Acton Institute Powerblog

Birth of Freedom Shorts Series: How did Christian slave owners justify slavery?

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

This week’s Birth of Freedom Video Short features Susan Wise Bauer, author of The History of the Ancient World. She addresses the question, “How did Christian slave owners justify slavery?”, describing how slave owners operated under a false (prescriptive instead of descriptive) understanding of the New Testament’s teaching concerning slavery.
Remember, if you haven’t seen the other 7 video shorts, you can check out the rest of the series, learn about premieres in your area, and discover more background information at

Brittany Hunter


  • Funny how we often treat Romans 13 Prescriptively rather than descriptively, making slaves of us all.

  • Actually, the text is prescriptive, but to a very different end. Paul is telling slaves not to turn Christianity into a religion of political liberation; otherwise people will think slaves are only become Christian for the sake of emancipation from chattel slavery. This would create a scandal against Christianity. His point is that a slave who retains his social status after converting proves that his conversion is for the sake of his soul and that Christianity is no threat to political order.
    Bauer’s main point still stands, however.