Biblical Slavery vs. Chattel Slavery
“Biblical Slavery is always temporary, and has a redemptive purpose.”
– Economic Commentary on Exodus 21-40, Gary North
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Welcome to Episode 61 of Axe to the Root Podcast, part of the War Room Productions, I am Bo Marinov, and for the next 30 minutes we will be talking about an issue which, after so many years of church history and Christian social activism, should have been completely resolved and we should never have to talk about it anymore: the issue of slavery, whether it is lawful and Biblical or unlawful and un-Biblical, and how much of it is Biblical, and what the Biblical principles for slavery are.
The issue of Biblical slavery has return to prominence in the last decade, especially in Christian circles. Just about 40 years ago, of course, no one in the churches seriously talked about slavery, nor dared to address the Biblical accounts of slavery. For about 100 years after the victory of the North in the War Between the States, the common consensus in the society – and also in the church – was that slavery was a thing of the past, and whatever the Bible may say about slavery is to be left in the past, and in our brave new world there is no slavery. Thus, the majority of pastors and theologians have been misled to believe that whatever the Bible says about slavery must not be relevant to our world today. Slavery is simply gone, forever, and no need to exegete the Bible to find what the Bible says about it, and whether it is all gone, or may be some of it is not, or may be even that some of it may be good and Biblical and beneficial to both the society and the individuals involved in it. It’s just gone, period.
The 20th century, however – and especially the early second half of it, the era of the civil rights movement and the beginning of the War on Drugs – was also the time when a new and disturbing reality started gradually dawning on more and more people in the US: that slavery had not disappeared from the land, it had only been redefined. The War on Drugs mainly – but other government campaigns also – gradually criminalized a significant part of the everyday life in America. Prisons were delegated to private corporations who make money off of every inmate both from the government, and from slave labor into which inmates are forced one way or another. This created corporate interests – and therefore also lobbyist interests – in making prison the court solution to any and every crime or violation in the nation, from jaywalking and incorrectly filled out tax return form to armed robbery and murder. Judges are bribed to sentence to prison as many people as they can, and prison corporations have lobbied different levels of government to increase the number of people sent to prison in order to maintain their profits. This led, in the final account, to the US becoming the nation with the highest number of prison inmates per capita in the world, and also the nation with the longest average sentences for even minor infractions. This eagerness of the different levels of government to keep people in prison for as long as they can, and the complicity of the courts with such executive policies have created in many people the correct impression that the bureaucrats are restoring the slavery, but under a different name and different apparent purposes.
This is itself, while not conclusive, is still powerful evidence that slavery, in the final account, is an inescapable reality in our world. You can’t eradicate it; all you can do is change it from one form to another, or make it serve different interests. Private slavery may have been abolished, but only to be replaced by government slavery, in a form that profits no one except government bureaucrats and private cronies. (Those prisons are businesses worth billions of tax dollars, keep that in mind.) So far all the political regimes that claim to have abolished slavery have only replaced it with government slavery; and this fact has been very obvious in the 20th century when totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, Communist China and Cambodia, etc., have extensively used government slavery for their government projects, all the while claiming they have abolished slavery.
This, of course, should have been expected, given that, as I said earlier, slavery is an inescapable reality in the world before the final judgment. This shouldn’t be news to anyone given that both Christian and non-Christian theologians and philosophers have said it many times. For non-Christian thinkers, slavery is inescapable because it is inextricably, metaphysically woven into the very nature of man. The two greatest names of Greek philosophy, Plato and Aristotle, believed that some people are born to be masters and others are born to be slaves. Since slavery is part of the very nature of some people, they will inevitably be slaves. Such views were common in all caste societies of the antiquity – and as late as the 20th century, as a matter of fact – and especially in that epitome of a caste society, India, where being a member of a certain caste made you inescapably confined to specific social position, which for some castes boiled down to slavery or being completely socially disenfranchised. This view of the metaphysical roots of slavery was revived in Christian Europe in the 16th and the 17th centuries, and continued well into the 19th century, this time in respect to racial characteristics; a number of non-Christian and even some Christian thinkers fell captive to the metaphysical idea that certain genetic traits – specifically the quantity of melanin in the skin – are the decisive factor as to whether a person was born to be a slave or not. Such ideas – the so-called “Curse of Ham” – of course, didn’t come from Christianity; the original ideology of the “Curse of Ham” was developed as early as in AD 10th century by Judaist rabbis in service of the Muslim Caliphs to justify the growing slave trade with black African slaves. Such trade was disturbing to the religious feelings of the Caliphs, given that in his last sermon Mohammed is reported to have given a strong statement against racism:
There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white – except by piety.
The rabbis of the large Jewish diaspora, however, profiting from the trade with black slaves, created the myth of the Curse of Ham in order to give a religious sanction to the slave trade on racial grounds. Over the next several centuries, the myth was established in the minds of most Muslims, even though a minority of Muslim scholars opposed it as inconsistent with the teachings of Islam.
Christian Europe did not adopt that myth for a long time – there were no ideologies of metaphysical origin of slavery in the Christian world. As I pointed out in my lecture on Prester John of many years ago, the Christian world believed in the existence of a powerful Christian leader somewhere outside Europe, who ruled over an established and successful Christian empire. He was universally believed to be black-skinned, and for this reason the Christian rulers of Ethiopia were confused for Prester John by Europeans. (Vasco da Gama’s youngest son, Christobal da Gama, died a heroic death defending the Queen of Ethiopia, believing her to be the Queen-Mother of Prester John). It was only when slavery was restored in the American colonies of the European powers that the rabbinic myth of the Curse of Ham was introduced through Arabic writings into Europe and used for the same purpose, to provide a religious justification of slavery. The myth persisted well into the 20thcentury, and even after the official end of slavery was used from the pulpits in the American South to justify the segregation and the Jim Crow laws.
In the Christian worldview, slavery is an inescapable reality but not for metaphysical reasons. There is nothing in the created nature of man that necessitates slavery: men are born free and, all things being equal, should remain free throughout their lives, not being subject to other men. All things, unfortunately, are not equal, and they are certainly not equal when we compare man’s created nature to his nature after the fall. After the fall, man’s nature changed ethically (perhaps there was also a metaphysical change but it is not a factor), and man is now a slave to sin. This spiritual slavery to sin predicated the entrance of legal and physical slavery in the world. The Curse brought death, but also brought all the smaller manifestations of death – and the subjugation of men to other men was one of these smaller manifestations. Slavery, therefore, is an inescapable reality, not because it is metaphysically programmed in the nature of man but because it is one of the consequences that came with the Curse. Even the submission of the woman to the man, which today some try to portray as part of the original purpose of God, was given as a curse after the Fall. When Paul said in 1 Cor. 14:34 that he Law said that the women must be in submission, there is only one verse in the Law that he could be quoting from, and that is the Curse in Gen. 3:16; there is no other verse in the Law that commands women to be subject to their men. If the most basic form of submission – that in the family, between a husband and a wife – came as the result of the Fall, then all slavery is the result of sin: both as active disobedience against God and as judgment from God upon mankind.
This difference is important to remember, and therefore I will repeat it: Both Christianity and paganism view slavery as inevitable, but for different reasons. For paganism (and its modern form, secularism) it is inevitable on metaphysical grounds: slavery is embedded in the nature of man, and some men are born to be masters, while others are born to be slaves, whether because of their immutable internal nature, or because of their skin color, etc. For Christianity, slavery in the world today is inevitable on ethical/judicial (that is, covenantal) grounds: slavery is the result of sin, whether as active disobedience to God or as judgment from God for disobedience. This difference is important to emphasize today for two reasons. First, because it is another direct application of the difference between the Biblical worldview (which is covenantal, that is, ethical/judicial) and the pagan worldviews (and they are usually metaphysical). The second reason it is important to emphasize is that, believe it or not, we have Christians today – and even Reformed Christians, who, of all men, should know better – who claim that the race-based slavery in the American South prior to the War Between the States of 1861-1865 was a Biblical slavery.
While it is to be expected that there would be today remnants of white supremacists who would still defend the southern slavery, it is ludicrous that professing Christians who have read their Bibles, have listened to sermons in church, and know the history of Christianity in the last 300 years, would have such beliefs. I mean, of all things, is it possible that there are people today who would profess Christ and still believe that enslaving other human beings and keeping them in permanent bondage would be a Biblical policy? And that based on the color of a person’s skin? We are not talking here about the Roman Empire where the whole culture was grandfathered in it from its pagan times. (Although, even in the Empire, Christians eventually brought about the abolition of slavery.) We are talking about modern Christians, who have behind them 2,000 years of church history and preaching. Is it possible that Christians can be so deceived?
Much of it, of course, can be ascribed to a knee-jerk response very typical of American Christians and conservatives in general in the last 20 years. That knee-jerk response is manifested in the fact that every time the leftist end of the spectrum adopts certain rhetoric – temporarily, for tactical purposes – Christians and conservatives automatically assume that it must be a leftist policy, and therefore the opposite is adopted as a Christian or conservative belief and policy. For example, in the last 10 years, socialists in America have temporarily adopted immigration amnesty in their platform in order to win some minorities; conservatives then have mindlessly concluded that closed borders must be a Christian and conservative policy, and have rooted for immigration restrictions. (The truth is, all the immigration restriction laws have been proposed and passed by leftists, and conservatives in the past have always been for amnesty and open borders. And of course, since open borders reduces the power of the state, it can’t be a leftist policy.) Another example is the attitude to police: since in the last several years a few leftist radicals have used anti-police rhetoric, Christians and conservatives have mindlessly concluded that police must be a Christian and a conservative thing, and therefore have supported the expansion of the police state like never before. (The truth is, historically, it was the political Left that created the first police forces in the US, and it is the political Left that has controlled the police unions up to today. Read my article on “Capitalizing on the Stupidity of the Conservative Voter.”) And the same knee-jerk response is the factor behind legitimizing the southern slavery among some church-goers in America: since some leftists today use the southern slavery in their rhetoric, therefore, some Christians (and even pastors!) conclude, southern slavery must have been good and Biblical. Imagine the stupidity behind this knee-jerk response: If tomorrow leftists decide to turn around and condemn abortion and sodomy, these same church-goers may decide that abortion and sodomy are good Christian and conservative policies. (Actually, some atheists in the mid-20th century did blame homosexuality on the Christian sexual morality, believe it or not.)
Thus, having today people who with the same mouths profess Christ and yet try to justify southern slavery as being “Biblical,” it is necessary for us today to have a clear view of what Biblical slavery is and how it works, and compare it to what pagan slavery is and how it works. It is clear to all that slavery is an inescapable concept. What is not clear to all is that while it is an inescapable concept and that there are forms of slavery that are Biblical and righteous, there are also pagan counterfeits of Biblical slavery, forms that are contrary to the Bible, idolatrous, and unjust.
You need to keep in mind that when I talk about slavery, I take the word in its dictionary definition: the legal state or condition of a person in which he is owned and directly controlled by another person; where his life, liberty, and possessions are entirely at the disposal of another person. This definition would exclude some modern highly ideologized and made-up definitions of slavery which include other forms of necessity. For example, the modern Marxist view of hired labor as a form of slavery is clearly stretching it too far: while there is a necessity on the hired worker to work in order to survive, there is no direct personal control over his life and liberty by any specific employer. Another example would be the concubinage of which I talked in a previous episode of Axe to the Root: While a concubine was in a less privileged condition than a wife of full rights, she was still free to leave that dependence if the terms of the contract – her sustenance, shelter, clothes, and marital relations – were not provided for her. (Thus, the atheist fantasies of sexual slavery condoned by the Bible are refuted.) We only consider slavery that form of dependence where the enslaved person is made incapable – by law or by force – to leave the dependence and make his own decisions about his own life, liberty, and property.
So now that we know that the Bible does speak of slavery, and that there are righteous forms of slavery, what are they? There are three of them, and they all have to do with ethical/judicial problems.
The first and the mildest form of slavery in the Bible is charitable slavery, or what we call today “indentured servitude.” That servitude applied to buying other members of the covenant community as slaves. Slavery was the result of sin, and the Law acknowledged that there may be instances of sin in the covenant community; not necessarily crime (and we will talk about slavery for crime) but sin, which will lead to the necessity of selling oneself as a slave. The Law didn’t give too much information about the reasons for such selling, except that a Hebrew could be sold in slavery for his debts – or, in another explanation, for being too poor to afford surviving on his own. Ex. 21:2 and Deut. 15:12 regulate that kind of slavery without mentioning why a Hebrew would be sold in servitude; the only regulation is that such slavery can not continue for more than 7 years, until the next sabbath year. Lev. 25:35-46 gives a more detailed description and instructions of the causes and the rules for such slavery: apparently, such form of slavery is allowed in the case when the person has fallen in poverty, has taken charity loans which he hasn’t been able to repay, and the only way for him to repay is to be sold in slavery and work for his debts. While the Bible acknowledges that a person can fall into poverty because of his own sin and foolishness, this is still not a crime, and the passage in Leviticus 25 specifically instructs the master to not treat him as a slave.
The purpose of such slavery, obviously, is charity towards other members of the covenant community, not so much economics. Taking as a slave a person who has proven incapable of taking care of himself would mean that the master has only acquired another dependent, no different than any of his children. (Remember, Paul said in Gal. 4:1 that an underage heir is no different than a slave.) The only difference is that while the children are still expected to become economically productive when they grow up, this type of a slave may have already proven to be incapable of becoming economically productive beyond his need of sustenance. There is no guarantee that his servitude will really pay for the accumulated debts; in fact the texts mentioning this type of slavery specifically instruct the master to not worry whether the Hebrew slave has really produced enough economic value to cover the costs. The instruction is that at the end of the seven-year period, he is to let him go free and even furnish him with enough to start his life anew. All the texts also allow the slave to ask to be added to the household as a permanent slave – that is, as a permanent dependent, and that means, as a permanent expense. It is important to understand here that the slave in such charitable slavery is specifically protected; he is not to be treated as a slave – that is, he cannot be beaten in order to force him to work – but as a member of the household. Normally such slaves did not inherit anything from the household, except their right to be provided for their basic sustenance, but in exceptional cases the master could decide to leave a slave some or all of his estate. (See, for example, the childless Abraham contemplating leaving his estate to his servant Eliezer, in Gen. 15:2.)
The other form of slavery reserved for Hebrew slaves was restitutional slavery, that is, slavery for criminals. Notice, it wasn’t punitive slavery nor correctional slavery, like the modern prisons. While it is true that such slavery may serve as punishment or even as a teaching experience for the correction of criminals, the focus of the Bible has always been the victim: the victim must be made whole first, and then everything else. Ex. 22:3 speaks of such slavery: the text says of a thief, “He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.” Thus, if a thief is convicted and he has no money to repay the double restitution, he would be sold in slavery to a private employer, and the money will be used to repay the victim. The thief himself will work as a slave for his master until he repays the money originally paid, plus the applicable interest.
Obviously, then, this kind of slavery is not limited by the seven-year rule as is charitable slavery. If the sum that needs to be paid is large, and if the thief doesn’t have the skills to make his labor more valuable, he may remain in slavery for life – he, of course, would be encouraged to improve his skills in order to be able to acquire his freedom as early as possible. But there is no law that necessitates that he be freed before he has paid everything he owes. He has no protection as the poor man has in Lev. 25:43; his master can rule over him with severity, that is, he can use corporal punishment on him to force him to work, if the slave refuses. (Remember, he is a criminal who has to pay restitution.) There is only one protection for him, and that is that in those beatings, the master is not allowed to kill him nor inflict permanent damage on him. Exodus 21:20-21 protect all slaves against deliberate murderous actions by their masters; and vv. 26-27 declare that any permanent damage on the body of the slave – whether a destroyed eye or a knocked-out tooth – automatically result in freedom for the slave, no matter what. Thus, a criminal sold as a slave still has some protection against death and permanent damage, but no protection against severity and beatings – except for his willingness to comply and work and be a valuable asset for his master.
We should add here that this particular type of slavery should also include people who have accumulated too many loans – business or consumer – and have defaulted on them. While it is true that such activity is not necessarily criminal (although, we could argue that it borders fraud), consumer and business debt can’t be considered in the same category as charitable loans for poor people. The seven-year rule, therefore, can’t be said to work in this case, and thus, such people should be considered liable to be sold in slavery as criminals who have stolen and can’t repay. It is hardly justice to put a poor person who has nothing in the same category as a loan millionaire who lived luxuriously at the expense of his creditors.
The third type of lawful slavery in the Law of God is evangelistic slavery. This type of slavery is reserved for non-Hebrew slaves and is described in Lev. 25:44-46. The text allows the Israelites to purchase permanent slaves from the pagan nations around them, as well as from the foreigners who sojourn in Israel – and “sojourn” in this case means that they continue living as strangers, that is, separate from the covenant community. The text, of course, doesn’t condone kidnapping Gentiles or sojourning strangers; given that kidnapping is a capital crime and that the same Law protects the strangers as the homeborn, that would be a major contradiction in the Law. But it does allow Hebrews to buy slaves from foreign slave owners, and it does allow them to permanently enslave strangers who live in the land; not by kidnapping them but for the same reasons as enslaving Hebrews – debt or poverty.
It is this type of slavery that is used by the modern defenders of the Old South to justify southern slavery. The argument goes that since the black slaves were purchased from the pagan lands of Africa, and since the black slaves were themselves “strangers” to America, therefore the Law of God must permit the permanent enslavement of blacks, and therefore the southern slavery was Biblical. The problem is, such application of this law to southern slavery is twisting the meaning of the Biblical text, and in fact is based on pagan presuppositions.
In the first place, one thing should be obvious: the definition of “stranger” is not genetic. Paul’s statement in Rom. 9:6 applies here: “They are not all Israel who are from Israel.” Translated: Your birthplace and your genetic origin do not determine what nation you belong to. Your faith and your covenantal commitment does. Paul’s point was that those born Jews who don’t believe in Christ do not belong to Israel; they are like natural branches that are cut off from their parent tree (Rom. 11:16-24). Their genetic origin doesn’t give them any special rights of belonging to Israel. (Although, it does give them privileges of being exposed to the teaching of the law from an early age – but these privileges only turn into a liability later in life, when they reject Christ.) In the same way, a person born to a foreign nation doesn’t necessarily belong to that foreign nation; if he believes in the God of Israel and has become a member of His covenant, he is now part of Israel and not a stranger. The Old Testament is full of such examples: Rahab the Canaanite, Ruth the Moabite, Caleb the Kenizzite, Obed-Edom the Philistine, the diverse multitude that came out of Egypt with Israel, etc. Being an Israelite has never been by race but always by grace, yes, even under the Old Covenant.
This law, therefore, did not apply to those strangers who have become Israelites by adopting the faith and by being adopted in Israel. It would be absurd to believe that the family of Caleb, because they were genetically strangers to Israel (Kenizzites are mentioned in Gen. 15:19 as one of the pagan nations whose land God would give to Abraham and his descendants), therefore this law applied to them, and the rest of Israel could buy members of Caleb’s family as permanent slaves. As a whole, it would be absurd to believe that under the Old Covenant, believers can enslave other believers permanently, except for charity purposes: such an idea would be in total violation of everything God’s Covenant stands for.
The strangers, therefore, are religious strangers: members of other religions, not people of different genetic stock. Skin color would have nothing to do with this law. The Law allowed Israelites to buy permanent Gentile slaves from Gentile nations, and the Law allowed Israelites to buy as permanent slaves Gentiles living in the land. The permanent slavery applied to unbelievers – because under “strangers,” the Law had in mind unbelievers, or believers in other religions.
But what was the covenant purpose of this law? Was it that the Israelites develop a grand slave society of permanently enslaved strangers, similar to the American South before the War Between the States? Was it that Israel developed a genetically segregated society where all Israelites were slave owners and all strangers were slaves, or that a certain genetic stock is always considered lower caste and always being slaves, as in the American South? We don’t see such development in Israel in the generations after the law was given. There is no permanent slave class of foreigners who are transferred and sold down the generations? Why is this, if the Law allowed the Israelites to buy permanent foreign slaves? The slave markets were extensive in the antiquity, and certainly a permanent foreign slave would be a much more attractive investment than a Hebrew slave who was protected in more ways than a foreign slave. Why didn’t Israel develop the slave society of Rome or of the American South, despite Lev. 25:44-46?
The answer to this is that the covenantal purpose of this law was never the slavery itself, but evangelism. I have talked in many other places about the evangelistic function of the Law of God, that Moses, in the Law, preached the Gospel not only to the Jews but to the whole world as well. The Law contain numerous references to strangers coming to Israel and adopting the faith of Israel. Solomon’s prayer about the Temple of God was that strangers would travel to Israel just to see the Temple and would confess the God of Israel when they see the Temple. The Law also contained provisions that foreign slaves who had fled from their foreign masters were to be protected within the borders of Israel, never returned to their masters, and treated as free people, and that without any requirement of changing their religion (Deut. 23:15-16; the expectation was that a slave who found refuge and freedom in Israel would eventually adopt the faith of the nation whose law allowed for that refuge and freedom). Women and children of foreign nations were protected in times of war and were to be adopted into Israel’s families. And anytime a pagan slave could be saved from his pagan masters, Israel should use that opportunity to save a soul from paganism and hell, into the family of God.
And here we are forced into a quandary. Imagine a Hebrew family buys a foreign slave. If he remains pagan his whole life, and show no interest whatsoever in the God of Israel, he is to remain slave all his life. But what if he converts, believes, and shows, by all his actions and speech, that he is now a member of the Covenant of God? He is now a brother in Christ, a member of the Hebrew nation. Would the laws for unbelievers still apply to him? Should he be treated as if there has never been any conversion? If the laws for unbelievers apply to strangers even after they have converted, would Caleb be treated as a stranger and not as a Prince of Judah?
Such a concept, that the conversion of a pagan slave to Christ brings no changes in his legal standing before God and the nation of Israel, is utterly ridiculous. It contradicts everything the Covenant of God stands for, and it contradicts the very concept of evangelism in the Bible. If man shall live by faith alone, if the covenant community is defined by faith and profession of faith, if the worldview and the religion we espouse are a creedal worldview and a creedal religion – as opposed to metaphysical rationalism or occult, magical irrationalism – then the conversion of a man should make all the difference in the world as what his legal standing ion the society would be. Anyone who claims the opposite is not a Christian and has zero knowledge of the essence of Christianity, and I don’t care how well he know his TULIP or how many seminary degrees he has accumulated.
Pagan slaves were supposed to be bought with this one purpose in mind: so that they convert. They had a choice: they could remain indifferent to the faith and stay slaves their whole lives. But if they converted, the law for slavery of a Hebrew brother now applied. They were to be given 7 years in slavery with the purpose of repaying their masters as much as they could for saving them from their previous, pagan masters. After 7 years, the convert was supposed to go out free and take his rightful place as a member of the nation of Israel. He was a son of Abraham now, by faith. He was the Old Testament shadow of billions of Gentiles who in the New Covenant would be purchased by Christ from their satanic master and released as free men in His Kingdom.
But this was not what southern slavery was. Southern slavery was not evangelistic slavery. Its purpose was not to evangelize the African blacks and then release them as free members of the society. Blacks were evangelized alright, and they were made to listen to sermons and even have their own black preachers; in fact, so successful was such evangelism, that black culture in the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century committed to its Christian roots more than white culture, which was experimenting with occultism, atheism, socialism, and many other anti-Biblical ideologies and practices. However, the slave masters of the South did not evangelize blacks because they cared for their souls but because Christianity was expected to make the slaves more obedient to their masters. That is, it was not the Biblical principle of using slavery in service of Christianity, it was the pagan principle of using Christianity in the service of slavery. (No different than Fabian socialism which uses Christianity in service of socialism.) For generations, Christianized blacks, despite their profession of faith, were considered mere property and sold and re-sold as cattle. Christian families were broken apart; in direct violation of Christ’s command in Matt. 19:6 and Mark 10:9.
As a matter of fact, southern slavery not only was not Biblical slavery, it was the epitome of paganism in the Western world, a form of idolatry that hadn’t raised its ugly head since the time of the pagan Roman Empire. It was everything Rome wanted to be but failed, lacking the technology and the manpower. That slavery was not charitable: it’s purpose was not to create free, responsible, and independent men. It was not restitutional: far from enslaving criminals to make restitution to victims, it was the other way around: a culture of criminals was keeping in slavery people who were kidnapped by other criminals, and sold like cattle. And it was certainly not evangelistic. It was the ultimate expression of the pagan concept of slavery: men were enslaved as a group, as a race, because they were considered metaphysically and genetically inferior to normal human beings. And because they were considered metaphysically fit to be only slaves and nothing else, this was the rationale behind keeping slavery permanent. Wherever we see paganism and idolatry, we also see chattel slavery, the eternal subjugation of one class of people to an elite, whether that elite is Party apparatchiks, or government bureaucrats and their armed henchmen in blue, or a priestocratic elite as in the Aztec and the Inca empires and Tibet, or aristocratic plantation owners. Chattel slavery, that is, slavery without redemption, is exactly the religion of Satan, and nothing else.
Yes, slavery is inescapable in the world before the final judgment. With the growth of the Kingdom of God, it will inevitably retreat, until only small traces of it remain; slavery is the result of sin, and the conquest of sin will lead to the extinction of slavery. Meanwhile, however, God in His Law prescribes certain forms of slavery which take account of the sin of man and his society, and yet, at the same time, lead man and his society to overcome sin and thus to restore freedom (because the Law of God is the perfect law of liberty, according to James 1:25). These forms of slavery are: first, charitable slavery, designed to help improvident men learn work and responsibility and put them back on their feet; and if they can’t then provide for their survival under other people’s guidance. Second, restitutional slavery, designed to deal with non-capital crime, to restore the victim and, hopefully, teach the thief a lesson. And, third, evangelistic slavery, designed to rescue the weakest members of pagan societies, those who have become victims of pagan slavery, and give them the chance to become children of God, free and independent. All these three forms are temporary, and have a redemptive purpose. Pagan slavery is chattel slavery; its purpose is only to keep a certain class of people in subjugation while maintaining another class in a position of power. It has no ethical/judicial purpose; it is pure worship of power, in favor of the powerful of the day. Southern slavery, despite the attempts of some Christians and to whitewash it, was a pagan slavery of the worst possible kind. We are under obligation to declare this openly, as part of our preaching of justice in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The book I will assign this week is Gary North’s economic commentary on the case laws of Exodus 21-40, previous title, Tools of Dominion. No other book in the history of Christendom ash a better and more consistent and detailed treatment of the Biblical view of slavery. He also comments on southern slavery and on the covenantal reasons for the War Between the States, and the reasons for the defeat of the South. These reasons were not military but spiritual. The South had to lose, for it had become a pagan society worse even than the secularist North. Read Gary North’s book. It will open your eyes to how the Bible approaches this and many other ethical/judicial issues.
Also, when you consider giving for worthy causes, remember to pray and donate to Bulgarian Reformation Ministries, a mission organization devoted to building an intellectual foundation for the future Christian civilization in Eastern Europe through translation and publishing of books that apply the Gospel to every area of life. Visit BulgarianReformation.com, subscribe to the newsletter, get familiar with our work there, and donate. God bless you all.