-------------------------------------------------------In Essentials, Unity;
-------------------------------------------------------In Opinions, Liberty;
-------------------------------------------------------In All Things, Love.
It is the purpose of this paper to argue that Alexander Campbell’s, Walter Scott’s and David Lipscomb’s belief--that Slavery was a political question and, therefore, secondary--was the result of not taking the full counsel of Scripture seriously. This will be supported by four premises. The first two need no defense today because the vast majority of Christians already understand the errors that the first two generations of this movement held:
== I. All three failed to recognized that the Scriptures that Jesus and the Apostles used and from which they preached was the Old Testament. The Old Testament--not the New Testament--was considered authoritative. Consequently, to be a New Testament church today is to follow the practice of the New Testament believers which includes using the same Scriptures that Jesus and the Apostles used to preach the Gospel. To use only the New Testament is a miss reading of Scripture.
==II. The Gospels--which recorded the life, death, resurrection and teachings of Christ--are to be seen as being equal in authority to the Epistles. (Campbell and most of the others founders held that the authoritative sections of the New Testament started with the Acts 2, where the birth of the church was recorded, and ran through Revelations.)
==III. One of the Essentials of the Gospel is the Reconciliation of Humanity with Humanity . Almost all Exegetical Interpretation of Ephesian 2:11-18 explicitly state that there was a horizontal purpose for Christ’s death. Ephesians 2 and other texts, therefore, support that the horizontal reconciliatory purpose of Christ’s Death and Resurrection is one of the core beliefs of the New Testament church and, therefore, makes slavery, racism and ethnocentrism a sign of a counterfeit or false gospel.
==IV. Slavery, Racism, and Ethnocentrism are the result of the “Fall” and will be absent in the New Heaven and New Earth to come. Consequently, they are inconsistent with Regenerated Living and Mature Christian Virtue. This means minimally that Christian leadership must be unattainable for those who evidence and support slavery, sexism, racism, and ethnocentrism. [Side Note: Although I will not argue this here in regards to slavery, Church history also shows that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd generations of Christians [from CE. 30 to 120 AD] followed this practice as no church leader, elder, deacon or bishop were slave holders when they were installed into those offices.]
Ephesians 2:11-18, Galatians 3:26-29, 1 John 4:7-21, John 17:20-23, Revelation 5:9-10; 7:9-10
A. Vertical Dimension of the Cross: (Divinity to Humanity Reconciliation)
B. Horizontal Dimension: (Humanity to Humanity Reconciliation)
C. Depth Dimension: (Reconciliation Across Time)
A cross or crucifix has three dimensions (vertical, horizontal and width or thickness). The Gospel also has three dimensions. The vertical dimension involves God reconciling God’s self to humanity. The horizontal dimension involves God reconciling humanity to and with humanity. And the width or depth dimension involves how Jesus’ death and resurrection was efficacious for all time and for all persons—past, present and future. I would like to briefly explore in more depth the Biblical basis for our understanding of the horizontal dimension as being an essential truth of Christian belief.
Many people believe that God had only one purpose for Christ’s life, death and resurrection—that God had only one purpose for the Cross. However, the Scriptures state that there were two purposes. We all know the first reason—everlasting life to “whosoever believeth.” This is what we were taught in Sunday School and what we hear in Evangelistic crusades done by the likes of Franklin Graham, Luis Palau and Greg Laurie. But few are taught that God had a second purpose. The Scriptural basis for this second purpose is found in Ephesians 2:11-18 and Galatians 3:26-29.
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
Racial and ethnic reconciliation are not an item that individuals have the freedom to accept or reject based on personal or cultural choice or preferences. Why? God’s purpose for Jesus’ crucifixion was “to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Both our individual salvation (our reconciliation with God on the vertical dimension) and humanities reconciliation with one another (reconciliation on the horizontal dimension) are the results of Christ’s death and resurrection. We are justified by faith and reconciled to one another by faith. We are saved by grace and reconciled to one another by grace. These are gifts not of our own making lest we boast. This is a central and foundational truth and as such this makes racial and ethnic reconciliation an essential doctrine of Christianity.
Racial and ethnic reconciliation does not, therefore, come about as a secondary process that results from our Christian maturation or sanctification any more than our salvation comes about as a result of our Christian maturation, works, efforts or sanctification. Salvation (vertical reconciliation) comes before sanctification; humanity’s Oneness (horizontal reconciliation) comes before sanctification. If orthodoxy supports the doctrine of “sola fide” [by faith alone] and “sola gratia” [by grace alone] for salvation, then it must also do so for humanity’s reconciliation. In Christ and among brothers and sisters of Christ, there should be no Jews or Gentiles, slave or freeman, male or female. Slavery, racism and ethnocentrism are incompatible with this Gospel of vertical and horizontal reconciliation. Humanity’s reconciliation is not, therefore, a secondary issue of sanctification and the results of sanctified individuals transforming society.
Nevertheless, just like our salvation, the reconciliation of the tribes and nations requires a “working out” of this gift (cf. “the working out of salvation” in Philippians 2:12). It requires growing into this spiritual reality brought about by the cross. While the fullest expression of this gift of reconciliation will be found in the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 5:9-10; 7:9-10), we are, nevertheless, called to live out that truth now (1 John 4:7-21; John 17:20-23). Consequently, racial and ethnic reconciliation are goes to the heart of the Gospel message and finds its fullest expressions in the age to come.
The Scripture is replete with messages calling Gentiles to participate in God’s salvation. Gentiles (non-Jewish persons) have been descriptively and prescriptively included in both the Jewish and early Christian communities. There have been passages that limit certain Gentiles from being a part of God’s community as punishment for their individual and collective sins and because they would lead the Israelites away from God; however, this is not a universal or common theme: Consequently, racism and ethnocentrism should be consider a turning away for God’s standards, not just a political matter left up to Christian individuals and communities to decide. We can say this because of the following reasons.
First, the Jewish nation (the people of God) is seen as being a nation of mixed race peoples: (Judah and Tamar [Canaanite]; Joseph and Asenath [Egyptian]; Moses and Zipporah [Midianite]; Salmon and Rehab (along with her extended family) [Canaanite]; and Boaz (the son of Salmon and Rehab) and Ruth [Moabite], whose grandson was David to name a few. In addition, when Israel left Egypt, it is said that a mixed multitude also departed with them.
Second, there are various passages in the Old Testament that speaks to the inclusive message of God’s salvation for all people: Isaiah 56:3-8; Jonah; Ezekiel 47:21-23 and Malachi 1:11.
Third, we must realize that the Bible traces the advent of language and ethnic discrimination to the Tower of Babel story that took place after the “Fall.” Until that time, humanity was portrayed as being unified in its social and ethnic makeup. (See the “Graph of the Epoch of Humanity’s Spiritual and Moral Condition” below.) In the new heaven and new earth, humanity will once again be reunified spiritually and socially via the worshipping and serving of the one true God, not via the medium of a single language or ethnicity (Revelation 5:8-10 and 7:9-17).
We can, therefore, conclude that Ethnocentrism and Racism has no place in the thoughts and practices of Christian Individuals and should not be found in Christian communities and congregations. Racism and ethnocentrism is a condition of the unregenerate and reprobates.
We can easily demonstrate that slavery was not part of the divine economy of earth before the “Fall” nor will it be in the new heaven and new earth. The first mention of slavery is found in Genesis 9:25 after the Noachic flood. In the new heaven and new earth, slavery is non-existent. (See the “Graph of the Epoch of Humanity’s Spiritual and Moral Condition” above.)
In addition, we have various passages of Scripture that limit the effects and duration of chattel slavery for persons who are members of the covenant community and that grant them certain protections and rights. Most notably, we find that the Bible limits slavery to 7 years in Exodus 21 and 50 years in Leviticus 25 depending on the status or condition of the person. The American form of slavery was for perpetuity and slaves had no rights or protections afforded to them whether the slaves were members of the covenanted community or not.
Slavery then is a condition of reprobate men and women, not regenerated saints. In addition, slave holders in America did not practice the Biblical form of slavery allowed by God after the Fall for those within the covenant community. Instead, American slave holders followed the practices of the heathens, the peoples of the land of Canaan.
--------------------------------The Epochs of Humanity’s Spiritual and Moral Condition
------------Bigamy and Polygamy
------------Idleness and Sloth
--------------Death and Sickness
--------------No Sex and No Marriage
--------------No Death and No Sickness
We have already shown that passages in the Bible speak to the horizontal purpose of Christ’s death on the Cross and Christ’s Resurrection and support the position that the horizontal purpose is an essential rather than secondary doctrine of the Christian faith. The equality and reconciliation of humanity that are brought about by the work of Christ and our acceptance of the same by grace through faith are unequivocally at the heart of the Christ’s Gospel and our living this out in our actions and lives are some of the ways in which the church universal witnesses the power of Christ’s transformation in our lives. In particular, the writer of the Gospel of John and the John’s Epistles makes it clear that our love for one another is one of the most persuasive symbols to the world of our conversion or salvation and holiness.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were the first to be called live holy because their Lord God was holy. (See e.g., Leviticus 11:45 and 19:2.) One of the signs of God’s holiness was the institution of “one law” among the foreigners living among the Israelites and the Israelites themselves. (cf. Exodus 12:48-51, Leviticus 24:10-23, If there was to be only “one law” for both the foreigners and for the people of Israel, then it would explicitly be acknowledged that among the Israelites themselves there should an equal application of justice. If Christians are all brothers and sisters in Christ and members of the one redeemed community, it stands to reason that the principles of justice and equality should equally apply to all brothers and sisters regardless of their ethnicity or tribe since they are not foreigners or aliens in the body of Christ, but heirs and fellow citizens. If aliens are afforded under divine commands equal protection and application of the laws of Israel as the Israelites themselves are accorded, then to deny any child of God of his inherent and God given rights would be considered an affront to God and all of God’s children from whatever ethnicity or tribe or nation. Our adoption into the heavenly kingdom takes precedence over our birth rights in the flesh. Our citizenship in heaven is more significant than our citizenship on earth. Our loyalty to God and to God’s principles supersedes our loyalty to earthly laws and principles of various nations and tribes.
The justification of slavery by Christians, therefore, violates God’s principles of justice and of holiness. The use of Scriptures to justify slavery, therefore, also violates the whole counsel of Scripture and sound Biblical principles of exegesis. And finally, it violates all conceptions of logical consistency regarding God’s principles as revealed in Scriptures and those which were self-evident and upon which the United States was founded:
We have argued that Alexander Campbell’s, Walter Scott’s and David Lipscomb’s belief that Slavery was a political question and, therefore, was a secondary issue was itself the result of their failure to correctly exegete Scriptures. This failure resulted partially from their failure to use the whole counsel of Scripture. We also believe that they missed the importance of Ephesians 2:11-18 and other appropriate New Testament texts for determining the essential truth of the Gospel of reconciliation. Consequently, they were not able to see how the whole counsel of Scripture spoke to this central purpose of Christ’s life, death and resurrection and why Heavenly citizenship precludes earthly discrimination and segregation.
The “What” should not be confused with the “How.” This truth may not have been evidenced by all because of the social constraints imposed on Christians from the outside [foreign, pagan, and/or unbelieving Jews and Gentiles], but this truth still was in operation as an essential and central doctrine of the faith. What the truth was should be clear--all Christians are all equal in Christ and God's Justice and Holiness demanded equality among all the brothers and sisters in Christ. How local Christians in each locality sought to lived out this truth may vary. A Christian majority will evidence this truth openly and completely; a Christian minority in ways appropriate to the complexity of their social life. For example, in ancient Rome and in modern China and the Middle East, the Christian minority may meet secretly in underground house churches where men and women from all tribes and nationalities and classes can meet to worship and study the Word as one family. In 18th and 19th century America, a so-called Christian majority prevailed and, thus, a Christian and Scriptural response should have prevailed—the open proclamation of the truth, open worship, and the abolition of slavery.