Bnonn writes in his most recent post:
Moreover, unlike Dalrock, I see exactly the analogy Doug draws from runaway slaves (Dt. 23:15), and I agree that its general equity applies here.
The statement I made that Bnonn is referencing is:
Thankfully Pastor Wilson ignores 1 Pet 3 entirely in his analysis of a wife’s proper response to a sinning husband, and thereby limits his violence to 1 Cor 7 and a creative interpretation of Deut. 23:15.
I made a deliberate choice not to expand on Wilson’s Deut. 23:15 argument, because while it is weak and used to avoid turning to much more relevant New Testament passages (like 1 Pet 3), it is a bit of a landmine. The weakness is easy to demonstrate. Wilson uses Deut. 23:15 to explain how the Apostle Paul would have us respond to an unhappy wife*. He says that per Deut. 23:15 Paul would not have us return an escaped slave. As a result, Wilson determines that the Christian course of action is to encourage unhappy wives to leave their husbands. The problem isn’t just in Wilson’s poor logic. The problem is also that we know that the Apostle Paul once faced this very question. The Book of Philemon is in fact Paul’s letter to a slave owner, wherein Paul explains that he is sending Philemon’s escaped slave back to him:
12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 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 Wilson knows this. He knows his appeal to Deut. 23:15 is incredibly weak in this application, but it is nevertheless useful to him. If his critics point out his weak logic, they risk seeming like they support slavery. More specifically, they risk seeming like white supremacists who support American slavery. At the same time, this distracts from his truly abominable interpretation of 1 Cor 7, and also draws attention away from his inexplicable decision to ignore 1 Pet 3 entirely.
But there is something else that makes Wilson’s poor logic regarding Deut. 23:15 quite shrewd. He is encouraging all unhappy wives to see themselves as mistreated slaves. This fits perfectly with the feminist narrative that marriage is slavery for women, something they need to escape from. This is a supercharged emotional appeal, and Wilson knows this as well. Long after the dust has settled, the unhappy wives who read his post will remember his invitation to see their marriage as a form of slavery, and themselves as abused slaves.
How do I know that Wilson knows about Paul’s letter to Philemon? The Bible’s view of slavery is a subject that Wilson has studied in depth. A little over twenty years ago Wilson coauthored a pamphlet titled Southern Slavery As It Was. The book is no longer in print, but a blogger appears to have published it in its entirety.
How could men have supported slavery? The question is especially difficult when we consider that these were men who lived in a pervasively Christian culture. We have all heard of the heartlessness — the brutalities, immoralities, and cruelties — that were supposedly inherent in the system of slavery. We have heard how slave families were broken up, of the forcible rape of slave women, of the brutal beatings that were a commonplace, about the horrible living conditions, and of the unrelenting work schedule and back-breaking routine — all of which go together to form our impression of the crushing oppression which was slavery in the South. The truthfulness of this description has seldom been challenged.
The point of this small booklet is to establish that this impression is largely false.
Wilson likened Christian slave holders in pre Civil War America to Philemon from the Bible:
It is obvious that in a fallen world, an institution like slavery will be accompanied by many attendant evils. Such evils existed with ancient Hebrew slavery, ancient Roman slavery, and with American slavery. The issue is not whether sinners will sin, but rather how Christians are commanded to respond to such abuses and evils. And nothing is clearer — the New Testament opposes anything like the abolitionism of our country prior to the War Between the States. The New Testament contains many instructions for Christian slave owners, and requires a respectful submissive demeanor for Christian slaves. See, for example, Ephesians 6:5–9, Colossians 3:22—4:1, and 1 Timothy 6:1–5.
Remember that in ancient Rome the acquisition of slaves was not according to the law of God either. A Christian slave owner in that system, like Philemon, was duty-bound to oppose those features of that society, and at the same time was required to treat his slaves in a gracious and thoughtful manner. He was not required to release his individual slaves because of the general societal disobedience. He was not even required to release his slaves if they came into the Christian faith (1 Tim. 6:1–4). At the same time he should have acknowledged that his believing slaves were now Christ’s freemen, and they should take any opportunity for freedom provided for them (1 Cor. 7:20).
Near the end of the tract Wilson and his coauthor write (emphasis mine):
Slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War or since. Whatever its failures, slavery produced in the South a degree of mutual affection between the races which will never be achieved through any federally-mandated efforts. Listen to a few examples:
George Fleming of Laurens, South Carolina said: “I longed to see Marse Sam Fleming. Lawd, chile, dat’s de best white man what ever breathed de good air. I still goes to see whar he buried every time I gits a chance to venture t’wards Laurens. As old as I is, I still draps a tear when I sees his grave, fer he sho’ was good to me and all his other niggers.”42 And, with this use of the word nigger, it is important for us to remember the mutable nature of human language. What today constitutes a gross insult did not have the same connotations a century ago.
Clara Davis of Alabama said this:
Dem was de good ole days. How I longs to be back dar wid my ole folks an’ a playin’ wid de chillun down by de creek. ’Taint nothin’ lak it today, nawsuh. . . . Dey tells me dat when a pusson crosses dat ribber, de Lawd gives him whut he wants. I done tol’ de Lawd I don’t want nothin’ much . . . only my home, white folks. I don’t think dats much to ax’ for. I suppose he’ll send me back dar. I been a-waitin’ for him to call.43
Adeline Johnson, Winnsboro, South Carolina: “I hope and prays to get to heaven. I’ll be satisfied to see my Savior that my old marster worshiped and my husband preached about. I want to be in heaven with all my white folks, just to wait on them, and love them, and serve them, sorta like I did in slavery time. That will be enough heaven for Adeline.”44
I want to stress that by titling this post as I have done, and by quoting Wilson’s inflammatory writing on the subject of American slavery, I by no means wish to poison the well. I trust my readers will simply ignore such a naked emotional appeal to outrage, and instead remember the logical arguments I made in the rest of the post.
*Wilson has it both ways in his post, describing an unconfirmably mistreated wife, but then taking care to tell us that the actual existence of mistreatment isn’t relevant.