f The Wittenberg Door: February 2007

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Letter to a Christian Nation – Part 5 – Slavery Continued

In Part 4 we learned how foreigners became slaves and how they were treated. In this post we'll take a look at Hebrew slaves. A few things to note regarding Hebrew slavery:

  • The slaves were treated differently (better) than foreign slaves. Reason being, the Hebrews were God's people. Like a king who favors his children over his subjects, so God favors His children over pagans.
  • It was a voluntary institution.
  • It was for the benefit of the slaves.

The Care of the Poor

Slavery was the last resort for the poor. Before the poor had to sell themselves into servitude, God made provisions for their care:

  • The people were to lend money to the poor (Deu. 15:7-8, 11).

    It's interesting to note that the reason for this law was not just to help the poor; it was also to help cultivate a generous heart in the giver and to help stave-off the love of money (Deu. 15:9).
  • Lenders were not to charge interest or sell the poor food for a profit (Lev. 25:36-37).
  • Borrowers were released from their debt every seven years (Deu. 15:1-2).
  • Farmers were to only reap their harvest for six years; the seventh they were to let the poor pick their food from it (Ex. 23:10).
  • Farmers were also not to cultivate the edges of their crop or pick-up fallen fruit so that the poor gather them and be feed (Lev. 19:9-10, 23:22; Deu. 24:19).
  • Every third year the tithe of the people was given to the poor (Deu. 14:28-29).

Hebrew Slavery Benefited the Slaves

When, despite the provisions discussed above, an Israelite found himself in dire straights, he still had recourse: voluntary slavery. This option allowed the poor to maintain not only their physical wellbeing, but also their dignity (i.e., they worked for what they received, instead of becoming a beggar). Listed below are a few other benefits to the slave:

  • The servitude was initiated by the slave and he was the one who received proceeds of the sale; he was also to be treated well and not like a slave, but as a hired worker or a temporary resident (Lev. 25:35-43).

    It should be noted that forced slavery was punishable by death (Ex. 21:16; Deu. 24:7).
  • They were released after six years of service (Deu. 15:12).

    The slave had the option of remaining in his masters house; however, this was completely voluntary. To ensure that the slave was not being coerced, he and his master would have to go before the judge prior to the slave becoming a lifetime servant (Ex. 21:5; Deu. 15:16).
  • When released, the slave was provided with goods so that he wouldn't be poor (Deu. 15:13-14).

In Part 6 we'll consider Mr. Harris' claim that the Bible allows a man to sell his daughter into sexual slavery.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 3 – Arminianism: An Introduction

Arminianism might best be called a theology in contrast. Developed by the students of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) from Arminius' teachings, the Arminian system stands against Calvinism’s teaching of God’s sovereignty in salvation.

God decreed to save and damn certain particular persons. This decree has its foundation in the foreknowledge of God, by which he knew from all eternity those individuals who would, through his preventing [going before] grace, believe, and, through his subsequent grace would persevere … by which foreknowledge, he likewise knew those who would not believe and persevere.

Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609)

In 1610, the Arminians put forth the Five Articles of the Remonstrance, which follow in summary:

  • Free Will with Partial Depravity
    Even though fallen, man can, with God’s help, freely choose Christ

  • Conditional Election
    God “elects” men based upon His forseeing their free-will choices

  • Unlimited Atonement
    Christ died to save all men, but the application of His death is to believers only

  • Resistible Grace
    God extends grace to all men, but that grace does not overcome the free will of man

  • Uncertain Perseverance
    Although God’s grace has been extended to, and accepted by, the believer, he may still “fall from grace” and thus lose his salvation

Synod of Dort

The Five Articles of the Remonstrance were a reaction against the doctrines of sovereign grace put forth in the Belgic Confession (1561). The ensuing controversy was taken up by the national assembly of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1618. The participants represented reformed churches from eight countries.

The synod concluded its work in 1619 with the rejection of Arminianism and the creation of the Canons of Dort, which are an exposition of the points in dispute.


Now that we know what Arminianism is, in my next post in this series we’ll see how it comports with God’s sovereignty and the Fall. We’ll then consider the question as to whether or not the doing and dying of Christ merely made salvation possible; if God elects men to salvation based on foreseen faith; and if man is responsible for his perseverance in the faith.

Stay tuned for Part 4!

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