Given my previous two posts, I should give credit where credit is due: Fred Clark has put up a post where, in the first two sentences, he states bluntly that: “The Bible contains many texts that permit, condone, and even command slavery.” (He’s right.)
However, there are still a few things to criticize in that post. For one, the Biblical case against slavery doesn’t strike me as quite so straightforward as Clark makes it out to be. It’s so easy to imagine believing slave owners in the antebellum south reading the stuff Clark quotes about oppression and saying, “oh, but we aren’t oppressing our slaves, so we don’t need to worry about that stuff.”
More importantly, though, there’s the talk of a “comprehensive reading of the Bible” and the “great central themes of scripture, the over-arching principles rather than the isolated proof-texts.” I know a few liberal Christians, including James McGrath, like to brag about what a great job liberal Christians supposedly do reading the Bible in historical way, but what on earth is “historical” about looking for “central themes” and “over-arching principles” in a collection of often very different texts written over a period of nearly a millennial?
And where on earth is the justification for imagining that the “central theme” or “over-arching principles” underlying the book of freakin’ Deuteronomy, or the viciously misogynistic language used to denounce people who follow the wrong religion in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, is anything good?