Thursday, 7 November 2013

REPLY RE TITUS COMMAND TO SLAVES

Alison, UK, suggests on the Why Titus is not a cultural relic post that the New Testament injunctions to slaves mean that those to married women are also culturally restricted and therefore redundant now.

Here is her comment in full: 
Titus 2 (3-5) does indeed tell women to be submissive to their husbands and busy around the home. Interestingly, Titus 2 (9-10) also says, "Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive."

Now, I don't know about you, but my slaves are a disobedient lot. Perhaps you could pop round and give them a talking to? If they understood that godliness demanded their obedience, I'm sure they would fall in line. Unless, of course, the demands made of slaves don't count as "apostolic truth for God's churches in every generation"? And if not, why not?

The command in Titus, similar to those in Colossians and Ephesians, is to Christian slaves converted to the faith whilst in the institution of slavery.  Those injunctions are designed to preserve the reputation of Christ's gospel in societies where slavery exists but do also establish principles for how Christians should treat their employers. Christians in secular employment today should certainly not steal from their employers.

When a Christian consensus emerges in a society, the institution of slavery can rightly be abolished. The New Testament clearly sets a trajectory towards abolition, as Paul's letter to Philemon wonderfully shows.

Slavery as a human institution emerged after the Fall of mankind. The God-given differences between men and women, however, are rooted in creation.

Children at a young age need the love of their creator God mediated through the multi-tasking skills and emotional propensities that He has given their mothers, otherwise aggression, particularly in boys, and narcissism in both sexes can unfortunately result.

This address at GAFCON 2 by Oak Hill principal Dr Mike Ovey on why cheap grace is now the common spiritual currency in the West is a must-hear for the youth group.

17 comments:

  1. Golly, Julian. There is quite a bit of chutzpah in your comment above. A Christian consensus in the States did not lead to an abolition of slavery.

    One one matter I can agree: we are called to live our lives in such a way as to not bring the gospel into disrepute in each age. Accordingly, we should take great care not to bring the gospel into disrepute in this age by presuming that roles for women are as fixed as you make out (many women do not see themselves in the way you them above as mothers), nor by presuming that the roles for women are as restricted as we assume Titus is making them out to be.

    Just as 'slavery' has changed to 'employment' (and thus rightly you see transferable principles from one to the other, even as the modern worker is not the ancient slave) so the ancient family has changed to the modern family (and thus there are transferable principles re love, respect, parental responsibility, even as the modern wife is not the ancient wife).

    Some Christian mothers have screwed up their children. Some Christian fathers have been brilliant stay at home parents. Your take on Titus appears to have little or no allowance for the varied character of real life.

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    1. Hi Fr Peter,

      "A Christian consensus in the States did not lead to an abolition of slavery."

      That is not actually what Fr Julian wrote - its worth looking again at his precise words.

      But in any case, I am prepared to take up the cudgels on your point, since you raise it! The intellectual fight against slavery in the 18th century in England owes its force overwhelmingly to Christians and Christianity. There were opponents who based their argument on non-Christian principles, but they are difficult to find (I am referring primarily to the fight against slavery in England, because it predates that in the US and in many ways settled it, despite rearguard actions lasting more than a century). The fact that proponents of slavery tried to turn Christian arguments in their favour doesn't change that general truth.

      "we should take great care not to bring the gospel into disrepute in this age by presuming that roles for women are as fixed as you make out"

      You are asserting that Julian's view of women "brings the gospel into disrepute". What you haven't done is cited any reasoning in support of that assertion.

      "even as the modern wife is not the ancient wife"

      Says who? I know a large number of women who would strongly disagree with you on that point!

      "Some Christian mothers have screwed up their children. Some Christian fathers have been brilliant stay at home parents."

      How are those things in any way inconsistent with anything in Fr Julian's article?

      For that matter,there have also been priests who have terribly abused the trust placed in them, in myriad ways, but I don't see how that invalidates the biblical injunction to honour the workers in God's vineyard. Why therefore should these instances you refer to have any cogent effect on Fr Julian's point?

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  2. This displays an unfortunate tendency of the Left's attack on the traditional family since the 1960s to present exceptional instances as if they are the norm.

    Re the US - it is arguable that the professing Christian forces against which the anti-slavery North fought in the Civil War had embraced am anti-New Testament heresy about the superiority of the white race.

    Certainly in Britain where that heresy had not taken root the Christian consensus did lead to the abolition of slavery.

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  3. julian. I'm still not clear as to your point. Are you simply pointing to the relevance of Titus as inspired Scripture, or making a wider application to churches today?

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  4. The fact that it is inspired Scripture means its message has vital implications for churches today.

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  5. What Peter & Alison UK fail to do is separate out 2 issues.

    The 1st is this: is slavery, or slave trading right? No, the NT speaks against it, 1 Tim 1:10 & alluded to in Revelation. OT slavery was a bit different, as it was time bound and basically an alternative to starving to death.

    What is shocking in NT is that Christians are more concerned about winning people over and preserving Christ's reputation, that getting their own way. We also see in Philemon there was lots of sorting out on the ground.

    Also, historically slavery died out as Christianity grew. It came back at a time when Christianity became mainstream but also cold. Certainly, the Evangelicals of the Clapham sect weren't wishy washy.

    So, does that mean children obeying parents is culturally bound? - a number of new children's charters, & many in UN seem to thinks so

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    1. “Also, historically slavery died out as Christianity grew. It came back at a time when Christianity became mainstream but also cold. Certainly, the Evangelicals of the Clapham sect weren't wishy washy.”

      Emm... I think you need to look at history a little more fully. Slavery continued to be part of Christian culture in one guise or another (serfdom being an example) for much of Christian history – we are apt to look at history with the rose-tinted spectacles of faith (which are often rather self-magnifying and self-glorifying of one’s own beliefs and the social effects of religion). E.g. Revd Mann did a post on Hersey Corner (or some such site) a few years ago where he waxed lyrical about our need to thank Puritanical Protestants for Parliamentary democracy... Conveniently forgetting that not until the great Reforms of the 19th century did we see anything like universal suffrage - and that was only for men, we have only had true universal suffrage within my own parents’ life time!

      As Andrew W. notes below it was really Enlightenment values that affected social reforms and the abhorrence of slavery. Christianity has a habit of imbibing various social movements – e.g. at present we have the ironic stance of Christians claiming Christianity stands for the fight for freedom of speech and belief, when for much of Western history it has been Christians who have sought to quash both! As for the Abolitionists, yes there were notable Anglican voices, but these built on the work of Non-Conformists (re: Slavery it was first Quakers and then Unitarians who raised objections, despite Britain then being a Christian nation where congregation Christianity and religious discourse were part and parcel of everyday life). Much social reform came via Christians (mainly Non-Conformist) and Humanists working together to push Bills thro’ a mainly indifferent (tho’ mainly church-going) parliament.

      The Clapham Sect are an interesting lot in that initially they were rather indifferent about social reform – particularly at home – anti-slavery and the banning of cruel sports being their biggies. Poverty and the life of the poor were often (conveniently!) seen as a ‘test from God’ and little thought was given to structural inequalities that gave rise to poverty. It was only later in the 19th century that more attention was given to such reform (and I suspect the work of William and Catherine Booth (the latter being the brains of the operation, in my view – having spent part of my doctoral research at the British Library reading many contemporary attacks on the Salvation and much of the Booths’ original writings - I make no apologies for this assessment!) spurred on this interest).

      There is a great deal of self-congratulation on the part of many Christians concerning the social reforms of the late 18th and throughout the 19th century. In my own doctoral thesis research on religious philanthropy, many Christians interviewed would often pop in a sentence along the lines of ‘Of course Britain has us Christians to the thank for social reform...’. The wider question of why reform was necessary in a nation that had been Christian for the best part of 1,500 years at the time and Protestant for almost 300 years, seemed to just pass them by and many got rather annoyed and defensive when I asked this very question. Certainly many Christians did play their part, but I think it was only by imbibing Enlightenment values that Christianity really was a force for social change in Western society.

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    2. You raise several interesting points, and (without touching on any specific claim) I agree that "liberty", in the Enlightenment sense, is not a core Christian virtue.

      In response, I'll note that post-Enlightenment thinking tries to have it both ways. It enshrines benevolent autonomy as the highest virtue, yet trades on the Christian social heritage of pre-Enlightenment Europe as the moral glue that holds society together and acts as a check on that autonomy. The result is scavenging from the foundations in order to build the house, or like termites happily feeding on a boat - Western society is slowly destabilising itself as its philosophy kills off its historical morality, and we see the results in action through C20 and beyond.

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    3. "Emm... I think you need to look at history a little more fully. "

      Yes ABB - your post is ample proof of that adage!

      "Slavery continued to be part of Christian culture in one guise or another (serfdom being an example) for much of Christian history"

      Whoa! How do you work out that it was "part of Christian culture"? It was part of law and society. Slavery (in the Roman empire) and the antecedents of serfdom (among the Germanic tribes where it was really no different to slavery) existed long before Christianity. Using your "logic", the Germanic and Roman pagan sacrifices must now be classified as "part of Christian culture", for no other reason except that Christianity and paganism co-existed for centuries!

      "As Andrew W. notes below it was really Enlightenment values that affected social reforms and the abhorrence of slavery"

      No it wasn't, except in so far as the Enlightenment itself was merely an outgrowth of Christianity, and intellectually beholden to it.

      Mind you, if you want to quietly ignore the Christian convictions of most opponents of slavery, then you are of course free to come up with any answer you like, regardless of the facts!

      "e.g. at present we have the ironic stance of Christians claiming Christianity stands for the fight for freedom of speech and belief, when for much of Western history it has been Christians who have sought to quash both!"

      How do you work that out? Christians were at the forefront of movements for free speech.

      "As for the Abolitionists, yes there were notable Anglican voices, but these built on the work of Non-Conformists"

      So now you are implying that "non-conformists" are not Christian! Christians (of all stripes) provided the vast majority of the opponents of slavery. More to the point that is precisely what Fr Julian wrote - I am scratching my head as to why you have wasted so much time arguing that it wasn't just Anglicans who led the fight against slavery, when Fr Julian never suggested otherwise!

      "There is a great deal of self-congratulation on the part of many Christians ..."

      And deservedly so. The arguments to the contrary are poorly presented and lack rational support.

      "The wider question of why reform was necessary in The wider question of why reform was necessary in a nation that had been Christian for the best part of 1,500 years at the time and Protestant for almost 300 years, seemed to just pass them byat the time and Protestant for almost 300 years, seemed to just pass them by"

      Gee, I wonder if that might have something to do with the general state of society, economic conditions, political issues, etc - do you think? Sorry, but this really is a very simplistic argument. Just look at your failure to adequately define the issues: you write "a nation that had been Christian for the best part of 1,500 years" but you don't seem to know what you mean by "Christian" - are you suggesting that Saint Patrick being taken as a slave by pagan Irishmen in the 5th century AD was somehow Christianity's fault? Nor do you seem to realise that the debate in the 18th century was not actually about slavery in England (do you really think that Britons were kept as slaves in England at that time?)

      "many got rather annoyed and defensive when I asked this very question"

      Has it occurred to you that there might be more than one reason for that?

      "I think it was only by imbibing Enlightenment values that Christianity really was a force for social change in Western society"

      Its the other way around - it was only as it imbibed Christian values that the Enlightenment became a force for *positive* social change in Western society (you won't get any argument from me that the Enlightenment was capable of being a force for social change of the negative kind - the reign of terror in France at the end of the 18th century being an excellent example).

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  6. Post the Enlightenment and Romantic periods, Western society has evaluated human dignity by independence of choice rather than the fulfilment of duty. To this world-view, lack of autonomy is a bloody assault on human dignity. To other world views, including the many ancient world views, lack of autonomy is the expected state of affairs.

    The Scriptures rebuke those who would assume authority without warrant, or misuse authority to demean those they have authority over. But to be under authority is not inherently demeaning, nor does the practice of authority require the consent of those under it.

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  7. I shall attempt to post another comment as I previously did so and it has either not got through as a matter of communication or as a matter of moderation!

    I am not attacking the traditional family and certainly not 'from the Left.'

    I am asking whether there is actually anything wrong with family life being conceived in ways which may not fit with an understanding of family life which has assumed 'traditional form' but which may not assume 'biblical form.'

    Mothers work today outside the family home. Sometimes out of financial necessity; sometimes as an expression of gifts and skills (e.g. I think of two colleagues who would appear to share virtually all the Curate's theology but choose to contribute to the well-being of our city through medical work). To encourage mothers to think that they might so work, am I attacking the traditional family or invoking the example of Proverbs 31 and of Lydia?

    Conversely, skilful though many mothers are in the parental arts drawn attention to above by the curate, experience teaches that (a) some women do not feel they have been particularly well equipped with such multiple abilities; (b) some men have appropriate skills to contribute in that way at home ... is Titus actually teaching us that no mother may go out to work and no father may stay at home while his wife goes out to work?

    We live in the 21st century. Just as we do not have slaves, neither do we have the economic conditions which prevailed on men and women in the first century. For many of us that difference also includes the inability to finance the support of female assistants to help mothers who feel deficient in one or other aspect of mothering.

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    1. "is Titus actually teaching us that no mother may go out to work and no father may stay at home while his wife goes out to work?"

      I wouldn't have thought so, nor does Fr Julian suggest otherwise.

      When he writes: "Children at a young age need the love of their creator God mediated through the multi-tasking skills and emotional propensities that He has given their mothers", that statement remains true regardless of the fact that you are able to find, somewhere in human history, a few examples of a mother who is an utter monster.

      The Bible also tells us that fatherhood is a great thing, as do many pagan writers - are you suggesting that those teachings are invalidated simply because somewhere you can find an evil father?

      This really is pretty basic stuff...

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  8. The godly wife of Proverbs 31 is attentive to her husband and children. She is an exile in our neo-Stalinist world in which young children are consigned to state-sponsored communes feeding vulture-like off inflated house prices.

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  9. Julian
    why don't you say what you think!!:)
    surely the proverbs 31 wife is a self employed shrewd businesswoman attentive to all the various needs about her...
    Richard Pennington

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    1. She is indeed - and attentive to her husband and children!

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  10. Hi Julian
    My wife has gone out to work after spending many years bringing up our children. Her income is now of great benefit both in assisting our children in the years of their senior education and enabling us to secure modest housing for the time when church provided housing will no longer apply to us.

    I have no idea what our situation (but not ours alone, common to many responsible evangelical Christians) has to do with either neo-Stalinism nor with state-sponsored communes feeding vulture like off inflated house prices

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  11. From the outset Genesis informs us that we are all made in the image of God. This is a dazzling assertion of baseline equal dignity for all humanity.

    Leviticus, quoted by Christ, enjoins us to "Love your neighbour as yourself" (19:18). Fulfilling this command is incompatible with slavery. Christ reinforces this implication by pointing to a racially despised Samaritan as the epitome of a good neighbour.

    Let us be careful to distinguish between "description" and "prescription", and thus wary of a simplistic, anachronistic transposition of the horrific conditions of black slavery back into the OT. Cf, in that regard, the following verse alone:

    "And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth." (Exodus 21:27)

    Julian's reference to the NT Philemon letter is apposite. It is revolutionary (given the context of Roman rule). A light is switched on therein - even if, like one of those modern energy saving bulbs, full illumination of what the manacled Paul is enjoining with regards to the slave Onesimus takes a while to properly dawn (but then, maybe the blindness is culpably our own) -

    "I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me."(Philemon 1:12-17)

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