(1/4) The Opposite Side of a Pastor's Uncertainty (The pastor's response to my letter.)
Below is the response I received from the pastor in regards to the "The Right Side of Truth Letter" I sent him along with my reply BACK to him.
True to form...my reply is rather long. So I am separating it into 4 different blogs.
In most cases the pastor's response is in black and my reply back is in red or a dark blue.
DISCLAIMER: I feel it's important for "my readers" (that was fun to say :-) to know that I became a Christian in 9th grade and I still consider myself to be a Christian. Furthermore, beginning in 9th grade I developed a passion for Scripture and that continues to this day. I feel Scripture holds a Sacred and important place in the hearts of those who adhere to it and provides knowledge that helps us understand the character of God as well as gives us guidance in how we are to love one another. I do, however, feel that when/where Scripture has been, and continues to be used, to shame and oppress specific groups of people, that it is perfectly appropriate to question the intent of both the Scripture that is used to justify that hate as well as the intentions of those using it to justify THEIR hate. I do not feel there is any heresy in asking the tough questions.
On to the letter...
I will briefly answer your question. Forgive me for it being a short answer. I am not able to answer every question I am sent, and can rarely answer it in great detail. I tend to focus my email on those who attend our church rather than those who come across teachings of mine. But hopefully this will suffice for now.
Thank you for taking the time to offer feedback on my letter with the understanding that the message and teachings of your ministry stretch far beyond the walls of your church - (especially when accessible on social media and video based website platforms) and therefore also have implications that stretch far beyond the walls of your church. Having said this, though I will be commenting on the feedback you have offered below, in respect of your limited time as you expressed in your response, I won’t expect or seek out a response to my comments - though it is certainly welcomed.
True to form my response below is rather long and you may be tempted to just skim through or not read it at all. * I would ask that you, at least, read the final section below highlighted in yellow.
Here was your question: Considering EVERYTHING that I have spoken to and offered above, how do YOU - a Christian pastor of many and one that looks to Scripture to speak to what he believes to be "The Right Side of Truth" - reconcile your conclusion that the act of homosexuality is a sin by using the same Bible that was once passionately used to promote, endorse, defend, and justify the practices of slavery, racism, and segregation.
Here are some differences:
The New Testament doesn't command or condemn slavery directly. It regulates it. And when read carefully and well (as I'm sure you already know), laid foundations for dismantling it on our country. The Bible itself was the tool to overthrow slavery... all made in the image of God... no difference between slave and free (Galatians)...
“The New Testament doesn't command or condemn slavery directly. It regulates it. “
I find this opening point puzzling, at best, and for several reasons.
First of all, I’m not sure how accurate it is to treat the words command and condemn in a way that puts them as sort of odds of each other - especially as it pertains to the institution of slavery. Is command somehow congruent to condone? God, through His Word, may not have commanded one to have slaves but there is ample evidence that He condoned it.
And to that end - given the context and pattern of Paul’s writings, as well as the Bible as a whole, does not the very omission of any condemnation of slavery, in-and-of-itself, reveal that the practice of it is therefore, was not condemned ? Especially when put under the same light as other documented sins? (adultery, sexual immorality, divorce, slander, greed, etc.) Paul, and the entirety of Scripture itself, made it a point to speak to and highlight many specific sins but never outright declared that the institution of slavery (the ownership of another human being) was a sin. Instead, he commanded, or to use your term, “regulated” that
Masters treat their slaves with justice and fairness (Col. 4:1)
Masters NOT threaten their slaves (Eph 6:9)
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ (Eph 6:5)
When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money. (Ex. 21:20-21)
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. (1 Peter 2:18)
Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. (Titus 2: 9-10)
When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth. (Exodus 21:26-27)
Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things. (1 Timothy 6:1,2)
“Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever. When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money. (Ex. 21: 1-11)
Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. (Col 3:22)
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. (Eph 6:5-9)
And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (Luke 12:47-48)
Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God. 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 bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly. (Lev 25:42-46)
Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative (Titus 2:9)
And so on.
And these are just some of the Scripture references that shed light on the regulation of slavery.
Here we have more than a dozen references (not exhaustive) to the institution of slavery and yet - not 1 of them says that the institution, itself, is sinful or immoral. Yes - there are plenty of commandments on how to treat one’s slave but never a commandment that deems the actual institution of slavery (the ownership of another human being) to be sinful or immoral.
It seems to me that a better way to reconcile the overall outlook of slavery as it pertains to God’s Word is that God commanded that a master not sin against Him as in how he treats his slave but that the actual ownership of his slave was, for lack of a better word, Kosher.
I cannot imagine that if in Paul’s eye, the institution of slavery was indeed a sin, that he would not have condemned the practice of it. If Paul truly believed that the act of slavery was sinful then, instead of regulating that sin why didn’t he just say: “Hey - enslaving another human being is sinful regardless of how you treat them.” ???
I can’t imagine it - nor can I accept it - based on all of the evidence.
I do recognize that, at first glance, there are a small handful of Scriptures (like maybe 2 or 3) that are commonly used to “prove” that God, indeed, actually did consider the institution of slavery sinful (1 Timothy 1:10 for example) but unfortunately, a closer look at these Scriptures, especially when considering the original Hebrew as well as when put into context of the society at that time along with the rest of the Scriptures offered, it would appear that God is saying that the word “enslaver” is referring to the purchasing or kidnapping of somebody who is already a slave. This is certainly more consistent when put in context with Scriptures such as Deut 23:15, Lev 25:44-46, Ex. 21:2-6 - as well as all of the others.
*So on this very first point you make - I am sorry. I simply can’t accept that response when I consider the entirety of the evidence found in Scripture not to mention the Historical context.
“And when read carefully and well (as I'm sure you already know), laid foundations for dismantling it on our country. The Bible itself was the tool to overthrow slavery... all made in the image of God... no difference between slave and free (Galatians)...”
Unfortunately, I don’t know. Or, at the very least, I’m not as convinced with your assessment.
First of all, this suggestion that Scripture was eventually used to dismantle the institution of slavery in our country doesn’t hold up well when you consider the following:
Abolitionists were not known to use Scripture when pleading their case. In fact, there was very little Scripture they could actually turn to - especially when trying to argue against the Scripture that was being used from the other side. Their passion to fight the institution of slavery came more from an innate passion of the heart as well as an intrinsic belief that all men were created equal and that acts of love should be the defining factor as to how we treat fellow members of the human race regardless of what Scripture may so convincingly be indicating, suggesting or promoting. . Many arguments could be, and were made, that Scripture itself did not support this very intrinsic belief that all men are created equal. It could be very easily argued that it was this innate belief that made its way into our country’s constitution - though, it would take some time for even our country to follow through on that belief.
If the Bible itself was the tool to overthrow slavery, then somebody forgot to explain that to George Whitefield - one of the great evangelical preachers of the First Great Awakening. Whitefield, a slave owner himself, fought for the legalization of slavery in Georgia but woud, at least, use Scripture to stress the importance of how to treat slaves - references the “regulation” that you mentioned earlier. He, of course, did not use Scripture to champion the abolition of slavery, but, instead, used Scripture to justify the institution of slavery here in the states. And remember, he was in very good company with many Christian preachers and leaders that I referenced in my original letter to you.
Seeing as how, even after the abolition of slavery was legislated, Christians, including and especially southern Evangelical Christians, continued to use Scripture to support other institutions of racism well into the 20th century. Acts 17:26, along with various cross-references, was especially used often by Christians and Christian leadership to justify the belief that the black race was inferior to the white race and that segregation was mandated by God.
There is also ample historical evidence that it was rather easy for 18th, 19th and 20th century Christians to rely on Scripture to justify their racists thoughts (and racism in general) because the very roots of this practice stretched far into history by renowned Christian leaders and Scholars:
“For the Egyptians are prone to a degenerate life and quickly sink to every slavery of the vices. Look at the origin of the race and you will discover that their father Ham, who had laughed at his father’s nakedness, deserved a judgment of this kind, that his son Canaan should be a servant to his brothers, in which case the condition of bondage would prove the wickedness of his conduct. Not without merit, therefore, does the discolored posterity imitate the ignobility of the race.” - Origen of Alexandria, a 3rd century Christian scholar, ascetic, and theologian from his “Homilies on Genesis
“When Noah awoke and was told what Canaan did...Noah said, ‘Cursed be Canaan and may God make his face black,’ and immediately the face of Canaan changed; so did of his father Ham, and their white faces became black and dark and their color changed.” - Ephrem the Syrian, a 4th century Syriac Christian deacon and prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian
“I saw the curse pronounced by Noah upon ham moving toward the latter like a black cloud and obscuring him. His skin lost its whiteness, he grew darker. His sin was the sin of sacrilege, the sin of one who would forcibly enter the Ark of the Covenant. I saw a most corrupt race descend from ham and sink deeper and deeper in darkness. I see that the black, idolatrous, stupid nations are the descendants of Ham. Their color is due, not to the rays of the sun, but to the dark source whence those degraded races sprang.” - Anne Catherine Emmerich, an 18th century Roman Catholic Augustinian Canoness.
“Slavery among men is natural, for some are naturally slaves according to the Philosopher (Polit. i,2). Now ‘slavery belongs to the right of nations,’ as Isidore states (Etym. v,4). Therefore the right of nations is a natural right.” - Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century Catholic priest, philosopher, and doctor of the Church.
“...In the New-Testament, the Gospel History, or representation of facts, presents us a view correspondent with that which is furnished by other authentic ancient histories of the state of the world at the commencement of Christianity. The powerful Romans had succeeded, in empire, the polished Greeks; and under both empires, the countries they possessed and governed were full of slaves. Many of these with their masters, were converted to the Christian Faith, and received, together with them into the Christian Church, while it was yet under the ministry of the inspired Apostles. In things purely spiritual, they appear to have enjoyed equal privileges; but their relationship, as masters and slaves, was not dissolved. Their respective duties are strictly enjoined.” - Reverend Richard Furman, an 18th century Baptist leader from South Carolina.
“What then shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews?...Let me give you my honest advice. First, their synagogues or churches should be set on fire. Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayer-books…” - Martin Luther, a 16th century German professor of theology, composer, priest, Augustinian monk, and the seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation.
And some quick others….
Origen: “Their rejection of Jesus has resulted in their present calamity and exile. We say with confidence that they will never be restored to their former condition. For they have committed a crime of the most unhallowed kind, in conspiring against the saviour.”
St. Gregory: “ Jews are slayers of the Lord, murderers of the prophets, enemies of God, haters of God, adversaries of grace, enemies of their fathers’ faith, advocates of the devil, brood of vipers, slanderers, scoffers, men of darkened minds, leaven of the Pharisees, congregation of demons, sinners, wicked men, stoners and haters of goodness.”
St. Jerome: “....serpents, haters of all men, their image is Judas ... their psalms and prayers are the braying of donkeys..”
St. John Chrysostom: “I know that many people hold a high regard for the Jews and consider their way of life worthy of respect at the present time... This is why I am hurrying to pull up this fatal notion by the roots ... A place where a whore stands on display is a whorehouse. What is more, the synagogue is not only a whorehouse and a theater; it is also a den of thieves and a haunt of wild animals ... not the cave of a wild animal merely, but of an unclean wild animal ... When animals are unfit for work, they are marked for slaughter, and this is the very thing which the Jews have experienced. By making themselves unfit for work, they have become ready for slaughter. This is why Christ said: “ask for my enemies, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them and slay them before me’ (Luke 19.27).”
St. Augustine: “Judaism is a corruption. Indeed Judas is the image of the Jewish people. Their understanding of the Scriptures is carnal. They bear the guilt for the death of the saviour, for through their fathers they have killed the Christ.”
St. Thomas Aquinas: “It would be licit to hold Jews, because of the crimes, in perpetual servitude, and therefore the princes may regard the possessions of Jews as belonging to the State.”
Martin Luther: “Know, 0 adored Christ, and make no mistake, that aside from the Devil, you have no enemy more venomous, more desperate, more bitter, than a true Jew who truly seeks to be a Jew... a Jew, a Jewish heart, are hard as wood, as stone, as iron, as the Devil himself. In short, they are children of the Devil, condemned to the flames of hell.”
These are just some.
You mentioned the use of the Galatians Scripture as a Biblical reference that was used by Abolitionists to oppose and champion the abolition of slavery.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)
I have to be honest, in all of my research I could not find one instance where an Abolitionist used this Scripture to fight their cause - and I think there is a good reason for that. As beautiful as these words are they do not, at all, make the statement that the earthly institution of slavery is immoral. What it does indicate is that on a spiritual level, as far as the grace and Salvation of God are concerned, that there is no difference between slave and free. (A Jew can find salvation in Christ Jesus. A Greek can find salvation in Christ Jesus. A SLAVE can find salvation in Christ Jesus…..etc.)
This Scripture, does not, at all, speak to the belief that the institution of slavery is immoral or sinful. In fact, in a way, it seems to further legitimize it.
I would welcome any proof that abolitionists, as a whole, used Scripture to fight their cause. Is it possible that a Scripture verse made its way into the argument from time-to-time? Certainly. But these most likely would have been Scripture passages that supported the very innate understanding that all men are created equal and that humans should treat other humans in love.
*Response continued in the next blog (2/4)......