A Gary North comment, is he loco?

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Anton Bruckner

Puritan Board Professor
You and I have found some common ground here my friend. I never said the salvery was a good thing but that God did make allowance for it. I am 100% agreement with you on the Palestinian issue as well and believe that what is being done to them is an abomination.
BTW, I am not a big fan of Gary North. I do read his stuff from time to time but part company with him on theonomy and reconstructionism.
God has in times past sent nations into servitude for judgment. Makes one wonder what might be coming our way for our rejection of His Son and His law.
Thank you for your patience in this discussion for it is a sensitive issue and it is easy to misunderstand someones postion out of zeal for your own.
God bless and keep you my friend.
BTW, I see we also agree about this war as far as what I've read in other posts of yours.
thanks for the confidence and grace that you've extended to me.

And I do wholeheartedly agree with you that God does send nations into servitude. The Son rules with a Rod of Iron, and I do believe that the Native Americans, the Africans, etc all were generously repaid for their idolatry by the Son. They failed to kiss the Son. That being said, as the scripture shows that the rod of God, those whom God uses to judge in no way excuses them from their sin.

But the beauty and the goodness of God is that during His judgment He extends mercy, and as a result I am thankful for the blessedness that God extended to America in that the very people that were judged and enslaved became full citizens and contributed mightily to the music, arts, literature, sports, theology and science that benefitted all mankind.

Quite similar could be seen in Western Europe, where Germany and Britain were the stomping grounds of the Ceasars only to raise from the ashes and become a beacon for Christ.

Based on this, their is a pertinent necessity for the Gospel to be spread. When Nations do not Kiss the Son, they will inevitably Kiss the Dust. The Son does not discriminate, He did it to 1st century Israel, He did it to Egypt, He did it to Babylon, He did it to Europe, He did it to Africa. No one is exempt. The Angel at the Euphrates regularly dries up the Euphrates to bring the Kings of the East against idolaters.


Puritan Board Freshman
Heard Mark Noll on Moody Radio as I was coming home from work. Noll, as you know is now at Notre Dame, a move he says that shows that the Catholic Universitity is interested in Protestant history. Anyhow, he was discussing his book, "America's God". It was interesting to hear him speak of the great revivals of the 1730s and 40s and how they affected Calvinism in a negative way, with its emphasis on choice and decision making, which was amplified even more negatively with Finney's advent some 100 years later.

Anyhow, the Book is good, but IT AINT light reading...
i certainly recommend Noll on the topic, here are my pullquotes from the two chapters on the issue from America's God

-=reading notes and extended quotations=-

chapter 18 "The 'Bible Alone' and a Reformed, Literal Hermeneutic"

pg 368 "The success of evangelical religion in the early republic had transformed the public square through its amalgamation of Protestant doctrine and public discourse. Because of that transformation, national conflicts over states rights, slavery, temperance, immigration, and other contentious issues automatically became theological issues as well. Because the Bible had become so much a part of public consciousness, these same debates spurred efforts to use it for adjudicating public controversies."

pg 369 "But they also underscored the magnitude of the religious crisis at midcentury, since a common trust in Scripture was producing on the subject of slavery anything but a common conclusion. ... a distinction between the authority of the Bible per se and the axioms of interpretation by which biblical authority was apprehended throughout the United States."

pg 374 "With that freedom it was the duty of all to abandon 'tradition, prejudice, or systematical myths'--to flee the 'absurdity' of trusting ancient inherited religious authorities--in order to find the 'plain truth' of the Bible."

pg 376 "Of those assumptions one of the most pervasive was that the people had the right to read all of the Bible for themselves. The assumption behind this assumption was even more widely shared--that the Bible truly revealed God. Such assumptions fed upon the characteristic hermeneutic of the age, for it was compounded of a distinctly Reformed approach to the scope of biblical authority ('every direction contained in its pages as applicable at all times to all men') and a distinctly American literalism that privileged commonsense readings of scriptural texts ('literal interpretation of the Bible')"

pg 377 "Both Lutherans and high Anglicans held to sola Scriptura, but in the sense that the Bible was to be favored over all other authorities, rather than in place of all other authorities."

pg 379 "for the first Reformed theologians...had practiced a theological rather than a strictly literal approach to Scripture. That is, their efforts to understand the Scriptures characteristically produced syntheses in which individual biblical texts were subordinated to overarching interpretations, as with Calvin's view of divine sovereignty,..."

pg 384 "This habit of mind--to assume that a simple solution existed for problems in theology, morals, and society--was the mentality that grounded the theologians' approach to Scripture. It is a matter of great historical significance that American Protestants almost never cited biblical chapter and verse to defend their interpretive practices. Precisely as it worked on Scripture, the Reformed, literal hermeneutic revealed most clearly how it arose from the special circumstances of American life. Yet even if this hermeneutic itself was not necessarily rooted in a literal reading of Scripture, it was nonetheless the American norm for the generations between the writing of the Constitution and the end of the Civil War."

chapter 19 "The Bible and Slavery"

pg 386 "Commonsense moral reasoning perceived directly and intuitively the propriety of the slave system and perceived with equal force its impropriety. Republican principles contradicted slavery and affirmed slavery. Most damagingly, Reformed, literal approaches to the Bible could sanction slavery and also condemn it. The potent tools with which evangelicals had constructed the nation lost their potency when they turned to address this issue."
i'm almost through his _Civil War as a Theological Crisis_ and it is excellent and it an extension of his essay where he writes:

The Bible and Slavery by Mark Noll
chapter 2 of _Religion and the American Civil War_ Miller, Stout, Wilson (eds)

For me, this chapter has been one of the great ah-ah! just as i thought experiences of the last few years of concentrated studying. I've written in the past that i think slavery as a moral issue and Copernian revolution as a scientific issue are critical events in history that illuminate Biblical hermeneutics.

He writes: "The problem of the Bible and slavery was always an exegetical problem, but never only an exegetical problem. ... (then he offers 4 constituencies who offered answers) The first option was to admit that the Bible sanctioned slavery and, therefore, to abandon the Bible, at least in anything like its tradtional shape, in order to attack slavery. (William Lloyd Garrison)...(the second option, since the Bible obviously sanctioned slavery was that) faithful Christains should accept the legitimacy of slavery as it existed in the United States out of loyalty to the Bible's supreme divine authority. (most southern theologians)...A third, and the most complicated, response was held by some abolitionists and moderate emancipationists. They conceded that, while the Bible did indeed sanction a form of slavery, careful attention to the text of Scripture itself would show that the simple presence of slavery in the Bible was not a necessary justification for slavery as it existed in the United States. ... this argument required a movement from the words of the Bible to theories about how the Bible should be applied to modern life, and it often seemed indistinguishable from the next response. (The fourth response) was to distinguish between the letter of the Bible (which might be construed to allow slavery) and the spirit of the Bible (which everywhere worked against the institution)."

As Noll aptly points out, "From the record of these sermons, it is evident that proslavery advocates had largely succeeded in winning the Bible, when taken in its traditional sense." Because the traditional hermeneutic in the mid 19thC, like the conservative one today, is tied to the words not the meaning as being the locus of inspiration, as being the very vehicle to transmit meaning, the South won this battle. It also ties into the last sentence of the essay: "The North-forced to fight on unfriendly terrain that it had helped to create-lost the exegetical war. The South certainly lost the shooting war. But constructive orthodox theology was the major loser when American believers allowed bullets instead of hermeneutical self consciousness to determine what the Bible said about slavery. For the history of theology in America, the great tragey of the Civil War is that the most persuasive theologians were the Rev. Drs. William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulyesses S. Grant."

For Noll, these four options are reduced to a forced dichotomy--either orthodoxy and slavery, or heresy and antislavery" by the slippery slope to unbelief argument inherent in the idea that to modify your literal hermeneutic was to attack the very basis of inspiration and authority, so that those who spoke against slavery were immediately condemned by Southerners as 'liberals' who did not accept the Bible as the very Word of God. Noll explains that it is this literal, common sense, man in the pew, democratic hermeneutic that had evolved in the US over the last 250 years that was responsible for the problem. He explicitly ties three things into it: Scriptura sola, the regulative principle, and the Third Use of the Law (moral teaching shows need for salvation as well as a blueprint for the Christian's grateful response to God). It is this democratization of Bible reading and application that has it's source in the priesthood of all believers in Luther but only derives its power from its tie into the social culture of the nascent US in republicanism via the English as opposed to the French revolutionary experience. This democratic hermeneutic required that the fundamental meaning be singular, literal, usually narrative, simple for everyone (the hand on the plow ideal) must be able to read the words for themselves. This eliminates the educated, difficult, literary entanglements, complexity, multiple levels etc for the common sense as derived from the Scottish commonsense realism philosophers.

The theological clash brought on by two sides with a radical polarization into atheistic abolitionist and faithful Biblical slavery supporters (the logical error of composition) was driven by not just the rise of loud abolitionists who were also not orthodox Christians but the very hermeneutical problem of understanding how to (re)interpret the obvious texts that supported slavery without subverting the authority and unity of the Bible and becoming those you hate. Noll points out that people believed that there were only three options for this slippery slope of the retreat from the literal views of Scripture: church-authority, the Spirit-enthusiasm, or Reason, all destinations that orthodox American Christians considered abhorrent. "With relentless pressure, skillful defenders of slavery insisted that any attack on a literalist construction of biblical slavery was an attack on the Bible itself." sounds strangely familiar, no? Nolls goes on to outline four other communities of faith that had potential answers for this false dilemma: African Americans, Roman Catholics, high-church Protestants and the border state Presbyterians, and why each failed to make their voice heard over the din of sabre rattling that lead to the death of 600,000 on the battlefield. (1 white man died for each 10 slaves freed)

Noll looks at R. Breckridge and C. Hodge as "two conservative Presbyterians who felt the force of the proslavery arguments but who yet retained a desire to shape culture in Christian ways offered the best chance for articulating and orthodox hermeneutic that could escape the proslavery defense championed by their Southern Presbyterian contempories." Breckridge did the separation of the word slavery in the OT and NT from the Southern experience of slavery route. "The shape of the argument was similiar for both Breckinridge and Hodge. Both conceded that the Bible sanctioned "slavery", but Breckinridge denied that what the South practiced was biblical slavery, while Hodge felt that the Bible hedged the practice of a legitmate slavery with so many ameliorations that the practice must end when those ameliorations were pursed to the logical "gospel" conclusion. ... Both took for granted that the Bible must be an interpreted book and that the meaning of its words must be conditioned by other realities-with Breckinridge, shifting social conditions over time, with Hodge the fuller context of the Scriptures themselves." This is the common way you see the argument pursed today, that OT/NT 'slavery' != Southern racial lifetime 'slavery', all they share is a common word, without sharing the higher pyramid level meanings.
for those who are interested Dabney's Defense of Virginia and through her the South is online at:


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I don't plan on posting extensively in this thread. But here are some observations:

1) Biblical servitude (ala OT Israel) is not replicable--can't drop it into the xxth century--and call that biblically-sanctioned slavery.

2) The southrons (and I am one by birth, I love the great things about my history) should have done more to eliminate slavery. Instead they apologized for it, and kept it for far too long, and they paid a terrible price in the end. The whole nation did, since we all became serfs.

3) Dabney was partially right, and partially wrong. Some of his "Defense" is right on the money, but it is partisan, and suffers for it in those areas. It shouldn't have been a whole-hearted, unapologetic "Defense", but more reflective. However, in his defense, his far-sightedness (ironic since he was going physically blind) showed the national trajectory set by the South's loss was sure to bear bitter fruit, and that made the sting of defeat even worse.

4) When the colonies became states, with charge over their own affairs, they were "stuck" with a racial slavery problem. In some ways, it wasn't their fault to have the issue (and in some ways it was). They saw the tensions, but they were slow to face them. Their slowness gave ammunition to the Unitarians (who were merely the beneficiaries of N.E.'s lack of many slaves).

5) Arguments based on Providence are typically bad arguments. They tend toward fatalism and ex post facto justification for things that ought to be condemned (or at least significantly nuanced). And here, I'll just add that maybe (!) GN is not nuanced enough. But maybe our assessment of what he said their should be taken not as a blanket condemnation of every nuance, but rather an "on balance" evaluation. In which case, he has a point.

6) GN has vigorously condemned southern slavery, and by implication (at least) denounced blanket apologists for the south, especially the blinkered proponents of "Christian South" who still tout the pro-slavery position of the old southron theologians.

7) In the OT, intergenerational slavery was for heathen, taken in legitmate wars. Unconverted heathen, who refused to convert, could have families within the household, but without converting, they remained slaves--all that was theirs belonged to Israel.

But with conversion came new relations. And, as someone has earlier pointed out, JUBILEE RELEASE. The one exception I can think of is the one whose decision was to be a lifetime servant, and had his ear bored (male earrings were the mark of a permanent slave--so what are today's men doing popping studs in their ears??!).

In other words,, believers/converts should not be slaves. OT Israelite slavery was an institution designed to eliminate slavery. Indentured servitude was limited in duration, to allow debts to be paid (at least in part), and to allow a "new start." Flesh-trafficking of the 18th century and later was (as previously noted) more like Egyptian oppression, more like the Greco-Roman or barbarian practices than what is found regulated by God. The African's may have been taking and trading slaves long before the white slavers started buying, but supply-demand dynamics further ensured that the practice would worsen once the New-World demand increased. Again, it may have been Providential that some slaves were introduced to the gospel because they were kidnapped, but that is no reason to exculpate the buyers of slaves off the block in ports, with the conscience-salve that they were doing these folks favors. Not unless they planned to give them their freedom.
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