Arminian Today

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The Liberalism of the American Abolitionist Movement

Abolition was not always a liberal movement.  Charles Finney, for example, opposed slavery and was not liberal at all in his views on the Bible.  Other conservatives were on the other side of the slavery issue such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield both of whom supported slavery.  Edwards owned slaves but treated them fairly.  Whitefield argued before the Georgia state legislative for slavery to be allowed in Georgia.  Whitefield saw slavery as rescuing the Africans out of Africa for the gospel to be exposed to them.  In some ways, Whitefield was right in that regard.  Africans had been enslaving Africans for hundreds of years even before they were brought to America to be sold to plantations in the South.  Those who came to the United States had the chance to hear the gospel.  This is good no matter how wicked you see slavery.

The abolitionist movement took a turn though in the mid 1800’s and begin to turn liberal in its views on the Bible.  They began to denounce slavery outright.  They began to teach that all slavery was wrong.  While they preached heavily from the book of Exodus and the slavery and freedom of the Jews out of Egypt, they ignored the Bible’s teachings in the New Testament on slavery.  In fact, they began to reject the New Testament authority on this issue altogether and allowed the culture to form their views regarding the slave issue.  The key issue was not slavery as much as it was racism.

For the South, there is no doubt that the judgment of God was needed because the South was not obeying His Word in regard to slavery.  The slave in the South was there because of his race.  The whites in both the North and the South (and Europe as well) viewed the African as unequal to the white man.  Africa itself was called “the dark continent” because of not just the color of the people’s skin but also because of their lack of technology and law.  I would argue that it was Christianity that made Europe great and it is Christianity that is making Africa today great and I pray that in time Africa will lead the world as she embraces the gospel.  The gospel is what makes nations great.  Europe and North America will fail as she rejects the gospel more and more.  She will become like the Middle East with her rejection of the truth and will fall far behind those nations that embrace the gospel.

The American abolitionist movement failed to see racism as the key issue.  The abolitionist saw slavery as the issue.  Therefore it had to ignore the New Testament teachings on slavery.  The New Testament spoke often to both slaves and masters.  To slaves: Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18.  To masters: Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1.

What should have been preached by both the North and South was the gospel that saves sinners and the gospel that unites people under Christ.  The gospel transforms relationships.  The gospel takes white Christians and brings them together with brown Christians or yellow Christians or whatever color Christians.  The gospel unites.  Paul is clear on this in Galatians 3:26-29 or Ephesians 2:11-22.  The gospel means that I can sit down with my black brother or my yellow brother and enjoy time with them in the name of Jesus.  Jesus tears down the walls of racism that no nation on earth can tear down.

The liberal churches, after the Civil War ended, continued to push their social gospel.  With their victory over the hated Southern slave owners, they turned their guns on other social issues.  The gospel of salvation from sin was replaced with a new cry to redeem society and make it a utopia.  Lost was the authority of the Bible because it had been ignored even before the Civil War erupted.  Racism continues to this day and the racism of both the North and South would continue well into the 19th century.  To this day, we still have racial issues because of the failures of the Churches in both the North and South to condemn racism.

What lessons can we learn from this today?  In our present culture, just as in the mid 1800’s, true biblical Christianity is a minority.  We must not allow the culture to decide what is proper or not.  For example, culture will say that homosexuality is okay and same-sex “marriage” is right.  They will use the same arguments that abolitionists used to denounce slavery.  They will say that the South once believed the Bible blessed slavery of Africans so a culture can change its views.  They will say that culture and not the Bible is the authority.  For the Church, the Bible must be preached.  We must not ignore what the Bible says on any issue even if it goes against the culture.  We must not apologize for the fact the Bible teaches on slaves and master relationships.  We must preach this truth along with the rebuking of sins such as racism or sexual immorality including homosexuality or adultery.  We must preach that marriage is between one man and one woman as the Bible teaches.  We must not back down.  We must not compromise.  We must not turn liberal.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/20/2013 at 8:56 PM

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