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Posts Tagged ‘Civil War

Why I Love History!

Having spent a week in Washington DC, I was surrounded by history.  Every where I turned, there was history all around me.  I visited the battlefields at Manassas, Virginia where not one but two Civil War battles took place.  Both were victories for the Confederates.  In First Bull Run, it was General Stonewall Jackson and his Virginia soldiers who turned the tide of the battle.  President Lincoln was convinced that the Southerners would want to return to the Union once they saw the power of the Union army.  How wrong Lincoln was.  In fact, most Union soldiers and citizens believed that this battle at the train depot town of Manassas would end the rebellion.  Lincoln called for loyal men of the Union to join his army and they signed up for only 90 days!  Lincoln convinced the people of the North that the South would crumple against his army.  He did not account for the tenacity of men such as Jackson or Robert E. Lee.  The battle intrigued people of the North so much so that they journeyed that Sunday morning, July 21, 1861, about 20 miles from Washington DC to Manassas.  They came to watch “the only battle to be fought in the Civil War.”

The battle of Manassas begin with the Union gaining the upper hand but the tide turned when Stonewall Jackson rallied his men to fight for the South, “their country.”  Jackson was a fervent man of prayer and he would often walk the trails praying.  The night before First Bull Run, tradition tells us that Jackson journeyed into the open fields where the war would take place the next day and he prayed.  Jackson was beloved by his men and they fought and died for him and the Southern cause.  It was Jackson and his men who turned the battle that day and they so routed the Union that the Union soldiers and the common folk who came to watch the battle tripped over themselves running back to DC.  Lincoln knew he was in for a long fight after that battle.  The South would not go easy.

History teaches us many things.  It doesn’t just teach us where we came from.  It teaches us where we are going.  The roots of the Civil War are not just found in the question of slavery.  They go much deeper than that.  The battle lines for the Civil War were laid at the beginnings of the United States but few study history to know that.  In fact, we are still seeing much of the effects of the Civil War even today.  The key difference (and it is huge) is that we are now viewing the Civil War and all of history through the lenses of postmodernism.  Only those of us who are seeking to be enlightened and reject postmodernism as a false ideology and another line of humanistic philosophies that will fail understand history.  Postmodernism relies on deconstructionism.  This is the idea that we must reevaluate everything we learn and rebuild it how we want it.  So now, history is seen as “European arrogance toward the Natives in the New World” so that Christopher Columbus, who was praised for nearly 200 years in the United States for his discovery of the New World, is now seen as a warmonger, a bigot, a racist, and he took the land from the Natives and gave it to the Whites.

I saw more evidences of deconstruction at work as I visited the various museums in Washington.  European history or “white” history has been completely replaced with various views from Africans and Hispanics.  While Africans and Hispanics are praised for their cultures, their inventions, their people, etc. the Europeans are viewed as racists, bigots, liars, thieves, and slave owners.  While these words do not appear, the praise for every culture but Europe is seen all in the history museums.  The Civil War exhibit alone praised the abolition movement, spoke of the horrors of slavery, etc. but failed to address the deeper issues involved with the Civil War, mainly States’ rights and whether the States would be allowed to control their own destinies or whether the expansion of the Federal Government would be the victor.  Yes slavery was a major point but it was along other issues as well and the Smithsonian ignores that in favor of the hotter topic, the enslavement of the African race.

Now some will read that above and glean racism from it.  I mean no harm.  I think it is right for us to praise our races.  God made us all unique in our color and our cultures.  We are made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) and we all share a common blood but we are all different nonetheless.  We are unique.  There will only be one of you.  There will be many whites, blacks, red, brown, etc. colored people but only one you, one person created in God’s image.  That is the cure for racism.  Further, we must not deny people the right to praise their own race.  Paul praised his race in Romans 9:1-5.  There is nothing wrong with whites celebrating in other whites nor blacks celebrating other blacks.  In fact, President Obama is both white (his mother) and black (his father).  I don’t think we should tear down white history in favor of other histories nor should we promote one history over the other but teach history.  We can learn from history!

The Civil War is more and more being viewed from the lenses of deconstruction.  All of the South is now viewed as racist.  Stonewall Jackson and men such as Robert E. Lee are seen as racists.  The South is seen as fighting for the cause of slavery but while slavery played a part, it was not the only part.  The vast majority of the men who fought and died for the South never owned slaves.  They believed they were fighting and dying for their friends and ultimately their right to live as free people.  Deconstruction has attacked such a view.

I love history but I dread to see where we are going with it.  We are attacking nearly all our history through the lenses of postmodernism.  We are doing so with the Bible now as well and we must guard against that.  We must stand firm for the authority of the Bible and preach the truth of the Word of God despite the rejection we will receive due to it (1 Peter 4:12-19).  People will not be saved by us being nice and tolerant but through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17; 10:14-17).  We must preach what our society does not want to hear, that people are sinners in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23).  We must preach that men are not basically good but we are wretched before a holy God (1 Timothy 1:8-11) and apart from His grace, we cannot be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We must preach the truth of John 3:1-7, that all people must be born again or they will not enter into the kingdom of God.  We must expose their sins through the Law of God (Psalm 19:7; Romans 7:7).  We must not back down proclaiming the truth of the Word of God in favor of deconstructionism.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/17/2012 at 11:00 AM

The American Civil War as a Theological Crisis (Part 2)

We have seen that both sides, the North (or Union) and the South (the Confederates) had evangelicals on both sides who both agreed that the Bible is the Word of God but they interpreted passages of Scripture in many different ways.  I know that it still bothers people that there are passages in the New Testament that speak of slavery and not in a negative light.  For example, Ephesians 6:5-9 speak of slaves and masters:

5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or is free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Jesus even called His followers slaves in Luke 17:10.  “Slave” was the most popular term used by Paul the Apostle to describe himself (see for example Romans 1:1).  The Bible then doesn’t speak negatively toward slavery.

The South picked up on this and preached these passages.  Famous South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun argued that great nations were built on the backs of slaves including Egypt by the Israelites (Exodus 1:8-14) and great empires such as the Roman Empire or even the Spaniards or the British.  Calhoun saw the providence of God in this and that God used slavery to establish these empires for His purposes.

Other Southerners argued that since the Bible spoke favorably of the practice, God must not have a problem with slavery.  Human slavery has been a part of humanity since the dawn of time it seems.  Slavery was common all during the Middle Ages and into the modern era.  The South viewed their practice as normal and not against Christianity or against history itself.

The North, however, pointed out the key difference between slavery in the Bible and slavery in the South and that was racism.  Slaves in the South were all Africans.  Before the slaves came from Africa, the colonies tried to use slaves from England (white) and even Indians from America.  In both cases the slaves could run away and easily blend in with the peoples living in America.  Not so with the Africans.  Since all Africans were slaves, any African seen among the general population was known to be a slave and would be arrested or questioned for being among the whites.  African slaves had no rights.  They were ill-treated, abused, killed, viewed as cattle, had no formal education, were denied their humanity and were brutalized by their masters.  The North pointed out that this was vastly different from the slaves of the Bible or the practices of other nations.  For the first time in the history of slavery, the American colonies had slaves of color (Africans) based solely on their race.

The South went so far as to argue that Africans were not really humans.  Using much of the same logic that Hitler would later use to teach the Germans that Jews were sub-humans, Southerners were taught that blacks were not fully humans.  Pictures were shown of their skulls, their facial makeup, etc. to prove that they were monkeys and not humans.  This view still comes up from time to time among ignorant people.  I have myself heard whites say that blacks are monkeys.  This racism ran deep in Southern thinking.  Slave owners then felt no guilt for murdering their slaves, for raping their slave women, for beating their slaves since their slaves were not fully humans but were a form of monkeys.

The North’s preachers preached hard against this.  The idea that Africans were not human was absurd.  If you cut an African man or woman, they were just as much human as a white or a Hispanic.  They too were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and deserve respect for being human.  To deny them their right to live and liberty was not only anti-American but anti-Christ.  The North did not deny that slavery was present in the Bible but they pointed out two main weaknesses with the South’s views.  First, slavery in the Bible was not racism.  Racism clearly is sinful (Mark 12:31).  Secondly, Southern plantations held slaves based on racism and did not even obey passages such as Ephesians 6:5-9 when it came to treating their slaves with dignity and respect.  While this was not true of all Southern plantations, many of them had no trouble being harsh to slaves.

The Civil War was then a theological crisis.  The War was more than just armies marching out to attack one another.  It was a struggle for what view from the Bible would prevail.  President Lincoln was correct to point out that the question of whose side God was on was not the correct question.  Lincoln stated that we must be on God’s side or He will not be on ours.  The North believed their fight was for what was right and based on Scripture.  The South felt the same.  Who would win?

150 years later we can see that the North was correct.  The South’s exegesis was flawed on many levels.  The Church in the North stood for the truth and opposed slavery.  In my estimation, the South was fighting a war they could not win.  Not just logistically (21 million people in the North versus only 9 million in the South with 4 million being slaves) but morally.  The North had the guns and the theological backing to attack the South.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/30/2012 at 11:20 AM

The American Civil War as a Theological Crisis

Mark Noll has written a book by the title of my post.  I have not read his work but assume he is speaking of the same subject as my own concerning the theological nature of the American Civil War.  The roots of the Civil War lie as far back as the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776.  Even then the seeds were planted for division between the States as some of the founding fathers wanted a strong Federal Government while others wanted a Union among individual and yet equally powerful States.  The issue of slavery was not settled with the signing of the Bill of Rights and this moral issue would tear at the nation for nearly 100 years before the Civil War would erupt in 1861 after the election of abolitionist President Lincoln (who actually only favored forbidding slavery in the West and did not wish to end the practice in the South) and the session of South Carolina from the Union in December of 1860.

What goes unnoticed is the theological crisis that culminated with the Civil War.  This issue was slavery.  For the Church, States’ rights was not the issue.  It was the evil practice (according to the abolitionist) of slavery or the fact that the Bible did not forbid slavery from the pro-slavery point of view.  There were passionate evangelicals on both sides.  For instance, George Whitefield stood before the Georgia State Assembly during his trip to America in the 18th century and asked the Georgia Assembly to continue the practice of slavery.  Whitefield justified slavery for two main reasons.  First he said that this gave the slaves from Africa the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved and then secondly, the fact that the Africans could work the harsh lands of Georgia and were use to the heat.  John Wesley opposed Whitefield over this issue and Wesley encouraged William Wilberforce in his fight to end slavery in England.  It would be the last letter Wesley would ever write.

Jonathan Edwards owned slaves.  Edwards felt that slavery was not forbidden in Scripture, like Whitefield, and he argued that God could use slavery to save souls (such as the case with Paul in the epistle to Philemon).  Edwards also felt that it was the duty of the Christian to not be harsh to slaves, to preach the gospel to them, and to be good to them.

Charles Finney opposed slavery in all forms.  He believed it went against the Word of God that says that we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  How could another human enslave another human made in God’s image?

E.M. Bounds, the great prayer warrior from the state of Georgia, fought along side the Confederates and was their chaplain.  He was captured and put in prison in Tennessee.  Bounds would there learn to pray for as much as 9 hours a day.  Bounds opposed slavery but because he was a Southerner, he supported States’ Rights and believed his duty to serve his country during the War.  He returned to his home in Washington, Georgia where he lived out his days in peace, praying and preaching the gospel in Methodist churches.

Henry Ward Beecher was the most famous preacher during this era.  Beecher was known for his powerful speaking ability and pastored a church in New York City (one of the largest in America at that time if not the largest).  He even was invited to London, England to preach alongside of Charles Spurgeon but Surgeon declined because Beecher was known for his adultery (which he committed several times during his ministry).  Beecher was the first “seeker sensitive” preacher as he learned early on not to preach on any subjects his crowds did not enjoy.  Beecher was also very outspoken against slavery.  His sister wrote the famous book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and it was Henry Ward Beecher who would preach at the dedication of Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC back to the Federal Government following the end of the Civil War.  Beecher was loved and adored by slaves for his passionate preaching against slavery.

Even among the military, there were men on both sides who argued from the Bible.  Robert E. Lee, the general of the Confederate military, was deeply religious.  He would spend hours reading his Bible and praying.  Lee did not favor slavery but he did own slaves whom he released after the start of the Civil War.  Lee felt the South would never win the war so long as slavery was not banned in the South.  To Lee, it was a moral issue and one that the North would win unless the South followed suit.

General Stonewall Jackson was likewise deeply religious.  Jackson was known for his encouragement to his men to pray and read their Bibles.  Jackson opposed allowing his soldiers to invite prostitutes into the camp, opposed gambling, opposed drinking.  Jackson would spend hours on his knees in his tent before going to battle praying.  Jackson, however, loved war.  He loved to fight.  He found glory in commanding an army and he was a very good commander.  Jackson also believed, like Edwards and Whitefield before him, that slavery could be used to further the kingdom of God.  How else could the Africans hear the gospel?  Who would dare venture into the dark continent of Africa to preach the gospel (that would be the great David Livingston)?

In the North, President Lincoln wrestled with the “African problem” of slavery.  Lincoln is hard to pinpoint theologically.  He never attended church very much.  Never joined a church.  He did pray and he did read the Bible.  From the time he was a boy he would memorize from the book of Psalms.  His second inaugural address is filled with Bible references.  Lincoln, at the beginning of the Civil War, did not want to end slavery in the South.  He merely wanted to contain it and not allow it in the Western states.  The South knew that if this happened, the “free” States would force their rule upon the South and end slavery.  They would rather secede then try to fight that battle in Washington.  Lincoln realized that the North needed a moral reason to fight.  During his re-election campaign in 1864 we begin to see Lincoln’s anti-slavery position begin to take root.  Lincoln knew that the North would not want to continue to fight the South unless they could see that their battle was a moral battle and not just a battle for land.  This issue, wrote Lincoln of the South’s secession, was not about the Federal Government but whether men would be allowed to be free.  Was our Bill of Rights wrong to say that all men are created equal and deserve liberty?  How can this be when 4 million African slaves were in bondage?  Lincoln believed their fight was a fight to free people from bondage.  Their mission was much like Christ’s, to free people from bondage.  I am not sure where Lincoln stood regarding salvation but he used the Bible often to back his belief that slavery was wrong.

More thoughts about this issue are coming….

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/29/2012 at 9:49 PM

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