Biblical slavery and American slavery

I thoroughly enjoyed the DG conference this weekend. It was great to meet up with old friends I have not seen in a while and to meet those of you I’ve only known electronically.

I want to post a few of the interesting quotes from the conference. The first is a sobering one from the second and final MacArthur message. He was speaking on the importance of the word doulas (slave) in the New Testament and letting the hard reality of its meaning land on us today. Here is what he said:

“Here we have a massive, dominating New Testament paradigm for understanding our relationship to Jesus Christ. When you say doulas (slave) and then you say kurios (master) everybody in the Greek culture at that time knew exactly what you were talking about. There is no such thing as kurios without doulas. No such thing as a master without a slave. If you don’t have slaves, you’re not the master of anybody. If you are the master you have slaves. …

In the ancient world this was the most demeaning term possible by which to identify yourself. Freedom was everything. They would have stood with Braveheart and screamed, ‘Freedom!’ They understood the value, the virtue, of freedom and they mocked slavery. …

What did it mean to say you were a slave? The difference between a servant and slave was that a servant was hired for a job and paid. A slave was owned. To be a slave means: (1) you were bought; (2) exclusive ownership; (3) total availability and obedience without question; (4) subject all your life to an alien will; (5) dependent on your master for all your provision and all protection; (6) and your master determined the final disposition of your life as to punishment or reward. … In the ancient Greek world there was somewhere between 10-12 million slaves. Everyone knew what it meant. When you said you were a slave of Jesus Christ everybody knew what that meant. You think they had a Lordship controversy then? I don’t think so!

The Bible does not condemn slavery. The Bible does not condone slavery. It just borrows it as the perfect metaphor to picture a Christian’s relationship to the Lord. For you have been bought with a price, you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold but with precious blood of Christ (1 Cor. 6:20 and 1 Pet. 1:18-19). …

I was talking about this a few weeks ago over in North Carolina (Wake Forest University). And a gracious guy stood up and said, ‘You know, I come from the African American church and I’m not sure this would go over real big – this slavery idea.’

I said, ‘I can understand that.’

I was down in the South, in the office of Charles Evers – the brother of Medgar Evers – when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. [Later] I was in Jackson, Mississippi with some leaders and they actually put me in a car and took me to Memphis into the building where James Earl Ray shot him. I climbed up on the toilet to look through the window where he held the gun. I know these people, I’ve known them through the years and ministered there. I understand all the pain and agony of that in the past.

But I said to him [the man at Wake Forest], ‘For you that’s a memory, for the people living in the New Testament that [slavery] was now! That was their reality.’”

– John MacArthur, Desiring God 2007 National Conference; Certainties That Drive Enduring Ministry, Part 2 (Sept. 29, 2007)

MacArthur on Emergent

An interview from May 28 promoting his new book The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception (Thomas Nelson: 2007).

Related: Don Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications (Zondervan: 2005).

Related: R. Scott Smith, Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church (Crossway: 2005).