As some of you all know, Nancy and I are planning to travel down to Brazil next month in order to speak at a large evangelical conference. Word got out that we were coming, and a newspaper article was published by a leftist activist named Ronilso Pacheco, accusing me of racism and advocating for slavery. That article got some traction and started something of a rumpus. As my son-in-law put it, I have achieved the honor of becoming something of a global pariah.
Because I am a minister of Jesus Christ, the one who described Himself as the way, the truth, and the life, I do have a responsibility in such circumstances to speak out. This is in order that all friends of the truth might have the opportunity to rejoice together with us. Jesus was very clear about this sort of thing. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven . . .” (Matthew 5:11–12). I mentioned a moment ago the honor of becoming a pariah, but this is more than a lighthearted dismissal of it. It really is a grace to be disgraced. It really is an honor to be dishonored.
But it is only an honor if the accusations are false, which in this case, they most certainly are.
Although I do take all of this as a genuine honor, there is true danger involved in it still. One of my central reasons for communicating with you like this is that while Scripture obviously teaches us that it is a sin to tell lies, we are also instructed that it is a sin to believe them. After all, our first parents plunged our world into sin because they believed a lie. You are being lied to about all of this, and it my intention here to explain to you what is actually going on.
I want to give you seven basic reasons why you should understand that these accusations are baseless lies, and how you should process it.
First, on the front page of my blog (dougwils.com), posted in the prominent place—where even the laziest of journalists could find it—I have a section there called Critical Questions. The first one displayed is called “On Racial Sins.” If you take a moment to look at what I wrote there, and it has been there for years, you will see how laughable the charges are. And if you agree with what I say there, then that means these false accusations of racism could just as easily be applied to you also. And would that be accurate?
The second point is one that goes into a bit more detail. If you go to my blog a second time, and look at the top menu bar, you will find the About tab. If you click on that, you will see something called the Controversy Library in the drop down menu. The second item there in that library is entitled “I deny that slavery was a positive good.” In that section are a number of links (going back years) that demonstrate how false these charges are. If you really want to know the truth about all of this, the truth is published and readily accessible. The truth is prominently displayed, and nailed down on all four corners.
My third argument will depend on a thought experiment that you may conduct on your own. If the issue is as clear as my first two points above would seem to indicate, then why is this a controversy at all? Slavery ended in Brazil in 1888. It ended in my country in 1865. Why is this still an issue? The central driving issue in all of this is the authority of Jesus Christ, and the sufficiency of His holy Word, the Bible. When we find ourselves surrounded by sin and sinful institutions, God’s Word instructs us on what to do. Christians are not just instructed to fight social evils, they are instructed in how to fight social evils. This applied to institutions like Roman slavery in the first century, and it applied to the system of chattel slavery that existed in our hemisphere two centuries ago. The New Testament is filled with instructions on how believers were to subvert an institution like slavery. This controversy is happening because I am doggedly loyal to those apostolic instructions, and I refuse to apologize for the fact that the Christian is called to labor for reformation, not revolution. But the issue before us today is the sexual revolution, and not the by-gone institution of slavery. Nobody wants to reintroduce slavery. But the revolutionaries do want to introduce all sorts of sexual novelties. When Christians object to this, and say that the Bible prohibits all such things, they will respond with “but the Bible allowed for slavery.” If you then say something like, “that was then, this is now,” they will then ask why evangelicals get to play the “that was then, this is now” game, but sodomites don’t get to do it. And honestly, that would be a fair question.
Fourth, you need to recognize what the actual strategy is. You need to understand, if you are a follower of Christ, that you and your family are next. Winston Churchill once defined an appeaser as a person who throws others to the alligators, hoping to be the last one eaten. So if you back away from fellow believers whenever they are getting “the treatment,” you are in effect asking God to make sure that other believers back away from you when your turn comes. Do not give credence to defamatory statements just because they are aimed at someone else. They will not always be aimed somewhere else. Cancel culture is a strategy that the enemy has developed, and he has deployed it with a high degree of effectiveness so far. But it only works because believers respond in fear, instead of with courage.
The fifth point has to do with the editorial qualifications of those who accuse us. When accusations fly against evangelical Christians who believe the Bible, and they say that we are racists, or white supremacists, or defenders of slavery, and all the rest of those tired charges, please remember that we are talking about people who have trouble defining what a boy is, or what a girl is. This means that they don’t know what the human race is either. But if they don’t know what the human race is, then how on earth do they expect to be given the job of defining racism?
Sixth, the way of reformation through the gospel is always better. Although your country abolished slavery a few years later than we did in America, you were blessed to do it without a deadly and ruinous war. We killed 600,000 men, and in many respects the aftermath of that war has been an oozing wound in our side that has never really healed. So my position is not that of an advocate for slavery. One of my great evangelical heroes is William Wilberforce, the man who was instrumental in seeing the slave trade ended in the British Empire. But he did not accomplish this with cannons. My argument has never been that the slavery was necessary, but rather that the carnage was not necessary.
And last, the foundational issue in all of this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Slavery is a perennial issue because the human race is fallen and rebellious, and the Bible describes this as fundamental slavery to sin. “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Romans 6:17). As long as Christians are proclaiming the gospel, they have to be talking about a certain sort of slavery, the kind of slavery to sin from which the gospel delivers us. But the slavery we are talking about is the slavery we are fighting through the gospel.
I am a preacher of this liberating gospel. Because of the sins of the modern world, we are all of us sinking into a hellish and totalitarian nightmare. Because of our rejection of Christ, we are in the process of becoming slaves. Your country is no exception to this. Let me say this again—your country is no exception to this. The leftists who are accusing me of trying to argue for slavery—the kind that was eliminated two centuries ago—these are the same ones who are standing there, holding your future chains behind their back. A nation of people who are enslaved to their passions and lusts will never be a free people.
The only way out is to look to the crucified Savior, the Messiah of God, nailed to a cross. He lived a perfect sinless life—He was no slave—and was crucified and buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead, and He did this so that you could walk in newness of life. This is yet another reason why I can rejoice that these slanders have been mounted against me. It has given me yet one more opportunity to proclaim the gospel of free grace, a gospel that liberates slaves. If you have invented these slanders . . . come to Christ. If you have circulated these slanders . . . come to Christ. If you have only half-believed these slanders . . . come to Christ. He is crucified and risen. Come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
If the slanderous accusation that I love slavery is used by God to bring any one of you into contact with this gospel of deliverance, and if as a result any slaves to sin are liberated through this gospel of free grace and forgiveness, that would be what I would call a delicious irony. And totally worth it.