Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s 60% Cacao Mint Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: 1 Timothy 6
As I promised yesterday, we’re returning to the final chapter of 1 Timothy to get some perspective on Paul’s views on slavery. The question’s on the table: is Paul condoning slavery? Is he justified in encouraging slaves to submit to their masters “so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against?” (6:1). I’m going to answer this question indirectly, by arguing Biblically that slavery is wrong and it’s wrong to condone it, and then by asking a follow-up question: what if Paul is wrong when it comes to slavery? But to introduce my points, I want to make a few prefatory comments on Biblical inerrancy.
First, any position of Biblical inerrancy has to take into account the Bible as a whole and each passage in its context. It’s not enough to simply say, “It’s in the Bible, so it must be true.” After all, the statement “There is no God” is in the Bible. But, taken in context, we see that David asserts in Psalm 14:1: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” The Bible doesn’t contradict itself or reality when it comes to the question of whether God exists. But we can’t succumb to hermeneutical myopia. We have to understand the bigger picture in order to see what God intends to teach us through its words.
Second, I myself am quite fallible. I’d like to reiterate the occasion when a friend asked me on my lunch break whether I really believe that everything in the Bible is true. How can I say I believe the Bible in its entirety when I don’t understand it in its entirety? But I am prepared to assent with humility to whatever I think God is teaching me through it. And when I articulate a position on it, I’m prepared to listen to objections and correct my views where others show me that I’m wrong.
And on that note, it’s showtime.
As I look back on all that I’ve read in the Bible, it seems clear to me that God’s message is of freedom over slavery, liberation over captivity. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Exodus narrative, in which God is moved by his people’s oppressive enslavement in Egypt (Exodus 2:23-25, 3:7-9) and rescues them from Pharaoh’s rule. The account clearly casts Pharaoh as an antagonist opposing God, and it’s evident he’s doing evil in subjecting God’s people to unpaid forced labor. From the first chapter, the Bible presents humanity as created in God’s image, to be masters over his creation (Genesis 1:26-28), even as all of humanity has only one legitimate Master over themselves, the uncreated Creator God. The Psalms also emphasize human beings’ value as God’s beloved, well-regarded creation (Psalm 139:13-14). Jesus Christ himself fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of a Messiah “to bring good news to the afflicted…to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1). His death on the cross pays the ransom for our sins and sets repentant sinners free, bringing them into God’s family. And how can one brother own another or treat him as property? Throughout the Bible, we find principles both implicit and explicit that preclude the possibility of morally acceptable slavery.
But then we come to Paul. And if we’re me, at times it appears to us that Paul’s condoning slavery rather than condemning it. So what do we, who are myself, do with that?
And, as I continue to draw the subject out for all it’s worth, we’ll answer that question tomorrow. Thanks for sticking on this topic with me–this is some in-depth stuff.