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1: RACE AND THE ORIGINS DEBATE are being urged today to embrace ‘theistic evolution’.18

A similar phenomenon reigned when it came to ideas about the ‘natural inferiority’ of some people compared to others. For example, Aristotle had taught that some people were ‘slaves by nature’. Rather than using the plain teaching of Scripture to reject this outright, the intellectual climate of the time meant that even the well-known thirteenth-century Christian philosopher Thomas Aquinas tried to reconcile this with Christian thought. He suggested that this natural inferiority of some people was one of the punishments for sin. Note that, as will be seen later, Aquinas had denounced slavery. So, justifying this was probably not his agenda; more likely it was a perceived but totally unnecessary need to ‘harmonize’ Scripture with the intellectual climate of the day. But his approach continued to be expounded for another 500 years or so, and was applied by many who were trying to justify the enslavement and exploitation of native people groups.19

There were also other, more ingenious ways of trying to ‘harmonize’ these intellectual views of the day—i.e. that some people were naturally inferior ‘barbarians’—with the Bible. One was to suggest that, yes, all men started equal, but after that some groups went backwards, for reasons that were certainly not biblically stated. As with theistic evolution, such readings had to be imposed onto the text of Scripture, and did not arise naturally from it. The idea of the biblically non-existent ‘curse on Ham’ (see p. 44) was one attempt to provide a cause for such degeneration. It was used to justify slavery, particularly in the American South, and, to a lesser extent, segregation and white supremacy in the context of southern Africa (Chapter 15).

Aristotle’s doctrine that some people are ‘natural slaves’ was consciously invoked by big-name Spanish intellectuals; for instance, to justify Spain’s conquest and domination of the South American Indians. In a famous mid-16th

-century debate,

the great Spanish jurist Juan Gines de Sepulveda appealed to this teaching in claiming that slavery was the natural condition

18. For a comprehensive list of articles and documentation, see 19. Maxwell, J.F., Slavery and the Catholic Church, Barry Rose, London, 1975.


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