Parableman Jeremy Pierce (who has great taste in music) leaves a thoughtful comment on my post about Heather Mac Donald and Hermeneutics. He writes:
Paul makes statements to slaves about what their life should look like given that they are slaves and can't do anything about it. That doesn't constitute endorsement of slavery. That Paul tells slaves how to influence those around them by serving those they are slavery to does not mean that he thinks it's morally ok to own those slaves. It's just that what he says to all Christians (to serve others) applies when you happen to be a slave as well. The only place he addresses a slaveowner is in Philemon, where he strongly implies that Philemon should set Onesimus free as his brother in Christ but thinks it will only be a righteous act if Philemon sees why he should do it and thus doesn't command it outright.
I think the slavery issues is more complicated than that, though, and presenting the Bible as simply endorsing slavery without getting into exactly what kind of slavery it's endorsing seems way too quick to me. I've written about this before, so I'll just point you there.
On the more general issue, I don't see why inerrantists have to be seen as minimizing passages arbitrarily to make sense of others. Whether it is arbitrary depends on whether there is a plausible contextual limitation on the passage in question. Boswell has few supporters on his contextual limitations of what seem otherwise to be very clear statements. On the other hand, the New Testament very clearly defines the new covenant in such a way that any sense of a Christian nation with laws based on God's law for the old covenant people is just nuts.
There are difficulties in how to put together old covenant and new covenant teachings if all scripture is supposed to be fulfilled in Jesus, as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. But that doesn't mean that all such ways of putting them together are incoherent. I'll give you one other link for an example of how I've put together some of these issues, including homosexuality, that I don't think involves any arbitrariness is which parts of scripture are interpreting other parts.
I tend to agree with you on revolutions, by the way. I think the Christians involved with the American revolution were violating the clear teachings of scripture. I can't see how a Christian who follows the Sermon on the Mount could endorse such a thing.
Finally, I do want to say one thing about the Phelps/Rankin issue. Phelps is right insofar as there are some (but few) biblical passages that involve someone hating a person for the person's sin. This occurs in one psalm, and there is that nice "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated" that occurs once in the OT and once in Romans. But I'm not convinced at all that the kind of hate in mind is contradictory with love. We see love and hate as mutually exclusive, but I'm not sure the Hebrew mindset worked that way. The Jacob/Esau bit was clearly not about just some inner attitude but was about how God was disposed to act toward Jacob and Esau. The kind of love that wasn't involved was love that chooses someone to provide for and lead. That doesn't mean there wasn't the kind of love that appreciates the goodness of the creation, the image of God, and so on among those God loves in general. Hating someone in the former sense and loving someone in the latter sense could then coexist.
So I'd say that Rankin is right in terms of how he uses the terms for love and hate, and Phelps is thus wrong. But Rankin ought to say something different about the biblical texts to arrive at this view, and he does seem to dismiss hate language too quickly.
Regarding the slavery issue, I think it's an "at best, at worst" scenario. At worst, one could read the Biblical passages as explicitly endorsing slavery -- that is the practice of people owning other people. At best, one could say that the Bible simply recognizes the social institution without endorsing it. But the Bible still does not abolish or forbid slavery. This is no small issue to confront if one is to claim seriously that the Bible is *the* book in which we ought to comprehensively derive our moral system. As Ed Brayton pointed out:
This is one of the primary reasons why I can no longer accept the Bible as the word of God, as I once did. It makes no sense that God could have found the time or interest to inspire men to pass on his commandments regarding the most mundane of things - whether to cut one's hair, whether to wear mixed fabrics, how to dress, and so forth - yet never does he bother to say "don't own slaves". And this even when he had the perfect opportunity to do so when the events regarding Philemon present themselves to Paul. If God was indeed inspring Paul to write, why on earth would he not have Paul condemn slavery as contrary to the teachings of Christ? It simply makes no sense, nor do any of the apologetic rationalizations for it.