Wednesday 4 December 2019

Can a slave be a Christian?

For me this is a key question that all Christians ought to consider.

The answer, of course, is Yes (obviously): a slave can be Christian...

But we need to consider what this implies with respect to our own understanding of what 'being a Christian' means.

A slave (at least in extreme forms of slavery) can be forced to say or do any kind of evil - on pain of death (or torture). The only means of refusal is to accept death (or torture).

Therefore, a Christian can say or do any kind of evil - up to the point at which death (or torture) would be accepted.

A slave can be prevented from reading scriptures or attending church or receiving sacraments - and yet that slave can be a Christian.

So, given that the slave can be prevented from doing almost anything, and can be compelled to do almost anything; how can a slave be a Christian?

The question forces us to consider Christianity in its essence. By the Fourth Gospel account of being a Christian, we get that the essence is to love Jesus (have faith in him, trust him), hence follow Jesus through death to resurrected life everlasting.

That's it! And that is how and why a slave can be a Christian.

(Note: In practice, a slave can be compelled to do almost any evil, but cannot be prevented from recognising and repenting evil. A slave can be prevented from doing almost anything, but cannot be prevented from praying - nor from knowing and loving Jesus by his own direct personal experience of the Holy Ghost.) 

(Further Note: This argument is already (and may become extremely) relevant to Western Christians, more-or-less, sooner-or-later.)


Francis Berger said...

I agree with everything you have written in this post, but I am curious to know if this extends to modern forms of 'slavery' in which many Christians find themselves; more specifically wage, career, and mortgage slavery. If so, to what degree?

(I realize this is an apples and oranges comparison, but many modern Christians do approach their own choices from a conventional slave mindset - that is, as if they really had no choice at all).

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - Well, that's the question. Slavery is a matter of degree, not a category. At present many people who regard themselves as devout Christians are prepared to lie and mislead for their employers, on an hourly basis, and perhaps as the main function of their job. My worry is that they do not realise they are sinning (would, indeed, vehemently deny their own strategic and habitual dishonesty), therefore do not acknowledge and repent.

Another example is teacher, adevrtisers, film and tv writers etc being required to promote sin in other - for example sexual sin. At the unnoticed end of things, the entire education system propagandises girls - from a young age and right through college - to seek careers as more important than marriage and family. Most Christians seem to go along with this, and indeed abet it - do they realise what they are doing, do they repent?

Geoff said...

I see a parallel between a slave that is coerced to evil, and a sinner who willingly sins, but repents.

I think the miracle of Christianity is that both are saved, even though one does evil willingly and the other does not.

I think this is at the heart of being "in this world, but not of it".

What do you think about this comparison?

Bruce Charlton said...

Seems valid.