Does the Bible Endorse Slavery? (II)

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One of the common charges levied against the Bible is that, since the New Testament writers exhorted slaves to obey their masters in the Roman social system, the Bible actually approves of slavery and has contributed to inhumanity and oppression.

First of all, the atheist has no moral or logical ground to stand on to condemn slavery. If our actions are determined by random collisions of molecules in our brain – as many atheists believe – then slavery cannot be morally wrong. It would be an expression of natural selection.

Unbelievers vainly boast that humans, not God, put an end to slavery in America while the slave traders justified their dehumanization with some Bible verses. The fact is, the abolitionists were Christians, and they appealed to the Bible to support their anti-slavery stance.

The chancellor of Protestant University, William Wilson, stated that slavery was “at war with the image of God in which man was created” as it treats other humans as less than human as God created him and lowering the person to property.

On the other hand, the biblical texts the pro-slavery advocates were able to cobble together were weak, astutely wrenched and tortured paths.

These men were simply a bunch of wicked, racist and bigoted folks who used the Bible to rationalize their atrocities. That didn’t mean the Bible was really on their side.

Even the most well intentioned religious text can be misinterpreted and misused by people for their own advantage. Interestingly, the Western slave masters and modern atheists are united in their absurd misinterpretation and mutilation of the Bible. They approach the Book the same way a butcher approaches a hog!

It’s not enough for skeptics of all stripes to quote some extracted Bible verses (often to “prove” their preconceived notions), we must examine the complete testimony and see the big picture.

Of course, the dogmatic Bible hater will derisively dismiss this, but once their false assertions are refuted, their propaganda collapses into a pile of pixie dust.

The following texts are often quoted to “prove” that the NT upholds slavery:

“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord” (Colossians 3:22).

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ” (Ephesians 6:5)

Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative” (Titus 2:9).

1. Jesus Christ had already pointed to the mission of freedom from all forms of slavery: spiritual, mental and physical. Quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, He declared:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Lk. 4:18).

The practical application of this verse is what led to the elucidation of freedom and the denunciation of forms of slavery.

2. The church was born into an already existing secular social world. Christianity didn’t come with a social reform programme for Israel and Rome, because that is not how the kingdom of God – which is inward, rather than geographical – works.

Therefore, when apostle Paul exhorts slaves within the Roman systems to behave themselves, he is not promoting or advocating the situation they were in, but was calling for good conduct while in such an already existing predicament in the hopes that their masters would see such good conduct and convert to Christianity and be saved (Titus 2:10). It was for the benefit of people’s eternal salvation.

3. The apostles weren’t revolutionaries and the early Christians were minorites. The older religions within the Roman Empire (Heathenism, Mystery Religions, State religion) should have borne a higher responsibility of emancipation of slaves because they had greater political might.

As for Eph. 6:5 what did unbelievers expect Paul to say? Should he incite Christian slaves to defy their Roman masters? What do they think happened to insubordinate slaves under Roman law? Did they even bother to think that far?

Under Roman law, a runaway slave was often mercilessly dealt with:

“He could be scourged branded, mutilated, or fitted with a metal collar, perhaps even be crucified, thrown to beasts, or killed. (Joseph Fitzmyer, The Letter to Philemon, Doubleday Publishing, 2000, p. 28).

I am sure that if the NT had admonished Christian slaves to rebel against their Roman masters, modern atheists would still find a way to gripe over that. If believers walked by the Tiber, cynics would still say they walked because they couldn’t swim.

4. Paul exhorts slave masters to treat their slaves well. He commands those who are slave masters in this existing social system to be good to and not threaten their slaves.

Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your hearts. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free” (Eph. 6:6-8)

5. Paul affirmed freedom over slavery

Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so” (1 Cor. 7:21).

Gleason Archer has shown that while Paul exhorted slaves to obey their masters, he said that slaves should do do all in their ability to purchase their own freedom. (Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Zondervan, 1982, p. 87).

6. The Bible does not support Slave and Master casses

Slavery runs on the cultural machinery of racial, political, religious and social-economic superiority. But the Bible elevates man as created in the image of God and affirms the equality of all men. This conflicts with the idea behind slavery.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1)

Here, apostle Paul affirms both slaves and masters are equal having a true master in heaven, and that masters on earth must not mistreat their slaves.

7. The Bible condemns slavery and the slave trade

We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).

Notice that slavery is included in the list of vices here and slave traders are grouped together with murderers and ungodly people.

In Revelation 18:10-13 Babylon is rebuked and judged in the context of trafficking slaves and greedily making wealth with merchants:

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore … cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.”

Most unbelievers are fond of selectively citing bible passages and neglecting cross-references, hence giving a distorted picture. And the most arrogant part is how they believe they know the Bible more than Christians who have spent the whole of their lives studying it.

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Can Christians need Deliverance? (II)

Having explained the relationship between salvation and the ministry of liberation, let’s now take it up a notch by examining the issues surrounding demonization:

(1) The term “demonization” is an Anglicization of the Greek word frequently used in the New Testament: daimonizomai. The word may be translated “under demonic influence” or “to be demonized.” Some folks interpret demonization as being “demon possessed,” but this is incorrect and misplaced.

The term demon possession is an unfortunate term that found its way into some English translations of the Bible but is not really reflected in the Greek text. The Greek NT speaks of people who “have a demon” (e.g Matt. 11:18) or people who are suffering from demonic influence (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press: England, 1999, p. 179).

Demonization can range from demonic oppression to severe demonic control. Though there are degrees of demonic attack or influence in the lives of believers, the term “demon possession” should not be conflated with demonization and shouldn’t be applied to Christians.

The term “demon possession” conveys to an English ear that a person is owned by a demon, but this is impossible for Christians. A Christian’s personality can come under demonic influence but he/she is still owned by Christ. Therefore, a demon cannot have a Christian, but a Christian can have a demon.

(2) A major objection raised against deliverance is, since the Holy Spirit lives within the believer, it would be impossible for a demon to live in the same place as the Holy Spirit. This brings us back to the question: can a Christian who has the Holy Spirit also have a demon?

While the Bible does not definitively answer that question, there are some things we need to reflect on. For instance, the Holy Spirit is everywhere in the universe; would this mean that there are no demons anywhere in the universe? Obviously not.

The Scriptures teach that the true believer is no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-9), yet the flesh continues to operate in the believer’s life alongside the Spirit. So let’s rephrase the initial question with a twist: How can the Holy Spirit cohabit the same body with the unholy flesh?

Our flesh/carnal nature is not any less evil or unclean than is a demon. Both the flesh and demons are in sinful rebellion against a holy God. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit can indwell a saved sinner who still has the flesh, then He can also live in a believer who has a demon. The demon wouldn’t “hurt” the Holy Spirit. That idea is even absurd. And the demon wouldn’t automatically flee because of the Holy Spirit (William Schnoebelen, Blood on the Doorposts, Chick Pub., 1994, p. 47).

Contrary to what some folks teach, the Holy Spirit will not come into you and cast out the demons that you’ve invited in, and which Christ has already given you the authority to expel.

(3) The Bible says we are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 3:16). Just like the ancient temple of the Lord in the OT, we have three basic constituents – body, soul and spirit. The temple had the outer court, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.

In Ezekiel 8, we see that the temple of God was defiled. The people brought an idol of jealously into it; they practised abominable acts; drew images of demon gods and unclean animals on its walls; burned incense to idols; they worshipped the rising sun and their women wept for Tammuz – occult rites that invited evil spirits into the temple.

Yet, all the while, the presence of God was still in the Holy of Holies. This can be a reflection of a Christian today; the Holy Spirit can dwell in His spirit while sinful practices – before or after salvation – have led to demonic infestation in his body and soul.

It doesn’t mean he’s unsaved or evil, he only needs to purge his temple and evacuate the evil strangers from their hiding places.

(4) An objection raised to the above is to appeal to 2 Cor. 6:14-16 that since there can be no agreement between darkness and light, or Christ and Belial, a Christian who has the Holy Spirit in him/her cannot also have a demon in him/her.

This argument is based on the fallacious notion that for the Spirit of God and an evil spirit to reside simultaneously in the same person, mutual cooperation is required between both of them. This is a fatally flawed thinking.

The passage was actually directed to the Christians in Corinth who were in unequal partnership with pagans and their norms. Apostle Paul was warning them against entanglement with unbelievers (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Eerdmans, 1979, Vol. 1, p. 780).

(5) In several places, Scripture tells us that sin opens the door to captivity, affliction, bondage and attack from the devil e.g. Eccl. 10:8; Isa. 5:12-13; Matt. 23:37; John 5:14; Eph. 4:26-27.

If a Christian for instance, dabbles in divination (consulting palm readers, Tarot cards, psychics etc.), that sin can open the door to demonic bondage/invasion. This may not always be the case every time, because demonization is not a cut and dry phenomenon as some of us think.

The demons’ degree of influence in Christians varies from person to person – depending on the magnitude of sin and the class of demons involved – yet, the spiritual doorways provided by sin are no less real.

(6) Scripture shows us that our lives can be defiled, and we are to cleanse ourselves from spiritual filthiness and have our bodies, souls and spirits preserved blameless (1Cor. 3:16-17; 1Cor.7:1; 1 Thess. 5:23). If it wasn’t possible for Christians to be defiled (whether by sin or demons), these verses wouldn’t be in the Bible.

Interestingly, the same Greek word for “defile”, phtherei, is also used for “destroy.” It means to spoil, corrupt, bring to a worse state and to deprave. This is what sowing to the flesh does to the believer (A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, Ethelbert Bullinger, Zondervan MI, 1975, p. 213).

(7) To neglect, deny or ignore the ministry of deliverance has more serious consequences than the other way round. If a Christian who needs to be liberated is being taught that he doesn’t need deliverance, two major things can happen:

One, the Christian fruitlessly struggles against besetting sins until he/she is exhausted or completely demoralized. It becomes a vicious cycle of falling into the sinful habit, praying for forgiveness, promising to apply spiritual discipline and falling after a few hours and praying for mercy again. It soon gets to a point where he begins to embrace it as normal.

Two, the Christian is overwhelmed with demonic oppression and begins to doubt if he was ever saved at all. The demons will then bombard his mind with thoughts like: “I can never be a good Christian!”; “This is my destiny”; “God has rejected me because I was too evil”; “God doesn’t answer prayers” etc. 

(8) What I find striking about the “demons-in-Christians” debate is how people on both sides of the divide, usually reduce deliverance to casting out of demons from a person or place. That’s reductionist and distracting, and it should be pointed out.

Any Christian who has studied the Bible and has a keen understanding of spiritual things will agree that deliverance is more than expulsion of evil spirits. There are many people who are not infested from within but bound from without. Therefore, deliverance in its full scope involves:

(a) Releasing people from destructive pacts/covenants and seals (Isa. 28:18). These things remain in place even after salvation unless they are specifically addressed in prayer.

(b) Releasing people from generational/family and personal curses (Gal. 3:13). These are also categorized as “vertical and horizontal curses.”

(c) Breaking occult spells, triggers and cues that have been placed on/in people (Micah 5:12). These are tools used by the enemy to enslave individuals or groups of people.

(d) Destroying evil linkages, soul ties and spiritual yokes (Isa. 10:27). These are used to impede a person’s progress in a divine direction.

(e) Removing demonic implants and demonic luggage from people (Matt. 15:13).

(f) Breaking spiritual chains placed on people by the powers of darkness and setting them free from spiritual prisons and cages (Isa. 61:1).

(g) Revoking evil dedications, renouncing false worship/communal bondages (Acts 19:19).

(h) Recovery of what the enemy stole (Obadiah 1:17). It could be a person’s virtues, joy, finances, vision, body parts or spouse.

Conclusively, from the highlighted points, it’s important that believers understand what this aspect of spiritual warfare entails. We have been commissioned to keep enforcing the defeat of Satan and his imps in our lives and those of others.

While the ministry of deliverance is not to be touted as the silver bullet to every problem, it should not also be ignored, disparaged nor reserved only for extreme cases in our churches.

 

Dealing with Grief and Loss

“I was asleep in my dorm room when my sister called. She was frantic and crying, and said mum was in a plane crash. It took me a while to digest. It was the longest night of my life,” says Jimmy.

“On Sunday morning, when I later called home, my father told me they found her, but that she didn’t make it. I think at that moment, my legs buckled and the room seemed like it was spinning and I couldn’t understand it,” he said.

A widow whose husband died at work told a reporter: “He wasn’t sick before he left the house. He wasn’t given to fasting, so he would always eat well. We ate together before he left the house that morning. So, how did it happen? What happened to him?”

Holding her baby in her arms, she broke down in tears, “He never came back! They only brought his bag home. I never knew I wouldn’t see him again. The next time I saw him was in death. Who would take care of his four children?”

These scenarios play out all over the world. We have all received news of someone’s demise before. He or she could be a friend, relative, marriage partner, colleague, church member, or a lover. We all know how we felt at that moment.

“When I received news of my mother’s death, I fainted,” said Tope (who at the time didn’t know his father). “My mother put in all her effort for me to get educated. Death took her away. My hope was gone.”

The first normal reaction to the death of a loved one is sorrow and grief. Grief is a natural response to loss, and loss comes in different forms. It is an emotional suffering one feels when someone (or something) one loves is taken away.

The more significant the loss is, the more intense the grief. And the death of a loved one results in the most intense grief. Such loss usually inflicts a wound on a person’s heart and its scars can remain for a long time.

Some Christians believe weeping over someone’s death indicates a lack of faith. But the Bible furnishes us with examples of godly men and women who wept over tragic losses.

Abraham was a man of faith, yet when Sarah died, he “came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Gen. 23:2). David wept over his son, Absalom’s death (2 Sam. 18:33).

When the Lord Jesus got to Lazarus’ tomb, He wept (Jn. 11:35). When Stephen died, devout men “made great lamentation over him” (Acts 8:2). God is not against crying over a loss. And it’s not an indication of lack of faith.

Grief has several symptoms. This includes sadness, depression, anger, social withdrawal, anxiety, apathy, loneliness, longing for who was lost, blaming of self or others and questioning of beliefs.

People differ in the way they grieve, sometimes depending on culture. Some people resort to alcohol, illegal drugs or abuse of prescription drugs to cope with grief. The duration of the grieving also varies from person to person.

According to a Medical textbook:

“Regardless of the duration of the grieving process, there are two basic goals: (1) healing the self and (2) recovering from the loss. Other factors that influence grieving are the type of loss, life experiences with various changes and transitions, religious beliefs, cultural background, and personality type” (Brunner & Suddarth’s Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing, 12th edition, Wolters Kluwer Health, 2010, pp. 105-106).

There are three main stages of grief:

(1) Early reaction – this is the stage when you newly received the news of (or witnessed) the death of a loved one. It is characterized by initial shock, disbelief, denial, emotional numbness, and anger.

At this stage, there is a tendency to become angry at the doctors, the hospital, the system, the deceased one for not taking his own health seriously and even at God for taking the person away at a critical time.

Stella, who lost her father reflects, “My mother was too flippant with my dad’s health and my dad was too stubborn. If he had listened to her he wouldn’t have died.” This is a normal stage of grief. A bereaved person lashes out at friends and relatives.

(2) Acute grief – characterized by mood changes, guilt, self-condemnation, extreme fatigue, insomnia, appetite changes, reduced work capacity, hallucinations – feeling, hearing or seeing the deceased.

A grieving person struggles with guilt. Some blame themselves for talking harshly to the deceased; for what they didn’t say or do; for not doing enough.

Ayo, who lost his wife during childbirth lamented, “The most painful thing for me is that she suffered so much before she died. She cried and bled on and on, but that did not even move [the nurses on duty] … I only took her there because that was where she had her antenatal and they knew her health history. If I had known I would have taken her to a private hospital.”

(3) Levelling off period – characterized by acceptance of the tragedy, sadness with nostalgia, more pleasant memories of the deceased and sometimes with humour. This is the stage where people recover.

It must be emphasized, however, that there is no fixed pattern of grief or time frame that everyone must follow to recover. The grieving process can be intense or shorter for many people as time goes by.

How to cope with grief after a loss.

I. Make a conscious determination to move on with life. That implies that you shouldn’t let others dictate to you how you must grieve.

Some people will tell you if don’t cry enough, you are not sorry about the loss, while some will say that you have to “be strong” in the face of a loss i.e must not cry. These are myths reinforced by cultural stereotypes.

Don’t force yourself into a mould created by the society. A grieving person needs to let out that pain and the easiest way is to cry. Though as Christians, we shouldn’t mourn like those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13-14).

II. Do not grieve alone. The grieving period is the time to turn to family and friends for support. Don’t burn all your bridges. “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgement” (Proverbs 18:1).

It’s dangerous for a grieving person to be abandoned by people. Even when Job experienced tragedy, his friends came around to comfort him (Job 2:11). If you are comforting a grieving person, you may not need to talk much, your presence and sympathy alone go a long way.

When I lost a close friend in 2012, I visited her mother. She was overwhelmed with grief. As I was struggling to offer some words of comfort, I sensed that she needed someone to listen to her tell her side of what happened. She had been accused of killing her daughter and had a lot of anger on the inside, but my presence assured her that at least someone wasn’t judging her, and that made a difference.

III. Don’t be in haste to make any critical decision. This includes moving to a new place, selling or giving away your home or items belonging to the deceased or entering a new romantic relationship. Give yourself some time to reflect on the steps you want to take.

When you are under a huge emotional stress, your sense of judgement may be clouded and you may regret some decisions later if you make them hastily. “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Prov. 21:5).

IV. Look after your physical health. Grief causes either a loss of or increase in appetite for food or sleep. If these are not checked, they can affect one’s physical health. It is normal for a bereaved person to feel disoriented and anxious, but adhering to your normal daily duties and activities can help.

Have a specific time to sleep, get up, eat or do certain chores. You can combat fatigue and stress by eating, sleeping and exercising right. Avoid numbing your feeling with drugs or alcohol.

V. Find your feet spiritually. Grief makes a person vulnerable to doubting the love and power of God. There is a sort of anger that is often directed at God for not answering our prayers made for the deceased to live or for taking the person away at a critical time.

A certain man who lost his four children in a building collapse cried “I thought God would even spare one of them for me. But they came to tell me that none of them is alive.” This pain leads to doubt or apathy towards the things of God.

The devil uses such painful experiences to attack our helmet of salvation and break off our shield of faith. Some people can direct their anger inward driving them to suicide. This is why the grieving period is the time to renew one’s faith in God’s Word and seek solace in Him in prayer, otherwise it’s easy to fall away.

In the midst of that loss, look up to “the father of mercies and the God of all comfort” (2Cor. 1:3) and allow the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to comfort you in your grief. Open your heart to Jesus, the Balm of Gilead to heal your pain.