Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Christians and Alcoholic Beverages

I hope you will take a few minutes to read the letter below. It was written by Rev. Bill Smith, then pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Sulphur, La. Bill wrote the letter to his good friend and fellow Baptist minister, who was also his former roommate at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis.

Bill wrote the letter because his friend called Bill very concerned because he found out that Bill’s understanding about Christians and the consumption of alcoholic beverages had changed (Bill no longer believed it was a sin to drink a beer or glass of wine). The conversation did not go well, and Bill sat down, after they hung up, to explain from Scripture why his position had changed from a belief in total abstinence to one of moderation. I hope you find this interesting.

In Christ,
Dear R---,

I haven't heard from you since that last e-mail, and I didn't know if it was just because you were busy or because I am anathema now because of my position on alcohol and tobacco. One of the reasons I am writing this e-mail is because I talked with J.'s uncle Al last night. He called me asking me about this. We had an interesting discussion.

I guess a lot of water has passed under the bridge since we have discussed anything, and I did kind of shock everyone. I probably shouldn't have said anything, but it is nothing about which I am ashamed. This e-mail will provide some explanation as to why I came to this position. I hope that this will be passed along to J. and ultimately Al also. Al and I are supposed to talk again sometime.

I have learned that, in fact, it was the Unitarians who actually began the temperance movement in the 1800's. The "conservative Christians" fell in with them because of their distorted view of God's creation, holding an ancient gnostic dualistic view of physical and spiritual; i.e., matter is inherently evil and the spiritual is good. This poses all sorts of problems with biblical Christianity (of which I am a strong adherent).

This brings me to the biblical argument which changed my thinking. Remember, the Bible, God's inerrant revelation of Himself to us, is our only rule of faith and practice. Emotional arguments, arguments from personal experience and cultural practice cannot dictate what we believe and do. Only God's Word should govern our thinking.

The first area with which I would like to deal is our common ground. The Bible is very clear about drunkenness. Drunkenness is a sin which is deplorable in the sight of God. From the Old Testament through the New Testament God has made this very clear.

Prov. 23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

Is. 28:1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!

Luke 21:34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.

Rom. 13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

Eph. 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.

In fact, drunkenness is a picture and a sign of God's judgment:

Is. 19:14 The LORD hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.

Is. 24:20 The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.

Is. 29:9 Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. Et. al.

The Bible clearly states that the drunkard (i.e., those whose lifestyle is characterized by drunkenness) will not inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor 6:9-10) because this is a work of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21). I detest drunkenness, and, in fact, have begun church discipline (that might be a new one for you too) on people who have been publicly drunk. Many people do not see how this position is consistent with what I am about to say, but the Bible is perfectly consistent about the issue. The Bible's teaching on alcohol as a beverage is quite clear.

The first word in the Old Testament that is translated wine is the Hebrew word yayin. Some have tried to argue that this word as well as others does not refer to a drink that has the ability to intoxicate in order to maintain the position that abstinence is the only way to think about alcohol, but their arguments are in vain according to the use of the word in the OT. The word is used 141 times in the OT.

This is the fruit of the vine by which Noah became drunk (Gen 9:21, 24), Lot's daughters led their father to drunkenness by yayin (Gen 19:32-35), Eli thought Hannah was drunk with yayin (1Sam 1:14-15), and Nabal was also drunk with yayin (1Sam. 25:37). Many more examples could be cited, but I think this is sufficient.

The interesting thing about yayin, wine, is that it is also seen as a blessing from God (Gen. 49:12 "His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk;" this is in the pronouncement of blessing from God on the tribe of Judah from which our Lord would descend).

In fact, God required yayin to be a part of offerings offered to Him in the OT ceremonies (Ex. 29:40 And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine [yayin] for a drink offering; cf also Lev. 23:13; Num. 6:20; Num. 15:5, 7, 10; Num. 28:14).

One of the tithes required by the Lord involved the people tithing of all of their produce each year. They were to take this tithe to the tabernacle. But if the stuff they were to take would spoil on the journey, this was God's command:

Deut. 14:26 "And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine [yayin], or for strong drink [shachar], or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household."

God is commanding them to go out and buy these potentially intoxicating beverages so that they and their households may partake and rejoice before the Lord for His goodness! Now, is God promoting sin? Does not God know that this stuff is potentially intoxicating? Is God the author of sin? God forbid!!! The fact is alcohol is seen as a good gift from God to be enjoyed in His presence and for His glory. He is strictly against the abuse of this good gift and all of His other good gifts. But He is NOT against the proper use of His good gifts.

A sign of God's cursing upon His people would be that they would have vineyards but would not be able to drink the yayin from them

(Deut. 28:39 Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. Cf also Is. 16:10.)

But the blessing of the Lord would be just the opposite:

Amos 9:14 "And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them."

God says, in His Word,

Psa. 104:15 "And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart."

The facts are that God prohibits drunkenness, but He encourages the proper view and use of His good gift of alcohol. There is much more that could be said from the OT, but I will move on to the NT for the sake of boring you with all the facts.

The NT is also replete with examples about the use of wine. The Greek word is oinos. Another phrase that is used is tou genematos tes ampelou, the fruit of the vine. The cup Jesus used in the Last Supper was a common term used for the cup of blessing which was understood to be wine. But let's deal with the biblical uses of oinos and oinos neos (new wine).

Jesus compares the kingdom of God as revealed in Himself as new wine (oinos neos). He says that you don't put new wine in old wineskins because the fermentation would burst the already stretched out wineskins. If this stuff were so deplorable, why would our Lord use it for an example of the kingdom of God? Wasn't He as smart as our culture today?

Real liberal theologians say that Christ just kind of mixed in with the times, controlled by the prevailing culture of the day. As a conservative Bible student, I can't hold to this view. Christ was controlled only by the law of God which He came to fulfill. Christ even goes so far as to say that aged wine is much better than new wine (Luke 5:37-39)! And then there is that incident where Christ actually turned water to wine in John 2, His first miracle. Some have tried to say that this word here means "grape juice," but they cannot prove that from the prevailing use of the word oinos. The same word is used throughout this passage to speak about wine.

This wine was potentially intoxicating. Didn't Christ know that there were potential alcoholics there? Did He not know that wine was used in pagan temples? Did He not know that there were problems with drunkenness in His culture (for there was)? Yet He made six waterpots of approximately 40 gallons each of good wine. Gee, that is about 240 gallons of wine! The arguments simply do not stand up to the Word of God.

God does not promote abstinence. He promotes the proper use of His good gifts. In order to say otherwise one would have to deny the example of our Lord, who knowing that people would be following His example in keeping God's law, would have abstained completely if that had been the law of God for us to follow. The people that Jesus really perturbed during His day were the Pharisees. You see, the Pharisees added all of these laws and traditions to the law of God, making void the commandments of God by their man made commandments (Matt 15).

The Pharisees, like the many Christians today, believed that external things such as not washing hands ritualistically before eating defiled a person. Jesus response to the Pharisees was:

Matt. 15:11 "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."

The principle here is that external things of God's creation are not in and of themselves evil. Evil is within the heart of man, not in the things which he puts in his mouth (which would include alcohol!). But just like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, many professing believers want to judge their spirituality by external things; e.g., "I don't do this," "I go to church," "I don't drink alcohol," "I don't use tobacco," "I don't dance," etc. These are all things that make us feel spiritual, but they are not God's standards of spirituality. God's standard of spirituality goes to the heart; i.e., that which comes out of man. Because while one may have "external" righteousness and look real "spiritual" before the world, his heart is corrupt. Paul warns us that spirituality would be judged by these things, and he warns believers against this heresy.

Col. 2:16-17, 20-23 "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ . . . Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh."

He also says in another place:

1Tim. 4:1-5 "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer."

Though wine is not specifically mentioned, the principle is there. All of God's creation is good and can be used for good and enjoyment when left in its proper context. Those who say otherwise are, according to Paul, promoting "doctrines of demons." One thing that I hope you can see is that my position is clearly the biblical position on the matter.

I have not appealed to you on some emotional or some experiential argument. Some will say that nothing good comes from the use of alcohol (or tobacco, etc; insert your favorite external sin). "My father was a drunkard, and I hate the stuff." These people believe that all of those who promote the use of alcohol in moderation have never had bad experiences in their lives with it. Not true !

My biological father was a drunkard. I have seen the devastating effects of the abuse of alcohol. But my thinking is held captive by the Word of God and not my experience. God's Word dictates what I believe and do, not emotions or experience. My opinions and personal scruples are not the dictates of God. I cannot judge someone liberal or conservative based upon my personal opinions.

There are some objections that have been raise with which I had to deal and have dealt with Scripturally. First, there is the issue of the potential alcoholic (or tobacco abuser; again, insert your favorite external standard of righteousness). The first thing to say about being a drunkard is that this is not a disease, as if it could be cured medically. Drunkenness is a moral problem ground in a lack of self-control. For the Christian, the Spirit supplies this needed attribute to our lives (cf. Gal 5:22-23). Addictions are modern euphemisms for a lack of self control so people can blame their evil on something that "they cannot help." This is simply not true.

Those who are in the Spirit do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5). You know, people focus in on this alcohol issue as the big abuse. But God condemns abuse of food, sex, etc. Every time I take food to my mouth I am a potential glutton. Every time I have sexual relations with my wife I am a potential adulterer (another thing my biological father was). The logic is absurd when taken to its conclusion. Just as with sex and food, left in proper context, the use (not abuse) of all of God's gifts is good and enjoyable. Taken out of proper use and context they are deplorable and immoral.

The second objection is that the Nazarites vow included the abstinence from alcohol. Actually, though, their abstinence was much more inclusive. It involved abstinence from ALL fruits of the vine including grapes, raisins and the skin of grapes (cf. Numbers 6). After the time of his vow was complete and he went through the proper ceremonies, the Nazarite was free from his vow, and God specifically says "He may drink wine" (Numbers 6:20). If God thought it was the best thing for people to do, why didn't He require this of all people? Why didn't He, at least, keep the Nazarites from drinking wine for the rest of their lives?

Let me say at this point, those who wish to abstain from alcohol are welcomed to do so. BUT they are to realize that its not because God commanded them to do so, only by personal conviction (which is a sign of a weak believer). Paul deals extensively with these issues in 1Cor 8--10 and Rom 14. In Romans 14 Paul deals specifically with the eating of meat and drinking of wine. He categorize those who can do these things as "strong" and those who cannot as "weak." This deals with a trained or untrained conscience on these matters.

The point I want to make here is that neither the strong nor the weak can judge the other based upon his own personal convictions that do not deal specifically with God's Word. We do judge things such as immorality (which takes on many forms, 1Cor 5), but on these issues one brother does not have the right to judge another brother. That would include categorizing another as "liberal" or "conservative" based on these non-essential issues!

This brings me to the objection of the use of alcohol being a bad witness. The appeal might again be made to Romans 14 where someone would say, "You are to act in love and not put a stumbling block before your brothers." This is absolutely true. But you must understand what a stumbling block is. This is not merely perturbing another believer. This is a serious offense. This is aiding--or even causing--a brother to sin against his conscience. It would be like inviting you to a party not telling you that there was alcohol in the punch and then telling you after you drank it. You would have sinned against your conscience. That would be wrong. But you feeling uncomfortable around me because I do it, is not included here.

As I said earlier, the Pharisees were constantly perturbed with Jesus because He did things as a "Rabbi" with which they did not agree. This did not stop him from doing these things. He was about the business of correcting their thinking, and bringing every thought captive to the law of God.

To say that it is a bad witness before the world is also erroneous. We have led this world to believe through unbiblical views on alcohol that Christianity is a "touch not, taste not" religion based on external morality. The truth of the matter is that it is a sin to preach or teach anything to be a sin that God does not declare to be a sin. That is adding to the Word of God. This is precisely what the lost Pharisees did, and Jesus condemned them for it.

A good witness would be to help people understand that all of God's creation is good and can only be enjoyed if used within proper context and for His glory. I could keep going on about this, but I hope you can see that I have done my homework. My views come straight from the Bible. Now, if anyone is like I used to be-- "I don't care what the Bible actually says, I know what I believe in my heart"--that person will not be convinced of anything. As long as people let emotions, experience, culture, man-made commandments and external righteousness govern their thinking, they will never be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

Quite frankly I am sick and tired of people trying to impose upon God something that He has not said. Our job is to preach, teach, learn and submit to the Word of God for what it says NOT what we want it to say or think it ought to say. We are not wiser than God on these issues. We are not more righteous than God.

My prayer is (if you have made it all the way through this) that you will not simply pass this off in an unthinking manner. Deal with it. Take an honest look at the Word of God as I had to do and continue to do. I am not the same person I used to be because I am constantly being transformed by the renewing of my mind which comes by the Word of God. I am being sanctified by truth. God's Word is truth (John 17:17).

I refuse to be controlled by man's commandments and traditions. When all is said and done, I am not the one who could be classified as a liberal here. It is my understanding that conservatives believe the Bible, liberals do not. I believe what I have shown you is that I do believe and practice the Bible. I welcome any comments, criticisms or admonitions, but I only take them from God's Word. If I can be proven by sound reason and the Word of God to be wrong, I will change. But if sound reason and God's Word cannot be used to change my thinking, I can do no other. My conscience is bound by the Word of God.

Here I stand!

Passionate for God's truth,


P.S. If you have any questions about what I believe, please call me. I have been misunderstood and misinterpreted enough. I am not a beast who will attack. I will gladly talk in a congenial way.


If you would like to know more on this subject I can highly recommend God Gave Wine: What the Bible Says About Alcohol by Rev. Kenneth Gentry. It might interest you to know that Dr. Gentry is a teetotaller and doesn’t drink Alcohol himself.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Who are the True Martyrs?
In the last several years, Muslim extremists have tried very hard to hijack the Christian title of “martyr.” The modern Muslim “martyr” is not a true martyr, but is someone who is murdering as many innocent people as he can, while killing himself in the process.

The modern Muslim “martyr” is a cold-blooded killer who thinks nothing of slaughtering innocent women and children in his attack. His actions are designed to generate terror in the civilian population. The act of Murder/suicide is not martyrdom.

The Greek word “marturia” from which we get the English word martyr,is found 37 times in the New Testament. It is most often translated as “witness” or “testimony.” And in the traditions of the Christian faith, a martyr is one who is put to death for his witness or testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Christian martyr is one who did not attack his enemies, but instead he loved them enough to go to them and tell them about Christ, even when he knew that his witness may (and often did) lead to his own death, at the hands of those he brought the Gospel to.

In the book of Acts we learn of the martyrdom of St. Steven. Steven, the first Christian martyr, was disputing with men who denied Christ and those opposed to the faith were loosing the debate. These men became angry because of what they heard and since they could not defeat Steven’s arguments they killed him instead.

Steven did nothing more than disagree with those who killed him and told them why he disagreed. The early church was outlawed, because the Church declared that Jesus Christ was Lord instead of Caesar. The Christians did not take up arms and attack those who persecuted them. Instead they prayed for those who wronged them, and brought the Gospel to them, even when the price of “witnessing” or giving “testimony” of Christ’s Gospel might mean that they would be arrested, tortured and thrown to wild beasts (in the arena), and/or put to death.

A true martyr is a witness to the Gospel of Christ, who gives his/her greatest witness to the truth of that Gospel, in his/her willingness to be killed by those who hate the Christ and His Gospel.

It is a horrible misuse and distortion of the noble Christian title of “Martyr” to apply the term to someone who willingly murders innocent people because they think differently than he does. Muslim radicals who willingly, and enthusiastically, murder innocent men, women and children, at the same time they blow themselves to bits, are NOT martyrs. These men are bloodthirsty killers, who send themselves to hell by their murder/suicides.

Coram Deo,

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Kingdom of God: When is it?
Below is a little piece I wrote about eschatology (end times) some years back. I disagree with the current popular understanding dispensational premillennialism, which did not exist before the 1820’s. I believe that view of end times is in error. There are three other views of end times that, unlike dispensationalism, have ancient origins and defenders in the church. I hold to a postmillennial/optimistic amillennial perspective.

I don't defend that position so much in this letter. I do try to show that the kingdom as it is taught in Scripture doesn't fit into a premillennial mode.

I am, as always, interested in your thoughts on this matter.

Soli Deo Gloria,

I believe it can be shown that the "kingdom" began at the first advent of Jesus Christ. When Jesus came He ushered in the Kingdom then. Here are only some examples.

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matt.3:1, 2)

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt 4:17)

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people
. (Matt. 4:23)

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10) (Note: This is from the Lord’s prayer. Jesus shows that we are to pray for the Kingdom)

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matt. 9:35)

But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. (Matt. 12:28) (Note: The Kingdom has come. It is here now, if this is so, then the Kingdom it is not what our dispensational brethren think it is.)

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: (Matt. 13:31) (Note: A mustered seed is very small, but over time it grows and becomes a great bush. )

Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matt. 13:33) (Note: The same is true a little leaven in a loaf. It will, over time, expand and fill the whole loaf (again the kingdom starts small) and becomes great.

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 16:19) (Note: The Church has the keys of the Kingdom now.

Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matt. 16:28) (Note: All those folks that Jesus was speaking to are long since dead. Was Jesus wrong, are did they see him come into His kingdom? I think the He came into His kingdom way back then.)

To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: (Acts 1:3) (Note: After the resurrection Jesus is still teaching His disciples about the kingdom.)

And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. (Acts 20:25) (Note: This verse comes from period that takes place well into the New Testament era, and still the emphasis is on the Kingdom. In the quote above, Paul is speaking to the elders from the church at Ephesus. He is on his way to Jerusalem and may never see these men again. He stresses that he, Paul, preached the Kingdom.

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. (Acts 28:23)
Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him. (Acts 28:30-31) (Note: Here we see that in the very last verse in the book of Acts Paul is still preaching the Kingdom.)

That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. (1 Thes. 2:12) (Note: Christians are now called to be in his kingdom.)

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 1:9) (Note: Notice, in the very first chapter of Revelation John, like those to whom he is writing, is already entered both the tribulation period and the kingdom.)

I quote all of the above (and this is only a fraction of what is written on the Kingdom in the New Covenant) to show that John the Baptist and Jesus both came preaching the nearness of the Kingdom. Some Christians today say that the Church Age is a parentheses and the Kingdom age has been pushed back, because Israel rejected her King. But there is a problem with this because the Kingdom is stressed throughout the New Covenant writings, and we are specifically told that we Christians are in the Kingdom even now, and the Church has in its possession the very keys of the Kingdom (those keys are the Gospel).

The kingdom is not future it is now. It started like a mustered seed, very small indeed, but is growing and will be great.

One more matter. When is the Judgement? It is on the last day, the end of history. Look at what Paul says to Timothy "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;" (2 Tim. 4:1) Christ will judge the living and the dead at His coming and not 1,000 years after he has come. His coming is the end of history and the consummation of His Kingdom.
With this said we have barely scratched the surface of this topic. I believe these things all point away from the premillennial position, but there are much more important items that come into play that we have yet to touch on. One of the most important has to do with how we are to understand the relationship of the church and Israel, but I have said enough for now.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Grace, Works or What?
Over the last few decades there has been a debate about whether or not you could have Jesus as Saviour and reject Him as Lord. This has been a debate among dispensationalists for the most part.

The short answer to this question is a simple -- No. Christ is both Saviour and means that he is also Lord. Here is just a little bit of the biblical reason why

If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him (John 14:21)

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)

He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. (John 14:24)

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:1)

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:5)

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. (John 15:10)

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (John 15:16)

There is much more that could be added, but I think that is pretty clear. We are saved by grace and it is the Lord working in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. If we do not "will" to do His good pleasure, and if we do not produce good work by His working in us, then we are not saved.

There is no works salvation, but there is also no salvation that is not accompanied by good works and good fruit.

Remember what John wrote in his epistle, And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments and He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him (1 John 2:3-5)

Remember the fifth point of the Five Points of Calvinism is NOT "Once Saved Always Saved." The 5th point of the Five Points of Calvinism is PERSEVERENCE of the Saints. We are to persevere in the Faith, and that faith, which is all of grace, WILL produce good fruit and good works, and all these are by grace of the Spirit working in us.

Coram Deo,

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Note: I've decided that three blogs are too many for me. So I've decided to combine my History Thoughts and As I see It. So I will be transferring all my History posts over to here. Below is the first transfer
Christianity, Slavery and the Antebellum South
Slavery is an ancient institution and for millennia it’s moral, political and cultural legitimacy was unquestioned. This was the case when a Dutch ship brought the first African slaves to the English colony of Virginia in 1619. However most slaves in the British American colonies during the first half of the 17th century were of European and not African ancestry. We know these slaves as indentured servants.

The British, like all of historic Christians, believed that Christians were as a people heirs of God’s promises that He made to Abraham and were thereby the true Israel of God. As such they looked to the Law’s of the Old Covenant as a basis for many of their own laws. In the Old Covenant an Israelite could not hold a fellow Israelite in permanent slavery, unless the individual voluntarily made himself a slave for life, which included the sign of piercing his ear, this act testified that he was in permanent subjection. In the Old Testament under normal circumstances an Israelite could not be held in bondage for more than six ears. A Hebrew slave of a fellow Israelite was to be released during the Sabbath year.

The English during the colonial era, still viewed Christians and the church covenantally, they therefore applied the same Old Covenant law about slavery to their times. They did not allow for the permanent or generational enslavement of fellow Christians. A Britain or other European, almost all of whom were baptised in infancy, could sell himself into slavery for a period of years, usually four or five, to obtain passage to the New World. Then after the designated period of time he was released from service, because a baptised brother could not be held in continual slavery.

These indentured servants were the majority of slaves in the colonies for most of the 1600’s, In the later half of the 1600’s the number of African slaves began to increase dramatically, and the number of indentured servants fell off just as dramatically. The Africans were pagans and not a baptised Christian people, and so there was no obligation to free from bondage these unbaptised people.

But the Africans brought to the New World soon came into contact with the Gospel and some turned to Christ and were baptised. This brought about a problem. The planter could not keep a baptised European in perpetual slavery, but what about the African who converted to the Christian faith or more importantly still, his or her children who were baptised in infancy?

Some planters were hesitant to allow the Gospel to reach their African slaves, because they believed (rightly) that if they were baptised then they, or certainly their children would have to be freed.

The Virginia House of Burgesses addressed this concern in 1667. Act III of that year was titled “An act declaring that baptisme of slaves doth not exempt them from bondage” and reads thus:
Whereas some doubts have risen whether children that are slaves by birth, and by the charity and piety of their owners made pertakers of the blessed sacrament of baptisme, should by vertue of their baptisme be made ffree; It is enacted and declared by this grand assembly, and the authority thereof, that the conferring of baptisme doth not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage or ffreedome; that diverse masters, ffreed from this doubt, may more carefully endeavor the propagation of christianity by permitting children, though slaves, or those of greater growth if capable to be admitted to that sacrament. (Original spelling)

Maryland shortly after followed Virginia’s example. This was a major change in the thinking and law of the English. They had understood that baptised peoples could not be held in perpetual and generational slavery. Now for pragmatic reasons, and to make certain that African slaves were not prevented from hearing the Gospel, they made a dramatic and important change in the Law. They mad an exception for the baptised Africans, these people because of this law could be kept in a permanent and generational state of enslavement.

In America it now became the case that Christians could keep fellow Christians in perpetual slavery so long as the fellow Christians were of Black African descent. With the passing of this fatal law slavery in British North America became race-based slavery. Even the pagan American Indian could not be held in perpetual, much less generational, slavery. We see this in a 1670 Virginia law. Act XII of that year titled “What tyme Indians to serve” says this:
Whereas some dispute have arisen whither Indians taken in warr by any other nation, and by that nation that taketh thern sold to the English, are servants for life or terme of yeares, It is resolved and enacted that all servants not being christians imported into this colony by shipping shalbe slaves for their lives; but what shall come by land shall serve, if boyes or girles, untill thirty yeares of age, if men or women twelve yeares and no longer.

The non-Christian Indian was to be held as a slave only for a given number of years, but the African who arrived “by shipping shalbe slaves for their lives.” So it is clear that his or her perpetual slavery was now based exclusively on race.

Slavery had been seen as a necessary part of life by almost every culture on earth for most of human history. But in the 18th century this began to change. By the time of the American Revolution most of the Founding Fathers, North and South, considered slavery to be an evil. Some saw it as a necessary evil, but an evil all the same. This was true of Washington, Madison, Jefferson etc., all of whom were slaveholders.

Patrick Henry, who was also a slaveholder, likewise saw slavery as an evil. In a letter dated January 18, 1773 he wrote “Every thing we can do is to improve it [Note: it = emancipation] , if it happens in our day, if not, let us transmit to our descendants together with our Slaves, a pity for their unhappy Lot, & an abhorrence for Slavery. If we cannot reduce this wished for Reformation to practice, let us treat the unhappy victims with lenity, it is ye. Furthest advance we can make toward Justice [We owe to the] purity of our Religion to shew that it is at variance with that Law which warrants Slavery.

Henry, like most of the founders, hoped that African slavery could be ended, but at the same time they had doubts that both free Europeans and free Africans could peacefully live together without one group slaughtering the other. Thomas Jefferson expressed this in a famous letter. In regard to slavery in the South he wrote “[A]s it is, we have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”

In the early part of the 19th century most abolitionist/emancipation societies were in the South, but they feared that the two races could not both inhabit the same land in a peaceful coexistence . So they sought to transplant the Africans either to Africa, the West or elsewhere in the Americas.

The Southern view changed dramatically in the 1830’s. This was brought about by the rise of radical abolitionists in the North. The new abolitionists movement’s founders came out of the Unitarian and Transcendentalists ranks, and were staunchly anti-Christian. These Abolitionists did not just see slavery as an evil, they declared slavery to be sin and said the slaveholders themselves were evil as well.

The attack from the Unitarian and Transcendentalist abolitionist movement sent the Christians in the South to their Bibles to prove biblically that Slavery was certainly allowed by God and was therefore not necessarily sinful. They pointed out that the Father of the faith Abraham was a slaveholder. Southerners also pointed to the Old Testament and showed where slavery is regulated by God’s law and is by no means condemned.

The Southerners pointed out that Jesus lived in a society where slavery was a normal everyday thing. They correctly argued that Jesus never condemned nor argued against slavery. The Southerners could even point to the New Testament epistle of St. Paul to Philemon. Philemon was a Christian and a slaveholder.

During this period of time the South was becoming a more overtly Christian culture, while in the North Unitarians, Transcendentalists, cultists and revivalists were eroding the Christian foundations of that region. The Abolitionists arguments were mostly humanistic and emotional and it was easy for the Southerners to counter with Scripture. Slavery was clearly allowed and regulated by God in the Bible and it was easy to point that out to Americans North and South.

Before the rise of the more radical abolitionists movements in the North, Southerners had generally considered slavery an evil that they had inherited, but now they defended and also presented it as a positive institution.

Rev. Robert Lewis Dabney, a strong defender of the South and Southern slavery, pointed out this change in attitude in a letter he wrote in 1840. Dabney wrote “Before the abolitionists began to meddle with our affairs, with which they have no business, I remember that it was the common opinion that domestic slavery was at least injudicious…I do believe that if these mad fanatics had let us alone, in twenty years we should have made Virginia a free state. AS it is their unauthorised attempt to strike off the fetters of our slaves have but riveted them on the faster. Does this fact arise from the perversity of our nature? I believe that it does in part. We are less inclined to do that which we know to be our duty because persons, who have no right to interfere, demand it of us.

Southern attitudes changed, as Dabney points out, in reaction to the abolitionist onslaught. At the same time pastors like Dabney and countless others, even while defending slavery against Northern Abolitionists attacks, wrote and preached to their Southern brethren that much of Southern slavery fell far short of the standards set forth in the Bible. The preachers warned that unless they reformed the institutions and brought it in line with the Word of God that God would bring judgement upon them.

Yet they failed to address the grievous error of 1667. They never addressed the fact that they had discarded the covenantal aspects of their theology so as to maintain the Africans in life long and generational slavery. Southern slavery, despite it numerous failings was far more benign than slavery in other parts of the New World. Only five percent of the people taken from Africa ever made it to the United States. The Africans reproduced and thrived in here, while in other parts of the New World the slaves had to be constantly resupplied because of the high mortality and the lack of children.

The South had nearly two hundred years to correct their horrible misjudgement of 1667. The Africans had been, from an early time, presented the Gospel in the America. They had become a baptised Christian people and if biblical law is valid, as they certainly believed, then they were obligated to set these people free.

On a constitutional level the Southerners were correct. The South could secede from the Union, but biblically Southern slavery failed to ever address the great sin of making Christian brethren perpetual slaves based on the colour of their skin. Had Southerners been true to their own doctrinal understanding of the Word of God, then the Africans would have been emancipated long before the War Between the States.

It took a tragic war, in which many Christians on both sides died, to correct the decision of Act III made by the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1667.

Coram Deo,