Roger asks this, a reasonable question: "The two Dougs from Christ Church cannot have it both ways. Either slavery is evil or it is not. Which Doug are we to believe?"
Actually both of them, since we agree completely on this issue. Now I want you all (or at least anyone interested in something beyond sound byte ammo) to follow me closely here. Certain things are good because that is the way that God created them -- let us call them creational goods. Things like marriage, food, work, and fair sunshine. This is what is meant when God looked over the creation He had fashioned, and said that it was good.
When sin entered the world (sin being defined as a proud resistance to the will of God), the created order fell as Adam rebelled and fell. In this sinful and now ethically complicated world, we have a new category, which is that of comparative good. Marriage is a good in the first instance, and divorce can be a good in the second. Divorce is frequently an instrument for sinning, but sometimes it is a godly and appropriate response to sinning. God hates divorce, and so do I. But sometimes as a pastor I have counseled someone who is the victim of a hard-hearted spouse that they need to seek a divorce. For those fond of googling up Credenda articles, google up "Time to Walk." I say that I hate divorce, but sometimes I have counseled it. Is this a contradiction? Only for those who are willing to whoop and holler over superficial verbal discrepancies. "You hate divorce, and you have counseled people before to do what you say you hate?" In short, only those whose political agenda demands misunderstanding us, or for those who think that anyone who holds to ethical absolutes (as I do) must necessarily also maintain that those absolutes are built out of rough cut two by fours.
War is a similar kind of thing. God promises that the future of our world will exclude war, the lion will lie down with the lamb, and the swords will be beaten into plowshares. God hates war, and so do I -- especially unnecessary ones. And yet I believe someone who loves God can participate in warfare provided he carefully follows God's regulations and boundaries for those who find themselves in that kind of situation. I do believe there is such a thing as a just war, but this is a good in the second category, not the first. It is a comparative good, not a creational good. And it can only be a comparative good when the war is justified because the alternative is worse. God promises the end of war (through the gospel), and yet He equipped David for war (Ps. 144:1). And at the same time, David was prohibited from building the Temple because he was a man of blood.
Consequently, those who insist that we are praising slavery as a creational good (as though it were some kind of milk and honey institution) are grievously misrepresenting us. They do this, some of them, because they cannot help it -- they honestly cannot follow the argument. They do not understand that while God is perfect, He is not a perfectionist. They want all absolutists to affirm a simplistic ethic. Sorry, no can do. Others say that we are praising slavery because they see in this an issue that is highly flammable, and they want to run us out of town. And don't forget, they want to do this in the name of Diversity. (By the way, how many signatures do the diversity cops have to collect on their petition before we all have to go into exile and leave this tolerant place?)
So here is a simple summary for anyone who wants it: slavery is a result of sin, and the logic of the gospel, which sets men free, contains the promise that it will bring an end to all slavery (which sinful in this sense) over time. But before slavery ended in our nation, it was possible for a Christian who was a slave owner to follow the instructions of the New Testament for those in such situations. 1 Tim. 6:1-5 says what it does. Slavery (general): sinful. Slavery (in this or that particular instance): it depends.
But there are those who cannot comprehend this, and who have a great deal of pent-up zeal that they simply must express itself against slavery. They must do this regardless of any and all explanations. So I have a proposal for the adherents of all such boring and ugly hypocrisies. Why don't you start weekly protests in Friendship Square directed against all the countries which are practicing slavery right now? Stop standing up for the rights of slaves who have been dead for a century. Stand up for those who are enslaved now in East Africa, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, and Indonesia. This will enable us to see how deep your anti-slavery commitment actually is.
And because I am not going to hold my breath waiting for this to happen, let me also say this about my previous posts on the gospel of Christ. Jesus Christ died on the cross, and He rose again from the dead, and because He did this He is able to forgive any sin whatever. This authority to forgive includes the authority to forgive left wing posturing, hypocrisy, bitterness, lies, slanders, and malice. Jesus has the power to forgive it all. And I do not mind saying, though I am a very poor imitator of Christ, that we bear no ill will toward any of those who have lied about us over the course of this controversy. Of course, we would like it to end, but, until it does, it is good to remember that Jesus died to save people just like us.
Apologetics in the Void" are repostings from an on-going electronic discussion and debate I had some time ago with members of our local community, whose names I have changed. The list serve is called Vision 20/20, and hence the name "visionaries." Reading just these posts probably feels like listening to one half of a phone conversation, but I don't feel at liberty to publish what others have written. But I have been editing these posts (lightly) with intelligibility in mind.