It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on the blog. After nearly two weeks in Israel and a few days at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church for their annual missions conference, I’m finally coming out of a brief internet hiatus.

I wish I were returning to the blogosphere under different circumstances. But last week I got myself involved in one of the periodic internet spats that happens among God’s people. Someone on twitter asked me what I thought about Bryan Lorrits’ lament over Douglas Wilson’s book Black and Tan, and I responded honestly. Here’s the exchange:

 

 

In return, Doug Wilson responded to Bryan Loritts, Anthony Bradley, Eric Mason and myself with this post. So, my 280-character tweet with three retweets has triggered another round of comments regarding Wilson’s Black and Tan.

Now, it’s almost a matter of evangelical orthodoxy that disagreements ought to be handled privately and that critics should contact the folks they’re critiquing before they say anything publicly. No doubt some reader has already thought that perhaps Loritts’ and my tweets should have never occurred without the prerequisite private confab. Since that sentiment seems popular in internet evangelical circles, let me briefly explain why I think it’s wrong and why I’m writing publicly in this and 3-4 subsequent posts, Lord willing.

1. I’m writing publicly because Wilson’s book is in the public domain, in fact, freely offered to anyone who wishes to download it. Were these privately held opinions, perhaps expressed in conversation with a friend or a few acquaintances at a dinner party, they would not be (or at least should not be) subject matter in public dialogue. But there’s a rather simple rule in academic and publishing circles that I’m sure everyone involved in this understands: If you publish something as a matter of public record, it then becomes “fair game” to critique it in public. Public opinions are subject to public responses. I’m simply keeping with that widely accepted practice.

2. As far as I know, Wilson has not retracted his book or anything in his book Black and Tan. The book itself is a clarification and further defense of an earlier publication, Southern Slavery: As It Was, which due to some oversights in proper citation and some problematic data was pulled from circulation. So, what we have is a publicly-stated position defended and maintained, making it an ongoing issue.

3. I’m writing publicly to counter, as best I can, what might be called the “rotten egg” effect in these matters. You probably became familiar with this effect as a child. Ever say something like, “The last one to the car is a rotten egg”? We have an internet version of this. “The last one to comment publicly is a rotten egg.” That is, I understand that some people view the first opinion as “unfortunate” at worst but hold anyone who replies guilty of a more foul offense (rotten egg). But this inverts the Bible’s teaching, which says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov.18:17). By silencing the cross-examination, we leave ourselves with only the first-stated case, which is not always the correct position. So, like some others, I’m writing publicly because it seems to me some harmful positions need addressing charitably and clearly, with God’s help.

4. I’m writing publicly because I have a pastoral concern for anyone that may read the book and treat it either as sound in reasoning or an acceptable model for dealing with controversial subjects and the fallout they inspire. In my opinion, the book and resultant exchanges represent neither. I’m as liable as anyone to put my foot in my mouth–and I have on numerous occasions. But I hope these posts offer a better way of thinking about some of the issues and a better tone while doing so.

5. Finally, I’m writing because I need to account for my public statements–including tweets, which I know to be a medium far too simplistic for issues this volatile. Mr. Wilson isn’t the only one needing to give an account. I do, too. And I have often found the democratic medium of blogs to have a helpful effect to that end–it’s other problems notwithstanding.

So, Lord willing, this week I’ll offer (1) a summary of Wilson’s Black and Tan as I understand it; (2) a critique of the argument and methodology; (3) an attempt to explain why Wilson continues to be liable to the charge of “racial insensitivity” (at least); and, (4) a short reply to Mr. Wilson’s offer of a meeting. I’m not looking to be sensational or to engage in a rhetorical alley fight. I’m certain I’m not Mr. Wilson’s equal when it comes to rhetorical jabs and hooks, and I don’t think our “dukin’ it out” will actually advance any understanding or dialogue. I welcome you to the dialogue as well, and hope you’ll join me in trying to raise it in ways that edify.

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Comments:


90 thoughts on “Why Respond Publicly to Douglas Wilson’s “Black and Tan”?”

  1. Grant says:

    I look forward to reading your response. I have benefited tremendously from Dr. Wilson’s teaching and cultural engagement, but have always been frustrated by his position in this area.

    It doesn’t seem simple, it seems like a complex issue – prayers for clarity and discernment as you write. I wish this could all be a recorded conversation around a table, but a blog post might suffice. My plea to both sides is that each might display grace, while condemning sin and seeking for truth.

    thanks!

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Amen, brother. And thank you for your prayers.
      T-

    2. I think it’s simple: Wilson is wrong.

  2. Dan Phillips says:

    A public response to a public statement is perfectly appropriate.

    Clearly, so does Doug, given that he has offered to host and fully to foot the bill for exactly such an occasion: http://bit.ly/Y4fEJt.

    1. Chad Damewood says:

      Does Doug Wilson really need you to be his trolling apologist? I keep seeing your comments spread about in defense of Doug. Nothing to do now that no one visits the pyro site since Phil left?

      1. CPS says:

        Chad,

        That was a really impressive way to rebuke Dan for agreeing entirely with what Thabiti had to say. Thanks for your helpful contribution.

      2. Robert Sakovich says:

        Chad, you should read Ephesians 4:29 and then come back and try again.

  3. Don G says:

    Ditto to what Grant said. I’m looking forward to these posts, but I’m really hoping, as Loritts lamented, that some white brothers will step up to the plate.

  4. Jim Upchurch says:

    I’m a white brother, but not a well-known theological big-hitter (does that count?). But I just loaded Wilson’s “Black and Tan” to my kindle and plan on giving a response.

    1. Earl says:

      I’m not sure what a “white brother”is, or what this post is about, but I am concerned about your implicit desire to present a viewpoint you’ve decided to present before you’ve even examined the matter.

      1. Jim Upchurch says:

        Hi Earl,

        My “white brother” was just describing that I am 1) white, and 2) Christian. There have been complaints about there not being any white guys discussing the issue.

        As far as my “implicit desire to present a viewpoint [I've decided] to present before [I've] even examined the matter,” where did I say that?

        I would like to respond to the book as objectively as possible. While I’m sure I have my own presuppositions and biases (don’t we all?) what you’ve described is not my intent.

        Blessings.

    2. Robert Horne says:

      I just uploaded it as well and am looking forward to hearing your response.

  5. Darius T says:

    I’m certain I’m not Mr. Wilson’s equal when it comes to rhetorical jabs and hooks, and I don’t think our “dukin’ it out” will actually advance any understanding or dialogue. I welcome you to the dialogue as well, and hope you’ll join me in trying to raise it in ways that edify.

    I am saddened to see you already positioning yourself as writing off the possibility of meeting with Pastor Wilson. This entire kerfuffle seems fueled less by gospel considerations and more by tribal ones. Let us pursue unity and clarity.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Darius,

      Thanks for joining the conversation, brother.

      I’m sorry you’re “saddened.” But, truthfully, that sentence is not about whether or not I would meet with Douglas or positioning myself to opt out. It’s simply saying I respect his wit and a series of dueling posts (instead of understanding and dialogue) is not the way to go. I hope that helps to clarify. As I said in the post, I’ll respond to Doug’s invitation in due course. The first order of business in discussions like these is to make sure you understand the other person’s position. Once we have the views on the table we’ll see whether a meeting is even needed.

      Again, thanks for taking the time to read and to comment.
      T-

      1. Darius says:

        Thank you for your gracious response, Pastor Thabiti. I apologize for misrepresenting you. I look forward to listening to what you and Pastor Wilson have to say on this matter.

  6. Thanks Thabiti!! Last July, I explained why Doug Wilson’s book “Black and Tan” is historical nonsense but it fell on deaf ears. I am hopefull that Bryan Loritts and you will be able to get more traction on this than I was able to last summer. My efforts to raise concerns about his hagiographic account of the South clearly failed. Mr. Wilson wants to make this about RACISM, which is NOT the point. I hope that readers will not be distracted by any attempts to redirect the issue to racism. This is an issue of how we tell the story of South prior to Reconstruction. The point is that Wilson’s views on the South tells us a lot about his theological dominionism; and many of his champions and supporters seem to have chosen to ignore this aspect of his writings for reasons that many of us do not understand. Please read his “Southern Slavery: As It Was” for more background. I discuss Wilson’s poor historical scholarship here(July 2012) >> http://www.tomandrodna.com/notonthepalouse/Documents/060175768QRAsouthern_slavery_as_it_was.pdf

    1. Steve says:

      I really do not think Bryan Lorrits has any weight in this matter. Seems almost hypocritical that a person who made racial comments about “Old Reformed White Guys” can really add anything beneficial to this arguement. At least Thabiti admitted his wrong in his statement regarding Trayvon Martin and left the comment up. Bryan erased his comments and never offered a public apology.

      I guess its ok to be a Black Racist but not a white one? Really seems to be a double standard.

  7. Darius T says:

    Brother Bradley,

    Pastor Wilson has addressed the issues with “Southern Slavery”. Stop beating a dead horse. And, while you’re at it, stop slandering a brother in Christ. You chose to ignore Wilson’s gracious hand last year, and now you’re team-building against him again. I don’t see how the gospel is advanced at all by your actions.

    In Him.

    1. Nell says:

      Darius

      I tire of the word slander. It is a legal term and you are misusing it. There is a blog that I read which has addressed this. Slander is a verbal statement of something false or malicious that is done for the purpose of damaging another’s reputation. The word that you should have used instead is libel which means the above except it is written not said. But you still would have been wrong.

      The key point is knowing making a false statement in order to damage someone. What you are accusing Pastor Thabiti of is deliberately lying in order to damage Mr. Wilson. How do you know that he is lying on purpose in order to damage Mr Wilson?

      Did you know that you are accusing Pastor Thabiti of a crime? I will give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that you did not. However, it does obligate you to retract your statement. The throwing around of the slander word must stop so that we can actually dialogue with one another.

      1. Darius T says:

        Nell, if you would read my comment above, it was directed at Anthony Bradley, NOT Pastor Thabiti. And yes, I recognize that I technically used slander incorrectly. In today’s virtual world, people view things tweeted as things stated, so while slander may not be the correct legal term, it seems appropriate enough for my purposes. And, more importantly, everyone gets my point.

        Thanks.

        1. Nell says:

          Darius
          I am sorry that I misread your comment. So, are you accusing Bradley of the crime of knowingly falsifying information?

          1. Darius T says:

            Nell, if you look up the word “slander” in the dictionary, it means to defame another’s character. It ALSO means the legal term as you mentioned above, but that’s not all it means. So yes, I am accusing Bradley of wrongfully defaming Wilson’s character without a willingness for unity, charity, or clarity on the matter. And I am not the only one who has pointed this out regarding Bradley.

            Bradley may in fact be right about his accusations, but he has gone about them in such a way as to persuade onlookers that he must be in the wrong if he is so unsure of his views that he won’t stand behind them in the full light of day. There is a way for Christians to disagree, and Bradley isn’t within two light years of that.

  8. For those interested in a more accurate history of the South than one would find in “Black and Tan” I offer the following: For a more accurate view of the South than you may hear from the Wilson tribe order the following books:

    (1)Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, by Walter Johnson

    (2)How Race Is Made: Slavery, Segregation, and the Senses, by Mark Smith

    (3)Freedom’s Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era, by Paul Harvey

    (4)A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration, by Stephen Hahn

    (5)Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920, by Charles Reagan Wilson

    1. Eric says:

      And of course, there’s an impeccably well-researched book on Southern Slavery as it Was by a man named Douglass… Frederick Douglass.

      http://archive.org/details/narrativeoflifeo00dougrich

    2. And there is this very good book, which I think neatly gets around the problem of justifying black chattel slavery: “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis” (http://www.amazon.com/Civil-War-Theological-Crisis/dp/0807830127).

  9. Jason Kates says:

    I look forward to what brother Thabiti has to say on this matter.

    Unfortunately, Bradley’s words carry little to no weight with me because of how he handled interaction last year. I asked questions and he immediately lumped me in with a group, labeled me, blocked my tweets and comments, etc. Bradley isn’t interested in discourse, only in puffing himself up.

    I hope Anyabwile rises above, and I’m confident he will.

  10. Darius T says:

    Jason,

    Unfortunately, I have found the same exact response from Bradley to my questions, as have many others. It’s very sad and unbecoming anyone who claims the name of Christ, since many people don’t have a dog in this fight and merely want to see brothers in Christ come to some sort of understanding, even if they can’t come to an agreement. To have Dr. Bradley give them all a cold shoulder does not speak well of him.

    I likewise hope Thabiti is able to avoid the errors that others have made with this issue.

  11. Rachael Starke says:

    Thabiti – Thank you for being willing to say hard things in a gracious way. Every time you do I learn so much, not just abou the topic, but how to speak truth in love. Praying for you in this.

  12. Mark says:

    Looking forward to this, brother.

  13. Rod says:

    Thabiti,

    Thank you for taking this issue head on. I will be prayerfully keeping up with this series.

    May the one, Triune God bless,

    Rod

  14. EMSoliDeoGloria says:

    Thank you. This kind of dialogue is MUCH needed.

    I’m deeply concerned when we (i.e. evangelicals of a reformed persuasion) can call out Rob Bell for “Love Wins” before it is even available to the public, yet all too often leave the addressing of the errors of those in our own tribe to the secular world.

    Error must be addressed even, and perhaps especially, when it comes from those who identify as preachers of the gospel. We should address it charitably. We should refrain from personal attacks and focus on issues of truth. But we should address wrongheaded ideas.

    And, yes, I have read Black and Tan (albeit some years ago).

  15. Thabiti, thanks very much for a gracious beginning to a convoluted subject.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hey Douglas,

      Let’s pray and work for a gracious continuation and clarity.

      T-

  16. Terry says:

    Thabiti, I don’t know much about what Mr. Wilson wrote, so I’m glad to see an exchange on this issue. I wrote about why Christians would oppose slavery some years ago at http://adisciplesthoughts.blogspot.com/2007/02/why-would-christian-oppose-slavery.html. I’ll admit that my views may be more simplistic than most who will argue this question, so I’m looking forward to seeing this debate on your blog. These are issues that need to be addressed.

  17. Glad to see we Lutherans are not the only ones with a few “Weird Uncles” among us.

    This pro-South garbage is really disgusting. Anybody who thinks chattel slavery as practiced throughout the Deep South was anything other than a brutal, dehumanizing institution should get his/her head examined.

    Where I was born and raised, in Northwest Florida, our area has the dubious distinction of being the location for what was perhaps the most brutal of it all: in the pine tree forests and turpentine factories.

  18. Carlos Griego says:

    Thank you Thabiti! I also thank Bryan Lorrits for his blog. As a Hispanic male who is in the “YRR” crowd, is that even a crowd anymore, I am very disappointed that there has been no other voice in the Gospel Coalition crowd. To put it bluntly the YRR crowd is majority white, even here in NM where the state majority is hispanic. Bryan in his blog asked for guys that DIDN’T look like him to get his back, yet all that is listed in voices that spoke up were African Americans.

    Rob Bell has a new book, let’s post a blog! Elephant Room?!? Let’s post multiple blogs!

    This subject…crickets….

    Sorry but that is not cool or acceptable.

    Los

    1. Luke says:

      Bums me out too. I apologize on behalf of my white brothers, and ask for your forgiveness. I have been enormously insensitive towards racial issues in the past, thinking I wasn’t racist because I wasn’t intentionally oppressing anybody. I repent of that and hope and pray that the white evangelical church can continue seeking reconciliation and recognizing other ethnicities.

    2. Mike says:

      You’re upset that the YRR crowd is mostly white? Spread the word then to your Hispanic friends. Perhaps they will join in on the party of those who are amazed at God’s sovereign grace.

  19. Your points in the original post above are spot on, and well worth repeating again and again. Anyone who has tried to engage in meaningful dialogue with DW and friends should keep them in mind.

  20. Hi, everyone. I am very mindful that I am commenting here as a guest, but I did want to make one comment about the overall thread, if I might. I have often said that we need to have an adult conversation about these issues. For various reasons, I believe that such a conversation is possible with Thabiti, and for that reason I would like to ask anyone posting here “on my behalf” to work at keeping the voltage down. There are many ways this could go off the rails, and I would rather it didn’t. I would really appreciate it.

  21. Chadd Sheffield says:

    I pray God grants clarity on both sides, errors will be made clear, that repenting happens where repentance is needed, and unity is created through the exchange.

    I’m fairly confident that’s the only help most of us “commenters” can offer.

    1. Chadd Sheffield says:

      Only helpful post^

  22. Shane says:

    I appreciate you all working together on this subject. Could we be on the cutting edge of an actual “adult” conversation on this? I think so. I pray that we are. But I think it’s important enough to meet, discuss, and maybe even do a conference together on this subject after the posts and responses are written. There is something Christian about meeting together and talking through things as brothers in Christ. We tend to talk (write) past one another in mere writing. God bless you both as you work through this important issue!

  23. Mike says:

    Thank you for your post, Thabiti. I am looking forward to further discussion on this. I see it as needed.

  24. Sho Baraka says:

    I’m overjoyed to see the process of a mature conversation in the works. If there is ever a dialogue, may I suggest that someone create a specific email account to send questions/thoughts/concerns that may slip the mind of these dynamic theologians?

    If a public discourse does not blossom from this I would still love to get questions to Dr. Wilson in regard to Black and Tan.

    To GOD be the Glory brothers and sisters.

  25. Sho Baraka,

    I think we are off to a good start here, and I trust that a good public discourse will result. But whether it does or not, I would be happy to answer any questions you might have. Send an email to office@christkirk.com, and it will be forwarded to me. I would be happy to do what I can to answer your questions.

  26. Henry says:

    As a young men , I’ve always have looked up to All of you and this saddens me how this situation has been taken care of . Praying for all of you and I hope that you know that you influence many people and your words and writings have much impact in many people lives . God Bless

  27. Nigel Hunter says:

    Pastor T-

    Please sit down with Pastor Wilson or encourage one of the other brothers to take your place. I know your first three posts will be excellent staring foils for Pastor Wilson’s arguments but those are already available through other talks you’ve given and responses by Bradley, Lorritts, and the work of Holmes and the RAAN.

    What we really need is face to face discussion. Pastor Wilson may be wrong here, and I believe he is, but he is not the boogey man. I have seen him be gracious, fair, and winsome in debates. You would benefit immeasurably from sitting across from him. And even if he did write the book on logic, he doesn’t have or process to have an inordinate expertise on the Holy Spirit. That makes it a fair fight.

    On a personal level, I am a black aspiring planter in his back yard. I have asked Bradley and Mason to come speak on behalf of all the brothers scattered around Eastern Washington and Idaho. No one speaks for us. So while the Internet is a wide audience and blog posts make for tight reading, it don’t mean nuthin” to us on the ground.

    At the very least, thank you in advance for posts 1,2 & 3. And even if I don’t agree with your conclusion from post 4, thank you for that one too.

  28. Mike says:

    If there is someone out there who is mature enough to have an adult conversation on race, it is Thabiti. Grace to you both as you dialogue.

  29. Dan Phillips says:

    While we’re talking about what “white brothers” ought to do in response to Bryan Loritts’ complaints, did any black brothers publicaly call Bryan Lorrits out for this very troubling, public, skin-color obsessed rant? If it still stands unaddressed, it’s difficult for me to take Loritts’ complaints about Doug Wilson (paraphrased: “I don’t care if Wilson is right or wrong and I don’t want to debate with him, but he must do as I say because I’m upset”) as seriously as I otherwise might.

    To be clear: none of this has anything to do with Doug Wilson’s position, with which I have no acquaintance.

  30. Darius T says:

    That’s a fair point, Mr. Phillips. Loritts’ race-baiting post (and his interview with Pastor McDonald) was very troubling, to say the least. And you will probably be pleased to know that Voddie Baucham DID speak out against it.

    However, that discussion is for another day (though, hopefully, a not-too-distant one). For now, I think we should honor Pastor Wilson’s request to turn down the “voltage” and let he and Pastor Thabiti dialogue regarding the matter at hand.

    1. Dan Phillips says:

      Thank you, Darius. I’m sorry if it has that effect. The flow in my mind is: see Loritts’ post / flash on the last time his name registered; see reproach of “white brothers” for not joining Lorrits now / wondering whether any “black brothers” took Loritts to task then.

      It seemed germane… an elephant, if you will, in the room any time I see or think of Loritts’ name.

      1. Robert Sakovich says:

        I’m glad that I’m not the only one that has that same problem when Loritts’ name comes up. That whole round table conversation after the conference seemed even more troublesome than Jakes’ interaction with McDonald & Driscoll.

  31. Peter says:

    I was really concerned over Wilson’s views at one point as I started getting into the school system he helped develop, classical christian education. I haven’t read this book but as I understand it from an interview I saw, Wilson’s point is that slavery could have been ended in the south through racism ending and through the gospel changing the hearts of southerners living in sin rather than the civil war where so many people died and this could have led to less of the problems we see today surrounding divisions among Christians or south and north, or the politics of today would be different. His point in this was to argue that in the case of abortion, killing the abortion doctors would be acceptable if we accept violence in response to slavery acceptable, and that the scriptures make the case for non-violent methods to ending slavery. Where I don’t agree, and have yet to see good biblical evidence for, is his post-mellinial covenantal (sorry, poor spelling) beliefs that are on par with the puritans/calvinists that believed America was their promised land, and he seems to want almost a revival of these days. not that there was nothing good about those puritans/calvinists, but lets get our beliefs from the scriptures. Its also when there becomes almost an exultation of “whiteness” or “anglo-saxonness” rather than Christ that there is serious error. I don’t see this present in Wilson, but I do in these people of the past he seems to admire.

    1. John K says:

      The problem with racism in the South ending was the South was already very religious, but slavery was becoming more entrenched in the South, not less. Before 1830, slavery in the South was often considered a “necessary evil” by Southerners, but it turned around to slavery becoming a positive good. And many Southerners wanted to expand the reach of this “positive good”. They supported people who tried to conquer territory in Cuba and Central America and enslave the peoples there, and of course most of the North South conflict before the Civil war was whether the new territory from the Mexican War would be slave or free. The South, not content with the 36 30 dividing line from the Missouri Compromise, had it repealed through acrimonious legislative battles, and a few even were, on the eve of the Civil War, saying that “free states” were unconstitutional because of the right of property. The Knights of the Golden Circle were a group who wanted to see slavery in the South, Cuba, and Central America. And the slave population in America was growing, not shrinking. In 1860, there were 4 million slaves, and only 28 million non-slaves in the rest of the entire USA. There were reasonable Christian anti-slave voices in the North (one example was Theodore Weld), but the South had largely turned a deaf ear to them.

  32. SHM says:

    My brother. You are brave. My heart hurts at the mere prospect of the potential fire storm that you have willingly stepped into for the sake of love and mutual understanding. Fear is not your forte. Thank God. I know that through it all, goodness will prevail. Amen.

  33. B. Warshaw says:

    Any chance that comments can be disabled on these posts? At least half of them are (or read) quite uncharitable, and it would probably do most folks much more good to consider the words that Thabiti writes rather than get incensed by comments. Benefit (I hope) from the words of a respected brother, then have the discussion in your local context with people whose physical presence in your life commands the respect that we owe to all fellow image-bearers.

  34. Kandice Thomas says:

    Obviously, slavery was an evil 150 years ago as it still is today. But we look on antebellum South with such contempt and hatred because some (and by some, I mean a vast minority) owned slaves. Most were poor middleclass farmers. We overlook the sins and evil of the North during this time and declare them righteous. Even though many of their soldiers were the Irish, fresh off of boats, who “volunteered” for service. We can look back at the horrors of the prison camps on both sides, and the largely northern U.S. army that that acted so dishonorably aginst the native populations of the West following the war, with indifference.
    We have no problem with the northern 19th century textile mills that would go up in flames killing hundreds of barely paid workers at a time (not much better than slaves.)
    I am pretty sure there was plenty of sin to go around, as there is today.
    We sit in judgment against a people of old while we stand in a sex-soaked, violent, course, human-trafficking culture of today. And we proclaim our moral superiority. What will the history books in 150 years say about us as Christians?
    General Sherman said that he would march and “make Georgia howl.” How noble and Christian of him.
    The U.S. was the only nation that ended slavery through war, all others had resolved the matter peaceably. The Virginian commonwealth was the first government in the world that moved to end the slave trade, England at the time, didn’t allow it. (A fact largely erased from history.)
    I am not condoning slavery in any way, but am simply pointing out the cultural hubris we use to view (a largely Christian) people of the past. It is so easy, 150 years after to fact, to throw stones in glass houses. We, as a people, are definitely living in a glass house.

    1. John K says:

      As far as Virginia banning the slave trade, it depends on how you define the slave trade. Virginia was a great source of slaves for the lower South states; correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think they ever banned the “domestic” slave trade. The Biblical admonitions against slave trade are just as applicable to domestic slave trading in the South as to the perpetrators of the “middle passage”.

    2. John K says:

      There were 4 million slaves in the South in 1860. There were only 32 million people in the whole USA (that includes the slaves); slaves might have been as much as 1 of every 3 people total in the South. Some parts of the lower South had as much as 90% of the population being slaves. Large plantations required a lot of workers, overseers, and such. There were plenty of non-slaveholders who were very involved in slavery. I read a statistic that in the 1850′s 70% of the wealth of the South was in land and slaves.

      1. Kandice Thomas says:

        For the record, I am no fan of Doug Wilson for other theological reasons, and very much like Mr. Anyabwile. I am not defending Wilson’s book (as I have not read it,) but rather his right to come to different conclusions without being charged as defending slavery. This hyperbolic rhetoric is customary in this discussion.
        Folks want to take the War between the States and say “Lincoln, the great emancipator, loved slaves; the evil Southerners hated black people. The end.” And this is just simply acceptable. I have known people who will not read any Southern theologians because of slavery. Really?
        The salient point I was making is this: we, since 1973, have killed approximately 50 million unborn babies. Who will want to read our theologians in a century?
        Our generation loves to preach to others about not judging the hearts of others, but it is cheap and easy to judge the hearts of dead men who can’t defend themselves.
        As far as Virginia and the slave trade, they moved to “ban the import of new slaves.” This is the same language used in the Confederate states’ constitution (the first constitution in world history to ban the slave trade in writing) and the same language used in the U.S. Constitution 20 years after the war. The ENGLISH governor of the commonwealth refused to allow them to institute the ban.
        Also, yes, the South was wealthy. The North hated this. But by saying there was consolidated land wealth so it must be that most Southerners were involved in slavery, is like saying that since much of Americas’ wealth is in Wall Street, we must all be involved in finance or be shareholders.
        Fact: Several Northern states, including Illinois, prohibited the emigration of blacks into those states. Lovely.
        In 1858 Lincoln said,”I have no intention to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races.”
        Lerone Bennett Jr., editor of Ebony magazine wrote “On at least fourteen occasions between 1854 and 1860 Lincoln said unambiguously that he believed the Negro race was inferior to the White race.”
        Slavery was awful. I just don’t think the war was all about slavery. It seems to me that people get the most upset when someone (Wilson) presents them with different facts/ideas that don’t fit in their existing box of ideas. We want to put this chapter of American history in a nice, tidy little box, and we just can’t. That’s is why 150 years later we’re still talking about it.

        1. Kandice Thomas says:

          Sorry, bad typing, “unacceptable” not “acceptable.”

        2. John K says:

          My problem with Wilson is not that he comes to different conclusions. My problem is that I believe his conclusions are wrong and harmful. My concern is that I am in a Southern denomination that traces its roots back to when it was a slaveholding denomination, where a lot of people won’t grapple with the issue and still don’t understand that a break needs to be made.
          I am not about hating the South. Peter Marshall, Jr. puts it best, asking ‘what if you were born in the South, in a slaveholding family? How would you have done.’ I might not have done very well. But we also can’t ignore sin, or paint it in a more positive light, as I think Wilson has done.
          The North was far from perfect on race and slavery. If that point is to making sure we don’t blindly hate the South, I get that, but beyond that I don’t see how it ties into the discussion of Wilson’s work. If anything, Abraham Lincoln’s statements make the South look even worse, because the South seceded initially because of Lincoln’s election. That means Lincoln wasn’t racist enough for them. The fact that he intended to do nothing about slavery in slave states (this changed only after the Civil War was well underway) wasn’t enough for the South. The South wanted to expand slavery into the new territories north of the 36’30 line; the main issue that led to the Civil war was the issue of the sxpansion of slavery.
          The Civil War would not have happened if the South hadn’t seceded. The South seceded because of the buildup of tensions between North and South over the expansion of slavery culminating in Lincoln’s election in 1860. It was secession that prompted the North to fight the South. Not because the North were white knights fighting for the freedom of the black people, but more for the abstract principle of Union and because they were mad at the Southern leaders being stubborn, and of course because they thought it would be a quick war. Still, if there’s no slavery, there’s no civil war. Or even if the South had been content to have slavery where it was, and not feel compelled to expand it, then Civil War might have been avoided.
          I addressed the issue of the number of slaves as in your first post you said “because some (and by some, I mean a vast minority) owned slaves. Most were poor middleclass farmers.” Whether you meant it or not, many people have no idea that as many as 1/3 of southerners were slaves before the Civil War, and they certtainly wouldn’t get it from that statement.

          1. John K says:

            Somehow my comment got posted before I finished, so I continue:
            My point in quoting the 70% was just to reinforce that slavery was a really big deal in the South. I never said every single person owned slaves. But it was a very big deal, and a lot bigger deal than the uninformed person would get by reading “a vast minirity”. In short, slavery was more widespread than a lot of southerners think, was worse than a lot of southerners think, southerners were a lot more stubborn about the issue than a lot of southerners think, and a lot of southerners are blind to this. I can add to this that the North was a lot worse on slavery and racism than a lot of Northerners think, and that the northern troops and war effort was hardly a pristine saintly one (excuse my lack of capital letters lately). But the statements about the South certainly apply to Wilson, I think. He may think Southern Slavery was bad, but he doesn’t think it was bad enough, and wants to fudge on the actual history. Even if things might have turned out better if slavery had ended differently (and that’s debatable at best) concerning modern American problems, a lot of that is on the South, because they wanted slavery to expand, and would not merely let it exist and die out. They seceded because of a presidential election run according to the Constitution (and some of them wanted Lincoln to win so they could secede; they could’ve voted for Douglas, who was pro-slavery but not pro-slavery enough for the Lower South, so the Southern vote was split, allowing Lincoln to win a more unified North). In closing, I would quote Mo Leverett “I’m proud to be a Southerner, and I’m ashamed simultaneously.” (And a Northerner could sing that for the North as well).

            1. John K says:

              I’ll change “fudge on the actual history” to “is somewhat blinded to the actual history”. Sorry, DW.

            2. John K says:

              One other thing about slave trading. My point once again is that the slave trade was alive and well in Virginia as it was in other states. And it was reprehensible. Virginia helped provide slaves to other states. Breeding slaves was a part of slave trading. Masters sometimes would threaten slave couples who wouldn’t reproduce (according to Peter Marshall Jr.). At the same time there were more well meaning religious masters who would promise not to sell their slaves or split up slave families, but would break their promises when things got bad financially. Or some would keep the promises, but upon death, even if it was written into the will to keep the slave family together, it would be disregarded by the executors of the estate. That was a big part of why slavery was so bad in a systematic way.

            3. Kandice Thomas says:

              As a believer in original sin and human depravity and one who leans more economically libertarian, I tend to believe that wars are more often about economics than altruism. I am inclined to think Lincoln’s statements point to the fact that the war was about tariffs, a large cultural divide and power more than about ending slavery. I may stand corrected.
              I think this discussion is so tender with some Southerners because they may feel reconstruction hasn’t ended. Recently Charles Rangel, from New York, addressing gun laws talked about how the views of the South must be “overcome.” Southern legislators don’t talk about the North as an entire region in such a manner.
              No one in this discussion has minimized the horrors of slavery. But there is often language used that would lead one to believe the time of the Old South was worse than any other time before or since; worse than Jewish bondage in Egypt, the early church in Rome, the Nazi holocaust or abortion. I tend to think we’re all still pretty bad worldwide. My understanding is that there are more slaves today than in all prior world history.
              Before we bore this entire blog, I think we’ll simply have to agree to disagree.
              I do hope there will be a discussion between Mr. Anyawbile and Mr. Wilson soon.

  35. Mosala Balatseng says:

    I sure hope Doug and Thabiti can have an adult conversation about this matter, but from where I stand this is super-charged already especially from reading what appears to be a ‘white washing’ of a cruel (not to mention sinful) crime against humanity, that it seems to me Doug is about.

    I pray that some good come out this much anticipated discourse! M- South Africa

  36. Jonelle Santa says:

    I so look forward to your posts, and very much appreciated this one. As a Christian and student of Atlantic History (Europe-Africa-Americas), I am quite inclined to agree that there is no biblical justification for slavery as it existed in this context. Though I look forward to learning more and to conviction to the contrary if God would correct me.
    Thank you for dealing with this.

  37. There is just enough good points in the slavery of the old South to suck a person in who is looking for an excuse for his or her ancestors being so unamerican as to fall for slavery. Anyone willing to spend the time and effort will find that the Abolitionists had enough sense to copy many of the arguments of Wilberforce and Newton (that is as in John and Amazing Grace)and that the old South was blinded by profits. The problem was someone outside the country wanted war, and the folks in America weren’t willing to pay the price to resolve the issue peaceably..like reimburse all parties concerned, including the slaves. Some one another country wanted that war, a mixture of the profit motive, religious get even, and the advancement of the conspiracy that ran things. Lee didn’t think Blacks could hack the mustard as equals, but even then there were two blacks in South Carolina who had the equivalents of Oxford degrees (they had the training, if not the sheepskins, try as in Claflin). The Black Americans serve as thorn in the side and foot of the American Experiment, reminding us that there is a Christian basis to this nation which is the cause of its freedoms and people of indomitable will who will smash the fine laid plans of the conspirators and establish, once and for all, equality as the truth of Sovereign Grace…, likely, the American Blacks will lead the way.

  38. Steve says:

    I think it was very foolish what Doug Wilson wrote. Why even go there? This is very disturbing. What else I find disturbing is that where was Eric Mason, Anthony Bradley and Thabiti when Bryan Lorrits made inappropriate racial comments about “Old White Reformed Guys”. Seems like it is open season on attacking White Reformed Pastors but say anything about blacks and the race card is pulled. I find this hypocrisy disgusting at best.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for joining the discussion. Two quick replies:

      1. It’s not “open season” on attacking anyone, in my opinion. I do think, however, there’s a tendency developing in public conflicts of this sort. It seems to me that we’re tending to publicly correct and confront across ethnic lines but not within. The within-group corrections tend to happen privately. So, for example, some have wondered “where are the white guys” in response to Wilson’s publication. Just as you have wondered “where are the black guys” in response to Loritts’ comments. In both cases, the public censures have come across ethnic lines. But I’m also aware that in both cases there has been private conversations with and between parties. Most of that has been White-on-White or Black-on-Black.

      This is just an observation. I’ll leave folks to their opinions about it. But if I had to guess, this happens largely because most people are quite nervous about racial perceptions, stereotypes and allegiances when we publicly confront or challenge people from within our ethnic groups. I think that might even be amplified for historical and cultural reasons for many African Americans.

      All this to quickly say a second thing…

      2. Don’t be quick to assume that because something wasn’t aired publicly that nothing was said or done at all. Your sense of “disgust” and “hypocrisy” might be tempered were you privy to the private discussions.

      Thanks again for contributing.
      T-

      1. Dan Phillips says:

        While agreeing with everything you just said, dearest of all possible Thabitis, I must observe this –

        1. Loritts publicly ranted in a way that was harmful both in its provocative anti-white racist tone and in its doctrinal tone-deafness.

        2. No black brother (that I recall) called him out for it publicly.

        3. Silent months pass, no repentance or rectification.

        4. Loritts pops up again crying out against yet another white brother and demanding that he withdraw a book simply because it offends him (paraphrase: I don’t want to talk to him; I don’t care if he’s right), and rags on those boorish clueless whites (again) in the process

        5. On top of all that, Loritts has the utter gall to complain that more of those white people he keeps wailing on don’t join in with him

        6. A black brother agrees with Loritts, again blaming whites for not doing for Loritts publicly what blacks failed and still fail to do about Loritts publicly.

        The only good thing to come out of it is that now the two most patient brothers I know (you and Doug Wilson) are now publicly dialoging, and all of us are the gainers in the process.

        All this said, I agree with your bottom-line plea. And I pledge, for my part, if I see a white brother publicly saying harmful, provocative racist bosh, I will respond as I believed and believe my black brothers should have done with Loritts.

        1. Wilson’s book shouldn’t be withdrawn just because it hurts some people’s feelings. It should be withdrawn because it is fundamentally wrong. It’s wrong in facts, in reasoning and that’s the reason it hurts people’s feelings. It hurts the feelings of people who know the truth, think clearly, and have a moral sense.

      2. Hi Pastor Anyabwile,

        Excellent point: “Where are the white guys?”. Here I am! I am shocked by Wilson’s opinions and just as shocked that he put them into print in the mid-90s (in “Southern Slavery as it Was”) and still was allowed to rise to some influence in evangelicalism despite them.

        I’m not only white, I’m a “Son of Confederate Veterans” (even officially belonging to that group at one point); a former flyer of the Confederate flag; an Alabama citizen who shook the hands of George Wallace; and like John Piper was awakened by the reading on race by Professor Paul K. Jewett (at Fuller Seminary) and then served as a teaching assistant for Robert W. Fogel who had earned a Nobel Prize for his work on the economics of slavery (safe to call him the world’s greatest scholar on slavery), whose work is misused by Wilson (and others) to soften the image of slavery, and now I’m a pastor of a multi-racial church in the deep South were race is still a salient issue.

        From a purely scholarly point of view, Wilson’s opinions are absurd and baseless. He would likely be failed from Fogel’s class if I were grading his work. From a Christian point of view they are reprehensible, first for the untruthfulness of them, then for the insensitivity they show to fellow Christians, and, finally, for the offense he will cause the gospel for expressing them.

  39. It seems absurd for Wilson to argue that our problems today are the result of the manner we ended slavery. Has it occurred to him that our problems are the result of continuing what John Wesley said was the most barbaric form of slavery to ever exist?

    His “Southern Slavery As It Was” should have been strongly condemned by all Christians. It appears little more than the regurgitation of Confederate propaganda. That most of it is true, is the way effective propaganda usually is. But it’s not the whole truth. If he had wanted to know the truth about Southern Slavery, he should have consulted Robert W. Fogel’s work on slavery (e.g. “Time on the Cross”, etc.) for which he won a Nobel Prize. Fogel finds that, yes, Southern slavery was usually not as atrocious as Northern abolitionists made it out to be. But he also concludes that if the Civil War had not been fought by the 1860s, the South likely would have won the war (given that it was growing at twice the rate of the North) and then likely have propagated slavery world-wide. Fogel, a self-confessed “secular Jew”, found that it was evangelical Christians who brought the issue of slavery to a head and it is to them, he says, that America owes the end of slavery and the progress of egalitarianism.

  40. Gregory Peterson says:

    Speaking of conservative Calvinists with allegedly for legal reasons racist histories, Christianity Today is where I picked up this link. (Hint: CT co-founders Dr. L. Nelson Bell, J. Howard Pew…and apologies to Craig Ferguson) http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2013/04/debate-doug-wilson-black-and-tan-thabiti-anyabwile.html

    I just read the first 34 pages of Douglas Wilson’s ‘Black and Tan,” and my initial questions are:

    Why would anyone want to be a Calvinist? What does Rev. Wilson get out of writing like he does? How many more battalions of straw men will meet their maker in the rest of the book?

    To add to the running recommended readings, I would suggest:

    When Slavery Was Called Freedom: Evangelicalism, Proslavery, and the Causes of the Civil War, by John Patrick Daly. 2002.

    White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812, by Winthrop Jordan, first published in 1969.

    Another question for CT. Is Rev. Wilson all that much of a “prominent preacher” outside of Moscow, Idaho?

    And for full disclosure, my great grandfather was part of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

    Robert E. Lee may have been, as Rev. Wilson claims, a “gracious Christian gentleman, a brother in Christ and an honorable man,” but he was also a bloodsoaked traitor who was defending a thoroughly racist, slave holding plutocracy. Being a gracious Christian gentleman, a brother in Christ and an honorable didn’t save him from being an extremely dangerous, moral and intellectual bankrupt.

  41. Ed Evans says:

    Would you permit a white Brit, who has not been to college or university and is theologically untrained, to throw a couple of ideas in?
    Having read much the articles and comments around Douglas Wilson’s views on slavery, the Civil War and I am surprised at the lack of interest in what Scripture says.
    The issues as I see it are firstly racism. Surely as Believers we should be reluctant to even use the word, there is only one race the human race; everything else is ethic or tribal differences. The Southern States proponents of slavery had a particularly low view of the value of other ‘races’ and especially an African. Yet the Old Testament has several examples of inter ethnic marriage – Joseph , Moses, twice! Rahab the prostitute, who in the human sense, was a ancestor of the Lord Jesus, Ruth, All this indicates surely that God has blessed inter-racial marriage and lifted any previous curse or hindrance through the sacrifice of Jesus.
    Secondly slavery- virtually the whole nature of the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries was exceptionally brutal. Whilst slavery for the Israelites was permitted it seems to me to be akin to divorce in the sense that God permitted divorce ‘because of the hardness of your hearts.
    No one seems to have discussed Paul writing to the Corinthians ‘you were bought at a price; do not become the slaves of men.’ Philemon undermines slavery completely by Paul’s command to Philemon to accept his slave as ‘no longer a slave but as a dear brother’.
    As regards theonomy the weight of the New Testament is all about our reconciliation to God and to each other. That reconciliation has the wonderful by product leading to a good society and many other benefits. But when Paul asks us to pray that we might live peaceably, that seems to be his only interest in political influence. Dominionism etc seems to be infecting many parts of the Church and diverting from the Gospel whilst alienating many unbelievers from even starting a conversation about the gospel.
    Comments back even if you think the above rubbish, most welcome
    In the Name Jesus, Edward Evans

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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