By Bryan Fischer
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
There is an enormous amount of dust and chaff in the air
over what the Bible teaches about slavery. And certainly, some of the blame
must rest with Christians who have misinterpreted and misapplied the Bible to
claim biblical sanction for a practice that the Scriptures explicitly prohibit.
It must be stated as unambiguously as possible: slavery as
practiced in the United States is flatly condemned in both the Old and New
While the Old Testament is often cited as giving approval to
slavery, the truth is actually quite the opposite. Moses flatly prohibited the
slave trade under penalty of death. “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and
anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:16).
It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that if the
Bible had been followed from the beginning of our history as a nation, slavery
never would have existed in the United States. The reason is simple: everyone
who participated in any part of it would have been apprehended and hung by the
neck until dead.
The slave trade is flatly prohibited in the New Testament as
well. Paul speaks in 1 Timothy of the proper role of the law. He first points
out that the law “is not laid down for the just,” who will not need the
external coercion of the law to make responsible social choices. Their internal
value system will guide their conduct in culture-affirming directions. As James
Madison put it, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
But, alas, law is in fact necessary because not all men are
angels. Criminal law is needed “for the lawless and disobedient...for those who
strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who
practice homosexuality, enslavers,
liars, (and) perjurers...” (1 Timothy 1:9-10, ESV).
The word translated “enslavers” (andropodistes) literally
means a “man who brings others to his feet.” The lexicons define the word this
way: “a slave dealer, kidnapper, man-stealer, one who unjustly reduces free men
to slavery, or steals slaves of others and sells them.”
So in point of fact, the entire Judeo-Christian tradition
from day one has been adamantly opposed to the slave trade which made slavery
The first slaves were brought to our shores in 1619. If a
strictly biblical code had been followed the day that ship pulled into port,
the slave trader who captained that vessel would have been arrested the moment
he landed, prosecuted and strung up. The slaves on board would have been
returned to their families and their homelands, and slavery would never have
gained a foothold in the United States.
But instead, because the Scriptures and its plain teaching
were ignored, slavery became our first national sin, as abortion is today.
Now it must be noted that the civil code of ancient Israel
did provide, as America has, for two kinds of morally permissible servitude.
The first is indentured servitude, which was voluntary and had statutory limits
after which emancipation was required. As many as two-thirds of the English
settlers who came to America in the 17th century came as indentured servants.
Ancient Israel also allowed prisoners of war to be reduced
to involuntary servitude, just as the United States has done in its history.
The alternative to custody, of course, is death, since military threats must be
neutralized one way or another. Since life beats death in the value system of
most people, permitting the involuntary servitude of enemy soldiers captured on
the field of battle is a life-affirming alternative to getting lined up against
a wall and shot.
Planeloads of German POWs were brought to the South during
World War II and worked in the fields until the end of the war. We couldn’t
release them back into Germany before the end of the war, where they would take
up arms again and kill us, and we didn’t want to execute them. Servitude was
the only compassionate alternative. It was the same in ancient Israel.
So if the early colonists had followed either the Old or New
Testaments, the slave trade would have been treated as a criminal enterprise
from the very beginning, and America never would have been plagued with all the
myriad evils that slavery and racism have brought to our land.
Muslims have been the biggest slave traders in human
history, by cosmic proportions. Slavery was enthusiastically endorsed by
Muhammad in the “holy” Koran and is still widely practiced in Muslim lands to
this day. Estimates are that over 17 million slaves were transported out of
Africa by Islamic slave traders, and a staggering 85 million are believed to
have died en route. About 645,000 of those wound up in what became the United
In other words, we committed our first national sin by
following the Koran instead of the Bible.
Bottom line: If the Scriptures had been followed, there
would have been no slavery in America, no Civil War with its loss of 600,000
American lives to secure the emancipation of slaves, and no lasting, enduring
racial unrest. Biblical Christianity, as always, is not the problem. It is the
noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect
the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)