Houston, we have a problem. I was all set to examine how God answers Moses’ questions and frustrations from our passage yesterday, make a point about how he doesn’t get angry with him this time, dig into the content of his response, but almost immediately I encountered complications. As God appeals to his history with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to underscore his commitment to their descendants, he makes a claim that is, prima facie, hog-bonkers.
In today’s chapter, Isaac travels in the land of a foreign king, in order to avoid the effects of a local famine, and to keep the inhabitants from killing him and taking his extremely attractive wife, he claims she’s his sister. Sound familiar? It’s the same thing Abraham did twice before. However, to paraphrase the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, you can’t step in the same river twice, much less the same river that your father stepped in. Isaac’s encounter doesn’t go exactly as his father’s two encounters did, but what are we to make of that?
In what has got to be some kind of record, we’re still on Paul’s statements about slavery in 1 Timothy 6:1-2. Yesterday I made some introductory remarks on Biblical inerrancy and my own capacity for error, then took a look at the full scope of the Bible and its themes of liberation, concluding that the Biblical position is to oppose slavery. But we were left with the question: what do we do with Paul’s apparent condoning of slavery? If he’s positing that it’s God’s will for some people to own other people as property–what then?
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?” (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.
Yesterday, I listened to a story on NPR’s Here & Now about the history of Independence Hall in Philadelphia and its role in contemporary Independence Day celebration. I was struck by National Parks Service Ranger Adam Duncan’s remarks on the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson’s early draft included a passage indicting King George III for fostering the slave trade in North America. The document’s editors removed the anti-slavery passage from the final Declaration of Independence, and it would not be until January 1, 1863 that the Emancipation Proclamation would legally free American slaves. So today, as Americans celebrate their freedom and independence, what better topic for us to return to than the Apostle Paul’s views on slavery?