This review is a must read for Peaceful Science. We might be the third way he describes:
There was a third alternative for antislavery Christians, Noll notes, one that would have preserved biblical authority by conceding that Scripture did not prohibit slavery per se but contending that it did in fact condemn the racial slavery actually practiced in the United States. A few lone voices tried to marshal such arguments, but they failed badly. For one thing, their “nuanced biblical argument was doomed” by a democratic culture that exalted “common sense” approaches and was reflexively suspicious of sophisticated biblical interpretation. As important, Noll argues strenuously, was the pervasive racism—in the North as well as the South—that led whites to take for granted that references to slavery in the Bible “could only mean black slavery.” To be successful, he asserts, “the argument that a racially discriminatory slavery was a different thing from slavery per se would have required the kind of commitment to racial antiprejudice that the nation only accepted … late in the twentieth century—if in fact it has accepted it now.”
That is why I focus on the problem of antievolutionism (@AllenWitmerMiller one of my first audio presentations; you should listen).
Of greater significance to the lay reader should be the implications of Noll’s analysis for contemporary Christianity. Although Noll never overtly moralizes, there is a sense in which his entire book is a cautionary tale. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis reminds us of how easily cultural conventions can shape definitions of “orthodoxy.” It warns us that an aversion to complexity is not the same thing as a commitment to scriptural authority. And it demonstrates, powerfully and all too pertinently to the present moment, the consequences that follow when Christians in a society given to the “voluntary and democratic appropriation of Scripture” come to disagree passionately about what Scripture actually teaches.
Seems like a very helpful book to read in our moment.