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Sunday Study: Slavery, John Locke and the Bible

June 28th, 2009 by Matt

It is often affirmed, as an incontestable and obvious truth, that the Bible supports slavery. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong cites Leviticus 25:44 as evidence of this charge in “Why Traditional Theism is not an Adequate Foundation for Morality.”[1] Although Armstrong is not the alone in making this claim, I think the charge is mistaken; the Bible does not support slavery.

This claim was refuted by John Locke in his Second Treatise on Civil Government, one of the founding texts of contemporary liberal political theory. Locke was a famous English philosopher, less known is that Locke was also the author of several commentaries on scripture and the First Treatise of Civil Government was essentially a class argument from scripture against the divine right of kings. In the Second Treatise, Locke argued that the law of nature, which for Locke is the law of God, forbids a person selling themselves or another into slavery.[2]

In response to the line of argument Armstrong cites, Locke responded with

I confess, we find among the Jews, as well as other nations, that men did sell themselves; but, it is plain, this was only to drudgery, not to slavery: for, it is evident, the person sold was not under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power: for the master could not have power to kill him, at any time, whom, at a certain time, he was obliged to let go free out of his service; and the master of such a servant was so far from having an arbitrary power over his life, that he could not, at pleasure, so much as maim him, but the loss of an eye, or tooth, set him free, Exod. xxi.[3]

Locke’s argument here is as follows,

[1] If a person is a slave then that person is “under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases.”[4]
[2] The institution referred to in scripture that people could sell themselves into, was not one where they were “under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power.”

The conclusion Locke draws from [1] and [2] is that the institution scripture refers to is not slavery. Locke’s response here is interesting and fundamentally correct. Here I want to simply elaborate on it in more detail so I will address each premise in turn.

What is Slavery?
Central to Locke’s argument is his definition of slavery and understanding of what makes slavery wrong. Locke understands the state of slavery as,

[1] If a person is a slave then that person is “under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases.”

Rodney Stark utilises a similar definition,

A slave is a human being who, in the eyes of the law and custom, is the possession, or chattel, of another human being or of a small group of human beings. Ownership of slaves entails absolute control, including the right to punish (often including the right to kill), to direct behaviour, and to transfer ownership.[5]

The Oxford Dictionary gives a similar definition; a slave is defined as a “person who is the legal property of another or others and is bound to absolute obedience, human chattel.”[6] Timothy Keller notes correctly that the English word ‘slave’ carries connotations of new-world slavery as it was practiced in the British Empire, made infamous in the antebellum southern states of the US.[7] It is this paradigm that critics of scripture tend to allude to. John Loftus, for example, cites an eyewitness description of antebellum practices and then links it slavery in the Bible,

He took her into the kitchen, and stripped her from neck to waist. He made her get upon the stool, and he tied her hands to a hook in the joist. After rolling up his sleeves, he commenced to lay on the heavy cow skin, and soon the warm, red blood came dripping to the floor … No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood clotted cowskin.
Why didn’t the Christian God ever explicitly and clearly condemn slavery?[8]

In the British Empire and in many US states, slavery was governed under the Code of Barbados. This code was explicitly racist and described Africans as “heathenish, brutish, and an uncertaine, dangerous kinde of people.”[9] It allowed owners to use, “unlimited force to compel labor without penalty even if this resulted in maiming or death;”[10] It denied slaves due process rights, allowed owners to, in effect, kill their slave for any cause, forbade slaves from marrying and effectively, prevented owners from setting their slaves free.[11] Keller writes that, “The African slave trade was begun and resourced through kidnapping.”[12] Stark notes that “20 to 40 percent of slaves died while being transported to the coast, another 3-10 percent died while waiting on the coast, and about 12 to 16 percent boarded on ships died during the voyage.”[13]

Does the Old Testament Approve of Slavery?
Armstrong argues that “the bible contains some horrible passages about slavery;”[14] to substantiate this he cites from the English Standard Version, “as for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations around you.” (Lev 25:44) [15]

The ESV here uses the English word ‘slavery’ to translate the Hebrew word ebed. An important initial observation is that ebed is the noun form of the verb abad which means ‘to work’ or ‘to serve.’ Ebed does not have the same semantic range as the contemporary word ‘slave;’ Freedman notes,

The word ebed however, denoted not only actual slaves occupied in production or in the household but also persons in subordinate positions (mainly subordinate with regard to the king and his higher officials). Thus the term ebed is sometimes translated as “servant.” Besides, the term was used as a sign of servility in reference to oneself when addressing persons of higher rank.[16]

Locke suggests that an examination of The Torah’s references to an ebed shows that, in fact, it is not the equivalent of what in English language and culture is referred to with the word ‘slave.’ I noted above that Locke’s second premise was,

[2] The institution referred to in scripture that people could sell themselves into, was not one where they were “under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power.”

I will give four examples to demonstrate why I think Locke is correct.

First, an ebed was not acquired by kidnapping; kidnapping a human being and selling them as a slave was a capital offence in The Torah (Ex 21:16). Moreover, slave trading is implicitly condemned in the book of Revelation (Rev 18:13) and explicitly condemned by Paul as contrary to the law and sound doctrine (1 Tim 1:9-10). An ebed is used in The Torah to refer to a person who offers to work for another, free of charge, in exchange for a debt being cancelled. During service the ebed worked for and served another, lived in that person’s house and probably received free food and board.

Second, the institution was not based on racist notions that ebed were of an inferior race. In fact, the opposite is affirmed. In the book of Job we read,

If I have rejected the cause of my male or female slaves [Hebrew: ebed amah] when they brought a complaint against me; what then shall I do when God rises up? When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? Did not he who made me in the womb make them? And did not one fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:13-15

Here Job refers to an ebed as having a right to go to court and sue their “owner” in pursuit of their rights. Job bases this on the idea that both he and his ebed are equal; both are created by God.

Third, as Locke notes, an ebed was not the property of another so that they could dispose of them as they saw fit. To deliberately kill an ebed is a capital offence (Ex 21:20-21). Similarly, it was illegal to strike an ebed (Ex 21:26-27). This latter point is often denied on the basis of Exodus 21:20-21,

If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

Some interpret this passage to mean that because a slave is the property of another they can severely beat the slave and providing the beating is not fatal, there is no punishment. This fails to deal adequately with the context and the Hebrew text; the word translated as ‘property’ here is actually ‘silver’ (a reference to money) and the word translated ‘punishment’ here is not the usual word for punishment. Christopher Wright notes that the word implies “the shedding of the blood of the master of the slave”[17] and so refers to capital punishment. It is used in direct contrast with the same word in the previous verse where it is stated that deliberately killing an ebed is to be avenged. Therefore it does not say the person will not be punished for beating a slave, it says he will not be executed for it unless he kills the slave. For further evidence that the passage is not a licence to beat, a couple of verses later even causing a minor injury on an ebed, such as a bruise, is explicitly condemned.

The same contrast occurs in the passage immediately preceding where a free man who struck and killed another was to be “held responsible” but not if the person survives. It is clear from v 19, however, that the person was in fact to be punished; hence, again, the ‘held responsible’ is referring only to being held responsible for murder and is not speaking to the lesser charges. What Ex 21:20-21 says then, is that if a person deliberately kills their ebed then they are to be held responsible for murder and executed. If the slave if the slave “gets up after a day or two,” they are not to be held responsible for murder because the ebed is their “silver.”

This makes sense when a few verses later, in Ex 21:26-27, striking a slave is explicitly prohibited and the legal punishment is for the ebed to go free. In The Torah, the penalty for assault was for the assailant to provide monetary compensation to the victim.[18] This would create a quandary in this case as an ebed is in a position of servitude because he or she is in debt to the person they work for. In such a case the assailant would owe money to a person who owes him money. The Torah resolves the issue by declaring that even a trivial strike (such as the causing a bruise 21:25) resulted in an immediate cancelation of the ebed’s entire debt, which would often result in a financial loss to the assailant.

Third, unlike new world slavery which was life long and where, under the Barbados code, emancipation was effectively prohibited, an ebed could not be held in service for more than six years (Exodus 21:2).[19] Upon release, their employer was morally required to give them sufficient resources for them to be set up on their own feet (Deut 15:12-18) and the community left resources for them to live on for a year (Ex 23:10-11, Lev 25:2-7). In fact, The Torah encouraged people to prevent family members from becoming an ebed by paying their debts for them (Lev 25:48). Paul, after writing to the Corinthians and encouraging them to “retain the place in life that the Lord assigned,” encourages slaves to purchase their freedom and not to remain in this position (1 Cor 7:21-22).

Finally, if an ebed fled from an oppressive employer it was illegal to return him or her to “his master,” instead he or she was to live, “wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses” (Deut 23:15-16). It was forbidden to send him or her back to his owner. This law stood in stark contrast the Ancient Near Eastern legal customs of the day.[20] The code of Hammurabi, for example, proscribed the death penalty for receiving a runaway slave.[21] In the antebellum south, the Fugitive Slave Act 1850 required the return of run-away slaves at penalty of law.

It seems then that Locke’s response is fundamentally correct. While it is true that many English translations of the bible use the word slavery to translate the word ebed it is mistaken to see the two institutions as the same. Slavery refers to the state of being the property or chattel of another; regardless of what connotations various words in English translations have, the institution referred to in scripture did not permit, condone or allow this.

[1] Walter Sinnott-Armstrong “Why Traditional Theism Cannot Provide an Adequate Foundation for Morality” in Is Goodness without God Good Enough: A Debate on Faith, Secularism and Ethics eds Robert K Garcia and Nathan L King (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008) 101-116.
[2] John Locke Second Treatise on Civil Government Ch IV.
[3] Ibid, sec 24.
[4] Ibid, sec 23.
[5] Rodney Stark For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the end of Slavery (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003) 292.
[6] The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (Oxford: Oxford Clarendon University Press, 1974 ) 5th Edition, 1199.
[7] Timothy Keller Reasons for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton books) 110.
[8] John Loftus Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity (New York: Prometheus Books, 2008) 231. Many thanks to Dean Mischewski for gifting us a copy of Loftus’s book.
[9] Stark For the Glory of God: 312-313.
[10] Ibid, 313.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Keller Reasons for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism 111.
[13] Stark For the Glory of God: 303.
[14] Sinnott-Armstrong “Why Traditional Theism Cannot Provide an Adequate Foundation for Morality” 110.
[15] Armstrong omits to mention the previous passage which forbids any Israelite taking another Israelite as a ‘slave’ on the grounds that they are a “slave of God” whom God has redeemed. Paul applies the same teaching to Christians in 1 Corinthians 7:23 prohibiting Christians from being sold as ‘slaves.’ This teaching led many early and medieval theologians to forbid the enslavement of Christians resulting in slavery all but disappearing from Christian Europe in the early Middle Ages; Stark documents this in For the Glory of God: 329-330.
[16] D N Freedman Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group,1992).
[17] Christopher Wright God’s People in Gods Land: Family, Land and Property in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids Mi: Paternoster Press, 1990) 242.
[18] See Exodus 21:19.
[19] There is an apparent discrepancy between Exodus 21:1-6 and the release laws of Leviticus 25:39-43; Christopher Wright in God’s People in Gods Land: 253, noted that the law in Exodus 21:6 refers to Hebrew slaves. Wright notes that in its original context the word ibri designated a social class, not an ethnic group. This was the class of people who did not own land, who survived by hiring themselves out to land owners. Lev 25, on the other hand, deals with an Israelite landowner who has been forced into poverty by mortgaging his land and then selling himself and his family into the service of another land owner.
[20] Wright God’s People in Gods Land: 249.
[21] Code of Hammurabi 16.

LINKS TO THIS POST:
John W. Loftus Nitpickers Have Started to Attack
Glenn Peoples Skeptics and the annoyance of the little things…. like facts.
John W. Loftus Madeleine Flannagan is Happy to be Treated as Women Were in the Bible!
Wintery Knight Does the Bible condone slavery?


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100 responses so far ↓

  • I dispute that Locke, or Scott Bartchy or you have refuted anything here. To read Southern defenses of slavery, which were superior to the opposition, see the books, “Defending Slavery,” “Cotton is King,” and “Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women.”

    But let’s say you are correct. What then do you say about how we humans distort things, which we know from several different studies and books? What do you say about the fact that your God knows this about us and that he could foreknow how the Bible would be used by the Americans of the South? Why wasn’t God crystal clear on this issue such that people suffered horrendously at the hands of Bible quoting masters?

    I’m presently writing/editing another book which is due August 1st to PB. In it I have a chapter on what I call “The Problem of Miscommunication.” If there is a perfectly good God who knows us like he does and could foreknow how we humans would misuse the Bible, then why didn’t he reveal himself to us better than he did? I argue that there are many things in the Bible which led his followers to kill and hurt people that upon human hindsight could’ve been stated better.

    Did you know that 8 million Christians in the 16th century killed each other? There were eight French Wars of Religion along with the Thirty Years War where Germany was almost decimated. What did they kill each other over? Things that could easily be stated differently if an omniscient perfectly good God were actually the author of the Bible.

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  • Welcome John, nice to see you again. You wrote:
    I dispute that Locke, or Scott Bartchy or you have refuted anything here. To read Southern defenses of slavery, which were superior to the opposition, see the books, “Defending Slavery,” “Cotton is King,” and “Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women.”

    I have read Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women and its summary of the arguments you refer to; none of them address or deal with Locke’s argument. Most of these arguments note that The Torah accepts the existence of some form of servitude (an ebed) that they identify as slavery. But Locke and various abolitionists did not deny this; what they denied was that this institution was analogous to the institution that existed in the antebellum south. No one you cited provided any evidence against this claim.

    The anti-abolitionist writings you cite in your book, Why I Became and Atheist actually accept this. On p 231 you describe, graphically, a female slave being severely beaten in the southern US (I cited this above). You then claim the bible was used to justify “the brutal slavery in the American south and cite as an example Charles Hodge. Actually on p 831 of Cotton is King, Hodge states that if the bible is used to argue that “slavery as it occurs among us [in the US south]” is sinful, then “he has no objection.” Hodge only objects to the idea that all forms of slavery (including the ebed in scripture) are unjust. On the same page he states that laws allowing people to beat, harm, kill and starve their slaves are condemned by scripture. A point you conveniently missed. On the next page, p 832, Hodge again states that it is very plain that the institution which existed in the US is condemned by scripture. Hence, in fact, the pro-slavery advocates you cite do not refute Locke at all, nor do they support the positions you insinuate in your book.

    I am sorry but citing Hodge and claiming he held a view he did not and trusting your audience will not pick it up off the shelf and check it is not a rebuttal.

    As for your claim that the Biblical case for slavery, as practiced in the US south, is strong, please cite where in scripture is it stated that one can permanently hold another person as property, so that, one can dispose of them as they see fit, beat them in the manner you refer to in your book and kill them without consequence?

    There is no ambiguity here. Nothing of the sort is defended in scripture and such practices are clearly and unambiguously condemned (as I pointed out in my post above). So it is patently dishonest to claim that this is supported in scripture. The fact that you try to defend such mendacity by attributing a position to Hodge he did not hold and to justify this you then cite a book that actually does not rebut the argument, only reinforces this conclusion.

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Slavery, John Locke and the Bible

  • John, you also wrote:
    ”Why wasn’t God crystal clear on this issue such that people suffered horrendously at the hands of Bible quoting masters?”

    Well, even if you interpret “ebed” as “slave” as Hodge did, God was crystal clear in scripture about not beating them, not killing them, not threatening, the fact they were entitled to due process rights, must be released after six years and so on; in other words, to not treat them as property to be disposed of as one sees fit. Hence, to suggest that the Bible is unclear on the kind of suffering inflicted on the US southern slaves you refer to in your book is false.

    ”If there is a perfectly good God who knows us like he does and could foreknow how we humans would misuse the Bible, then why didn’t he reveal himself to us better than he did? I argue that there are many things in the Bible which led his followers to kill and hurt people that upon human hindsight could’ve been stated better.”

    This is an incoherent argument. Knowledge constitutes of a warranted and true belief. If God foreknew that people would misuse the Bible then it must be true that they would, but then God could not prevent them doing so, if he did then it would not be true that they would in which case he would not know it.

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Slavery, John Locke and the Bible

  • Thanks Mr Dennis, you raise another aspect i did not have time to go into. Even in our society we recognise that people can forfiet their right to liberty by commiting crimes. We also recognise that people can through their actions become indebted to others and if they cant pay this in monetary terms we think its not unreasonable to request that they pay it off via their labour.

    None of these things seem terribly uncontroversial or bizzare and this is essentially what is at the heart of the hebrew institution of an "ebed".

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  • Another excellent analysis Matt. I find it very interesting that instead of having prisons in the Jewish laws, a person was expected to pay off their debts – if they could not, they were sold into "slavery" to gain the money. In other words, they were effectively bound to work to pay off their debts, for up to 6 years.

    This is a very fair system in my mind, as it ensures that both:
    – The victim is fairly compensated, and
    – The offender is punished, with the severity of the punishment being directly related to the cost of the offence.

    In our society today this fairness could be somewhat replicated by compulsory work in prisons, with the profits to be given to the victims until the debt was paid, at which point the offender would be released. That is a more complicated system but would be similarly fair.

    Your analysis of the Hebrew has helped to confirm this in my mind. Thankyou.

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  • Exodus 21:20 "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, 21 but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

    A day or two? What kind of beating would incapacitate someone for two days?

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  • Warranted belief…ahhhh, you must still be living in the days of Locke when it was believed we could be completely rational creatures. We aren't, not by a long shot.

    Recent blog post: Would You Like to See a Debate Between Dinesh D'Souza and Myself?

  • What I find interesting, Matt, is that you have not addressed my main question: “Why didn’t the Christian God ever explicitly and clearly condemn slavery?…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! What would he think then as his blood was spilled at the hands of a Bible-quoting master? 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.’”

    Was your God as clear on this issue as he was about murder? Oh, that's not a good analogy because, well, you know, genocide, the witch hunts, heresy trials and the crusades. Hmmmm. Okay, let’s try this one: Was your God as clear about this as he was that we should love our neighbors? Oh, that's not a good analogy because, well, you know, the question was "who is my neighbor?” right? But once you get my point you'll have no good answers to this problem and you know it, so instead you side-step it as you did here. That's what it takes to believe, Matt, side stepping problems because you cannot reasonable explain them. Skeptics say believers are ignorant, and they are, but they’re not unintelligent. It takes a great deal of intelligence to find ways around these types of problems in order to resolve the cognitive dissonance they create.

    I find your post here absolutely pathetic. Oh, that's right, everyone should've seen the truth about slavery as you do based on hindsight. Does this require that believers should be able to study the Hebrew and Greek? They had the King James Version. They came to their own conclusions as Protestants without requiring Catholic ecclesiastical interpretive authority. So, what does God require here, that they become scholars and figure out by hindsight like you have on these issues? Yeah, right. In fact. I'll bet you think your views on women, heresy trials and the crusades should’ve been plainly obvious to the historic church too. They were just stupid on a par with a rock, right? No, better ease your mind with the idea that they just did not care to follow God, that they purposely twisted the Bible knowing they were wrong for, oh, three centuries when it came to the witch trials. No, they weren't sincere, were they, or Christians, because Christians always understand the truth and they always behave godly, right? Yes, there are insincere professing Christians, but in my experience people agonized over knowing what God's will was for them–the overwhelming majority did. And given the threat of hell why wouldn't they? And let’s not forget that the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit just did not do his job.

    Recent blog post: Would You Like to See a Debate Between Dinesh D'Souza and Myself?

  • Exodus 21:20 – seriously? Did you read Matt's post before you wrote that?

    I guess that explains your post on Debunking Christianity Nitpickers Have Started to Attack.

    The context shows clearly that this passage is only referring to taking the life of a slave. Committing assault against a slave is dealt with a few passages later. The text follows the same form with ebeds as it does with the rules regarding the treatment of non-indentured people.

    Read the passages before and after v 20; you have a problem with people not reading your entire book in its context, how about you practice what you preach?

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  • Loftus:
    "…why didn’t God tell his people, “Thou shalt not own, buy, sell, or trade slaves,”"
    What is a "slave", if they are sold into it for a fixed period of time (6 years) to pay their debts? Technically, they are simply a person who has sold their labour on a 6 year term with payment in advance. I see no reason why God would condemn any particular form of payment for services, there is no moral issue there.

    On the other hand, if you define a slave as someone who is kept against their will, then should God have condemned imprisonment as well? What about all forms of punishment for wrongdoing? Surely they are just as bad. The liberty of a slave is compromised, but if that is as punishment for a crime that is no different from our modern system of state-sanctioned "slavery" (imprisonment).

    The issue is not what payment is rendered for someone's services, or what contracts they enter into (e.g. a contract to work for 6 years). The issue is purely whether people are MISTREATED. And as Matt has pointed out, the Bible contained many clear laws to ensure no-one, including bondservants, were mistreated. These laws clearly forbid slavery as practiced in the West in former centuries, while allowing for people to be required to sell their labour to pay off debts – a fair and simple system of punishment.

    "Does this require that believers should be able to study the Hebrew and Greek? They had the King James Version."
    By the same logic you could say today that we need not consider the Hebrew, we can just believe whatever translation we have at hand, whatever flaws exist in it. There have been scholars in every age who can read Hebrew, they must be listened to.

    "…the crusades"
    Straw man argument. The crusades, with all their flaws, were retaliation for Muslim attacks on Europe. Without the crusades you could well be speaking arabic and have no bible available to criticise. War is nasty, and injustices have been perpretrated by BOTH sides. This issue is irrelevant.

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  • Methinks you just aren't trying to understand. you have an agenda. You have faith. Who needs anything else? And Hodge, BTW argued for Biblical slavery, that Biblical slavery if done the Biblical way, was good.

    Bullshit. There is a well known distinction between a institution in theory and an institution in practice. the practice of the theory never, and I mean never, accords with the theory. Theories are idealizations which do not work out in practice, ever.

    Oh, that's right. God expected the theory to work out in it's idealized form. What then does that make God? Dumber than a boz of rocks.

    Again, I say, you just are not trying to understand, you really aren't, neither you nor your husband. You have faith. You seek to justify. You try to explain the obvious away. That's what you have to do.

    Recent blog post: Nitpickers Have Started to Attack

  • And how did that reply actually have anything to do with what Madeleine had said? Please try answering her comment.

    Recent blog post: Child misbehaving in public? How not to smack.

  • Soooo, Madeline, since you're a woman would you like to be treated as a slave according to the Bible? Really now? Women were treated mush worse you know. So tell me this and do not lie. Would you want to be a slave according to the Bible? I think not, not even the idealized version much less the practical version as I explained.

    Ohhhh, but God is good. he explained everthing perfectly and really expected that people, fallen sinful people, would do just what he said was okay to do.

    there are others things in the OT. Would they also be okay with you that if you were raped you should marry your rapist? Get real. Again, personalize this. Would you want to be treated the way the Bible says women and slaves should be treated? And does this reflect a good, no perfect God?

    No, not on your life. Not a chance in, in hell.

    So get off your high horse. Have some humility about these things. Like other things it's okay to simply say you don't know.

    Recent blog post: Nitpickers Have Started to Attack

  • I do not think either of you understand the problem so here are just a few quotes:

    "[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts." Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

    "There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral." Rev. Alexander Campbell

    "The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example." Rev. R. Furman, D.D., Baptist, of South Carolina

    "The hope of civilization itself hangs on the defeat of Negro suffrage." A statement by a prominent 19th-century southern Presbyterian pastor, cited by Rev. Jack Rogers, moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

    "The doom of Ham has been branded on the form and features of his African descendants. The hand of fate has united his color and destiny. Man cannot separate what God hath joined." United States Senator James Henry Hammond.

    Here's my point. If it was all as clear as you say it was then please oh please tell us all why intelligent people and the scholars of their day thought otherwise. Come on now, I'm waiting. Slam them as ignorant buffoons if you will, that you're smarter than them, that they weren't readin the same Bible, that they ignored was was plain as day.

    And then please oh please tell us why God didn't condemn it plainly if he foreknew what sincere believers would think about slavery from the Bible. If I were god this is what I would've said: "Owning a person as property or treating them inhumanely is an abomination. Forced slavery is an abomination. Beating employees (to use your euphemism) is a sin." This is what I would've said if I were God, and I'm not perfect unlike your God.

    Again, you simply do not understand the problem. So how can you address it when you don't understand it?

    Recent blog post: Nitpickers Have Started to Attack

  • Hi Matt,

    I want to focus on two issues.

    1. Your definition of "slavery" is too narrow: a person under the "absolute, arbitrary power of another" is certainly a slave, but a person under the "non-absolute, arbitrary power of another" can also be a slave. Suppose I can order my servant to do various chores, against his will, and force him to comply with the threat of mild beatings and imprisonment. He is still my slave, even if I don't have "absolute" power–that is, over his life–over him.

    2. Surely you recognize the distinction between consensual servitude and non-consensual servitude. Does the Bible condemn all instances of the latter? If not, then the Bible does not condemn all forms of slavery.

  • John you ask: "And then please oh please tell us why God didn't condemn it plainly if he foreknew what sincere believers would think about slavery from the Bible. If I were god this is what I would've said: 'Owning a person as property or treating them inhumanely is an abomination. Forced slavery is an abomination. Beating employees (to use your euphemism) is a sin.' This is what I would've said if I were God, and I'm not perfect unlike your God."

    I'll happily do this; first, just give me a direct answer to this question:

    When did you stop beating your wife?

    Of course you can’t give a direct answer to this question because the question assumes you are a wife-beater and you are not.

    In the same way, when you ask me why God does not condemn the beating of slaves or treating them inhumanely or forcing people into slavery, you assume that scripture does not condemn these things. That, however, is precisely what I contested in my post above.

    Scripture does condemn these things.

    As a former theological scholar I am sure you know this. Moreover, as I had pointed it out in the above post, you knew it before you asked this question.

    However, just to reinforce what I have already said, I will cite from the King James Version (KJV) which was widely available in the antebellum US South. The citations I provide are straight from the KJV, one does not need to know Greek or Hebrew to read them. Moreover, despite the fact that the KJV translates the word “ebed” as “servant” I shall also assume, for the sake of argument, that southern theologians were correct and that the word “ebed” refers to slavery.
    Here are some of the things the scriptures say about beating slaves, treating them as property, inhumanely etc:

    Ex 21: 14 "And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death."

    This passages states that forcing someone into slavery is a serious sin, punishable at law.

    Consider these two passages:

    Ex 21:23-26 "And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. And if he smite out his manservant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake."

    Deuteronomy 23:15-16 "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him."

    The first verse teaches that it is wrong to beat one's “slave” and that a slave that is beaten by a master should be liberated. The second teaches that a slave that runs away from an oppressive master should not be returned to him. Both then state that a person should not be held in bondage to a master that beats and abuses them.

    Ephesians 5: 7-9 "Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him."

    This is a command to not “threaten” one's slave, it also commands people to treat their slaves the way they would like to be treated.

    So I put to you, that when you cite an example of “brutal American slavery,” of a woman being whipped, of her bleeding and pleading for the beating to stop, and then, in this context ask why God did not condemn slavery, you are assuming the scriptures did not condemn such practices. Even defenders of slavery, such as Charles Hodge, admitted what was going on in the south was contrary to scripture.

    Again John, I ask, show me a passage where God permits, endorses […]

  • Matt, you wrote:
    ————
    In the same way, when you ask me why God does not condemn the beating of slaves or treating them inhumanely or forcing people into slavery, you assume that scripture does not condemn these things. That, however, is precisely what I contested in my post above.
    ————–

    Please, then, explain the meaning of Luke 12:47-48, which states: "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

    Is this passage asserting that masters are permitted to beat their servants?

  • Please, then, explain the meaning of Luke 12:47-48, which states: "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
    Is this passage asserting that masters are permitted to beat their servants?

    No, this passage does not teach that it’s permissible to beat ones slave. . The text is from a parable designed to illustrate the point that “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Jesus illustrates it by citing an example from the surrounding culture in this the practise of a someone being beaten. The parable is no more about slavery than the parable of the shower is a lesson on gardening. Or that the parable of the vineyard is Jesus giving instructions on how to grow grapes. Or that the parable of the net is a lesson in fishing, or the parable of the good Samaritan is a command to travel from Jerusalem to Jericho.

    In fact only a few verses earlier Jesus uses the example of burglar to illustrate a point about “being prepared” he states in Luke 12:39-40 Jesus says “ But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." Yet no sensible commentator has ever interpreted this passage to be a command from Jesus to rob houses.

    Parables use images examples to illustrate points, what they teach are the points illustrated, they tell us nothing about the examples used.

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Slavery, John Locke and the Bible

  • Spencer, You might be able to adopt a narrower definition of slavery and then use it to argue that, on that narrower definition the bible does not condemn all forms of slavery.

    The problem with this move that you cannot now use the bible to argue that it supported the kind of slavery that existed in the antebellum south, nor can you argue that the bible supports the kind of slavery common in the new world. Nor can you use it to argue that it supports any obviously objectionable form of slavery. The conclusion that the bible supports some form of slavery does not entail it supports all forms or any particular form the sceptic cites.

    Moreover, if this move is made it is no longer obvious that the bible supporting "slavery" is problematic. If the word "slavery" is expanded to include various different kinds of servitude. Including ones which are consensual, are used to pay of debts, the servants are not treated like property, not beaten, treated with dignity and respect etc etc. Then the claim that slavery is always wrong is no longer obvious.

    Recent blog post: Sunday Study: Slavery, John Locke and the Bible

  • Matt, you wrote:
    ——————
    Ex 21: 14 "And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death."

    This passages states that forcing someone into slavery is a serious sin, punishable at law.
    —————–

    Disagree. This passage does not prohibit kidnapping a free person, but the stealing and selling of a STOLEN person — to steal a person, like stealing money, implies that the person or object is a property belonging to someone else. Only a person who is *not* free, that is, a property of someone else, can be stolen.

    You wrote:
    ————–
    Ex 21:23-26 "And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. And if he smite out his manservant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake."

    Deuteronomy 23:15-16 "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him."

    The first verse teaches that it is wrong to beat one's “slave” and that a slave that is beaten by a master should be liberated. The second teaches that a slave that runs away from an oppressive master should not be returned to him. Both then state that a person should not be held in bondage to a master that beats and abuses them.
    ——————-

    My response: Regarding the first verse, the passage can be read as following the discussion on the punishment of masters who beat women-servants to the point of inducing miscarriages. Ex 21:23-26, then, is detailing the punishments for beating one’s slaves *after* the master has induced a miscarriage, which is why the verse prefaces the consequences with the phrase “and if any mischief follow [the inducement of a miscarriage].” So strictly speaking, Ex 21:23-26 does not rule out *all* beatings of servants. Moreover, Luke 12:47-48 seems to permit them.

    Regarding the second verse, the passage claims to rule out “oppression,” but how is the word defined? Is involuntary servitude considered oppression?

    you wrote:
    ————
    Ephesians 5: 7-9 "Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him."

    This is a command to not “threaten” one's slave, it also commands people to treat their slaves the way they would like to be treated.
    —————-

    But how do you square this with Luke 12:47-48?

  • Matt, you wrote:
    ————
    Some interpret this passage to mean that because a slave is the property of another they can severely beat the slave and providing the beating is not fatal, there is no punishment. This fails to deal adequately with the context and the Hebrew text; the word translated as ‘property’ here is actually ‘silver’ (a reference to money) and the word translated ‘punishment’ here is not the usual word for punishment. Christopher Wright notes that the word implies “the shedding of the blood of the master of the slave”[17] and so refers to capital punishment.
    —————–

    1. Why does the "shedding of blood" necessarily mean "capital punishment?" You can shed someone's blood without killing him.

    2. Without reading the Hebrew, is there a way of interpreting the passage that rules out the meaning: "the master shall not be punished *at all* for beating his slave unconscious?"

  • A narrower definition of slavery can still include "involuntary or non-consensual servitude," which is obviously objectionable. Consider Leviticus 25:44-46:

    "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

    So, if I'm a slave and under my servitude I have children, they can be "owned" by my master *for life.* Is this not objectionable on your view?

  • Spencer, I daresay you are simply not being reasonable. The Old Testament says that if you steal someone and sell them, that's a capital offence. The term "manstealing" is a common one in legal history, and it refers to the crime of kidnapping. Would you have preferred that the KJV referred to "napping" a person?

    You say "This passage does not prohibit kidnapping a free person, but the stealing and selling of a STOLEN person." What? The stealing of a stolen person? No – the stealing of a previously un-stolen person OR a stolen person. Any person at all, actually, the text does not specify. Note: "And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death." Notice the word "or." If you steal a man (whether that person is stolen already or not), and if you are caught selling him OR if you are just caught with the man after stealing him, you are punished.

    On another note, the "shedding of blood" might not necessarily refer to killing in your mind, but in fact that is how that term is used in the Old Testament. "Bloodshed" or "the shedding of blood" just does always refer to killing in Scripture.

    And John, you repeatedly present questions like: "Why didn’t the Christian God ever explicitly and clearly condemn slavery?" You even go out of your way to say that Matt is avoiding your main point. You can surely only think this if you yourself have missed Matt's main point (and Locke's): what you think of as slavery is not what the Bible is referring to when we see the english word "slave." The Bible does in fact condemn the thing that you are referring to. You have been shown numerous instances of this, so your question rings a little hollow.

    Recent blog post: Slowing things down… yes, even more (and a rant)

  • I presume John Loftus is a born-again atheist? If this is so, then upon what grounds would he criticize slavery at all?

    If atheism is true truth, then I fail to see any possible ground that could provide a basis for outrage against moral evil, since moral evil cannot exist.

    Indeed, if the universe is material only, then at what time did atoms create morality?

    So John Loftus has to assume a Biblical morality to attack Biblical morality, but he would then be rejecting the basis for his indignation at slavery in the South, or any other slavery for that matter. He cannot logically have his cake and eat it too.

    Recent blog post: Worldviews Course coming to Palmerston North

  • Lets say that the Bible doesn't condemn slavery (as "slavery" was meant in the Scripture, and as what "slavery" came to denote in the nineteenth century) outright. What follows from the summation of the OT law, confirmed by Jesus in the NT; ". . . and love your neighbour as yourself" ? What follows from the belief that all men are created in the image of God, and therefore are imbued with inherent dignity as human beings and are therefore all equal?

    I'm also interested in how Loftus justifies his condemnation of slavery. I remember speaking to a stereotypical human rights activist, who waxed eloquent on the sensibleness of human rights. Asking him what justified those notions he came up short, offering pathetic explanations like "It just makes sense, doesn't it!" The Declaration of Independence made God the guarantor of inalienable human rights. If God is removed from the picture, the whole foundation for morality begins to crumble. Eventually human rights become alienable, making it possible for the practice of slavery to become once again the norm. Condemnation of slavery is virtuous, but only theistic worldviews are able to make sense of its virtue.

    Recent blog post: The Second Law of Thermodynamics

  • Or, one can just point out that the Hebrews were regulated on the sins that would've persisted despite divine command through the hardness of their hearts, like polygamy (see Matthew 19). Beats trying to save OT's notion of slavery from sin, which is very hard to do.

  • Well, the condemnation can be made FSOA (for sake of argument) if the idea of objective moral values are first themselves assumed FSOA.

  • This passage does not prohibit kidnapping a free person, but the stealing and selling of a STOLEN person — to steal a person, like stealing money, implies that the person or object is a property belonging to someone else. Only a person who is *not* free, that is, a property of someone else, can be stolen.

    This doesn't make sense. I presume you mean previously stolen person, ie. an owned person.

    Why can not one be his own property. Thus a free man who is kidnapped and sold to another has his person "stolen" from himself and given to another.

    But I am always amused that Christians are laughed at for their literalism, yet it is the sceptics who are the most hyperliteralist of all.

    Recent blog post: Does the death penalty prevent reconciliation with God?

  • Loftus Would they also be okay with you that if you were raped you should marry your rapist?

    I see this repeatedly. Where in the Bible does it tell women to marry a rapist.

    And I think the concept of rape is very different in the 21st century compared to the ancient near east. Read the story of Tamar.

    Was your God as clear on this issue as he was about murder? Oh, that's not a good analogy because, well, you know, genocide, the witch hunts, heresy trials and the crusades.

    You raise several other issues rather than deal with the one at hand. Basically this form of argument allows you to raise innumerous complaints (relevant or not) as there is always some other topic in the world. This isn't reasoned argument, it is rhetoric.

    I am not certain what your issue is with murder, it is pretty clear. Murder does not cover war deaths or judicial punishment.

    Recent blog post: Does the death penalty prevent reconciliation with God?

  • I must admit, I don't find indentured servitude a horrific concept. It might deal some sense into our debt enamoured culture, especially when it is frequently voluntary, foolish and greed empowered.

    I do place some of the blame with the lenders who expand credit so readily and endeavour to keep people permanently in debt. This is however, off topic.

    Recent blog post: Does the death penalty prevent reconciliation with God?

  • Glenn, you wrote:
    ————
    The Old Testament says that if you steal someone and sell them, that's a capital offence. The term "manstealing" is a common one in legal history, and it refers to the crime of kidnapping. Would you have preferred that the KJV referred to "napping" a person?
    ————

    I would have preferred the term "kidnapping."

    you wrote:
    ———
    The stealing of a stolen person? No – the stealing of a previously un-stolen person OR a stolen person. Any person at all, actually, the text does not specify.
    ———-

    This is my point: non-slaves can't be "stolen" because they aren't owned. You can only steal something that is a property of someone else.

    you wrote:
    ———
    On another note, the "shedding of blood" might not necessarily refer to killing in your mind, but in fact that is how that term is used in the Old Testament. "Bloodshed" or "the shedding of blood" just does always refer to killing in Scripture
    ————

    Perhaps you are right, but how do you know this? Source?

  • Bethyada wrote:
    ———
    This doesn't make sense. I presume you mean previously stolen person, ie. an owned person.
    ———-

    The way I phrased it seems just fine. Just substitute "person" for "object" and you have: the passage prohibits the stealing and selling of a stolen object.

    you wrote:
    ———-
    Why can not one be his own property. Thus a free man who is kidnapped and sold to another has his person "stolen" from himself and given to another.
    ———–

    It can, but nothing in the passage Matt cited *demands* that it be read this way.

  • Matt, you wrote:
    ———-
    Christopher Wright notes that the word [punishment] implies “the shedding of the blood of the master of the slave”[17] and so refers to capital punishment.
    ————

    When I click on the footnote I can't access the link you cited. Perhaps you can explain: how do you know "punishment" is meant to be understood as "the shedding of blood" specifically, and not general punishment of any sort?

  • Matt and other defenders of slavery in the Bible. I wrote this post with you in mind. In it are links to books and other related posts. I think you should seriously look into these things. What I wrote is non-controversial and founded on the best science of what we know. The specifics of this partcular debate I'll leave to others. With the science we have at our disposal I don't need to say anything else than what I've already said.

    Cheers.

    Recent blog post: "One of the surprising discoveries of modern psychology is how easy it is to be ignorant of your own ignorance.”

  • People,

    The issue I want to focus on is the distinction between consensual and non-consensual servitude. Instances of the latter *are* forms of slavery. Does the bible condemn all forms of non-consensual servitude? If it does, then I would agree that the bible condemns all forms of slavery. If it doesn't, then it follows that the bible does NOT condemn all forms of slavery, even if it condemns some forms of slavery.

  • I think that a more interesting question to ask John Loftus is why slavery is wrong on atheism. There is no rational way to prescribe moral behavior in an accidental universe devoid of free will. There are no moral oughts on atheism.

  • I think Matt (and others) have made a good case that the slavery verses in the Bible probably refer to the form of servitude common at that time rather than the brutal form of slavery of the American south. But in the end, it is John Loftus (in my opinion) who wins the argument.

    While you can point to Ex 21:16 and say that the Bible "clearly" prohibits kidnapping and selling a man, the fact is that slavery existed in this country (and elsewhere) for hundreds of years with the Bible used to support it.

    Therefore, if you believe that an all-knowing God wrote the Bible, you simply have to accept the fact that He knew that slavery would exist for centuries, he knew the Bible would be used to support it, yet in the 31,000 verses in the Bible he spent more time instructing us on how to rid our house of mold and what to do if our ox trespasses on someone else's property than he did making it VERY CLEAR that owning people as property is wrong.

  • Matt, the arguments have all been made for me. I don't have to repeat them here. Just read them, okay?

    As far as these particular texts go, Ex 21:23-26, the "eye for an eye" legal principle, is barbaric plain and simple. It's amazing that you ignore this whole text and that it doesn't apply to master's, i.e. when they blind a slave his eyes are not to be blinded in retaliation.

    Deuteronomy 23:15-16, by the way, means Paul disobeyed the Law in Philemon by returning his slave (cf. Matthew 5:17-18)

    Ephesians 5:7-9 is NOT a command for masters to treat slaves as they don't want to be treated following the golden rule or something! Nowhere do we find that. Slaves were not equals. To treat slaves as the masters would want to be treated would be to free them, stupid (sorry)!

    Consider this test from I Peter:

    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. 21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

    Hogwash, absolute hogwash. Gerrymander the texts all you want to, but that's what you must do.

    Recent blog post: "One of the surprising discoveries of modern psychology is how easy it is to be ignorant of your own ignorance.”

  • Matt, the arguments have all been made for me. I don't have to repeat them here. Just read them, okay?

    As far as these particular texts go, Ex 21:23-26, the "eye for an eye" legal principle, is barbaric plain and simple. It's amazing that you ignore this whole text and that it doesn't apply to master's, i.e. when they blind a slave his eyes are not to be blinded in retaliation.

    Deuteronomy 23:15-16, by the way, means Paul disobeyed the Law in Philemon by returning his slave (cf. Matthew 5:17-18)

    Ephesians 5:7-9 is NOT a command for masters to treat slaves as they don't want to be treated following the golden rule or something! Nowhere do we find that. Slaves were not equals. To treat slaves as the masters would want to be treated would be to free them, stupid (sorry)!

    Consider this test from I Peter:

    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. 21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

    Hogwash, absolute hogwash. Gerrymander the texts all you want to, but that's what you must do.

    As to a text that Christian slave masters used to justify their violence there are plenty of them. You have read the literature haven't you? Don't claim ignorance about this. If you have "Cotton is King" see for yourself, okay?

    Recent blog post: "One of the surprising discoveries of modern psychology is how easy it is to be ignorant of your own ignorance.”

  • Matt, the arguments have all been made for me. I don't have to repeat them here. Just read them, okay?

    As far as these particular texts go, Ex 21:23-26, the "eye for an eye" legal principle, is barbaric plain and simple. It's amazing that you ignore this whole text and that it doesn't apply to master's, i.e. when they blind a slave his eyes are not to be blinded in retaliation.

    Deuteronomy 23:15-16, by the way, means Paul disobeyed the Law in Philemon by returning his slave (cf. Matthew 5:17-18)

    Ephesians 5:7-9 is NOT a command for masters to treat slaves as they don't want to be treated following the golden rule or something! Nowhere do we find that. Slaves were not equals. To treat slaves as the masters would want to be treated would be to free them, stupid (sorry)!

    Consider this text from I Peter:

    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. 21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

    Hogwash, absolute hogwash. Gerrymander the texts all you want to, but that's what you must do.

    As to a text that Christian slave masters used to justify their violence there are plenty of them. You have read the literature haven't you? Don't claim ignorance about this. If you have "Cotton is King" see for yourself, okay?

    Recent blog post: "One of the surprising discoveries of modern psychology is how easy it is to be ignorant of your own ignorance.”

  • John. In your post you wrote…

    "In any case, I challenge Christians to look into psychological studies and brain research to see such things as how the brain is woefully inadequate to be objective about the facts. We skew the evidence in favor of conclusions we want to be true all of the time."

    Of course, we could just replace the word "Christians" with "John Loftus" who is of course always objective about the facts, right?

    In light of the fall John, we would expect the brain to act as such. And without Biblical foundations, all of your reasoning becomes baseless. For example, try http://www.bethinking.org and download the 3-part MP3 series on "Epistemology".

    P.S. It's funny how people run to science as if it has all the answers. So funny, esp. when you are actually in that field and see how things are continually in such a state of flux.

    Recent blog post: Worldviews Course coming to Palmerston North

  • “By Loftus' Outsider Test, he'd end up having to support slavery anyway. It has been universally supported cross-culturally and abolished, pretty much solely, by Christian influence. If one stripped aside religious views and adopted the Outsider position then…

    Recent blog post: Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part I

  • Given that slaves had the same basic rights as men, even if you were correct that women were treated like slaves, no I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Slaves could not be raped or forcibly married; it is clear from the passages Matt set out above that the only difference between the rights of slaves and men is that one owed money and had consented to work that debt off.

    In the passages condemning assault, homicide, etc there are not exceptions made for women – the fact there are not, that women were treated equally, was actually controversial given the surrounding, non-Christian, cultures.

    As for your claim that women were made to marry their rapist lets not play that game. You know full well that the passages you refer to did not mean rape in the sense you mean it in this comment, they refer to pre-marital seduction – consensual sex – where the woman concerned was quite happy to marry the man she was sleeping with (not surprising given the risk of pregnancy in a pre-contraceptive culture).

    If a man raped a woman in the sense you are referring to he was to be executed. This is a better standard for women than the laws that exist against rape today in your and my countries.

    So yes, I would and am happy to be treated the same way women were in the Bible. And if I was silly enough to get myself into debt I could not manage I would much prefer an indentured servitude program where I got a roof and board and a chance to work my debt off and where my debt could be cancelled if the person I was in debt to mistreated me, than being sent to prison for failure to pay my fines.

    Recent blog post: Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part I

  • By Loftus' Outsider Test, he'd end up having to support slavery anyway. It
    has been universally supported cross-culturally and abolished, pretty much
    solely, by Christian influence. If one stripped aside religious views and
    adopted the Outsider position then..
    _____

  • Indeed Samuel. I guess all this noise and raising other issues is a good smokescreen for not providing an explanation as to why Exodus 21:20 should be read that way and why Matt's interpretation is wrong.

    While we are at it, let's hear an explanation as to why Hodge is attributed to views he didn't hold in Loftus' book?

    It is ok John to simply say you made a mistake.

    Recent blog post: Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part I

  • The footnote is in fact an endnote. Scroll to the bottom of the blog post and read footnote 17: [17] Christopher Wright God's People in Gods Land: Family, Land and Property in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids Mi: Paternoster Press, 1990) 242.

    They show up as active links automatically when we copy and paste from Word but like you said they don't take you anywhere when you click on them. Removing the hyperlink from each one takes too long and I am lazy…

    You should be able to find our citations in your library; sometimes they are available online but we don't tend to to link to them as we then we'd have too many links in our posts which runs the risk of google spiders treating our pages like spam. Try Googling the work yourself, you might be able to find it.

    Recent blog post: Evolution should not be taught in State Schools: A Defence of Plantinga Part I

  • Wow – so I did! I'm flattered though not surprised at the lack of context.
    _____

  • @Doug:

    The Bible says the Moon is made of green cheese (Book of Fictions, 34:1).

    Yes, you're correct that people have, through the centuries, claimed the authority of Scripture to back up all manner of views (some, like race-based chattel slavery, more abhorrent than others). But any fool can preface a claim with "The Bible says…". It doesn't make it so.

    And unless you want to say that for my "green cheese" claim (were it made seriously) I should be summarily executed by lightning bolt, all computers which have the remark stored or cached should crash and burn, and all who read it should have their memories tampered with, you can't consistently say God is being negligent or wicked by not preventing misunderstandings or deliberate misuse of Scripture.

    One could, of course, claim that the chances of anyone believing a supposed Scriptural green-cheese claim are so remote, and the chances of any serious harm being done even if such a belief is accepted so miniscule, that taking drastic action would be clearly unjustified – and that drastic action on God's part is justified if the outcome would be the prevention of chattel slavery. But in order to reasonably conclude that, you would have to show that (a) killing lots of people with lightning bolts and brainwashing lots of others is morally superior to permitting free will and chattel slavery, and (b) the primary motivation for chattel slavery in "Christian" societies was religious, such that chattel slavery would have vanished in those areas were it not for supposedly Scriptural arguments.

    (I'm possibly missing something, but I'm sure our hosts, who are better trained in philosophy and theology than I, can fill in the gaps if needed.)

  • ——————-
    Wintery Knight: There is no rational way to prescribe moral behavior in an accidental universe devoid of free will
    ——————-

    That's an interesting assertion. It seems to be commonly made, yet rarely if ever defended (in my experience).

  • Wintery Knight:

    Morality is contradictory in the bible, so I am not sure how you are grounding objective morality in the god of the bible. Even if a god does exist as a moral law giver, there an epistemological problem with discerning God’s will. There are very few if any objective morals within Christianity because Christians may interpret Scripture in various ways in order to accommodate their desired outcome. Various denominations interpret Scripture to support subordination of women, homosexual ordination, pro-life or pro-choice stances, ect…the Bible is very ambiguous when it involves objective morality. Whereas Atheists use reason to make moral decisions based on reason. For instance, it does not make sense to murder, steal, continually lie, and cheat because a society cannot function if everyone acted out these behaviors. Therefore, instead of relying on the inconsistent moral nature of the biblical god, people may use common sense and be good without an unknowable supernatural being.

    Sarah Schoonmaker

    Recent blog post: In Defense of Atheism

  • Perhaps you can just summarize his basic argument in a paragraph? Would you mind?

  • Spencer, in this very thread you have granted that when a person is kidnapped, someone is stealing from him. Therefore you can no longer insist that the crime of stealing a person only applied to stealing slaves. "man stealing" as an english term has always been understood to refer to kidnapping, without reference to whether the person kidnapped was previously a slave or a free man.

    Secondly, you ask for a source for my claim that in the Old Testament, references to the "shedding of blood" or "bloodshed" are reference to killing. My MTheol specialised in Old Testament law, so I could simply submit my own comments as expert testimony. But if that won't do, the only way to establish these things for yourself is to invest time in checking every occurrence of those terms. That's what I've done, and if you've done that too and you've come across an exception, let me know.

    Recent blog post: Podcaster Music

  • See here:

    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/can-atheists-be-moral/

    Here are the minimum requirements for morality I list.

    1) Objective moral values: where is the standard?
    2) Objective moral duties: to whom are more duties owed?
    3) Moral accountability: will I get caught if I am immoral?
    4) Free will: are humans capable of free choice?
    5) Ultimate significance: does it matter ultimately?

    The worldview must ground these in order for individuals to be able to perform self-sacrificial acts solely because they are morally correct. I will leave it to you to ground as many of these 5 as you can. All 5 are needed. Christianity grounds all 5.

    Recent blog post: Planned Parenthood conceals rape and breaks the law

  • You mean, you cherry-pick the bits of the Bible that you want while ignoring the overall picture?

    If you want to critique slavery using Biblical morality, you also need to use the Biblical framework for understanding the world and the bigger picture. You cannot drag the Biblical morality into the atheist worldview and attack it there.

    A worldview is a package-deal and needs to be evaluated as a whole made up coherently of the parts.

    Recent blog post: Worldviews Course coming to Palmerston North

  • Sure Sarah — that may be your perception from outside, but it seems very different to me being on the inside. The issues you mention are all plainly obvious to anyone who takes the text seriously.

    Funny that we Christians seem to poke the same stick at your side. Your moral claims have no epistemic basis — e.g. you cannot get an ought from an is. Your origin of life problem appears unsurmountable. You offer no hope past the grave. Meaningless, meaningless cries Solomon 3,000 years ago, and 3,000 years later atheism can still provide nothing of ultimate meaning.

    Funny your claim about reason too. I would love to see you justify why reason works under atheism!

    Recent blog post: Debate: Must morality be grounded by God?

  • "Your moral claims have no epistemic basis — e.g. you cannot get an ought from an is."

    Strictly speaking Rob, that's not a lack of an epistemic basis, that's a lack of a logical basis. Atheists do have an epistemic basis for morality, as Romans 1-2 says.

    Recent blog post: Podcaster Music

  • ———-
    Wintery Knight: Here are the minimum requirements for morality I list.
    ———-

    They're YOUR minimum requirements for morality. Any reason or argument as to why they're THE minimum requirement?
    A couple of them I could probably agree with (1-3 perhaps), but some seem to be arbitrary, or simply chosen to support your particular worldview (4 & 5).
    I'd be surprised if someone of a different faith couldn't come up with a different "minimal" criteria for morality, for which Christianity would fair poorly 🙂

  • And if we were all atheists, then like ants in an ant nest, there would be requirement to obey any of them.

    Recent blog post: Debate: Must morality be grounded by God?

  • And if we were all atheists, then like ants in an ant nest, there would be no requirement to obey any of them.

    Recent blog post: Debate: Must morality be grounded by God?

  • It can, but nothing in the passage Matt cited *demands* that it be read
    this way.

    True, nothing demands that you read the phrase raining cats and dogs as a
    metaphor either, you could choose to read comments like this literally and
    then mock the person who uttered them for making silly claims. But that
    would not be sensible or rational.
    Similarly, one can choose to take words like "man stealing" which have a
    long established use to refer to kidnapping in a manner whereby it allows
    kidnapping, and then one can express outrage at the statement, but that is
    again neither sensible nor rational.
    _____

  • Wintery Knight wrote:
    "There is no rational way to prescribe moral behavior in an accidental universe devoid of free will."

    Can you explain why? There are several assumptions here that I think are in need of justification:

    (a) that (libertarian) free will is a necessary condition for morality
    (b) that the universe being the product of purpose is a necessary condition for morality
    (c) that the truth of theism is a necessary condition for free will
    (d) that the truth of theism can somehow explain morality

  • Glenn, you wrote:
    ——–
    Spencer, in this very thread you have granted that when a person is kidnapped, someone is stealing from him.
    ———

    Where? The focus is on Ex 21: 14, which uses the word "steal." My interpretation, that one can only "steal" a person who is a property of someone else, is perfectly consistent with the text.

    you wrote:
    ———

    Secondly, you ask for a source for my claim that in the Old Testament, references to the "shedding of blood" or "bloodshed" are reference to killing. My MTheol specialised in Old Testament law, so I could simply submit my own comments as expert testimony. But if that won't do, the only way to establish these things for yourself is to invest time in checking every occurrence of those terms. That's what I've done, and if you've done that too and you've come across an exception, let me know.
    ————-

    So not even a link then? Can you explain why the term "punished" in the passage is referring specifically to capital punishment and not general punishment?

  • Wintery Knight:

    The universe exhibits zero value affinity: it operates exactly the same for everyone, the good and bad. It rewards and craps on both with total disregard. It behaves just like a cold and indifferent machine, not the creation of a loving engineer. The only place any sort of value effect is ever seen is in human thought and action, and only when humans are psychologically developed a certain way. It thus stands to reason that values do not come from the design of the universe, but the adaptation of Homo Sapiens to that universe, and in particular, to a social ecology. After all, the only place values are found are in human thought, so therefore, values are a product of human thought.

    You claim your God provides an objective standard? Well, I think it is uncertain that God's image is a good act to follow. If the Old Testament is anything to go by, God is presented as a cruel and irrational being. The second commandment makes it clear that God's jealousy drives him to proclaim unjust laws, since he says he is "jealous" and "punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation" (Ex. 20:5, Deut. 5:9). So, punishing the children of criminals to multiple generations is not a good act to follow. Furthermore, wanton rage and genocidal war crimes are not evidence of a good character. God does not get much nicer in the NT either. There he introduces eternal, agonizing torture for unbelievers. Jesus was not a peace-loving man (Mt. 10:33-36). However, even if we could explain all this away with our subjective opinions about the Bible, and paint an ideal picture of God, we would still be at the same place. Even if we are all "image bearers," it is not necessary to be an image bearer of a God, who's image is unascertainable with any confidence, but of our own ideals of what a good human being is and can be. Morality and meaning derive directly from the significance and beauty of our own humanity and conscious existence. It is not necessary to be someone's creation for our lives to have value. The inability to see how an accidental existence would be no less valuable than a planned one is a great stumbling block before many Christian intellectuals.

    Recent blog post: In Defense of Atheism

  • Rob, there does seem to be a precondition, such that morality consists of what I say it does (and nothing more). It's kind of fun 🙂

  • —————
    Roh: And if we were all atheists, then like ants in an ant nest, there would be no requirement to obey any of them.
    —————

    And like ants I suppose we could not actuyally discuss things

    It is truly interesting 😉

  • It does seem that everything YHWH says/does is automagically good, while all else is bad. I already have my "innate" sense of morality telling me much of what YHWH does is bad. So, how am I made in the image of/not made in the image of this being? 🙂

  • By "demand" I mean "rationally demand."

    How would you refute the southern slave owner who thinks he isn't guilty of "stealing" because he can only steal a property?

    How would you refute the southern slave owner who thinks involuntary servitude is permissible, so long as he treat his property kindly?

    Moreover, how would you refute the southern slave owner who didn't steal or kidnap anyone, but acquired his slaves through inheritance?

  • OK, just FYI, you're not telling me anything new here, this is boilerplate atheism. What I am trying to do is to show why morality is not rationally grounded on atheism. So let's go through what you said.

    —-
    There is no such thing as objective morality on atheism.

    All we have are arbitrary customs that evolved by accident, and vary by time and place.

    On atheism, you can break these conventions when it suits you better to do so, so long as you don't get caught.

    There is no reason to be moral on atheism except for the pleasure that it affords you. Morality is really just suggestions, and it you can avoid the consequences of being unconventional, at it makes you happier to do so, then you can do it. Rationally, you ought to be immoral – it gives you greater pleasure than acting on the arbitrary conventions of the time and place where you are.

    Humans are lumps of meat, with no free will.

    There is no real standard, and no accountability when we die.

    Also, whether we are "moral" or not, it makes no difference because we all die individually and collectively in the heat death of the universe.

    That is morality on atheism.

    Or, you can look at what atheists themselves say:
    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/03/06/how-do-leading-atheists-understand-morality-on-atheism/

    <blockquote>
    "The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone." (Richard Taylor, Ethics, Faith, and Reason (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), p. 83-84)

    "The position of the modern evolutionist is that humans have an awareness of morality because such an awareness of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory." (Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269).

    In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins)
    http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/Articles/1995-05-10nomercy.shtml
    </blockquote>
    —-

    You write:
    You write that God is cruel.
    You write that God is irrational.
    You write that God is jealous.
    You write that God is enraged.
    You write that God is genocidal.
    etc. etc.

    Are these objective statements or arbitrary preferences or conventions? Seems to me that you just got through telling us that moral statements are asking to driving on one side of the road or the other, on atheism, yes?

    On atheism, you would have to say that they are just statements of preference. Actually, you would have to say they were meaningless, since it is just your brain chemicals fizzing and emitting a string of words that are not about anything.

    Also, on your view, humans are just collections of chemicals in motion with no more value than any other collection of chemicals, such as cockroaches or erupting volcanoes. Any other statement you might make would be a claim of personal preference, not an objective, intrinsic value. That is why in history, atheistic regimes have been able to rationally murder millions in purges, DDT-bans and abortions. Humans are nothing special – the strong kill the weak in order to be happy. Because they can.

    This is what we mean when we say that morality is not rationally grounded on atheism.

    On Christianity, it's a whole difference ballgame, with players like William Wilberforce. The more seriously a person takes Christianity (not just being […]

  • Rob, I agree with you on this: "A worldview is a package-deal and needs to be evaluated as a whole made up coherently of the parts."

    Absolutely. That's what I do in my book, something you cannot see from just a comment or a post by me. I'm sure you think you've heard it all before and that I have nothing to add. Others are saying differently. Just check out these recommendations. Notice also the company my book keeps. Click here, and then click here.

    My book is being used in apologetics and atheism classes in both Christian and secular colleges.

    There is nothing better if you're interested in reading it. Dealing in a piecemeal fashion here and there will probably never show you how weak your case is.

    Cheers.

  • Thanks 4 the correction Glenn. Appreciate that!

  • 1. The Israelites could steal other people as long as tehy were not jews. In battle they could kill all the men and children and keep the beautiful women for themsleves. This is stealing, taking by force that which does not belong to you.

    2. It was racist. The people surroundin the jews were considered of less value then them, thus the different rules for treating them.

    3. A non-jewish ebed could be held for life as could his children.

  • As part of this discussion on slavery, let's place the institution in its modern context. Slavery is alive, well, burgeoning, and thoroughly institutionalised in the modern world. This is certainly so in the United States.
    Whatever else one may think about slavery one cannot condemn the institution absolutely and without qualification without condemning in the same breath all modern forms of punishment against crime.
    To the extent a convicted criminal is condemned to suffer anything at all against his will his freedom rights are taken from him and to that extent he is enslaved.
    The prison system is the most comprehensive form of slavery in our modern world. The prisoner is clearly enslaved to the prison system and institution. He has lost his freedom. He is under the command and control of another.
    So to all those who are so emotively het up over slavery of whatever kind, declaiming it as an absolute and unmitigated evil, let them declare whether they believe that criminals ought to be punished. If they do, slavery cannot be the absolute and unmitigated evil they purport it to be. And so, let the death of a thousand qualifications commence.
    JT

    Recent blog post: Protecting the Patch

  • Actually no, in fact the book of Deuteronomy teaches that they cannot kill children or women in battle it explicitly states that only men can be targeted, and if you read the same book you’ll see that it actually says that they can marry beautiful women not enslave them, and they can only do so after the women has mourned her former husband etc. the claim that other races are inferior is actually explicitly repudiated in the book of Leviticus (19:34). The standard free thinker tactic of skimming an English version of the bible looking for out of context quotes, ignoring such things as literary genre, idioms and different connotations of words in hebrew and English etc and ignoring centuries of commentary on by Christian scholars explaining how they understand the passages and why to create a straw man of Christianity is not something that has much credibility. No one would approach any other text in this fashion.

    Recent blog post: Christian Blog Ranking Report for June 09 – HalfDone

  • Spencer, note the following: bethyada said: "Why can not one be his own property. Thus a free man who is kidnapped and sold to another has his person "stolen" from himself and given to another." You quoted this statement and then said "it can."

    Therefore you have agreed that when a person is kidnapped, whether they were previously a slave or not, they have been stolen. You may no longer object by saying that only a slave can be stolen. True, as you say, the passage in exodus does not "demand" that we see it as a reference to free people. It's not. It's a reference to people, whether free or slave. Ergo your comments that you have already offered have committed you to granting the point: The text cited does in fact forbid kidnapping.

    Secondly, you earlier challenged that claim that "bloodshed" or the "shedding of blood" is language that, int he Old Testament, means killing. I noted that I have checked every instance of the use of these terms as partof my graduate study in Old Testament Law, and I have never encountered an exception. You now say "Can you explain why the term "punished" in the passage is referring specifically to capital punishment and not general punishment?" In fact, Spencer, it was not I who made this point about the word punishment here. Someone else cited a Hebrew scholar who noted that it referred to the shedding of blood, and I defended the claim that the shedding of blood, int he Old Testament, refers to killing.

    If you still doubt this, then I ask you to agree tot he following: after accepting the challenge, you will go and find three references to bloodshed or the shedding of blood that are not related to killing, and after that I will readily supply you with at least ten references where these terms are used and they are related to killing. If, after reading this challenge, you realise that you cannot provide such examples, you will admit it without delay so we can put that wee disagreement behind us. What do you say?

  • Glenn, you wrote:
    ———
    Therefore you have agreed that when a person is kidnapped, whether they were previously a slave or not, they have been stolen.
    ———-

    I have agreed to no such thing: by "it can," I only agreed that the interpretation made by bethyada is possible, not obligatory. The interpretation that "stealing" only refers to the prohibition of stealing non-free persons is perfectly consistent with the text. Thus, unless you can demonstrate why *this* interpretation is just plain wrong, you CANNOT show that the specific passage under discussion rules out the kidnapping of free persons.

    For the moment, I'll take your word that the "shedding of blood" means capital punishment. But can you explain how you know that the word "punished" in Exodus 21:20-21 refers exclusively to capital punishment and not general punishment?

  • Glenn, you wrote:
    ———–
    Wrong, Spencer, you have. You have agreed that the text does not require either a free man or a slave. Remember – it is your own objection that the text does NOT prohibit the kidnapping of a free man, but only the stealing ofa slave. Therefore it is up to you to show that the stealing of a many may only refer to the stealing of a slave. By admitting that kidnapping is stealing of s certain type, you have conceded the point in its entirety, for you have granted that the text cannot truthfully be said to specify slaves only. You might not realise that this is the implication of your admission, but in fact it is.
    —————

    Again, incorrect. What I agreed to was the following: the text *may* be interpreted to prohibit the stealing of free persons if they are considered property. However, I did not agree that this interpretation was correct or obligatory, or that an interpretation which prohibits only the stealing of non-free persons is incorrect. So we have:

    (i) The text prohibits the stealing of both free persons and nonfree persons (because both are properties).

    (ii) The text prohibits the stealing of only non-free persons (because non-free persons are property and free persons are not).

    Unless you can show why I must accept interpretation (i), then you cannot show that the text explicitly and unequivocally prohibits the kidnapping of both free and nonfree persons.

    You wrote:
    ———–
    You are, yet again, asking me to substantiate the claim that was cited by someone else in this thread from the work of a Hebrew scholar when it comes to the meaning of the word translated "punishment." You are welcome to challenge the person who made this reference. perhaps you can show that the Hebrew scholar who was cited did not know what he was talking about. It's not clear how you would know this, but go right ahead.
    ————-

    So you can't even give me a basic argument for why "punishment" in that context means capital punishment? Does the word in Hebrew refer exclusively to capital punishment or something? Or do you just don't know?

  • Spencer, your failure thus far to realise what you concession commits you to suggests that I am not going to have any success in explaining it further, so this will be the last time: You have conceded that there is some sense in which kidnapping a person is stealing from them. Ergo, you and you alone must carry the burden of proof to show that the text about stealing people excludes this type of stealing. Unless you are willing to shoulder this burden, you should concede that it prohibits all stealing of persons, whether this sense or any other.

    If you are going to choose not to shoulder this burden, say so. If you don't yet realise that you are the one with this burden in light of your concession, then I decline to try and help you understand that anymore.

    Secondly, I must repeat what I said last time: You are asking me to defend a claim made by a Hebrew scholar about the meaning of a word. That Hebrew scholar was cited by Matt earlier in this thread. Why are you now acting as though I have more authority than this scholar, and as though you need ME to corroborate what he said? Again I can only suggest that you interact with the claim that was made. If you thin the Hebrew scholar that Matt cited lacks credentials or does not know what he was talking about, then offer Matt your reasons for doubting his source.

  • Glenn, you wrote:
    ———–
    You have conceded that there is some sense in which kidnapping a person is stealing from them.
    ————

    Once again, wrong. All I "conceded" was the fact that the text *may* be interpreted to mean (i), not (ii). I never conceded that the text ACTUALLY means (i), not (ii). Therefore, unless you can show that the text must mean (i), and not (ii), you cannot show that the text *actually* does not mean (ii). The burden is on you to show why interpretation (ii) is incorrect. Again, if you cannot show this, then you cannot show that I *must* read the text as (i) demands, and therefore cannot show that the "real meaning" of the text is interpretation (i), and not (ii).

    You wrote:
    ——–
    Secondly, I must repeat what I said last time: You are asking me to defend a claim made by a Hebrew scholar about the meaning of a word.
    ———-

    I'm asking if you know why the word punishment in the passage refers exclusively to capital punishment. If you don't, then say so.

    You wrote:
    ———
    Why are you now acting as though I have more authority than this scholar, and as though you need ME to corroborate what he said?
    ———-

    I have "acted" in no such way. Once again, I was simply asking if you understand why the scholar believes that the word refers exclusively to capital punishment.

  • As far as these particular texts go, Ex 21:23-26, the "eye for an eye" legal principle, is barbaric plain and simple. It's amazing that you ignore this whole text and that it doesn't apply to master's, i.e. when they blind a slave his eyes are not to be blinded in retaliation.

    You misinterpret the lex tallonis as implying literal retaliation in kind. Numerous old testament scholars have pointed out this is false its a legal proverb demaning commensurate compensation. See my post on it here

    As to Philemon. You don't mean the letter where Paul says this do you?

    "Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul–an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus– I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. I am sending him–who is my very heart–back to you.
    I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good–
    no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.
    If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me." (Philemon 8-18)

    That's right the one where he tells Philemon to recieve him back not as a slave as an equal.Oh but you knew that didn't you John!!!

    As for 1 Peter, this passage does not state its permissible to beat your slaves. It simply tells slaves who have harsh masters to endure. In fact it says the suffering they recieve is unjust. Peter also tells people to endure persecution does it follow he thinks the state should persecute Christians.

    Ephesians 5:7-9 is NOT a command for masters to treat slaves as they don't want to be treated following the golden rule or something! Nowhere do we find that. Slaves were not equals. To treat slaves as the masters would want to be treated would be to free them, stupid (sorry)!

    Try reading it " And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him." note it says not to threaten ones "slaves" and note the reason, because you would not like to be treated this way by God.

    Slaves were not equals.

    I actually gavce cited a reference to a passage where its affirmed they equals are the post above.

  • Wintery Knight:
    Your arguments are nothing new either. I used to say the very same
    things all the time when I used to defend Christianity. I have used
    your same argument for years when defending Christianity. You are
    asking how one can have moral categories without a moral law giver.
    The question carries the implication that God can provide a valid
    basis for full-blooded moral realism. The assumption also points to
    the existence of the Biblical God as the provider of the necessary
    preconditions for the existence of moral facts, while without him,
    justified belief in moral facts remains untenable.
    Even if the universe did include an invisible, all-powerful God, it�s
    not clear to me how this situation would make moral facts viable, if
    they otherwise wouldn�t be. The dominant meta-ethical theory among
    theists seems to be Divine Command Theory. The essence of this idea is
    that things are moral or immoral based on God�s commands or character.
    For it is God�s act of commanding or forbidding things is what makes
    them good or bad.
    The theist asserts that God commands morality. However, this seems
    like an unjustified, ad hoc assumption, no better than an atheist
    insisting that moral facts simply exist, in the universe (moral
    realism). If divine command theory can legitimately ground moral
    facts, then so can moral realism.
    So, �God-belief� is a red-herring in this discussion. The assumption
    of a deity doesn�t allow a person to argue for moral realism with any
    more force than is available to an atheist.

  • No one argues for divine command theory these days. Moral values are grounded in God's unchanging nature. They are not arbitrary. On your view all that exists is matter. So there are no moral facts, nor even free non-material agents to act on these facts. The whole thing is a mess on atheism – it doesn't even get off the ground because there are so many problems. Be sure and read over the list of requirements for rational morality and think about whether atheism grounds any of them. I argued that none are grounded by atheism.

    Below are some resources to help you to decide where you stand.

    You can get the full story on the requirements for rational morality in a published, peer-reviewed paper written by William Lane Craig here.

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/meta-eth.html

    You can also hear and see him present the paper to an audience of students and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. The audio is clipped at 67 minutes, the video is the full 84 minutes. There is 45 minutes of Q&A, with many atheist challengers.

    http://veritas.org/media/talks/604

    The video of this lecture is the best material you can get on this issue, and the Q&A from the hostile audience is vital to the lesson. More debates on atheism and morality can be found on the debate and lecture page.

    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/debates-and-lectures/

    Recent blog post: Do biology textbooks lie to prove evolution?

  • I am well acquainted with W.L. Craig, thanks. Even if morality is
    grounded in a supernatural being, there is an epistemological problem.
    First, there is no way to know the nature of God, the level of
    involvement in the natural world, or what his objective standards
    uphold. Answers to these questions are subjective and the bible
    certainly does not provide a consistent moral character of god. It
    makes more sense to say that objective morality (such as murder, rape,
    or stealing is immoral) exists like the laws of mathematics and
    physics. Obviously, life could not progress if everyone did what he or
    she wanted.
    According to natural law moral theory, the moral standards that govern
    human behavior are, in some sense, objectively derived from the nature
    of human beings and the nature of the world. With this said, I propose
    that Hobbes's social contract theory is superior to any supernatural
    moral claims. According to Thomas Hobbes, human life would be "nasty,
    brutish, and short" without political authority. In its absence, we
    would live in a state of nature, where we each have unlimited natural
    freedoms, including the "right to all things" and thus the freedom to
    harm all who threaten our own self-preservation; there would be an
    endless "war of all against all. To avoid this, free men establish
    political community (i.e. civil society) through a social contract in
    which each gain civil rights in return for subjecting himself to civil
    law or to political authority.

  • Wintery Knight, you say: "No one argues for divine command theory these days." With all respect, you need to do a bit of reading if you seriously think this.

    Sarah, you're making a common confusion between metaphysics and epistemology. You're assuming that if (metaphysically) God is the basis of moral facts, then it follows that people can't actually know what those facts are. But this is merely an invalid inference. God might provide any number of plausible mechanisms for people to know what those facts are even without being aware of the fact that God's will exists. Divine command theorists have been pointing this out for years.

    You also seem to think that if a divine will can provide the basis of morality then any kind of realism can do the job. The trouble is that moral naturalism doesn't provide an explanation of how things ought to be. At best it can provide a very very detailed account of how things are. This is a factual account only and not a normative account. That's one specific way in which the idea of a divine will has an advantage, because in the very nature of the case, a will is a declaration or attitude about how things ought to be. it is hardly "ad hoc" as you say.

  • Glenn,
    I think God is an invalid inference, since it's an inference based on
    ignorance. I was just trying to afford the possibility that if God
    exists it does not matter because there is no way to know what
    objective morality arises from this god or gods. I think moral realism
    can do the job without the existence of god. Theism claims many
    different ways "things ought to be," so instead of subjectively
    assuming what a supernatural being is commanding, naturalism uses
    reason and science to figure out the best way to function and live
    given empirical, testable data.

  • Sarah, the fact that you think nobody can validly infer the existence of God, while possibly interesting, is not the subject of your previous post or my reply to it.

    You said that if morality derives from God then there is an epistemic problem. I merely noted that this displays a confusion between metaphysics and epistemology, something that you have not yet addressed. You have simply repeated your objection without acknowledging my correction.

    You have also assumed that naturalism does in fact provide a way of finding out how things ought to be, using "empirical, testable data." But this simply fails to address the objection I raised in my last post: Natural investigation, by its very nature, can do no such thing. At best it can tell us how things are.

    I welcome replies to these responses I have made, but merely re-stating the claims that I am responding to is not adequate.

    Recent blog post: Coming up…

  • an ebed could not be held in service for more than six years (Exodus 21:2)

    That's incorrect. A foreign (non-Israelite) slave was a perpetual slave, and his children were enslaved as well. Leviticus 25:39-46.

  • Guest, actually if you had not snipped the footnote which was annexed to that citation you'll see I actually addressed this point.

    Nor does the text you cite state anything about enslaving someones children.

  • Matt, I apologise for not being clear. The relevant parts are Leviticus 25:44-46, the earlier verses were included for context. My point was that a foreign slave could be kept as perpetual property.

    Secondly, about the children, you're correct. Leviticus 25:39-46 doesn't talk about enslaving the children, I must have confused it with Deuteronomy 20:13, where children are enslaved.

    But I am certain that children of slaves were born into slavery as well, but I'll have to find a reference for you.

  • Dont you think it’s disrespectful to use bible verses to argue with each other
    the simple facts are
    ¤ in the time that the bible was written slavery was part of
    their way of life
    ¤ Slavery is over, there is no point in arguing over the past
    ¤ The more you suffer for God the more he loves you BUT doesnt mean you have to inflict more pain to yourselves by arguing

    so plz drop this childish act

  • […] I found this while pursuing a comment section (guess where?): MandM wrote this: Sunday Study: Slavery, John Locke and the Bible […]

  • […] the Bible condone slavery? Matt and Madeleine Flanagan have a wonderful post up to answer this thorny question. These guys are professional apologists, not amateurs, like me! […]

  • […] other things both the scriptures and Paul stated about slavery, which contradict and condemn the practice of slavery that existed in America. In fact, the enlightenment philosopher who most influenced the US, John Locke, appealed to these […]

  • The bible says you can beat slaves as long as they don’t die?????…

    I have a very good article for you on this subject. I think you might want to take a good look at this one when you get a chance……

  • […] slavery, Professor Coyne would be well-advised to read Slavery, John Locke and the Bible by Dr. Matt Flanagan. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to the article: It is often […]

  • about Exodus 21:21 in the KJV it says: Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money. Now does the slave die here after a day or two ? because it does not say he gets back up after a day or two, or am I missing something. the reason why I ask is because a atheist has challenged me to the entire verse: Exodus 21:20-21. If the slave did get back up again that would be better, but the atheist probably wont agree because it may sound like to him in verse 21 that the slave died after a day or two, and so the master gets off with only losing his money. Can you help me brother ? Thank you, God is great Amen.

  • Mike, thats correct the KJV states “continue a day or two” the translation I cited above is the NIV which states “the slave recovers after a day or two” different translations interpret the hebrew phrase in different ways. Some take it to mean he recovers after a day or two others that he survives for a day or to.

    That doesnt effect me point in the article above however. Which is the text does not claim does not claim its permissible to beat ones servant in this way. Because the phrase, “he shall not punished” in context means “he shall not be executed”, thats compatible with a person facing some other legal penalty over than execution and in light of the fact the law goes on to demand compensation for injuries done to servants its unlikely the law is affirming a right to beat ones slave with impunity.