The Civil War as a Theological Crisis

It lost the moral high ground long before that. Look at Mark Knoll’s treatment:

Viewing the Civil War as a major turning point in American religious thought, Mark A. Noll examines writings about slavery and race from Americans both white and black, northern and southern, and includes commentary from Protestants and Catholics in Europe and Canada. Though the Christians on all sides agreed that the Bible was authoritative, their interpretations of slavery in Scripture led to a full-blown theological crisis.

What as lost in the last 30 years is cultural and political power. See this review:

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Of course, this should remind us of The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

@Ben_Sanders, have you read this book yet?

Great topic. I’ve not read the aforementioned book but I will reiterate my usual point about how the entire Darwin extended family (including Charles from his book royalties) donated huge sums to sponsor Abolitionist ministers in America.

I just think that it is amazing—especially considering an opposite story from many YEC leaders claiming Darwin was somehow a racist promoter of slavery—that On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life funded the printing of hundreds of thousands of anti-slavery scripture-filled tracks!

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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.

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