Biblical Scholar Warns of Unsuspecting Path to Theological Liberalism
- Wednesday, February 07, 2007
And in the parable of the talents, for instance, Jesus talks about a master who entrusted his bond-servants with one talent, or two or five. Well, five talents would be the modern equivalent of $2 million. Then the master went into a far country and left these bond-servants to manage and conduct business. These bond-servants in the Roman Empire of the first century could own their own property, there were special laws that protected them, and they could normally expect to purchase their freedom by about age 30 or so.
So it’s a mistake to think that the Bible approves slavery as we think of slavery. And the abolitionists who opposed – and eventually succeeded in outlawing – slavery in the 19th century in the United States, many of them used the Bible as their moral standard. The Bible says “You shall not steal.” Well, if it’s wrong to steal even one cent from a person, then how much greater an evil is it to steal a person’s entire life, and claim that you own him and can do whatever you want with him? That’s a monstrous evil. And of course, those people who said that the Bible opposes slavery won the argument. There’s no church or denomination today that argues that the Bible supports slavery, and I think that’s rightly understood – the Bible prohibits the horrible abuses of what we think when we hear the word “slavery.” But the situation of a bond-servant in the first century it doesn’t prohibit outright because it was far different from what we think of as slavery.
In fact, being a bond-servant was somewhat similar to military service today, where you’re in the military for a certain period of time and you can’t get out, and there are different kinds of laws that apply to you, but there is great protection as well – a legal system that protects you.
When it’s translated rightly, 1 Timothy 1:10 puts “enslavers” in the same context as murderers and sexually immoral people, and liars, showing that people who capture someone to sell them into slavery, or deal in slaves, or support forcible slavery are, again, seen to be morally wrong according to Scripture. That verse was, I think, not translated the best way in the King James version. I think it said, “men-stealers,” and therefore didn’t apply clearly to slavery, but the Greek word in that verse (andrapodistes) does have to do with forcible enslaving of people, and that is clearly wrong, and that is what was happening in the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States. I think people thought “men-stealers” had more to do with kidnapping, perhaps, or something like that, but it really does apply much more to people who capture or sell people into slavery.
To summarize: the Bible certainly does not encourage or support slavery, as we understand the word “slavery” today. We don’t have to change the Bible teachings to something different for today, for the Bible itself shows the evil of what we call “slavery.”
CW: At Crosswalk, we see a lot of articles and studies come across our desks about how men are bored with church, find themselves feeling it’s been too feminized, without enough roles for men – that men aren’t attending in the same percentages women are. Is this one result of having traveled down this path of evangelical feminism?
Grudem: It may be; it depends on the church. There are maybe other reasons, but one sure-fire way of driving men away from church is to establish women in leadership positions. Over time, if more and more women have leadership positions, fewer and fewer men will attend. And you see that in the liberal denominations, which have disproportionate numbers of women as opposed to men. By contrast, churches that have clear male leadership, and that honor women as equally valuable in God’s sight and give many ministry opportunities to women as well as men -- those churches are often growing and very strong.
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