Fortunately for us they defend it in template fashion. The liberal emotionally distances himself from his opponent’s non-egalitarian view, which is evil prima facie. Such views are wicked not because Scripture and necessary inference denounce them, but because that is the category assigned to them by their other divided loyalty, political correctness (James 1:8; Matthew 6:24). To the degree that the liberal actually argues against his opponent he only defends his disdain of a taboo position, usually a wishful straw man that he illogically connects to his opponent’s actual position. Of course the liberal’s argumentation is only offered by way of backfill due to the visceral attachment he has already made against his opponent. Hence the reason egalitarian arguments are always emotive sound bites lacking any semblance of substance. It is also why, in the rare moments when the liberal properly identifies his opponent’s thesis and posits an honest rebuttal, a beginning student of logic can quickly apply the appropriate fallacy.
In the end to witness arguments by liberals is to peek into the psychology behind their attachment to lies and perverse dreams.
DeMar, Our Friend
It is especially saddening to watch our otherwise conservative and sharp-thinking Christian brothers argue like liberals. For only the Christian man possesses a truly conservative ethic; and he, because he serves the Lord above all lords, should be the champion of sharp thinking. When presented with PC “truths” the Christian man ought to be equally competent in logically weighing them by his Lord’s word, and consequently offering the truly conservative position on the issue.
In this post we consider Gary DeMar’s position on slavery which perplexingly betrays his otherwise stalwart aversion to egalitarianism. Unfortunately Gary DeMar takes the liberal/egalitarian approach to slavery, and this is most shocking when we know that DeMar is no ordinary Christian thinker, but ironically one who thinks through even more patently non-pc categories. DeMar, like all Christians, does not think that Christianity is one of many equal options. The faith once and for all delivered is superior to all its competitors. The Lord Jesus has no rivals in false gods and will crush all enemies that oppose him, either by conversion or judgment. Here DeMar is no egalitarian, and we applaud his faithfulness. But DeMar’s non-egalitarianism does not stop with a denouncement of pluralism. He believes societies should be Christian, run by biblical law. But apparently whether to execute sodomites and witches isn’t the litmus test for DeMar’s egalitarianism.
No, slavery is.
The Bible does not condemn slavery. The Bible does condemn abortion. Human legislation cannot make legal what God’s law condemns, or make illegal what God’s law allows. When you condemn what God’s law allows, you are a legalist and sin (Deuteronomy 4:3; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18–19). When you allow what God’s law condemns, you are a lawbreaker and sin (Exodus 20:1–17). When you can’t tell the difference, you can’t think as a Christian.
Now please pay close attention to this paragraph via response by DeMar:
I responded in a brief note that the slavery practiced in this country prior to 1860 was “man stealing” (kidnapping). West Africans were kidnapped, put on ships, brought to these shores, sold at auction, and placed in forced labor. Admittedly, many slaves were treated decently upon their arrival and during their captivity. But this is beside the point. They were still slaves, in captivity against their will!
The above response is a summary of DeMar’s position which he explicates in the article and which we will rebut. But preliminarily, please notice some peculiarities about this response.
- Note the hasty generalization (fallacy of accident) in concluding that while some slaves were (likely) stolen, that “the [an unqualified universal] slavery practiced…was ‘man stealing’…”
- Note that kidnapping does not serve as the main objection, for he could have made the point by saying , “West Africans were kidnapped.” Rather, he continues: “…put on ships, brought to these shores, sold at auctions, and placed in forced labor.” It seems that DeMar is drumming up emotional points with these four clauses. But the first two are simply benign necessities to get the slaves to our land, the third is permitted by God, and the fourth is the nature of slavery itself! Beating this emotive drum reeks of liberal tactic.
Let’s proceed to examine DeMar’s arguments piece by piece.
The Indentured Servant
Many of this nation’s earliest settlers paid for their passage as indentured servants. Indentured servitude is neither unbiblical nor unconstitutional. A thief who was unable to make restitution could be sold into servitude for his theft (Exodus 22:3b). Even after the abolition of slavery, indentured servitude was retained by the Constitution as a legitimate form of punishment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (Amendment XIII, Section 1). We should, therefore, distinguish between slave (man stealing) and bondservant (indentured servant). We should also keep in mind that the word “slave” appears only once in the King James Bible (Jer. 2:14a), as does the word “slaves” (Rev. 18:13). The word slavery does not appear anywhere in the King James Version.1
DeMar’s first error is he fails to categorize indentured servant hood as a type of slavery that the Bible permits. Instead he makes indentured servitude a distinct class from slavery rather than making it a subset of slavery. His second error is equating “slave” (rather than bondservant) with man stealing, the fallacy of accident mentioned above. Third, seizing on the liberal trick that “slave” is more emotive than “servant”, DeMar fails to mention that both are legitimate English translations of the Greek doulos, which is the LXX rendering of the Ebed (slaves) of the Old Testament (see Dabney, p. 146 ff.) which were bought from gentile nations—a slavery that all liberals abhor. A rose by another name smells as sweet. Besides, word-count exegesis (another liberal debate trick) is almost a sure-fire sign of defeat.
I quoted Exodus 21:16 to support my contention that slavery as practiced in America cannot be supported by an appeal to the Bible: “And he who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” The letter writer supported his position by claiming that Exodus 21:16 only applies to kidnapping Hebrews (compare Deut. 24:7). Robert L. Dabney, the most articulate defender of Virginia and the South, disagrees: “It need hardly be said that we abhor the injustice, cruelty, and guilt of the African slave trade. It is justly condemned by the public law of Christendom. . . . It is condemned by the law of God. Moses placed this among the judicial statutes of the Jews: ‘And he that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.’”2 There is no indication that Exodus 21:16 only has Israelites in mind. If it does, then verse 12 would also only apply to Israelites since its language is similar to that of verse 16:
“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death” (21:12).
“And he who kidnaps a man whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death” (21:16).
Yes, Dabney agrees with DeMar on this point, but of course this is not how Dabney defended American slavery. DeMar will turn to Dabney’s true defense at the end of his response, but for now the reader should realize that only if he buys DeMar’s hasty generalization is this argument useful. The reader should also realize that this is a tendentious way of ending “part one” to his response. DeMar is banking on the reader to make the erroneous connection that “American” slaves ipso facto equals “stolen” slaves. And that is why he leaves you pondering these passages that (rightly) show the wickedness of slave-stealing.
Leviticus 25: 44-46
Defenders of Southern slavery appeal to Leviticus 25:44–46 to support their pro-slavery position since it describes the enslavement of pagans…
The enslavement of pagan nations under the Old Covenant was tied to the jubilee laws described in the same chapter. The jubilee was fulfilled in principle by Jesus (Luke 4) and abolished historically when Israel as a nation ceased to exist with the destruction of its religious and civil governments in A.D. 70. Slavery of heathen nations was tied to the special character of the land of Israel in the same way that distribution of the land of Israelite families was tied to the special redemptive character of the land.
Except that Lev 25: 46 says that “they shall be your bondmen forever,” thus the slave is not released at Jubilee. But slavery in the Bible was also race-based. The slaves freed at Jubilee were only those of the Israelite tribes; all pagan slaves were held permanently. DeMar should read his Bible and Dabney (p. 117) more carefully. Moreover, Dabney does not “base his argument for slavery” on this passage, but appeals to it to justify, not the ideal term for slavery, but the principle of involuntary slavery: “Here is involuntary slavery for life, expressly authorized to God’s own peculiar and holy people, in the strongest and most careful terms. The relation, then, must be innocent in itself” (Dabney, 118). Regrettably the analytical precision applied to Dispensational writings DeMar does not use when considering the great Dabney.
In addition, the Gentiles are given a new status in the New Covenant. The coming of Christ was “a light of revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32; see Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). Jesus began His public ministry with the reading of Isaiah 61:1, “to proclaim release to the captives” (Luke 4:18). We know that this release included Gentiles: “And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. . . . And in His name the Gentiles will hope” (Matt. 12:18, 21).
Gentiles were not given a new status in the New Cov. The gospel opened to Gentiles in greater degree than it was in the Old Cov. To suggest that Gentile expansion of the gospel precludes gentile slavery is an assertion with no proof. The release of captives that Jesus preached is metaphorical of the bondage of the world. The “captive” that Jesus graciously restored to the state of slavery was literal (Matt 8: 5-13; Luke 7: 1-10)! Strange, did the Lord not practice what he preached? Is DeMar suggesting that the in the New Covenant Gentiles are generally finally free from the captive-creating slavery which God authorized?
With the gospel’s breaking of national Israel’s old wineskin, a new means of foreign evangelism began. New Testament evangelists are to go to foreign lands as servants, not as slave-masters or their economic agents, slave traders. They are to warn men and women to submit to God’s rule voluntarily. . . . Christians are to bring the message of liberation which Jesus announced in Luke 4.3
Absurd reasoning: false dilemma. Rather, one “serves” God by obeying his Law. The liberation that we bring is the freedom within, not beyond or contrary to, God’s law! DeMar knows this. In fact his site recently published an article on this.
The history of the enslavement of African blacks has been an impediment to the gospel.
How so? The Slave Narratives and the testimony of many slaves, including some Negro leaders today, is that such was a blessing to the Negro precisely because it brought the gospel to a race of former cannibalistic, savage, pagans who were at war with and enslaving each other.
Instead of being fishers of men, many in the church supported the notion of being the enslavers of men, in particular, black men, women, and their children.
Another classic false antithesis: either you are a Negro soul winner, or a Negro enslaver. Like we said, many slaves praised God they were rescued from their native witchcraft (and hell) by slave-holding evangelists.
The Bible, including Leviticus 25, does not support enslaving exclusively African blacks. Racism seems to be the motivating factor.
First part–agreed. Who said it did? Dabney? Second part–what does DeMar mean by “racism”? An irrational hatred of one based on biology? Then he is a liar. Or perhaps the view that men-eating, satan-worshiping, savages are less intelligent, more improvident and indolent than the civilized white? That the European man is culturally superior to the Negro? Where is the evidence to the contrary? Lincoln was not aware of any—he was a white supremacist.
The New Testament
We know that in the New Testament Paul condemns slave traders (kidnappers) in 1 Timothy 1:10. Revelation considers those who traffic in “slaves and human lives” to be immoral and destined for judgment (Rev. 18:13).
Again, a confusion (or confusing) of terms. Slave trading (buying) is sanctioned in the Bible, while kidnapping (man-stealing) is forbidden. DeMar might be missing the point of Rev 18:13 for there slaves are mentioned in the same category as wine flour, horses, wine, wood, and marble.
Nowhere does the New Testament support trafficking in slaves.
Funny how a theonomist would ever utter such words.
Paul’s letter to Philemon does not support the notion that the New Testament tolerated chattel slavery.
Another amazingly non-theonomic argument from silence.
Defending the Indefensible
In case DeMar should have a reader who sees through the smoke and mirrors of his previous arguments, he at last gives some substance. But pay attention, because we while we are at the heart of the issue of defending American slavery, DeMar fails to drop the dagger in Dabney’s (and the Bible’s) defense. To set the stage, let the reader assume that holding a slave is lawful, so long as the master treats his slave right. But what if that slave were stolen, maybe not by the current master, but by the one from whom he acquired him? Good question.
Back to DeMar.
The letter writer (see Part 1) concludes his argument in defense of slavery by quoting Dabney. Dabney, as we saw earlier, abhorred “the injustice, cruelty, and guilt of the African slave trade.” Then why did he continue to support the holding of slaves? Dabney writes: “When the property has been acquired by the latest holder, fairly and honestly; when, in the later transfers, a fair equivalent was paid for it, and the last possessor is innocent of fraud in intention and in the actual mode of his acquisition of it, more wrong would be effected by destroying his title, than by leaving the original wrong unredressed. Common sense says, that whatever may have been the original title, a new and valid one has arisen out of the circumstances of the case.”5
Dabney moves his argument away from the Bible to “common sense,” a clear indication that he does not have a biblical argument. While the slave trader may have acquired the slaves through immoral means, Dabney argues, the person who receives the stolen men, women, and children is not bound by the original illegality. In essence, he cannot be held accountable for the initial fraud since he purchased the “merchandise” in good faith. Dabney begs the question. How can the purchase of human beings for the purpose of using them for slave labor be done “fairly and honestly” when Dabney fully admits “that the original slave catcher” who “captured the African was most unrighteous”?
Dabney does not say that the new title holder knew about the illicit character of the original slave owner. But God who does know will punish the stealer of merchandise, not the buyer who in good faith bought something he thought was lawfully acquired. DeMar makes too much of Dabney’s appeal to common sense. Dabney says that such abolitionists should give up their property, as it was taken from the Indians by fraud and/or violence. He doesn’t need a biblical argument when a reductio is sufficient.
Those who purchased slaves at auction in the United States knew that the slaves were kidnapped victims. The slave owners were not operating “in good faith” since they knew “that the original slave catcher” who “captured the African was most unrighteous.”
Really? This seems like an assertion. Notice how Gary digs to the very nub of the disagreement. If Dabney is right on this point he and American slavery is justified; if wrong they are condemned.Yet, DeMar merely announces that the slave holders knew they were buying stolen merchandise.
It is unfortunate that DeMar does not concern himself with the biblical arguments for slavery, for they are replete. If DeMar would treat American slavery as he handles Dispensationalism, Natural Law or Socialism, if he would contend with Robert Dabney as he manages Hal Lindsey, Ronald Sider or Democrats, he would at least address the Bible’s lawful prescription of purchasing and permanently holding slaves. DeMar could at least honor his theonomic principles by resolving why he New Testament in no way modifies or rescinds these laws while denouncing nearly every category of prevalent sin of its time but ubiquitous slave holding (Mark 7:21-22; Romans 12:9-21; Romans 13:8-14; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 4:25-31; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:5-9; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 21:8).
Rather, from the gate DeMar tendentiously introduces emotive terms (e.g. “chattel”, “human beings”) and confuses concepts (e.g. slavery and kidnapping). Along the course he introduces New Testament arguments from silence, à la those used by his anti-theonomy opponents. And at the end when DeMar finally gets to the heart of a true defense of American Slavery he dismisses it with one sentence which merely asserts his positions without proof.
DeMar’s debacle on slavery leaves the uninformed reader believing the lie that slavery practiced in this country prior to 1860 is properly categorized “man-stealing” as innocent little West Africans were kidnapped, and that Christ came to abolish slavery of heathens. Yet, DeMar’s liberal tactics show informed reader that the vestiges of humanism that can remain even in seasoned and sharp theonomists.
Further Research and Notes
Please read Dabney’s excellent (and free!) A Defense of Virginia which is a life-changing destruction of egalitarianism. Also see John weaver’s excellent sermon series on Where We Are and How We Got Here. Part four deals with the biblical case for slavery, but please make use of the entire series.
1. Dabney, A Defence of Virginia, 117–121.
2. North, Tools of Dominion, 145.
3. North, Tools of Dominion, 173.
4. North, Tools of Dominion, 180.
5. Dabney, A Defence of Virginia, 288–289.