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Thursday 24 June 2021

The Devil Has Great Power, or Sorcery Is Real (How The Evil One Works Series Part 5)


Sermon video here

Introduction –

So last week we looked at an incredibly important aspect of how the evil one works, he presents himself as an angel of light, as liberator, saviour, healer. I hope you really took this on board. False apostles, false teachers, sleazy politicians and more will present themselves in precisely the same way that the devil does, as an angel of light. Con artists, shady businessmen, media personalities, actors etc, etc…one of the funniest things you see in our world today is people taking actors seriously when they make some kind of religious or political statement. Don’t forget these people are owned entities with agents managing their public presence and everything they do in front of a camera is a performance. Taking them seriously as advocates is like following the clowns and court jesters of the old days. This is true of many people we see on T.V.. When a public figure says they believe in God, your immediate thought should be which God? The one true God, or the god of this age? Our world is filled with frauds.

But then, we live in clown world today don’t we? We really do, so much of our society is inverted, turned upside down, twisted by the false light of the false light-bringer. There is so much evil in this world, there is so much nonsense that people fall for, it is almost as if many people are under a spell. Have you noticed that? It is like people are being manipulated by an unseen hand that blinds them to how this world really is, as Paul tells us:

2 Corinthians 4:4 - “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”   

We modern people make a foolish mistake with the nature of this world when we assume it is just physical or material, and that people are simply rational beings. 1) If the world is only material, then there is no such thing as rationality, because then our thoughts would be just random atoms colliding together. 2) People are not primarily rational, they are emotional, spiritual and rational, and all of these forces combine. 3) There is an unseen realm. The Spiritual realm is just as real as the physical realm. In fact, it is more permanent 2 Corinthians 4:18 “…as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

There are beings and people who can manipulate this Spiritual realm, although those people often don’t realize that it is them being manipulated. The devil is one of those beings, and he has great power. We need to be aware of his power because it is real, dangerous and at work in this world. This morning I want to talk about the Devil’s sorcery, I want to lay out the great power he has, and I will say this now, why we should not be afraid of it. Let’s begin with a simple point, magic, or sorcery is real.

1. Magic/Sorcery is Real – I am going to prove this point to you biblically and conclusively first, because we live in an age and era where the idea of magic being real is scoffed at by many. But what does the Bible say?

1.1  Let’s start in Joseph’s Egypt. The people of Egypt, and the people of Canaan, just assumed that magic is real. Now Joseph never touched magic, his amazing insight and dream interpretations were a gift from God. But he used the idea that powerful people practiced magic to trick his brothers – “44 Then he commanded the steward of his house, “Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man's money in the mouth of his sack, 2 and put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph told him. 3 As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. 4 They had gone only a short distance from the city. Now Joseph said to his steward, “Up, follow after the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? 5 Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this.’”

1.1.1       I want to reiterate that the Bible never suggests or even implies that Joseph used magic. I really want to emphasize this, because I have heard false teachers try to say he did, to support their own wickedness. In fact, I was quite shocked when I heard someone say this, because Joseph is clearly just messing with his brothers.

1.1.2       The reason I mention this example, is because Joseph’s trick worked because all of the nations around him just assumed magic was real, observed it to be real, and especially believed that powerful people made use of it. In fact Egypt was led by a powerful magician priest cast, that had access to the “gods”, i.e. demons. Many Egyptians would have confused Joseph’s gifts, with the pagan priests’ nonsense. But he had no need for pagan rituals. He was gifted by God in unique and amazing ways.

1.2  Aaron’s Staff - Our next example is in Egypt as well, there is this amazing encounter between Aaron and Moses and the Egyptian magicians – “8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said” (Exodus 7:8-13).

1.2.1       What is Pharaoh’s response to the incredible sign that God did through Moses and Aaron?  Exodus 7:11-12 – “11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs.”

1.2.2       “by their secret arts”? I thought this was supposed to be the stuff of fairy-tales, and medieval legends?

1.3  But it isn’t the stuff of myth and legend, it is the reality of the supernatural, that we like to keep out of sight and out of mind. But this is a big deal in scripture. You have to realize that people did not worship demons for no reason, they worshipped them, because they offered power. Just like Lucifer offered Eve power if she listened to his “divine secrets”.

1.3.1       2 Chronicles 33:5-6 – “5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. 6 And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.” The connection between demon worship and power is made explicit when the devil offers Jesus power, if he worships him. But it is also made explicit if you read the ancient accounts of why people worshipped such false beings. It was because they offered them access to the supernatural.

1.3.2       God banned such worship, because of its danger – Leviticus 17:7 - “So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.” The KJV here says “devils”, but it’s the same difference. These “goat horned” demons, are well known in ancient imagery, and especially medieval imagery. In fact I think we see one in Revelation 13.

1.3.3       These demons would require more and more of people, and the more your society was given over to them, the more depraved the sacrifices became - Psalm 106:34-39 – “34 They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, 35 but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds.” If you think it is inconceivable that people would offer up their children for power think about this: abortion is offering up your child for power, and some medicines are grown and tested in aborted fetal cell cultures (you can look into this more yourself). So, seeking such power in wickedness is not foreign to our modern culture at all. It’s just done in a clinical way.

1.4  This power was useful - When God was judging Judah he said this, Isaiah 3:1-3 – “3 For behold, the Lord God of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and supply, all support of bread, and all support of water; 2 the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, 3 the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor and the skillful magician and the expert in charms.”

1.4.1       Notice how Isaiah refers to the “skillful magician and the expert in charms”. There was an art to the use of magic, and some very powerful people knew it.

1.4.2       But why is Israel needing to be cleansed of its magic users? Because it was dancing with demons, quite literally, this is how some rituals worked, they would dance around an idol asking for rain, or provision, as we saw with the Prophets of Baal and Elijah.

1.4.3       By engaging in demon worship and magic rituals, Israel was given over to demonic control and possession. In fact, this was part of their discipline in the exile. God told them that if they wanted to worship demons, well he would put them somewhere they would be surrounded by demons – and so he did, Babylon – Deuteronomy 28:36-37 – “36 The Lord will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone. 37 And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the Lord will lead you away.”

1.5  It is very real - As you can see, the Bible’s teaching on this being real is very clear – “12 Stand fast in your enchantments and your many sorceries, with which you have labored from your youth; perhaps you may be able to succeed; perhaps you may inspire terror” (Isaiah 47:12). And yes the New Testament also speaks to its reality –

1.5.1       Galatians 5:19-21 – “19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

1.5.2       And Revelation 18:23 tells us about mystery Babylon – “and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.”

1.6  So, if your worldview is based on the Bible, then I think we have conclusively proven that sorcery, magic, is real, and dangerous. Let’s establish a couple of other things.   

      2. Sorcerers can Traffic in Souls (Revelation 18:13) – Now Revelation 18:13 says that when mystery Babylon is destroyed, that this will cause a breakdown in all international trade. Because Babylon is the network behind all the trade. And look at one of the things they will no longer be able to trade in: “…13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.” I used to just assumed that “human souls” here was just another way of saying “human lives.”

2.1  But the Greek literally says “and bodies and souls of men.” Now that is a little more interesting, and fits with the KJV version better, “and slaves, and souls of men.” But I think this passage is debatable, however, this one isn’t:   

2.1.1       Ezekiel 13:17- 20 - “17 “And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own hearts. Prophesy against them 18 and say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive? 19 You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies. Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against your magic bands with which you hunt the souls like birds, and I will tear them from your arms, and I will let the souls whom you hunt go free, the souls like birds.”

2.2  I can’t tell you exactly how this all works, only that the Bible saying that this can happen means it is real, and very dangerous.

2.2.1       But the reason I connect these two passages is because a commentary I read noted that these Jewish women learnt this magic while in Babylon and were practicing it there. Babylon was a powerful source of such things. So here is a double connection to capturing in souls and Babylon.     

      3. Demon Possession – Then there is demon possession. As I mentioned last week, and earlier, when Jesus came to Israel he had to confront many demons that were afflicting his people. And incredible abilities and sorcery can be connected to demon possession. For example –

3.1  Legion – Mark 5:5-6 – “5 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him.”

3.1.1       This man was possessed by many demons. How this happened exactly is not explained. But it is likely he was given over to idolatry, possibly sorcery, and other wickedness, or his parents might have been.

3.1.2       However it happened, he was superhuman in strength, “…and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.”

3.1.3       Every so often you hear of paramedics or police dealing with such people, and it is often explained away as the effects of drugs. But drugs in and off themselves can’t make you consistently strong. They can increase your adrenaline, making you stronger for a short time. But this takes a heavy toll on your body. There are other explanations in certain contexts that our culture avoids.

3.1.4       Plus, there is a connection between drugs and possession, taking such substances or even too much alcohol can open you up to such problems. Revelation 18:23 tells us, “and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.” The word for sorcery here is “pharmakeia”, from which we get our word pharmacy or pharmacology, which just means drugs. The reason the ancient Greek word for sorcery is related to our words for drugs is because mind altering drugs played a massive role in sorcery, and opening people up to negative spiritual influences. Drugs are really dangerous. I think our societies drug war has been a complete failure, and there are better ways to fight this stuff. But the idea of all of these drugs being legalized and sold freely is terrifying, because it will unleash spiritual forces on our society that the ancient church worked hard to eradicate, and which pagans have no defence against.  

3.2  The Girl who shouted at Paul – Acts 16:17-18 - “16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.”

3.2.1       I have heard people testify to powerful experiences with fortune telling of one kind or another. This does not make it good. The Bible explains why it can be powerful, it is the work of supernatural and wicked beings. Hence it should be avoided at all costs, in every way possible. Dabbling in a little fortune telling is like dabbling in a little porn, or a little unprovoked violence. Dumb.

3.3  Both of these people had special abilities because they were possessed by demons. There are demons that make you seem disabled, and there are demons that make you super-human and crazy.

      4. Balaam’s Trick To Harm God’s People – I don’t think believers can be possessed by demons, simply because Paul says those who believe are rescued from the power of Satan, “18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” And because one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. However, demonic forces can affect believers if they are given a foothold. An interesting example in the Old Testament shows us how, in the account of Balaam.

4.1  Balaam, who is a weird prophet for hire figure in Numbers, is asked by the King of Moab to curse the Israelites. “6 Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed” (Numbers 22:6). But Balaam cannot curse the Israelites, because he can only speak the words that God allows him to speak and he ends up blessing Israel 3 times, even though his intention is to curse them. Balaam was a powerful sorcerer, who was known for his curses and blessings.

4.1.1       This frustrates Moab’s plans to attack Israel. But then suddenly we see this happen – Numbers 25:1-3 – “25 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.” This put Israel into mortal danger, because they were in enemy territory and God was now punishing them for whoredom. Midian also did the same thing to Israel, indeed they were involved in this situation – “16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Harass the Midianites and strike them down, 18 for they have harassed you with their wiles, with which they beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of the chief of Midian, their sister, who was killed on the day of the plague on account of Peor.” (Numbers 25:16-18).  

4.1.2       How did this all happen? Well, as we read later, because Balaam encouraged this strategy to bring down Israel – Numbers 31:16 “Behold, these, on Balaam's advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.” That sneaky sorcerer/false prophet. He knew he could not turn God against Israel by a curse, because Israel was blessed, so he opened up a door for idolatry and sexual immorality, putting Israel in danger of harming itself.

4.1.3       Engaging in sins like this opens the door to real and serious harm, and demonic influence, and this is not just taught here.

4.2   We read in Revelation 2:12-15 – “12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. 13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”

4.2.1       We read also later in Revelation that Jezebel is doing the same thing. This strategy is a simple one: trick the believers into practicing idolatry and fornication and you can pull apart a family, or church.

4.2.2       This is obviously a favourite trick of sorcerers, and false prophet types, because it is seen all throughout the Bible in the context of idolatry, demonic behaviour, and sorcery.

4.2.3       The fact that our nation is completely given over to sexual immorality is allowing demonic activity to run rampant, and sadly I think this is true in much of the church.  

4.3  But there are other ways the devil can get a foothold, look at Ephesians 4:25-26 – “25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.”

4.3.1       By opening the door to unrepentant sin we can give the Devil a foothold in our lives, in our homes, in our churches. Once he has his supernatural hooks in your life, he can run rampant.  

4.3.2       If you read this passage, you’ll see lying, bitterness, giving into old sins, corrupt talk, all sorts of stuff allows him a foothold. Which means it allows his demons a foothold, and his servants who engage in sorcery and witchcraft.

4.3.3       Which leads us to our application, and how to fight such evil. 

      5. Fight Demonic Power with the Armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) – We all know this passage, let’s have a look at it – “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…”

5.1  Notice who our real fight is against? 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Demons and fallen angels of all kinds are our most potent enemy. Don’t forget this. There is a cosmic war raging around us.

5.2  To stand a chance we must wear the armour of God. Now I know many people believe you should pray on the armour every day, and this is good to do. But every aspect of the armour of God is an aspect of how we should live our Christian lives to frustrate the Devil’s schemes:

5.2.1       Fasten on the belt of truth – If you live in lies you cannot defeat evil, it will consume you. Jesus is The Truth, his people must be people of truth.

5.2.2       Having put on the breastplate of righteousness – If we allow sin in our lives, we give the Devil a foothold, as Paul told us before, as Balaam shows us. But really, we need to recognize that true righteousness comes from being found in Christ, and therefore we must lay hold of his righteousness by faith, and work out the righteousness he gives us in faithfulness.

5.2.3       Ready with the gospel of peace – The gospel which breaks down the kingdom of darkness and extends the kingdom of Jesus.

5.2.4       Holding the shield of faith – Trust God, ask him to work in your life, trust him to protect and surround you with his guardian angels. Believe him, because doubt can be consuming. We need to be people of faith.

5.2.5       Helmet of Salvation – Keep coming back to the fact that you are rescued from Satan’s power, he can no longer accuse you, he has no hold of you. Give him no opportunity.  

5.2.6       Sword of the Spirit – Practice with the sword of the Spirit regularly, knowing that Jesus defeated the Devil with scripture.

5.2.7       Prayer – And pray, because prayer enables you to tap into divine power, that you otherwise could not access. It unleashes blessings in your life, and enables you to resist the evil one and his temptations.  

5.3  Forgiveness disempowers the Devil (2 Corinthians 2:10-11). And also forgive – “10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” Forgiveness, which disempowers bitterness, is a powerful weapon against evil, because evil is trapped in bitterness. You can unlock a lot of his grip on your life, by being quick to forgive and slow to hold against people their sins.

5.4  Unlike in the movies and TV shows, you cannot defeat the Devil and his servants with salt shelled shotguns and silver bullets. But you can defeat him by being salt and light as Jesus has taught us, so we can avoid his snares.

      6. Conclusion – Today’s sermon was bit longer than usual. But I have really only touched on this aspect of sorcery, demon possession and the Devil’s power. The Bible says so much more, and many Christians have written about it. The Devil’s spells are everywhere in our society. Hollywood spellbinds people with lies, false teachers spellbind people with lies. The media, academia spellbind people with lies. The Devil’s hand is behind all of this and more. I hope I have helped you be a little more awake to it today, because as evil rises in our world, we are going to need each other more and more to oppose it, by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray.


Wednesday 23 June 2021

There Were Empires That Were Based On Slavery, But They Were Not European Colonial Powers

Figure 1.1 From Origins of the Political Order, Francis Fukuyama, Ottoman Empire in the 1500s[1]

It is common to hear people say that the advancement and wealth of European Colonial powers was based on slavery. For example, this article from the Guardian, “The west’s wealth is based on slavery. Reparations should be paid.”[2] It is wrong to say that West’s wealth is because of slavery and therefore this concept needs to be challenged. Yes, the western colonial powers engaged in the abominable act of slavery, taking advantage of the African slave trade, purchasing slaves from African and Islamic slave traders, and transporting them to many of their colonies. This cannot and should not be denied. But the European economic powers were not based on slavery, and it is not the reason they developed beyond other nations. This is an important distinction, it is one thing to say a society engaged in slavery, it is another to say a society’s institutions are based on slavery.

Especially when you consider that the British tax payer only just finished paying off the borrowed money which freed the slaves of Britain's empire in 2015.[3] Britain and other European nations have spent a lot of money and expended a lot of man-power to show how sorry they were for their participation in slavery.

The advancement of European Colonial powers was based on industry, innovation and exploration, often carried out by private individuals with state commissions, but also by government initiated economic endeavours. Generally private and state European institutions worked together in the vast colonies across the world. The East India Company is an example of one of the powerful companies that drove English Colonial power across the globe.  

To the West’s shame slavery played a part in these colonial expansions. But it is not credible to say that the West’s participation in slavery caused it to surpass non-western expansionist powers. For one, all powerful states in this era engaged in slavery. Secondly, and importantly, it is more likely that slavery contributed to slowing the advancement of western powers in certain ways, rather than it being the primary factor allowing it to dominate those other powers.

Just compare the north and south of the United States prior to the civil war. In the south, which increasingly relied on slave labour compared to the north where it began to wane sooner, we see a large divide in economic development. This is at least partially because of slavery. “Although slavery was highly profitable, it had a negative impact on the southern economy. It impeded the development of industry and cities and contributed to high debts, soil exhaustion, and a lack of technological innovation.”[4] In fact, it is now generally agreed amongst economists that slavery is not only wrong, but an inherently inefficient economic system.[5]

There is no need to convince people today that slavery is evil. Though slavery is practiced far and wide, mostly commonly outside the modern West[6], it is roundly condemned. And while it may be to a degree distasteful to talk about such a degrading institution in economic terms, it is important to establish that it is not a superior system for long term wealth building, but rather an inferior system. This is important to show because if the European powers had have relied on slavery to drive their economic progress and overtake everyone else as they are accused of having done, then the West likely never would have expanded as successfully as it did:

“Slavery is one of humanity’s great evils. Despite its ubiquity throughout human history, some forms were particularly abhorrent and vile. While all slavery was and is wrong on moral grounds, it also has economic problems. Taken together, these reasons suggest that slavery should end on its own, even if it never does in practice.

Slavery is economically inefficient. If slaveholders made decisions purely on economics and not corrupt emotion, the practice would likely cease to exist in many of its forms.

While modern defenders of slavery are hard to find, many nonetheless believe it is economically efficient. After all, slaveholders have no labor costs. Many people wrongly believe this simply means the twisted enterprise is an economic powerhouse, but limiting slavery to wages misses other costs that diminish the economic value of slavery to the slaveholder…

…A slaveholder has to pay for the room and board, food, clothing, and medical treatment of his slaves. Of course, this can be incredibly minimal—even dehumanizing—but costs nonetheless he would not incur if he did not treat them as living property. A wage reflects value added and is not meant to compensate workers for the food and board they need to survive. With slavery, instead of paying a low wage commensurate with the value created, the slaveholder pays for these living expenses directly.”[7]  

In other words, you are better off paying free people to do the work, and allowing them to manage their life expenses, rather than enslaving people and having to provide them with everything necessary to be good workers. Therefore, the reason slavery cannot be used to explain the dominance of the West, is because it is not sufficient to explain how it could have advanced beyond other contemporary world powers. Slavery is neither good, nor does it have the best long term effect on a society's prosperity. We can condemn it both on moral and practical grounds, it is bad and dumb. Though moral grounds are certainly enough.

But, more importantly, it was not Colonial European expansive powers that were based on slavery. There are, however, empires we can look to as examples of this kind of structure. The Mamluk and Ottoman Turkish Empires serve as famous and genuine examples of powers that were intrinsically based on slavery. They did not just engage in it, the institution of slavery was utilized by these societies in order to develop beyond tribal kin-based societies and was key to making their states strong over the long term and their expansion possible.

Indeed - and this is important for everyone to know - it is likely that far more European Christians were made slaves in the pre-colonial and early colonial period than Europeans took or bought slaves from outside of Europe. If you look at the map above, figure 1.1, comparing the Ottoman Empire to the contemporary Western powers, you can see why. The Ottoman Empire drew its slaves from conquered Christian European lands, and from raiding unconquered lands. These were states, empires, that did rely on slavery, and ultimately declined probably in part because they relied on slavery.

The reason their institutionalisation of slavery ultimately helped to contribute to their decline is that to continue to replenish the ranks of slaves the empire needed to continue to expand. But expansion always comes to an end. Rome faced a similar problem as its expansion slowed. Their reliance on slavery of foreign peoples also created a class of people inside the empire who were ‘other’ to it, and having classes of such people within your empire, especially exploited people, can lead to them eventually overtaking the empire, which is exactly what happened to these empires. The very institutions of slavery that made the Mamluk and Ottoman empires stronger than their predecessors, created the conditions for those empires to fall.

Francis Fukuyama[8] explains how this institutional slavery worked in his book The Origins of the Political Order:   

“The dirlik system rested on the system of military slavery, without which it could not be properly managed. The Ottomans built on the military slave systems created by the Abbasids and Mamluks, as well as those used by other Turkish rulers, but eliminated many of the features that made the Mamluk system so dysfunctional.

 First and most important was that there now was a clear distinction between civilian and military authority, and a strict subordination of the latter to the former. The military slaves emerged initially as an outgrowth of the sultan’s household, as in the case of the Ayyubid Mamluks. Unlike the latter, however, the Ottoman ruling house remained in control of the slave hierarchy until much later in the empire. The dynastic principle applied only within the Ottoman ruling family; no slave, no matter how high ranking or talented, could aspire to become sultan himself or hope to found his own minidynasty within the military institution. As a result, the civilian authorities could establish clear rules for recruitment, training, and promotion that focused on building an effective military and administrative institution, without having to worry constantly about that institution trying to seize power in its own name.

The effort to prevent dynasties from forming within the military led to strict rules regarding children and inheritance. The sons of Janissaries were not allowed to become Janissaries, and indeed, in the early days of the empire, Janissaries were not allowed to marry and have families. The sons of the elite sipahis of the Porte were allowed to enter the corps of sipahi-oghlans as pages, but their grandsons were rigidly excluded. The Ottomans from the beginning seemed to understand the logic of military slavery as designed to prevent the emergence of an entrenched hereditary elite. Recruitment and promotion in the slave system were based on merit and service, for which the slaves were rewarded with tax exemptions and estates. Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, ambassador of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to the court of Suleiman the Magnificent, noted that the lack of a blood nobility allowed the sultan to pick his slaves and advance them according to their abilities. “The shepherd who rose to become an illustrious grand vezir was a figure that never ceased to fascinate European observers.”

The Ottomans improved on the Mamluk system by maintaining a strict distinction between the people recruited into the ruling institution as non-Muslim slaves—the askeri—and the rest of the empire’s Muslim and non-Muslim citizens, the reaya. A member of the reaya could have a family, own property, and bequeath his property and rights to land to his children and all later descendants. The reaya could also organize themselves into semiautonomous, self-governing communities based on sectarian affiliation known as millets. But none among the reaya could aspire to become a member of the ruling elite, to bear arms, or to serve as a soldier or bureaucrat in the Ottoman administration. The cadres of the askeri had to be constantly renewed from year to year by new Christian recruits who had broken all of their ties to their families and were loyal to the Ottoman state. There were no guilds, factions, or self-governing associations among the askeri; they were supposed to have loyalties to the ruling dynasty alone.”

So, the Ottoman’s developed an elaborate system of government that was based on a slave military that was trained and brainwashed, really, to be loyal to the state, i.e. the Sultan and his reign, above all else. These slave soldiers, called Janissaries could advance to high ranks, lived reasonably elite lives, but could be demoted, or removed at a moment’s notice, and could not pass the advantages of their positions onto their descendants. Do not confuse the positions that these slaves could advance to with privilege, this was an abhorrent practice as Fukuyama[9] explains,

“In the early sixteenth century, at the height of the greatness of the Ottoman Empire, a highly unusual procedure unfolded roughly every four years. The Byzantine capital of Constantinople had fallen to the Turks in 1453; Ottoman armies had conquered Hungary in the Battle of Mohács in 1526 and were turned back at the gates of Vienna in 1529. Throughout the Balkan provinces of the empire, a group of officials would spread out, looking for young boys between the ages of twelve and twenty. This was the devshirme, or levy of Christian youths. Like football scouts, these officials were expert at judging the physical and mental potential of young males, and each had a quota to fulfill that was set back in Istanbul, the Ottoman capital. When an official visited a village, the Christian priest was required to produce a list of all male children baptized there, and those of the appropriate age would be brought before the officials for inspection. The most promising boys were forcibly taken from their parents and led off in groups of 100 to 150. Their names were carefully inscribed in a register both when they were taken from their villages and when they arrived in Istanbul, and the registers compared, since parents occasionally tried to buy their children out of the levy. Some parents with particularly strong and healthy sons might have all of them taken from them; the official would return to Istanbul with his captives and the families would never see their children again. It is estimated that about three thousand boys a year were taken in this fashion in this period of the empire.”

This is clearly an abhorrent practice, indeed the Bible condemns such stealing of human lives, Exodus 21:16 – “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” Imagine the emotions going through the minds of Christian fathers and mothers as they helplessly watched their sons being taken away.

It is important to note that this practice was not periphery to these Mamluk and Ottoman empires. Their power structures were not possible without this slavery. An Islamic scholar from the fourteenth century notes,

“When the [Abbasid] state was drowned in decadence and luxury and donned the garments of calamity and impotence and was overthrown by the heathen Tatars, who abolished the seat of the Caliphate and obliterated the splendor of the lands and made unbelief prevail in place of belief, because the people of the faith, sunk in self-indulgence, preoccupied with pleasure and abandoned to luxury, had become deficient in energy and reluctant to rally in defense, and had stripped off the skin of courage and the emblem of manhood—then, it was God’s benevolence that He rescued the faith by reviving its dying breath and restoring the unity of the Muslims in the Egyptian realms, preserving the order and defending the walls of Islam. He did this by sending to the Muslims, from this Turkish nation and from among its great and numerous tribes, rulers to defend them and utterly loyal helpers, who were brought from the House of War to the House of Islam under the rule of slavery, which hides in itself a divine blessing. By means of slavery they learn glory and blessing and are exposed to divine providence; cured by slavery, they enter the Muslim religion with the firm resolve of true believers and yet with nomadic virtues unsullied by debased nature, unadulterated with the filth of pleasure, undefiled by the ways of civilized living, and with their ardor unbroken by the profusion of luxury.”[10]

I am not making the case that Christendom was innocent of slavery and the Islamic world guilty, not at all. It is well known that Christian preachers used the Bible to justify slavery in the American south, and at other points in history. The Bible’s teaching on slavery is complicated, though as seen above it categorically condemns stealing people, and this is true in both Testaments. If this command, to not steal people, is followed it virtually renders many forms of slavery impossible.

I only share this quote to show that slavery was not periphery to these Middle Eastern empires, it was not something they just did. It was a central aspect of how they were structured. The Mamluk and Ottoman empires required the institution of slavery to function. Mamluk slave armies were instrumental in defeating both Mongol invasions and European crusading armies, and ensuring the safety of these expansive kingdoms. These empires show us what a society based on slavery looks like, though there are many other examples throughout history. 

Eventually these Ottoman slave soldiers took over the empire, and this precipitated its decline:

“The institutions of the Ottoman state were a curious mixture of modern and patrimonial, and it decayed when the patrimonial elements entrenched themselves at the expense of the modern ones. The Ottomans perfected the military slave system of the Mamluks, but they too eventually succumbed to the natural human desire of their elites to pass on status and resources to their children.”[11]

In other words, tribal based family loyalty eventually overcame the very institutions that were put in place to direct loyalty to the state, instead of to family based tribal loyalties. The result was that the servants eventually became the masters, and the system which enabled these slave run empires to expand fell apart. The Sultan’s eventually became puppets of their slaves.

But note who was doing the enslaving and who were the slaves in this situation. Remember the word slave comes from Slav,[12] a European people group who experienced oppression often from both East and West, but especially the East. White privilege - which is really an anti-Christian, anti-western concept - is as about as useful a lens to look at history, as a pair of glasses is to study the sun. The history of slavery, colonialism and expansion is incredibly complex, and all societies have been on both ends of these forces.  

It is important to note, that while the bulk of the European victims of the Islamic slave trade came from Eastern and Southern Europe, the slave raids of groups like the Barbary pirates were common enough, and oppressive enough to leave a mark on the minds of Europeans in the far West, even as far as the British and Irish Isles. A particularly good example of this, is a poem written by Thomas Osbourne Davis’[13] titled The Sack of Baltimore (1814-15). I want to share it in full, because it is powerful and shows how even the so-called privileged Brits were prone to slavery raids in this era. It recounts a raid on the town of Baltimore in West Cork, in Ireland, by Ottoman raiders, led by a European slave captain named Jan Janszoon, also known as Murad Reis the Younger.[14] Read the poem carefully, it recounts a quiet village being awoken by a fire and clashes of steel, and even shares with us the possible fates of those captured and taken as slaves.  

THE SUMMER sun is falling soft on Carbery’s hundred isles,

The summer sun is gleaming still through Gabriel’s rough defiles;

Old Innisherkin’s crumbled fane looks like a moulting bird,

And in a calm and sleepy swell the ocean tide is heard:

The hookers lie upon the beach; the children cease their play;

The gossips leave the little inn; the households kneel to pray;

And full of love, and peace, and rest, its daily labor o’er,

Upon that cosy creek there lay the town of Baltimore.


A deeper rest, a starry trance, has come with midnight there;

No sound, except that throbbing wave, in earth, or sea, or air!

The massive capes and ruin’d towers seem conscious of the calm;

The fibrous sod and stunted trees are breathing heavy balm.

So still the night, these two long barques round Dunashad that glide

Must trust their oars, methinks not few, against the ebbing tide.

Oh, some sweet mission of true love must urge them to the shore!

They bring some lover to his bride who sighs in Baltimore.


All, all asleep within each roof along that rocky street,

And these must be the lover’s friends, with gently gliding feet—

A stifled gasp, a dreamy noise! “The roof is in a flame!”

From out their beds and to their doors rush maid and sire and dame,

And meet upon the threshold stone the gleaming sabre’s fall,

And o’er each black and bearded face the white or crimson shawl.

The yell of “Allah!” breaks above the prayer, and shriek, and roar:

O blessed God! the Algerine is lord of Baltimore!


Then flung the youth his naked hand against the shearing sword;

Then sprung the mother on the brand with which her son was gor’d;

Then sunk the grandsire on the floor, his grand-babes clutching wild;

Then fled the maiden moaning faint, and nestled with the child:

But see! yon pirate strangled lies, and crush’d with splashing heel,

While o’er him in an Irish hand there sweeps his Syrian steel:

Though virtue sink, and courage fail, and misers yield their store,

There ’s one hearth well avenged in the sack of Baltimore.


Midsummer morn in woodland nigh the birds begin to sing,

They see not now the milking maids,—deserted is the spring;

Midsummer day this gallant rides from distant Bandon’s town,

These hookers cross’d from stormy Skull, that skiff from Affadown;

They only found the smoking walls with neighbors’ blood besprent,

And on the strewed and trampled beach awhile they wildly went,

Then dash’d to sea, and pass’d Cape Clear, and saw, five leagues before,

The pirate-galley vanishing that ravaged Baltimore.


Oh, some must tug the galley’s oar, and some must tend the steed;

This boy will bear a Scheik’s chibouk, and that a Bey’s jerreed.

Oh, some are for the arsenals by beauteous Dardanelles;

And some are in the caravan to Mecca’s sandy dells.

The maid that Bandon gallant sought is chosen for the Dey:

She ’s safe—she’s dead—she stabb’d him in the midst of his Serai!

And when to die a death of fire that noble maid they bore,

She only smiled, O’Driscoll’s child; she thought of Baltimore.


’T is two long years since sunk the town beneath that bloody band,

And all around its trampled hearths a larger concourse stand,

Where high upon a gallows-tree a yelling wretch is seen:

’T is Hackett of Dungarvan—he who steer’d the Algerine!

He fell amid a sullen shout with scarce a passing prayer,

For he had slain the kith and kin of many a hundred there.

Some mutter’d of MacMurchadh, who brought the Norman o’er;

Some curs’d him with Iscariot, that day in Baltimore.”[15]

Osborne here writes about something that much of Europe experienced for a long time: Common and vicious raids across western lands taking European boys and girls, men and women as slaves. The eventual rise of the Western Colonial powers to world class status really put an end to more slavery than it created. Centuries of Christian sons stolen from their families and often made into the force of oppression for those empires, and daughters taken to be made the wives of slave soldiers, or put in the harems of Ottoman lords and kings, were not really stopped until European powers were incredibly strong. Europe has experienced its fair share of the pain of slavery. Again, let me note, the word slave comes from a European people, the Slavic people, who were often taken as slaves.

It was wrong, stupid and evil for Europeans to engage in slavery. But there is a bigger picture, here. This was a worldwide institution. Just look again at the picture above and the size of the Ottoman Empire compared to the equivalent European powers in the 1500’s. No wonder the West felt compelled to advance, and it took a long time for it to advance enough to stop the raids upon their shores. It eventually took European and even American navies to stop these raids on European shores and European trade ships.

The American Marines remember their battle with the slave power, the Barbary Pirates, whom they fought at Tripoli and other places, in their famous official hymn,

"From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine."[16]

What were the Marines fighting for against the Barbary pirates? To stop the pirates from raiding American merchant vessels and taking American citizens as slaves.

To accuse the West of being the primary agents of slavery is immoral, untrue, and downright wrong. To say that the West only got as powerful as it did because of slavery, is also wrong, because other empires were engaged in slavery, many to a much higher level and yet the West outstripped them. Therefore, slavery cannot be the reason the West got so rich and so powerful, there are clearly other reasons. One of which, and there are many, is that the West moved away from slavery before any other civilisation.

The Western Colonial powers will always have to own up to the charge of having engaged in slavery. But Colonial power was not based on it, and this is likely at least a part of the reason why it advanced beyond empires which did rely on it. Because the West was able to innovate and create labour forces with increasing capital to invest themselves. This created a spiral of success.  

Rather than trying to point fingers at the ancestors of particular people who took other people as slaves, all nations should be trying to forgive and forget and move on without a grudge, because no people has a clean ledger in this regard. Especially because there were empires intrinsically based on slavery, and they were not European colonial powers.

List of References:

[1] Fukuyama, Francis 2011, The Origins of Political Order (pp. 217-218). Profile. Kindle Edition.

[2] Andrews, Kehinde 2017, “The west’s wealth is based on slavery. Reparations should be paid

Kehinde Andrews”, The Guardian, accessed 23/06/2021  

[3]Barrie, Joshua 2018, “How taxpayers were still paying for British slave trade nearly 200 years later”, Mirror UK, accessed 23/06/2021,

[4] Ben, 2021, “What was the economic impact of slavery in the South?”, accessed 23/06/2021,

[5] Benjamin R. Dierker 2019, “Slavery Was Never Economically Efficient

While modern defenders of slavery are hard to find, many nonetheless believe it is economically efficient.” Foundation for Economic Education, accessed 23.06/2021,

[6] “Slavery Today: Countries With The Highest Prevalence Of Modern Slaves”, WorldAtlas, accessed 23/06/2021,

[7] Benjamin R. Dierker 2019, “Slavery Was Never Economically Efficient

While modern defenders of slavery are hard to find, many nonetheless believe it is economically efficient.” Foundation for Economic Education, accessed 23/06/2021,

[8] Fukuyama, Francis 2011, The Origins of Political Order (pp. 218-220). Profile. Kindle Edition.

[9] Ibid (pp. 189-190).

[10] Ibid (p. 203).   

[11] Ibid (p. 215).

[12] Online Etymology Dictionary, slave (n.) accessed 23/06/2021,

[14] Sack of Baltimore, accessed 23/06/2021,

[15] Davis, Thomas Osborne 1814-1815, The Sack of Baltimore,