Kainos Project

Kainos Project

Dale Chamberlain and Tamara Chamberlain

Should Slave-Owning Theologians Get Statues Celebrating Their Memory?

January 3, 2023   ●   55 min

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Recently, controversy erupted over a statue on the campus of Princeton University.

The statue depicts John Witherspoon, an American founding father, pastor, denominational leader in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and the sixth president of Princeton. Presiding over the school for a quarter of a decade, he has been credited with bringing back Princeton from the brink of financial collapse. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and an influential figure in helping garner support for the ratification of the United States Constitution.

He was also a slaveowner to two enslaved people, and he lectured and voted against the abolition of slavery in New Jersey. He believed that emancipation would mean freeing enslaved people "to their own ruin."

Because of this, some are calling for the statue honoring him on the campus of Princeton to be taken down. In response, others are arguing that it ought to remain. Among those arguing to keep the statue is pastor and theologian Kevin DeYoung.

In this episode, we take a closer look at who Witherspoon was, his significance and the significance of his views on slavery, and whether possibly taking down the statue is a result of cancel culture or merely a more honest retelling of our country's (and the church's) checkered history.

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