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Blatant intellectual, logical and theological malfeasance
on March 13, 2013
There were two books written about revival in the Confederate army, "Christ in the Camp" and "The Great Revival in the Southern Armies." I have read both; the latter two times. I was intrigued that there were no books about religion in the northern army. Reformed Presbyterian Ruling Elder and historian Dr. Bill Potter reported that there was no revival in the northern army. For this reason I bought "While God is Marching On."
The author revealed that he is biased, something intuitively obvious to the most causal observer.
Dr. Woodworth pricked my conscience first on page 13 with this comment, "Unlike most sins, slavery had a coherent and influential . . ." Here we have a controversy.
There are at least three "facts" in our culture that are "irrefutable": Evolution is true, our form of government is a democracy and Southern slavery was a sin. (The evidence doesn't support any of this.) As Dr. Woodworth is an evangelical I am flabbergasted that he would make such an unjustified accusation, slandering millions of faithful Christians of the South and north. He just stated it, ipse dixit, as if it needed no defense.
On page 16 he attempts a weak and intellectually dishonest analysis of the Southern biblical defense of slavery. This is actually a strawman. Dr. Woodworth reported that "Southern Christians endeavored to claim a kinship between American chattel slavery and the very different bond service of the Old Testament . . ."
My critique will rely on northerners' testimony in addition to the Bible.
LEV 25:44 'As for your male and female slaves whom you may have-- you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.
LEV 25:45 'Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession.
Slavery existed before the Pentateuch. God testified He had blessed Abraham and Job with slaves. He codified it in the Pentateuch. This has nothing to do with what Dr. Woodworth reported as "the very different bond service of the Old Testament." The Old Covenant bond service pertained to the Jews alone and was set aside by Christ in Luke 4:19,21; c.f. Lev 25:10. Southerners were perfectly correct to own slaves, treat them as property and if necessary administer corporal punishment, c.f. Ex 21:26,27. God testified they could be a permanent "possession."
Dr. Woodworth noted "they construed the New Testament's admonitions against slave revolt and resistance as endorsements of the institution." What is construed is an institution established by God to bring order to a sinful world and regulated, not abolished, by Him. Esteemed theologians agree.
That there were abuses in the system is not denied and race as a basis for slavery is unjustified. However, it was the slaves who protected Southern families, ran the plantations and farms and factories for the four years that eleven states resisted double their number. Without their loyal, diligent and dedicated service the resistance would have crumbled much sooner. Even sooner had the servile insurrection Lincoln hoped for occurred. As the slogan went, a thousand torches in a thousand black hands would have sent the soldiers home.
At least three northern churchmen defended Southern slavery: Dr. Charles Hodge of Princeton Seminary described as the "Prince of Calvinist Theologians", Mass. Congregational pastor Dr. Nehemiah Adams and John Henry Hopkins, D.D., LLD, Bishop of the Diocese of Vermont.
Here them now:
Hodge: "If, therefore, the Scriptures under the Old Dispensation permitted men to hold slaves, and if the New Testament nowhere condemns slave-holding, but prescribes the relative duties of masters and slaves, then to pronounce slave-holding to be in itself sinful is contrary to the Scriptures. It is as much contrary to our allegiance to the Bible to make our own notions of right or wrong the rule of duty as to make our own reason the rule of faith."
Adams: "Zeal against American slavery has thus been one of the chief modern foes to the Bible. Let him who would not become an infidel and atheist beware and not follow his sensibilities, as affected by cases of distress, in preference to the word of God, which is the unhappy fate of some who have made a shipwreck of their faith in their zeal against slavery."
Hopkins: "Here, therefore, lies the true aspect of the controversy, and it is evident that it can only be settled by the Bible. For every Christian is bound to assent to the rule of the inspired Apostle, that 'sin is the transgression of the law,' namely, the law laid down in the Scriptures by the authority of God the supreme 'Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.' . . .Yet he [Christ] lived in the midst of slavery, maintained over the old heathen races, in accordance with the Mosaic law, and uttered not one word against it! What proof can be stronger than this, that he did not regard it as a sin or a moral evil? . . . And what contrast can be more manifest than this example of Christ on the one hand, and the loud and bitter denunciations of our anti-slavery preachers and politicians, calling themselves Christians, on the other? For they not only set themselves against the Word of God in this matter, condemning slavery as the 'monster sin,' the 'sum of all villainies' but strange to say they do it in the very name of that Saviour whose whole line of conduct was the very opposite of their own!"
For the icing on the cake, John Calvin's commentary on Jeremiah 34:8-17 is submitted:
"If, then, servitude were unlawful, the Apostles would have never tolerated it; but they would have boldly denounced such a profane practice had it been so. Now, as they commanded masters only to be humane towards their servants, and not to treat them violently and reproachfully, it follows that what was not denied was permitted, that is, to retain their own servants." [...]
Westminster Larger Catechism Question 24: What is sin?
Answer: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.
No abolitionist ever cited a specific law of God condemning slavery, nor can they now.
For blatant intellectual, logical and theological malfeasance I rate this book one star.
Several other things bother me. Dr Woodworth asserted that Charles Finney was the greatest preacher of the era. He was a lying heretic who misled his Presbytery licensing committee into thinking he adhered to the Westminster Confession of Faith. [...]
The greatest preacher of the era was Dr. John L. Girardeau.
I know no one's heart but much about northern soldiers professing faith in Christ is disturbing. I took the officer's oath to support and defend the constitution and did for over 20 years. The war of northern aggression had no justification in the constitution. Thus, they violated their oaths. Lying Lincoln just rationalized and bullied. Men under a great delusion followed him and murdered hundreds of thousands without biblical justification and wantonly destroyed millions in private property. It is extremely troublesome to contemplate Christians participating in the war crimes of the papists Sherman and Sheridan. Both of them boasted of their devastation of Georgia and Virginia. After the war the north brutalized and plundered the South and her people. Why were the "Christians" of the north silent? Who came to the defense of the innocent?
This is not the fruit of Christianity and raises serious doubts about the Christianity in the northern army.