Slavery and the Bible

Why didn’t the Christian God ever explicitly and clearly condemn slavery?

Paul Copan defends the notion that Biblical slavery was different than American slavery in the antebellum South and shouldn’t have been used to justify it. [“That’s Just Your Interpretation”, pp. 171-178]. Even if this is true, the Bible was still used by Christians to justify the brutal slavery in the American South. Distinguished Princeton professor Charles Hodge defended American slavery in a forty page essay written in 1860, just prior to the civil war. Just read the debates over this issue in Willard M. Swartley, Slavery Sabbath War & Women (Herald Press, 1983), pp. 31-66. Then you’ll see just how unclear this issue really was to them. So again, why didn’t God tell his people, “Thou shalt not own, buy, sell, or trade slaves,” and say it as often as he needed to? Why was God not clear about this in the Bible? Just think how Copan’s own arguments would resonate with him if he were born into the brutal slavery of the South! Speaking of American slavery, Sam Harris claims, “Nothing in Christian theology remedies the appalling deficiencies of the Bible on what is perhaps the greatest—and the easiest—moral question our society has ever had to face.” [Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf, 2006), p. 18].

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