Archive for slavery
My good friend Jacob Huebert, author of Libertarianism Today and fellow writer at The Libertarian Standard, gave a superb talk this past weekend on libertarianism and war at the fourth annual Students for Liberty Austin Conference. (I had the pleasure of hosting him over the weekend.) In short, Jacob argues that a consistent position against all aggression implies that one must also oppose wars of all kinds. This is incredibly important for Christians, because we frequently have to deal with those in the church at large who still believe that wars, especially American-instigated wars, are justified whenever the State says so.
Perhaps my favorite talk at the conference this weekend was “Why Libertarianism is the Only Moral Choice” by Lawrence Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education. In his presentation, Reed tells the story of great men and women who devoted their lives toward the promotion of liberty in the world, including great Christians like Thomas Carlson, William Wilberforce, and Fannie Crosby. It is eloquent and inspiring, and I hope you will take some time to listen intently.
D. writes to LCC:
As Christians and Libertarians, how do we deal with Colossians 3:22?
“Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not be way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.”
I’m having a hard time with this.
Here’s an answer for you, D.
Paul says elsewhere that it is good if you can obtain your freedom. See 1 Corinthians 7:21-23; “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.” In one epistle, Paul even gently rebukes a slave owner – Philemon – admonishing him to free the slave Onesiumus.
The reason Paul wrote to the Colossians in this way was to advise prudence. With the newfound freedom a Christian in bondage has found, he might make a rash decision to buck his presumptive “owner” and put himself in a terrible position for his health and witness.
Also, this is actually an encouraging message to someone in slavery. Perhaps after hearing the gospel of Christ and the freedom it brings, the slave may think that there is no way he could possibly be included in this salvation – for he is in physical bondage. Paul’s meta-message is that all are included in the gospel.
Remember what Paul says in Galatians 3 to all Christians everywhere: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
No matter where we are, whether in physical bondage of slavery or oppressed in a dictatorship, the body of Christ – the Church universal – prevails forever.
(Additionally, you might be interested in the LCC blog post on Slavery in the Old Testament.)
This essay continues the Christian Theology and Public Policy Course by John Cobin, author of the books Bible and Government and Christian Theology of Public Policy. This column is the third segment of a three-part series dealing with Christian perspectives on slavery to the state.
The New Testament gives us some clues about dealing with slavery—including the part-time slavery of modern Americans. For instance, the Apostle Paul informs us that Onesimus, once enslaved for unknown reasons, “departed for a while” from his master Philemon (Philemon 1:15), a Christian slaveholder living in Asia Minor (probably Colosse). He had been an “unprofitable” servant to Philemon (Philemon 1:10). We do not know if Onesimus became free of bondage legally or illegally. Paul simply stated that he was “sending him back” (Philemon 1:12) from Rome, and we do not know the reason why. The most common understanding of the event is that Paul confronted Onesimus about his rebellion and, after repenting, he was being returned to his lawful master and owner. Accordingly, Paul and Onesimus were glorifying God by obeying Roman law. Yet Paul was hoping all along that Philemon would do a good deed and free his dear friend Onesimus, thus granting permission for him to work further with Paul.
This essay continues the Christian Theology and Public Policy Course by John Cobin, author of the books Bible and Government and Christian Theology of Public Policy. This column is the second segment of a three-part series dealing with Christian perspectives on slavery to the state.
Is slavery wrong? In his excellent article, The Bible, Slavery, and America’s Founders (2003), Stephen McDowell outlines the biblical view of slavery. The Old Testament prohibited involuntary servitude by means of abduction. “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:16). “If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently, or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 24:7). However, voluntary servitude was permitted with qualifications (Exodus 21:2-6; Deuteronomy 15:12-18). The Old Testament prohibited returning runaway slaves too (Deuteronomy 23:15-16), which would seem to defy America’s Fugitive Slave Law (1850). Paul discussed how slaves and masters were to act (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-25; 4:1; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10) but he did not endorse involuntary slavery or the Roman slave system. As McDowell notes, “God’s desire for any who are enslaved is freedom (Luke 4:18; Galatians 5:1). Those who are set free in Christ then need to be prepared to walk in liberty.”
This essay continues the Christian Theology and Public Policy Course by John Cobin, author of the books Bible and Government and Christian Theology of Public Policy. This column is the first segment of a three-part series dealing with Christian perspectives on slavery to the state.
According to the dictionary, a slave is “a person who is owned by someone” or “one who is abjectly subservient to a specified person or influence.” Many libertarians, constitutionalists, and patriots claim that modern Americans are slaves. They reckon that Americans are not truly free.
In order to work, Americans often need to get a permit, credential, or license from the state. If they own their own business, such regulation is even more egregious. They are further compelled to forfeit roughly half of their earnings to the state through various taxes—which are then spent to support the welfare state, pagan seminaries (public schools), and many other objectionable policies. They can be conscripted into military service against their wills, forced to expend their labor for the state and risking their lives by fighting the aggressive wars it sanctions. They do not truly own their lands and homes but merely have the privilege to use and possess them—so long as the “fee” (property tax) is paid and all the state’s rules are complied with. Americans are also compelled to use a fiat currency—which singularly enjoys legal tender status—instead of privately-issued notes or commodity money (i.e., gold or silver), forcing them to participate in the welfare state debt and funding racket. The state even requires couples to obtain its permission prior to marrying. While the War Between the States was not primarily a conflict to end Negro slavery, it did mark the beginning of the part-time enslavement of all Americans.