For centuries, people used Scripture to condone the practice of slavery. Paul's letters, the mark God placed on Cain, God's cursing of Ham - these all spoke more loudly than the big pictures of Image and Likeness and "proving neighbor."
Have any of you been in a conversation recently with a follower of Jesus who sincerely believed that the Bible was pro-slavery? To be honest, I haven't. I've had people accuse me of believing in a holy book that supports and justifies evil (like slavery). But I've never had someone try to convince me that the Bible supports slavery and that slavery is a good thing.
Now, the Biblical material as it relates to slavery is tricky. It's worth thinking through and thinking through well.
But isn't it interesting that we give little time to thinking about slavery? We rarely talk about it. It's rarely discussed in our churches or around our dinner tables. We're pretty confident in what we believe about this subject, even though we haven't worked through all of the difficulties associated with the aforementioned Biblical materials.
Now, is our certainty on this issue related to some progress we've had in the field of hermeneutics? Sure, somewhat. But certainly not in its entirely. Some of our certainty has to do with our perspective.
Our cultural perspective tells us that slavery is wrong. And I think this is a great thing because it really lines up with the Bible's teaching on this topic, especially when the Bible's read rigorously.
What we have to come to terms with, and this is really difficult, is the possibility that our flawed perspectives are constantly making truth-claims, constantly telling us how to interpret Scripture. Sometimes, it works out wonderfully. Sometimes, it doesn't.
So what about when perspectives contradict the Biblical witness? How do we know when this has happened and what can we do about it? This is the core question I'd guess the person who dropped it into the box was wondering. It's what I'll post on soon. ;)