The Gloves are Off Now! Slavery? NO, A Thousand Times NO!

I've had enough. I am sick and tired of Christian intellectuals, from Paul Copan (my friend), to Victor Reppert and a lot lower down the totem pole to David Wood, in their attempts to say that the slavery in the American South was different than what the Bible allows, and so it should never have been used to justify it. If you want to see me hot tempered, then just raise this asinine argument. I try to get along here at DC by being respectful of Christian beliefs, but on this issue I cannot bend for one nanosecond. Don't even suggest it, as Dr. Victor Reppert just did. Here's what I wrote in response:

When it comes to the brutal slavery in the South that was justified from the Bible I have had enough. Have you ever read Frederick Douglass' life narrative? Have you?

As intelligent as you are, can you not see what it would be like to be a slave in the South, and to be told that your Christian master doesn't properly apply the Bible to his world? Can you not see what it would be like?

"Oh, my Christian master separated me and my family and beats me into submission, denying me any rights whatsoever, but the Bible is still good and true. He just misunderstands."

Wouldn't you at least be intelligent enough to ask why God did not condemn slavery in no uncertain terms, if he authored the Bible?...and say it often enough that no one could misunderstand, just like he purportedly did with murder and rape? He could have said, "Thou shalt not trade, buy, sell, or own slaves," and said it as often as needed so that we'd understand.

I just don't get you at all on this.

Nothing can exonorate your God for failing so miserably on the greatest (and easiest) moral issue in American history...nothing.

On this issue alone, you should abandon your faith. The problem is that there are so many other issues besides this that it baffles me why a thinking person like yourself claims to believe in the God of the Bible.

YOU DO NOT BELIEVE THE BIBLE, OR YOU WOULD BELIEVE ALL OF IT!

The whole attempt to justify the differences between the slavery in the Bible and in the slavery in the South just makes me sick.

Sorry, it just does not sit well, no matter what you say, with what a PERFECTLY GOOD God would do. I am better than your God, and according to you I am a miserable sinner deserving of hell (however conceived).

Again, I am better than your God, and I can prove this. I would have never allowed any human being to misunderstand that I told them slavery is a complete abomination.

So, do you really believe a perfectly good God exists? On this point a believer must indeed "sacrifice his intellect" in order to believe, as Ignatius Loyola had written.

You have sacrificed your intellect. Be gone with it then, but no longer talk to me about how reasonable your faith is. You no longer have that right.

Sorry, but on this topic I can get angry. It is complete and utter foolishness to continue believing in the face of this problem.

You might as well write your own Scriptures and tell people it's from God, or believe in Zeus, Apollo or Thor. Such a religion has the same basis once one sacrifices his or her intellect, like you have just done.

Why do smart people believe absolutely stupid things? I have an answer. They believe based on when and where they were born. Smart people are just more skilled at defending ideas they arrived at because of stupid reasons.

Sorry. But this was a camel's straw for me. It broke my back and it broke my heart. I can no longer sit by while absolute stupidity is paraded under the mask of education and intelligence. Someone has to tell the Emperor he has no clothes on.

You're naked.

[First posted 5/1/07]

59 comments:

Aerik said...

I absolutely agree. This is going to remain in my bookmarks forever.

Steven Carr said...

Of course, slavery in the American South was different to slavery in the Bible.

Genesis 17@13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised.

People were certainly bought for money in America, but were they forcibly circumcised?

JumpingFromConclusions said...

18 Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:18-20, NIV)

Here's the take of a borderline agnostic who is still might have a couple fingers hanging on to Christianity. The above passage, by itself may not explicitly endorse slavery-- it does mention "unjust suffering." But it
a) does not condemn slavery and
b) those who revolted against their unjust masters-- they are sinners for doing so!

Really, if the slaves strictly followed the Bible, they would not have revolted. They would have just taken their beatings. No one could have rightfully encouraged them to revolt. Progress would not have been made that way. Therefore, if the Bible would have been followed strictly, there is a good chance that we'd still America would still utilize slavery today.

Joe E. Holman said...

John, I feel your anger here. I get sick upon hearing this too. I can just hear Bill "Bigot" O'Reilly making the same arguments for slavery that were made during the controversy of the Civil War, "What am I suppose to do? I need the farming help!"

Makes me sick. Only a poor fool would dare defend this idea. And the funny thing is, if slavery was different in Bible times than it was in the south, then let's bring it back! If bible slavery was just like a "job" with a few less privileges the way rightwingers make it sound, why not bring it back?!

(JH)

Anonymous said...

Thanks - I am so f'ing sick of that smug hypocricy of current christians railing against Muslims, gays, democrats, etc completely ignoring that nearly everyone who supported slavery and to the present supported segregation USED THE BIBLE FOR JUSTIFYING THEIR POSITION - now christian assholes try to pretend it didn't happen. It did, you forefathers were wrong, your god is wrong. Suck it.

Anonymous said...

Actually John, the Bible never explicitly condemns all rape. Check it out.

Anonymous said...

Liberal Christians are just as asinine as the conservatives, however. If God supports gay rights and abortion, how come the Bible isn't crystal clear on those points?

Anonymous said...

John said, "I would never have allowed any human being to have misunderstood that slavery is a complete abomination."

Just wondering, but how would you accomplish that, without being totally oppressive given the fact that it's well within the realm of human nature to rebel against clearly given boundaries?? How do you force people to understand and then, obey?

Also, you said, "if God authored the Bible" - this is a quote from the front of my bible, "Like all translations, made as they are by imperfect man, this one undoubtedly falls short of its goal." Again, human misunderstanding rears its head again.

Also, Jesus made it clear that Moses was influenced by his surrounding human community in writing some of the law in order to satisfy their demands.

It seems to me that it makes sense that the Bible testifies to a God who promised OT (and NT people) that His nature is that of a divine savior and that He came to set the captives free (meaning that the practice of slavery is of human nature rather than divine and is yet another behavior which nominates us for salvation).

Also, Anon 3:21 said, "if God supports gay rights and abortion, how come the Bible isn't crystal clear on those points?" Divine nature isn't the same as human nature - I can assert my own nature but will it be constructive or will it be self gratifying? Jesus said it would be more merciful for the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah than for the religious hypocrites, so while I do not get involved in promoting or enabling all pursuits, I don't condemn anyone either. The gospel is an invitation - not all RSVP.

Anon 1035

Danon said...

"Steven Carr said...
Of course, slavery in the American South was different to slavery in the Bible.

Genesis 17@13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised.

People were certainly bought for money in America, but were they forcibly circumcised?"

So you're saying: since they were not circumcised, they were not slaves in the biblical sense? Is that correct?

A deacon, by the grace of God, said...

I must admit that this is the first I've heard about this asinine claim. How wacky. Members of my tribe (i.e., Christians) sometimes say the most foolish things!

TRUECRISTIAN said...

in response to the threat of "Islamofascism." : "They're training their sons to use an AK-47, and we're teaching our sons how to swing a baseball bat. Tell me who wins that fight." urged President Bush to declare the following: "I want every able-bodied man and woman who is licensed to carry a firearm or who knows how to use a weapon, I want you to organize in your neighborhood. We don't want you to commit violence, but we want you to learn how to create a homeland defense system in this country.I have nothing against baseball, but the times don't call for an obsession with sports. They call for a militarization of our children.

Anonymous said...

Paul Copen is clearly correct. Atheist need to learn how to interpret the Bible correctly before they attack it.

Benny said...

A request to the myriad anonymous posters:

Please pick a nick name, any nick name (well, any that's not already used). My feeble brain is not up to the task of disentangling multiple anonymous posts! Thanks :)

chris said...

John, Your argument is not coming through clearly here. Could you press 'pause' on the rhetoric and emotion for a moment so that I can understand what you are claiming? I think you have an argument, but your post just doesn't make sense. Suppose the Bible does not condemn slavery en toto -- how does it follow that I should abandon my faith?

nick said...

Anonymous said:

Atheist need to learn how to interpret the Bible correctly before they attack it.

But that is one of the fundamental problems of Christianity: who has the correct interpretation? The Vatican? Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church? Unitarians? Jehovah's Witnesses? Mormons? No doubt you believe yours is the correct interpretation, but it is just one of many. Since there is no objective source to refer to, Bible verses mean what you or your religious leader want them to mean.

Joseph said...

Anonymous said:

Atheist need to learn how to interpret the Bible correctly before they attack it.


Don't just make comments like atheists don't know how to interpret the bible and think you made any kind of point. I hear that cop-out all of the time. It is an empty phrase meant only to make yourselves feel better about making nonsensical justifications for the nonsense that commands the bible. Please, can anyone demonstrate how the passages listed in this thread are being misinterpreted and how that justifies the passive justification of slavery in the bible.

kbrown45@hotmail.com said...

John Loftus wrote Wouldn't you at least be intelligent enough to ask why God did not condemn slavery in no uncertain terms, if he authored the Bible?...and say it often enough that no one could misunderstand, just like he purportedly did with murder and rape?

But John you should know that murder, rape and human sacrifice are the morality of the Bible. Check the links to evilbible.com

http://www.evilbible.com/Rape.htm
http://www.evilbible.com/Ritual_Human_Sacrifice.htm
http://www.evilbible.com/Murder.htm
http://www.evilbible.com/Slavery.htm

I hope this helps clarify things. The goodness of God is only good because those who speak for God say its good.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks kbrown. Excellent! Remember, I did say "purportedly." That's because Christians think God did condemn these things. But as you and someone else pointed out, he didn't even do that.

live-n-grace said...

You are referring to yourself, correct, when talking about stupideness? That you're education is above God. That there is not a perfect God.

Um, anon 3:17, what world are you in? I know for certain that you're aren't in reality, but rather what is right in your own eyes. Yes Christians are the ones who are hypocrites lol. Those who supported slavery were wrong. Period. That's it. It's hard to even make my point when you are so blinded by yourself and satan. Wake up and smell the roses. Sorry, but I think you're the hypocrite. You're trying to take the spot of dust out of my eye while there is a plank in yours. I also think you have a very unbelievably wrong view of Christianity. I wonder how close the end really is when I hear people like you speak. The bible predicted it perfectly, and I think Jesus is coming soon. But beware, the first time he came to save the world, the second time he will come to judge the world. You have a chance to repent, to change, to accept Jesus, to accept love, to accept peace, to accept life, and not hate, lying, and ignorance.

exapologist said...

Unfortunately, Jesus falsely predicted (and basically, the whole NT assumed) that the end would occur within his own generation. I take it that the statute of limitations has run out on that one, given that roughly 20 centuries have gone by since then(!). Aw, shucks.

Christensen in KC said...

Atheists made more slaves in the 20th century than in all of previous human history.

Gulags, "re-education" camps, etc.; all BECAUSE of their atheistic hatred of all religion.

They didn't have to commit such atrocities for political gain; they committed them FOR THE PURPOSE of stamping out religion.

Atheists of course don't believe in HELL; but they sure CREATE IT HERE ON EARTH when they get political control.

Who ya kiddin?

Besides yourselves?

John W. Loftus said...

So Christensen, your attempt to excuse a perfectly good God is to compare him to what you would describe as human sinners? Hmmmm. What a stretch, and what a God you have! You do realize that my criticism had little to do with human beings, didn't you? It was all about God, and what HE DID NOT DO.

Anonymous said...

So what are you saying - that the sin of slave holding should be condemned while other sins be covered by grace?? Jesus didn't come to condemn but to save and set captives free. He never condemned war or poverty either but acknowledged the truth of their existance. He offers salvation to all - slave and slave holder alike.

Thanks!

Anon 1035

susanbrown said...

I've had this discussion with my Christian friends many times, and I am told over and over that "Slavery in the bible wasn't like slavery in the American South. Why it was more like being a butler." (Really --- someone actually said butler!)

Well, if biblical slavery really wasn't that bad, why did the Hebrews want to escape from slavery in Egypt?

I haven't gotten an answer from them on that point.

One Wave said...

Hi Anon 1035, well said!

John, I agree with your views of slavery but I also would like to know, again, what you propose God do....like Anon 1035 asked?

So you tell your children to not keep, sell or trade slaves, what is your incentive and what course of action do you take when they don't obey?

John W. Loftus said...

It's not whether God offers grace to slave and slaveholder, 1035. That's irrelevant. It's whether God can communicate effectively in order that Christians know what to do to avoid the needless inflicting of pain. And it's not whether there is a punishment attached to the command, One Wave, it's whether God clearly commanded something to avoid the needless inflicting of pain.

God's biggest threat is always hell anyway, if we disobey. So picture this: a Christian buys and beats a slave into submission knowing full well that he is risking hell if he does. Sure there are people who would disobey anyway, but would you? Most Christians wouldn't, and they wouldn't create a law based upon disobedience to God, which is why homosexuality was illegal up until the time that Christian influence waned, and reason prevailed.

Anonymous said...

Hi John! Thanks for the response -do you think that fear of hell comes from scripture alone? Hell would seem a mythical place and less of a focal point in scripture if it weren't for the in-your-face witness of it in the world. But instead, heaven seems mythical. It is hard to believe when people justify so arrogantly the abuse of one another. And so often the mistreatment comes from people maligning the meaning of "love".

I've not been one to persecute people based on their sexual identity, but I have witnessed abusiveness amongst people who share sexuality as a main identifying and shaping factor in their life. I don't think focussing on the religious or God as a villifying contributor will diminish the abuse I have witnessed. Nor do I think the abuse amongst the religious will diminish by transferring their focus on the faults of those they deem unworthy.

If we take away all conspicuous differences, people will, under distress or out of longstanding habits, eventually and often with justification, mistreat, villify, or otherwise, distance away from one another - somehow, asserting our own authority seems a temptation, as though we are gaining power from it. A lot of people succeed, but in the end, they are completely missing the point of enjoying the diversity and interest of God's creation - each other. I believe "missing the point" is what is known as sin.

I think God's effectiveness in communicating anything is dependent upon the audience He is speaking to - He says (and I know) that we are often deaf and blind to Him. People who are indoctrinated into slavery are not necessarily going to hear or understand that that is wrong, especially if they are enslaved on the spiritual, mental or emotional levels.

It's not a moral or legal code that saves people - it is God's love and us loving Him back that sets us free. Grace is a really tough thing to understand, accept and practice in everyday life but it's worth pursuing.

I apologize for the long post. Your posts capture my attention. (also Joe, Dagoods, Lee, and Prup).

Thanks!

Anon 1035

nick said...

Our standards today are significantly BETTER than Biblical standards (compliance is another issue.) We know that slavery is wrong, we know that genocide is wrong, we know that women are not second-class citizens, we have freedom of religion and freedom from religion. In civilized countries we don't stone people to death, in the most civilized countries there is no death penalty. If someone commits a crime we make an effort to rehabilitate that person, instead of casting them into "hell." We have an understanding of the world around us that the men who wrote the Bible couldn't have imagined, and it makes much of the Bible out of date.

One Wave said...

John, I see what you mean.

Here you said:
And it's not whether there is a punishment attached to the command, One Wave, it's whether God clearly commanded something to avoid the needless inflicting of pain.

I can accept that it would have been a good idea for God to be more specific about slavery if it was practiced in harmful ways.

Now I see what you mean about history being a poor medium to reveal Himself in if He wanted to be understood by the masses. I don't think that God only reveals Himself in history, but it is a hard way to communicate truth through time and to different cultures that are not found in the Bible.

I'll have to think about that.

Anonymous said...

According to scripture and by firsthand experience, God does not chose to reveal Himself through History, but through spirit. History does allow us to see the influences and repeated patterns of mankind's ways and all our attempts to reach out and understand
/misunderstand, reject/accept deity.

Many religous practices are mere glorifications of human nature whereby we justify and act out on our limited, finite boundaries. Historically, that can be verified.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks for your comments 1035 and One Wave. You two are very respectful of us, and I personally thank you.

Anonymous, if God reveals himself by the spirit, then why doesn't he do so to most people? If you answer because their hearts and hard, then aren't you saying that you are better than the rest of us, because your heart is not? Why is that, if true? Do you think a boy raised in a bullet ridden apartment building by a single mom prostitute who deals drugs will have the same chance to have a soft heart to receive God's spirit? The potential is set in stone depending on "when and where we are born." Is that fair? If you say God's knows what's fair and this notion goes against our notion of what fairness is, then we must make a choice between a faith statement in an ancient superstitious document, or our own notions, the ones God purportedly created within us. But at that point we're back to needing solid historical evidence to back up the counter-intuitive notion that God knows what is fair, contrary to what we think.

But history is a poor medium for God to reveal himself, if he did.

Anonymous said...

John, thanks once again for your response - you are easy to respect - you reveal your heart with candor and courage much the same as others here. That is what I call "easy to love". I would experience faith atrophy if I were to be around folks like you guys all the time because it isn't faith until I practice loving people who mistreat me. I build my faith visiting my well-loved enemies over in other areas :-).

Nonetheless I feel protective of people who are compassionate and caring because the weight of the world tends to crush them and if it is allowable, I would hope not to stand by and allow that to happen.

I have an engagement that I am attending but hope to write later about faith and geographical/cultural/familial influences later.

Thanks!

Anon 1035

marie said...

I wonder what this discussion would look like if we were talking about Muslims and the slave trade and comparing slavery to the Koran? I bet all the christians would instantly demonize Allah out of the water and say that there is no way to have such a horrible practice, yet a good God (which Muslims believe Allah is). I dont know much about Islam at all, but I just think that Christians are responding the way they are- not because they are thinking as humans, but because they are desparately trying to cling onto their fragile faith and have to make a billion excuses for God in order to do so.

live-n-grace said...

Marie, I can tell you have little understanding fo Christianity, to call it fragile faith, and I don't think we're the ones making excuses, but rather the Athiests coming up with excuse, after excuse to try and disprove the bible.

Slavery was for those captured in war, or those who had nothing else to do. Whether than being homeless and dying, they were slaves. I still see no connection between slavery in the south and the bible. Slavery was a part of life back then, as most people had "slaves" but weren't necessarily the same as the slavery of the blacks in the south. Please show in the bible, where God says that it is perfectly fine to mistreat slaves.

exapologist said...

Hi Live-n-Grace,

For starters, you might want to have a look at this piece by Ed Babinski:

www.edwardbabinski.us/religion/bible_slavery.html

Best,

EA

Heather said...

Exapologist,

I don't think your link is working properly.

Live-in-grace,

Marie was raised a Christian, and believed in that viewpoint for most of her life. So she does have understanding.

**Slavery was for those captured in war** The wars where Israel went it, completely slaughtered everyone except for the virgins, who the men kept? What exactly do you think happened to those virgins? The same thing that happened to female slaves, in terms of haivng no choice about having sex with their 'masters.'

**"And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.... And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? .... Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." ** Numbers 31. Basically, those women were going to be treated as cattle. That shows that God is giving the approval to mistreat them. That is exactly how slaves were captured for the South -- they were also treated as cattle. The mentality is the same. It was treating other nations and other people as 'less-than.'

**However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.** (Leviticus 25:44) As soon as someone gets downgraded to the property category, it becomes all to easy to mistreat them, as one could mistreat a piece of clothing.

This is see in Exodus 21: 20 **When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.**

1 Peter 2: 18-21 is another example, in Peter giving advice on how to handle beatings. He specifically mentions that people will be beaten for doing something wrong. That leaves the sense of 'wrong' up to the person who owns the slave, which easily leads to the mentality seen in the South.

The connection between the two is that the Bible had all the ingredients for that mindset. How else were Christians so easily able to use the Bible to justify the slavery viewpoint, unless there was a connection?

It's not so much that people are looking for an excuse to disprove the Bible. It's that it gets a little tiring being told that a straightforward reading of these passages is 'incorrect' when we use those to try and ascertain the morality of God, and what it means for God to be 'good.' You earlier stated that slavery wasn't a sin, only mistreating a slave was. But then what is considered mistreatment, if the Israelites were able to keep the virgins? Or if Peter says don't complain if beaten? And can you understand why some might find it a little incredible that you state that slavery isn't a sin? Because that comes across as needing to fit the Bible into a paradigm.

exapologist said...

Whoops! Thanks, Heather!

Here's the link:

http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/religion/bible_slavery.html

Although your nice comment make it somewhat redundant.

EA

Anonymous said...

I am not of the Jewish tradition, so am not inclined to follow OT law/tradition, but for a Christian to use scripture to justify exploiting those who are weaker or more vulnerable due to lack of an explicit Biblical admonition would be consistant with religous hypocrisy. It makes sense to me that slavery is a recurring topic in scripture and that Jesus came to set the captives free - I don't know about you, but I tend to perpetuate and practice those habits that I am blind to. Physical constraint is just a more visible demonstration of spiritual captivity - Jesus sets us free from the bondage of the world so we can bond to His free spirit. As I said before, it seems slavery in the form of idolotry was a foundational condition for which I required salvation.

I'm sorry, I'm a little tired, so I hope this makes sense.

John awhile back, you said, if God reveals Himself in the spirit, why doesn't he do so with most people?

How did you come to the conclusion that He doesn't with most people? How do you envision that to be like? I'm not sure if you mean an audible voice or palpable experience or what. I can say this much - if one stigmatizes or condemns another, it can become extremely difficult and feel dangerous to open onesself up to a similar experience. It seems there is a trend for some here to condemn spiritual experiences as being delusional so this perspective might pose a difficulty for a person to be open towards hearing or acknowledging God's spirit, even though they might desire it. So it is good to not condemn other people like Jesus said.

I don't consider myself superior to acknowledge that I required spiritual salvation - I don't see self-righteousness or pride to be congruent with promoting a rescuing God.

You also asked about a little boy living in a rough neighborhood with little potential to soften his heart towards God. I would venture to say, that someone such as you describe will be more open and thirsting to see and trust God than a little child who is raised by a religious or secular hypocrite. Like the thief on the cross, the boy raised under overtly difficult situations will be more likely to see both the innocence and merciful authority of Jesus.

Thanks!

Anon 1035

One Wave said...

John,
You are easy to respect.

Victor Reppert said...

Just for the record, I never said biblical slavery was justified because it was different from Southern slavery. I am curious about what slavery might have been like then compared to what it was in the South, but regardless, all persons are precious in the eyes of God and Christ shed his blood for every single one of them, so if you take that to its logical conclusion you can't really treat someone as a mere means by enslaving them. Why God didn't slam this into everyone's heads earlier on in history is, of course, mysterious, but, if God exists, the God seems to care a lot about our freedom to reach conclusions like this on our own.

On the other hand, it seems hard to argue against a "social Darwinist" secular defense of slavery. Why should I abolish an instituion that is maintaining me economically? That's what you would have been asking people to do if you had been an abolitionist when slavery was predominant. "It is difficult for a man to understand something when his income depends on his not understanding it.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Victor:
First -- and I have not read your original article, btw -- you are misusing the term 'Social Darwinist.' Admittedly, the term itself is pure nonsense, at least as it was popularized by Henry Spencer, since it totally ignores the real Darwinian tools which we evolved, which include ethics, empathy, and cooperation.

But what you are quoting is a purely Marxian Socialist explanation, that our psyches are strictly determined by the economic factors shaping us. Also nonsense, just a different kind.

As for the question as to why "God didn't slam this into everyone's heads earlier on in history" that is not quite the problem, at least if you take the Bible as the 'Word of God' and not the word of men giving their interpretation of God.

'God' does not just not condemn slavery, but actively permits it by giving rules as to how slaves are to be treated in the OT. And even in the New, not only do we have words of Paul on it, but we have the Parable of the Unjust Steward.

Can you understand this parable in any other way than saying that 'justice' should be tempered with 'mercy'? The king's mercy would be meaningless if he were not to be considered as acting justly initially. He had a right, he was right to take the action he proposed, but he held back. (Certainly if he is taken as an 'image' of the 'Heavenly Father' this must be the way this is seen.)

But what is this action? To sell the steward and his entire family into slavery because the debt is unpaid. And there is no condemnation, there is approval by Jesus of this action.

So, either the Bible is not 'the Word of God" or God approves slavery, it is as simple as that.

Victor Reppert said...

Prup: In Matthew 19 Jesus says that the law of Moses permitted divorce as a concession to human hard-hearted wickedness, but that it was not what God originally intended. In other words, we have it on the authority of Jesus himself that some things permitted and regulated in the law of Moses are not morally right and not what God intended. Hence your dilemma is a false dilemma.

John W. Loftus said...

But Vic, if God did make concessions, how does the Protestant know any of his other commands aren't also concessions? Furthermore, why would God make any concessions at all, especially when it comes to slavery? Would a good parent say to her older son, "You can beat your younger brother because you'll do it anyway?" [What do you make of the phrase "because of the hardness of your hearts," if it doesn't mean God let them do what they were going to do anyway?]

Cheers.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Victor:
You missed or ignored my point. I did not quote the Mosaic Law, or even Paul or "Peter." I mentioned them, yes, but I specifically used the words of Jesus, the Parable of the Unjust Steward, as a sanctioning of slavery. I do not see how it can be taken any other way. If you can, please explain.

Victor Reppert said...

Look, Jesus is making a comparison, and using the presuppositions of his time to make the point. The king had a legal right to sell the steward into slavery. That's all the parable needs to work.

The other option I have is to say that Jesus, in his humanity, even though he was the incarnate God, has the non-blameworthy false belief that slavery was justified. I don't prefer that option, but it is there.

Victor Reppert said...

We see, of course the ill effects of slavery. Does it seem as if it would have been better if it had been proscribed early on? No doubt. But then we would have missed all the good that cam from the human effort to abolish it.

The strength behind the atheist's argument from evil, (and this is an incarnation of it), is that it allows the atheist to call a spade a spade, to not try to imply that something that looks wrong is not as bad as it looks, but allows the atheist to say that it is what it appears to be: wrong and inexcusable.

But then the atheist is saddled with a subjectivist morality which says that if one persons says slavery is OK and the other says it isn't OK, there is no truth of the matter but merely a difference of taste. That seems to me to take away with the left hand what has been gained with the right. We can be wrong about the goodness or badness of certain states of affairs, relative to the total situation.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic said...But then we would have missed all the good that came from the human effort to abolish it.

Let me briefly address this part of what you said, since in other posts I've addressed the rest of what you said.

William Alston and others argue that the hindsight lessons learned from a tragic event (or series of events) can never justify the event itself, for it means God used some people who suffered to teach others moral lessons, and that is incompatible with God's perfect love for each single person in his creation.

I agree.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

John: I am surprised at you. You are usually so much better at seeing the facts behind the words, yet you let Dr. Reppert slip that gigantic an absurdity past you. (And Dr. Reppert, I will be glad to take care of the canard about 'there is no truth of the matter but merely a difference of taste' tomorrow. Even the best chefs take a day to prepare pressed duck -- and I know it is late when I pun that badly.)

Dr. Reppert said "But then we would have missed all the good that came from the human effort to abolish it." And you didn't challenge him. So I will.

What 'good,' Dr. Reppert, are you talking about, even here in the United States? The bloodiest war of the Nineteenth Century? The death of Elijah Lovejoy? The caning of Sen. Sumner? The people killed in the riots over the Fugitive Slave Act?

Or are you talking about the 80 years of institutionalized racism poisoning the South AND the North? Are you talking about the millions of black lives that were sunk into illiteracy through segregated schools, hopelessness and crime because they learned white policemen wouldn't care about crime in black neighborhoods? Or the blacks who gave up on the oromise of education when they saw their Uncles working as janitors, their mothers and aunts as maids, because whatever schooling they had wouldn't get them hired?

Or are you calling good the countries seduced by the Stalinist system's ability to use American racism as an argument that America was a country built on hypocrisy?

Or the political corruption, North and South after the War because each section was practically a one-party state?

Or the deaths of the lynched, of Emmet Till, of Viola Liuzzo, of Cheney, Schwerner and Goodman, of Martin Luther King?

Where was the great good that came from the final abolition of slavery?

(And, ironically, the writers of the Bible were able to blot out another great evil, also accepted, by concocting the story of the sacrifice at Moriah. From that time, human sacrifice was dead anywhere the bible's reach extended. They could have interpreted the first story of Sodom -- when Abraham allied with the king of Sodom to rescue Lot, and refused to take any payment, any spoils or booty for the action. How easy to use that to condemn the taking of slaves. How sad that no one thought to use it that way.)

John W. Loftus said...

Prup, Vic is talking about the moral lessons and strength of character we as humans learned in fighting the evils of slavery. I'm sure he knows Christian philosopher William P. Alston, and he understood my point.

BTW, nice job yourself.

I always admire someone who defends his belief at its weakest point (even if seriously misguided), and Vic is willing to do that.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Sadly, Dr. Reppert's position falls flat. Why should his god prohibit ANYTHING, since we learn 'moral lessons' by fighting an evil? Why Moriah, then?

In fact, taken to its extreme, this position reminds me of Edmond Taylor's wonderful description of Rasputin (THE FALL OF THE DYNASTIES P. 165)

"[I]n yielding to the more banal temptations of the flesh he could reassure himself with the thought that he was saving his soul from even greater jeopardy. His soul proved to be so often in need of rescue that for his own spiritual comfort -- and for the eventual salvation of others -- he was led to work out his famous dogma of redemption through repentance. Stated in its crudest terms -- which Rasputin was usually careful to avoid doing -- the doctrine postulated that to be saved it was first necessary to sin; at least it was essential to be humble in heart, and nothing was moe truly humble than a repentant sinner. Therefore. brothers -- and sisters -- let us humble ourselves by sinning. ... He preached mainly by example."

John W. Loftus said...

Prup, because for Vic it isn't an all or nothing proposition. God tells us what he wants us do to on some moral issues while he wants us to work other moral issues out for ourselves.

BTW Prub, did you see that now we have a link to all the comments on a page, as you suggested? Check it out.

Anonymous said...

Prup you had mentioned the parable of the unjust servant and how slavery is conveyed as a sanctioned judgement for the unmerciful.

As a judgement against us, slavery is exactly what we perpetuate when we are merciless and hold burdens of indebtedness and unforgiveness over one another - whether it be a magnified offense or actual bigotry. This stance is perpetuated by those who are in positions of authority or some sort of personal empowerment- a mercenary marketplace mentality is perpetuated. It exists wherever people seek to objectify others for empowerment or gratification.

Like I said before, I look at my own heart/life and my own surroundings and then look to see it in scripture.

For me, after the God of Easter lowered the nets for me, the language I find myself continually referring to describe faith is being set free. So "freedom", "captivity", "possession", "Master" "servant" - all of these are spiritual terms.

I look at my culture and surrounding community (religious and secular) and I find myself in a very ungracious environment - a marketplace environment whereby those who can meet increasing conditions for acceptance survive for another round - and the conditions/laws keep raising to create an increasingly frustrated and discouraged marginalized community.

The gospel is an offense and a threat to those who seek to collect people for the purpose of gaining dishonest alliances towards their own narrow agendas whether it be religious or secular.

I am no longer manipulated or cowed into conforming to illfitting alliances by guilt or anger or threats of villainy, whether the source be secular or religious in nature.

I do not idolize evil and I do not let it govern or shrink my life but I do not ignore it either - if anyone has a heart for those captured into slavery, there is an organization that addresses these very real-life nowadays situations - anti-slavery.org. Slavery is an ongoing condition both in scripture and real life until we finally surrender and respect that people are the property of a freedom loving God.

Neither God nor evil should be relegated to history or religious texts.

Anon 1035

Phil said...

Hello John,

I, as a Christian, and like a large number of Christians in the Civil War era, recognize that the Southern-type slavery was a terrible thing. I'm curious, have you read any material from those days opposing slavery? I have, and I gather that many Christians of the era hated slavery, for exactly the same reasons as you do!

I recommend the book, published in 1838, called "The Bible against Slavery." You can find the full text online here:
http://medicolegal.tripod.com/weldbas.htm

And as for God condemning slavery... Did you know that the punishment for kidnapping a man to sell him was death? Read Exodus 21:16. If America had lived up to OT Biblical laws, every last slave trader would have been executed for his heinous crimes.

John W. Loftus said...

Yes Phil, I know there were Christians opposed to slavery. But whether a person accepted those arguments basically depended upon whether he lived in the South and needed slaves to run a cotton plantation, for instance. However, if God had been clearer it wouldn't matter where anyone was born or if you needed slaves.

And yes, I know of that passage. But it is about slave traders, not those who buy slaves. The Christian argument of the South is much like how modern Christians deal with other issues. Since the slave traders will sell these slaves to somebody anyway, then I might as well buy them.

Phil said...

I'm not sure that your argument there isn't subject to "biased data..."

After all, it seems reasonable that the people who accepted those arguments wouldn't keep slaves, right? So, of course the people who kept slaves wouldn't accept those arguments. Causality is a touchy subject.

And as for your argument that God "should have been clearer..." I'm not certain I understand your point. Bad things happened, but don't you think people would find ways to be jerks anyway? Even if God made special provisions for American-style slavery (which was somewhat irrelevant to most of Israel, being a rare practice in those days... even in Egypt they were at least fed well and had their own property), do you really think that people wouldn't either
a) ignore it, as is very common nowadays, or
b) not understand it, due to the fact that our understanding of ancient texts can be somewhat limited (this also happens often), or
c) find ways to work around the text, as also happens... I heard of a couple (working in a church) who were caught committing adultery and as defense said that they "love" each other, which is never, ever provided as biblical grounds for such a thing.

In other words, I don't know that it really would have helped, since basic human nature is to do whatever the heck one wants and only think about it afterwards.

John W. Loftus said...

Come on Phil. Think consistently here with me. As Christian you would never support system of laws that goes against what you believe God has prohibited. That's not to say Christians don't break the laws, only that they would not be out in public defending something they believe God was against.

If you believed God prohibited mountain climbing, you might still climb a mountain, but you wouldn't brag about it and flaunt it by campaigning to overturn a law which prohibited it.

So to say if God had prohibited slavery wouldn't help much is simply not being consistent. For we are talking about a system of laws that Christians argued for because God was not as clear about it as he was in prohibiting murdering innocent people.

Phil said...

I really don't get your argument. If I thought God prohibited mountain climbing, I don't think I'd go climbing mountains.

However, if people thought they could gain something from climbing mountains, I'm certain they would climb mountains anyway. Even some who claimed to follow God, they'd find ways to justify it like people do all the time.

If God had been more "clear" about slavery, I think some people may not have kept slaves, but I'm sure some would have found ways to do it anyway and reconcile that in their own minds. After all, remember my example with the couple caught in adultery? That's one of the more clearly proscribed things in the Bible, and there they found ways to rationalize it... why do you think people wouldn't do the same with regards to slavery?

Anonymous said...

For curiosity sake what do the readers here think Paul is talking about in 1 Timothy 1:9-10? In NIV he says slave-traders in KJV he says menstealers. Which one do you think is correct and what do you think he is saying whichever one you agree with?

Kate Truax said...

I must say that I have read your rantings and I respect your right to an opinion but in all intelligence one must recognize the reality of the Bible as written over hundreds of years yet applicable to all generations. Also the message of God's word is the story of His love not the condemnation of His people. One must read through with thorough understanding of who God is. God extends freedoms to us; the same freedoms which in the United States are granted by law except His are with love. Through that love He makes room for our error through Jesus Christ. Within the truth that the Bible spans such a mass of time yet remains current a delineation exists between what is of then and what is of now. The delineation takes place only after Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, which is a scientifically supported notion for you intellectuals. The then is pre-Christ presence on earth; the now is after Christ ascends back into heaven. The power that Christ exerted was through His humility directly relates to how He wishes us to view both our present and our past. We must recognize that as humans it is unavoidable to fall into sin. That is a no brainer. Think of all the temptations of things that you do, before, while, or after doing them you pause to acknowledge that something just isn't right about it. Christ came to reconcile our fallable nature. God's grace and love allows us to make those mistakes and understands that they will occur but the reality is stopping the wrong once recognized and changing it. Changing the wrong does not mean infallability it means that you strive to represent that which is of Christ, not alone but through the body of Christ which is the church(yes there are marred churches, don't get me started I have been to plenty-BUT God has always existed and because of that there are churches that represent HIM). If you feel you are without need of belonging to your Creator then I promise to pray for you because I cannot imagine how lonely that life really is. Going home for you must be treacherous because I can think of a million ways you are berrated by negativism on all sides. God loves you even in your doubt-now He wants you to recognize that the doubt is okay just don't sit in it!