RNS’ Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Jonathan Merritt join Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research and author Trevin Wax to discuss the future of evangelicalism.

2 Comments

  1. Jonathan,
    Tevin is right about how slavery in Rome was very different than slavery in the US. There were slaves that ran the large households, and they were more like managers. Probably Onemius was one of the upper class slaves. Paul sent Onemius back to Philemon because he had too. It was the Roman law at the time, illegal to harbor runaway slaves.

    The key point all of you hit on, is the interpretation of Scripture, which is absolutely paramount. If you actually return to the Scriptures again and again, as you say, study Philemon again, but Paul is very clear I believer, (in a secretive manner so Roman guards who were reading his letters before being sent out, wouldn’t understand) that Onemius was to be freed.

    Paul obeyed the Roman law, and then asked Philemon to obey a higher law, God’s law: “For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” Philemon 1:15

    More than a slave? What does it mean, more than a slave? How can a slave be more than a slave, unless he is free? Was Paul writing in a coded message to let Philemon know what he hoped would happen? Paul says, both in the frlesh and in the Lord – so this implies that there was to be a change, both spiritually, and earthly. What change did he mean?

    I wrote a paper on slavery for my masters at Fuller, and early Christians were trying, within the law of the land, to free slaves. Just as we operate today within the law of the land. We obey the law, but at the same time, bring God’s teachings and understanding on how to live a better life to that land. It is messy, we don’t always do exactly as we wish, because the manmade law constrains us. But I have no doubt that Paul was against slavery, just as we are against many things today that the ruling powers are not.
    There is no inconsistency between the Gospel, freedom in Christ, what Paul wrote to Philemon, and what the early church tried to do.
    I recommend these books and articles. Blessings brother.

    “History Of The Christian Church, Volume Ii: Ante-nicene Christianity, A.d. 100-325: 97. The Church And Slavery,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed November 4, 2013, www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc2.v.x.x.html.
    “The Apology Of Aristides The Philospher,” Early Christian Writings, accessed October 21, 2013, www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/aristides-kay.html.
    Boersma, Hans. “This Is The Day Which The Lord Has Made: Scripture, Manumiision, And The Heavenly Future In Saint Gregory Of Nyssa.” Modern Theology. 28, no. 4 (2012, October 1): 657-672.
    Cohick, Lynn H.. Women in the World of the Earliest Christians. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009.
    de Wet, Chris L.. “Sin As Slavery And/or Slavery As Sin? On The Relationship Between Slavery And Christian Hamartiology In Late Ancient Christianity.” Religion & Theology. 17, (2010, January 01): 26-39.
    DeFelice, John F.. “Women, Slaves And Society In Rome’s Empire And The Early Church.” In The LIght of Discovery: Studies in Honor of Edwin M. Yamauchi. Edited by John Wineland. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2007.
    Furfey, Paul Hanly. “Social Action In The Early Church 30-180 A.d.” Theological Studies. 2, (1941, January 01): 89-108.
    Glancy, Jennifer A.. Slavery in Early Christianity. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortess Press, 2006.
    Goldenberg, David M.. The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.
    Harrill, J. Albert. The Manumission of Slaves in Early Christianity. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998.
    Johnson, Matthew V., James A. Noel, and Demetrius K. Williams, eds. Onesimus Our Brother: Reading Religion, Race and Culture in Philemon. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012.
    Martin, Dale B.. “Ancient Slavery, Class And Early Christianity.” American Society of Church History, New York, NY, December 28, 1990. Martin is from Duke University.
    Osiek, Carolyn. “The Ransom Of Captives: Evolution Of A Tradition.” HTR. 74, no. 4 (1981, January 01): 365-386.

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