Sunday, December 14, 2008

What's A Couple Of Slaves When You Have Good Theology?

James 1:23-25
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;for {once} he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the {law} of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

Mike Ditka is considered to be one of the best and by some, the best NFL coach of all time. He retired as a player in 1972 and Ditka was immediately hired as an assistant coach by Cowboys' head coach Tom Landry. Ditka spent nine seasons as an assistant coach with the Cowboys. During his tenure, the Cowboys made the playoffs eight times, won six division titles and three NFC Championships, including the one preceding their Super Bowl victory in 1977. Ditka coached the Chicago Bears for 11 years and New Orleans Saints for 3 years. Ditka and Tom Flores are the only two people to win Super Bowls as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach. Ditka was the only individual to participate in the last two Chicago Bears' championships, as a player in 1963 and as head coach in 1985.

Now being a coach or a trainer in sports does not mean that you are able to do what you expect done as well as the players you coach. Most coaches or trainers speak from past experiences or have done a lengthy study of the duties and tasks that they require of you and this is why what they speak is cherished so. Can you think back to Mike Tyson or Muhammad Ali in their prime? Can you imagine them losing their belts or titles to their coaches. The thought is insane and we all realize that just because you can logically put things in order does not necessarily mean that you yourselves can do them. So can we accurately say that Calvin, Whitefield, Edwards were just really good coaches who had our best interests at heart but chose not to implement these truths in their lives? Or to be 100% accurate, they chose to allow Christ to infiltrate some parts of their lives but not all. Is this something we all possess since no one is perfect? I would like to express some thoughts that were in before in the back of my mind but I now found the time to closer examine them. They are questions such as these:
  • How could George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards own slaves?
  • How could John Calvin brutally have Michael Servetus killed?
  • How can we call abortionist murderers but not apply that logic to these men?
  • What does the Bible say about people like these men?

First and foremost let me say that I understand that the Elect of God are all one in Christ and I along with many others strive to build God's church. I, being a black man do not have a bone to pick with these men but I think we have to be consistent with how we look at these so called "Great" men. I can surely see the providence of God in the Atlantic slave trade. Some may say I am scrutinizing great men who led flawless lives with the exception of this one minor detail. Simply because they contributed greatly by coining certain phrases(TULIP) and writing great sermons does not mean they were born of God. I know that is a bold statement but according to correct understanding of the scriptures as quoted above, people who hear the Word and do not practice are declared hypocrites. I am simply opening this up for discussion merely out of curiosity and insight from others.

Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were both very busy and intelligent men. Whitefield from England and Edwards born in the states. These men knew the scriptures well.. here are some great facts...

  • Studied 13 hours a day from the scriptures
  • Missionary to the Native Americans
  • Whitefield traveled back and forth from America and England for the furtherance of the Gospel
  • Preached great sermons like "Sinners in the Hands of A Angry God"(one of my favorites)
  • Responsible for the "Great Awakening."
  • Raised funds for orphanages.

John Calvin the great French Theologian a few centuries before also had a commendable life. He did great works in clearly articulating the "Faith" and did much to restore Biblical doctrines first put forth by Christ and His Apostles and many others like Augustine and the list goes on. Calvin had many face to face conversations with Michael Servetus(who was clearly a heretic) regarding doctrine and the Trinity. Calvin simply lost patience with this man and he and the other ministers asked that he be spared being burnt at the stake and be beheaded instead. This was refused and on 27 October, Servetus was burnt alive at the Plateau of Champel at the edge of Geneva.

Some Arguments I hear on Slavery....

  • Slavery is in the Bible and it is ok.
  • Cultural Relevance-this was the normal behavior in that day.
  • As Long as he didn't whip them like Kunta Kinte-he's ok with me!!!

Slaves is as old as mankind itself and we see the scriptures portray slavery in a positive and negative manner. In the Bible the greek word doulos is used over 100 times for slave, servant, or bond servant depending on what translation you possess. Paul uses this to describe us as once being a slave to sin but now we are slaves to Christ. This relationship would not be similar to the Hebrew-Egyptian relationship in the time of Moses or it would not be similar to a slave being mistreated like in the human trafficking in the Atlantic Slave trade. The book of Phileman is regarding slavery as well. In the Greco-Roman environment around the time before and after Christ we see slaves being in bondage for various reasons such as debt and just by choice. In this time area 1 out 3 persons were enslaved and this is why Paul taught that Christian slaves ought to serve their masters wholeheartedly, "as unto the Lord, and not to men." And which attitude he also required the slave masters to have, treating their slaves fairly and without threatening, as they too had a Master in Heaven.

The Cultural argument can be addressed on two different levels. The first being simply that we are not called to be culturally relevant but distinct and contradicting the culture by being Christ-like. Secondly, history speaks to us in the life of Philliss Wheatley. Wheatley being raptured up so to speak to the America's from Gambia at the age of 7. Purchased by the Boston Wheatley Family. These people were exceptional by teaching her how to read and encouraged her to write poetry. She later was free after publishing writings in England and other countries. She was in the same time era as Whitefield. This is evidence that people at this time were not all treating their slaves as animals but to the contrary treating them like Philemon's master was challenged to do so. Certainly if Edwards or Whitefield were doing such things they would be know for it.

I don't quite understand the disconnect in these great men. It is no question that these men led exception lives for the Gospel. Maybe Ephesians wasn't published in America or England at that time...Maybe they forgot to read how we are commanded to treat our slaves.....Maybe Maybe Maybe...... I am still searching for these answers and hope to get a better understanding. But until then when I hear these great men's sermons, read their books, hear great stories about them; I will unfortunately think of James chapter 1 and wonder if they fell in this category. With all the great knowledge and wisdom I have obtained from these men I definitely hope not. What are you thoughts?