#34 – The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark Noll (My 100 Favorite Books)

Following yesterday’s history of the Civil War, I include this shorter book focusing on the religious situation surrounding the war.  There is still debate and discussion about why the Civil War occurred.  Everyone living at the time knew why (slavery!) but afterwards there was a vested interest in the south to change the narrative.  Unfortunately, they succeeded and the south is still sometimes mythologized as a lost or glorious cause.

Noll shows that pretty much all Christians in America believed the Bible endorsed slavery.  He shows why this is, tying early American methods of interpretation into the democratic spirit of the age.  This led to an American church with a unique method of interpreting scripture, which is why it was pretty much the only country where people of faith thought scripture endorsed slavery.  What blew my mind was how the move towards abolition often led to attacks, accusations of moving onto a “slippery slope.”  In other words, in the eyes of most, to fight against slavery was to go against the Bible.  Supporting slavery, they thought, was needed to preserve Biblical orthodoxy.

Of course, no one (well, hopefully no one) believes this today.  Yet many American Christians still use the same methods to interpret the Bible.  Which leads to the question, what else are we getting wrong?

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