An Open Letter to Joseph Farah

Joseph Farah, CEO and editor of the online news source, wrote an article today defending the harmony of the old and new testaments.  Overall it is quite good, but he makes some of the common errors concerning both biblical and American slavery.  I sent this e-mail to him, which I thought may prove good reading for those interested in this much discussed and much misunderstood subject.

Dear Mr. Farah, 

I wish to thank you for today’s article concerning the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments.  I am firmly persuaded that the failure of so many pastors and churches to recognize the harmony of the two testaments has been one of the major causes of the moral and spiritual wreckage we see in American Christianity.  Thank you for using today’s space to point this out, and to demonstrate the theological and moral harmony between the two testaments. 

As a Southerner by historical and theological conviction, I wish to take issue with one point you made concerning the issue of slavery.  This is one area where, since the 1800s, Christian leaders have been surrendering the Scripture to the pretended “higher light” of the Abolitionists.  I would point out two historical items for your consideration: First, that the Abolitionists were the radical Left of their day, being known by such sobriquets as “Radical Republicans,” and even “Red Republicans.”  One reason Conservatism is a dying force is because it has always ultimately acquiesced that the liberals were right after all in the end.  Second, it is imperative we understand that the vast majority of committed Abolitionists were, just like the liberals of our days, enemies to the authority of Scripture, as well as the authority of the Constitution.  Most of them were Unitarians, who denied the fundamental doctrines of the deity of Christ and the Trinity.  They claimed to have “higher light” than Scripture, and some of them known to say that they would give up their Bibles before their politics, if they became convinced that the Scriptures condoned slavery. 

I am firmly persuaded that we have no right to denounce slaveholding as a sin, since the Scriptures never do so.  One can hold this position without being a racist, or attempting to reinstitute the old system of African servitude.  But I say it is just as wrong to call something a sin which is not sin, as it is to call something good that is actually evil. 

You aver in your article that the slavery of which the Bible speaks was more like indentured servitude.  This is true only in the case of Hebrews having Hebrew slaves, which servitude usually came about because of indebtedness.  I have heard this excuse given time and again by Christians trying to tiptoe around the obvious fact that the Scriptures never condemn slavery, and in fact often highly commends slaveholders.  The problem here is that Abraham, the friend of God and father of the faithful, was a slaveholder who engaged in the slave trade and had slaves born in his house (Genesis 17:23).  In answer to your argument that Bible slavery was only a form of indentured servitude, I repeat that this was only the case with Hebrew slaves, who had to be freed after 7 years servitude.  In the case of Gentile bondmen, they could be held in perpetuity, and passed on to the succeeding generations.  Leviticus 25:44-46 makes this too plain to be misunderstood.  This makes the liberal hate the Bible.  It makes me say that everything Americans have been taught to believe about slavery is wrong, because God would never condone or regulate sin. 

Moreover, neither Jesus Christ nor His apostles ever condemned Roman slavery, which was far more tyrannical than the Southern slavery for which you profess such distaste.  Christ said that He never saw such faith as that demonstrated by the slaveholding centurion, who appealed to the Lord to heal his slave (Matthew 8:5-10).  Now, we know that under Rome, the master had the power of life and death over his slave, and in almost all cases could hold his slaves in perpetuity.  If this system were wrong, would not Jesus and the apostles have demanded immediate emancipation by all slaveholding believers?  To argue that they failed to do so because of the custom of the times is preposterous.  Idolatry was such a custom of the time that all the apostles save one died for challenging it.  I repeat, God never condones or regulates sin, but always condemns and prohibits it. 

The apostles always commanded humble obedience by slaves to masters, and instructed masters to treat their slaves with generosity and kindness.  They never demanded manumission.  I will only reference here I Timothy 6:1-5, which contains a scathing condemnation of Abolitionism, and 1st Peter 1:18.  Similar injunctions may be found in Ephesians, Colossians, Titus, and Philemon. 

I do not have space to enter in upon the subject of American slavery, but certainly it was of a far milder variety than that practiced in the Roman Empire.  Slaves were generally treated well, slave women in the mid-1800s having the highest live birth rate of any women in the world.  Laws were in place to protect slaves against being murdered or mistreated by their masters.  Please do not take my word for it.  I urge you to obtain the book “Defense of Virginia and the South,” by the Presbyterian minister R.L. Dabney, who served as chief of staff to “Stonewall” Jackson.  This book can be obtained from Sprinkle Publications in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  Lest you be put off by Dabney’s obvious pro-South slant, and some of his politically incorrect views, I urge you to find a copy of “Time on the Cross,” by Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman.  These men are decidedly not pro-South and decidedly anti-slavery, yet through rigourous historical and statistical analysis, they prove that Southern slavery was not at all the barbaric institution that the schools have convinced us it was. 

Mr. Farah, I greatly appreciate your willingness to confront the culture, to stand upon the timeless principles of holy Scripture, and to oppose the lies of liberalism.  I would suggest that you have succumbed to liberal lies on this one point, and would urge you against repeating such unbiblical and unhistorical assertions in the future. 

With kindest regards, 

Samuel Ashwood, co-pastor of Sovereign Grace Church Muskogee, Oklahoma