful and unpredictable ways.

now, where have i heard that before??

the slippery slope argument: a wart of fallacy on a cancer of fear.

Which is why im gonna surprise you, reader, by saying that…i kinda agree with the slippery slope thing, to a certain limited extent anyway.

I have heard the slippery slope argument used in relation to the women’s ordination debate.

“if we change our traditional understanding of scripture to accomodate women clergy, then we will inevitabnle change scripture to accomodate homosexuality and who -knows -what from there….”

Now, that argumnt is unsound if the assumption is that one thing automatically leads to another.  The argument is sound, however..only in that it recognises that we must be consistant in the way we read scripture. the principles we employ to understand one theme in the bible  (such as  the role of women in the church and society) should consistently be applied to another theme. If the principles that are applied to womens ordination text are sound, then they must be able to be applied to the question of homosexuality.

Well, reader, i want to take YOU on a slippery slope journey but it is not a journey down the slide. , No. this is a journey back up the slide. coz, you may not realise this but we (the christian church) have already  been on this slide for some time now,  at least 150 years . So, lets climb back UP the slope a little to pre civil war america and see how they might have understood what the bible was saying to them. what principles did they use to look at various themes about one of the most pressing questions of the time….the question of slavery.

The argument of the christian slave owner might have gone something like this…

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Clearly god sanctioned slavery. in the old testament

Leviticus 25:44-46: “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.” (NIV)

The cental argument of the abolisionist is that “all men are created equal” While this is true in a spiritual sense in regard to our salvation, it is clearly not so in regard to social and family ordering. If it were true that one person cannot own another person as property, control their actions and movements, whether and who they can marry, own the children that may result from such marriages and have freedom to sell them on as property. then God would not have sanctioned this process and even set laws embedding this right in scripture.

Well,( i hear you say) perhaps this is old testament only. Perhaps the New testament era brings with it a new attitude to how human beings relate to each other. Far from changing or even softening the OT view on slavery. the new testament strengthens it by showing it to be a vital part of god’s plan for an ordered society.

 Ephesians 6.  Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. 

This passage is a part of what is perhaps the clearest bible definition of how God has set up society to run in the way he wants it to. God has given orders or special roles that each is to play. First there are husband and wives… husbands are to love their wives and wives are tp obey their husbands. This relationship is like that between Christ and hs bride the church. This is no accidental convenient relationship that may change from society to society and time to time. this is fundamental to gods plan  for an ordered and peaceful and godly society.

And so it is with the other orders or structures that flow from this first. like parents and children. children are to obey their parents and parents are to care for their children as they bring them up.

and so it is with masters and slaves. slaves are to obey their masters and masters are to care for their slaves. Just as is the case with husbands and wives, this special relationship mirrors the heavenly realm. God is the master of all and all are owned by him. all are to serve him diligently.  slaves are to serve their earthly masters as if they are serving God himself.

This is no convenient first century employment arangement that might change from time to time and society to society. The words in these verses cannot simply be changed to mean “employee” and “employer” . Paid employment was also a part of the social order in new testement bible times. but they are not what this passage is talking about.  No, like marriage, this talks of the fundamental, necessary, god given social order of slaves and masters which has been in all societies in all times and which finds its authority in heaven itself.

This process of honouring and obeying those above us and exercising authority over those below us is descibed by the greek word hypotassomai which is translated in Ephesians 5 and 6 as “sumbmission”. the term has a military flavour to it and is to do with right ordering of people. Those with authority know that they themselves are under authourity. “Right ordering” is when we submit to those authorities god has placed above us and when we act kindly to those over who we have authority .  and “right ordering” is when  all of us acknowledge that we are to submit to the ultimate authority which is god himself who is the master of all and to whom we all owe servitude. 

As if it weren’t enought that the Apostle paul should make this point so strongly in ephesians…he repeats exactly the same argument in Colossians 3:18-22, husband/ wives, parents/ children, masters/ slaves. although colossians places EVEN MORE emphasis on the slave master relationship as a god given order which carries with it a heavenly reward.

Martin Luther in his explanation to the fourth article of the creed talks about the GIFT of authority and the need for us to honour those authorities god has placed over us. in so doing we reap the benefits that come from social cohesian, if not then the troubles we will face, those that will inevitably come from the breakdown of society,  will be as God’s punishment to us for breaking his pre ordained orders.

Seldom has there been in scripture a clearer presentation of the will of God. slavery has been in all cultures everywhere as part of the natural created order. Slavery is approved of by god in the old testament and enshrined in the law. Slavery is approved of in the new testament and is shown to be as fundamental to godly societies as the relationship between husbands and wives and parents and children. If the abolitionists have their way, there is no doubt that as they ingnore and turn away from scripture, society will suffer the consequences of this godless decision.

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Ok…slide back down the slippery slope again to 2011. Did you throw up a little bit? yeh…so did i. but I dont think it was from the slide. I think it might have been the argument above. :(

Of course dear reader, you understand that i dont believe that argument. all i have done is to present the argument as it would have been presented by bible believing christians in  slave owning USA in the mid 19th century. And, history shows that the argument turned out to be wrong. Slavery was abolished and society did not collapse into godlessness and disorder.   Today we would say that slavery is NOT god’s plan for our society. Surely all people ARE created equal and no one person has the right to own another. to control their movements, restrict and control their right to marry and to own and sell their children. Surely slavery Was and IS a great evil.

So…what do we make of the arguments from scripture? was the bible wrong? If not why not? what principles do you employ to disregard the clear law of the old testament and the teaching of ephesians and colossians in the case of slavery. Because, on the slippery slope, whatever we say about slavery, whatever bible interpretation methods we employ, whatever hermeneutic we admit to….must also be engaged in the question of women’s ordination and the question of homosexuality.

food for thought i hope. More to come on this….soon