Was Slavery A Sin? Most Slaveholding Christians Claimed God Ordained The Practice

0 Posted by - January 31, 2024 - LATEST POSTS

The following is a letter addressed by John C. Calhoun (Vice President of the United States) to the Methodist Reverend Alexander McCain in response to McCain’s pamphlet in favor of slavery being ordained by God. “My Dear Sir. I have read with pleasure your pamphlet, entitled, ‘Slavery Defended from the Scriptures Against Abolitionists.’ You have fully and ably made good that title. You have shown beyond all controversy that slavery is sanctioned both by the Old and New Testament. He who denies it, if not blinded by fanaticism, must be a hypocrite.”[1]

Slavery is a sin in the eyes of the Lord. That is a universal theme throughout religions worldwide. But to what degree did that hold true in colonial America until the time of emancipation?   How could Christians, from New England to the southern provinces and later states, who diligently practiced the teachings of the bible, justify owning another human? Did slave owners just turn their backs on biblical doctrine? Or did they find inspiration and comfort for such a hideous practice in the pages of scripture?

Learned, devout, evangelical Christians, with the Bible in their hand, supported slavery with missionary zeal. They were opposed to gross cruelty to slaves and sexual exploitation of women, but not to the institution itself. In supporting the institution, they also allowed for the worst of the abuses to continue unchecked. When this terrible injustice was constantly before their eyes and their fellow Christians were crying out to them to show some insight and compassion, why was it, we must ask, that these evangelical Christians were so blind and hard?[2]

To seventeenth and early eighteenth century settlers, it was easy to accept slavery when considering the African a heathen, ignorant, atheistic race of sub-humans. Far too many Americans carried this belief right through the nineteenth century, and sadly to say, into modern times. Truth be told, it was the white European who demonstrated ignorance in all things concerning those of Africa. The lands from which the slavers applied their trade drew from a people rich in advanced methods of agriculture, language, knowledge of the universe, different religions (including a large percentage of Muslims), and nations with a government hierarchy and finance equal to that of Europe. West Africa and the interior was not just a land of jungle and grasslands of roaming wild animals. Vast stretches of cultivated fields and established towns dotted the landscape. Timbuktu housed a library of literary scholarly works written by Africans that compared with the great minds of Europe.

When late eighteenth and early nineteenth century explorers probed the interior of Africa and into the Sudan, they discovered kingdoms whose armies demonstrated modern tactical warfare, including the skillful use of muskets. Leaders of these kingdoms surprised their European guests by querying them as to the latest news of London and Paris; some having recent copies of newsletters from those cities. Ironically, at the time these same African leaders were being ‘discovered’ by acclaimed European explorers, the Africans were keen to the latest royal gossip from Europe.

If colonial America looked upon the African as a lesser people, as Christians, surely their doctrine would not allow slavery and the horrendous treatment of another human. The exact opposite took place. It was the bible to which slaveholders turned to support their way of life. For many centuries the Church was part of a slave-holding society. The popes themselves held slaves, including at times hundreds of Muslim captives to man their galleys.

Throughout Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, theologians generally followed St. Augustine in holding that although slavery was not written into the natural moral law, it was not absolutely forbidden by that law

Read More: Liberty & Slavery, Paradox of the American Revolution Part 2 – Christian Slaveholders Claim God Ordained Slavery | Shades of Liberty: Josiah


  • John Anderson June 7, 2017 - 9:57 am

    Thank you, this all needs to come in-hidden. God, does not want true Christianity to be hidden, or used to justify an injustice.

  • SB December 29, 2017 - 11:16 am

    Short answer = yes..slavery was and is a SIN! In general, non-African people who’ve oppressed and enslaved African people (to include European Whites) have ALWAYS hid behind religion and other institutions to justify slavery. This has been true since time immemorial. In general (too few exceptions note), the “religion of White supremacy” among White/non-Black folks takes precedence over God, Allah, Buda, Christina, and any other spiritual/religious practices, whenever these non-African people come into contact with African people. The truth hurts, but as soon as we realize it, we can get back to doing pan-African activities, and won’t be fooled by the “religion of White supremacy” hiding behind and perverting the Gospel.

  • Jodie1029 December 29, 2017 - 5:42 pm

    Yes Slavery as administered via England, Arabs, Spaniards was and continues to be “Cruel & Unusual Punishment which was and still remains against God’s laws. These people decided with precision to: beat, whip, denied their culture, language, religion, based on their sick perverted minds – raped black women, men, children, broke up families, Bred blacks based on their sickness as if we were cattle and other animals, denied us education for decades and murdered the indigenous thru migration from south to north much like how white law not god’s law, continues maliciously pre plan how to further keep us enslaved. And there ain’t one thing christian about what they did and what they continue to do. White people continue to DENY the reality of what they did and still Do. They defile any religion they join in order to pervert to make it suit their needs. In America they are they only ethnicity who refuse and accept and respect women of authority – Black people are a threat and they know the historical truth of the Word therefore perversion of the word and teaching generational god ordained slavery delivered upon blacks. Personally, I don’t very easily. I believe that any Black person practicing christianity and refuses to refute with back up that blacks are not their slaves. WHY ARE THE MEN AND WOMEN OF GOD NOT STANDING AND TEACHING RIGHT JUSTICE – WE HAVE NOTHING AND NO ONE TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF.

  • Wesley Barnard December 31, 2017 - 9:33 pm

    As counter-intuitive as this comment may seem, I must say that the slavery of the black people brought from West Africa during the TransAtlantic Slave Trade was foreordained. For proof, I submit Deuteronomy 28:15-68 as evidence. A careful reading of the “curses” that would come upon Israel due to their continued disobedience exposes, in graphic detail a predicted enslavement, indeed, generational slavery. The prophecy describes them being shackled, put on ships, taken to an unknown faraway land. The people who would come for them would come from the other end of the world, speak a language not understood – a fierce and merciless people. They would be sold as bondmen and bondwomen and never be truly free. It would not matter if they lived in the country or the city, the curses would follow them. They would be a very sick and diseased people. Their women would be raped. There children taken from them. They would be powerless to do anything about it. No man would be able to save them or liberate them. They would be forced to build houses, but not allowed to live in them. To plant crops, but not allowed to eat them. To tend livestock, but not allowed to eat them. They would work hard, hungry, thirsty, naked and in want of everything. They would be defrauded, cheated and deceived. They would be a laughingstock internationally. Even the foreigner would come to live among them and rise higher and higher, while they sank lower and lower. They would live in fear day and night. because there would be no one to defend them or protect them. Everything they worked hard for would be taken from them by their oppressor. They would be misled into idolatry, worshipping idols of wood and stone.
    So, yes God does not condone slavery, but recognizes that this is a condition that exists on earth. He warned his people, Israel, about what would happen to them if they persisted in their disobedience. Of course, this new information opens a Pandora’s box of new issues, throwing into chaos all that we have been taught and come to believe as truth in this world of deception. (Rev. 12:9) But, the truth is the truth. The question is: Who has the eyes to see and the ears to hear? Peace.

  • Charles JR. Hughes July 26, 2020 - 10:32 pm

    The Bible was there for them to use. I just want to know who is king James that I should not believe he added what he wanted to and took away what he wanted to. After all King James was just another white man

    • Craig Milliman July 27, 2020 - 8:19 pm

      King James commissioned a new version of the Bible, which was published in 1611 using the English language as it was commonly spoken and written in the early 17th century. Its sources consisted of most of the medieval translations on which earlier English Bibles were based. All of those earlier English versions included God’s instructions on the treatment of slaves, which of course were traced back to the earliest manuscripts available in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, etc. In short, James I of England did not add the passages on slavery; they were always there. The 1611 KJV replaced the Geneva Bible of John Calvin’svery strict Puritan sect. To put it in perspective, the separatist Mayflower pilgrims were still using the Geneva Bible, but the Massachusetts Bay Puritans were transitioning to the KJV. In his famous 1630 sermon, A Modell of Christian Charity, John Winthrop quoted both.

  • Francis Alexander July 27, 2020 - 9:38 am

    Slavery was a sin period! As a Christian I know that Jesus did say to get rid of your possessions (and slaves were considered property) something the slave owners and so called Christians who supported slavery somehow missed in the Bible. They also missed something else. God hates rebellion. Satan rebelled against God. Throughout the Bible you see instances where rebellion is wrong. Thus, rebelling against your parents and rebelling against your slave master was wrong. What those Christians missed was the fact that the colonies rebelling against Britain was also wrong. And worse, the traitorous rebellion against the United States that lead to the Civil War was also wrong. The hypocritical acts of those who supported slavery falsely lead people to say that “the Bible condones slavery” when it doesn’t.

  • Hilda Saulsbury July 27, 2020 - 9:52 am

    Slavery is a demeanor to what God has made. It is probably the term slave or slavery in a version of the Bible but God does not uphold it. Would God tell person reading his or her written word not let a person or persons enslave him or her?

  • Craig Milliman July 27, 2020 - 8:09 pm

    The God of the Old Testament definitely approved of slavery and left instructions on how to practice it. It’s undeniable. In the New Testament, Paul urges a man to set free one of his slaves (a friend of Paul’s), but the man refuses. Jesus says and does nothing critical of slavery, which was a fact of life throughout the Middle East and the Roman Empire. Nothing. It’s a good reason not to be a Christian.

  • Anne M Jennings July 29, 2020 - 2:43 pm

    Where in the bible does it say that holding another person in slavery is a sin against God? There is no such statement in the bible.

  • Gregory Carr August 1, 2020 - 8:03 am

    The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders, liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching. 1 Timothy 1:10