Introduction

When our discussion first started, we were both surprised at how well it went, and both of us are very grateful to God, and to one another, for this great blessing. We have also been grateful to the readers and commenters who participated in this discussion in the same spirit, praying with us, and laboring to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).

Agreements
We wanted to bring our discussion to some sort of formal close, and so this is it. As we understand it, our points of agreement are:

1. Mankind is one in Adam, which means we share a common humanity, and a common slavery to sin. We together believe that mankind cannot come together in a true unity until they do so in the second Adam, the only one who is capable of overcoming the sorts of things that divide us.

2. We both believe that racism is a grievous sin, and we believe that it is a sin that has the practical effect of undercutting the gospel. Jesus came to cast down the middle wall of partition, not only between Jew and Gentile, but also to cast down any other walls that exist between any other races, nationalities, tribes, or tongues. Worthy is the Lamb, for only He could do this. But even He had to do it with the price of His own blood (Rev. 7:9).

3. The logic of the gospel is jubilee logic. This means that the messianic promises all looked forward to the day when the liberation of the world from every form of slavery would begin, and the arrival of Christ was the inauguration of God’s kingdom. This liberation from slavery begins with liberating men from their slavery to sin, but it necessarily and inexorably includes all other forms of slavery as well—whether the forms of slavery as they existed in the ancient world, or the more recent forms in our country.

4. We agree that the letter of Philemon is saturated with the idea of koinonia fellowship, one that Paul and Philemon and Onesimus all shared, and that Paul uses this spiritual reality as the foundation of his argument, urging manumission for Onesimus.

But Differences Remain
In the areas where we continue to differ, those differences are significant, although some of them may well be differences of emphasis.

Thabiti continues to believe that:

1. The history of slavery—even the existence of American chattel slavery, especially among Christians—represents a far more egregious transgression of love, the gospel, and humanity than represented in Black & Tan, which attempts a dangerous revision without sufficient historical evidence. He believes privileging man-made constitutional arguments over the liberty and full flourishing of fellow human beings betrays the gospel, betrays the command to love our neighbor, and fails to consider the balance of all the relevant biblical texts. That combination of revising the record of slavery’s inhumanity and privileging only the prima facie reading of texts compatible with one’s position leads to gross misjudgment and siding with the oppressor against the oppressed in the case of American chattel slavery.

2. A defense of “state’s rights” or the South’s withdrawal from the Union is tantamount to a defense of American chattel slavery. The inevitable consequence, had the South won the War, would have been the perpetuation of race-based slavery and all its concomitant evils. There’s no way to credibly defend the South’s position without also providing means for the continuation of its sins and oppression of Black people. There’s no way to credibly defend the South as a “Christian nation” while tolerating its practice of race-based chattel slavery, even if we hold to an emancipative gradualism. Only an immediate end to slavery would have been consistent with the “jubilee logic” of the gospel and repentant of the “grievous sin” of racism upon which the practice was based.

3. We need an unembarrassed and stalwart acceptance of every jot and tittle of the Bible, including difficult texts that pierce and challenge our own favored positions and cherished histories. After all, the word of God is a piercing double-edged sword which heals by slashes and cuts. We need to embrace what Wilson calls the “angular texts.” But we need not do that in a way that makes us impervious to charges (i.e., racism, insensitivity, etc) that we ought to hear or forgetful of the fact that different “angular texts” challenge each side of a dispute. “Angular texts” and all, as servants of the Lord we must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and certain that what we’re defending is the truth of scripture rightly understood and not just our favored positions or our pride.

4. The Constitution of the United States was never a perfect document. Its guidance then (antebellum South) as well as now (battles against abortion) is insufficient and in need of modification from time to time. To assert that the Constitutional issues at the time of the Civil War are directly contributory to the Constitutional issues surrounding abortion is a massive logical mistake. Despite some parallels, it’s better to recognize that the document has and continues to fail us at various critical points in history—slavery, women’s rights, and now the protection of unborn life. The Liberty Bell has been cracked from the beginning, a crack put there by the hypocrisy of ringing for liberty while holding slaves. The fix is not to root our current discussion in debatable matters involving the country’s racial past, but to pursue “a more perfect union” by more fully applying and defending the high ideals and values the Constitution does embody. We don’t need to look back to go forward, especially if we’re looking back with a biased eye to a “history” that did not exist. We need to be faithful in our own day, and that means not sticking your finger in the eye of people who would and ought to be cobelligerents but showing genuine love “in word and deed” (1 John 3:18) as we work together on life-and-death matters of mutual concern.

Douglas continues to believe that:

1. The “angular” texts of Scripture must be handled and understood in a way does full justice to them on their face. I believe this is possible to do in the light of redemptive gradualism, but this in turn means that not every Christian slave owner was bound to the duty of immediate manumission. After all, how do we interpret the text that says that the Israelites could hold foreign slaves forever? We can’t just agree to face these texts in principle — we have to actually face them and say out loud what they mean. Are these some of the words that are profitable for instruction (2 Tim. 3:16)? Further, because in our present day, such commitment to all the texts of Scripture is sufficient to get any Christian tagged as a racist, any a priori commitment to avoid charges of racism at all costs will necessarily morph into a regrettable softness when it comes to the issues of biblical authority on the controversies of our own day — abortion and homosexuality chief among them.

2. We have allowed our indignation at sins committed one hundred and fifty years ago to hide our complicity in the atrocities of our own day. I believe that the constitutional implications of the War and the Reconstruction amendments paved the way (in the realm of constitutional interpretation) for Roe v. Wade, and has resulted in a far greater evil being perpetrated on blacks in the 21st century than slavery ever was in the 19th. While it is good to be correct about idols toppled long ago, it is far better to be right about the idols that are currently demanding the blood of innocents, including many millions of black innocents. Our obedience before God will be reckoned in how we dealt with the sins of our own era, not the sins of another. My central interest in all these historical issues has to do with how the legal principles that were laid down then are being understood and applied today.

3. I do understand the point that support for the South would have had the downstream effect of continuing the institution of slavery, at least for a time. While the point is easy to make from this distance, it imposes, I believe, an extra-biblical requirement, and furthermore, it is one that nobody practices in our current situations. I believe it is too simplistic and is unworkable. For an American soldier to go the Middle East today and fight for “democracy” is also to fight against nations that don’t allow abortion-on-demand, and it is to fight for a nation that does. To help America is therefore to help abortion. Well, we would say, quite rightly, it isn’t quite that simple. I completely agree . . . but would also add that it wasn’t that simple in Virginia one hundred and fifty years ago. We really must use equal weights and measures. The Lord was quite insistent upon it — the judgment we use will be the judgment that is used against us (Matt. 7: 1-2).

Conclusion
In conclusion, we believe a fair summary of our conclusions would be this. It is possible for Christians to disagree about volatile issues. Moreover, it is possible — indeed necessary — to do so charitably. The strong disagreement makes us feel like enemies and strangers, while the charity reminds us of our brotherhood in Christ. The strong disagreement tests the bonds of our fellowship and love for one another, while genuine love covers over a multitude of sins and holds all virtues together. We believe we have experienced both the testing strain of strong disagreement and the preserving bonds of biblical love. We thank God for it even as we disagree about some things, agree about others, and hope to be faithful to our common Master in it all. We believe that this is what it looks like to labor to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace — it is kind of messy sometimes, but we believe it pleases God.

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Comments:


69 thoughts on “A Final Wrap-Up: Thabiti Anyabwile and Douglas Wilson”

  1. Dan Phillips says:

    Masterful. Thank you both.

    I feel what you must feel as well: encouraged… and frustrated. I think you both tried your level best, and I think ever aspect of observing you has been a seminar-level education for all of us, your fortunate readers.

    Yet from a distance we see even you two occasionally seem to talk past each other, and while you make progress, you don’t end up at agreement.

    But I’d say even this is instructive. Not everything is a 60-minute TV show, is it, where the first 50 minutes set up a dilemma which is then tidily resolved in the last 10? We need to learn to be content with progress… yet, I think you’d agree, not altogether content.

    Or, more briefly: come quickly, Lord Jesus.

  2. Nathan says:

    Nice round-up. From my distant perspective, I’ve managed to come to the following conclusions:

    Concerning Doug Wilson’s View:

    1) He is not a racist.
    2) His historical accuracy is suspect (I do think he has a soft spot for the South that taints his perspective)
    3) His willingness to get out of the past and into the present is the attitude we will ultimately need for reconciliation. Until we are more concerned about where we are at than what happened twenty years ago (much less 150 years ago), we are at an impasse. “Forgetting those things which are behind…I press toward the mark.” If that verse can apply to an individual struggling with his/her past, surely it can apply to God’s people in this country.

    Concerning Thabiti Anyabwile’s View:

    1) His understanding of the history of slavery is more accurate, and his insistence on manumission as imperative was well taken. It’s easy to find reasons why manumission should be delayed in order for more favorable social and economic circumstances, but the desire a human being to NOT be owned by another human being is far more imperative.

    2) Fails to take into full consideration the fact that slavery was part of the OT Law, meaning that in and of itself it could NOT be sin, since it was commanded by God.

    3) Where Doug Wilson sees the South in a better light than they deserve, Thaibiti’s perspective seems to be skewed as well. Particularly in terms of “insensitivity”, he lost me. I don’t know how we can have a conversation if we can’t have a real conversation, which is why those discussing it in secular culture seem to make things worse rather than better (Remember the Beer-summit at the White House 4 years ago?)

    Conclusion

    Incredibly helpful dialogue. Thanks to both men for staying with it. Thanks to Thaibiti for putting up with Doug’s terrible historical accuracy. Thanks to Doug for taking the risk of being labeled a racist. Though I’m in great disagreement with him in many areas, his willingness to confront is what the Church desperately needs in our day of political correctness and capitulation to secular standards.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Nathan,

      Thanks for your summary comments to our summary comments! :-) I’m glad you’ve found the conversation useful on some level.

      Just a couple quick clarifications based on your summary of my position.

      You write: “Fails to take into full consideration the fact that slavery was part of the OT Law, meaning that in and of itself it could NOT be sin, since it was commanded by God”< ?I>.

      It is not accurate to say I fail to take full consideration of the OT’s regulation of slavery. I do by putting it into its context, namely that Israel’s theocratic situation has no application to the U.S. situation (a view Jonathan Edwards takes despite his holding slaves), and the OT’s regulation of slavery should not be taken as a command to practice it, as your comment suggests. That’s a HUGE distinction that, imo, has hindered the way these texts are read and applied. There’s much the Bible describes and regulates that it does not approve (another example would be polygamy and idolatry).

      You wrote: “Where Doug Wilson sees the South in a better light than they deserve, Thabiti’s perspective seems to be skewed as well. Particularly in terms of “insensitivity”, he lost me. I don’t know how we can have a conversation if we can’t have a real conversation, which is why those discussing it in secular culture seem to make things worse rather than better.”

      I’m sorry to have lost you here, but three quick comments. First, I’m not sure how my view of the South is “skewed” because I think Wilson at points wrote uncharitably or insensitively?? The one isn’t related to the other. Second, if we’re having an honest or “real conversation” that conversation must include sensitivity and some genuine response to how we impact people by what we say. Otherwise, it’s not really honest at all, is it? Third, I’d point out that we’ve just had a several-posts-long conversation about these things with me feeling the entire while that Wilson’s comments at points were racially insensitive. My feeling that did not prevent public or private conversations that have been about the issues and charitable. The issue is that many people on all sides seem unable to feel passionately and talk coolly. We’re either all passion or all coldness, but we’re dealing with issues (slavery, abortion, etc) that require engaging the full person–head, heart, and hands. I would be deeply suspicious of any conversation about such themes that lacked either head, heart, or hands.

      Again, I’m grateful for your joining in. The Lord bless you and keep you,
      T-

      1. Nathan says:

        Thanks for responding with more detail than I deserve. I think my observations still stand as stated, and I thank you for sticking with the conversation though it must have been an emotionally draining exercise. God bless!

        1. TK says:

          Nathan, I have an honest question for you. I’m not baiting you. How do you know who’s history is accurate? If all of this happened 150 years ago, and none of us were there, all we have to go off of are accounts of others. In our PC society, we’ve been treated to only the part of history that makes the desired point. Stuff gets left out. I know this, I just don’t know how to weed through everything and figure out who’s history is accurate.

          1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

            Hi Nathan and TK,

            Nathan, your observations don’t “stand as stated.” They’re wrong in content.

            TK, I know you posed the question to Nathan, but while I’m typing I’d say the answer to your question is: evidence. A good historian is one point investigative journalist or forensic analyst. They’re looking at all the available evidence that supports or refutes historical claims. That’s how we avoid being PC and confirming our own bias–we dig up all the evidence we can muster–pro and con–and we reach the best conclusions we can. We’re not omniscient, but that doesn’t mean we have to be agnostic about historical claims–especially when there’s so much evidence and good research already at the ready.

            The Lord bless you both,
            T-

            1. Nathan says:

              TK, I’m ok with challenging accepted historical assumptions, but there has to be corresponding research. History is not infallible, but we can arrive at a reasonable certainty. Fortunately, there is an abundance of historical narratives, diaries, government records, etc… concerning the Civil War era for historians to cull.

              Thaibiti: First, you did lose me at racial insensitivity. The charge is too nebulous and instances cited unconvincing. Secondly, the charge of being skewed is harsher than I should have stated. At one point you said “Wilson, siding with the Old South, sees himself as fighting for the freedom of the Southern States to secede from the union and organize life under their own constitution. I can’t help but see that as an act that would have further terrorized enslaved African Americans.” I can’t help but evaluate that statement as “I see it from the perspective of my culture.” Your sympathies lie in different directions and I judged your charge of racial insensitivity to arise from that sympathy, since I found the charge itself lacking. And lastly, it is possible to contextualize something right out of the Bible. You make my point when you state “that Israel’s theocratic situation has no application to the U.S. situation”. Surely there is some relevance/application from the OT Law to the situation in 18-19th century America concerning the nature of slavery and the duties of mankind. I would amend my statement to read “since it was regulated by the Law of God.” as opposed to “commanded by God.”

              Regarding feeling passionately and talking coolly: I’m in total agreement. I hope that’s what I’ve done. And whether on this continent or others where I have lived, I hope my head, heart, and hands have been active in promoting the dignity of all people.

            2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Hi Nathan,

              Here’s my last comment, then I’ll leave you to have the last word.

              Why would you say, “I can’t help but see that as an act that would have further terrorized African American” means “I see it from the perspective of my culture”? (a) LOTS of people not from my culture see it the same way. (b) I’m opposed to ANY forced enslavement of any people, including the trafficking that goes on today. It’s a principled comment about the natural effects of Wilson’s position, not a “cultural perspective.” We’d have more agreement if we’d not try to read into other’s comments something we think might be there.

              The charge of “racial insensitivity”–a charge confessed to by Wilson, who asked forgiveness–is not arising out of cultural sympathies but on a reading of his words and their effect. How can you find the charge “lacking” when the party involved found the charge sufficiently clear to ask forgiveness?

              Finally, no one has “contextualized anything right out of the Bible.” But we ought not read the Bible as though there isn’t a progressive character to its revelation and as if America is the equivalent to Israel–a notion ubiquitous in some early American rhetoric. Christ fulfilled all the Law and did so in a way that fundamentally alters male-female, slave-free, Jew-Greek categories. He sets the captive free, not by binding them to the old legal code but by bringing a new commandment, love one another. Such love does not injure its neighbor and is not self-seeking. Such love grounds Paul’s call for Philemon to free Onesimus. I’m not avoiding the OT texts; I’m reading them in light of the later and controlling revelation of the NT, texts that define American man-stealing as “contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:10). Too many discussants have “gone back to the Law,” where “Christ is of no advantage to them” (Gal. 5).

              I wasn’t questioning your commitment to anything or suggesting you fail to promote the dignity of all people. I’m simply suggesting that you’re not reading me accurately and to insist that you’re right about what I’m thinking, my sympathies, etc. is probably a step too far.

              Praying for understanding and as much agreement as the Lord’s Spirit will grant us all,
              T-

            3. Nathan says:

              My brother, thanks again for more response and thought than my comments deserve. I will think more about how I have thought about this exchange. Rather than respond to individual points, let me use my “final word” (You are free to retract that offer!) this way. I (like all reading this) brought my baggage with me to this exchange. For me, it was a hatred for racism, a disgust at the state of race relations in America, and a cynicism toward people/groups who claim to be fighting for equal rights but who make a living by inciting racial tension. As issues have been addressed and layers have been peeled, I see that at the bottom of this brouhaha is a man (Doug Wilson) who is wrong. Not about race, but about history. And about theology, to some extent (I refer to the post mill view). He argues persuasively, passionately, and sometimes bitingly for his premise, but he is still wrong. And for me that’s where it ends. He’s not racist, he’s not hateful, he’s not against blacks or for slavery, and he’s not sinning. He’s just wrong.

    2. I don’t really see a virtue in Wilson’s “willingness to confront”, at least not on this topic. Sure, I like his willingness to speak truth to the Eastern Orthodox (who are some of the most vitriolic in responding). But the requirement is to “speak the truth in love”. Unlike Pastor Anyabwile, I don’t see a lack of love in Wilson’s comments (except, perhaps, real love should have motivated him to do more research and gain more understanding prior to writing.) There is a lack of truth.

      If, as you rightly said, Wilson’s historical understanding is “terrible”, then the question begs to be asked: Why does he publish books on matters he knows little about?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Phillip,

      Thanks for the link and the post.

      1) No one denies or would want to deny that we are “slaves to Christ,” and that His yoke is easy and burden is light. If there ever was a beneficent Master-slave relationship our submission to our Lord would be it. The metaphor works and I’m happy for it. But I don’t think that was ever in view in any of my discussion with Wilson and I trust Wilson would be as happy of the biblical metaphor as I.

      Having said all that, we are also “freemen” of the Lord (1 Cor. 7:22). So, whatever Paul means by the metaphor “slave of Christ”, he does not seem to be endorsing slavery as a positive good or diminishing our freedom in Christ. After all, “for freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1).

      2) As for the Bible clearly speaking to believing slave owners and believing slaves, again, that’s not in dispute or denied. What is in dispute is precisely how to understand and apply those texts with re: to manumission and slavery as an institution. First, I would say (and this is a point of disagreement between Wilson and I) that there’s little resemblance between the situations Paul addressed and race-based man-stealing in American chattel slavery. That at least should make us very careful with any application we make of those texts. Take this text and call me in the morning “proof-texting” just won’t do. Second, I find that people regularly mistake what the Bible records with what the Bible approves. To say the Bible or Paul approves of human enslavement because he addresses the real-world situations people found themselves in is eisegetical. In fact, the two places where Paul does have the question of manumission in mind (1 Cor. 7:21; Philemon), he calls for manumission. We should stop pretending this is an open-and-shut case where the Bible speaks unequivocally and as if the author’s intent doesn’t matter. When Paul intended to address a Christian’s responsibility as a slave, he called them for the sake of the gospel to not worry about being slaves (1 Cor. 7) but to submit to their masters (Eph. 6, etc.). When the apostle intended to address the question of an enslaved Christian’s freedom, he encouraged him to seek his freedom (1 Cor. 7:21) and encouraged the slave owner to free his slave and receive him as a brother (Philemon). The dispute isn’t about whether the NT spoke of slaves and masters; it does. It’s about how to apply the various texts keeping in mind authorial intent.

      Grace and peace to you,
      T-

  3. traever guingrich says:

    excellent series, i thank you both. can you do federal visionism next?

  4. Dan Phillips says:

    No traever, Doug and I are going to do that.

    (…not so much.)

    1. traever guingrich says:

      :)i was only half kidding. it would be great to see a very similar series to this one on the subject of federal vision theology. not sure who the “optimum” counter argument should come from but wilson is the obvious pick for the FV side. regardless, i’d read whoever it was (especially if it was a pyro).

      1. The “pyro” people lost me with the accusation they made that Mark Driscoll was guilty of “pornographic divination”. Factually wrong, inflammatory and likely itself a breach of the 9th commandment.

        1. Dan Phillips says:

          The “documented, proven and accurate observation,” you should have said, if you were going to say anything. And, with the trollish critic’s usual complete lack of self-awareness, you make this accusation without the least whisper of proof.

          And (if history predicts) will proceed hole-digging without a pause.

          1. I’ve dealt with this issue a good bit, including inter-acting (unpleasantly) with Phil Johnson directly about this. I’ve been grieved by the number of so-called evangelicals who apparently don’t seem to understand that when they disagree with someone they aren’t then justified in flinging out the most attention-grabbing rhetoric they can imagine.

            Mark Driscoll purports to have had visions of people engaged in sexual immorality and used that knowledge to confront those people about their sin. I don’t know whether Driscoll’s claims are true nor is it necessary for me to have an opinion about them.

            Calling it “pornographic” means that it is media with the intent of inducing lust. (Pornography is not a synonym for any sexually explicit material and it’s certainly debatable whether Driscoll’s account was really sexually explicit anyway. Driscoll’s claims met no serious definition of being “pornographic”.

            The charge of engaging in “divination” is even more serious as it is a claim that Driscoll engaged in some form of spiritualism, such as witchcraft. Even a responsible cessationist should be able to grant that perhaps Driscoll was hallucinating and sincerely believed it was a revelation from God without having to resort to accusing him of consulting evil spirits. It is frankly, a slanderous charge.

            This isn’t “hole digging”, this is taking the 9th commandment seriously and is tangentially related to this blog because the “pyro” tactic of inflammatory accusations is exactly the opposite of what we’ve seen demonstrated by Pastor Anyabwile.

            1. Dan Phillips says:

              Boy, that’s a lot of words just to say that I was exactly right. But I’ll take it.

              My last planned word will be this: as I observe the effect of your presence in these threads, and this latest trollish side-snip, I observe that our loss is Thabiti’s…well… loss.

            2. HI Dan,

              You haven’t dealt with the issues at all but shown (what I noted above) a lack of interest in keeping the 9th commandment and, ironically, leveled a baseless insult while accusing others of being a “troll”.

              Some self-examination might be in order.

        2. Tim says:

          Goodness John… Remind me to never get on your bad side :)

  5. Aaron says:

    Wow, . Thabiti’s point 4 needs to be in textbooks and needs to be officially published in some way. . how many errors could be avoided. Yep, the Liberty Bell still is cracked. wow.

    Doug’s point 3 makes a point that begs the question. “What were the sins in the North, equal with chattel slavery, that would’ve been allowed to continue without the war?”. His example of the current war is a good one, but that doesn’t answer the charge about the continuance of slavery in 1865; because the North didn’t have a counter example of something that would “go forward” if not for the war. No one is claiming the North was “innocent” in those days. . I think most people investigating the civil war would see that the North has some skeletons in that conflict, yes and amen.

    But, to Doug’s point. . .yes, it really is that simple. . . . unless we’re going to come up with a Northern sin that needed to be snuffed out that is in the same league as slavery. The war had the “right” outcome. Slavery was dealt a fatal blow because of it. Justice was done (by those who were, unjust. . . . as is the case in any war)

    1. Aaron says:

      The charge could easily come. . . “the centralization of power was the northern “sin””. I understand that, and agree with Doug Wilson on the over-reach that happened there. But, to me, that doesn’t speak to the rightness/wrongness of the war, because had things gone differently, the North would’ve continued without that centralization, (who would’ve needed it?) and the South, chances are, would’ve become another nation, which would have almost certainly grown in “centrality” as all governments do, over time.

      1. The problem with Wilson’s attempt to tie the “centralization” that resulted in the Supreme Court being able to impose abortion on the whole country to the North’s victory in the Civil War is that the Supreme Court’s right of “judicial review” arose from Marbury v. Madison (1803) and not from the Civil War. Indeed, the Supreme Court imposed its interpretation on the whole country prior to the Civil War, most notably in the Dred Scott case.
        So, if there had been no Civil War, there still could have been Roe v. Wade.

  6. Tim says:

    This certainly was an excellent series of blogs and a delightful read. Thabiti, many thanks for the excellent example you have provided in modeling a fair cool headed evaluation of an argument.

    I also must confess to finding myself a but disappointed at the ending. While one appreciates the significant agreement, this doesn’t mean that we can’t hope for more! Further, it appears , at least to this observer, that the conversation might have stopped short of resolution. Certain charges of insensitivity and divisiveness were leveled which do not appear to have been fully dealt with and perhaps appear to be swept under the rug. I, for one, was hoping that these issues would have been addressed more fully in the summary. Do these charges still stand? Have they been retracted?

    1. Tim says:

      Whatever has happened, it doesn’t appear as if reconciliation or repentance has happened. It is difficult to think that Doug has turned from anything and towards anything, or retracted anything that he has said, as you indicated a truly repentant person should. I wholeheartedly agree that if Doug sinned, he should have followed Sande’s guidelines.

    2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Tim,

      I pray you’re well, brother. Thanks for your encouragement and for participating in the discussion. May the Lord bear fruit from it and bless us all.

      We can indeed hope for more :-). Yet, more sometimes takes some time.

      As for resolution of the charges of “insensitivity,” there’s more that could have been said, perhaps, but I take it as resolved with Wilson’s humble admission and apology and my accepting and forgiving it. We could hope for a more full-scale review of his book and other writings and perhaps a more fulsome retraction, but that wasn’t the aim of the discussion and we have to leave that to Wilson at this point.

      Again, I’m thankful for the hard but good start, even if no one yet has all they’d hope for. We continue as always to walk by faith.

      For our King,
      T-

      1. Tim says:

        Thabiti,
        It has certainly been a pleasure interacting with such a gracious man and sharp thinker. It is also good to see that you have forgiven Pastor Wilson. Would that mean you are committing to not bring the matter up to him, others, or yourself?
        Many thanks,
        Tim

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Tim,

          If by “the matter” you mean offense taken at sharp or unloving words, then “yes.”

          T-

  7. Tim says:

    Certainly a helpful clarification :) One last question if you’ll permit? Do you think Christians should view Doug as an unrepentant divisive man, until he repents more specifically of the division he caused? Or would that charge be covered in his repentance for being unnecessarily offensive. As an onlooker, I find myself wondering how to process what has happened in terms of reconciliation.
    Tim

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Tim,

      I don’t think Wilson’s apology to me was offered as an apology to anyone that felt as I did. He had some caveats that were important to him, caveats that seemed to include some in the apology and exclude others. And as we’ve said, he hasn’t retracted things or offered a more full statement of confession/repentance/regret, etc. I don’t think we should call the issue “over” based on our conversation. But I don’t know that I want to call him a “divisive man” either. I think he’s a man that’s been embattled on a number of fronts and perhaps hasn’t felt comfortable knowing whether to or how to respond or undo some things he’s done. And some of the things said about him or to him have been as divisive and embittering. I think he would be humble and wise to offer more specific retractions and make reconciliation overtures based upon those retractions. But I’m not ready to declare and dismiss him altogether as “an unrepentant divisive man.” Our conversation leaves me hoping more in the way of reconciliation might be possible. At least I hope so.

      T-

      1. Tim says:

        Thabiti,
        It is good to hear that you don’t think that he necessarily qualifies as a divisive man. Was the whole thing just a wisdom issue after all, and not necessarily a sin issue? I guess that is what is confusing. Do you simply believe that he communicated unwisely, and it would be wide of him to offer a more full scale apology which includes retractions/revisions, or do you believe he sinned against black people and he is morally mandated to repent and turn from his sins?

        If you now believe the former, are you making retractions now?

        If you still believe the latter, shouldn’t you stick to your guns and demand more comprehensive repentance to all those who were sinned against?

        Ok now I’m done. I was so persistent in the other post because I was afraid that this would happen. I do think Doug wrote exactly what he intended to write, in exactly the way that he intended to write it, knowing that he would be accused of these very things. As a result, I think it makes more comprehensive repentance difficult, because he would be retracting his principles.

        I appreciate you brother,
        Tim

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Tim,

          Okay… last round :-).

          I believe the writing at points is sinful. I believe the writing at points fails to meet the standards of Eph. 4:3, 29; 1 Cor. 13; James 3 and other texts that call upon Christians to speak in particular ways. I believe that failure was gross, meaning it wasn’t a failure with individuals but with his entire reading public–black, white, brown, etc. As such, he would be both wise and godly to set aside the past embattlements and attacks that have in some ways forced him into a defensive corner, and to the best of his ability revisit the writing, revisit his heart, and issue a full and “clean” articulation of the principles he holds (which no one should begrudge, even if they think they’re wrong–being wrong isn’t necessarily a sin) and retract statements he deems to have crossed biblical lines. I think such a statement would (a) free Wilson himself, (b) re-establish a biblical tone, and (c) help heal offenses others have rightly taken. I think he can leave the folks who are not genuine to their own hearts and the Lord’s judgment.

          One property of sin–in whatever situation–is that it tends to distort, cloud, and seemingly add complexity in our view of things. But, the route of repentance and godliness generally (not always) draws a straight line through the situations and adds clarity. In other words, I don’t think we should regard “comprehensive repentance difficult.” We should just cut off our arms, gouge out our eyes, or pluck out our tongues as the case requires. It’s not difficult; it’s painful. All of us who know ourselves to be sinners and to have sin wrapped around the things we care passionately about should know how painful such sanctification appears. But in the end it brings life and light.

          I appreciate you, too, brother,
          T-

          1. Dan Phillips says:

            “…being wrong isn’t necessarily a sin”

            Well, thank God for that!

            (c;

            1. Tim says:

              Still waiting for the official team pyro response blog ;)

          2. Tim says:

            I certainly agree that comprehensive repentance should not be considered difficult, and needs to happen for real reconciliation to take place.

            Comprehensive repentance is only difficult when a person does not believe.he has sinned. It is difficult when you say what you believe needs to be said.in exactly the way that you believe it needs to be said, knowing full well that offense.will.probably be taken, while not desiring.to offend. Then when the offense is taken, you throw out an apology saying, I love you and didn’t mean to.offend, but I really think you need to hear what I said in the way that I said it, knowing full well that I’m not God and there are always.better ways to communicate.

            In short, I don’t think Wilson wrote the way he wrote because he was backed in a defensive corner, I think he was very intentional. But, then I’m not God and cannot.judge the heart. I wonder if this is where his difficulties lie.

            Ok really done

            Please don’t feed the trolls :)

            1. In my opinion, the obstacle for repentance for Wilson is his misunderstanding of history. As long as he believes his interpretation of history is correct, I don’t see how he can (or even should) “repent.”

              I don’t see that he’s sinned by being “divisive” or hurting some people’s feelings. If he’s sinned (and I don’t know that), it’s the pride of publishing about a subject he has very little understanding of.

            2. Tim says:

              I completely agree. However, to someone who is historically ignorant, i.e. me, he makes a plausible case. But yes, if Wilson’s tone in black and Tan was wrong, it might mean that he needs to repent of the entirety of his writings. The real issue is truth content imo.

            3. Hi Tim,

              Agreed. The plausibility of Wilson’s comments rely on readers having only a general knowledge of the history. He takes Robert W. Fogel’s Nobel Prize winning work on slavery to build his historical case and so can appear sound. Since Fogel’s history is statistical and fact-based (“cliometrics”) and since the traditional case against slavery is usually based on anecdotes, Wilson can appear to be based on the “cold-hard truth”. The problem is that he’s only being selective in his use of Fogel’s work and has come to exactly the opposite conclusions as did Fogel.

              I don’t know about Wilson’s tone. Pastor Anyabwile, in one post about a month ago, cited several statements in “Black and Tan” that sound “insensitive”, such as saying that white culture was superior to black culture. The comment that ensued revolved almost exclusively around the theoretical meaning of being “insensitive”, rather than the content of the various statements Pastor Anyabwile quoted. To me what is primarily wrong with those comments aren’t that they make one group feel bad (although doing that unnecessarily is wrong; it’s a lack of love) but that they are a simple-minded, question-begging, and in some respects untrue.

            4. Tim says:

              John,
              I have found it interesting that you seem so adamant in your rejection of Wilson’s historiography. You have mentioned at least ten times? that Wilson uses Fogel’s work and comes to the exact opposite conclusion. From what I gathered you believe that Wilson uses his work to conclude that immediate manumission was not biblical, while Fogel himself was arguing that manumission was necessary. Is this an accurate representation of what you are saying?
              My question is this:
              What does that have to do with being a bad historian?

              Wouldn’t’ve argument is the following:
              Slavery wasn’t as bad as abolitionist make it appear
              It was not as bad as Roman slavery
              If it was not as bad as Roman slavery, the Biblical teaching on slavery applies
              As a result, If a Roman slavery could be a member in good standing at a church, then so could a Southerner.

              This is a Biblical argument that depends on a comparison between American and Roman slavery.

              Why does the fact that he is coming to this conclusion make him a bad historian? Or perhaps your.thinking is more nuanced than this?

            5. Tim says:

              Wilson’s argument not Wouldn’t’ve… Autocorrect

            6. Hi,

              You’re right about what Wilson says. Let me add, he also believes that the slavery could have been peacefully phased out and that a war wasn’t necessary. However, Fogel’s conclusion is the opposite: slavery was on the ascendancy, could have been adapted to industrialization and would have spread geographically and indefinitely, including until today.

            7. Tim says:

              Sure so why does that make him a bad historian? He is a post millenialist, so he believes that God blesses obedience at a national level. The Biblical method of ending slavery is not a civil war. Once again, he is arguing from his understanding of Scripture. So why does this make himabad historian in your view?

            8. Hi Tim,

              As above, he’s a bad historian because his claims about a racially harmonious South prior to the Civil War is absurd and, as above, he wrong about the ascendancy of slavery prior to the Civil War. His main historical source appears to be Fogel but he contradicts Fogel on key historical conclusions. (As noted, if he had wanted sound historical feedback from the source he trusts, then he probably could have gotten it directly from Professor Fogel.) Further, his assumption that the centralization that resulted in the Supreme Court of imposing abortion on the whole country is a result of the Civil War is plainly false (as I’ve repeated elsewhere). In addition, to call oneself a “paleo-Confederate” while denouncing slavery is an absurdity as the “ancient” (or original) Confederacy was explicitly committed to race-based slavery. Etc.

              The idea that “the Biblical method of ending slavery is not a civil war” is a matter of Biblical interpretation, not history. He’s arguably wrong about that too, as in my opinion ending slavery qualifies as a reason for “just war”.

            9. Tim says:

              1) what about his claims to some degree of racial harmony prior to the war were wrong historically?
              2) what is he saying about the ascendency of slavery prior to the war that is wrong historically?
              3) why is his claim that centralization occured as a result of the civil war, which resulted in the ability of the supreme court to impose abortion on states against their will factually wrong?

            10. Hi Tim,

              1) Racial harmony prior to the Civil War? Think about it. One race was keeping the other race enslaved. Is that really an expression of harmony?

              2) Wilson is suggesting that the Civil War was unnecessary, apparently because the South could have been reasoned/evangelized out of keeping their slaves. If he would grapple with the implications of the parts of Fogel’s “Time on the Cross” that he’s cited, he should realize that that’s not true. The South wasn’t going to give up the institution that was growing their economy at twice the rate of the North’s. The historical fact is that the South wasn’t poised to give up slavery, that it fought the Civil War to preserve it.

              3) The Supreme Court’s right of “judicial review” (used to impose abortion on the whole country) was in no way a result of the Civil War but of Marbury v. Madison (1803). If there had been no Civil War, there could have just as likely been Roe v. Wade.

  8. Joe Horn says:

    I know I am way late to the party on this. Too busy pastoring to keep up with the blogosphere, I guess. But wow! All I can say is that I read every post with interest. What an education. Truly a Master’s class in both exegetical faithfulness and gospel-centered approach to history.

    I’m not for war, in most circumstances, but we who are Christians should never apologize for the Civil War. If wars are ever just, that one was. I like Lincoln’s assessment: “Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” So it was. And we should be glad of the fact. Freedom for enslaved millions of our brothers and sisters and their descendants was well worth the cost in blood and treasure.

    1. Hi Joe,

      You are right. The US’s cause in the Civil War was a indeed just and the Confederacy’s cause was unjust. The Confederacy was overtly, explicitly committed to race-based slavery. Wilson’s refusal to accept that fact while calling himself a “paleo-Confederate” means he is either ignorant or confused or something worse. If he’s merely ignorant, then why is he writing books about a subject he is ignorant of?

    2. Matt says:

      Joe,

      Would you agree that abortion is at least as atrocious as slavery was [that is quite clear to me]? If the North’s engagement in the war was just based solely on forcing an immediate end of slavery, then how does that logic extend to the abortion issue.

      I assume we are in hearty agreement that Christians should not be engaged in, or encouraging the start of a physical war to end abortion. Yet, I’m not sure what in your logic -per se- would prevent one from making that conclusion.

      So, does questioning the “justness” of the Civil War really necessarily amount to a defense of slavery?

      I hope that sounds irenic…it’s hard to ask these questions online, but please know that I am missing something here -I’m no stragner to that- I’d gladly have it pointed out to me.

      1. Hi Matt,

        Wilson doesn’t “question” the justness of the Civil War. He says out-right that he is a “paleo-Confederate” and that he would have fought for the South. The problem is that the South was overtly, explicitly committed to the preservation of race-based slavery. Wilson is like a man who says he is not anti-Semitic but would have fought for Nazi Germany.

        Wilson’s attempt to bring in the issue of abortion is just an exercise in obfuscation.

        1. Matt says:

          John,

          I wasn’t really attempting to defend Wilson and please note that I didn’t refer to him, or his arguments [at least not intentionally]. If something I said is reminiscient of something he has said it was not intentional as I am only passingly familiar with his writing [that's not meant to be a ding on Wilson, just a statement of fact]. I was asking a question that while I think is related to the debate between Wilson and Anyabwile, is much more narrow… and unaddressed by your post.

          1. Sorry, I thought you were understating Wilson’s position.

            A common tactic of Southern-apologists is to question the justness of the North’s motivation. (That is, pointing out that many of the North were unconcerned or even supportive of slavery but simply objected to secession.) I believe that is secondary to what were the motives of the South, which are documented in official secession statements by the South and the “Cornerstone” speech. Questioning the justness of the Civil War because of the impurity of Northerner’s motivation is akin to questioning WW2 because the allies had some anti-Semites too.

            1. matt says:

              John,

              I basically agree with the things you point and also do not understand them as a reply to any of my comments [assuming that's what your post is intended to be as its indented under the comments I've made]. I’m not familiar with Southern-apologists, much less their common tactics. I myself am not particularly interested in apologizing -in the sense that you seemed to have meant- for the South. I agree with you entirely on your comments about justness of the Civil War -or anything else for that matter- and the supposed purity of one’s motives. The motives game is pointless. There’s only one Man who had pure motives…if you’ve got a reply that addresses the observations and question that *I* made, I’d be glad to hear it.

      2. John K says:

        As to applying the issue of fighting a war to end slavery to the present day issue of abortion, John C has said in other comments in this discussion that just war theory would approve of the Civil War being fought to free slaves, but would not approve of fighting an anti-abortion war today. Per just war theory a competent authority must wage the war, and John C said that an abortion war fails the criteria. I can’t remember if John C mentioned this or not (he may have), but I would say that a non-defensive just has to have a reasonable possibility of success, and I don’t see an anti-abortion war as having a reasonable possibility of success of being won or of the war aims being achieved if the war is won.

        1. Hi John,

          Actually, I believe a war called to end abortion would be just if called by a competent authority. The problem with those who bomb abortion clinics, etc., is that they don’t have the authority to use violence. If such an authority called for an anti-abortion war, I believe that could be just.

          Yes, abortion will not finally be wiped out before Christ returns. But neither will murder. Yet we don’t propose that we drop the laws against murder. Just authority should do it’s best to stamp out the evil of abortion — and race-based, perpetual slavery.

  9. Matt says:

    thanks for the exchanges!

  10. Wilson’s historical case appears to be mostly built on Robert W. Fogel’s work. That would be excellent — as Fogel is probably the world’s best expert on Southern slavery. But when Wilson comes to exactly the opposite conclusions as Fogel — that slavery was on the ascendancy prior to the Civil War, not on the verge of gradually fading away, etc. — we have to conclude that he didn’t seriously base his ideas on history at all.

    If Wilson had wanted substantial historical feedback prior to publishing his inflammatory and totally unnecessary ideas on slavery (starting prior to his 1996 “Southern Slavery: As It Was”), he likely could have sent a draft to Professor Fogel and received correction directly from him.

  11. Andrew Lohr says:

    Agreed: that slavery was not a creation ordinance, nor will the eschaton feature it; that the OT saw slavery as undesirable and of limited use, liberty as preferable in general; that the NT gospel’s thrust is toward liberty; that Mosaic slavery, Roman slavery, and Southern slavery differed each from the others to some extent.

    Two challenges for pastor Doug: beyond details–he’d probably admit that bad stuff happened as exceptions in the South–was Southern slavery worse in that manumission was discouraged, e.g. by laws making masters responsible for actions of slaves they’d freed, and laws against teaching slaves to read? For Moses and Caesar, manumission was routine and literate slaves no problem. And, how do you square calling the Civil War God’s judgment on the South with saying you’d’ve fought for the South?

    One for both, and for most of us: one commenter linked to serious and plausible exegesis saying “use it rather” in I Cor 7:21 should be read as “use slavery rather, even if you can get free” rather than as “prefer freedom,” parallel with don’t change Jew or Gentile status. What about this? (I don’t like it; I recently left a job I could’ve persisted in. But is that what the text means, however angular to all of us?)

    One for pastor Thabiti: Granted that the creation and Bible, as well as human, preference in general is for freedom, cannot slavery express love in some circumstances? E.g. a debtor or repentant criminal choosing slavery to pay (love) his creditors under OT law? Sure the relationship would have problems, but so does marriage or any other relationship. Well, another. We postmils may tend to be hyperpatient, i.e. lazy–Doug thinks the South was pushed too hard–have not some premil churches tended to be legalistic (Thou shalt not drink, smoke, dance, play cards, go to movies–or fail to manumit slaves)?

  12. Adam Waddell says:

    Thank you for this.

    I recently posted on this horrendous book myself. I have yet to see any outcry from white people, and I felt like we needed to say something.

    http://www.the-reconstruction.blogspot.com/2013/05/here-i-stand-i-cannot-do-otherwise.html?m=1

    Hopefully, Wilson gets a changed heart and recants Black and Tan.

  13. Oscar says:

    Doug,

    What do you think of the facts in this article? When are white evangelicals going to address these issues. Racism is still here and plenty of the people described in this article are “Christians.”

    http://www.salon.com/2013/03/16/the_south_still_lies_about_the_civil_war/

  14. Tim says:

    I appreciate the irenic manner in which you’ve addressed Wilson’s position, Thabiti. The bottom line on it is that he engages in bad history, a blindness to the suffering of people under slavery and uses that to promote theological positions that are ill-served by such faulty underpinnings.

    The reality is that the Civil War really was about slavery and not States’ Rights as Wilson repeatedly asserts in his book, and the institution of slavery victimized innocent people whose only qualification for slavery was the color of their skin. Wilson’s repeated claims not to be racist unfortunately do not stack up to his defense of white people owning black people in 19th Century America.

    Cheers,
    Tim

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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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