Heed Every Word of the Bible, Christians? Then Slaves Must Obey Their Vicious Masters
For a great many Christians, the Bible is an inerrant source of inspiration, a divine book whose every word is to be heeded.
Edgewood Church of Christ: “We often refer to the Bible as the Word of God because God chose to speak to us through a written revelation, but one thing many fail to realize is that the Bible is actually inspired word for word by God himself. Many today have the false impression that the Bible is an inspired book of thoughts or ideas. This could not be further from the truth. Each and every word of the Scripture was given to the Bible writers from the Holy Spirit.”
A God-Blessed Man: “It is obvious that in the words of the Bible that we as Christians are to heed every word.”
Flames of Truth Ministries: “We need to know that every word of the Bible is true so that we can look at our sins through the Word.”
St. Thomas Assemblies of God: “The Bible is your resource for absolute truth. In a day of spiritual confusion, moral relativism, and intellectual hypocrisy, you hold in your hand a direct communication from God, which gives you spiritual clarity, moral certainty and intellectual revelation. The Bible consists of more than little black letters on a page. It is a ‘contract’ in force between God and man. Every word is true and unchanging.”
The Bretheren in Christ Church: “If we cannot be sure of the accuracy of every detail in the book, how do we decide what is God’s and what is man’s? How do we know which parts to follow and which to ignore? If the Bible is only partially inspired, then Jesus and Paul’s admonitions to the believers to pay attention to such minute detail become ridiculous….. Ultimately, to have a sure foundation on which we base our beliefs and actions, every word of the Bible must be true.”
Stephen Colbert: “It’s God’s logic as written in the Bible, every word of which is true. And we know every word is true because the Bible says that the Bible is true, and, if you remember from earlier in this sentence: every word of the Bible is true.”
OK, so that last one is delivered as critical satire. Still, it reflects a real sentiment among Biblical literalists. Colbert’s not kidding: the Bible describes all of its words as “God-breathed.” 2 Timothy 3 declares, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
If you really believe this, then you’ve got to believe in some pretty hideous moral values. Take 1 Peter 2, for instance: “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”
Hear that, slaves? You not only should submit to your masters when you’ve been beaten for doing wrong; you should submit to your masters when you’re being beaten but haven’t done a single thing wrong. It’s the Bible! Every word is true, and every word is useful for your instruction.
This isn’t a hypothetical argument. Thomas Stringfellow, in 1856’s Scriptural and Statistical Views on Slavery, expresses a typical pro-slavery sentiment of the time in describing the Bible:
“When such enslaved persons came into the church of Christ let them (says Peter) “be subject to their masters with all fear,” whether such masters be good or bad. It is worthy of remark, that he says much to secure civil subordination to the State, and hearty and cheerful obedience to the masters, on the part of servants; yet he says nothing to masters in the whole letter. It would seem from this, that danger to the cause of Christ was on the side of insubordination among the servants, and a want of humility with inferiors, rather than haughtiness among superiors in the church.”
Josiah Priest wrote similarly in 1852’s Bible Defence of Slavery:
“The whole drift of the passage is plain and easy. It enforces the duty of submission, in all things not sinful before God, upon the slaves; even in extreme cases of harsh and cruel treatment; and that from the consideration that the God whom they serve, will be glorified by it, and the religion they profess will be commended to the hearts of all men. Could Peter, moved by the Holy Ghost, have done all this, if the very relation of master and slave, was, in itself, and, independently of all contingent abuses, a sinful relation?”
If you believe that the Bible is the ultimate and inerrant source of moral values in the universe, then you’d better get behind the forces for slavery in the world. If you can’t stomach slavery, then there must parts of the Bible that you reject.