Thursday, September 29, 2016

Word Magazine # 58: Reaction: ESV (2016) "Permanent Text Edition" Fail

Image:  Crossway has used a "bandwagon" marketing strategy to promote the ESV among Calvinistic evangelicals.

Image:  Here is a parody that appeared on the Confessional Bibliology FB group [Note:  I don't do FB, but I have my sources!].  Some other parodies are posted below.

I just posted WM # 58 Reaction:  ESV (2016) “Permanent Text Edition” Fail.  This episode offers some reaction to and analysis of Crossway’s announcement yesterday (9.28.16) of the reversal of its summer 2016 decision to establish a “permanent text” edition of the ESV. In that announcement, Crossway President and CEO Lane Dennis stated:  “We have become convinced that this decision was a mistake … We apologize for this and for any concern this has caused for readers of the ESV, and we want to explain what we now believe to be the way forward.  Our desire, above all, is to do what is right before the Lord.”

Oddly enough, Crossway had apparently made the decision to establish the “permanent text” of the ESV in emulation of the stability of the KJV (since the 1769 Blayney edition).  They apparently received some heavy backlash for this decision from their constituency.  Indeed, it does seem odd that Crossway made this decision given that  commitment to a modern translation based on the ever shifting modern critical texts of the Hebrew OT and Greek NT must necessarily entail an “open translation” philosophy.

Of course, from my perspective, a stable text of the Bible is indeed essential.  What is key, however, is not a “permanent text” of an English translation but a stable, reliable, permanent text of the Bible in the original languages (the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the OT and the Textus Receptus of the NT).

Here are some sources cited in this episode:

A pdf of my blog article “Three Challenges to the ESV” and the audio version.


Images:  More ESV marketing parodies:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Word Magazine # 57: Did the Gospels "plagiarize" Pagan Myths?

I have recorded and posted WM # 57 Did the Gospels “plagiarize” Pagan Myths?  Below are some notes from this episode:

I recently stumbled upon a youtube video by a young atheist apologist named Jaclyn Glenn titled “Disproving Christianity:  Jesus is a Lie” (posted in 2013).  I thought it might be worthwhile to offer a brief critique.

Her main argument:  She claims that that Christians plagiarized the life of Jesus from myths of various pagan deities, including:

The Egyptian god Horus,
The Hindu/Indian god Krishna,
And the Persian/Roman god Mithras.

Here are five logical and factual problems with this claim:

1.  She does not use primary sources to make these claims but biased and inaccurate summaries.

She makes reference to only one original source (the Egyptian Book of the Dead for Horus), and that in name only with no direct citations.  Her other references are to either her own summaries of these accounts or to those made by others, all of which are surely hostile to historical Christianity.

For an example of a refutation of Horus/Jesus parallels see this site.

There is a major difference between pagan mythological accounts and the Biblical narrative which are rooted in recognizable reality.

Example:  She suggests that Horus also may have experienced a virgin birth.  This is how the Wikipedia article on Horus summarizes the myth of his origin:
Horus was born to the goddess Isis after she retrieved all the dismembered body parts of her murdered husband Osiris, except his penis, which was thrown into the Nile and eaten by a catfish, or sometimes by a crab, and according to Plutarch’s account used her magic powers to resurrect Osiris and fashion a golden phallus to conceive her son (older Egyptian accounts have the penis of Osiris surviving).
Once Isis knew she was pregnant with Horus, she fled to the Nile Delta marshlands to hide from her brother Set, who jealously killed Osiris and who she knew would want to kill their son.  There Isis bore a divine son, Horus.
This is hardly comparable to the virginal conception in the historical Biblical narratives of Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.
2.  She makes the unsubstantiated claim that the wide circulation of these myths pre-date Christianity.

In fact, though there were pre-Christian myths of various deities, those in the Western world did not come to know many of them until they were written about by Greek and Roman authors.  Example: Those in the Greco-Roman world would most likely have come to know about Horus not by reading the Egyptian Book of the Dead but by reading Plutarch’s retelling of the Isis, Osiris, Horus myth in his Moralia.  Plutarch lived from c. 40-120 AD.  Those in the larger Greco-Roman world might not have even heard of Horus till long after the Christian movement began and the NT Gospels had been written.

For a similar problem with supposed parallels between Christianity and Mithraism, see Ronald H. Nash’s book The Gospel and the Greeks (P&R, 1992, 2003):  pp. 133-138. Nash concludes that the major problem with this theory is “the fact that the timing is all wrong,” since “the flowering of Mithraism occurred after the close of the NT canon, too late for it to have influenced the development of first-century Christianity” (p. 137).

3.  She ignores the possibility that the influence may have run in the opposite direction.

Pagan articulation of their divine myth may have been influenced by the rising popularity of the Christian Gospels.

4.  She wrongly assumes that there would have been a large gap of time between the life of the historical Jesus and the development of myths borrowed from other religions.

She does not deny the historicity of the life of Jesus.  But she does not acknowledge that the Gospels and other Christian writings were written soon after his life, that they share in wide agreement about the basic facts of Jesus’ life across multiple sources, and that contemporary eyewitnesses might easily have challenged anything that was inaccurate.

5.  It does not make sense to posit that monotheistic Jewish Christians would have borrowed from polytheistic pagan myth to enhance the story of Jesus.

For Israelite hostility to paganism read Isaiah’s attack on idolatry in Isaiah 44 or the Psalmist’s in Psalm 115.  Then read about Paul’s visit to pagan Athens in Acts 17.

 Conclusion:  You may embrace or reject the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus but to claim that they have their origin in pagan myths is illogical and historically inaccurate.


Friday, September 23, 2016

The Vision (9.23.16): A duty of God’s people toward their spiritual leaders: “Pray for us”

 Note:  Devotion taken from last Sunday morning’s sermon on Hebrews 13:17-19.

“Pray for us” (Hebrews 13:18a).

In addition to obedience and submission to those who have the rule over them (Hebrews 13:17), the inspired author adds in v. 18 another duty which God’s people have toward their spiritual leaders.  They are to pray for them.  Pastors and elders need the prayers of God’s people.  We need your prayers, because we are often on the frontlines of spiritual warfare.  We are often under attack.  Satan likes nothing better than to discourage a man who is in the ministry or to try to remove him from his office and calling.  Just as in battle one force will attempt to take out the officers to demoralize the troops and take away their coordination and leadership, so our enemy loves to attack and discourage the elders.

In 1605 the English Puritan pastor Williams Perkins wrote a booklet titled “The Calling of the Ministry” (reprinted by Banner of Truth in the Puritan paperback titled The Art of Prophesying).   One chapter is titled, “The Scarcity of True Ministers.”  In it Perkins ponders why so few men in his own day seemed to be called to or qualified for the ministry.  He gave three reasons:

First, the contempt with which the calling is treated.  It is always hated by wicked and irreverent men because it reveals their filthiness and unmasks their hypocrisy.  The teaching of ministers is often a fretting corrosive on their conscience, preventing them from weltering and wallowing quietly in their sins—as they would be able to do under other circumstances.  This is why they spurn both the calling of ministers and ministers themselves.  They watch them carefully to latch onto their smallest failures, hoping to disgrace them.  They imagine that by casting contempt on the calling of the preacher they can remove the shame from their own degraded ways.

It is inevitable that they should hate those who are called to the ministry, since they harbor deadly hatred both for the law and the gospel message which they bring, and for the God whose representatives they are…..

The second reason is the difficulty of discharging the duties of a minister’s calling.  To stand in God’s presence, to enter into the holy of holies, to go between God and his people, to be God’s mouth to his people, and the people’s to God … to take the care and charge of souls—these considerations overwhelm the consciences of men who approach the sacred seat of the preacher with reverence and not with rashness…..

The third and last reason is especially relevant to ministry in the NT era, namely the inadequacy of the financial recompense and status given to those who enter this calling….. (in The Art of Prophesying, pp. 94-95).

A few years ago I went to an office building to take care of some business.  When the man at the counter found out I was in the ministry, his face became very grave and serious, and he told me, almost through tears, that he had once been in the ministry.  He did not have to say much more, because I understood.  Indeed, I have met many men who used to be in the ministry.  Some no doubt left because they were not called.  But some have left through grief and discouragement.  Perhaps they lacked the prayers of God’s people to uphold them.

“Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Eliot: Machinery, Society, and Man's End

Image:  T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

I just finished T. S. Eliot’s essay “The Idea of a Christian Society.” It includes a broadcast talk Eliot did in 1937 as an Appendix. His closing thoughts in the talk on “machinery,” society, and man’s end, brought to mind how this might be applied to contemporary technological advancements (e.g., the internet, etc.).

Any machinery, however beautiful to look at and however wonderful a product of brains and skill, can be used for bad purposes as well as good:  and this is as true of social machinery as of constructions of steel.  I think that, more important than the invention of a new machine, is the creation of a temper of mind in people such that they can learn to use a new machine rightly.  More important still at the moment would be the diffusion of knowledge of what is wrong—morally wrong—and of why it is wrong.  We are all dissatisfied with the way in which the world is conducted:  some believe it is a misconduct in which we all have some complicity; some believe that if we trust ourselves entirely to politics, sociology or economics we shall only shuffle from one makeshift to another.  And here is the perpetual message to the Church:  to affirm, to teach and apply, true theology.  We cannot be satisfied to be Christians at our devotions and merely secular reformers all the rest of the week, for there is one question that we need to ask ourselves every day and about whatever business.  The Church has perpetually to answer this question: to what purpose were we born?  What is the end of Man?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book Note: George Orwell "A Collection of Essays"

I’ve been on a recent binge of reading essays.  Over the past few months I read two collections of essays from Joseph Epstein (A Literary Education and Essays in Biography).  Last week I finished reading George Orwell, A Collection of Essays (Harvest Books, 1981).

The Orwell book includes 14 essays of varying length, on sundry topics, and from various times in his life.  They include everything from his vivid and sometimes chilling memories of childhood in an English boarding school under the watch of cruel and sadistic caregivers (“Such, Such Were the Joys . . .”) to his reflections on the life and writings of famous men, like Dickens, Kipling, and Ghandi (“Charles Dickens,” “Rudyard Kipling,” “Reflections on Ghandi”) and his reflections on his various personal experiences.  These include his musings on British imperialism drawn from his time as a policeman in Burma (in “Shooting an Elephant”), on his volunteer service in the Spanish Civil War fighting fascism (“Looking Back on the Spanish War”), and his assessment of English patriotism (“England Your England”).  It also includes essays on British popular art and literature (in “The Art of Donald McGill,” “Raffles and Miss Blandish,” and “Boys’ Weeklies”) and his classic essays on writing (“Politics and the English Language” and “Why I Write”).

Orwell is a master essayist.  What makes his writing so interesting and inviting?  Here are at least three reasons:

First, he is a master of the opening line.  Here are a few examples:

Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent, but the tests that have to be applied to them are not, of course, the same in all cases (“Reflections on Ghandi”).

As the corpse went past the flies left the restaurant table in a cloud and rushed after it, but they came back a few minutes later (“Marrakech”).

As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead trying to kill me (“England Your England”).

From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer (“Why I Write”).

Second, he is a master of the arresting observation or statement.  Examples:

All art is propaganda.  Neither Dickens himself nor the majority of Victorian novelists would have thought of denying this.  On the other hand, not all propaganda is art (“Charles Dickens” p. 90).

When one says that a writer is fashionable one practically always means that he is admired by people under thirty (“Inside the Whale” p. 221).

So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that the fire is hot (“Inside the Whale” p. 239).

The novel is practically a Protestant form of art; it is a product of the free mind, the autonomous individual (“Inside the Whale” p. 241).

[England] resembles a family, a rather stuffy Victorian family, with not many black sheep in it but with all its cupboards bursting with skeletons (“England Your England” p. 267).

Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain than journalists, though less interested in money (“Why I Write” p. 312).

The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude (“Why I Write” p. 313).

All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery (“Why I Write” p. 316).

Third, he is an independent thinker and forthright writer.  He was a socialist who criticized his fellow contemporary liberals who failed to denounce Stalinism (see 1984 and Animal Farm).  He surprises by showing some begrudging admiration for the imperialist Kipling (“Rudyard Kipling”) and raising questions about the motivations of Ghandi (“Reflections on Ghandi”).  While Marxists might denounce Dickens for his “bourgeois morality” Orwell praises him as “a nineteenth century liberal, a free intelligence (“Charles Dickens” pp. 103-104).  Edgar Allen Poe’s outlook, on the other hand, “is at best a wild romanticism and at worst is not far from being insane in the literal clinical sense” (“Inside the Whale” p. 246).  Though clearly not a believer, one picks up on currents of respect for religion, especially Christianity and its influences for good in society, in Orwell.  One example:  In his description of a “certain cultural unity” that existed in the England of his day, he observes:  “All through the Christian ages, and especially since the French Revolution, the Western world had been haunted by the idea of freedom and equality; it is only an idea, but it has penetrated all ranks of society” (“Charles Dickens” p. 103).  One might call Orwell a conservative liberal, a religious unbeliever.  Whatever one’s convictions, he inspires clearer thinking and better writing.


Friday, September 16, 2016

The Vision (9.16.16): Responding to those who reject Confessional Christianity

Note:  I began a new series last Sunday afternoon teaching through the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689).  Here are some notes from the first message:  Are Confessions Biblical?

Some will say they want to be simple Biblicists, free from a systematic approach.  Some will denounce all so-called “man-made” systems.  They declare they want, “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.”

These overlook several important facts:

First, human beings have a tendency to think in orderly ways.  This is the way God has made us.  We are “meaning-makers.”  Our desire to see things in an orderly way reflects the fact that we were made in the image of a consistent and orderly God (see 1 Cor 14:33).  Though our reason has been tainted by sin (total depravity) we retain a rational capacity.  A confession of faith, rightly used, is not an attempt to impose a system on Scripture but to make sense of or to systematize what Scripture teaches.

Second, those who dismiss all systemic approaches to Scripture also dismiss the fact that God intended the Scriptures to be clearly understood by those who read them.  Rejection of creeds and confessions is a rejection of the doctrine of the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture.

Those who denounce efforts at a systematic and meaningful approach Scripture have the burden of explaining why God is more glorified by disorganized and contradictory thinking than by organized and harmonious thinking.  Many of those who denounce clearly defined systems are in fact operating with highly developed systematic doctrinal interpretations that are merely left unspoken and unwritten.  Their problem with a confession like the 1689 is not with the fact that it is a human interpretation of Scripture but that it contradicts their own human interpretation of Scripture.

The eighteenth century Particular Baptist leader Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) wrote:

The man who has no creed has no belief; which is to say the same thing as an unbeliever; and he whose belief is not formed into a system has only a few loose, unconnected thoughts, without entering into the harmony and glory of the gospel.  Every well-informed and consistent believer, therefore, must have a creed—a system which he supposes to contain the leading principles of Divine revelation (“Creeds and Subscriptions,” in The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, Vol. 3 [Sprinkle Publications, 1988]: p.  449).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, September 12, 2016

Book Review: Why Four Gospels?

I posted to my book review of David Alan Black, Why Four Gospels?  The Historical Origins of the Gospels, Second Edition (Energion, 2010):  106pp.  The review appeared in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1 (January 2014):  pp. 288-291.

I also posted an audio version of the review to

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Vision (9.9.16): We Have An Altar

Image:  Nuns paying tribute to Mother Theresa.

Note:  Devotion taken from last Sunday morning’s sermon on Hebrews 13:10-14.

We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat (Hebrews 13:10).

For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come (Hebrews 13:14).

In v. 10 the inspired author declares, “We have an altar….”  What did he means by this?  Why does he say it?  I think we have to imagine there were Jewish apologists who were working on these Jewish Christians to attempt to have them deny Christ and return to their old religion.  In this way, they would have been anti-evangelists.  Of course, no one who is ever truly converted will ultimately fall away (cf. John 10:27-29; Rom 8:38-39; Phil 1:6).

So, perhaps these Jewish apologists were saying:  "Look, we have the temple.  It sits there as a tangible object in the city of Jerusalem.  And we have an altar upon which sacrifices are offered for our sins."

Perhaps they added:  “We have our holy days.  We have the Day of Atonement.  We have the Passover.  We have the Pentecost.  We have the Feast of Booths.  And what do you Christians have?  All you Christians have is your memory of Jesus dying a shameful death on the cross.  All you have is your preaching about his supposed resurrection.  All you have is your hope that he will one day come again.  We, on the other hand, have real religious objects, real holy days, real rituals to perform so you can outwardly see our religion.”

As I read this I thought of the news that this weekend the Roman Catholic church will announce that Mother Theresa is now a "saint" (an unbiblical concept since all Christians are saints; you are made one of the saints the moment you are converted—you do not have to wait for church approval!).  I heard a news report of two persons who claim to have been healed after they prayed to Mother Theresa (another unbiblical concept since prayer is directed to God alone and needs no merely human mediator).  The desire to have a saint, like the desire to have a physical altar is a desire to have the visible, the physical, the tangible.  But it sets up an idol.  This is why the second commandment forbade graven images.  The danger is that one might focus on the object rather than upon the Lord himself.  This comes from Christ not being enough, but of needing more.

But listen as the inspired author says, “We [Christians] have an altar…”  What did he mean?  Did the early Christians have a physical altar stashed away somewhere?  No, he is talking about Christ.  The altar was the place where the offerings were laid.  What he is saying is that in Christ an offering was made for our sin once for all.  Christ is our altar!  He says this in much the same way that Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”  I can imagine someone asking Paul:  “Hey, Paul, why do you Christians no longer celebrate the Passover?”  And I hear Paul saying:  “We have a Passover.  Our Passover is Christ.”

The inspired author later adds:  “For we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (v. 14).

This takes us back to Father Abraham and mother Sarah in the faith hall of fame (see 11:13-16).  Like them, we too are homeless.  We are ex-pats.  We are men without a country.  We are living away from our true land.  But we are seeking it.  And one day it is coming to us.  Till then we must stand with Christ and persevere.

So, we are always confident, always cheerful, always glad in Christ, never flagging in zeal.  So, we will not drop out.  We will not give up.  We do not have a physical temple.  But we have something better, something more beautiful in its sheer simplicity and truth.  We have an altar:  The Lord Jesus Christ.  He died for us.  He was raised for us.  He lives for us.  He is coming again for us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle 

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Podcast Recommendation: The Classicist

When time has allowed, I've been binge listening to the Hoover Institute's "The Classicist" podcast.  It features interviews with classics scholar and military historian Victor Davis Hanson.  I read his Why the West Has Won and Bonfire of the Humanities (coauthored with John Heath and Bruce Thornton) over the last year and am working my way now through Fields Without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea, the memoir of his experiences on his family's multi-generational California raisin farm. Hanson can speak authoritatively about Thucydides, the Trojan War, and the Roman Republic and then sagaciously apply it to contemporary politics and culture. Good listening.


Tuesday, September 06, 2016


My three oldest met up in London at summer's end (coming from Ukraine and Virginia). The Virginians lost their luggage on the return trip. It just showed up last week. So, I got my souvenir from the British Museum: an insulated tumbler with replication lettering from the Rosetta Stone. I then got to fill my tumbler this morning with some coffee the Clarks gave me last week when they got back from their summer ministry in Guatemala.  Nice!

Monday, September 05, 2016

Book Note: Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine

Note:  A stock part of the NT class I regularly teach is discussion on the views on slavery in the ancient world and in early Christianity.  I usually stress the pre-Christian “natural slave theory” of Aristotle, who offered the well known observation, rightly much offensive to modern ears, that slaves were mere “talking tools.”  I then contrast this with the more egalitarian views of early Christianity, as reflected in places like the household codes (cf. Eph 5-6; Col 3) and in Galatians 3:28. I also stress that although early Christianity was not a social revolutionary movement and did not advocate the immediate overthrow of slavery (cf. Paul’s views in 1 Cor 7:20-24 and, especially in Philemon), it did contain within it the seed that led to the flowering of abolition, at least in the West (cf. already the denunciation of “menstealers” in 1 Tim 1:10 and of those who traffic in “slaves, and souls of men” in Rev 18:13).

To learn more, I recently read Peter Garnsey’s book Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine.  Garnsey’s work is noteworthy for pointing out criticisms and challenges to slavery even in the pre-Christian world.  He also makes some interesting parallels to the defense of slavery in the ancient world and in the antebellum American South (including the appeal of some pro-slavery Southern intellectuals to classical thinkers, like Aristotle).  Oddly enough, Garnsey finds less to affirm in the role of early Christianity in opposing slavery.  For him it is a mixed bag.  Though he notes the views of Gregory of Nyssa in opposing slavery, he places emphasis on the more status quo affirming views of Augustine and others.   Garnsey seems to ignore the obvious, however, that the rise of Christianity eventually led to the decline of slavery in every culture where it had influence.

Here are some of my notes reviewing the book's content:

Peter Garnsey, Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine (Cambridge University Press, 1996):  269 pp.

This book is a revised and extended edition of Garnsey’s 1995 Stanford lectures at Trinity College, Dublin.  As the title indicates it provides a survey of views on slavery in the classical world, from the ancient Greeks to early Christianity.  He suggests there have been few “slave societies” like that found in ancient Greece and Rome or in antebellum America.  Along the way he has some interesting comparisons between ancient justifications of slavery and pro-slavery views in the American South.  Though admitting there was no true abolition movement in the ancient world, he makes the case that there was criticism and critique of slavery in the ancient world.


Introduction (pp. 1-22):

The author makes clear his disdain for slavery:  “Slavery is the most degrading and exploitative institution invented by man” (p. 5).

He says slavery was not universal in the ancient world or the “typical labor system in the ancient Mediterranean world” but admits it cannot be dismissed as “marginal” (p. 5).

Slavery was a “structural element” in ancient society (p. 9).

He cites R. W. Fogel, Without Consent or Contract:  the Rise and Fall of American Slavery (1989, p. 201):

For 3,000 years—from the time of Moses to the end of the 17th century—virtually every major statesman, philosopher, theologian, writer, and critic accepted the existence and legitimacy of slavery.  The word ‘accepted’ is chosen deliberately, for these men of affairs and molders of thought neither excused, condoned, pardoned, nor forgave the institution.  They did not have to; they were not burdened by the view that slavery was wrong.  Slavery was considered to be part of the natural scheme of things.  ‘From the hour of their birth,’ said Aristotle, ‘some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.’ (p. 9).

Ancient views of slavery cannot be limited to the “natural slave theory” of Aristotle (p. 13).  Slavery also came to have metaphorical use among early Christians.

Part I:  Attitudes to Slavery (pp. 23-102):

Chapter 2:  Slavery accepted (pp. 23-34):

Garnsey points not just to Plato and Aristotle acceptance of slavery but also others, including early Christians.  He points to the sermons of Augustine and John Chrysostom which presume the existence of the slave system.  He also cites the will of Gregory of Nazianzus, showing he had been a slave owner.

Chapter 3:  Justifications of slavery (pp. 35-52).

He notes Aristotle’s “natural slave theory” in which he expressed the view that some men by nature were meant to be enslaved and controlled by superior men as their masters.  Again, he points to other ancients, including some early Christian writers, who reflected this viewpoint.

Chapter 4:  Slave systems criticized (pp. 53-63).

Chapter opens:

A number of authors find fault with the slave system as it operated in practice, including the way slaves were treated, and with certain aspects of slave acquisition.  The criticisms that are leveled are concrete and raise practical concerns.  They are limited in objective and do not question the existence of slavery as an institution.  Hence they have to carefully distinguished from what appear to be genuine critiques of slavery (see ch. 6) (p. 53).

Chapter 5:  Fair words (pp. 64-74).

This chapter addresses the labeling of slaves “as inherently bad or stupid (cf. ‘Sambo’)” as “the crudest way of justifying the institution” (p. 74).

Chapter 6:  Slavery criticized (pp. 75-86).

He cites examples of largely anonymous critics of slavery (cited as opponents by men like Aristotle) who attacked slavery.  These were “social radicals” (p. 86).

Among Christian writers Gregory of Nyssa stands out for his arguments for the abolition of slavery (pp. 80-85).

Chapter 7:  Slavery eased (pp. 87-101).

This chapter deals with how slaves were treated in the ancient world.

Garnsey argues that with the rise of Christianity to imperil power “we find very little sign of change in the law of slavery and the way it was administered” (p. 101).

Part II:  Theories of Slavery (pp. 103-243):

Section 1:  Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman philosophers

Chapter 8:  Aristotle (pp. 107-127).

Opening:  “Natural slavery as presented by Aristotle is a battered shipwreck of a theory” (p. 107).

He addresses Aristotle’s assessment that slaves are “tools” used by their masters (p. 122).  He saw slaves as “subhuman” (p. 124).

Chapter 9:  The Stoics (pp. 128-152).

“The contribution of Stoicism to slave theory was to shift the focus of attention from legal to moral slavery” (p. 150).  Stoicism believed in the rationality of all men (including slaves) and was deterministic. “The message for slaves, explicit in the Late Stoics, was to stay put and serve their masters well.  Therein lay moral goodness, and therefore happiness” (p. 151).

Section 2:  Early theologians

Chapter 10:  Philo (pp. 157-172).

Philo reflected stoic influence in distinguishing physical from moral slavery.  He wrote a work titled “Every Good Man is Free” another (lost) “Every Bad Man is a Slave.”

Chapter 11:  Paul (pp. 173-188).

He sees Paul as like Stoics and Philo in adopting a moral view of slavery.

“Paul like everyone else accepted legal slavery” (p. 176).  He addressed relationships of slaves and masters.

“Perhaps Paul’s outlook was no better integrated and no more internally consistent than that of Philo” (p. 188).

Section 3:  Church Fathers

Chapter 12: Ambrose (pp. 191-205).

Ambrose reflects classical views but begins to look at the origins of slavery in sin.

Chapter 13:  Augustine (pp. 206-219).

“In response to the ubiquity of institutional slavery and the inevitability of spiritual slavery of one kind or another, Augustine produced, on the one hand, a moral theology of slavery, or pastoral advice about the way masters and slaves should comport themselves in relation to one another, and, on the other, a dogmatic theology of slavery, or a theoretical statement about the place of slavery in the divine order” (p. 206).

He sees the origin of sin in man’s fallen nature.

Chapter 14:  Slavery as metaphor (pp. 220-235).

Christians used slave metaphor for spiritual purposes.  The “two worlds” of their theology and Greco-Roman society “seem to me to have intersected surprisingly little” (p. 235).

Conclusion (pp. 237-243).

Saturday, September 03, 2016

T. S. Eliot on Religious Liberalism

Image:  T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

In March 1939, on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War, T. S. Eliot gave three lectures at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, later published as the essay “The Idea of a Christian Society.”

In the opening chapter of the essay, Eliot offers this description of religious liberalism:

In religion, Liberalism may be characterized as a progressive discarding of elements in historical Christianity which appear superfluous or obsolete, confounded with practices and abuses which are legitimate objects of attack.  But as its movement is controlled rather by its origin than by any goal, it loses force after a series of rejections, and with nothing to destroy is left with nothing to uphold and nowhere to go.