Review: “The Problem of Slavery in Christian America” – A Book You Cannot Ignore!

He allows no leniency in his critique of Presbyterian theological giants of the South, including men like Dabney, Thornwell, Palmer, and Girardeau.  These theological icons, because of their views on slavery, are dealt with severely.  As the monuments of men like Lee and Jackson are being dismantled today, in this book, these theological icons fall too. The spirituality of the Church (don’t meddle in civil affairs) loomed large in their argumentation, and is still a tenet of conservative churches today.

 

There are very few books I read anymore that have a major impact on my settled views in politics or theology, but here is one that did.  “The Problem of Slavery in Christian America, An Ethical-Judicial History of American Slavery and Racism” by Dr. Joel McDurmon.  It is must-reading, especially in these days when denominations like the PCA are making public apologies for past sins, and confederate monuments are coming down all over the South.

If you are sympathetic to the cause of the South in the Civil War, then be prepared to be challenged.  Dr. McDurmon goes straight to the original sources as he demonstrates the horrible nature of most slavery in the South.  He examines the slave laws of the period, especially those in Virginia and South Carolina.

He allows no leniency in his critique of Presbyterian theological giants of the South, including men like Dabney, Thornwell, Palmer, and Girardeau.  These theological icons, because of their views on slavery, are dealt with severely.  As the monuments of men like Lee and Jackson are being dismantled today, in this book, these theological icons fall too. The spirituality of the Church (don’t meddle in civil affairs) loomed large in their argumentation, and is still a tenet of conservative churches today.

However, the culpability of sin is not confined to the South alone.  No one comes away feeling good after reading this book.  The North shared in the guilt of the tragedy of the horrid nature of southern slavery because it became wealthy as a result of the slave-trade.  He especially indicts Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island.

There were evidently good masters in the South, although Dr. McDurmon seems strained to admit this.  However, according to the writer, two men deserve our admiration.  One is the Northern Presbyterian Charles Hodge, and the other, the Quaker, George Keith.  Keith published a very short pamphlet in 1693 setting forth a biblical argument against the institution of slavery.

How could Jefferson pen the words that “all men are created equal,” when blacks were considered unequal?  McDurmon deals with this.  He also covers the debate at the Constitutional Convention over slavery, which resulted in a compromise among the founding fathers. For the sake of Union, slavery would be allowed in the South.  The Atlantic Slave Trade would be allowed for 20 years.  Of course, after 20 years, the American blacks had multiplied to such a degree, that the overseas slave trade was not needed.  Actually, by ending the overseas slave trade, the market value of home-produced slaves would increase.

He makes a good argument after reviewing the writings of Dabney and Thornwell that slavery was the real reason for the Civil War.  However, by his description of the debate during the Constitutional Convention, he seems to give credibility that the South had a legal right to secede, even for the practice of slavery (although he never directly admits this).  In the end, he implies that the Civil War was not over slavery in the old geographical South, which our founding fathers agreed to allow, but it was actually over something they did not foresee, the legitimacy of slavery in the expanding territories and new states.

One weakness of the Book, in my opinion, is that the writer fails to deal with the nature of true biblical slavery.  Slavery is legitimate in the Bible, but it is nothing like southern slavery.  McDurmon could have developed a biblical view of slavery in another chapter, but he seems to believe that the tract by the Quaker George Keith captures the essence of what the Bible says about the institution of slavery.

Of course, biblical slavery would have as its goal the freedom of slaves, and it would allow slaves to participate in the life of the church as equals in God’s sight. Whites in the Church would come under discipline for breaking God’s law in the mistreatment of slaves. These factors would have probably ended slavery in the South very quickly.

I was immensely enlightened by this Book.  Having been raised in West Virginia, I had no previous sympathy either for or against southern slavery.  West Virginians left the South and aligned themselves with the North in the middle of the Civil War. It was a divided state.  From oral tradition in my family, two of my ancestors who were brothers fought in the War, one for the South and one for the North.  It was asked of one brother what he would do if he met his brother on the battlefield. His answer was “I would kill him.”  As a young boy, even though I was ambivalent about the existence of southern slavery, from the stories I heard from my grandfather, I knew it must have been a serious matter.

Even after reading the book, I’m still not sure why many southern poor whites fought in the war.  I suspect that is was a states-rights issue for many of them, or maybe the fear that because blacks had become so numerous, the poor whites were threatened by uprisings like that led by Nat Turner. Some point to purely economic issues as the cause.

Regardless of where you fall on the issue of the Civil War and racism, in my opinion, the worst thing you can do is to ignore this Book.  Since McDurnon is a theological reconstructionist, I am afraid that many good men will avoid reading it.  The Book is not a plea for reconstruction theology.  The writer allots one chapter on how Christians should respond to racism still latent in American society today. It is well-written, and McDurmon is a scholar who deserves to be heard.  It took a lot of courage to pen this Book. I am sure it will not be well-received by many in reconstructionist circles.  In my opinion it is just too powerful to ignore.

Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.

The post Review: “The Problem of Slavery in Christian America” – A Book You Cannot Ignore! appeared first on The Aquila Report.



from The Aquila Report http://ift.tt/2i4H3Mc
via IFTTT

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Build and Use a Logos Bible Software Library for Free

Where has all the discernment gone? Asking for a friend

Oklahoma Convocation on Discernment and Public Ministry