Comments on orthodox theology and Christianity

I note that you are happy to claim the authority of the Church for any good result obtained by its members but happy to renounce any bad results. Was repudiation of slavery ever an official, certified, sanctified position of the church hierarchy? And wasn’t defense of slavery the official position of the antebellum Southern Baptists? Or maybe they don’t count as a True Church.

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Why don’t you read up on the history of the abolition of slavery in England, for example, and learn to what extend the Church was involved? Am I responsible to serve as a history book here?

I have no idea. If it was, presumably they offered Biblical or traditional texts. If you can give me a link to their arguments, I will read them, and give you my opinion.

That’s quite ironic in view of your next comment. The answer to the question is “no”, in contrast to the answer to the next question, which is “yes”. So as I said, you claim positions you like, even though they were never official, and dispose of positions you dislike, even though they actually were official. This is either ignorance or hypocrisy, and it doesn’t really concern me which.

Am I responsible to serve as a history book here? At any rate, their arguments aren’t relevant; it’s the fact that it was an official position of the religion, not, as you claimed, “purely popular arguments, and had no basis in any doctrine every established by the Church”. You still have one out: you can claim that the Southern Baptists are not a church, or perhaps not “the Church”.


“A church” can mean just an organization of Christians. As such, it is quite possible for “a church” to adopt positions that are historically unorthodox, or incompatible with historical orthodoxy. The fact that “a church” of some kind defended slavery does not tell me anything. I have to see the arguments. Only once I see them can I tell whether they depart from historical orthodoxy.

There is nothing I know of in the writings of any Church Father, or in any of the Creeds or Council decisions, or in any other source where orthodox theology is found, that indicates that there are any fundamental ontological differences between races, such as would justify the enslavement of one race by another. If some American Baptists believed that Christian theology taught such ontological differences, the onus would be on them to bring out their texts and make their argument. I have no idea where to look for such texts and arguments. Since you brought the matter up, maybe you can tell me where to look. I am not going to invest any time trying to find such material myself, since it’s antecedently improbable that the Baptists you mention came up with anything that is not easily refutable. If you put the material right under my eyes; I’ll look at it; otherwise, I won’t give it another thought.

Sure, feel free to ignore everything I said, as you find convenient. I think I’ve made my point, in the unlikely event that anyone else is paying any attention.

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I gave a sincere reply to your inquiry about southern Baptist views on slavery. I offered to read any texts you could produce, and comment on them. If you could get the chip off your shoulder, and treat my answers as they are intended – good faith answers to your queries – we might get along better.

You can keep telling yourself that if it maintains your image of yourself. I don’t care to support you.

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I think I have to side with Eddie here. If he doesn’t know, how can he answer? The amount of research needed to delve into the question seems non-trivial. We all agree that slavery is bad, I don’t think Eddie is saying that the church (churches) are complete innocent either.

There is a lot of bad sh*t in history, much of it involving the church, Did the church act to make things better, worse, or simply respond to changing times? I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s all three in roughly equal proportions.

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That’s not the issue. The issues in that topic are a) what do we mean by “the church” and b) was being pro-slavery the official doctrine of anything we would mean by “the church”. There’s no question that it was, and in fact it caused a rupture between northern and southern baptists. So either Eddie doesn’t think that baptists count as “the church” or he thinks that their doctrine doesn’t count as doctrine.

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There are many definitions of the Church. It can mean anything from local congregation, to a small group, to the Catholic pope, to a denomination.

Certainly some parts of the Church, e.g. the Southern Baptist Convention, argued that slavery and segregation was biblical. They were wrong in the facts and they were morally wrong too.

Certainly some parts of the Church, e.g. Wilberforce and the abolitionists, argued that slavery was totally wrong and should be abolished. In fact the fist abolitionist in history was Gregor of Nysa, one of the church fathers. They were right.

The same sorts of divides we also see among evolutionary scientists. So let’s stop with the race baiting.

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Who’s race baiting? I was pointing out Eddie’s inconsistency. He claimed Wilberforce and abolitionists as exemplifying “the church” and by extension church theological doctrine, and yet he disclaimed the Southern Baptists. But the Southern Baptists are in fact a church, even a Church, while Wilberforce wasn’t. To summarize: anyone professing doctrines Eddie likes is “the Church”, while anyone professing doctrines he doesn’t like is not.

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It is absolute true that a lot of people claimed Christian beliefs (and/or evolution) as justification for slavery. That was wrong, both on facts and morally.

It’s also true that people appealed to these beliefs to justify abolition.

The history here really does need to be reckoned, but a discussion about true meaning of Christian orthodoxy is not the place. Perhaps take the time understand the rules that govern claims about orthodoxy, and you’ll be ready to use those rules in a subsequent discussion on orthodoxy and slavery.


I just think you are asking for too much, Given @Eddie’s tendency to expound at great length on some topics, it seems near certain he would provide an answer for you if he could. :wink:

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Yes. That is what I was trying to point out to John Harshman. The range of meanings of the word makes it slippery when someone says that “the church” taught something because one particular “church” did so.

I have not read the documents where the SBC made its official arguments, but I accept the word of John Harshman that they took that position. I would read the documents where they made their arguments, but I’m not an expert in that area of history and would prefer it if someone who knows the literature well, and can find it faster than I can, would tell me where I can find them.

I agree, unless someone can produce documents of the SBC where they make good Biblical and theological arguments for slavery. But since no one will tell me where I can find the official position papers of the SBC on slavery, and since it is antecedently improbably that a good argument exists, I will take as my tentative position that their arguments were weak and inadequate.

Yes. Wilberforce was one of the people I had in mind when I suggested that John Harshman might look up the role of English church people in abolishing slavery.

I did not know that, but it does not surprise me that a Christian opposed slavery quite early in the game.

You’re focusing too much on the word “church” and not on the term I originally used, which was “orthodox Christian theology”. I know of nothing in orthodox Christian theology (where orthodoxy means, roughly and imprecisely, the core doctrines about God and man agreed upon by most the larger churches prior to the Enlightenment) which could justify slavery. I know of no orthodox theologian prior to the Enlightenment who argued for slavery based on some alleged inferiority of races. I would be pleased to know which classical theologians argued that black or yellow or brown or red people were inherently inferior to white people and therefore could justly be enslaved by them.

I do know that some theologians accepted the fact of slavery as an economic and social institution in the world, and did not challenge it (even if they personally did not like it), but I don’t know of any case where they justified it in racial terms. As far as I know, the racial justification is almost exclusively a modern one. Previously slavery had been justified by victory in war, etc., but the color of the conquered people was not a factor. The Romans, who were white, made plenty of white people slaves.

I gather your claim is that the Southern Baptists justified black slavery on Biblical and doctrinal grounds. I would like to see those grounds. I find it antecedently improbably that they produced any good arguments, either Scriptural or systematic. By focusing on the question whether the SB count as a “church” you are distracting from the original framework I set forth. The question is, does orthodox Christian theology justify enslaving people because of their race, color, language, etc.? I would say that it does not, and that if the Southern Baptists believed this, they were poor theologians.

Beyond that, I don’t know what to say. I need the theological arguments in front of me. I think if I had them I could show that they are not in line with 1700 years of mainstream orthodox Christian thought, and that they represent an aberration of one particular group of Christian apologists for slavery, manipulating the tradition to serve their economic and cultural ends. Whether they count as a “church” or not is irrelevant; if they were asserting something that is incompatible with Christian teaching, it doesn’t matter whether or not they were a church, a school, or a volunteer fireman’s association. They were still theologically incorrect – were still saying false things about what Christian theology teaches or implies.

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@eddie, ignorance is not an argument and certainly doesn’t require so many words. The SBC themselves have produced a report that answers this question: Report in Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

You can’t expect @John_Harshman to drop this topic if you keep raising it.

So knock it off. Start a new thread if you want to learn more, but not till after doing the basic due diligence of some google searches.

I didn’t keep raising it. He raised it first, and I gave an adequate initial answer. I said their arguments weren’t based on orthodox doctrine. He has yet to show I’m wrong. Instead he has chosen to write hundreds of words on how I supposedly equivocate regarding “church”. Instead of quarreling over terminology, if he wants to talk about the Southern Baptist arguments, let him do so. I don’t think I’ll have any problem showing him they aren’t based on orthodox doctrine.

But thanks for the link. I will look at it for future reference.

My tone in my last post to both you and Harshman was gracious, but your tone here is impertinent.

And by the way, I’m under no obligation to spend even three seconds doing a Google search because someone makes a claim. You make a claim, you provide the source. You don’t put the onus of finding the source on your reader. It’s one of the rules of scholarship.

The clouds of squid ink are answer enough.


Yes I am being firm. Look at what @Dan_Eastwood and I wrote (at first pushing back on @John_Harshman, not you!)…

Then like clockwork you proved him right.

The discussion on orthodoxy is important in its own right. Continue that.

I came across that report in a Google search as well. But I also came across the following, which I found somewhat disturbing:

Addendum: this might also be informative:

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Totally deplorable, isn’t it? (The actions, not the people)