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That’s what reconciliation work feels like sometimes. And I don’t just mean the work of reconciling across ethnic lines. I mean all reconciliation work. Ever tried to get fighting spouses to put down the frying pan and rolling pin to embrace each other? Ever tried to talk a parent down off the roof when they were about to drop a WWF-inspired elbow on a disobedient child? There are those moments when you think you see just how close the parties are… if… they… would… just…. We can be  so close and yet so far away.

That’s how I feel to some extent in the interactions with Douglas Wilson about his book Black and Tan. We’ve covered a lot of ground and have agreed on a  surprising amount. Now we’re at a point where I’ve made some specific appeals to Wilson which I think are reasonable. We’re close to talking about the heart of the matter in terms of what offends me in reading the book. Close… but not there yet. I feel like we’re talking past one another.

In my last post, I offered questions to Wilson to assess where we are in our discussion. Those were:

  1. Does Wilson think the comments I cited, his circumstantial explanations notwithstanding, were in any way insensitive along racial lines?
  2. If so, does Wilson joyfully own complete responsibility for those comments?
  3. If so, does Wilson think repentance might include a more complete and specific apology along with written retraction of the insensitive things he believes he has written? (Bear in mind, I’m not asking him to retract an argument he thinks is true, but to retract and restate the way things have been said—much the same way he argues the way slavery was ended was wrong, not that its ending was wrong).

But I don’t think Wilson understood what I was asking (particularly as it relates to the parenthetical comment at the end of #3). I say I don’t think he understood what I was asking because of this comment:

So that’s it. In order to apologize for Black & Tan across the board, I need a way forward that won’t apologize for, or ignore, certain parts of the Bible, and I need a coherent understanding of our cultural history that enables me to stand in a long line of faithful men.

This was Wilson’s summary of the two theological stones he thinks I’ve left unturned in all of this (see here).

But I’m really not asking Wilson to “apologize for Black and Tan across the board.” I agree with Wilson that we need to refuse apologizing for the faith or for the parts of the Bible its “cultured despisers” reject.  We must not ignore any part of the whole counsel of God, including what Wilson calls the “angular” texts of the Bible dealing with slavery. As I recall, there wasn’t much more than a hair’s breath between us in the ordering and exegeting of the biblical texts on the matter. Moreover, I think the search for a “coherent understanding of our cultural history that enables us to stand in a long line of faithful men” is an appropriate quest we all need to pursue. As I understand it, these are the reasons he wrote Black and Tan. Those reasons seem compelling to me. I’m not after a retraction of any of that–not even the parts of the history about which we disagree.

I’m seeking something narrower and more specific. I think the way Wilson wrote Black and Tan–its tone and balance–is the problem. Let me try to illustrate. Wilson doesn’t think slavery should have continued. He is for it’s abolition, just not the bloody way it was abolished. In like manner, I’m not calling for a retraction of the book “across the board.” I’m for Wilson stating what he thinks and risking the skin to stand behind it. I’m just not for the insensitive way he’s done so at points in the book.

I’m simply asking the question: Doug, do you think it might be possible that a reasonable man (and I’m thankful that you include me among them) might take legitimate offense at the way you have put some things in the book? As a reasonable man yourself, do you think that some of your comments in the book are insensitive to the legitimate concerns, natural affections, and understandable perspectives of some of your reasonable readers?

As you think about that, I would hope you would be able to consider the narrower question of phrasing at various points in a manner consistent with the way you wish your writing to be judged at other points. What I mean is this: When it comes to the claims that you are a racist, you point to the number of places where you explicitly disavow such things. You ask to be judged on what you actually wrote. I think that’s fair, and that’s what I’ve tried to do.

But in your last couple posts regarding racial insensitivity, you’ve asked us to consider what you intended rather than what you actually wrote. It seems like you’re retreating to motive and in doing so you’re perhaps not properly evaluating your words.

I write all the time. I know what it’s like to write something with one intent and to really blunder with the words. I regret it when I goof like that, especially in my preaching and when people are hurt by my words. So I’m not aiming at Wilson as though I’m some Teflon Don against whom the same charges won’t stick.

But each time we’ve come close to getting an account of the kinds of harmful things I’ve cited, we’re hearing a lot about the wider audience “out there,” the detractors who have surfaced over the years. I’m left thinking, “Hey, Doug, I’m over here.” And when we hear concerns about abandoning the Bible and the like, I’m thinking, “Yeah, but that’s not what I’m asking you to do or want to do myself.”

I get that you’re not wanting to give ground to those you think are insincere or who have an anti-Bible agenda. I get that. And I believe you when you say you don’t think you’re “tripping over personal egotism or pride.” Reading your last post, however, I wonder if you might not be stumbling over fear??? Fear that engaging the narrower issues will somehow amount to unfaithfulness in your apologetic calling. Or fear that some concession to an opponent’s argument might end in a check mate you didn’t see. Or fear that the hecklers out there might have their howling party once and for all. Or fear that an evanjellyfish church might lose even the muscular integrity of jelly. I don’t know. I can’t pretend to know your head or heart. It just seemed to me as I read your last post that it was so heavy with concern for potential negative results that you weren’t allowing yourself to come down to the conversation I’m actually trying to have with you. To be honest, I’ve felt that way for the last 3-4 posts now.

So, it seems to me that the threshold question is whether or not you recognize anything offense in your words. Whether or not you can see a causal connection between the ways you’ve sometimes described or referenced African Americans or slavery and the hurt, anger, or offense some have taken. You’ve already admitted to a kind of “collateral damage.” What’s left to be determined is whether you think that damage is in the heads of the wounded or should be located in the words you’ve written.

We’ve gotten close enough to put that question on the table. How close we really are and how far we can walk together in agreement depends on what you see here.

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122 thoughts on “Oh, So Close… And Yet So Far Away”

  1. Alwyn Swanepoel says:

    Pastor Thabiti,

    I think at this point it is important to remember John Frame’s advice to young theologians that applies more to me, but also to you and Pastor Wilson:

    When there is a controversy, don’t get on one side right away. Do some analytical work first, on both positions. Consider these possibilities: (a) that the two parties may be looking at the same issue from different perspectives, so they don’t really contradict; (b) that both parties are overlooking something that could have brought them together; (c) that they are talking past one another because they use terms in different ways; (d) that there is a third alternative that is better than either of the opposing views and that might bring them together; (e) that their differences, though genuine, ought both to be tolerated in the church, like the differences between vegetarians and meat-eaters in Romans 14.

    I acknowledge that I have probably a better understanding of Wilson’s concerns than yours. It seems therefore appropriate that I rather try to point out what I think you miss. If you are frustrated that he does not come down to talk at the level you want, he is probably frustrated that you do not spread your wings to fly up, as you are able to do, to consider some big picture consequences of the moves you want him to make. You are familiar with C.S. Lewis’s warnings in The Abolition of Man on what was done to schoolboys:

    “It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption which ten years hence,its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as controversy at all. The authors
    themselves, I suspect, hardly know what they are doing to the boy, and he cannot know what is being done to him.”

    I cannot speak for Doug Wilson, but I am concerned that you are not sensitive enough to some reigning cultural assumptions in your bringing it to a point. I can unpack this a little bit more, but then my post will probably become either tedious or irritating. And I will risk sounding arrogant in a debate where godly men had done all the hard work. With this comment I just want to point to one reason why I think you will end in a cul de sac. You may very well point to other perspectives where I am blind,as you have, but it seems to me that Frame’s advice is very relevant at this point. I think you and Doug Wilson need somebody like Frame if there is any hope of progress. But I may be wrong. Both you and Doug Wilson are capable of surprising us.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Alwyn,

      Thank you for this very thoughtful post. I appreciate the time and effort you’ve not only put into offering these thoughts, but also your willingness to apply them to yourself. This is a wonderful contribution to what’s been a wonderful discussion thus far.

      As for Frame, I would certainly say ‘a’ and ‘b’ are at play in our discussion. We’re clearly looking at the history, for example, from different perspectives. And, personally, I don’t begrudge Wilson for that, nor do I think he begrudges me for my perspective. In that sense, I think our differences on history fall into category ‘e’, two perspectives that have and can coexist in the church.

      But the question of (in)sensitivity or a failure to speak in a kind, loving and not rude way at various points does not appear to me to be a category ‘e’ issue–neither in terms of the biblical commands or in terms of relational unity. Resolution on that issue would, I contend, gain us some ground in coming together–Frame’s ‘b’. I believe that precisely because I’m not pushing for Wilson to change his argument or his view on the history, but to “gain his brother.” In fact, we’d make progress in “winning each other over” if we could work through the offensive comments without evasions and defenses. I don’t pretend that we have to see every comment the same way (as I said in the “Illustrating” post, some of those things were quite minor in my mind and others more serious). But, it seems to me, that we have to deal with things where there’s an actual offense, not in the ether of “reigning cultural assumptions” (which I think I understand and am a co-belligerent with Doug on), but on the ground where the rubber of our comments leaves skid marks. If your spouse said unkind things to you, what good would it do you for them to talk about “husbands” or “wives” in the cultural abstract. That might give some abstract insight, but you’re still left asking, “But what about what you said to me?” That’s why I think we’re close but far.

      Again, I really appreciate your comments here. They’re very useful practically and winsome in spirit.

      Grace to you,

  2. RJS says:


    What is your counsel, at present given no apology from Wilson (according to his last blog post), on having someone like that speak publicly for an organization or church?

    I see his blog is still linked prominently at the Gospel Coalition website.

    I see there are plans to have him speak at very large gatherings/conferences.

    In my city, if he would come to speak at a conference for instance, it would draw media coverage and criticism from those who see what he has written in B&T as racially insensitive. I can see a news story now about a Christian ministry having a pastor from Moscow, ID who argues for slavery being benign and the slave holding South being the most Christian nation in the world. Oh that will be such wonderful testimony for the glory of Christ! I feel sick already.

    If he does continue to hold fast and not repent and appropriately change the words he uses in B&T it will have detrimental effects on gospel ministry in cities with a diverse population where he would go and speak.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi RJS,

      Thanks for your comments in these exchanges. The Lord be with you.

      Personally, I leave those decisions to the different sponsors or organizers of the events. I’ve spoken at enough events myself to learn that different hosts have very different thoughts about (a) who they invite, (b) why they invite them, and (c) what their invitation means re: an endorsement. So, for example, we both know conference hosts who sometimes invite controversial people to call them to account for their views in some matters. They don’t regard that as an endorsement but as a public forum for Christian brothers to do precisely what Doug and I have been doing in this exchange. Within certain bounds I think that’s a perfectly fine thing to do.

      So, it depends on what’s being attempted and communicated regarding the invitation, its regularity, and the issues at stake.

      I hope that helps in some way.

  3. RJS says:

    Here is a recent article about racial reconciliation that has the right words AND tone. I think if you read this you will hear a tone that is drastically lacking from Douglas Wilson’s efforts thus far.

    Tone is so huge…the tone of love is beautiful to the ear/hearer…the tone of arrogance and insensitivity is like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…it amounts to nothing…

    1. Henry says:


      Your tone towards Doug seems to consistently have an underlying hatred. I have read many of your comments and you keep putting in little jabs and seem eager for Doug to be ostracized. Thabiti disagrees with Doug but does not come across like you. Are you bearing some unstated grudge against Doug?

      Are you the same ‘RJS’ who has blogged a lot over at Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog?

    2. Dan Phillips says:

      I’m with Henry. And, while the article you link to is a fine article, I can’t imagine what in it you imagine Wilson would fault or differ with.

      Which, sadly, it appears you’ll probably be glad to explain and defend rather than rethinking and repairing your own tone.

      1. RJS says:

        Dan, can you give me an example of this hatred you accuse me of? That is a huge accusation and if you can show me where Ive been hateful I would be glad to repent.

        Also, I was not linking to the article above because Wilson would disagree. I was linking to it because it had a tone SO DIFFERENT than the tone of Wilson. It has the tone of someone with ACTUAL EXPERIENCE with racial reconciliation.

        That has been a big problem for me in all of this. Wilson speaks with NO EXPERIENCE in living out the important realities of racial reconciliation. And remember Wilson himself directly says racial reconciliation is not a game.

        The reality is Wilson has NO business engaging in what he says is “not a game”. He has no experience in living out the realities of racial reconciliation.

        1. Dan Phillips says:

          1. QED.

          2. I think it’s to you to demonstrate that there’s a racial element in Wilson’s church’s neighborhood that he’s shunning. You haven’t. You simply assume guilt.

          It isn’t a game. Specifically, it isn’t a quota-game. I would hope that a church would reflect the ethnic balance of its community. How do you know that Wilson’s doesn’t?

          In my limited observation, though, there’s been more ethnic diversity in the “white” churches I’ve known than the “black” ones. I’d instantly bow to Thabiti’s greater expertise on that question. But I don’t assume that I know why, as you are leather-slappingly ready to do with Doug Wilson.

          1. Hi Dan,

            He asked you for an example of hatred on his part toward Wilson. You said it is “QED”, quite easily done. But you didn’t do it. What’s up?

            1. Dan Phillips says:

              Your and his misreading. I never mentioned “hatred.” I QED’d my prediction of his unresponsive response.

          2. RJS says:

            Dan, You said a few specific things below, let me answer directly.

            1) QED, does that mean quite easily done? If so, please do so. I am eager to get right if I have in fact been hateful towards Douglas Wilson personally.

            2)I am not assuming Douglas Wilson is shunning anything. I am simply stating he has NO EXPERIENCE living in a context where he is challenged by living out racial reconciliation as a result of the demographics of his town. I don’t hold that against him. I don’t think that is evil, or wrong. And I have never said it is.

            What I have said is, I don’t think it is wise for someone who lives in a racially homogenous setting to make so many authoritative comments on racial reconciliation. And I have yet to hear from anyone the fruit of Douglas Wilson’s labor in this arena that would make for good insight to share on the topic.

            1. QED.

            2. I think it’s to you to demonstrate that there’s a racial element in Wilson’s church’s neighborhood that he’s shunning. You haven’t. You simply assume guilt.

            It isn’t a game. Specifically, it isn’t a quota-game. I would hope that a church would reflect the ethnic balance of its community. How do you know that Wilson’s doesn’t?

            In my limited observation, though, there’s been more ethnic diversity in the “white” churches I’ve known than the “black” ones. I’d instantly bow to Thabiti’s greater expertise on that question. But I don’t assume that I know why, as you are leather-slappingly ready to do with Doug Wilson.

        2. RJS, how do you know what experience I have? That seems like a curious claim.

          1. RJS says:

            You site no examples from real life experiences living out racial reconciliation.
            The demographics in your town and church are about as close to completely homogenous as it comes.
            Am I wrong? Do you have much experience living and ministering in an ethnicallydiverse setting where your church and ministry wrestle with this?

            By the way, you have yet to answer my question pertaining to your accusation of me related to apologizing for the Bible.

            1. RJS says:

              Henry, Dan and Douglas,

              Has the cat got each of your tongues?

              Henry and Dan, you accused me of hating Douglas Wilson. That is a very serious charge. What evidence do you have by the way? I have actually been greatly helped by Pastor Wilson through one of his books in specific, Future Men: Raising Boys to Fight Giants. I have two young sons and found this work to be extremely helpful.

              To be honest this is my first experience in the world of blog commenting (may well be my last as well…ha). My aim for involvement in this has never had anything to do with calling into question Your view, Pastor Wilson, on the Bible.

              My aim is to let you know, as one who is now 10 years in to inner city ministry that is focused on Christ and assisting the local church, your tactics in engaging in racial reconciliation sorts of endeavors are not right. You are racially insensitive, as Thabiti has pointed out so clearly in so many places, and that sort of problem is very detrimental to gospel witness. Especially detrimental to places where Christians minister in diverse cities.

              This is most certainly not a game to some of us. Some give their lives to ministering in this sort of setting. And someone like me also loves and embraces the doctrines of grace that have helped me love and worship Jesus. I want these great truths spread throughout all peoples. And I just want you to know that I find the offenses outlined by Thabiti in regards to your racial insensitivity to be a huge hindrance to gospel ministry.

              God bless you brothers…what a day…He has Risen…what a Savior

          2. I agree with Pastor Loritts original observation (in “The Other”) that someone with a great deal of inter-racial experience simply would not have made the comments you did. It’s fairly obvious to those of us who have that experience.

            1. Sekel says:

              Amen John!

  4. RJS says:

    By the way, thanks so much Pastor Thabiti for the way you have interacted with those of us on this blog and with Douglas Wilson as well.

    I must say again though, it troubles me that there are no leaders who are white within the Gospel Coalition speaking up on this issue alongside of you. It troubles me to hear all of the silence. I have had numerous interactions with pastors who happen to be African American on this issue and the question has continually come up. Why so much silence from our white brothers who have such a voixe qithin our circles.

    Praying for you and praying silence will not continue for long…

  5. RJS says:

    Henry, I hate the sin of racial insensitivity, but not Wilson himself. I live in a context where the effects of racial insensitivity cripple gospel witness.

    Do you have specific points you could show me where I have been hateful to Wilson himself? I would be happy to repent immediately.

    By the way I have no clue who Scot McKnight is nor have I ever been on his blogto be honest I have nevwr been one to poat comments on blogs before this. I simply havent been abke to be silent on this one because of how very sad and wrong this is.

  6. RJS, I live in a context where apologizing for the Bible has crippled gospel witness — and that has been my central motive in all this. This is something that Thabiti recognizes as a legit concern, though he obviously differs in application. I think it would be helpful to the conversation if you recognized that as a legit concern as well. And I would urge you to be careful about your call for me to be “bumped” from various events — it wouldn’t be too hard for all the conference speakers who are walking behind Jesus on the road to get into a dispute about who was invited to keynote. That is part of all this as well. And in that regard, all of us need to guard our hearts.

    1. RJS says:


      #1 We all live in a context where apologizing for the Bible cripples gospel witness. I am surprised you don’t know this. Did I say I want you to apologize for the Bible?

      #2 I can promise you I will be very much a voice asking for wisdom as to the effectiveness of having you speak at a conference in a city like mine (Minneapolis) where the view you hold would most assuredly be crippling to gospel witness. If you need help understanding this I suggest you reread the posts by Thabiti.

      1. Joe Rigney says:


        Are you a pastor in Minneapolis? We live in the Twin Cities as well.

        1. RJS says:

          Joe, I am a member at a church in Minneapolis, BBC. I believe we share the same church.

    2. Aaron says:


      Thanks so much for your clarification. Also, thanks for your dialogue with Thabti – it is great to see you two dialogue in such an exemplary manner. I have also been greatly blessed by your discussions with Hitchens – so thanks for being used of God.

      Am I understanding your response to RJS accurately when you say, “I live in a context where apologizing for the Bible has crippled gospel witness – and that has been my central motive in all of this” that you think Thabiti’s call for you to apologize is a call to apologize for the Bible and will cripple gospel ministry? Is this what you mean that you and Thabiti differ on application?

      Thabtit has clarified he is not asking you to apologize for B&T’s arguments or foe the Bible but for the way you state some things in B&T and argued (and I’ll show my hand here :) – I think quite persuasively) if said another way could you be more winsome in manner and have brothers more willing to listen to you rather than potentially alienating brothers and even non-Christians, since you desire to be an apologist.

      Is this the real difference between you and Thabiti: you believe apologizing for what Thabiti calls for would essentially cause you to “apologize for the Bible ” and that could cripple gospel ministry from your perspective?

      If so, I think I finally understand the impasse. If not, I’d ask you correct my misrepresentations of your positions and help me understand you better.

      Blessings and grace!

      1. RJS says:

        Aaron, Amen.

        Sadly, it appears Titus 3:10 must be excercised by anyone who currently has ministry interactions with him.

        1. I agree that cautions should be raised and objections made to any ministry that promotes him but I’m not a fan of the “second degree of separation” (that is, separating from anyone who won’t separate from those who choose to separate from).

          I believe the crucial question evangelicalism needs to face, since Wilson’s first “paleo-Confederate” book came out in 1996 is: How did we ever let a man with these repugnant opinions rise to such a level of prominence?

          1. that should read (about “second degree of separation”): separating from anyone who won’t separate from those who WE choose to separate from.

            I don’t believe in that kind of separation. After awhile, we end up separating from everyone.

      2. Aaron,

        Thanks so much for this. No, I understand that Thabiti is *not* calling me to apologize for any of the Bible. But others are, and I am having to deal with both kinds of critics at the same time. Hope that makes sense.

        1. RJS says:

          Douglas, you accused me of doing this very thing. A charge I take seriously given the gravity of the consequences.
          I would challenge you to show one specific example where I have ever asked you to apologize for the Bible? Honestly ridiculous! But a good attempt at a smoke wcreen. Your blogs on this topic show you to be very good at smoke screens.

          1. I think you’re right to take him seriously for his rhetoric.

    3. Hi Mr. Wilson,

      You don’t need to apologize for the Bible. You need to apologize for your false teachings, your tortuous logic, and your unBiblical principles.

      That slaves generally fled their owners, when given the chance by United States armies, that slave states forbad educating slaves, etc, all give the lie to the fiction of the slave-master happy family myth. Alexander Stephen’s “Cornerstone” speech and the official secession statements of several of the Southern states demonstrate that being “Confederate” (especially “paleo-” as in ancient or original) was to be committed to race-based slavery.

      To draw a direct causal line from the Civil War to Roe v. Wade is dubious. First, the Supreme Court’s right of Judicial Review stems from Marbury v. Madison (1803), not the Civil War. To suggest that the South was committed to limited government and therefore a good constitutionalists shouldould have fought for it flies in the face of the facts that it enslaved some of its inhabitants. To say that the Civil War was unnecessary because peaceful means were possible, ignores the fact that the Civil War was caused by the South opting out of the peaceful, constitutional means when they saw that those means might end slavery. It also ignores the findings of Prof. Fogel who concluded that slavery was on the ascendancy prior to the war.

      Finally, to value a theoretical political system, like confederacy, over justice is not a Biblical value.

      I agree with the historian from Duke who said your opinions were the American equivalent of holocaust denial.

      The problem has nothing to do with “apologizing for the Bible.” It has to do with apologizing for falsehoods so we Christians won’t have to apologize for having the equivalent of a holocaust denier in our midst.

      1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

        Dear John,

        Thanks for continuing to engage with us. I thought your comments were fine up to the last two paragraphs. Let’s allow the Duke historian to make and defend his views if he wishes, but let’s keep the comments here civil and respectful please. Wilson has said that slavery did not happen, nor has he argued that slavery was without atrocity. He has admitted both. It seems to me that makes him anything but a “denier.” He disagrees with the view that slavery was always and everywhere brutal and atrocious. He’s arguing for a “more benign” situation than he thinks is typically represented. We can disagree about where to put the line or what the general characterization should be, but to be fair no one in the discussion is a “denier.”


      2. Hi Pastor Anyabwile,

        The historian in question is Peter Wood of Duke University who wrote that Wilson’s softening of slavery was “ridiculous” and equated Wilson with “holocaust deniers.”

        Obviously Wilson doesn’t deny that slavery happened and that’s not what Wood said. Wood said that by softening what slavery was, put him in the category of a “holocaust denier.”

        Prof. Fogel’s research showed that, indeed, not all slaves experienced the atrocities that abolitionists made much of (which is why I caution against a purely anecdotal approach to characterizing slavery.) However, Wilson goes far beyond that. He wrote, “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 [the Civil War] or since. . . There has never been a multi-racial society that has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” (“Southern Slavery: As It Was”, p. 38, p. 24). Those kinds of statements characterize slavery as a racially harmonious institution and, in my opinion, push Wilson into what Woods claims: morally akin to a holocaust denier. Even if you reject that, I think you’ll agree that many people, both Christians and non-, will agree with Wood and Wilson will be someone we have to apologize for.

        1. Dan Glover says:


          Professors of big universities are often among the first to call for Christians to apologize for the Bible and they very often do it not with well reasoned arguments but by name calling and accusations. Doug’s disagreement over how slavery ought to have ended is nothing like the moral or logical equivalent of holocaust denial.

          Let’s think about WW2 and the holocaust. There are many credible historians today who believe that the Nazis and the other Axis powers needed to be overthrown and soundly beaten but who object to at least some of how this was accomplished. But this is not the same as saying that the Nazis should have been left to continue their program or that the Nazis didn’t do all the nasty things they are reported to have done. While most people fully agree that Nazism and Fascism (in Germany, Japan, Italy, etc.) were great evils, many believe the two atomic bombs should not have been dropped on Japan, that there should not have been the end-of-the-war firebombing of small, non-military-target cities and towns in Germany, or that the US and England should not have made the deals they did with Russia in order to pragmatically end the war. Some would argue that, because of the agreements signed with Russia, in the long run Stalin was able to kill more people than Hitler ever did, was able to persecute Jews and Christians as badly as Hitler did, and that Communism, which turned out to be at least as bad as Nazism, was allowed to spread and caused all kinds of evil that ended up reaching further than Nazism ever did.

          So, both Doug and Thabiti agree that slavery was great evil. Both agree it needed to come to an end. But Doug’s position, unless I have really misread him, is similar to that of a person who believes that the US and England, while fighting Nazism, should not have made a deal with Russia to end the advance of National Socialism. That deal turned out to lead to all kinds of future evils, which by most measures were at least as bad and in many cases worse (especially by total numbers), than Nazism had been. Would the war have gone on longer before it finally ended? Would the Nazis have killed more Jews in that time? Can’t say for sure (historical hypothetical), but very likely that is the case. But someone who holds to the position that the deal with Russia should never have been inked is not a holocaust denier. And this is analogous to what Doug is arguing happened because of the WAY slavery in the South ended. It made future (now present) evils that are just as bad as slavery politically possible. You may not agree with him on this, but you have to admit that he is not the moral equivalent of a holocaust denier.

          To equate Doug with a holocaust denier is simply to throw a culturally charged and headline grabbing name at him instead of engaging with his arguments – which thankfully is not the way Thabiti has been engaging with him.

          1. Hi Dan,

            Thanks for taking the time to interact. I ask that you re-read my two immediately statements above.

            I don’t believe Wilson is the equivalent of a holocaust denier because he thinks that slavery could have been ended another way — although that’s a belief held against all historical evidence: the South seceded to stop the peaceful political process that could have ended slavery; slavery was on the ascendancy prior to the Civil War (according to Fogel); the South clung to racists policies for about a century even after the Civil War and only ended them because of further federal action, and there is still entrenched racism in the South to this day. But that’s not why Wilson is the equivalent of a holocaust denier.

            He’s the equivalent of a holocaust denier because he says that slaves and masters were one big happy family: “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 [the Civil War] or since. . . There has never been a multi-racial society that has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” (“Southern Slavery: As It Was”, p. 38.) That is, in his imaginary “slavery”, it was nice. It wasn’t really what we think of slavery at all. Hence, he has denied that “slavery” was really slavery.

    4. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Doug,

      Thanks for your post today. I really appreciate the clarifications: both with regard to my request and with regard to my question. I tried once again to leave this over on your blog but I’m still unable to post comments for some reason.

      I also appreciate a blog hiatus until Monday :-). With that, I’m tuning out of the electronic world grateful for our exchanges. Enjoy the rosebush and the “dump run”.

      The Lord visit you all with power and the joy of His salvation as you celebrate His resurrection!


      1. Thabiti, I am very sorry for the trouble you are having posting. We are in the process of trying to move away from my Joomla platform, which is giving me fits. I am sorry to have to say this, but I wanted to make it clear you were not being “blocked” in any way. Well, actually you are, but by computer gremlins that are outside of my control.

  7. Valerie says:

    Pastor Wilson is right about one thing. In the Bible, God outlawed manstealing, but He permitted slavery under certain conditions. How could God permit even one instance of slavery? I don’t know. But I am the bad one; He is GOOD. I don’t judge Him; He judges me. We all agree on that.

    I agree with Pastor Wilson that the Civil War was a judgment on the south for the wickedness of slavery, as practiced there. I do not doubt that if some New England slaver had just once pulled into Charleston harbor with a load of white people from Europe, his first trip would have been his last. He would have been executed within days, and there would have been no further slave trade. I’m sorry to say that, but I honestly don’t doubt it.

    I’m not comparing the “white experience in America” with the “Black experience in America”, but I do have an old family story that I would like to share. It’s one of the most terrible and most beautiful stories I know. I’ve been telling it to my children since they were very little, because it’s the story of the deep love of the Triune God for our family, among all the families of the Earth.

    Our story opens with a minimally armed coastal people who are repeatedly attacked by well-armed savages from another nation. Time and again, their villages are burned and pillaged. The youngest and oldest are slaughtered without mercy, while the strongest are beaten, dragged away, and taken across the sea into slavery, never to see home again. Slaving ships on the horizon were, again and again, the image of death to our family, inspiring a horror that we can scarcely imagine today.

    But God was at work in the midst of that awful spectacle. When those slavers took a 15-year-old girl, killing her little brothers and her grandparents before her eyes, when they raped her, tied her up, dragged her away, and shoved her into their ship, never to see her homeland again, those murderers carried away two kinds of cargo. One was visible: a weeping, broken-hearted young woman. The other was invisible, shockingly powerful, and an imminent threat to the slavers’ way of life. In her heart, my grieving grandmother carried the Gospel from Ireland to Norway so that my pagan grandmother could hear the name of Jesus and trust in Him.

    While the Northmen served Odin and feared the spirits, they enjoyed God’s common grace. Rain fell, crops grew, babies were born. They had arts and invention. But that life of slavery to sin could not be compared to their new life in submission to Christ. Art, architecture, invention, politics, and peace all flourished under a new Commander. Because of Jesus, life was better for our people, here and now, and it was better forever.

    My family? We are the children of both those rapacious murderers and those faithful Christians. We came from them both, one as much as the other.

    What does this have to do with southern slavery? Christian African-Americans, whose grandfathers came from animist West Africa are earlier in their Gospel story, so wounds are still raw from killings, rapes, thefts, oppressions, segregations, denials of basic liberties, and so on, with no excuse for any of it. But still, African-American Christians have a story of Christ conquering their families with love. When the story of southern slavery is told as if it were all hate, suffering, and no benefit, with no glints of glory, does that really match the story that’s being told in the courts of Heaven?

    Christians don’t read history like the ungodly do. The system of southern slavery was wicked, but all the white people who loved Jesus and practiced mercy did not live north of Mason-Dixon. Some white people worked within that system, which was all that they had ever known, to share the Gospel, to show mercy, to bless African-Americans in their homes and communities. Through their faithful witness, innumerable Africans came to Christ in love and faith. So, shouldn’t we see, even amidst that awful evil, some of God’s kindnesses along the way, as He drew those families into His Kingdom?

    Pastor Wilson said, “In addition, it requires that he repent of celebrating, and giving awards to, those rap thugs who want to teach America’s next generation to think of black women as bitches and ho’s who are supposed to be beneath contempt. In the face of this demolition job being run on the black family by progressivism, with black children killed by the million, and black women publicly degraded by black men, and other black men standing by letting them, let’s get out there and rebuke the three remaining people who think that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man.”

    To me, it feels like Pastor Wilson is being called on the carpet for saying this while white. Your response is that you’re not like that, but those of us who have heard you preach already knew that. Doesn’t it seem likely that Pastor Wilson knew it, too?

    In Christ, in the Church, skin color should never mark a person as “other” or “outsider”. I know that at times it has, but it shouldn’t. Christians of all ethnicities should oppose every such division. If we are one in Jesus Christ, then we actually are one in Jesus Christ, a faithful family opposed to all that hurts. If that paragraph was written by a Black pastor, would you rebuke him for insensitivity?

    1. Gloria says:

      @Valerie where and when did Pastor Anyabwile “celebrated, and gave awards to, those rap thugs who want to teach America’s next generation to think of black women as bitches and ho’s?”

      Please stop holding the grace of God with conceit.

      1. Valerie says:

        Really? Did you read the original post, Gloria?

        Pastor Wilson did not use those words to refer to Pastor Anyabwile! He used them explicitly to refer to, in his words, “the white liberal” who celebrates those evils.

        Since Pastor Anyabwile is neither white nor liberal, how could anyone think that this is how Pastor Wilson views his brother in Christ?

        See, 11th paragraph.

        1. Valerie says:

          Obviously, those statements apply to people of any color for whom they are true, and Pastor Wilson isn’t alone in saying them. Black pastors and Black conservatives also say the very same things. I hear those very same words from friends of mine.

          Yeah, I know how intense the backlash can be from the liberals when a Black Christian is perceived as being “too conservative” or too severely opposed to evil.

          But I don’t suspect that Pastor Anyabwile, who wrote “Two Black Churches: One True, One Not” at will be among them.

          1. Gloria says:

            @Valerie that statement was made by Wilson in his blog. That was one of the things that was listed as insensitivity by Pastor Anyabwile. You were up in arms about the Trayvon Martin Comment about injection of race yet you repeated this disrespectful post and injected race by implying,”To me, it feels like Pastor Wilson is being called on the carpet for saying this while white.”

            You can complain about the injection of race and do the same thing?

            Am I reading you correctly when you imply that black people benefited through slavery because they were “drawn into the Kingdom?” Can’t an all powerful God draw people to him from where they are? Do they need to be stolen and enslaved to be drawn?
            Seems to me that this argument is no better than the ones secular colleagues use to degrade by implying those enslaved should be happy to be in America or they would be in Africa using outside toilets.

            Speaking on this, Did Wilson even consider that depopulation leads to stagnation?

            1. Sekel says:

              Right on Gloria!

          2. Valerie says:

            Gloria, I believe in the sovereignty of God, that He works good through whatever happens, including the evil that humans do. I believe Romans 8:28. I believe it for Christian slaves. I believe it for Christians whose child has died. I believe it for Christians who lose their homes, or are abused. I believe for Christians who are in terrible accidents and are horribly injured. I believe it because it’s what the Bible teaches.

            It doesn’t excuse anyone’s evil. But it is meant to comfort us in the midst of evil. I know Christians who have actually themselves walked through terribly, terribly hard, awful, sad abuses and pains who believe it, for whom it is more than a theory.

            My point is that the view that Pastor Anyabwile holds isn’t “the Black view”. That’s his personal view as a man. And that’s why these charges of racial insensitivity baffle me. I know African-American people who agree with Pastor Wilson and his wording, and I know white Americans who agree with Pastor Anyabwile and his objections.

            Skin color doesn’t determine thinking. There are African-American people who agree with much of what Doug Wilson has to say on this and who think that it’s awful to equate things like abortion, misogyny, and the abuse of women with “Black life”, as if they aren’t actually degrading.

            1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Dear Valerie and Gloria,

              I don’t want to interrupt your exchange. But I do want to “butt in” just to say, Valerie, I’ve never offered any comments in this exchange or on this blog as “the Black view.” And, in all honesty, my view shouldn’t “baffle you” simply because we can point to a diversity of opinion in the African-American community (like every other community). If we evaluate it as my opinion, sometimes supported and sometimes rejected, we should be free to engage it without trying to make it larger than it is.

              We’re all in danger of trying to prove too much when we start attempting to speak for others or claim someone’s opinion represents everyone. We all know that’s patently false. But we’re also trying to prove too much when we point to a few exceptions as though they automatically invalidate someone’s perspective or the more general perspective. I’ve said this a couple times in the various threads: I think we have to get down to deciding whether we think my critiques are fair or accurate. For his part, Wilson says “yes” and offers a sincere apology. If the writer himself can admit that (and I always find admissions of wrong in embattled situations a noble and courageous thing), shouldn’t the rest of us look a little more closely at the actual writing and not slip over into citing exceptions as though they trump the general rule or truth?

              A lot of the comments defensive of Wilson, who asked not to be defended because he believes himself to be in a fair discussion, strike me as unwilling to actually settle down and consider the issues with the same fair-mindedness that Wilson himself is endeavoring to exhibit. I don’t mean that of you ladies particularly, just a general observation from the threads as a whole. Some comments seem to position the discussion in such a way that no charge could ever be brought. That, it seems to me, is a grossly dishonest way to talk about these things.

              Grace and peace,

            2. Valerie says:

              I would like to understand, not defend Pastor Wilson. (He, haha, says a lot of things I don’t agree with!) When you say that these comments are “racially insensitive”, it seems like a very broad claim, more than just the idea that you don’t care for his wording, personally.

              You seem to be saying that these selected paragraphs are _objectively_ racially insensitive in some way, so that a general apology needs to be made, not just privately to you alone.

              But for me, it seems like you have been saying that Doug Wilson can’t talk the way lots of conservative Black pastors and commentators _do_ talk, because…. Why? (See, hears why I’m in this: I sometimes talk this way…. And as far as I can tell, I’m not losing friends for it, so…. But, if it’s objectively evil, I need to know that.)

              I’m not saying that his wording is inherently likable, so that you really should like it. :-) I just honestly don’t understand why it is sinful for him to say most of these things.

              Black or white, a lot of the church today is really messed up and not faithful to the Gospel. And what happens in the inner cities of America shouldn’t be (or should it?) of such a character that only Black people (and maybe white liberals) should be allowed to have an opinion. I think Pastor Wilson should be free to call upon inner-city pastors to be true to the Word of God and not shrug at sin. LIKE MANY OF THEM DO.

              I live in Wisconsin, and the suffering of inner-city Milwaukee is on my heart. I care about it. And I want something different and better for my people there. And I do believe that it’s going to start with revival and reformation in the churches of Milwaukee.

              I know very well that “blackness” isn’t abortion, misogyny, and abuse. So I don’t understand–maybe I don’t understand what “racial insensitivty” means–how vigorously opposing the toleration of those three things could be an assault on anything that is essential to “authentic black life”. (Like any other life, authentic black life can’t be enjoyed apart from submission to Jesus Christ.)

              Haha. I guess I’m clueless, but thanks for trying with me!! You’ve been very kind.

  8. Henry says:


    Do you really think you are accurately summarising the situation when you say:

    As I recall, there wasn’t much more than a hair’s breath between us in the ordering and exegeting of the biblical texts on the matter.

    As I understand it there are deep differences, and that is one of Doug’s main points that some feel you have not engaged. Previously you stated:

    I couldn’t help but ponder why Wilson would preach 1 Tim. 6:2 to enslaved African Americans rather than 1 Cor. 7:21.

    How is this consistent with the first statement?

    You have also stated troubling views like:

    Before we insist on obedience to the household codes, which address a matter of Christian freedom (at best)…

    Do we not have to obey?? To my knowledge you have not granted that according to the express command of the Apostle Paul and also of Moses (e.g. Lev 25:45-46) it was permissible for a Christian to own slaves, and to do so in the Roman situation in which Paul wrote. I also know from the comments that you are aware that not all commentators take the line on Philemon that you take.

    I say this not as an enemy but as a friend – it seems to me that you have been too quick to move on from the ‘angular texts’ as though there is little difference between you and Doug, as though you are both taking them equally seriously. But in reality, from my perspective at least, this is not the case. I actually think Doug should have pressed you harder on this.

    For Doug and many others obedience to the whole of scripture is absolutely the critical thing in this discussion. I actually feel a sense of injustice that Doug is being pressed so hard on the sensitivity thing and yet you are allowed to go your way Scot free without being pressed hard on your obedience to the words of God concerning slavery which has huge implications for how seriously Christians are willing to read and obey the rest of the Bible. And Doug is given almost no credit for his bravery in taking such a despised view.

    (And I say this as someone who thinks that Doug could sometimes use a little less biting sarcasm and a few more kind words in his writing. And also as someone who thinks you have displayed a very commendable kindness to your commentators in the way you have interacted with them).

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Henry, dear friend,

      Let’s just slow down a bit. I think we’re confusing things.

      First, read Doug’s post, “Love Is Never Later.” On the biblical arguments, that’s where Doug in some length spells out his agreement with me about the priority of love, how to interpret Philemon, about Paul always working toward freedom, and most of my argument about immediate manumission. As I understand it, he differed only in the speed of manumission and in some imagined circumstance where the best interest of the slave might mean continuing in that situation. We agree totally on the “best interest principle” but differ slightly in application.

      I do not at all argue we should not address or obey the household codes where they apply–although it’s open for discussion whether American chattel slavery resembled first century Roman slavery as Doug contends. Leaving that aside for a moment, all I’m arguing in your second quote of me is that if love and liberty are controlling principles, we should (a) read the household codes in that context (there’s no disagreement between Wilson and I on that) and (b) be as likely to cite 1 Cor. 7:21 as the household codes. Which, by the way, Wilson does cite in Black and Tan. I may be missing something, but there’s no inconsistency here whatsoever.

      And, finally, friend, you’ve quoted half a phrase to make it look as if I argued disobeying the Bible, which I nowhere have done. Finishing the sentence and putting the sentence in context ought to help you feel less “troubled” here. Wilson and I are in complete agreement that all scripture demands our obedience and binds our conscience. What we were discussing in those posts was precisely how to understand the how and when of obedience. Context matters, and controlling ideas like the progressive nature of scripture matter. Without looking back to the post you’re quoting, I think in the context I was saying something along the lines that love is everywhere commanded but slaveholding is nowhere commanded. I think your use of the phrase “the express command of the Apostle Paul and also the Law of Moses… it was permissible” reveals some confusion. We’re not commanded to own slaves. We may infer it’s permissibility to do so because both Lev. 25 and the household codes, for example, regulate the practice. But such regulation does not constitute a positive ought as a genuine command would do.

      So, whether a Christian held a slave at all is “at best” an issue of liberty, not a positive command. Given that slaveholding may be permissible yet not commanded, and given that love is commanded and not merely permissible, then we should prioritize love and freedom over unreflective insistence on the household codes. Again, in principle I think Wilson and I were agreed. Whether or not all commentators take our view of Philemon or not, Wilson and I took the same view of the book! Why would I disrupt agreement with the man I’m talking with by harking back to the voluminous rabbinical midrash of commentators? Wilson and I were agreed in principle, which was a remarkable and happy surprise for me. In application we seemed to me to only differ in speed of manumission. He can correct me if I’m wrong.

      So, I’m not looking to be off “Scot free” with anything. Nor do I consider myself to have ducked the prickly texts of Scripture. I’ve given you what I think is a more “whole counsel of God” approach to obeying those very texts. The discussion isn’t settled simply by pointing to one or two verses and saying, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” We’re wise to remember that God said some other things, too, and that we’re bound to let scripture interpret scripture lest we get the whole thing out of balance.


      1. Henry says:

        Hi Thabiti,

        I’d accidentally left my response to your reply further below. I’d really appreciate if you could at least respond to this bit of it:


        Given that slaveholding may be permissible yet not commanded, and given that love is commanded and not merely permissible, then we should prioritize love and freedom over unreflective insistence on the household codes.

        Thabiti I currently find this statement impossible to accept because if Paul and Moses think love means immediate manumission then why do Paul and Moses also give express permission to disobey the law of love – since they expressly permit the acquisition and retention of slaves. I cannot see how you are not setting scripture against scripture here?

        And how does this relate to your view that in Roman-type slavery the household codes should be obeyed?


        Many thanks,

        1. Henry says:

          p.s. the first part of the bit I copied is meant to be a quote from you.

  9. 1crzyglfnrppr says:

    To start this out, before this whole debacle between Wilson and Anyabwile took place, I was not much of a Wilsonite in the least and was quite the “fan” of Anyabwile. However, after having seen the initial response that Anyabwile posted about Wilson’s book, it made me curious what Black & Tan really said so I bought it for .99 on Amazon Kindle, read it in a few hours as it is not that long of a read, and for those of you who have not read it and are just listening to Anyabwile blabber on about how hurt his little feelings are by it, you will be quite surprised at how much grace, humility, passion for racial reconciliation, and desire for the glory of God to be put on display you will find in that short little, albeit controversial book.

    I have been shocked and quite disappointed with the way in which Anybwile has handled this whole situation. His subtle jabs and arrogant remarks, even the title of this post is so immature. I hate to say it takes away from all the phenomenal messages that I’ve heard from him over the years, but it will certainly taint everything for the future. When people cry insensitivity, for goodness sakes people, are we four years old still? Grow up and get some thicker skin.

    If Wilson had been black, no one would be in an outcry and that is really what this is about. And Valerie posted the comment earlier in this thread about a story of horrific ugliness and the beauty of the gospel and she made that exact point. Incidentally, Thabiti refrained from responding to that, although he does seem quick to jump on those comments siding with him. Always making sure to slip in a few jabs amongst his words of “humility, love and grace.” Really, it is so distasteful the way in which I’ve seen him go about this, and even if he was right, the way in which he has handled himself would never make me want to agree with him- and that may very well be a problem in my own heart.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi friend,

      Welcome to the discussion. I’m sorry you feel the way you do, but honestly you sound more “sensitive” and “hurt” than I ever did.

      As far as I am concerned, Wilson and I have carried on this discussion in the most respectful ways we know how. We’ve pressed each other clearly, firmly, but respectfully and honestly. We’ve both expressed that about the other in posts and in thread comments.

      Honestly, you sound more offended and defensive than either of us, especially since we think our positions have been represented fairly and charitably by the other.

      I don’t know what “subtle jabs” or “arrogant remarks” you see, but that has not been the spirit of this conversation. And if anything I have said here makes you conclude you “would never… want to agree with me,” then, you’re probably correct to conclude that your heart “may very well be a problem.” I really do leave that to you and your Lord, for each man will stand or fall with his Lord, who is able to make him stand (Rom. 14:4).

      The Lord’s grace and assurance be always with you.


      1. 1crzyglfnrppr says:

        Totally forgot about the fact I commented until the other day a friend asked me about this. So if you read this reply, sorry for the delay.

        One, I’m a reformed presbyterian, we don’t have feeling.

        Secondly, my oftentimes overly biting wit and sarcasm got the best of me and my comment probably, well not probably- it could have, been phrased better than I did initially. For that, I offer my apologies.

        Thanks for taking time to respond.

        In Christ,


    2. Hi,

      If Wilson had been black he would have known better than to make the nonsensical statements that he has. Wilson’s arguments are factually wrong on the history (e.g. that the antebellum South was a model of racial harmony), absurd in it’s logic (explain to me how fighting for a slave state is fighting for freedom?), and unBiblical in it’s priorities (as though a political system is more important than justice for the oppressed.) Wilson could have said it with all the meekness in the world but he’s still wrong.

      As for Anyabwile’s tone, almost everyone else has commended him for his meek approach. I’ve been the one trying to egg him on to take a harder, more fact-based approach, but, in the end, respecting the approach he’s chosen. Even Wilson himself has commended Anyabwile for his respectful, kind tone. So . . .

      1. Henry says:


        I’ve not been able to read all of your comments. I’ve read you say you agree with Fogel (whom Wilson cites) yet you seem to disagree with Wilson. Could you direct me to a short article of comment of yours that summarizes your claims?

        Many thanks,

        1. Hi Henry,

          Thanks for your inquiry. I’ve made comments here and there. I suppose the fullest expression of them would be at:

          I’ve know Fogel personally, both as my professor and then my employer as his teaching assistant. I believe his research is impeccable. I don’t believe that Wilson has either been fully exposed to it or fully understands it’s implications because it’s conclusion is that slavery was on the ascendancy prior to the Civil War and there is no reason it could not have been adopted to industrialization and lasted indefinitely; that slavery did not end because of any economic deficiency but because of the impact of evangelical Christians. Ironically, Fogel, a self-professed secular Jew, credits evangelicals with ending slavery while Wilson, an evangelical leader, says the way it was done was a mistake.

          1. Josh says:

            Hi John,

            I’ve been following these discussions quite fully and am grateful for it. Could you clarify a couple things for me:

            – Why was it possible for the slave trade and slavery to be abolished in the UK without bloodshed, whilst such a think would be unthinkable in the US?

            – Is it possible that some of the lingering racism in the southern states was aggravated by the civil war?


            1. Hi Josh,

              Thank you for your thoughtful questions.

              I’d guess by your use of the word “whilst” that your British! Good for you! I once had to edit a magazine written in British English, quite a struggle for a “yank” like me.

              First, it would have been possible for slavery to incrementally fade away if the Southern states had no seceded. They seceded to avoid such a possibility. So, then, the answer to your question would be that the division of powers between states and federal government was the obstacle. In Britain, the only parallel would have been if somehow Scotland seceded from the UK in order to avoid abolishing slavery.

              A further question is why was the populace in the North so opposed to slavery while the (white) populace in the South was generally for it? The answer to that, I believe, is two-fold: the Southern economy with it’s large farms (plantations) grew reliant on slave labor and evangelical Christianity (arising mostly from Puritanism) was far stronger in the North prior to the war than in the South, certainly the ethical heritage of Puritanism was far stronger in the North. Professor Fogel, a “secular-Jew”, said that evangelicals are primarily to be credited for the ending of slavery.

              I suppose some “lingering racism” is due to the Civil War. Until my early adulthood, Southerners generally would not vote for Republicans because of the lingering resentment from their treatment in the wake of the Civil War. But to suppose that racism arises mostly from the Civil War and race relations were fine before the war flies in the face of the reality of race-based slavery. Also, there is this statement by Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the CSA, describing how he (and other such Confederates) regarded black people: “African slavery as it exists amongst us [is] the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. . . . “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea [from Jefferson]; its foundations are laid, its corner–stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.” That speech was made on March 21, 1861, prior to the out-break of hostilities.

            2. jack says:

              Britain Old South.

              The Old South developed in the 1800’s into one of a few “Slave Societies”, that in which slavery defined the entire way of life and impacted all aspects. Throughout the 1800’s the South developed a massive Slave Trading empire they were in the process of expanding with aims to expand it much much further which is one of the major things that sparked the war.

              Also, Britain ended slavery partly because of Wilberforce but also because the timing was at the same time they were ending the Sugar trade. Brazillians are still bitter about this fact and have a very different understanding of Why it is Britain ended slavery.

          2. Henry says:

            Thanks John,

            I think I understand your point now. Was it really true that evangelicals ended slavery? I’d very much appreciate it if you could point me to the names and works of the major evangelicals you have in mind, and if possible the major persons and works from the opposing side?

            Many thanks,

            1. Hi Henry,

              Thanks for the interest and the question. I’m not really an expert on the abolition movement. But I believe it’s origins are rooted in Puritan (i.e. Biblical) values and theology.

              I remember in private conversation with Professor Fogel him telling me that he was amazed, as he began to discover, first that slavery was economically viable and on the rise prior to the Civil War and then investigating why it ended, that it was evangelicals who are to be credited. He said something like, ‘Here I was, a professor in some of America’s leading universities and I had no idea that evangelicals had done that.’
              Fogel concluded that it was not economic forces that brought about the end of slavery but a revolution in moral sentiment with its roots in Puritanism.

              One of the first Europeans to write against slavery (and perhaps the very first American) was Samuel Sewall, a Puritan, writing “The Selling of Joseph” (1700). Andrew Crosswell, an itinerant evangelist during the Great Awakening, decried the cruel treatment of prisoners and denounced slavery. Although Jonathan Edwards regrettably owned a slave, one of his closest followers became a key founder of the abolition movement: Samuel Hopkins. Hopkins mixed his drive for cross-cultural evangelism with his concern for African slaves. He planned and worked for an African mission led by freed slaves for 30 years. Some of the New Divinity ministers, particularly the followers of Nathaniel William Taylor, spoke out against slavery. Puritan values were spread further and deeper into American culture by what George Marsden calls “culturally aggressive New England Yankees.” Both Marsden and Fogel sketch a complicated, reflexive process in the first half of the nineteenth century in which Northern Protestants, at first battling each other for political dominance, eventually coalesced joining Northern Baptists and Methodists in the new Republican party. “The result,” says Marsden, “was that the Republican party had a strong Puritan-evangelical component, bent on regulating the society according to Christian principles.” The abolition of slavery was their first great goal and their greatest achievement.

            2. John K says:

              I’m a different John, but to piggyback on Carpenter’s summary, Theodore Weld was one such evangelical. He asked slaveholders if they really believed slavery was a positive good to change places with one of their slaves for one day. I’ve not heard of one person who took him up on the challenge. He was around in the years leading up to the Civil War.

    3. Ron Birchall says:



      I’m glad that that in spite of your initial skepticism, you took the trouble to download and read “Black and Tan”. I wish that more people following this exchange would do the same. You put it very well when you said “…grace, humility, passion for racial reconciliation, and desire for the glory of God [are]… put on display …in that short little, albeit controversial book.”

      However, I wish that you had exercised restraint in your comments about Thabiti. Christian charity in your choice of words would have made yours an excellent post.

      1. 1crzyglfnrppr says:

        Thanks for the heart check Ron. You got me. My wit and passions got the best of me. Thanks for the helpful words.

        In Christ,


  10. Matt says:


    Many blessings on you for your gentle, pastoral care even of your commenters here.

    I feel sort of a like a kid watching his parents fight–at first afraid they might divorce, but feeling more relieved and secure watching them reconcile their differences in love.

  11. Brian Metzer says:

    Thabiti, I too have gained greatly from these posts and the civil way you both have engaged. It has softened my perspective, seeing my own propensity to be trigger-happy. I believe these exchanges have produced growth in my own life, the fruit of which I hope to bear in future circumstances.

    I’d like to add, as a white male, what I perceived in my reading of “Black & Tan.” What I found “offensive” was what seemed like not just a lack of wisdom (i.e. the peacemaking of Matt 5 or the wisdom from above in James 3) due to ignorance, but rather, precisely because Wilson is so culturally astute, a deliberate delight in “sticking it to ‘em.” I can imagine a glee, sitting at desk, typing, and thinking, “Watch this! Watch how the ‘libs’ blow up over this one…” This is the kind of provocation that a character like Rush Limbaugh is so known for – which is why Limbaugh’s convenient appropriation of Christianity when it serves him seems so dubious. (Not to imply that Wilson’s Christianity is in any way in question.) Of course, this is my imagination and I’m accountable to God for it. I don’t know if this indeed happens in Wilson’s mind or at his desk. But if it does, it is so contrary to the instructions of Romans 12, “Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” This is all men. Not just believing men who give me the respect I believe I’m due – even the respect of interacting with my argument. Not even just believers. All men. To be sure, there are some who like to watch us squirm, like to see us embarrassed, and delight in making the church look foolish. But in grace, I don’t understand the posture that wouldn’t welcome even this, especially on this weekend, if it meant displaying the character of Jesus – and further, with a wounded brother.

    It appears to me that Wilson actually likes provocation – instigating, agitating, and exasperating – and then when it comes to pass, as it inevitably does, to cry foul.

    1. Brian Metzer says:

      This is seen in much broader contexts than just “Black & Tan.” Every time Wilson uses the moniker “sodomite,” while technically accurate and even “biblical,” it has a way of making people’s porcupine quills come out in defense. The word choice is deliberate.

      1. Sekel says:

        Agreed Brian, I absolutely cringe when he does that. I’m sure he thinks he’s working the “not apologizing for the Bible” angle. But I believe most take it for what it is… a punch below the belt. Maybe it’s done in [his mind in] love. Maybe he thinks the “stronger” he is with his words the deeper the effect. Yet, I think what underlines his use of that word in his homosexual “debates” is the same thing we have on display in this convo about race and reconciliation. The sad part is that this dude is actually out there in secular [liberal] institution debating various subjects and being an “apologetic” for the faith.

        Makes the common faith confessor’s life much much harder. After one of his debates a kid struggling with his sexuality, to whom I’d been meeting with to talk about the bible asked: “how come Christians like Douglas hate people like me so much”.

        Sad stuff.

        1. John K says:

          In his response to Rachel Held Evans last summer, he used what is often considered a lesbian slur (not referring to RHE herself). I think you can argue strongly against homosexuality and the GLBT lifestyle and gay marriage from the Bible without using either word (or many other words perceived as GLBT slurs) based on I Cor. 4 (when we are cursed, we bless). Of course, I’m far from perfect in the blessing when being cursed area myself.

  12. Henry says:

    Thanks for your response Thabiti, you have clarified some helpful things.

    I especially didn’t realise you believe the household codes only apply to slavery that is analogous to Roman slavery and that American slavery was not analogous. That may be a defensible position in light of Exodus 21:16 and the nature of American chattel slavery. Would you consider making this point more clearly as I have come away with the impression that you are loathe to call any slaves to submit to their masters or permit any masters to own slaves. This makes it seem (to me at least) that you are not welcoming of “angular” texts.

    I do note though, that you put a pretty tight circle of limitation around what you consider lawful slavery (i.e. only voluntary indenture if I recall) which seems to be a tighter circle than what scripture allows (e.g. what about punishment of criminals, just war captives, those born in slavery who are sons of lawful slaves? etc… things I think we see in scripture). This is a critical question to consider if your argument is based on the dis-analogy of Roman and American slavery.

    we should… (b) be as likely to cite 1 Cor. 7:21 as the household codes.

    May I ask why it is that you believe these must be set these against eachother? Even if you take this odd translation of 1Cor7:21 (odd –, it does not follow from this text that a master is prohibited from owning a slave nor is it a license for a slave to rebel against his master. Even if this translation were correct there would be no reason to think Paul has anything more in view than a slave gaining his freedom lawfully. So how does that apply to slave-owners in the South? Or their slaves? I’d love to hear you draw this out and I’m puzzled that you don’t appeal to Exodus 21:16 instead of 1Cor7:21.

    Given that slaveholding may be permissible yet not commanded, and given that love is commanded and not merely permissible, then we should prioritize love and freedom over unreflective insistence on the household codes.

    Thabiti I currently find this statement impossible to accept because if Paul and Moses think love means immediate manumission then why do Paul and Moses also give express permission to disobey the law of love – since they expressly permit the acquisition and retention of slaves. I cannot see how you are not setting scripture against scripture here?

    And how does this relate to your view that in Roman-type slavery the household codes should be obeyed?

    Please don’t hear me as trying to have an argument. I am genuinely perplexed as to how these statements of yours can fit together, and would like to understand. Thanks.

  13. Valerie says:

    >>The blood of Jesus also makes it possible for the white liberal to repent of his exasperating and cloying insistence on a soft bigotry of low expectations, coupled with his destructive subsidies of all the wrong things in the black community. But the blood of Jesus makes it possible for the liberal to repent of Margaret Sanger’s war on black children in utero. In addition, it requires that he repent of celebrating, and giving awards to, those rap thugs who want to teach America’s next generation to think of black women as bitches and ho’s who are supposed to be beneath contempt. In the face of this demolition job being run on the black family by progressivism, with black children killed by the million, and black women publicly degraded by black men, and other black men standing by letting them, let’s get out there and rebuke the three remaining people who think that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. Way to keep the priorities straight.<<

    Many Black Christians not only believe these things (except *possibly* the REL was honorable, not sure on that one), but they are very passionate about them.

    Some experience the attitude that for holding these beliefs they are outrageously and unforgivably "not Black enough". What is your opinion on that?

    When you read that paragraph, did you think that it was Pastor Wilson's assessment of _you_?

    I hear Black friends talk just like this, so I'm trying to figure out why it is offensive for Pastor Wilson to say what they say.

    Do you think that a Black pastor could make this statement without sinning? Why, or why not?

    1. Valerie says:

      Is this web site “racially-loaded and insensitive speak”?
      (The director is Black.)

      How about the movie, Maafa 21?
      (The filmmaker is white, although it has been heavily promoted by Black Christians.)

      Is this sentence offensive–
      “But the blood of Jesus makes it possible for the liberal to repent of Margaret Sanger’s war on black children in utero.”

      Or is it other sentences that shouldn’t have been written? How do I ask these questions without being offensive? But I would really like to know why this selected paragraph displeases God.

      Maybe this will seem strange, but I completely reject the concept of race, so I don’t agree with ideas like, “This is how Black people think” or “This is what white people believe”. In fact, I do not believe that southern slavery was caused by “whiteness”, but rather by the faults of the individual people, of whatever color, who were actually were at fault. Also, I completely reject the idea that the church should be in any way divided along racial lines, so that white pastors have their proper subjects and Black pastors have theirs.

      Black conservatives and white conservatives have a shared set of beliefs that, to my knowledge, are more or less well-represented by Wilson’s paragraph.

    2. Gloria says:

      Yes Valerie I would be offended if those comments were made by a black pastor because I believe everyman will answer for his own sins. I am tired of everyone black and white thinking that black people should carry the sins of the whole black race.

      I also thought that with that statement Wilson was hitting below the belt. In a somewhat gleeful way: Black life is diminishing even when free.

      My grandmother had this saying you cannot disregard the chicken and love the eggs. In plain English, Wilson cannot preach about caring so much about black babies in the womb and disregard the very ones carrying that baby.

  14. Valerie says:

    Thanks for that answer, Gloria. I really appreciate it.

    How can I know that your assessment of Doug Wilson’s message is correct? What evidence do you have that he is “gleeful” about this? How do you know that he thinks that Black people should carry the sins of the whole Black race? How were you informed that he doesn’t care about black women facing crisis pregnancies?

    Is this the most charitable reading for the words of a Christian brother? Would it make a difference in your assessment if he were to say, “No, that’s not what I meant, and I don’t believe those things”?

    Since none of these evils are conducive to a Black life that’s genuinely free, why equate this list of sins with “Black life that’s diminishing even when free”?

    Does your pastor not address subsidies? Abortion? Misogyny? The degradation of women? Does he not call any of these things “sin”? Do you believe that the Bible does not address these things?

    Reading Wilson’s words, nothing in my mind said, “Oh, he’s talking about Pastor Anyabwile!” or “Oh, he’s talking about all Black people everywhere!”

    1. Valerie says:

      Explicitly in this text, he is calling on the “white liberal” to “repent”, if they believe and practice these things. Wouldn’t it be most charitable to assume that this is the group he is addressing?

      1. Gloria says:

        Valerie if you continued reading the next paragraph Wilson States,”degrading of black women other black men standing by letting them, let’s get out there and rebuke the three remaining people who think that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. Way to keep the priorities straight.

        Brothers, I don’t have a problem with you standing up for and protecting your people. I do have a problem with your failure to do so.”

        As a Christian I would think that when we think of a people, there is the people of God and the people of the world (children of the evil one and under his sway). But reading “your people,” I am immediately struck by the thought of the other or more bluntly, your kind.

        I don’t know if Pastor Anyabwile and the others lumped into the response had birthed a people. What is Wilson saying when he says that they have failed to protect their people?

        Does he mean black society in America as a whole?
        How would they go about doing this? Are they responsible for the race or just the people they shepherd?

        If the larger community is rebelling against Christ then why are Pastor Anyabwile and others held accountable for the degradation that’s transpiring?

        I attend a small church that preaches and teaches the whole council of God. No he has not taught of Misogyny and subsidies. I am the only black person in the church so maybe they are afraid. But then again I don’t want to attend a church that makes these topics the central theme of why we gather together. Besides I find that conservatives can bash subsidies and yet be the stingiest when it comes to giving financially and of oneself.

        We can talk about liberals all day long but until we are exhibiting the fruits of Spirit and be like minded in our endeavor to reach the lost, we are no better than the liberals.

        1. Valerie says:

          Thanks for bearing with me, Gloria. I appreciate the time you’re sharing with me.

          I think by “brothers”, he means “fellow pastors”. I think by “your people”, he means “your flock”.

          Like this–

          and this–

          I really don’t think he meant for “your people” to be hateful. It’s a very common usage in our area of the country.

          >>>If the larger community is rebelling against Christ then why are Pastor Anyabwile and others held accountable for the degradation that’s transpiring?<<<

          I don't think that's the case. He is not blaming all black pastors everywhere. He's addressing the toleration of some particular sins that are causing great pain to black women and black children. He is calling for reform in the African-American church. Pastors should do that, because reform is gravely needed, not in all black churches everywhere, but in the churches that tolerate and embrace these evils. (If that offends, do know that he is pretty busy calling for reform pretty much everywhere, all the time. Semper reformanda, taking it seriously.)

          I don't think this is essentially different from what Pastor Anyabwile means when he talks about a "true black church" and a "false black church"–or the necessity for reform in the African-American church. He wrote _ The Decline of African-American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity_, right? There are some problems, and they are serious.

          There are errors in doctrine and practice that must be exposed, and it _should_ be possible to do that without having it read as an attack on "black life", as if they are one and the same thing. And if a black pastor can do that, without getting called on the carpet, then I don't understand how it's "racially insensitive" for a white pastor to do it.

          Or an average white person like me. Any Christian can call a spade a spade. I applauded vigorously when Pastor Anyabwile said the inviting T. D. Jakes to an evangelical conference was like Augustine inviting Mohammed to speak at his church.

          While T. D. Jakes is black, I don't think it was racially insensitive to say that. However, if a white pastor had said the very same thing there would be a long line of people ready to accuse him of racism.

          If it is lonely to be a Reformed black pastor, it could be less lonely if the Reformed brothers could unashamedly stand shoulder to shoulder on some things. One of the things that the Church most urgently needs to live and demonstrate is unity in Christ.

          1. Gloria says:

            Valerie you are all over the place. Please read again. Pastor Wilson started off addressing Pastor Anyabwile, Brian Loritts and Andrews (I’m sorry his name escapes me). Please read in the context in which the argument was framed. T.D. Jakes and the like was not brought up.

            1. Valerie says:

              It’s just an example of the difference I’m talking about, which has been observed by both black Christians and white Christians.

              It’s great for Pastor Anyabwile to criticize a piece of public writing and respond to it point for point, but if I’m understanding the principle that’s being taught here, it’s that when one reader is offended, this is proof that a writer has sinned against God and should publicly repent and confess his sin.

              It’s been suggested that no objective standard can cover all the cases of “insensitivity”, so that any person has the authority to make a final determination based on his subjective feelings. (Presumably, gender insensitivity works by the same principles.)

              But I’ve been offended by stuff my husband said because my kids had been naughty all day, or because I burned the beans. I’m not holy, so how can I function as the measuring rod for someone else’s sin?

              To be honest, I trust Pastor Anyabwile with that kind of power a whole lot more than I trust myself, but I still don’t think it’s Biblical. And that’s just me saying that I don’t think it is. I’m just not convinced.

              It needs more nuance, or something, because the Bible also teaches us to hear charitably, to overlook minor offenses, and to believe the best of our brothers and sisters and not be quick to take an offense. It seems like it’s as easy to hear without supreme and perfect kindness as it is to speak without supreme and perfect kindness. (Log in my own eye, right?)

              A principle taught is a principle applied, and how is this one not applied without some people feeling like they have to walk on eggshells? And how is that conducive to building friendships in the church?

              Sometimes the Apostles apologized, and sometimes they didn’t, but it seems clear from Scripture that not every case of ruffled feathers recorded in Acts was due to the sins of the preacher.

              I don’t know any good pastors who don’t offend people when they talk about abortion, vile music, hatred, abuse, and so on. But I can’t imagine applying this to the pulpit. How would that work? If I am unhappy with what the pastor said about sin, then he’s in sin for making me unhappy?

              The principle that’s taught and established is the one that people will hear and apply, possibly without all the grace that’s run through this discussion.

            2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Hi Valerie,

              I don’t think you understand the “principle” here. I am not arguing that whenever someone is offended then a sin has occurred. I’m not arguing that at all, for surely some people are offended at the color shirt someone else wears.

              No, I’m saying there are things that are inherently offensive, insulting, unloving, unkind, etc. Such things are indeed sin. When we sin against others in speech, then we should repent of that sin and bring forth fruit evidence of repentance.

              I have argued in one post–and others are free to disagree–that comments in Black and Tan miss the mark. While we didn’t item the particulars (what I gave was a sample), Wilson himself admits that some of the things he wrote there failed this test. If he freely admits this then I think continuing to act as if this is about “hurt feelings” is really to miss the point, and, more importantly, to miss God’s grace at work.

              As for Acts, keep in mind that the Bible doesn’t always condemn what it records. There are places where things are clearly sinful and the sacred writer records it without narrating the sin. Think, for example, of David and Bathsheba. We read that historical account, faithfully recorded, and we do so knowing we’re reading about sin but not being told so. Acts and the epistles record other examples for us. Think of Paul and Barnabas’ “sharp contention.” I don’t think we’re told it was sin, but it was definitely sinful in its effects. Two brothers were divided and unreconciled for some time. Whether they spoke sinfully or not, someone somewhere had some sinful attitudes and didn’t immediately seek reconciliation as the Lord teaches we’re to do.

              My point here is simple and one that needs to be observed in all the appeals to historical passages of scripture: We don’t build our theology on historical narrative alone; the controlling passages should be the clear teaching texts like the epistles. Just as we might go straight to the “angular” texts in the household codes to say at minimum this was the clear responsibility of slaves in Paul’s day, we must also go to the similarly “angular” texts (angular to those who might struggle with speech issues) like 2 Tim. 2:24. That passage is clear, and many others like it, and no appeals to Scripture’s historical anecdotes may overturn it.

              So, to summarize, I am arguing that biblically there are patterns and instances of speech that are themselves sinful, objectively compared to biblical texts. This does not rest on feelings primarily or alone (as some keep trying to suggest). Second, the “angular” texts for speakers are as clear–I’d say more clear!–than any angular texts regarding slavery. It all reveals that “angular” depends on whether you’re sitting at the corners or sides of the box. Perhaps the first and best thing we should all do is embrace the texts that are pointiest for us, getting the log out of our own eye as you say, and stop policing the “legitimacy” of other people’s feelings.

              Grace and peace,

  15. Mike Prince says:


    I have been following the back and forth between you and Pastor Wilson for the past week or so and want to thank each of you for your continued efforts and edifying work.

    I have not had the time to keep up with all of the comments so if the following (or something similar) has already been asked please forgive my ignorance.

    Above you said, “I’m for Wilson stating what he thinks and risking the skin to stand behind it. I’m just not for the insensitive way he’s done so at points in the book.” And in a previous post you have cited several examples of such insensitivities. I was wondering if it might be possible for you to offer Doug a more sensitive way of stating what he thinks and standing behind it.

    So, for example, you cite the following as one of Doug’s insensitive comments: “Who cannot lament the damage to both white and black that has occurred as a consequence of the way in which slavery was abolished? I am forced to say that, in many ways, the remedy which has been applied has resulted in problems that are every bit as bad as the original disease ever was. Christians who doubt this should consider whether it was safer to be a black child in the womb in 1858 or in 2005″ (p. 60).”

    I understand that you do not agree with Doug’s linking the abortion issue with the Civil War. But, since you aren’t asking him to abandon his argument just state it in a way that would be more racially sensitive, how might he have worded the above paragraph (or any of the other examples you cited previously) so as to make the same argument without the insensitivity?

    1. Tim says:

      This is my concern.
      How does one do this in a non offensive way? It seems like the offense is taken at the argument itself.

  16. SJE says:

    Someone who was offended by Wilson said that they are a minister in a black community, and that Wilson made things more difficult for him and his ministry, and would have grieved his black friend’s hearts.

    Let me offer a contrasting view, because I am kind of a minister in a white community, so to speak. I took a white wife, and I now live in a lily white state. I’ve come a long way from the inner city ghetto where I grew up. I have also had a lot of racial honesty over the years from my Mexican grandfather as well as a lot of racial honesty from bloggers on the internet, one of which I will mention in a moment.

    The point I’d like to get to is that Pastor Anyabwile levels the charge of racial insensitivity against Wilson by claiming that Wilson was not thorough enough in listing the sins of whites. While most white people would be quick to verbally and publicly agree with Thabiti on this notion, I can say from firsthand experience that the white behavior of smiling, nodding, and even adding their own favorite examples of white sin wears down on their psyche. The irony is that pastor Thabiti mentions Emmet Till, Rosewood, and Trayvon Martin as possible examples of being more grievance-inclusive; but the irony is, according to a black man named Walter Williams who wrote “America’s New Racists” (, 2011), that whites do not need to go back 75 years, or create racial myths about “Trayvon walking while black” because the vast majority of *racial crimes* in America, according to many stats, are committed by non-whites against whites. So, for Pastor Thabiti to play this game is a dangerous move, and is a perfect example of doing the *opposite* of being colorblind and sensitive to whites. I can tell you that whites are scared of liberals turning their rural lives into something right from Detroit or South Chicago, and as someone who fled this type of ghetto culture, I can’t blame them. I understand their concern and I do not dismiss it because there are better ways to assuage them.

    There is an international multi-million dollar industry that specializes in teaching everyone about the sins of whites (especially the male Christian variety) and the benefits of limiting the number of Christian white males that can gather in one place at any time without at least one “diverse person” being present to lend them credibility in anything they might say or do. We all know that every identity group in society is encouraged to identify and seek empowerment as a group, except whites. They are forbidden to publicly join together as whites, even when they are not a majority amongst non-whites.

    So perhaps now pastor Thabiti can see why whites are subconsciously offended, or worn down when this complaint continues. I believe that white people will begin to crack, as a whole, and the feelings of whites against the charges of racism and supremacy will eventually be *accepted* by whites with a kind of “who cares” attitude. Whites are starting to feel that there is nothing they can do to atone for their sins, and young secular whites especially not indoctrinated by liberals are beginning to see that they have no sins to atone for in the first place and that non-whites have no legitimate grievances against them anymore. I think it is going to get worse, and get ugly, if we keep up on this racial-grievance-go-round. It is time to stop. It is time for a colorblind society.

    1. SJE says:

      It is time for iron to sharpen iron.

    2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi SJE,

      Thank you for your comment, friend. Actually, I think you’d be surprised to know how much I agree with some of what you’ve written.

      First, it’s clear to me that there are resentments and counter-resentments and counter-counter-resents back and forth across the racial and ethnic divides. The “racial-grievance-go-round” as you call it. I don’t know why you think I’m unaware of whites being “subconsciously offended,” or even consciously offended. I think and have witnessed and sometimes experienced a great deal of it.

      Second, I agree that a great deal of our difficulty stems from fear-based perceptions of the “other” who is bound to ruin our lives in some way. Those fears can be as small and common as clinching a purse or “not in my back yard” attitudes, or seeing racism in every interaction and manipulating guilt.

      Third, I’m all for a “color-blind society,” in a certain sense. I don’t believe “race” exists and I believe the very category of “race”is the part of the poison giving rise to all these symptoms. If you like, you can watch/listen to one of my sermons on the subject:

      But, here’s what I think your comments miss. And I don’t raise this as a way of excusing what can sometimes be manipulative uses of “color” or “race.” But it’s important to say when we’re thinking about this merry go round. The comment is this: African Americans did not create “race” or the social stigmas, prejudices, etc. related to “race.” That’s not to say African Americans cannot be racist, prejudiced, or incredibly color conscious. We can be and many are–even inside the community. But sometimes it feels as if Whites blame African Americans or always playing the race card while failing to remember that Whites dealt the cards in the American experiment. Blacks didn’t invent race, predicate slavery and society upon it, and punish for centuries anyone who did not bend to the social rules of race. So to now look at the changes in racial dynamics and identify only the ways some African Americans manipulate or leverage racial factors is to observe only half the truth. An honest conversation has to not only put the resentments on the table–Black and white–but also do so with some accurate sense of the history that brought us here. To pause for a moment and give Doug Wilson some credit for Black and Tan: at least he’s trying to exegete the history in a way that does explain our current cultural crises, and I do not think he’s wrong that the Civil War deepened racial animosities. That’s evident in Reconstruction, the counter-Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow history that followed.

      But here’s the thing: All of our assumptions about “race” and actions based upon it is a certain kind of insanity, a disiassociation with what’s really real. The biblical anthropology is clear: there’s one humanity in Adam. To pretend otherwise is insanity, or at least a mass collective collusion and delusion. We’re all complicit and we can’t fix the insanity until we return to the root of our shared identity, and that’s going to require all of us to repent of this mess. We can’t hold onto the feelings, resentments, identities and the like and expect to escape Alice’s maze down here in racial wonderland. And yet we can’t let go of those things if we don’t all pony up and do the heart work–and there’s a lot of heart work for everybody to do. I suspect from your comment here you might agree.

      The irony in your comment is that your concluding paragraph actually calls for racial sensitivity–shown to whites. I’m all for that. A number of people have commented as though the society is too sensitive and afraid of the truth. I don’t find that to be the case. Quite the opposite actually. The society is too brutish and impolite, and it’s been going on so long that the love of many has grown cold. Our way forward isn’t to get “stiff upper lip,” or to “keep calm and carry on.” Our way forward has to involve an honest softening of the heart, to slow down and listen, and to actually work at feeling for each other. At least that’s how I see it.

      Happy Easter to everyone. Now stop commenting and go celebrate the resurrection! He is risen!


  17. SJE says:

    Thank you for your response, sir.

    As for restating my solution- in order to address your characterization of my concluding paragraph, I would say in my opinion, whites are about as open as they’re going to get, so to speak. Thanks for sharing your view, but whites are about as ripe for conversation as they’re going to get. Like I said, I don’t see the coming secular neo-pagan social Darwinian generation being *more* sensitive about race, women, religion, or even liberty. I think that the next evolution for young whites will be the rise of the secular right, and I think they will make the liberals look like a fond memory. I think it is time for all people to speak up now and end what I mentioned: the industry of publicly blaming whites. It is time to stop institutional discrimination which is also known as affirmative action. I propose colorblindness as opposed to more complaining about race. I know this is a tall order, but if you think I’m off my rocker I would just like to ask you (or anyone else upset by my proposal) a simple question: “When does it end?” When does affirmative action (for example) end? What is the goal? Many are wondering.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Friend, you make White people sound worse than anyone on this blog ever has. And, you’re the only one to say you are “off your rocker.”

      As for when it will end, when Jesus returns we’ll see an end to all our grief and pain. Praise God, He is risen!

      Happy Easter to you,

      1. SJE says:

        You too, sir.

  18. Tom Brainerd says:

    Pastor Anyabwile,

    Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Thank you for your interactions with Pastor Wilson and those on this blog, and for your attempts to ensure that everybody gets to wear everybody else’s shoes, regardless of whether they pinch.

    I have read your post about the ‘Two Black Churches’ and, in concert with your comment above (“That’s not to say African Americans cannot be racist, prejudiced, or incredibly color conscious. We can be and many are–even inside the community.”), would it be reasonable to posit that there are racist black churches and racists in the pulpits of some black churches?

    If, indeed, there are racist black churches and racists in black church pulpits, what about that rhetoric? I would hope that there would be some agreement around the thought that ‘racial insensitivity’ could be attributed to that group. I certainly listen to the public pronouncements of some of the prominent black preachers and have a deep sense of ‘racial insensitivity,’ including the fomenting of black-on-white violence. Now, I understand that, as you have said, whites ‘created the deck.’ However, I teach my flock, in and out of my home, that “It’s not what they do, but what you do.” Would that not be a biblically correct understanding? It may be more difficult for a black pastor to avoid the temptation of racial insensitivity, because of the burden of offenses former and current, personal or corporate, of white against black, but is it any less sinful?

    I note in the comments otherwhere in this thread, that there is at least one call for Pastor Wilson to be excised from the body of Christ, asserting Titus 2:3 as the scriptural guidance. Let’s assume the hypothetical presented to us, that there is a brother pushing for this who is a member of BBC. Should he not equally rail against racism and racial insensitivity in the black church? To coin a phrase, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If that brother happens to be African-American, should that not then be the more forceful? There is, after all, a complaint that the ‘white’ board of TGC is not taking up this cause shoulder-to shoulder with you.

    Would attacking Pastor Wilson on this point, while giving existential evidence of thinking the other ‘benign,’ be racist in and of itself?

    Sorry if I have rambled and been less than incisive.

    Christ’s blessings on you, family and flock.

    1. Tom Brainerd says:

      The last sentence of the second paragraph should read: “It may be more difficult for a black pastor to avoid the temptation of racial insensitivity, because of the burden of offenses former and current, personal or corporate, of white against black, but is such insensitivity any less sinful for him?”

      Trying to avoid ambiguity.

    2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Tom,

      Yes, it would be reasonable to posit that there are racist black churches and racists in the pulpits of some black churches.

      Yes, their rhetoric and the rhetoric of any racist would be “racially insensitive” by definition.

      Yes, it’s appropriate to teach our flock that they should monitor how they respond. As much as it depends on you, live at peace with all men, yeah?

      I don’t make excuses for African American pastors or persons when it comes to the temptation to racial insensitivity. Understanding these things doesn’t excuse them. Such a person is just as liable to sin and, therefore, in need of repentance as anyone else. But I will tell you this, it’s a remarkable providence and grace of God that given the centuries of abuse African Americans have suffered in the country that in general African Americans have held a high view of everyone’s humanity. A good book-length study of Black attitudes toward whites through the period we’ve been discussing (radicalization of abolitionism to just before Civil Rights era) might be Mia Bey’s The White Image in the Black Mind: African-American Ideas about White People, 1830-1925.

      Yes, we should “rail against” racial insensitivity wherever it occurs. Our “railing” shouldn’t be more forceful in this case versus that case, but even in tone and consistent in rhetoric.

      I would not use “racist” interchangeably with “racial insensitivity.” I’ve tried to make that distinction carefully in this discussion. Saying something “racially insensitive” does not make one a “racist.” And a “racist” can be quite sensitive in their speech. So, to your last question, “no,” I do not believe attacking Wilson on this point and considering another “benign” would be “racist in and of itself.” It would certainly be sinfully inconsistent, but not necessarily racist.

      Hope I caught all your questions. Grace to you,


      1. Tom Brainerd says:

        Pastor A,

        Thank you for the response.

        You are correct that it is a display of God’s grace, both common and special, that we have even the level of racial concord that we do. There are clearly forces working against that on both sides, and He appears to be keeping those in reasonable check. Jesus died for that.

        I note that your point on this was made in your recent post about the ‘suffering’ of the American Evangelical Church, which is not yet really suffering at all, and the recommendation that we look to the Black Church, as it appears as true church, for exemplar. I commended it to my flock in the context of the closing of the Beatitudes.

        A follow-on question…not in the context of your discussion with Pastor Wilson, but more as a guide in the instruction to ‘look to yourself when trying to win your brother’ as it applies to these threads of comments, on both sides. Looking back (if memory serves) to the English Puritans, there is a conception that ‘truth-telling’ done out of malice toward one’s brother and his reputation, is a violation of the Ninth Commandment. Would that apply in the context of such done in the context of ‘sinful inconsistency?’

        And, to avoid doubt, this is not a special pleading to say that charges cannot be brought, but that there is a heart with which they can be validly brought. By Pastor Wilson’s own admission, he believes that you are working from that valid base.


        Christ’s blessings on you, family and flock.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Tom,

          I think such truth telling would indeed violate the 9th commandment. It could apply to ‘sinful inconsistency’, I suppose. If we’re being inconsistent out of malice, that would imply intent and be one form of insensitivity. It’s really turning the truth into a weapon rather than a balm.


      2. Hi Pastor Anyabwile,

        I’ve frequently heard the reply, “But there are black racists too”, often in reply to a challenge to white racism. First, I think it’s often an attempt to dodge responsibility. Second, while I partially believe it, I don’t really believe black racism against whites is widespread because I’ve been around black people quite a lot and never experienced it. The closest experience to it is when I ran in a track meet at Tuskegee Institute and was the only white runner in my race, prompting cries of “white boy” from some in the crowd, but I’m pretty sure (from their tone of voice and the respectful reception afterward) that they were just playing. I waved at the crowd as I approached the finish line! I’ve lived two years in Ethiopia and worked for the US Census in the south-side of Chicago where I appeared to be the only white employee among hundreds. I never felt animosity based on race.

        However, when, in 1986, I took a black girl as my date to a party in Birmingham, AL, I got a taste of racism. I clinch my teeth at the memory of it to this day.

  19. Valerie says:

    When I read the posts and comments of Douglas Wilson, I think of them as representing the views of Douglas Wilson, and not “white people”.

    When I read the posts and comments of Thabiti Anyabwile, I think of them as representing the views of Thabiti Anyabwile, and not “black people”.

    I know for sure that there are Black people who agree with Pastor Wilson, in most of the quotes that were marked as “racially insensitive”, and I know that there are white people who agree with Pastor Anyabwile. I do not think it’s possible that _skin color_ could determine the way a person has to read this debate.

    Knowing that there is not a monolithic black view on one side and a monolithic white view on the other side (no, not even on the wording) makes it hard for me to believe that the point of difference could actually be “racial insensitivity”.

    As I said before, I have heard Black pastors say some of the very same things that have been selected as “racially insensitive” from the pen of Pastor Wilson. And I’ve heard them say them with PLENTY of vigor, much stronger language, and choruses of Amens from the congregation, especially when they get going real good on abortion, misogyny, and abuse, like Doug did.

    And a Black conservative can rant just as well on so-called “entitlements” as a white conservative can. I know, because I know them.

    Everyone thinks for himself, and melanin levels don’t have anything to do with either the inclinations of our hearts or the responses that we’re going to make to these arguments.

    >>>>>But sometimes it feels as if Whites blame African Americans or always playing the race card while failing to remember that Whites dealt the cards in the American experiment. Blacks didn’t invent race, predicate slavery and society upon it, and punish for centuries anyone who did not bend to the social rules of race.<<<<<

    This is what really bothers me. "Whites" didn't do that. Particular people did that, and most of them are dead.

    When I hear from Black academia that "Whites" think like this, believe this, are responsible for this or that, well, I just don't think it's true. But, in the world you kind of expect that, and you expect to see it go both ways.

    But in the church? Defensibly? Isn't our allegiance to our brothers and sisters in Christ far more than skin deep? I feel an immediate kinship and love with a godly Christian Black woman who shares with me in the Body and Blood of Christ. She is more my sister than any unbelieving white girl, and I am more her sister than any unbelieving black girl. We both know that to be in Christ is a deeper and far more permanent relation than anything based on skin color.

    I disagree with the thinking, "We all know what Black people are like and what they're responsible for." But I equally reject the thinking, "We all know what White people are like and what they're responsible for." Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, that's not how it works.

    Every man sins (in whatever way) because he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed. The fact is that there have ALWAYS been white people in America who received Black people as friends and fellow citizens.

    White people alive in America today had nothing to do with southern slavery, and most of them had nothing to do with Jim Crow. What's more, the majority of white people alive in America today did not even have great-great-great-(etc)-grandparents who were slave traders, slave holders, or part of the system of slavery or Jim Crow.

    Whiteness wasn't the offender. Rather, particular people were the offenders. Regarding southern slavery, the truth is that it ended 160 years ago, and God has judged both masters and slaves, who are all either in Heaven and Hell. He has righted it all, as it concerns those who actually experienced it, who were all (to the last man) egregious, wicked sinners. He forgave some because their lives were hidden with Christ in God, and He condemned others to Hell, not for being on the wrong side among men, but for taking sides against God, rejecting Christ.

    I have never had an African-American friend who treated me like today's white people (me) are responsible for southern slavery, and Jim Crow, and couldn't understand the issues, and are responsible for making racism in the first place. I think those efforts, wherever they appear, are insensitive and maybe divisive.

    I reject the idea that it's possible to see a person's skin and know their sins, prejudices, beliefs, and inclinations. I also reject the idea that abortion, misogyny, and abuse can't be strenuously opposed by ANY godly Christian, WHEREVER they occur.

    Gal 3–
    "But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise."

    I think we can extrapolate from this that there are neither black, nor white, for we also are all one in Christ Jesus. Our allegiance is to Christ, and to one another long before it's to people who merely share our ancestry and nationality.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Valerie,

      Thanks for your comments. As I read them, I’m wondering why it feels like we’re disagreeing. I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written, though it reads to me like you think we are.

      For example, you write:

      I reject the idea that it's possible to see a person's skin and know their sins, prejudices, beliefs, and inclinations. I also reject the idea that abortion, misogyny, and abuse can't be strenuously opposed by ANY godly Christian, WHEREVER they occur.

      Me, too! Amen!

      I think we’re pretty close. Perhaps the one place we might see things differently would be to the extent “White people” as a group of people invented and complied with “race” as a category. You’re certainly correct to argue that individual people invented the category, wrote about it, etc. But I don’t think we can deny that the entire society was predicated upon racial thinking and behavior. Not all invented the concept to be sure, but the vast majority participated in it, benefited from it, and failed to reject it. That’s the only way society could have come to be characterized by so much racial thinking and action. So, here, we may be in some disagreement.

      But as to your overall point, I think we’re in lock-step agreement, at least I hope we are.

      Moreover, your post is helpful in illustrating an important point: We need to be careful in the way we draw lines between historical events and people and today’s people and events. You’re surely correct when you say no White person alive today owned a slave, etc. And you’re correct that White people alive today shouldn’t be treated or blamed as if they did. I think if you read or reread Black and Tan with that principle in mind, I think you’ll find a number of places where that attempt to connect the dots between people and places then and now creates the very problems you’re reacting against. That is, people today get blamed or characterized in unhelpful ways because Black and Tan looks back to some people then and connects the two. What you found objectionable in my comments about “White people” as a class, I find objectionable in Black and Tan when it comes to its comments about Black people as a class, not being careful to make the kinds of distinctions you’re arguing for here.

      Grace and peace,

      1. Valerie says:

        It seems like we agree on most things! I’m very happy for that, Pastor. And I’m grateful for your kindness talking to me. Thank you!

        According to Henry Louis Gates, about half a million Africans were brought to the United States as slaves. He says that 90% of these had their liberty stolen by powerful black men, chiefs and warlords. While, southern slavery could not have existed without a white market, it wasn’t caused by some evil peculiar to whites. Rather, it was caused by human evil.

        Were slave owners mostly white? Absolutely. Were the “vast majority” of white Americans “participating in it, benefiting from it, and failing to reject it”? I don’t believe that’s true. There are many evidences against this contention, but due to the widespread opposition to African slavery among white Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries, we almost didn’t even have a country. Twice.

        Were the perpetrators of Jim Crow mostly white? Absolutely. Were the “vast majority” of white Americans “participating in it, benefiting from it, and failing to reject it”? I don’t believe so. With the exception of some widespread, unjust “anti-miscegenation” laws, which must have hurt individual whites at the exact same rate that they hurt individual Blacks, Jim Crow was largely restricted to the same region that had formerly embraced slavery, a small percentage of the nation. The majority of white Americans did not identify with that system.

        Who gets the blame that the chains of slavery were forged by black men and retained by white men? Who gets the honor that both black and white men and women fought for freedom, not all of them honestly, not all of them safely, not all in the same way, but relentlessly for nearly a century?

        What does a godly white person do when he reads in his Bible that owning slaves is permitted in some instances? Phillis Wheatley was purchased as a seven-year-old slave _because_ Susanna Wheatley saw that she was sick and frail and needed love and compassion. Thank God for the Wheatley family, who were godly slave owners.

        Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
        Taught my benighted soul to understand
        That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
        Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
        Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
        “Their colour is a diabolic dye.”
        Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
        May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
        –Phillis Wheatley
        (That’s from the woman who lived it. I would not use the words “black as Cain”, but I still like the poem, which was hers to write.)

        Should we blame Susanna Wheatley for her kindness, because it never occurred to her to adopt Phillis as her own child? Susanna couldn’t have imagined that within about 250 years white Christians would be spending $10,000-$20,000+ to rescue just one Ethiopian orphan, asking nothing in return, and granting that African child full rights and privileges with the rest of their children. While adoption may not have entered Susanna’s mind, it may not be reasonable to charge her with sin because she wasn’t the first to consider that new idea.

        So, Phillis grew up as a slave. She got a good education, was a celebrated poet, met President Washington, traveled to London, met the Lord Mayor, and was invited to meet King George III. She enjoyed those blessings due both to her creativity and to the love and support of her master and mistress. Phillis was freed at the age of 25, upon on her master’s death. Her master’s only child died soon after this. Phillis soon married a free black man. When he was imprisoned for debt, Susanna was forced into deep poverty and a degree of hard labor that she had never experienced in slavery. Her first two babies died in infancy. Her third died 3 hours after his mother, both of them probably due to malnutrition, at least in part.

        Can we say for sure that John and Susannah Wheatley _defied God_ (that’s what sin is) by giving Phillis the kind of home that they gave her while they lived? Whatever they did, it had to be done within the scope of the Word of God, their imagination, and the realities of Phillis’ world. John and Susanna didn’t have the power to change the whole social system for Phillis, but they did what they could, what they knew to do. And there is abundant testimony from the _Slave Narratives_ that they were not nearly the only ones.

        1. John K says:

          I understand you’re trying to correct particular statements that were said, maybe Thabiti’s. In some of the cases, correction is appropriate. I just think your overcorrecting.

          “Were the ‘vast majority’ of white Americans ‘participating in it, benefiting from it (slavery), and failing to reject it’? I don’t believe that’s true.” I would say, however, that the vast majority of white Southerners, at least in the states that made up the Confederacy, were actually participating in it, benefiting from it, and failing to reject it, certainly at least the latter, and certainly before the war. There was a time in the South where open criticism of slavery by Southerners was tolerable, but not in the decade before the Civil War. And as James M. McPherson put it, even those Southerners who were not in the slave trade aspired to be. He quoted someone who said “slavery is the ‘ulma thule’ of Southern Socieity” saying that was why Southern people labored at whatever their trade was, because they had the dream of becoming a plantation owner with a lot of slaves, even if only a few ever got to that point (Nickelback had a song which said “we all just wanna be big rock stars”; change rock stars to plantation owners and that song characterized much of the South, according to the ‘ulma thule’ quote). By the Civil War, perhaps as much as 1 of 3 people in the South were slaves (there were 4 million slaves in 1860, 1 of every 8 Americans total, and a far higher percentage in just the South). Slavery was a very very big deal in the South.

          “Were the “vast majority” of white Americans “participating in it, benefiting from it, and failing to reject it?” You say you don’t think so, but for a long time the latter was true after the Civil War. Racism went far beyond southern bounds, as blacks found out when they started moving to the North in the early 20th century. And there was hardly a big protest movement for a long time over the issue, so Northerners were failing to reject it. After some deliberate and significant governemental effors during Reconstruction (it was not a mere “wave”, as Wilson put it), the issue was relatively ignored by the rest of the country

          “Jim Crow was largely restricted to the same region that had formerly embraced slavery, a small percentage of the nation.”

          You say “small percentage”, I would say instead it was a sizeable, significant portion of the nation, a portion geographically larger than many whole countries and even some multiple countries together.

          It was evil for black men to do what they did in perpetuating the slave trade. It was evil for white men to do what they did in perpetuation the slave trade, as well as people of other races. We don’t want to assume that it was only white people, but white people did a big part. Not to mention very often these white men had some kind of semblance of Christianity, or at least were raised in societies that had a semblance of Christianity. If black from a non-Christian society do certain things, and people from at least a somewhat Christian society do the same things, those from the latter have more moral culpability, and often it was “white” people with significant moral culpability.

          While I’m glad for the story of the slave above, often ‘Christian’ masters/overseers tried to “refine” their slaves, with disastrous results. “From Sea to Shining Sea” by Marshall and Manuel makes a point that sometimes it was non-Christian masters/overseers who weren’t as bad as the Christian masters, because they didn’t try to “refine” their slaves, while the Christian ones did. The whip was often a tool of refinement. And there were accounts of blantant religious hypocrites. One of the Grimke sisters tells a story about a woman who had religious meetings in her house and was very charitable to poor (white) people, but would constantly whip her slaves with special paddles and command brother to whip sister and vice versa. Not to mention a lot of white missionaries went to Africa and Asia to “refine” the peoples there, sometimes with disastrous results.

          1. John K says:

            “perpetuation of” “if people from a non-Christian society (not “black from). Please excuse the errors.

          2. Valerie says:

            I agree with most of this, John. At the time of the Civil War, 20% of the whites lived in the confederacy and many of these were extremely poor “white trash”, who were very much despised by all the rest of society, both landowners and African-American slaves. Some people had a *lot* of power.

            White people piloted and manned slaving ships, ran auctions, bought slaves, imagined and enforced the Jim Crow laws, and have mistreated African-Americans in many ways. I’m not denying the history.

            HOWEVER, the majority of white Americans today are not related to that system either by blood or by sympathy. We got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from white guys. If it were true that the whole country were a monolithic white force in favor of slavery and then a monolithic white force in favor of Jim Crow, we’d still have both.

            But people are able to think and reason independently of their skin color and so they have. The _only_ racist who should be bearing blame and shame is the racist who _is_. Not the person who is taken to be “part of the problem”, just for having light skin.

            And for the past, I think it’s right to put some things into a fair context. Antebellum, throughout the United States and Canada, it was generally expected that orphans, widows, single people, and strangers would move into stable households, working together for the prosperity of the head of their household in exchange for provision and protection. Even for able-bodied single men, there were very few “bachelor pads” in those days.

            While this system generally wasn’t forced by the householder, as slavery was, it was very much forced and enforced by the life-and-death realities of the time. Even among free people, this was _the_ social safety net. The only viable means of escape from an abusive household was either to save money and start a new household or find a more friendly place willing to take another mouth to feed. People who could not find a place in a household suffered terribly, living worse and working harder than many, many slaves. Slave or free, life wasn’t easy for very poor people.

            Were people sometimes abused in this system? Yeah, they were, both slave and free. People are people, and they sin against each other. Slavery was worse, of course. Manstealing is a horrible evil, to begin with, and it’s a blessing to be free to “pick your poison”, in terms of where and how to live as a very poor person. But it’s also true that most comfortable, kind households were only available to African slaves and not to any “white trash” in the south. People are people whatever their color, and prejudice is what it is.

            I’m not excusing that system of racist slavery, by any means, but it is hard for people to be the first to think new thoughts. In pagan Rome, it was assumed that the Emperor had the power of death over his subjects, if he didn’t get the kind of worship he liked. The disappearance of this kind of thinking has been very gradual in the western world. It took considerable time for Christians to develop a strong concept of liberty of conscience and in the meantime property was confiscated, people were banished, people were killed.

            Althusius, one of the foremost Puritan political thinkers, observed that if the preaching of the powerful Word of God didn’t work for the conversion of a man, then it was certainly foolish to think that the terrors of civil punishment could accomplish anything to that end. (That was revolutionary. He should have been given a peace prize.)

            So, it seems like there could be a little bit of a balance where we *do recognize* that it was sinful to abuse religious noncomformists without being haughty and assuming that if we had been on hand it never would have happened that way. We’ve been blessed with more understanding of Scripture than they had, and further Reformation of the Church, but this is God’s work in us and not a cause for boasting.

            The old southern argument, that it takes generations to set _imago Dei_ on his feet in the New World, is absurd. But I know this not because I am one of the most reasonable humans who has ever lived, HAHA, but because I learned it from my parents, my pastors, my teachers, and not least from black friends, who are like me, in whom I can recognize the same heart, loves, abilities, etc. I am not too good to be as bad as any, so should I boast against the long-dead, benighted people who weren’t given the same relationships and graces I have? For what purpose, except to compliment myself?

            Have blacks and whites always gotten along in America? Of course not. Unregenerate humans *typically* regard other humans as automatic enemies, for any difference. This is why children form factions on the playground. Some whites considered Africans inferior. Some house slaves considered field slaves inferior. Some overseers who beat the slaves mercilessly were white and some were black. Unchecked power corrupts, regardless.

            In some cases, the lowest and most miserable creatures in the old south were “White Trash”, who for their extreme poverty and very low estate were despised by black slaves, as the lowest of the low.

            But in that sense, the South was nothing special. America’s first wars (1801-1815) were fought to prevent the enslavement of American citizens by African slavers and British warships. And besides this? Native Americans hated and enslaved each other. African tribes hated and enslaved each other. Japanese and Chinese hated and enslaved each other. (Mongols too, in the mix.) The European tribes and factions hated and enslaved each other.

            Pride and hatred are endemic to mankind, East and West. Christians and Moors. Sunnis and Shias. Where there’s a chance to hate, use, abuse, and enslave, mankind seems to leap at the opportunity.

            Southern slavery was not all that peculiar, as in unique to the south. Rather, forced slavery had been going on over most of the world since, well, Ancient Egypt at least. Well, I guess the tombs of Ur were packed with slaves for the afterlife, so presumably….

            We humans are slow learners.

            But this is why I love and celebrate the diversity of the church today. It’s miraculous, given who we were and where we’ve been.

            1. Hi,

              First, I think Southern slavery was unique in that it was race based and perpetual. It was also probably unique in the amount of business efficiency applied to it.

              Second, Althusius wasn’t a Puritan. He was a German. Apparently he was Calvinist but since he was German, he couldn’t be a Puritan. And the saying you cite from him is not true or Biblical. In Romans 13 Paul tells us that “Caesar” bears the sword to punish evil doers and so suppress evil.

              Also, I don’t agree that we have a better understanding of scripture than they did then. Many of the Christians in Puritan times knew scripture thoroughly.

              Finally, while most White Americans would, as you say, have no sympathy with slavery and slave-trading, we’re dealing here with a man (D. Wilson) who has said publicly that he would fight for a “nation” committed to slavery and has identified himself with that slave-based nation (by calling himself a “paleo-Confederate”).

          3. That the South perpetuated segregation (“Jim Crow”) for nearly a century after the Civil War is further evidence that the South was not poised to relinquished slavery if they were just reasoned with.

  20. Bill says:

    I think that Doug’s response seems to show that his list of people who have “legitimate concerns, natural affections, and understandable perspectives” is much shorter than yours, Thabiti. I keep going back to Bryan Loritt’s question. Not knowing African Americans outside of the evening news makes it hard for someone to be convinced of how much good culture and how many good people are part of ethnic minorities, and harder still to apologize appropriately and own the pain that insensitivity causes. Why not offer to have Doug come to you and meet some of the people and culture that you know? I know that would be hard to do

    1. Dan Glover says:


      How do you, or Bryan Lorritts, know that Pastor Wilson doesn’t know “African Americans outside of the evening news”? Even if that were true, it would not be a sin in itself. I am quite sure it is not true, however. But since you are wielding this as an accusation for his being unqualified to speak on matters related to “race”, the burden of proof rests with you and Lorritts to substantiate the claim that Wilson doesn’t know any African American people other than knowing they exist because he saw them on the evening news.

      The more comments I see like this (not just yours, Bill, but many more like yours) the more sympathy I have with Doug’s reasons for not apologizing in the more general way Pastor Anyabwile is asking him to.

      I’m not sure how many people commenting here have been foundational in starting a Christian Liberal Arts college, but I do know that Doug Wilson has. I also note that New Ssint Andrews (NSA) has had students from many diverse ethnicities enrolled (one of my best friends took his degree there and our family was privileged to visit a couple of times). Here’s a link to a couple of stories from NSA’s news page (you have to scroll down to May, 2009):

      I think that in the articles about NSA having Voddie Baucham speak at their commencement and also conferring on him an award of honour is a real-life example of the kind of recognition good culture and people you accuse Doug of not being convinced of above.

      Since Pastor Wilson had previously brought up the subject of challenging T.D. Jakes orthodoxy being hailed by some as racially insensitive or racist, I found the post below by Voddie Baucham to be very instructive. Note – read the article Baucham links to in his “Looking Ahead” section of the article (in which he discusses racial overtones). You will see Lorritts’ name mentioned there. This has helped me see Doug Wilson’s concerns here in more light, and to see that they are shared by some of his black brothers in Christ as well.


      1. John K says:

        If Wilson merely apologized for the statement in “Southern Slavery as it Was” about “multi-racial society” and “mutual harmony between the races” that John Carpenter has quoted several times in these threads and made it clear that he was apologizing for nothing else, I would consider that a significant step. If he also changed “Paleo-Confederate” to “Paleo-Antebellum Southern Culture” (no apology necessary even for that) that would be a small step in the right direction also.

        1. John K says:

          Also I think Wilson is absolutely right to question T.D. Jakes orthodoxy, and to do that is not racially insensitive in the least. Any apology by Wilson I would not take to have anything to do with that unless he (hypothetically, of course) were to specifically say he was apologizing for that.

  21. jack says:

    You need to get Wilson to retract alot of the Bad History in especially Southern Slavery and also B&T.

    He has no idea just how off his history is, his pressupositions are based in the ‘history’ deduced from Robert Dabney’s “Defence of Virginia” propaganda book.

    There is enough history to destroy their pressupositions that if confronted, would undermine B&T and be a full retraction

    1. I agree with you Jack. I believe the problem with Wilson is inseparable from dealing with the historical errors. Of course, then he needs to ask himself how he could deign to write a book on history (co-written “Southern Slavery: As It Was”) without actually learning history. After all, there is such a thing as “willful ignorance”.

      And then the bigger question, for us all, is how did we evangelicals let a “paleo-Confederate” become a prominent leader? It says something about our own widespread racial insensitivity that much of Wilson’s rise to prominence came after “Southern Slavery” (1996). If we had been as alarmed by that as we should have been, Wilson would never have been able to come out from under the shadow of it until he fully retracted it and repented for the motives that caused it.

      1. Dan Glover says:


        Since you are calling for Wilson to repent not only for writing the two works in question, but also of the motives that caused him to write those two works, I assume you must know what those motives were. What were those motives and how did you come to know them? I have heard Wilson say what his reasons were for writing those books but I don’t recall any motives that needed repenting of.

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Thabiti Anyabwile photo

Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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