Who Is the Bigot?

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Who is the bigot?

Mark Joseph Stern proposes an answer to that question in a recent Slate article, taking his cues from a new book by Stephen Eric Bronner, titled The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists.

Stern makes it amazingly simple: “Anybody who opposes equal rights for gay people” is a bigot by definition. That much is easy. As we’ll see in a moment, though, it’s hard to understand what moral basis he builds that belief on.

I’ll come to that shortly, but first, for context, here is more of what Stern can tell us about “the bigot.” (The following are quotes or near-quotes.) The bigot:

  • Hates
  • Directs his anger against those who threaten (or might threaten) his privileges, his existential self-worth
  • Has beliefs he considers unquestionably right
  • Hears the Lord’s voice and condemns those who don’t, or who interpret it otherwise.
  • Holds antediluvian views
  • Hides (“scurries”) behind tradition and established habits
  • Is panicky
  • Is in a tailspin of anger and confusion
  • Is a pragmatist, shifting arguments and opinions based on what works at the moment
  • Suffers an all-consuming fear of modernity; terrified of modernity and its enthusiasts
  • Feels his power slipping away
  • Is desperate to cling to “liberty”
  • Asserts power over the oppressed
  • Clings to shreds of former dominance
  • Stanches the flow of progress by marginalizing others
  • Relies on inane talking points
  • Uses insidious tactics
  • Employs camouflage in translating his prejudices into reality
  • Considers “the idea that things can be different” his enemy

That’s quite a list. It’s quite a judgmental list. Maybe Bronner’s book justifies all these condemnations. Stern simply flings them forth.

Stern would have you believe that I, as a blogger and author who disagrees with gay marriage, am in a panic, an angry and confused tailspin; I’m terrified, hiding, desperate, and shifty. It’s funny, though: I don’t feel that way. You’d think that if I were in a panic, filled with desperate anger and terror, I would feel panicky, desperate, terrified, and angry. I never thought I’d be the last to know I felt that way.

But no, what his list really reveals is that Stern is given to stereotypes. He doesn’t know me, yet he considers me a fearful, manipulative power-monger. That’s stereotyping on his part. Of course he considers his beliefs unquestionably right, which makes his article the more sadly ironic. He is oblivious to the many items on his list that reflect directly upon himself.

At the same time, it’s interesting to note these four that clearly do not. The “bigot,” he says (with my own emphasis added),

  • Holds antediluvian views
  • Is terrified of modernity and its enthusiasts
  • Stanches the flow of progress by marginalizing others
  • Considers “the idea that things can be different” his enemy

The bigot, according to Stern, is deeply opposed to “modernity,” “progress,” and change. The point is reinforced by his stuffing the word “tradition” five times into nine consecutive sentences, not counting a quote he took from Bronner.

To sum it up,

But behind the bigot’s beliefs is an all-consuming fear of modernity. It was modernity, after all, that gave minorities the tools to combat their oppression—which, in turn, led to the increasing marginalization of prejudiced holdouts.

Somehow Stern has forgotten that it was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., that led the civil rights movement. At the same time, he invests modernity with an ethical value that rings so loudly in this piece, one could almost miss Stern’s other ethical value, his concern for the oppressed GLBT person.

Modernity is good. Tradition is bad. Who knew it was so simple?

But when did modernity begin, and what gave it such ethical primacy? What is the message here? Is he saying that later is better, and older is worse? That’s an argument that’s far too easily made today. It can’t be disproved! What I mean by that is that there is nothing later than today, nothing more modern to judge today, nothing to prove today wrong, as long as the standard is that newer is better.

The problem with that, of course, is that there were other todays before today’s today. Some of them were quite modern todays. The eugenics movement of the early 20th century was all about progress and modernity, and during the todays of that era, progress and modernity carried the same ethical force they carry for Stern today. Hitler’s Germany was about progress and modernity in its own “today.” So were the killing regimes of Stalin and Mao.

In that light it’s hard to join with Stern in condemning those whose moral choices are guided by something other than the latest latest. It’s equally hard to share in his reverent praise for progress, and his mocking of tradition just because it’s traditional.

Science progresses, and that’s good: we acquire more knowledge, more technology, more understanding, and more control. Stern seems to think that morality progresses as well, but toward what? If progress and modernity define morality, does Stern think that moral progress consists in the passage of time? Such a view brushes up against tautology. There’s nothing new in moral knowledge except that if it’s new it’s new, and if it’s new it’s good.

If that’s not what he thinks, then I’d like to know what he does think about it. For other than the judgmental labels he assigns so freely to “bigots,” I cannot find any other moral language in this piece. (He mentions “compassion,” but he undermines any point he might have made by it when he reminds us that everyone, which presumably includes “bigots,” is hard-wired for empathy.)

He stands against prejudice and animus and panic and inanity and unjustified self-confidence and so much more. Good. So do I. His definition of bigotry bounces off me: I don’t recognize myself in it. Undoubtedly he will see that as reflecting the depth of my depravity, but in that case a swiftly delivered tu quoque would be in order. His article is clearly filled with animus, hatred, condemnation, unquestioned self-righteousness, marginalizing the oppressed, and other insidious tactics—all in service of what? He stands against many things, many of which he (apparently unknowingly) practices himself. What does he stand for?

I’m one of his “bigots.” I stand for the families in which future generations of children will grow up, because I believe they need families to grow up in. I stand for sexual morality because I know how much more healthy relationships can be, when such intimacy is combined with covenant commitment and trust. I stand for sensible marriage law, knowing that the principles by which gay marriage is promoted are equally valid (meaning, equally nonsensical) in support of polygamy, incest, and other obviously wrong relationships.

Again, what does Stern stand for? As far as we can tell in this article, he stands for modernity. Modern is good. Today.

 

Hat tip to DR84 via email.

 

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236 Responses to “ Who Is the Bigot? ”

  1. You’ve made a good case that Stern’s definition of a bigot is too narrow and emotional and just not very useful. So what’s your definition of a bigot?

    How about this idea: A bigot is someone who punishes other people for mere cultural or physical differences rather than for practical things that impede our society’s prosperity.

    This way you can say you’re not a bigot since gay people really do impede our society’s prosperity, and it’s a lifestyle choice. Of course, Stern can also keep calling you a bigot since he says gay people do _not_ impede our society’s prosperity, or else that they can’t help it.

    Emotionally charged words often lead to confusing arguments, so that’s why it’s important to hammer out good definitions. It can focus the discussion and take some of the destructive emotion out of it.

  2. @John Moore:

    So what’s your definition of a bigot?

    A bigot, by definition, is someone that disagrees with me.

  3. John,

    I read your comment last night on my iPhone, and I said to myself, “Huh. I said that? I don’t remember making a case that Stern’s definition is ‘too narrow and emotional.'” I didn’t have time then to re-read what what I’d written until just now, and I’m still not sure I made that case. If I did, then that would be an interesting discovery for me.

    I think the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of bigot is just fine:

    : a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)
    :  a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially :  one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

    I think it’s very likely (though I don’t know him well enough to be sure) that Stern hates those who disagree with him on homosexuality and gay marriage. He lambasted us mercilessly with strong pejoratives in this article. And I think he did it unfairly. So if I’m right about that, then he strongly and unfairly dislikes us as a group, which according to M-W is definitive of being a bigot.

    Maybe I’m wrong: maybe he doesn’t hate us after all. (I’m not wrong on whether his criticism is unfair.) I wonder still whether his devotion to his own opinion could be regarded as obstinate or intolerant.

    Anyway, I don’t hate him. I dislike his ideas, that’s for sure. If I dislike them unfairly, then I qualify as a bigot; but that’s the point in question, isn’t it: whether homosexuality or gay marriage can fairly be considered wrong. That is, it could be the point in question, except it’s hard to get to the actual question when name-calling comes ahead of it on the agenda.

    And that’s why I spent so much more time on Stern’s ethic of modernity in the OP than I did on shouting names back at him.

  4. I’ve just looked through Stern’s piece again, and I’ve realized there’s another theme that bears some attention, the theme of power. I’ll work on that later on. Feel free to examine it here yourself, too.

  5. …I’ve realized there’s another theme that bears some attention, the theme of power.

    This article is a primer in the use of the pejorative as an application of power. The tactic is simple and in widespread usage. Create a new definition, in spite of the existence of perfectly good and widely accepted definitions like the MW above. (We saw a variation of this with the nonesense from Peter Bogassian.) The definition will brand your opponents in any area with an appropriate pejorative label.

    Bigot, homophobe, racist, Islamaphobe, take your choice. Key to its success is to make sure your definition takes whatever legitimate concerns your opponent has and making them the elements of your definition or simply broadly defines any opposition, in general, to your position as guilt (see above). Think young middle eastern men should get some extra attention at airport security. Islamaphobe. Think that the astronomical percentage of single parenthood in the inter city is a contributor to the issues there. Racist.

    And just where does this come from? It was all laid out quite well by Saul Alinsky in his “Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals”. You never want to engage in a dialogue with you opponents if you can simply marginalize them. Recognize the tactic? You should, it’s widely used by race baiters like Al Sharpton and has become the central tactic of what has become widely known as the “Gay Mafia” in dealing with its opponents. Dialogue, principled opposition, discussion of the facts? Just not necessary.

  6. Right. Meanwhile, though, take a look at what he says about his so-called “bigots:”

    • Directs his anger against those who threaten (or might threaten) his privileges, his existential self-worth
    • Feels his power slipping away
    • Asserts power over the oppressed
    • Clings to shreds of former dominance
    • Stanches the flow of progress by marginalizing others

    It’s hard to know who’s who in this piece, isn’t it?

  7. The question is why someone is a bigot rather than simply a person who holds their beliefs passionately. The dictionary definition you gave used the word “unfairly,” but what makes a position unfair?

    If bigotry means hate, then we’ll never really know, since you can’t look into people’s hearts. So the whole discussion would just be your strong emotion against his. What good is that?

    I suggested that we should judge a position as “unfair” if it impedes our society’s prosperity. What do you think of that?

  8. Sure.

    Now let’s define our society’s prosperity.

    “Our society’s prosperity is defined as that which promotes family and helps eliminate sexual immorality, including all forms of homosexual practice, for the purpose of extending the health of each person’s relationships and their understanding of responsible civil engagement, both for the immediate future and for the long term.”

    Sounds good to me.

    🙂

    Did that get you much closer to where you wanted to be?

  9. I hope you see the problem that illustrated for you and your definition.

    A better definition of “unfairly” would be “in contradiction or denial of the true and the just,” where justice is defined as that which promotes or at least permits each one’s maximum opportunity to realize their essential (Aristotelian) nature.

  10. Yes, it got me closer to where I wanted to be, because all I wanted was a clear discussion where people agree on the meanings of the words they’re using together. I’m not trying to push the discussion in any particular direction, but I just want a clear discussion where people understand each other.

    At this point, we see that the accusation of bigotry is just an emotionally charged way of saying we disagree about what our society’s prosperity is, or about what the “true and the just” is.

    We could continue our discussion, and I don’t think it would be a waste of time. I don’t think there is a problem “for you and your definition.”

  11. I’m not so sure we see that, John. Yes, it can be that, but the way you’ve spoken it, there’s nothing there but emotionally charged disagreement.

    Do you think the statement, “You’re a bigot” could ever be actually true? Or is it always rhetorically equivalent to, “You’re wrong and you’re a bad person for it!”?

  12. There could be cool headed disagreement, or emotionally charged disagreement.

    Of course it could be true that someone is a bigot, just as “You’re wrong and you’re a bad person for it” can also be true. On the other hand, it’s sometimes better to discuss things with a cool head, even if you’re talking to a bigot (not that anyone here is doing that at the moment 🙂

  13. John Moore said: “There could be cool headed disagreement, or emotionally charged disagreement.”

    Sometimes, it’s not very easy to engage in cool headed disagreement. For example, imagine you’re reading a blog post with which you mostly agree. But then at the end, the author calls your relationship with the person you love “nonsensical” and “obviously wrong”.

    When you hear such things regularly, and that statement is yet another voice in the chorus, that can really hurt.

  14. Skepticism First, I hope you can approach this with a cool head.

    First, these are the relationships I listed as “obviously wrong:” polygamy and incest. Do you agree or disagree that they are obviously wrong?

    (My second question comes after this one is answered.)

  15. Tom Gilson,

    I disagree, because I base my sexual ethics on consent. When it comes to incest, it’s often wrong, because in practice incest is often nonconsensual and exploitative. But that only leaves me to conclude that those specific incestuous relationships are wrong – and they’re wrong because they’re nonconsensual and exploitative, not because they’re incestuous. There are, at least potentially, incestuous relationships which are not like that.

    One may think that the potential for genetic defects in children is a strong argument against incest, but there are three issues here. First, that is at best an argument against incestuous reproduction – not an argument against incestuous sex or incestuous romance. Second, if the genetic defects argument works against incest, it also works against a couple who is not related, but who nevertheless is at risk for having children with genetic defects for other reasons. Third, the genetic defects argument doesn’t apply to incestuous couples who have no possibility of having children in the first place.

    Now, as for polygamy, I don’t think that’s wrong either. I’m actually *in* a polyamorous relationship myself (note that it’s polyamorous and technically not polygamous, because I’m not married. But, close enough).

  16. Then you are obviously not right. That is, you are morally not right. You couldn’t be morally right: you aren’t applying any moral principles at all. Consent is not a moral principle. “I decided it was okay” has never been a credible moral statement, and neither has “we decided it was okay.”

    Do you think there are any moral categories applying to sexual relationships at all?

  17. Consent is not merely “deciding that it’s ok”. It’s about self-determination. If you don’t think consent is vital to sexual ethics, you’re the one who’s obviously wrong (on what basis do you deem rape immoral, if not on the basis of nonconsent?).

    As for your question: I think all consensual sex acts are morally permissible, and all nonconsensual sex acts are morally impermissible.

  18. Well, of course you’re right that non-consent can make certain acts wrong, or perhaps more wrong, or wrong in additional or different ways than otherwise.

    That’s not the same, however, as saying that consent can make these acts right.

    But I’d like to explore further with you whether you have any sexual ethics, and also whether consent is sufficient to determine whether something is right. I’ll do it by asking some questions.

    What is it that makes rape a matter of sexual ethics? Why is called that rather than a matter of assault and battery? Why is there a separate category of ethics that we call “sexual ethics”?

    Next: Is assault and battery permissible if done by consent?

    Next: What about intentional assault and battery, to the death, by gladiatorial combat in Yankee Stadium?

  19. I agree with Skepticism First, that consent is vital to discussions of sexual ethics. I’m not sure that ALL consensual sex acts are morally permissible, (and I think that only adults can consent), but I do agree that there are some relationships that could be termed incestuous that are okay, and I think that polygamy is okay (and I think polygamy will eventually be legal in at least some places in this country, in time.)

    Tom, your response to SF was, “Then you are obviously not right.” After years of reading this blog, it still shocks me when you make such judgmental statements. I know all about your reasons for making them–how you determine what is right and so on–but it still shocks me that you write about “treating others as human” and make such blatant judgements.

  20. I said he was obviously not right, OS, because, as I wrote in that comment, there were fairly obvious reasons he could not be right. That’s not judgmentalism. That’s pointing out what’s plain to see.

    Now, it could be that I’m wrong in my analysis. In that case my failure is in my analysis first of all. If so, then maybe it’s also in my character at the same time. But here’s the thing: for you to judge my conclusion judgmental (and do so justly), you must first find my analysis false. You went straight to judging me as “judgmental” without pausing first to consider the analysis. At least, other than your parroting SF’s opinion, I see no sign that you considered my analysis.

  21. Here’s another angle on it. Consent can make an otherwise impermissible act permissible in some circumstances. SF and OS both take it that consent is required to make sex permissible. What is it that makes it otherwise impermissible? Supposing that there is contraception involved, what harm does sex possibly do to the male? Supposing that no physical injury results, as is normally (though not always) the case, what harm does sex do to the female?

    Those are serious questions and they lead in important directions. (That includes my questions in #18.)

    (Later edit: someone is bound to say something like, “Tom, if you don’t know the answer to those questions there’s something seriously wrong with you.” I do know answers—multiple answers—to those questions. I don’t know what SF and OS would give as answers from their worldview, however, and that’s what I’m working on here.)

  22. “What is it that makes rape a matter of sexual ethics?”

    It’s a sexual act. Rape is a matter of sexual ethics for the same reason embezzeling is a matter of business ethics.

    “Why is called that rather than a matter of assault and battery?”

    I suppose it has a separate name because the motivations for committing it are often (although, not always) very different.

    “Why is there a separate category of ethics that we call “sexual ethics”?”

    I dunno. Perhaps there shouldn’t be. I’m not sure how that’s relevant, though.

    “Is assault and battery permissible if done by consent?”

    Well first, I’d say that assault and battery is nonconsensual by definition, much like rape is. If a sexual act is consensual, we don’t call it rape. But if you just mean things like punching and kicking simpliciter, yes, I think it’s permissible if consented to. For example, boxing. For another example, BDSM.

    “What about intentional assault and battery, to the death?”

    If it’s truly consensual, then yes, that is permissible as well. However, keep in mind that for situations like that, it can be very difficult for a third party to distinguish whether there’s consent, or whether people involved are mentally ill or caught up in crowd frenzy and peer pressure.

    “Well, of course you’re right that non-consent can make certain acts wrong, or perhaps more wrong, or wrong in additional or different ways than otherwise.”

    What I’m saying is actually that non-consent is the only thing that can make sex acts wrong. To that end, all consensual sex acts are permissible (‘right’).

  23. Another question just occurred to me, OS: what is it like for you living in a world where so many people consider incest, polygamy, and polyamory to be obviously not right? It must be continually shocking, I suppose, to be in the presence of so much judgmentalism. But what if we’re not wrong?

  24. Interesting, SF, your comment at #23. I’ll think it over and be back after a while.

    For now, though I don’t have it fully articulated in my mind, it still seems to me as if you have no genuine sexual ethic if your only sexual ethic is consent. But that’s just an impression, not an argument, so I’ll have to think it through some more.

  25. Tom Gilson #25:

    I’m really not sure what it is you’re looking for. What do you mean by “genuine sexual ethic”? Must my ethics necessarily exclude some consensual sex acts in order to “count”? If so, why?

    Also, my issue isn’t so much that you think I’m wrong about all this – I expected that – it’s more that you think I’m *obviously* wrong. Rational people can and do disagree with you on this, even though it’s oftentimes assumed that everyone agrees with you. It seems to me that you were assuming that practically everyone, even everyone on the pro-gay side, takes it as a given that things like polyamorous marriage shouldn’t be allowed (just the other day, I noticed Ryan T. Anderson making this same assumption). But that’s just not the case, at least not anymore.

  26. … continuing:

    Was virtually everybody wrong ten years ago?

    (If you’re not sure whether that was true ten years ago, go back twenty or thirty years or whatever it takes.)

    If so, what new knowledge has arrived on the scene whereby you are right and they were wrong?

  27. “If so, what new knowledge has arrived on the scene whereby you are right and they were wrong?”

    Broadly speaking, the knowledge that these relationships are similarly situated in the relevant aspects to the relationships that we all agree are permissible. Like heterosexual monogamous relationships, these are (for lack of a better term) “regular” consensual relationships. At least in some cases, the participants are freely making informed decisions to engage in them – there’s no physical force or coercion involved. Before, many people equated all polyamorous relationships with the sort of coerced polygamy that’s historically been practiced in many areas.

  28. SF,

    You wrote, “What I’m saying is actually that non-consent is the only thing that can make sex acts wrong. To that end, all consensual sex acts are permissible (‘right’).” I’ve been thinking about this point of view for quite some time, and I find I can’t quite agree. I’m not sure whether what trips me up is just a feeling of discomfort with what some people might agree to, or whether I genuinely believe there is some limit to what is permissible.

    Can you say more about consent? How do you define consent? What determines the ability to consent? Can someone consent and then later realize they did not consent?

    Also, do you think there are some acts that are not permissible because they violate the rights and dignity of a person?

  29. “Can you say more about consent? How do you define consent? What determines the ability to consent? Can someone consent and then later realize they did not consent?”

    Sure. When I say consent, what I mean is something similar to the legal concept of ‘informed consent’. However, it need not be verbally assented (and indeed, in some cases someone may verbally assent out of coercion or fear, while not consenting in terms of their internal mental state).

    Consent is, like the philosophical concept of ‘belief’, a mental attitude. It’s also informed, in that someone can only consent when they’re aware of all the relevant aspects of the situation and their implications. In order to have the ability to consent to something, a person must both be of a certain mental maturity level and of sound mind. Neither children nor the mentally handicapped* can consent.

    Now as for the situation you mention where someone could possibly consent and then later realize they did not – yes and no. Imagine two people, Jack and Jill, consent to have sex. However, later on Jill discovers that unbeknownst to her at the time, Jack has HIV. When the sex happened, what Jill was consenting to was sex with Jack, simpliciter – *not* sex with Jack that would put her at reasonable risk of contracting HIV. In this case, the situation that Jill consented to was not the situation that actually took place. This is why being informed is an integral part of consent.

    As for your last question – kind of, but not really. While there are some acts which are impermissible *and also* violate the rights and dignity of a person, that’s not what makes them impermissible. Rather, it is again consent, and the violation is an incidental but extremely unfortunate side effect. This is, however, an important consideration for nonconsensual situations in general.

    As I said earlier, children lack the ability to consent. This may cause worries, because we do all sorts of things to and for children without their consent – we feed them, clothe them, make them take medicine, etc. But in these cases, we’re only permitted to do such things when rationality demands that they serve the best interests of the child. So, there are exceptions to the general maxim ‘nonconsensual acts are always impermissible’ – however, things such as sex acts never have the best interests of the child in mind; that is, they never serve the purpose of benefiting the child. Also notice that these exceptions don’t work the other way – if someone *does* consent to acts which do not benefit themselves, that’s still ok.

    Anyway, I suspect that what trips you up really is just personal discomfort, since it seems that you’d otherwise agree with me if it weren’t for more egregious examples. That’s quite common, but is there *really* an ethical problem with such acts? For example, I routinely engage in rather “extreme” BDSM. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I’m well aware of the potential consequences of my actions, and yet I choose to do them anyway, because I enjoy them. What could possibly be wrong with that?

    ————————

    *by mentally handicapped, I have in mind only certain types of mental problems. A person with a cognitive impairment cannot consent, but a person with a mood disorder (usually) can.

  30. Broadly speaking, the knowledge that these relationships are similarly situated in the relevant aspects to the relationships that we all agree are permissible.

    So these relationships are all similarly situated within marriage? Really? Or is marriage irrelevant?

  31. Before, many people equated all polyamorous relationships with the sort of coerced polygamy that’s historically been practiced in many areas.

    Actually, most people in the West associated it with fornication and/or adultery, or, in relevant circumstances, sodomy. (I apologize for using such shocking language.)

  32. “So these relationships are all similarly situated within marriage? Really?”

    Yes.

    “Actually, most people in the West associated it with fornication and/or adultery, or, in relevant circumstances, sodomy.”

    Ask the average person what they think about polygamy, and they’ll likely think of some kind of mormon or other cult compound wherein one man has dozens of wives that are too young to be legally married. They probably won’t think of me and my partners shopping for groceries.

    “I still don’t see any sexual ethic here. What are your answers to #22, I wonder?”

    I’m still confused as to what exactly you’re asking me for (see the first paragraph of comment 26). Perhaps there’s some kind of language barrier here – when you ask me for a ‘sexual ethic’, what precisely is it that you’re asking about? Can you give me an example?

  33. There’s consent and then there’s consent. Voters consent to give power to those in government. These people pass laws denying certain consentual actions.

    Hmm…

  34. A minor needs medical treatment, but their parents do not consent to it. What does a consent-based ethic say about this?

  35. SF, polygamy and incest are not situated within marriage. That quick answer you gave there was too obviously wrong. I can’t believe you thought you could get away with trying it.

    Therefore your answer in #31 is out the window. It’s wrong. It’s wrong in ways that matter deeply. You say in #31,

    Like heterosexual monogamous relationships, these are (for lack of a better term) “regular” consensual relationships.

    What you do there is you flatten out “heterosexual monogamous relationships,” making them all the same, eliminating the difference between relationships in marriage and outside of marriage. That only works, however, if marriage is irrelevant, which is the point in question, and which you are merely assuming. That’s begging the question badly. It’s nonsensical and it’s obviously wrong, along with the kinds of relationships you try to justify thereby.

    As for my questions in #22, I asked there,

    Here’s another angle on it. Consent can make an otherwise impermissible act permissible in some circumstances. SF and OS both take it that consent is required to make sex permissible. What is it that makes it otherwise impermissible? Supposing that there is contraception involved, what harm does sex possibly do to the male? Supposing that no physical injury results, as is normally (though not always) the case, what harm does sex do to the female?

    There are some acts that are permissible without consent, and some that require consent. You don’t need consent from anyone to eat food you have legally purchased or grown yourself. You would need consent to eat someone else’s food, because you do harm to another person by taking his or her property; but his or her consent would make the otherwise impermissible act permissible.

    That’s very common, very familiar and I know you know it. I mention it by way of explaining the question I asked about sex. Exactly what is it that makes it impermissible without consent? Given the circumstances I put forth in my questions at #22, what is the precise harm that’s done in sex, that makes it necessary to obtain consent?

    I’m trying to anticipate some, but not all, of your answers. I can see harm under the general headings of either “I don’t want that,” or “I don’t have time for that,” but the same could apply to playing video games together, which requires consent, too. Generally speaking, it’s wrong to force another person to sit in front of an Xbox if they don’t have time or don’t want to do it. Is there anything else about sexual encounters, besides those two categories, that makes consent ethically important?

    Again, I know some much stronger answers to those kinds of questions. I’m looking for you to articulate your position, since I’m quite sure your answers would be different than mine.

    Please don’t worry about “genuine sexual ethic” at this point. It has to do with whether there are any moral principles that apply uniquely to sexual situations. Your answer to these questions here will help us understand what I’m interested in knowing about that, and if you’re not sure why it matters, I’ll try to explain once I know better what your position is.

  36. You quote me and then answer,

    “Actually, most people in the West associated it with fornication and/or adultery, or, in relevant circumstances, sodomy.”

    Ask the average person what they think about polygamy, and they’ll likely think of some kind of mormon or other cult compound wherein one man has dozens of wives that are too young to be legally married. They probably won’t think of me and my partners shopping for groceries.

    Do you realize that you and your friends could shop for groceries together without having any sexual relationship? Do you realize that what makes relationships polygamous isn’t the shopping? (I think you do…)

    Do you realize (in other words) how you ducked the issue I posed there?

  37. I’d like to try to bring this question back around to the one we started with here, which is bigotry. SF interjected something in the discussion about not liking my assessment of polygamy and incest. He said it “can really hurt.”

    I’ve had people really hurt me without being bigots. The first editor who slashed her way through one of my beloved manuscripts made me so angry I didn’t get over it for days. She wasn’t a bigot.

    Hurting someone is not necessarily bigotry. If what I said about polygamy and incest is true, it’s not bigotry to say so.

    I’m convinced, too, that it’s not bigotry to believe it’s true. If it were bigotry to believe it, then that would mean bigots have outnumbered the “enlightened” people by thousands to one throughout modern history.

    I think it’s more likely to be bigotry to say they were all wrong, and that a few newly enlightened people today have finally got it right.

  38. (I’ll be gone most of the day, so don’t feel that you have to rush to respond to this.)

    “SF, polygamy and incest are not situated within marriage.”

    You’ve misunderstood what I mean by ‘similarly situated’. What I mean is that these relationships bear certain resemblances to the heterosexual monogamous relationships, and these resemblances are (at least some of) the relevant characteristics at which we direct our consideration. For example, when considering whether a heterosexual couple having sex is permissible, we don’t ask about hair color. Rather, we ask about age, consent, whether they are of sound mind, etc. It’s a term that’s often used in court proceedings.

    “That only works, however, if marriage is irrelevant”

    Ok, we’re going to have some roundabout trouble with this one. I take ‘marriage’ to be solely a legal term about civil licenses. You, presumably, have something more ontological in mind. That’s fine for now, but you’re going to have a lot more difficulty identifying just who counts as married than I am. I’ll leave it to you to identify your own criteria for marriage (keep in mind, though, that you’ll want criteria that not only excludes all homosexual and polyamorous relationships, but also doesn’t exclude many heterosexual couples who have obtained civil marriage licenses) and meanwhile, I’ll just point at the county clerk’s marriage registry database.

    As for my alleged flattening out, yes, I do think that all *consensual* heterosexual monogamous marriages are the same, at least as far as ethics is concerned. They may live in different places, or have different goals, etc.; but if they’re consensual, they’re permissible. I’m not sure what question I’m supposed to be begging here.

    “You don’t need consent from anyone to eat food you have legally purchased or to use your own computer.”

    These are solitary actions, and as such, need consent from one person – yourself. You, when you eat the food you have bought, are consenting to eat that food.

    “You would need consent to eat someone else’s food, because you do harm to another person by taking his or her property; but his or her consent would make the otherwise impermissible act permissible.”

    This isn’t exactly right. You would still need consent even if no harm was done by taking his property without his consent. Your ‘because’ is misplaced. The act is otherwise impermissible because of the lack of consent, not because of harm.

    “Exactly what is it that makes it impermissible without consent? Given the circumstances I put forth in my questions at #22, what is the precise harm that’s done in sex, that makes it necessary to obtain consent?”

    The reason consent is necessary to obtain is not because of harm. It’s because the permissibility of these acts is determined by the presence or lack of consent itself. Consider, for example, a situation wherein a woman is raped; however, she’s exceptionally strong-willed and comes out of the experience with no discernible mental, physical, or emotional trauma. In this case, the rape is *still* immoral.

    ” It has to do with whether there are any moral principles that apply uniquely to sexual situations.”

    Ok, that makes sense. My answer to that is no. I don’t view sex as belonging to some kind of unique category that warrants special consideration. It’s an interpersonal physical activity which sometimes happens to also involve emotions.

    Anyway, I have to be honest about something. I feel like you’re not taking me very seriously in your most recent post. You say my answer was obviously wrong, and that you can’t believe I thought I could get away with trying it (do you think I’m trying to deceive you about something?). You once again use the phrases “nonsensical” and “obviously wrong”, and “I know you know it” (do you think I’m playing dumb about something to troll you?).

    You may deeply disagree with me, and indeed we may be coming at this from unresolvable differences in method. But everything I’ve said is completely genuine, and throughout this discussion, I’ve kept a cool head – even though your position is essentially that my romantic life, a deeply personal issue, is completely messed up.

    This brings up an interesting idea, though. Let’s say that, just hypothetically, you convince me on a rational level that polyamorous relationships, homosexual relationships, and even all unmarried relationships are immoral; and I come to believe that you’re right about everything you’ve ever said about the ethics of sex.

    Now, here’s the thing. I currently live with, and am in love with, both a male and a female partner. Your arguments cannot change how I *feel* about them, because arguments in general can’t change how people feel about other people or things. So, what exactly would you advise me to do? Should I leave them, and in the process break three hearts, and render myself homeless and destitute? Or am I just stuck in immorality because of previous choices I’ve made? This isn’t some sort of argument to support any point – I’m just genuinely curious about what you think should happen were you to convince me that you’re correct.

  39. “Do you realize that you and your friends could shop for groceries together without having any sexual relationship?”

    Ok, hold on a second here. They are not my “friends”. They are my partners. In the future, please refer to my partners as my partners.

  40. Our differences are unresolvable. When you say you think that consent is the basis for ethical sex because ethical sex requires consent, and as long as you have no other reason, I lose hope in reasoning with you altogether. As long as you base your truth on your feelings, I lose hope of reasoning with you.

    Do you really want to know what I propose you do?

  41. @Skepticism First:

    Your arguments cannot change how I *feel* about them, because arguments in general can’t change how people feel about other people or things.

    What do you expect for Tom to do *other* than presenting arguments, that is, reasoning with you?

    If you put things in these terms, then the *only* thing we as a society can do, is to recourse to the argumentum ad baculum, that is, to descend to barbarism and savagery. There is no life of the spirit, only power relations. The rapist goes to jail not on account of Justice, but because he had the bad fortune of getting caught with the daughter of someone in power.

    After all, if you *really* think that the intellect ordered to Truth is powerless against the urges of the irrational Will, then ipso facto there is not even a possibility of a rational morality or ethics, a species of practical reasoning.

    And if you *really* think this, then it is completely baffling why you are trying to argue that the unique determinant of the moral permissibility of an act is the presence or absence of consent (actually, you have not argued for this principle, you just claimed it. With the curious consequence that you are not arguing for any kind of discernible morality, not in the sense everyone understands it, bur for a non-aggression pact).

  42. Can people comment on the case of Armin Mewies with regards to consent?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armin_Meiwes

    SF, can you tell us what you think entails a partnership?
    (I have in mind living arrangements, length of relationships, responsibilities within the relationship and boundaries within the relationships.) How may partners do you have at any one time?

    Finally, I think consensual incest is coming our way and possibly soon enough. I recently had a conversation with my wife (who is an atheist) about this story –
    http://crudeideas.blogspot.ie/2014/07/ah-ah-ah-now-little-too-soon.html. While she was initially shocked by the details, when I explained to her that she was unintentionally piggybacking off a societal morality founded largely upon Christian beliefs she shifted from the idea that “this is wrong” to “I guess it’s OK” in about 20 minutes. Assuming the truth of naturalism – at least for the this paragraph – her reaction was a triumph of rationality and world-view consistency. Polygamy, consensual prostitution, consensual incest, lowered age of consent and so on are only wrong if we say so*.

    The times they are a changin’. In the next couple of decades will we see western societies broadly conform themselves to notions shared by folks like SF? Perhaps we’ll see our first polygamist same-sex marriage that also contains consensual incest.

    *To be consistent I think it should also be pointed out that the notion of consent is also only right as long as we say so.

  43. I disagree, because I base my sexual ethics on consent. When it comes to incest, it’s often wrong, because in practice incest is often nonconsensual and exploitative. But that only leaves me to conclude that those specific incestuous relationships are wrong – and they’re wrong because they’re nonconsensual and exploitative, not because they’re incestuous. There are, at least potentially, incestuous relationships which are not like that.

    And as Dostoevsky famously said “Without God, anything is permissible.” And as we often argue here, “Without God, there is no Morality.” And as G. Rodrigues said, “…then it is completely baffling why you are trying to argue that the unique determinant of the moral permissibility of an act is the presence or absence of consent…”

    You have made the case we have made here over and over. You have made the case that from a secular perspective that there is no Morality, just personal opinions. This is the case that secular posters here argue against over and over. But put to the test, they’re wrong and you’re right SF. Secular morality is anything you want it to be or nothing at all which, of course, are really the same thing.

  44. An ethic of consent also assumes that nothing—absolutely nothing!—is wrong in itself, but only in someone not liking it.

    Is that a problem?

    I think so. If nothing is wrong in itself, is anything right in itself? If nothing is bad in itself, is anything good in itself?

    The flattening of sexual morality is the flattening of both morality and sex. Where one becomes meaningless the other becomes meaningless along with it. Pleasure may remain, but pleasure was meant to be accompanied and multiplied by meaningfulness.

    When my wife and I were first married and I was traveling, she asked me if I would be faithful to her. She knew that answer when I married her, but she asked me anyway. I said, “Sara, anyone other than you would be boring.”

    I meant it, and here’s why. I know there are women with different curves and different techniques and who-knows-what-else to spice up an encounter. What they could never give me, what no one could offer me but my wife, is themselves, and I could never give myself to anyone but my wife. So any other encounter would be with only part of a person, the most trivially accessible surface of the person.

    I’ve never tried it, for obvious reasons, but I am very certain that no other encounter could match the deep fulfillment that comes from being fully united, heart, soul, body, memories, experiences, projects, hopes, dreams, plans, children, family, values, and especially unalloyed, full-abandonment-to-each-other trust, such as a faithfully married man and wife can enjoy with each other.

    That’s what Skepticism First has flattened out of his relationships. He has no idea what he has given up.

    I suspect he will say that his sex is not meaningless. I’m sure that’s true, because I’m sure he has not gone as far as what I described above, where he has squeezed all morality out of it. His spoken words here entail meaninglessness, but I doubt he means it fully. I’m just guessing, of course, but I think there’s a basis for my speculations.

  45. Tom wrote, “Hurting someone is not necessarily bigotry. If what I said about polygamy and incest is true, it’s not bigotry to say so.” I think part of what makes a bigot is believing that there is a truth and you know what it is.

    SF, I think I believe that no human should do certain things–things that debase humans–even if they want to. In general, I think individuals should strive to act in ways that increase human rights and dignity, and do their best to refrain from acting in ways that decrease them. This is where I think there may be some ethical limit to consensual sex.

    SF, when you say, “It’s because the permissibility of these acts is determined by the presence or lack of consent itself,” I think you are talking about the right to self-determination, but I’m not sure Tom understood that.

    SF, Tom would want you to use Christianity to find the strength to leave your partners and live a life in accord with Christian principles.

    G Rodrigues, you wrote, “If you put things in these terms, then the ‘only’ thing we as a society can do, is to recourse to the argumentum ad baculum, that is, to descend to barbarism and savagery.” No, we can use our empathy to understand others’ feelings. I know you disagree, but I believe this is how the gay rights movement made progress: People’s feelings changed because they knew people who were gay. I think the same will happen with polygamy, although it may be a harder road.

  46. Billy Squibbs: Arwin Meiwes’ act was wrong, even though his victim gave consent, because it was debasing to humanity.

    Sexual relationships between consenting adult siblings is okay (unless they are doing something debasing to humanity.)

  47. Re: debasing to humanity

    You’re headed in the right direction. There is no such reality as “humanity” in the naturalistic worldview.

  48. So is subjecting oneself to murder and cannibalism wrong only because it falls under your notion of being “debasing to humanity”?

    Now please explain how on naturalism you can derive a coherent notion that says humanity ought not be debased (whatever debased means) that doesn’t involve your personal preferences or special pleading?

    I think part of what makes a bigot is believing that there is a truth and you know what it is.

    Great. But since this is is mere opinion (coz it’s not possible to belie that you know something to be true) why should we take it seriously?

    On another note, I’m struck by how most of this thread (and many of the hot button topics currently raging throughout most western countries) can really be boiled down to sexual desire and the consequences (or not) of desire fulfilled.

    On one hand we have the near limitless demands to express or fulfil our sexual desire in whatever way we choose as individuals and as society. Whilst on the other hand we have traditional moral and religious systems that seek to celebrate sexuality within some quite explicit boundaries. It seems to me that these traditional systems are creaking and groaning under the changed passions.

    I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning – the Christian meaning, they insisted – of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.

    http://archive.org/stream/endsandmeans035237mbp/endsandmeans035237mbp_djvu.txt

  49. @SkepticismFirst: “When you hear such things regularly, and that statement is yet another voice in the chorus, that can really hurt.”

    Even though a good percent of the media is for gay “rights.” It seems to me that approval is wanted.

  50. Billy Squibs,

    We’ve been over this ground before. You think there needs to be an outside authority to determine what is right. I think cultural groups determine what is right. So it’s not an individual preference, it’s a group preference (although I would use a different word: decision, or agreement, or social contract.) And you should take it seriously if you belong to the same cultural group, because the cultural group also determines the consequences of not behaving in the way it’s determined is acceptable (and here’s where G. Rodrigues would go on about it all being about power.)

    You wrote, “On one hand we have the near limitless demands to express or fulfil our sexual desire in whatever way we choose as individuals and as society. Whilst on the other hand we have traditional moral and religious systems that seek to celebrate sexuality within some quite explicit boundaries. It seems to me that these traditional systems are creaking and groaning under the changed passions.” Hasn’t this always been the case? People have always pushed the limits of self-realization against the constraints of cultural expectations. How much can you satisfy the self while still upholding the greater good? Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights of Americans. Some people find meaning in that, you know.

  51. @Billy Squibs:

    As the refrain in the play Marat has it: “What is the point of a revolution without general copulation?” One should amend it, for the sake of precision, from a question to an emphatic affirmation: “the point of a revolution *is* general copulation”. When OS candidly admits that “I think the same will happen with polygamy, although it may be a harder road” (Skepticism First made the same move, e.g. in a passing note to Ryan George), we are past the point where this can even be used as a reductio against the opponent’s position, because it is just the inescapable and inexhorable logic played out. Yesterday, pointing out that the logic of the case could be used to justify polygamy was dismissed with a shout of “Slippery-slope fallacy!”; today we are at “I think the same will happen with polygamy, although it may be a harder road”. Tomorrow what? Marriage with a cow? Consent you ask? I do not have to ask its consent to eat it, why should I need to ask its consent to marry it? And look at its face of bovine contentment and hear its muuu of approval? What more do you want? Mind your own business. Bigot.

  52. Tom Gilson,

    After some deliberation, I’ve decided to no longer comment on this thread. In addition to your comment in #46 that our differences are unresolvable, several people here seem to either not understand, or just not care, that this issue is inseparable from my personal life.

    Furthermore, I feel that I’ve been constantly misunderstood on the points I’ve been trying to make. Perhaps I’m just not very good at explaining myself, but I don’t see any genuine attempt to understand my position. Instead, it seems that people are only interested in defeating it. In comment #49, it’s even suggested that I’ve made the case that morality is just personal opinions. This is a horrible strawman – I am a moral realist!

    So anyway, there’s my final thoughts on the matter. In the future, I hope that the commenters here can inject a little more compassion and understanding into their arguments. Or that they will, at least for a moment, put themselves into my shoes.

  53. The choice is yours and I respect it.

    Everyone’s choices and opinions are tied to their personal lives. See my comment 50. You could have responded to that and I would have accepted it. Maybe it’s partly a problem of standing alone.

    But let me also say this: it’s also a problem of your morality being horribly wrong. It is your personal life, your morality, your choice, but in the end you have not explained how your ethic is anything better than, “I decided it was okay so it was okay” — in plural, of course, but in the end it’s not “we” deciding, it’s “I” three times repeated. As I said at the beginning of this discussion, no one with any sense thinks, “I decided it was okay,” is sufficient for, “and that’s why I believe it’s okay.”

    You have my grief and sympathy for what you have lost, though you don’t recognize it as a loss, along with my frankly expressed horror at the way in which you have tried to justify the evil you have described here.

    I will have more to say in the near future concerning what you have given up. I hope you’ll read it and take it to heart.

  54. In comment #49, it’s even suggested that I’ve made the case that morality is just personal opinions. This is a horrible strawman – I am a moral realist!

    I would suggest you have not come close to making the case for moral realism. If morality is a real, unalterable fact then it transcends any consent-based ethics you can cite. I think that’s what everyone is trying to get you to see.

  55. We’ve been over this ground before. You think there needs to be an outside authority to determine what is right. I think cultural groups determine what is right. So it’s not an individual preference, it’s a group preference (although I would use a different word: decision, or agreement, or social contract.) And you should take it seriously if you belong to the same cultural group, because the cultural group also determines the consequences of not behaving in the way it’s determined is acceptable (and here’s where G. Rodrigues would go on about it all being about power.)

    Indeed we have because justification is what it always boils down to. You made a claim about consensual cannibalism being wrong (and I’m glad you have said this because as sure as day follows night there will be some moral degenerate willing to argue for it, even conceptually) but I’ve not seen a coherent justification for your stance. You have not answered my question.

    It’s therefore worth repeating:

    Now please explain how on naturalism [I suppose I could add materalism or even atheism ] you can derive a coherent notion that says humanity ought not be debased (whatever debased means) that doesn’t involve your personal preferences or special pleading?

    G. Rodrigues is correct when he talks about the rapid shift from slippery slope fallacy to the idea that you can do whatever you feel like to whomever you want just so as long as it’s consensual. The problem is two-fold :

    a) what makes consensual agreement sacrosanct, the one unbreakable law to underpin all sexual ethics? Is it written in the stars or our DNA?
    b) given the truth of such an argument (for arguments sake) why should we grant that consensual cannibalism is somehow different? What is this debasement that you speak of? (I’ve asked this question a number of times in this thread so I’ll expect an answer.)

    Hasn’t this always been the case? People have always pushed the limits of self-realization against the constraints of cultural expectations. How much can you satisfy the self while still upholding the greater good? Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights of Americans. Some people find meaning in that, you know.

    I don’t think I said anything to suggest otherwise. The overall point I’m trying to make is that there has never been a cultural or societal current quite like is evident today.

  56. SF wrote: “…I don’t see any genuine attempt to understand my position. Instead, it seems that people are only interested in defeating it.” Exactly. That is Tom and others’ purpose, I think: not to understand but to defeat. And as they and opposing commenters argue their own positions, each goes away even more firmly rooted in where he was in the first place.

    SF also wrote, “In the future, I hope that the commenters here can inject a little more compassion and understanding into their arguments. Or that they will, at least for a moment, put themselves into my shoes.” Won’t happen. See Tom’s comment immediately following yours.

  57. It’s interesting that you said, “Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights of Americans.” It makes me wonder if you believe Americans attained those rights through our founding documents.

  58. G. Rodrigues isn’t the only one who “would go on about it being all about power.” You’ve described a power-based ethic. The world has seen power-based ethics in action. You should quake and quiver when you speak that way.

  59. One more thing, SF. I was thinking about this overnight. I think you’re rightly unhappy that we didn’t take your whole person, including your relational values, into account here, except there’s a difficulty I’ll come to in a moment.

    Here’s where you’re right, in my view. I’m imagining this conversation in a coffee shop instead of a blog page. The first thing we would do is have some human contact: a handshake, eye contact, and the friendly warmth of sharing time together over snacks and coffee. I’d do that with you in an instant if I had the chance (what part of the country do you live in?). If your partners came in I’d do the same with them. I’d get to know you all. I’d see you interacting and I would have the opportunity to appreciate the positives of your relationships. (I’m not just making this up, I’ve had these kinds of interactions often with gay men.)

    It would be a friendly experience, even though I wouldn’t hide the disagreements I have with your moral choices. If you opened the door to the discussion I would speak frankly about it, and I would expect you to answer frankly. I wouldn’t expect it to be the chief focus of our relationship on every occasion, only when it was appropriate to speak about it. Of course you would need to be friendly toward me for that to work; if you were rudely, discourteously, or angrily judgmental toward my morality it would not be a friendly experience after all.

    That’s what I would do if I were dealing with you as a person. I don’t know how to do it on a blog. Maybe that’s my weakness, maybe that’s inherent to blogging, maybe both. Blogs are nicely designed for interacting on ideas but less well suited for interacting as persons. We have the part where we speak frankly about our disagreements on the idea level, but not the part where we get to know each other as persons.

    I wonder what you would have suggested we do differently. I’m genuinely open to your ideas.

  60. Tom, you wrote, “Of course you would need to be friendly toward me for that to work; if you were rudely, discourteously, or angrily judgmental toward my morality it would not be a friendly experience after all.”. This is how you treated SF here on your page: rudely, discourteousky, and angrily judgmental toward his morality. That is, in general, how you treat all retractors here. I don’t buy your excuse that you can only be respectful in person. You’re a good writer; you can figure out how to be respectful here if you choose to.

  61. Can you show me where Tom was rude? I may have missed it.

    I’ll be forthright in stating that I’m not initially inclined to believe you based on your opening comment which I think was I suggest is incorrect and almost certainly self-defeating.

  62. Tom,

    I’ll comment here at least once more, because I take your most recent comment to be genuine, and I’d honestly prefer that you understand where I’m coming from. Earlier, just after my last post, you said this:

    “You have my grief and sympathy for what you have lost, though you don’t recognize it as a loss, along with my frankly expressed horror at the way in which you have tried to justify the evil you have described here.”

    If we were having this conversation in a coffee shop, you say you’d give me and my partners handshakes, and I believe you. But would you also have an expression of horror on your face? Would you be visibly grieving over the mere fact that we’re together? If so, would you expect us to do anything other than leave the coffee shop?

    There’s a world of difference between “you’ve erred in your moral reasoning; one or more of your premises is false” and “what you’re doing is evil, and it horrifies me”. The former is fine, the latter is just rude. I’m not saying this is correct, but statements like that are part of the reason for the charges of bigotry in the first place.

    So, again, I’d really like you to put yourself in my shoes. Imagine, the best you’re able, that people make such comments and give you dirty looks every time you’re out with your wife. Then think about how you’d respond to similar comments on blog posts. Not how you should respond – how you actually would.

  63. Would I have an expression of horror on my face, or be visibly grieved? I think I already answered that: I’ve had similar friendly conversations often with gay couples. No. I would not.

    As I said, though, if the door opened for a conversation about our moral beliefs, I would be quite honest about them. If you walked out, then that would be your equivalent to your own expression of horror at my beliefs. I’d consider you to be doing the same thing you would be blaming me for doing.

    A blog is not a good place to treat people as fully rounded, whole persons. It’s a better place to deal with ideas. The idea of your chosen lifestyle is what it is to me, and I have spoken of it honestly. If my opinion horrifies you, as it appears to do, then don’t judge me for being horrified by yours.

    I don’t know how to put myself in your shoes, in this context. We’re talking about ideas here, and I have said that this blog is to be a safe place for humans but not a safe place for ideas. You can dispute mine, as you have done in several ways, including expressing your moral disapprobation of my expressing moral disapprobation. I can dispute yours. That’s what I know how to do here. I am committed to treating ideas fairly. I don’t know how to protect people from pain if my treatment of ideas includes disagreeing with what they believe or practice, especially if (as in this case) I am convinced that what they’re doing is really, really wrong.

    Maybe you could help me by telling me this. I believe what you’re doing is really quite wrong. You said you were hurt by that in your first comment here, and you’ve continued to express that hurt. What is it about my opinion that brings about that hurt? It can’t just be that we disagree; that happens all the time, and you disagree with me as much as I disagree with you. I have some other thoughts about what it might be, but I don’t want to lay out my ideas for you to choose from like some multiple-choice quiz. I’d like to hear you articulate it yourself. What is it that I’ve done that has actually hurt you, and why is it that it hurts? I really want to know.

  64. Tom,

    The hurt isn’t caused by the mere fact that you disagree with me on the ethics of my sexual and romantic life. It’s the additional ideas you’re expressing through your use of certain phrases – nonsensical, obviously wrong, horror, evil, etc. From where I’m sitting, it looks like you’re not just disagreeing with me; you’re also judging me. I get the impression from such phrases that you think I’m not merely mistaken, that I’ve not merely made some poor choices, but that I’m also foolish and sick, similar to some sort of extreme degenerate who doesn’t even care about ethics and just does whatever he feels like.

    Maybe you do think that, I don’t know. Perhaps you’ve implicitly or explicity got an image in your head of polyamory as consisting of nothing but wild, depraved orgies, with no emotional component. But you’d be wrong. I care a great deal about ethics, and spend more time than most trying to figure it out.

  65. There is indeed some judging going on. I admit it without flinching back from it. You’re doing it too. I do not think, however, that you care nothing about ethics. I think you’re wrong on one major, highly consequential point of ethics, and I grieve for you in that.

  66. Despite assertions to the contrary I am interested in finding out more about you, SF. Hence my questions in #48.

    The notion of polygamous relationships are an utterly alien concept to me and I’d appreciate knowing a little more about them.

  67. Tom

    Thanks for taking the time to blog about this article. I wanted to let you know that I find your thoughts and analysis of these topics to be very beneficial.

    I am mostly a lurker here, but I have been trying to make the case for marriage among the hostile following on Slate for some time. I can only hope I am doing well at that, and for the most part, anything smart I have to say is probably something I picked up from you, Greg Koukl, or the What is Marriage? trio (Anderson, Girgis, and George).

  68. Billy Squibs #72:

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but my relationship is actually quite similar to many monogamous relationships which everyone is very familiar with*. For example, like monogamous couples, we make important decisions together – where to live, how to live, vacation destinations, whether to invest money in this or that or not at all; and many other things of that nature.

    On a less financial, more emotional aspect, we also love each other. A philosophical analysis of “what love is” would require far more space than I have here, but I think it’s sufficient to say that it feels either identical or indistinguishably similar from monogamous love – the only difference being that I feel it toward two people instead of one. We communicate with each other on a regular basis about things that are deeply important to us, and we strive to look out for each others’ best interests. And, like anyone else, we sometimes have disagreements or difficulties which need to be worked out together.

    And yes, we also have sex. I’ll spare everyone the details, except to say this: we actually don’t engage in threesomes. Perhaps that may surprise some people?

    To answer more directly your questions in #48 – I have two partners, one male and one female. We are in a “steady” relationship and live together, and our assets are mostly pooled together. They are permanent features of my life (or at least I hope so; no one knows for sure what the future holds, but that’s the goal). I’m not sure what entails a partnership, in a strict logical sense – but the things I’ve said above seem pretty sufficient.

    *There are, to be fair, certain differences from most relationships. But these are differences caused by something else entirely – for example, I have quite severe insomnia, so in order to not disturb my partners while they’re sleeping, we have a second bed which I can use without waking anyone up crawling into the “main” bed at five in the morning.

  69. Thanks for being open, SF. If you don’t mind I have some other question. And please believe me when I say that I’m not trying to score points.

    How do people react to your lifestyle choice (for want of a better description)? Or is this something you keep to yourselves?

    Have you ever discussed the possibility of having children?

    Is the relationship sexually exclusive to the three individuals involved?

    I ask these questions not only because I’m genuinely interested but also because I find myself in a bit of a quandary that you may or may not understand.

    While I don’t agree with your lifestyle choice I also don’t seek to impose my moral values on you (which are largely influenced by Christianity to one extent or another) . However, I’m left wondering if I maintain this stance what exactly can or should oppose.

  70. Billy Squibs: I don’t mind at all. I actually love questions – it means people want to understand.

    People react in various ways. My personal friends, being fairly sexually liberal themselves, are all “cool” with it. Acquaintances and friends of friends are usually also ok with it, indifferent, or curious. Strangers and the general public usually don’t take notice (I don’t go around telling everyone about it, but sometimes we all go out together), but when they do, sometimes they do seem uncomfortable with it. I suspect, though, that it may have more to do with the fact that one of my partners is the same sex as myself rather than the fact that I have two partners. If I was walking around with two women, they’d probably think I have “game”, or something (I really don’t – nerd alert! 😛 )

    As for children, yes, we’ve discussed it. We’re not very interested in children at this point, but that may change in the future. If we ever do decide to raise children, we’d like to adopt. And rest assured, we’d be *very* good parents.

    The relationship isn’t *entirely* sexually exclusive. We’ve decided that we can have sexual partners, but not romantic partners, outside of the relationship; if we’re all ok with the outside partner – no strangers. In practice though, this rarely happens. I suppose you could call it “half open”.

    As for imposing moral values: consider that most Christians wouldn’t dream of imposing *all* their moral values on society at large. For example, I assume you think that blasphemy is not just a sin, but an extremely grievous sin – and yet, you probably wouldn’t want any laws outlawing it. The question then becomes which ones you should impose, and which ones you should not – and why. But I’m not a theologian, so I have no answer to that question.

  71. Somehow Stern has forgotten that it was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., that led the civil rights movement.

    And who was Dr. King leading it against? Bigoted Southern Christian baptists who, in many cases, violently opposed civil rights for blacks. If most if not all of the Christians in the south were for civil rights for blacks then there would have been no need for any of the marches.

  72. The question of marriage is not primarily a moral one but a social/institutional one.

    So was slavery and the treatment of blacks in the US but their status changed despite the harm it may have caused the social/institutional status of the time. If the Christian attitude towards blacks can change over time then why not for gays and gay marriage?

  73. And who was Dr. King leading it against? Bigoted Southern Christian baptists who, in many cases, violently opposed civil rights for blacks.

    People are fallible and Christians are as fallible as anyone else. However, the above misses the larger point. It was Christianity that provided the moral and ethical underpinnings for the human rights movement in general, the end of slavery, the civil rights movement. So yes, there were Christians who were racist and tried to use their Christianity to justify it and there were racists who weren’t and didn’t. But without Christianity, and the moral and ethical underpinnings it provides, there would have been nothing upon which to base opposition to racism or slavery or support civil rights or any other human rights movement.

  74. BillT –

    It was Christianity that provided the moral and ethical underpinnings for the human rights movement in general, the end of slavery, the civil rights movement.

    It was also your bible that supported slavery in the first place. There are far more versus in the bible, in both old and new testament, in support of slavery. There are no versus that come out and actually say that slavery is wrong. Paul addresses the slaves and tells them to be even more slave-like towards their Christian masters but he never addresses the Christian masters and discusses releasing slaves or treating them better. So if Christianity did provide some moral and ethical underpinnings they certainly did not come from the bible.

  75. Okay.

    By the way, in this context, “Bible” is a proper noun, and the plural of “verse” is “verses.”

    Now, you made several claims in your previous comment, several of which are completely and unambiguously wrong, especially this one:

    Paul addresses the slaves and tells them to be even more slave-like towards their Christian masters but he never addresses the Christian masters and discusses releasing slaves or treating them better.

    See Ephesians 6:1-9, Philemon 16, Colossians 3:11, Colossians 4:1.

    That’s for starters. There’s more to be said about this but I’ll let you respond to this much first.

  76. I stand corrected. Colossians 4:1 does tell masters to treat their slaves fairly but it does not tell them that slavery is wrong or immoral. It is saying that slavery is okay if you treat them fairly. Who is to say what is fair when you are holding human beings in bondage? In both Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22 and 1 Timothy 6:2 Paul is telling slaves to continue to obey their masters so while he may be advocating the release of one slave he is certainly not advocating the release of all slaves. There is still no moral underpinnings or biblical basis for the eradication of slavery. As you can see, Paul still endorses it.

  77. Okay, next question: would it be possible, in your opinion, for there to be a moral underpinning for the eradication of slavery other than the direct and blatant wording, “Slavery is wrong,” or “slavery is immoral,” or “stop slavery right now”? Or would something like that be the only kind of language that you would count as a morally-based call for abolition of slavery?

    Thank you for that last answer, by the way.

  78. Oh, and one further related question: could it be possible that there would be any circumstances whatever that might conceivably be a reason for not issuing an immediate call for abolition?

  79. Patrick,

    The story of the abolition slavery and the movement to do so lead by John Wilberforce is a well known and well documented historical fact. That Wilberforce and the majority of his allies were Christians and that the motivations and the moral and ethical underpinnings for that movement came directly from Christianity is similarly well documented. I hope you will allow Tom to show you how all of that is supported by Christian thought.

  80. I see numerous admonitions in the bible against specific acts. I see “do not lie”, “do not murder”, as well as many others.

    I also see numerous admonitions in the bible that, thankfully, we ignore such as “Kill the homosexual”, “Kill the woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night”. So, basically, I see God rendering his thoughts and opinions on numerous topics, especially those He considers wrong. I do see many pro-slavery statements especially those in Exodus and Leviticus.

    If someone were to read through the bible I think he would be hard-pressed to find any statements that say slavery is wrong or evil or bad. It does say not to abuse slaves but not that slavery is wrong.

    BillT – While some Christians did argue against slavery, Quakers for one, many also argued for it and it took a civil war, not moral persuasion, to free the slaves.

  81. Should I interpret your answer, then, as meaning that if the Bible never uses direct language like the examples in #87, it’s impossible that it could provide any moral underpinning at all to abolition?

    Does your answer also mean that you think (per #88) that there could never under any circumstances whatsoever be a morally justifiable reason for not raising an immediate call for abolition?

  82. …and it took a civil war, not moral persuasion, to free the slaves.

    Patrick,

    You might want to look a bit more into the history of the abolition movement. There was more to it than just the Civil War.

  83. I think that if God thought that slavery were in some way evil, like lying and murder, He would speak out somewhere in the bible and say so. I don’t know about your take on it but most Christians I have talked with believe that there is an objective moral standard that is unchanging so if slavery were wrong it would always be wrong and this would not change. There are numerous incidents in the bible of something less than slavery being considered wrong and the person was punished for it. Not so with slavery so if Christians consider slavery to be wrong then they cannot base that on the bible.

    So, yes, if God considered slavery to be wrong there should be some clear admonition in the bible that it is wrong. In addition, there would be no statements in the bible in any way encouraging or approving it.

  84. So you do agree, apparently, that if the Bible never uses direct language like the examples in #87, it’s impossible that it could provide any moral underpinning at all to abolition.

    And apparently you agree that there could never under any circumstances whatsoever be a morally justifiable reason for not raising an immediate call for abolition.

    So are you saying that the Bible’s moral reasoning is that black-and-white, or that yours is?

  85. Ah, this isn’t a question about what I believe.

    So, despite what the bible says, morality can change over time?

  86. The question I asked, Patrick, is about what you believe, and your answer to that question will be important to my answer to yours in #95.

    (“Bible” is a proper noun in this context. Please see item 4 here. It’s not just some pet peeve, there’s a reason behind it.)

  87. In the meantime, let me explain further why this actually is about what you believe.

    You believe that (#93) “if God thought that slavery were in some way evil, like lying and murder, He would speak out somewhere in the bible [sic] and say so.”

    It would appear that you consider unchanging moral standards to mean that morality is stated in plain, clear language rather than on a principle level.

    It would appear that you also believe that for God to do so he would have to do it in plain, unambiguous language, rather than, say, by laying out principles of human dignity and worth that would lead naturally toward the conclusion that slavery is wrong.

    It would appear that you regard slavery as an absolute evil, such that no other evil that might be associated with raising an immediate call for abolition would be greater than slavery itself.

    You believe that nothing the Bible says over and over and over again about justice and oppression has anything to do with your statement, “There are numerous incidents in the bible [sic] of something less than slavery being considered wrong and the person was punished for it. Not so with slavery so if Christians consider slavery to be wrong then they cannot base that on the bible [sic].” (Either that, or else you don’t know what the Bible says about oppression, in which case believe you know more about the Bible than you actually do know.)

    I could continue but it’s time for me to retire, to get ready for an early start on the day tomorrow.

  88. “So, despite what the bible says, morality can change over time?”

    Of course. But it means that the interpretation of holy texts needs to change to maintain the illusion that the Bible’s ‘objective morality’ still holds. Nevertheless, any child can tell that Yahweh is a monster and Jesus a self-serving zealot.

  89. Tom,

    You are making exactly the right and relevant argument to address the continuing drumbeat of criticism coming from atheists who claim that “the Bible endorses or condones slavery.” First, I have yet to see/hear any atheist argue that Judaism as a religion or Christianity as a religion endorse or condone slavery. In fact, in my discussions with atheists, I frequently point out that the Passover observances, especially the Passover Seder is the celebration of God as the Liberator of the Jews from captivity (slavery) in Egypt and certainly, modern Jews would not be saying prayers and thanking God if they believed that the God of their (our) sacred scriptures endorsed slavery in any form. One of the main themes of the OT is God’s acts of liberation from all forms of human bondage and oppression, most especially the bondage of sin.

    As for St. Paul’s “stance” on slavery, his teachings are about how Jesus’ liberates us from spiritual bondage, without regard to our role or status in civil society. Atheists seem to prefer to overlook this message when they go in search of evidence to make a case against Christianity because of their perception of a lack of a targeted social justice agenda in the NT. Of course, this is incorrect, as you point out because of Jesus’ teachings about and against poverty, and slavery, then and now, is all about poverty and material and social inequality and how Christians have a duty to work against these conditions that come from a basic lack of respect for the dignity of all human beings. I also point out how, when basing the discussion of slavery on principles, it is impossible to reconcile slavery with Jesus’ greatest commandments:

    Matthew 22:36-40
    “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Unfortunately, atheists who choose to pursue this line of argumentation under the misguided belief that it is a real “gotcha” argument against Jews and Christians, only end up making themselves look like they think that God must have really secretly been on Pharaoh’s side in Exodus and that the Confederacy had God on their side in the Civil War.

  90. Larry, maybe the people who see that are reading like children. I don’t mean in the “child-like” way Jesus commended. I mean, reading bits and pieces, ignoring historical and literary context, ignorantly assuming that what the Bible states it always affirms, and so on.

    Your statement that Jesus was a self-serving zealot is absolutely, astonishingly, and quite self-servingly contrary to all available evidence. When did Jesus ever use his extraordinary powers for his own purposes? Why did he come? For what end was he a zealot?

  91. Let’s keep in mind what started this discussion. In comment #81 I said:

    So if Christianity did provide some moral and ethical underpinnings they certainly did not come from the bible.

    In comment #82, you responded with:

    Wrong.

    The implication being that you could thus provide proof from the Bible that slavery was wrong. Now it seems that you are unable to provide any proof from the bible that slavery is wrong.

    You believe that (#93) “if God thought that slavery were in some way evil, like lying and murder, He would speak out somewhere in the bible [sic] and say so.”

    It would appear that you consider unchanging moral standards to mean that morality is stated in plain, clear language rather than on a principle level.

    I’m not sure what the difference is. The Bible clearly states many statements of what to do or not do. Do not lie. Do not suffer a witch to live. These are not principles but actual commandments. When Christians tell me that they have an unchanging moral standard they mean that what God declares to be good is always good and what God declares to be bad is always bad.

    It would appear that you also believe that for God to do so he would have to do it in plain, unambiguous language, rather than, say, by laying out principles of human dignity and worth that would lead naturally toward the conclusion that slavery is wrong.

    It would appear that you regard slavery as an absolute evil, such that no other evil that might be associated with raising an immediate call for abolition would be greater than slavery itself.

    You believe that nothing the Bible says over and over and over again about justice and oppression has anything to do with your statement, “There are numerous incidents in the bible [sic] of something less than slavery being considered wrong and the person was punished for it. Not so with slavery so if Christians consider slavery to be wrong then they cannot base that on the bible [sic].” (Either that, or else you don’t know what the Bible says about oppression, in which case believe you know more about the Bible than you actually do know.)

    Let’s also keep in mind that God does speak about slavery in the Bible and He does give His opinion regarding it. He tells his people to get slaves from the surrounding nations. He tells his people how to treat them. In both Exodus 21:20-21 and Leviticus 25:44-46 He tells his people that slaves can be considered property. In Exodus 21:7-11 God says that it is okay to sell one’s daughter into slavery. Both of these verses do not square with your assertion that God talks about people as having human dignity and worth.

  92. Tom,

    I’m not 100% sure (it’s more than a little hard to tell) but I think Larry’s #99 was suppose to be sarcasm. At least I’m hoping it was.

  93. Patrick,

    Here is another thought while you contemplating Tom’s questions to you. In so much as you believe that slavery is wrong, I believe you do so only by borrowing the ethical and moral principles of Christianity. Of course, maybe I’m wrong. If that’s not true, perhaps you can explain to us why you believe that slavery is wrong.

  94. Patrick, this is strange what you just wrote.

    First, You say,

    Let’s keep in mind what started this discussion. In comment #81 I said:In comment #81 I said:

    So if Christianity did provide some moral and ethical underpinnings they certainly did not come from the bible.

    Wrong. In comment #81 you said,

    It was also your bible that supported slavery in the first place. There are far more versus in the bible, in both old and new testament, in support of slavery. There are no versus that come out and actually say that slavery is wrong. Paul addresses the slaves and tells them to be even more slave-like towards their Christian masters but he never addresses the Christian masters and discusses releasing slaves or treating them better. So if Christianity did provide some moral and ethical underpinnings they certainly did not come from the bible.

    You’ve pulled that one snippet out of context, treating it now as if the only thing I was responding to was the last sentence. Now, the reason that matters is because…

    Second, you write,

    The implication being that you could thus provide proof from the Bible that slavery was wrong.

    Wrong again. The implication was that I could find at least one thing, perhaps more, that was wrong in that paragraph, some of which I’ve already done, some of which is in process.

    Also, to disagree with you does not require that I provide proof from the Bible that slavery was wrong. That wasn’t your assertion. Your assertion (in this one specific context) was that the Bible provided no moral underpinnings for abolition. To show you were wrong one requires proof from any source that what you wrote there was wrong.

    I’ve been working toward showing that the Bible provided moral and ethical underpinnings to abolition. (Although it’s not entailed in what I’ve covered so far, I would be glad to go and and show how the Bible provided the essential underpinnings, but I can’t get there until we’ve shown that it provides at least some underpinnings.)

    I’ve been asking questions heading that direction. Granted, I haven’t established my case yet, but that hardly means I have none.

    Yet you say,

    Now it seems that you are unable to provide any proof from the bible that slavery is wrong.

    Really? I’m walking you through a discussion, and from that you conclude I have no answer?

    That’s just wrong (again).

    I was working toward agreement on terms, without which it would be impossible for me to show that the Bible does provide those (essential) underpinnings. We had some ways to go, you know. You are still stuck in an amazing state of absolutism. As far as you have shown any evidence here, you have not shown the slightest inclination to consider anything other than, “slavery is wrong,” as counting as a moral justification for ending slavery.

    Let me help you a bit with this. Consider these possibilities:

    1. Slavery may not always be as evil as it certainly was in the American South.
    2. Slavery may be an alternative to starvation in societies that have not yet developed other safety nets against it.
    3. Slavery may be a chosen state for the purpose of staving off starvation.
    4. There could be such a thing as a slave being offered freedom but preferring to remain in the household where he is.
    5. A direct and immediate call to abolition might have negative consequences even for slaves.
    6. The end of slavery might be accomplished through the establishment of principles that would change societies from the inside out, rather than by the imposition of a black-and-white rule.

    Now, I have a case to make (in spite of your premature conclusion), but I’m not going to try to make it while you continue to treat slavery as a black-and-white moral issue, seemingly unaware of or unwilling to consider the possibility of conditions such as these.

    Do you still consider slavery to be an absolute black-and-white matter, such that the only thing that could count as a moral underpinning for its justification would be the blatant statement, “Slavery is wrong”?

  95. The entire landscape of Moral Excellence – that is to say, of Scripture’s prescriptive of means to those Ends, forces the Critic to account for just how it is that God at once hates the motions of man within the arena of divorce and also establishes laws regulating those very motions He hates. To hate A and B and C, and, also, to employ the language and definitions of “When doing A, do so thusly, and if B, then do so thusly…” and so on is not an account which the Critic’s anemic and unsophisticated one-verse theology can coherently explain. That is why the Critic’s analysis of the OT is a straw man of his own invention, and has nothing to do with the God of the OT, that God Who is Love, Who is the God of the NT. Contingency – Man in Privation – there in the Outside that is the OT houses necessary lines amid God in mere juxtaposition with Man, lines which are necessarily inaccessible to the contours found within Genesis 3’s Protoevangelium wherein God in amalgamation with Man bring Contingency’s capacity – finally – into the divine nature which just is love’s motions within triune reciprocity. Such a final regress, that is to say, such a Hard Stop to all metaphysical regressions to such a Moral First Cause are found in no singular (void of blind axiom) prescriptive-descriptive on planet Earth other than that of the ontological / Necessary Being wherein immutable love houses that innate geography of motions amid what just is the triune topography of Self-Other-Us. There and there alone do we find that ceaseless reciprocity at the end of all things as love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self unendingly pours, even as love’s Beloved Other ceaselessly fills, as such Living Water perpetually begets loves singular-Us.

    The approach to Genesis’ Singular-Us Who creates Man in His Image, that Image, as such brings us to Genesis 3’s Protevangelium as the means and ends to such an Image is an approach which the Critic’s straw-man can never survive.

  96. Patrick,

    It is Good to tell the addict to withdraw the needle from his vein, and to speak to him of cocaine, and so on. The language within such an arena employs odd words, Ugly words, words like “needle”, like “addiction”, like “cocaine”, and so on. To employ language of Home Ownership in conversation with the Fragmentation of Humanity that is the Addict is not possible given the Nature of the Man. You need to have a more Scriptural approach to just what Man actually is, and where Man actually is, there in his Privation as such relates to Immutability, to Moral Excellence, and to Nature, and also to just which sets of definitions are found housed there in Genesis 3:15-17 as such begins to actualize within Time and Physicality within John 3:15-17. You are not using Scripture’s definitions, Scripture’s language, nor Scripture’s ontological regressions housed within Immutable Love. You seem to be using, instead, mere blind axiom, as far as I can tell, wherein the word “Ugly” cannot even be found. But of course, we all know that Ugly is Actual. That is what Man void of – outside of – Immutable Love just is, on necessity. In the same arena, we all know that Love too is Actual.

    The OT itself foretells of yet another, wider, all-sufficient, greater paradigm to come, one which will displace the weaker, lesser, insufficient paradigm of the former. God’s Means and Ends to Moral Excellence are – per Scripture – not found in the Law – cannot be found in the Law. A Critic needs to employ Ontology X if he wishes to dissect and criticize Ontology X. Otherwise, he is speaking about no-one-knows-what.

  97. Patrick,

    #108 adds a few more reasons as to why your analysis is of some non-scriptural ontology.

  98. Also, to disagree with you does not require that I provide proof from the Bible that slavery was wrong. That wasn’t your assertion. Your assertion (in this one specific context) was that the Bible provided no moral underpinnings for abolition.

    No, my assertion was that there is nothing in the bible that states that slavery was morally wrong thus allowing baptist Christians in the American south, among other places, to endorse slavery and oppose abolition. There are also no statements that discuss abolishing slavery. There is a statement or two of how you/we are all one in Jesus but no statements that slavery should be abolished.

    As far as you have shown any evidence here, you have not shown the slightest inclination to consider anything other than, “slavery is wrong,” as counting as a moral justification for ending slavery.

    What I am saying is that God in your bible (see Exodus and Leviticus) endorses, decrees and allows slavery even allowing the selling of one’s daughter (but strangely not one’s son) into slavery. You have not touched on those verses nor showed how I am wrongly interpreting them. Can we at least agree that God and the Bible endorse slavery and that there are no specific statements for its abolition?

  99. Patrick, you can say all you like what your assertion was, but what you wrote is there for everyone to see. I copied and pasted it. (That’s a legitimate use of copy-paste; see below for another, less thoughtful use.)

    It’s clear enough what you’re saying, as you put it in your closing paragraph here, except that there remain questions about what you really mean by it. If you mean it as black-and-white as what you keep repeating here, then all you’re saying is that you’re insensitive to the kinds of questions I closed with last time.

    I can’t believe you’re normally unable or unwilling to weigh two evils in the balance. For example, is it better to pay the price to mitigate global warming, even though the cost is enormous, or is it better to save that money and see what happens with global warming? Surely you can recognize that questions like that exist.

    That’s an example of one kind of question I’m trying to draw you toward thinking about.

    Another kind of question I’m trying to draw you toward thinking about is the matter of inward-change principles as opposed to outward rule-setting. I’d like to see you dealing with that.

    Another thing I thought you had already conceded was that slaveholders in the American South were not allowed by the Bible to do as they had done. They violated some of the clearest commands in the Bible, including the prohibitions against kidnapping for slavery and the clear instructions to treat slaves well.

    In sum, all I’m asking you to do is think about some things. You seem unwilling to do so. You seem ready to parrot the same kinds of criticisms I’ve seen a hundred times before, any of which you could simply copy and paste from hundreds of websites and forums. I’m calling you to rise above a copy-and-paste mentality. I’m calling you to think.

    I can imagine two reasons you aren’t doing that: you’re unable or you’re unwilling.

    I don’t believe you’re unable to think in nuances. Therefore the more plausible reason (to me) for your not engaging in these questions is that you’re unwilling: you see no need to think it through, because you think the conclusion is clear enough already. But you’ve drawn your conclusion prematurely, without regard for these very relevant considerations.

    A person who draws conclusions prematurely, who won’t consider relevant factors, is, at least when it to comes to that topic, a closed-minded person, an unthinking person; not because of incapacity to think but because he or she has chosen not to think.

    Is that you? I’d rather not think that of you, Patrick. I’d rather see you working through relevant issues before you draw your conclusions.

    We can easily agree that there are no specific calls for abolition in the Bible, and that God and the Bible endorse slavery, provided that we understand correctly what kind of slavery that is, and why it is endorsed in the specific circumstances in which it is. That brings us back to those relevant factors I’ve been talking about.

    You say I have not touched on certain verses, which is true, because I’m trying to get you to think with me on a principle level first. You say I have not touched on how you are wrongly interpreting them, too. This is not the case. I’m trying to walk through some necessary groundwork prior to that explanation.

    P.S. “Bible” in this context is a proper noun.

  100. Patrick,

    Another factor you need to account for in your logical regressions is the mistaken idea that laws regulating X fulfils an identity claim that God loves, approves, endorses X. Divorce is such a set of motions. Slavery is another. Such contexts are alluded to briefly in my earlier posts to you. Tom goes too far (IMO) in claiming that Scripture “endorses” slavery if he means in this sense described here, though – of course – the other factors he is forcing you to account for may also include such things. God hates divorce, and yet He regulates various motions within that very paradigm. Ontological regressions made by or assumed by the Critic there – should they not be coherent with the whole of Scripture – simply assert a false identity claim. I’ll refer you to Philemon and Paul’s assertion to his friend that he treat his slave as on ontological par with Christ. Such words in the setting of the first century are absurdity – even more absurd than when spoken in the 19th century, but such words are perfectly coherent with the triune reciprocity necessarily housed within the immutable love of the Necessary Being. If you want to know how Scripture defines person A (in mankind) dominating, lording over, person B (in mankind), you need only look to Genesis 3 – to all that is – from there forward within Time and Physicality – that which is the Outside. Tom’s challenge to you to embrace the whole of actual, real historical context is troubling for the Critic, though, the challenge for the Critic to define Good/Evil as Scripture actually does within the ontological regressions housed within Genesis’ Singular-Us as housed Pre Genesis 3:15-17 and Post John 3:15-17 will be equally – if not more – troubling for the Critic’s false ontological identity claims.

  101. Patrick, you can say all you like what your assertion was, but what you wrote is there for everyone to see. I copied and pasted it. (That’s a legitimate use of copy-paste; see below for another, less thoughtful use.)

    It’s clear enough what you’re saying, as you put it in your closing paragraph here, except that there remain questions about what you really mean by it. If you mean it as black-and-white as what you keep repeating here, then all you’re saying is that you’re insensitive to the kinds of questions I closed with last time.

    When I communicate with people I pretty much say what I mean. People do not have to wonder “What did he REALLY mean by that statement?”

    I can’t believe you’re normally unable or unwilling to weigh two evils in the balance. For example, is it better to pay the price to mitigate global warming, even though the cost is enormous, or is it better to save that money and see what happens with global warming? Surely you can recognize that questions like that exist.

    I don’t consider global warming to be in the same category as slavery. In reading the bible it is hard to determine what the alternative, worse, evil was to slavery? People working together to accomplish some societal or community goal? What evil would have to exist for someone to say that selling one’s daughter into sexual slavery is a better choice?

    That’s an example of one kind of question I’m trying to draw you toward thinking about.

    Another kind of question I’m trying to draw you toward thinking about is the matter of inward-change principles as opposed to outward rule-setting. I’d like to see you dealing with that.

    I’m fine with inward-changing principles as I don’t believe rule setting, such as homosexuality is bad, necessarily applies all the time. There are some basic rules that, IMHO, apply all the time such as the rules against murder, rape and slavery. Having people of one group become the property of people in another group is not justifiable.

    Another thing I thought you had already conceded was that slaveholders in the American South were not allowed by the Bible to do as they had done. They violated some of the clearest commands in the Bible, including the prohibitions against kidnapping for slavery and the clear instructions to treat slaves well.

    We are talking about the institution of slavery here. While some owners did indeed violate commands in the bible regarding the treatment of slaves, slavery (forcing people to become the property of others) is still wrong.

    In sum, all I’m asking you to do is think about some things. You seem unwilling to do so. You seem ready to parrot the same kinds of criticisms I’ve seen a hundred times before, any of which you could simply copy and paste from hundreds of websites and forums. I’m calling you to rise above a copy-and-paste mentality. I’m calling you to think.

    None of the conditions you described in comment #107 justifies slavery. None of those conditions were ever discussed or mentioned in the Bible when God decreed that His people could own slaves.

    I can imagine two reasons you aren’t doing that: you’re unable or you’re unwilling.

    I don’t believe you’re unable to think in nuances. Therefore the more plausible reason (to me) for your not engaging in these questions is that you’re unwilling: you see no need to think it through, because you think the conclusion is clear enough already. But you’ve drawn your conclusion prematurely, without regard for these very relevant considerations.

    A person who draws conclusions prematurely, who won’t consider relevant factors, is, at least when it to comes to that topic, a closed-minded person, an unthinking person; not because of incapacity to think but because he or she has chosen not to think.

    Is that you? I’d rather not think that of you, Patrick. I’d rather see you working through relevant issues before you draw your conclusions.

    We can easily agree that there are no specific calls for abolition in the Bible, and that God and the Bible endorse slavery, provided that we understand correctly what kind of slavery that is, and why it is endorsed in the specific circumstances in which it is. That brings us back to those relevant factors I’ve been talking about.

    You say I have not touched on certain verses, which is true, because I’m trying to get you to think with me on a principle level first. You say I have not touched on how you are wrongly interpreting them, too. This is not the case. I’m trying to walk through some necessary groundwork prior to that explanation.

    P.S. “Bible” in this context is a proper noun.

    You seem to endorse the idea of abolishing slavery because it is a gross violations of people’s worth and dignity so, to me, the question is – under what circumstances is it okay or moral to violate someone’s dignity and worth over a long period of time in order to accomplish something beneficial for someone else?

  102. Patrick, you ask,

    so, to me, the question is – under what circumstances is it okay or moral to violate someone’s dignity and worth over a long period of time in order to accomplish something beneficial for someone else?

    You’re so closed on this I don’t think you would listen to an answer. This is at least the twelfth comment I’ve directed toward you, and you’re still stuck in total black-and-white thinking, still unwilling to recognize degrees of difference or the real-world problems of mitigating evils, still showing no signs of being willing actually to think about this.

    So let’s try this for an experiment. Suppose I were to answer your question this way. “Slavery could be morally justified for the time being if the conditions of the slaves were clean and pleasant, the hours and the labor reasonable, the families remaining intact—and if there were a credible threat that if anyone were to call for abolition, an evil tyrant would rain atom bombs all over the continent; whereas the same tyrant had made a credible promise that if slaves could be released gradually over a period of fifty years, then he would lead a movement toward complete nuclear disarmament.”

    It’s a highly exaggerated, unrealistic example, obviously. I’m just trying to find out whether your mind is actually functioning on this issue.

  103. Patrick, RE: #114

    One glaring error that I see in your thinking about “slavery” is the singular definition you appear to give it, as in this statement: “Having people of one group become the property of people in another group is not justifiable.”

    First of all, let’s be clear about what the term “slavery” meant in the OT. This is important because the Hebrew word for “slave” in the OT is often more accurately translated “worker.” Slavery is/was a labor relationship. Referring to slavery as one group holding another group as “property” doesn’t cover all of the different labor relationships associated with “slavery” in ancient Hebrew society. Often and most probably, usually, it was a form of indentured servitude or a voluntary arrangement where a person who basically offered his/her labor as “collateral” for payment of a debt. This doesn’t make the worker the “property” of the person to whom the debt is owed. This is made clear in the provisions for manumission and the right of the worker to voluntarily remain in the master-“slave” relationship.

    Have you seen the movie “My 12 Years a Slave”? It is clear in this movie that many abuses stemmed from the view of the antebellum slave owners and traders that black slaves were property and that they therefore had the right to treat their “property” however they chose to. Therein lies the evil. But this notion of “property” is for the most part absent from “slavery” in ancient Hebrew society.

    I highly recommend these two sources for more discussion of this issue; Paul Copan’s (2011) book, “Is God a moral monster? Making sense of the Old Testament God” and the chapter in Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer (Eds.) (2013) “True Reason: Confronting the irrationality of the New Atheism” by Glenn Sunshine titled “Christianity and slavery.”

    Also, keep in mind that Pharaoh of Egypt in the Book of Exodus would never had argued that the God of the Hebrews endorsed or condoned his enslavement of His people.

  104. Tom,

    I agree that the Bible can obviously be read to provide a moral underpinning to abolition; Christian abolitionists believed they were following God’s will and could quote the Bible as proof.

    At the same time, it can obviously be read to provide a moral underpinning to slavery; Christian supporters of slavery believed they were following God’s will and could quote the Bible as proof. In addition, the slavery supporters’ interpretation was the dominant one for a long, long time in many different places in the world.

    I believe that God, if He existed and cared, could have been much clearer regarding the morality of owning another person–or, if you prefer, placing someone in indentured servitude. Instead, He told the Israelites that all men should have their foreskins cut off, what a priest’s robe and other garments should look like, which pieces of the animal to burn and which pieces to give to the priests to eat, whether or not to put a foreign nation into forced labor, and, of course, to be kind to the foreigners in their midst. He told them not to use rigged scales, not to charge burdensome interest, and to take care of the poor. He could have said, “Make sure every labor arrangement is a voluntary exchange between people with options,” but He didn’t.

  105. At the same time, it can obviously be read to provide a moral underpinning to slavery; Christian supporters of slavery believed they were following God’s will and could quote the Bible as proof. In addition, the slavery supporters’ interpretation was the dominant one for a long, long time in many different places in the world.

    Scott,

    Neither if the two points you make here are true. The Biblical rejection of slavery was the dominant understanding of Christianity from early
    in Christian history. Case in point is the fact that the influence of the Church during the the European Middle Ages had eliminated slavey from virtually all of Christendom. When the explorers and settlers of the New World reintroduced slavery they did so in direct contravention to the edicts of the Chruch. The Church was adamant in its opposition to slavery at that time. Yes, people misused the Bible in support of slavery but is was always a misuse and always know to be so.

  106. “Slavery could be morally justified for the time being if the conditions of the slaves were clean and pleasant, the hours and the labor reasonable, the families remaining intact—and if there were a credible threat that if anyone were to call for abolition, an evil tyrant would rain atom bombs all over the continent; whereas the same tyrant had made a credible promise that if slaves could be released gradually over a period of fifty years, then he would lead a movement toward complete nuclear disarmament.”

    There are tons of these moral dilemma questions out there. Another could be “There is a gunman holding 50 innocent school children as hostages. He has guaranteed to let them all go unharmed if and only if I shoot and kill my daughter. If I don’t do that then the 50 school children are guaranteed to be killed by him. Do I save my daughter and thus guarantee the deaths of those 50 school children or do I sacrifice one life to save 50?

    So would I allow or approve of slavery even under the circumstances you describe? It’s like asking if it is okay to repeatedly and forcefully, if necessary, rape someone’s wife or daughter over a long period of time if it resulted in the greater good. If such a circumstance were to happen I don’t see you volunteering your wife and/or daughter to promote the greater good. These questions can’t be taken or answered seriously. It is like asking a Christian “Can God make a rock He can’t lift?” One can debate either answer but it does not apply in the real world. I would never shoot and kill my daughter. I would never allow my wife or daughter to be raped for the greater good.

    In more realistic circumstances I still don’t see any time when it is okay to enslave one group to benefit another. If you want to call that black and white thinking then that is fine. You also exhibit the same black and white thinking when it comes to homosexuality and gay marriage unless you want to correct me by telling me under what realistic circumstances you would heartily approve of homosexuality and gay marriage. I would exhibit the same black and white reasoning when it comes to murder, rape and human trafficking.

    According to one Christian website states that there is no case in the Bible for even the abolition of slavery.

  107. The Biblical rejection of slavery was the dominant understanding of Christianity from early
    in Christian history.

    BillT,

    Can you post some biblical verses that shows the rejection of slavery?

    When the explorers and settlers of the New World reintroduced slavery they did so in direct contravention to the edicts of the Chruch. The Church was adamant in its opposition to slavery at that time.

    This is true only if you ignore the fact that the church owned many plantations in the New World that were worked by slaves. This article clearly states that the church’s stance against slavery was less then adamant. In fact many bishops and other religious leaders in the US continued to own slaves up until the time it was abolished.

  108. Okay, Patrick, I give up. You’re complaining now that I’ve stuck you with an unrealistic moral dilemma. In reality what I was doing was trying to get you to answer. I presented realistic scenarios earlier, and all you did was parrot what you could easily have copied and pasted off some other website.

    I was trying to get you to think about relative evils.

    Let me share with you a general, though far too brief, explanation of what I take to be the Bible’s view on slavery.

    Slavery is evil. It is not, however, the ultimate evil.

    (Now, if you answer me based on just a short line like that or the short introductory statements that follow without reading the rest of this, then you’re not answering what I’m actually saying. I haven’t said it yet.)

    Slavery has nevertheless been practiced everywhere economic conditions have permitted it, with very few exceptions. We’ll come back to those.

    Not all slavery is the same, and very, very rarely has it been anything like the chattel slavery practiced in the American South. That kind of slavery is a false image to hold in mind when thinking about slavery in the Bible or slavery in general. Most of the time it’s been far less brutal.

    Sometimes people have willingly placed themselves into slavery because the alternative was starvation.

    Sometimes slavery has been practiced just because that’s the only way a culture has known how to run its economy–including its provision for the poor.

    Cultures in those conditions cannot simply stop slavery without economic collapse. It needs to be ended gradually. That is exactly what happened in ancient Israel under the influence of the prophets, and what happened in Europe under the influence of the New Testament.

    It’s one thing to say, “no slaves!” and another thing to effect the kind of deep change in people’s hearts that causes them to decide not to treat people that way.

    The theory of human worth, dignity, equality, and social justice by which you abhor slavery is traceable directly to the Bible. It is found in no other prominent worldview.

    Its effect was to end slavery.

    In some places it did not have that effect. That’s easily attributable to the human inclination to assert power and use people, and likewise (while they’re in the “using” mode) to use religion to justify and rationalize what they’ve done.

    The southern slaveholders were definitely, clearly, and unambiguously wrong to claim the Bible in support of their practice. The Bible unambiguously condemns kidnapping, and it requires masters of slaves (where there is slavery) to treat slaves as well as they would treat themselves.

    Slavery is not the ultimate evil. A New Testament call for abolition would likely have resulted in many slaves being killed by the Romans, and others as well, with the effect of slowing rather than hastening the eventual end of slavery that came about through a peaceable change of the culture’s heart, through the Gospel.

    Now, I have a phone meeting scheduled for two minutes from now. I think I’ve said most of what I meant to say, by way of very short, inadequate bullet points. I might have left some things out. But I didn’t intend this to be anything more than an introductory outline. You should really look up the resources Jenna referred you to earlier.

    And now is your opportunity to show us whether you can actually think through these issues with more than a simplistic answer.

    As for gay marriage, there is a difference between reasoning on relative harms done by various social systems, and reasoning as to whether they are morally right or wrong. I think slavery is unequivocally wrong, but not the ultimate wrong. I would say the same thing about gay marriage. I’m not in any more of a black-and-white mentality on that than I am on slavery.

  109. Patrick,

    Back to your same old “Can you post some biblical verses that shows the rejection of slavery?” My statement about the Christian inderstanding that slavey violated the basic tennants of Christianity is true. Understanding the basic truths of our faith requires thoughful evaluation, reasoning and being able to understand overaching principals of interpretation among many other things. In other words, it requires one to think. That doesn’t seem to be something you seem willing to do here.

    Oh, and you’re wrong about the Church’s opposition to slavery at the time of it’s reintroduction in the New World.

    And just to reemphisze what Tom said aboue:

    The theory of human worth, dignity, equality, and social justice by which you abhor slavery is traceable directly to the Bible. It is found in no other prominent worldview.

    Its effect was to end slavery.

    This is true as well.

  110. BillT

    Back to your same old “Can you post some biblical verses that shows the rejection of slavery?” My statement about the Christian inderstanding that slavey violated the basic tennants of Christianity is true. Understanding the basic truths of our faith requires thoughful evaluation, reasoning and being able to understand overaching principals of interpretation among many other things. In other words, it requires one to think. That doesn’t seem to be something you seem willing to do here.

    You keep telling me it is a basic biblical tennant of Christianity but I don’t see you supporting this statement anywhere. How can something be a basic biblical tennant if it is not even written in the bible?

    Oh, and you’re wrong about the Church’s opposition to slavery at the time of it’s reintroduction in the New World.

    No, not really. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_slavery

  111. From BillT @118:

    The Biblical rejection of slavery was the dominant understanding of Christianity from early
    in Christian history. Case in point is the fact that the influence of the Church during the the European Middle Ages had eliminated slavey from virtually all of Christendom.

    I’m not sure I understand. Are you not counting serfdom in Europe as slavery?

    Neither if the two points you make here are true.

    I only saw a response to one point, that the dominant Christian interpretation of the Bible was one that permitted slavery up until the mid-1800s. What was the other one you were thinking about?

  112. Patrick,

    It’s clear you don’t want to understand what Tom has said many times and in many different ways. That’s ok. There’s no rule that says you have to. And please, a Wiki link.

    Scott,

    Serfdom is not slavery. And I addressed both the issue of slavery in Europe and the New World and the Church’s opposition to it. You can ignore it if you like.

  113. Patrick, you’re showing your hand more clearly:

    How can something be a basic biblical tennant [sic] if it is not even written in the bible [sic]?

    In #81 you speak of the relative numbers of “versus” that support one thing and another, as if you had made the count yourself. Now you show that you didn’t know what you were talking about then, and you don’t know now.

    You also show that you didn’t read comment #84. Try again, sir.

  114. Let me also direct you to the entire New Testament, which makes it very clear that no person has greater worth than another. This was the beginning of the end of slavery; although maybe not so, since you can also find it in the prophet Isaiah, and in the 26th verse of the Bible (Gen. 1:26).

    You see, Patrick, this is a difficult thing to proof-text, not because there are too few resources but because the whole Bible says the same thing.

    The entire Old Testament moves from oppression toward freedom, slavery toward release. Have you read it?

    It culminates in the loving sacrifice Jesus Christ made for all humans, in every station of life.

    It’s based in God’s creating all humans in his image, without distinction.

    Its highest expression is found in Jesus Christ, but also in words like those of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

    God is revealed as a God of love who calls all humans to live with as much as we can of the same love he demonstrated in John 3:16 and Romans 5:8.

    I could have said all this a lot sooner, Patrick, but I was hoping to help you see first just how firmly you have locked your mind off from seeing the world differently than you have seen it before.

    I don’t know what caused you to see Christianity as such a vile and inhuman religion. It isn’t. I’d like to persuade you at least to consider that as a possibility. Would you please open your mind to possibilities?

  115. Scott, serfdom was definitely not freedom, and yet it was also definitely not slavery. Families stayed together, for one thing. It was a clear step forward. It was not the final destination.

  116. Patrick,

    As Tom notes, the entirety of scripture is of one ontology – a singular prescriptive-descriptive, as I’ve alluded to you in all my posts here. If you only wish to criticize your own straw man rather than tackle the ontological regressions therein then it leaves no room for understanding. The definitions of domination as ugly, of slavery as ugly, as all that is the Outside, and so on, are unmistakable from A to Z. It’s right there in black and white. The immutable love of the Necessary Being found within the triune landscape of Self-Other-Us is that ceaseless reciprocity which is the very Image of Man, the very definition of all his possibilities and hopes. Genesis defines such as Him, as love’s Singular-Us Who circumscribes such lines. That landscape – and that landscape in painful fragmentation – are not available in dialogue should you prefer your own invention over His Truth.

  117. BillT @125:

    I thought my two points were

    1. The Bible can be, has been, and is used to provide an allegedly moral justification for slavery.

    2. That was, in fact, the dominant interpretation for a very long time (I meant up until the mid-1800s when slavery in all its forms came to be seen by more and more Christians as morally abhorrent).

    I think you responded to #2, which is fine.

  118. BillT @125 and Tom @128:

    I think part of the problem might be that you are seeing distinctions between systems that I don’t think are very important for this discussion. I don’t see a big moral difference between US slavery in 1800 and European serfdom in 1800 (or Israelite enslavement of foreigners in Biblical times). More to the point, I think a God who existed and cared could have made clear that neither system was just. He didn’t, so it seems to me He either didn’t exist or He didn’t care.

    Let me also re-emphasize that I am in full agreement that it is possible to interpret the Bible in a way that abolition is the moral imperative. It’s just that God chose to be much clearer about other things, like how many horns were to be on the altar, and which tribe of Israel was to march first, fifth, or last in the formation.

  119. He didn’t make clear either system was unjust?

    There’s not much moral difference between serfdom and kidnapping+ brutal chattel slavery?

    Really?

    Wow.

  120. Scott,

    Your point “The Bible can be, has been, and is used to provide an allegedly moral justification for slavery.”

    My reply “Yes, people misused the Bible in support of slavery but is was always a misuse and always know to be so.”

    Your belief that the “distinctions”aren’t important is more than a little self serving. You want to criticize what the Bible says but you don’t want to acknowledge what is was saying it about. So the facts don’t matter if they get in the way of your theory. Must be nice. And your inclusion of serfdom as slavery is a major stretch and outside of any analysis I have ever heard. And again self serving.

    …I am in full agreement that it is possible to interpret the Bible in a way that abolition is the moral imperative. It’s just that God chose to be much clearer about other things…

    No. It’s not just possible to interpret the Bible that way, it’s the only possible interpretation. That makes whether God was clear enough quite moot.

  121. More to the point, I think a God who existed and cared could have made clear that neither system was just. He didn’t, so it seems to me He either didn’t exist or He didn’t care.

    If the Bible is so very unclear on all of this, I’m curious how you came to know that any of this is unjust? If you know what is just and unjust – clearly know it – without referring to the Biblical text, then what does that do to your argument that God didn’t make this very clear?

  122. Scott,

    Domination, inequality, lording over, and other such painful fragmentations of Man all are – from Genesis onward – defined as that which is Outside, Dark, in Privation – necessarily void of the Whole. 1800’s? Genesis is older than that. You seem to have your history – and your scriptural ontological regressions – confused. As per #129 here, your invention leaves no room for understanding His Truth.

  123. BillT,

    It’s clear you don’t want to understand what Tom has said many times and in many different ways. That’s ok. There’s no rule that says you have to. And please, a Wiki link.

    I really want to understand. You and Tom say that from a biblical perspective slavery is wrong but when I read the bible I see numerous verses in favor of slavery – Where to get your slaves, how to treat your slaves, when to keep them and when to let them go. One can even sell one’s daughter into slavery.

    What I don’t see are verses that state that slavery is wrong or evil or should be abolished. I don’t see any verses that talk about eventually abolishing slavery or that it should be abolished. I don’t see any verses that state that slavery is evil or immoral. I’m just asking when you says that slavery is wrong what specifically are you basing this on? You say that you are basing it on the bible. Great! Just tell me what part of the bible is all I am asking.

    The other thing this quote from you is telling me is that you are not willing to objectively examine evidence from all sides, which is fine but don’t complain that it is me that is being one-sided or closed minded.

  124. Patrick, what you should be looking for are passages (not just verses) that say all people are really people, and all people should be treated as people.

    That’s why you oppose slavery, isn’t it? It’s in the Bible. Almost everywhere.

    I’m just asking when you says that slavery is wrong what specifically are you basing this on? You say that you are basing it on the bible. Great! Just tell me what part of the bible is all I am asking.

    Answered. Already. See #127.

  125. BillT @ 133:

    Lurking with interest, but this caught my eye It’s not just possible to interpret the Bible that way, it’s the only possible interpretation.

    Uh, no. Just no.

  126. Keith,

    Maybe that’s too brief an explanation for the subject. My point is this. The idea that slavery is evil is a fundamental understanding of Christian thought. If you read the Bible fairly and comprehensively there is no other possible conclusion that can be reached. The equality and value of every person alive is absolutely fundamental. If you miss this you are missing a hugely important and basic part of Christian thought.

  127. Patrick, pardon me for telling you what you think… but I think where you and Tom talk past each other is he believes reading verses in isolation misses the sweep of the overall narrative, and it’s the overall narrative which is primary, moving humanity to rapprochement with God’s law. If your exegesis of a verse isn’t supported by the overall narrative, it cannot be correct (or perhaps, it is correct for only a culture/time, for example, Matthew 19:8).

    If Tom is right when he says Cultures in those conditions cannot simply stop slavery without economic collapse. It needs to be ended gradually., then what we see is God guiding through the Bible, not dictating radical change that would destroy the society.

    Atheists often focus on Bible verses (or immoral statements by church fathers); the alternative view is Christ is actively perfecting His church, and Christ deals with His church in the way appropriate to each particular time and place.

  128. BillT @139:

    I’d have more confidence in this argument if Christianity had ever been unambiguously on the side of an unpopular moral view that subsequently proved correct.

    Tom often makes the point that abolition, suffrage and the civil-rights movement were lead by Christians, and I agree with him, it’s true.

    However, it’s also correct to say that opposition to all three movements was lead by Christians, and the activists closely associated with those efforts had very pointed criticisms of Christianity.

    Can you show evidence that reading the Bible “fairly and comprehensively” leads unerringly to any certain conclusion?

  129. Patrick,

    You and Tom say that from a biblical perspective slavery is wrong but when I read the bible I see numerous verses in favor of slavery – Where to get your slaves, how to treat your slaves, when to keep them and when to let them go. One can even sell one’s daughter into slavery.

    Apart from what has already been put forward by Tom, I would just add that governments regulating certain behaviours does not mean that they favour those behaviours. Do you think that governments favour divorce, abortion, prostitution or smoking over not doing these things? If someone in the future looked back at our laws and applied your logic they would think that we did not think there was anything wrong with any of these things.

  130. Keith, thanks for your comment #140.

    The church was strongly against infanticide in the first century, and against gladiatorial games. “Unambiguously” became harder to accomplish as the church grew larger and less unambiguous about almost everything.

  131. I’d have more confidence in this argument if Christianity had ever been unambiguously on the side of an unpopular moral view that subsequently proved correct.

    Keith,

    The truth is that Christianity has been on the right side of the slavery question but Christians have not always been. You need to be able to differentiate between the two. They’re not the same. I’ve covered this ground in my posts above. Christianity eliminated slavery in and during the European Middle Ages and vigorously opposed its reintroduction in the New World.

    Christians, however, became part of the world of slavery and used the Bible to justify their actions. Never the less, their justifications were a misuse of the Bible and known to be a misuse of the Bible. However, if you’re really looking for true unambiguousness, you’ll have to look somewhere other than a world filled with human beings.

  132. BillT @144:

    In @80. Yes, I think I understand and I see your point, although I’d suggest the phrase “known to be a misuse of the Bible” is problematical (how many Christians need disagree before something is no longer “known” to be a misuse of the Bible?)

    But when you say Christianity’s narrative was primary to the elimination of slavery, I note Ashoka the Great (Indian emperor, 250 BCE), or Wang Ming of the Qin Dynasty (20 CE); among others, they both abolished slavery in their time/place.

    Let’s agree that Christianity did the same, and was more successful.

    Was that an accident of history, or is there something special about Christianity that it succeeded where others inevitably fail?

    Tom @127 says the Bible is “based in God’s creating all humans in his image, without distinction”; in @80 you say “without Christianity, and the moral and ethical underpinnings it provides, there would have been nothing upon which to base opposition to racism or slavery or support civil rights or any other human rights movement.”

    A Jain quote predating Jesus by 500 years: “All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.”

    That seems entirely sufficient as a basis for a civil rights movement; why is Christianity necessary for me to oppose slavery?

  133. Tom @132, Bill @133, SteveK @134, scblhrm @135:

    My guess is that all five of us find American slavery, European serfdom, and Israelite enslavement of foreigners immoral. My guess is that we would object to them for the central reason that they are labor systems based on one person functionally owning another. If any of us was designing a civilization and telling its residents how to behave justly, we would rule out any of those systems. God did not do that.

    After a long period of time–somewhere in the 1800s–the argument that the obvious implication of Biblical teachings was that owning other people should be outlawed came to dominate in Europe and the United States. That was a change in the dominant interpretation of the Bible.

    That’s all I’m trying to say.

    (If I am wrong that all five of us agree on those first two sentences–that is, if you want to argue not just that one system isn’t quite as abhorrent as the others but that it is actually something an omnipotent, moral god would approve of–then we have a disagreement, not just a misunderstanding.)

  134. Scott,

    If any of us was designing a civilization

    I think this is where the weak point in your reasoning is. There is no evidence that God was trying to design some ideal civilization.

  135. Scott

    @ #146,

    Re-read #108 and # 109 focusing on the location of Moral Excellence and of the OT’s foretelling, from Genesis chapter three and throughout the Prophets, about such locations. The 5000 + year historical footprints of such is – of course – juxtaposed to your own moral ontology in regress as such must end either in mutable absurdity, or, in an unending reciprocity amid all that is relationality’s irreducible triune topography amid Self-Other-Us. Christ tells us of Divorce, and of Laws – given by God – regulating such – and affirms the nature/purpose of the Law as not that which endorse evil, nor that which solves evil, but rather, bridges back to Genesis chapter three and the landscape of that Protoevangelium as such relates to just what is wrong with Man’s location, with his Privation. You fail to account for that, and you fail to account for what # 144 (Bill) informed you of in the difference between Scripture’s stated ends and those who use it for their own ends, between the “Christian/Jew” and “Christianity/Judaism”.

    History: Paul told his friend that his slave was on ontological par with Christ – a member of His Body – and that in combination with all of Paul’s other statements about Christ’s Body, and of Mankind, and so on, bring us to just why Paul focused on the heart of the issue rather than on politics. You don’t overthrow Rome with a sword. In fact, you don’t overthrow Rome. You overthrow souls with Light. That lesson takes us – in a sense – full circle to Moral Excellence and the futility of Law – and Genesis chapter three’s Protoevangelium. “1800”? Nonsense. This is a brief overview designed only to show you why you’re missing the wider show that has taken place since Man has been turning his oral history / proto-writing into written linguistical history somewhere around ……… 5000 years ago. Genesis’ Singular-Us of Relationality’s triune landscape begins defining the semantics…………….

  136. Melissa @147:

    There is no evidence that God was trying to design some ideal civilization.

    Is there evidence God wasn’t trying to design some ideal civilization?

    Scott doesn’t know God’s intentions, and he assumes God’s intentions are the greatest human good he can imagine.

    You respond God’s intentions may not align with Scott’s — which is fair — but can’t we agree none of us know God’s intentions?

    Maybe God is pure evil and Satan is the good guy. There’s no actual evidence (Biblical claims being unsubtantiated).

    In short, I think Scott gets to define God’s intentions, as all of us do, until God shows up to clarify.

    Just sayin’.

  137. Keith,

    @ 149: Immutable Love’s Eternal Sacrifice of Self – there on His Cross – as within Himself. Also # 148 and overthrowing Rome in the context of God’s Means (Himself) and Ends (Himself) as the only All-Sufficient Means/Ends capable of solving Insufficiency’s (Mankind’s) Privation, Isolation. All other moral systems foist Insufficiency as housing the means/ends into Moral Excellence, into All-Sufficiency and are therein incoherent. The Contingent cannot on force of will swallow the All-Sufficient – such is true necessarily of contingency.

    @ #145,

    First: You are making two mistakes. Re-read #113 on what is an obvious false identity claim laden throughout your logic here since the beginning, and, also, # 142 from Melissa extricating the same flaw in such reasoning.

    Second, 5000+ years ago as written linguistics formed, we have the only genre on planet Earth wherein a Moral First Cause housed within immutable love’s relationality enters within the Necessary Being’s Singular-Us there in Genesis. History prior to such linguistics falls back to ontological regressions within one’s moral landscape. Either way, Christianity is far, far from being a non-player. In fact, it’s probably the top survivor of such vintage, and it’s probably the only player wherein love is something better than autohypnosis at bottom – speaking of necessity and ontology – should we go there.

    Third, you go there: “why is Christianity necessary”? What you are asking is “Why a coherent moral regression to something necessary rather than arbitrary?” as that is what Christianity states, offers, claims. Because necessary either means necessary or it means nothing. In other words, you need a necessary Moral First Cause if you mean to coherently foist innate worth atop all that is Person.

    Re-read # 129 as to a Moral First Cause within the Necessary Being in Whom we find immutable love housed within ontology’s innately triune reciprocity amid what just is personhood’s Self-Other-Us. Such finds that eternal sacrifice of the Self ceaselessly pouring even as such finds that eternally beloved Other perpetually filling even as such is perfectly One in the Great I AM of Genesis’ Singular-Us. The Eternally Sacrificed Self – if love ends all moral regressions – is found in all possible worlds spreading His arms wide in perpetual sacrifice – as such He is found doing just that in this world – pouring Himself out to the bitter ends of what we perceive as Time and Physicality as the created (contingent) being that is Man tastes this of Him necessarily whether in obedience or disobedience as contingency just must be filled, lifted up, even as the Uncreated just must come down, be debased. If you are looking for a Moral Ontology which – at bottom – that is to say necessarily – ends in an ontological regression necessarily void of Community, void of Sacrifice, void of Adoration, void of Innate Worth amid Being’s Personhood, void of ceaseless reciprocity amid that triune milieu within love’s singular milieu of Self-Other-Us, that is to say – void of immutable love – then you have any moral system other than Christianity which you can appeal to. Philosophical necessity has to mean something as one shakes his fist at Evil and as one praises the Good – otherwise one is just engaging in autohypnosis and wish-fulfilment in order to get past some sort of cognitive dissonance or emotional unease.

  138. #151 / Keith,

    We can add the fact that God defines – there in Genesis 3 – domination, inequality, lording-over, and other motions set to there actualize as that which is the Curse or the Dark, as a kind of Death, Fall, as the Outside. And He also defines the solution as that fateful Protoevangelium – and with good reason given the nature of Contingency and of Necessity.

  139. Melissa @147,

    All I said was that if any of us was setting up a system that included us telling the people we’d created how to behave, we would tell them it’s not OK to own each other. God gave the Israelites many rules on how to behave; not owning people wasn’t one of them. The Bible can be interpreted as opposing slavery, but it doesn’t say so nearly as starkly as “Don’t take something that doesn’t belong to you” or “All your males need to be circumcised.” That is one reason many Christians for a very long time saw no conflict between their Christianity and their support of slavery.

  140. Scott,

    All I said was that if any of us was setting up a system that included us telling the people we’d created how to behave, we would tell them it’s not OK to own each other.

    Look, I’m not going to keep going with this, I’ve made my point. Systems are not set up in a vacuum, nor are they recorded in a vacuum.

  141. Scott,

    Laws regulating man’s motions within divorce and slavery and the fact that God hates divorce and slavery. Metaphysically such brings us to the nature of the Contingent Self (Man) in privation, isolation, and to the nature of the Necessary Being, and what lines of possibility, of actualization, are necessarily found therein. You assert that God endorses divorce or slavery, which is a false identity claim. You also seem to assert that Law is, or was, or would be, or will be, God’s Means for Man to usher Man into God’s Ends for Man, that being Moral Excellence, all the while Scripture not only gives you no reason to think this, but in fact tells you quite the opposite regarding Law, regarding the nature of Man, regarding God’s Means, and regarding God’s Ends. You seem to think that something less than All-Sufficiency Himself can beget all sufficient love within the Contingent Self.

    As for domination, inequality, and lording-over, Immutable Love’s Singular-Us there in Genesis chapter three defines all such motions within relationality as an actualization of something that is a Curse, the Dark, a kind of Death or Fall, as the Outside. And He also defines the solution as that fateful Protoevangelium – and with good reason given the nature of Contingency and of Necessity.

    Laws regulating divorce and slavery are laws regulating ugly things. Dark things. Things outside of the nature of His Image. If you mean to assert “ugly” and “evil” to such landscapes then the OT and the NT affirm your definitions, from A to Z, from Genesis to the Prophets to the NT to Revelations.

    Metaphysically, ontologically, and philosophically speaking all such regressions into a Moral First Cause as such relates to Contingency – to Man – and to the Image of love’s triune reciprocity amid relationality’s Self-Other-Us, and to that Image in painful fragmentation, cohere with all such lines within the real world. God does not do magic. Man in his privation is hopeless short of All-Sufficiency – and any metaphysical assertion on your part that some lesser something given by God somehow grants Man more hope is not only incoherent scripturally, but logically and metaphysically as well. God comes into Man’s hell and meets him right where he is, both in the OT and in the NT.

  142. Scott,

    When God comes into Man’s hell why is it that His Prophets speak of Genesis three’s definitions, of a day when all-men will be as one, void of the ugliness we speak of? How is it that such future definitions at once cohere with the Beginning and End of Man and with the Image of the Necessary Being’s immutable love within that triune reciprocity and yet all such definitions out distance all present laws both in nature and in sheer scope?

    Why not just force the issue right there, right then? Why didn’t He just take over the whole world with a really big army and make one really big law-code pan-world? Why didn’t God do that in the OT? That would have been far, far better (according to your logic) than an anemic blip about “owning” inside of just one country. Why didn’t Christ overthrow Rome in the NT? Why didn’t Paul?

    What exactly do you think this hell we find ourselves within actually is?

    What exactly do you think the cure for this hell is?

  143. Keith, you ask,

    How many Christians need disagree before something is no longer “known” to be a misuse of the Bible?

    How many Christians disagree that 1 Tim 1:10 condemns enslavers? The Expositor’s Bible Commentary expands this:

    “Slave traders” is andrapodistais, which may be translated “kidnapers.” The Jewish rabbis specifically applied the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” to kidnaping—a crime that has greatly increased in the last few years. Philo, a Jew of the first century, makes this interesting observation: “The kidnaper too is a kind of thief who steals the best of all the things that exist on the earth” (Spec. leg. 4:13)

    How many Christians disagree that Eph. 6:9 tells masters to treat slaves as humans, and that both master and slave (on earth) serve the same Master in heaven, and there is no partiality with him?

    How many Christians disagree that the prophets spoke of freedom for the oppressed, or that Jesus echoed that in Luke 4?

    Above all, do you doubt that they were misusing the Bible? Or do you doubt that the Bible is the kind of document whose meaning can be reliably understood? Because I think it’s plenty clear in what it says on these things. The only reason anyone ever read it differently is because they used it for their own selfish purposes.

    But when you say Christianity’s narrative was primary to the elimination of slavery, I note Ashoka the Great (Indian emperor, 250 BCE), or Wang Ming of the Qin Dynasty (20 CE); among others, they both abolished slavery in their time/place.

    Let’s agree that Christianity did the same, and was more successful.

    Was that an accident of history, or is there something special about Christianity that it succeeded where others inevitably fail?

    No accident. There was something special about Christianity, and it’s exactly the point we’ve been making! Jesus Christ did not come to overturn slavery by prohibiting it. That’s doomed to last only while the power structure that prohibits slavery remains in place. Jesus overturned a culture by changing men’s and women’s hearts. It wasn’t sudden but it was very lasting.

    Could you give me more context for that Jain quote? Who said it? What authority did they hold in their community? What theory of humanity did they base it on? How did they distinguish between animals used for service (horses, oxen, …) and people used for service? How does this Jain quote lead to abolition any more than Paul’s admonition that slaves should not be mistreated?

  144. Scott,

    After a long period of time–somewhere in the 1800s–the argument that the obvious implication of Biblical teachings was that owning other people should be outlawed came to dominate in Europe and the United States. That was a change in the dominant interpretation of the Bible.

    Was there? Then why was slavery gone so many centuries before that?

    (Serfdom was not ownership in anything at all like slavery.)

  145. That seems entirely sufficient as a basis for a civil rights movement; why is Christianity necessary for me to oppose slavery?

    Keith,

    It would be but, of course, it wasn’t. Christianity was. We understand that God’s common grace effects everyone but the ethical and moral basis for the end of slavery and the civil rights movement was, in fact, Christianity. Jainian teachings had nothing to do with it or what Christianity taught. That’s just the facts. Making up alternative ” facts” is a empty exercise.

  146. Keith,

    Is there evidence God wasn’t trying to design some ideal civilization?

    Yes. John 18:36. Matt. 13:24-30, with Matt. 13:35-43. 2 Tim. 3:1-7. Matthew 24. The entire book of Revelation. The book of Amos. Every passage (e.g. 2 Cor. 4:16-18) that says God is preparing us for a future by building our character through experience.

    Scott @154, would you mind telling me what you know about slavery in the Israelite era? Thanks.

  147. That was a change in the dominant interpretation of the Bible.

    Scott,

    No, it wasn’t. As Tom pointed out and I have pointed out a few times above, Christian teaching had eliminated slavery in all of Christian Europe hundreds and hundreds of years before that. It was reintroduction of slavery in the New World that ran contrary to established Christian thought and the edicts of the Church at that time. Just by the way Scott, it’s more than a bit disingenuous to try and sell the above as a fact when the facts I mention here were stated previously in this very thread. Were you counting on us having forgotten them.

  148. You know, Scott, I’d be interested in your source for that opinion. Could you link us to a web page or cite a book or article for us? Since you’ve taken the position that we’re wrong, that is.

  149. “All I said was that if any of us was setting up a system that included us telling the people we’d created how to behave, we would tell them it’s not OK to own each other. ”

    So Scott, how would “Thou shall not steal and Thou shall not covet” NOT apply to slavery?

  150. Like Melissa, I feel like I’ve made my point: no one writing on this thread would consider American slavery, European serfdom, or Israelite enslavement of foreigners to morally justified, but God explicitly endorsed the last, and prominent Christian voices endorsed the first two, believing God’s Word gave them the basis for doing so.

    That’s all I’ve got. If that means you win the debate, so be it. Thanks.

  151. Scott,

    If some of this stuff has been covered, I apologize.

    I think the use of the word “enslavement” when it comes to foreigners in OT slavery is interesting. When it comes to forced labor following warfare or extraordinary tribal tensions, etc, I’m not sure how the mosaic law plays into those things.

    The slave trade was always condemned, kidnapping was a very serious offense, so finding gentiles to be slaves was never a matter of going out and looking for one. The different laws for the slavery involving foreigners in Israel was straight up immigration policy. It was pure pragmatism in a morally decrepit cultural region.

    Think about it. A country in the ANE has a debt relief program where you enter into bonded servitude with rights protecting your personal health and the ability to run away, legally and safely, if things got bad. Your servitude came with a built in 7 year expiration date, whereupon your debt would be wiped out and your master is legally obligated to set you up financially to go lead a self-sufficient life. If Israel’s laws opened that up to everyone in a region where lifelong brutality towards slaves and the poor was the norm, the country would have been totally inundated and financially destroyed in a few decades. There had to be SOME caveats when it came to the bondservant contract for gentiles if the nation was going to function. IF an Israelite BOUGHT (ENslaved) a foreigner for the purpose of slavery, he did so through means that are explicitly forbidden by the law, and thus outside of God’s temporary tolerance of a morally disastrous time in human history.

  152. Scott,

    This wasn’t about winning any argument. It was, at least potentially, about showing you that your preconceptions about the Bible, Christianity and slavery were far less well founded that you thought.

  153. Scott,

    You said, “But God specifically endorsed…..”

    You ignore the entire metanarrative / ontological regressions of laws regulating divorce and slavery all happening within the arena of God’s hatred for both, His definition of all such motions as the Outside, Dark, ugly, and so on. You assert against obvious evidence the false identity claim that A = B, that Laws regulating divorce [equals] God endorsing divorce, and so on. Perhaps you don’t want to face the fact that God too calls such things ugly, that the God of the OT is the God of the NT, He Who is – at the end of it all – Immutable Love.

    You are criticizing an invention of a non-scriptural account of things, of a god who cannot be found in the OT nor the NT. Such has been (briefly) extricated in previous posts.

  154. Tom @158:

    Or do you doubt that the Bible is the kind of document whose meaning can be reliably understood? Because I think it’s plenty clear in what it says on these things. The only reason anyone ever read it differently is because they used it for their own selfish purposes.

    I doubt the Bible is the kind of document whose meaning can be reliably understood.

    There’s a quote by Sam Harris that says it better than I will:

    It was even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed outright (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. You are, of course, free to interpret the Bible differently–though isn’t it amazing that you have succeeded in discerning the true teachings of Christianity, while the most influential thinkers in the history of your faith failed?

    Let’s agree these men were committed, intelligent, Bible-believing, Christian, moral people of their time, and yet they held repugnant beliefs. As Harris says, if they couldn’t get it right, what hope do we have?

    This doesn’t mean the Bible isn’t true or infallible, of course, but I think it proves our exegesis has historically been utterly unreliable.

  155. Tom @158:

    There was something special about Christianity, and it’s exactly the point we’ve been making!

    Yes; agreed.

    More on the Jain quote can be found here.

    I’m not arguing the Jain quote is better/worse than St. Paul, or any other Christian effort to abolish slavery.

    My point was to [email protected] saying without Christianity, and the moral and ethical underpinnings it provides, there would have been nothing upon which to base opposition to racism or slavery or support civil rights or any other human rights movement.

    I believe he’s factually wrong in that statement; there were other moral/ethical underpinnings, some earlier than Christianity. but Christianity simply happened to be the one that won out.

  156. Keith,

    5000++ years is far, far from “just winning out”.

    Genesis defines domination as the Outside. If you are looking for the means and ends to such in the Christian rather than in his God you won’t find it. Sooner or later the critic of the Christian, of that contingent and fragmented agent within Immutable Love’s far wider metanarrative, will have to turn his eyes to Immutable Love. And too he will have to attribute all is own Christianized morality to the very same 5000++ year genera which through pains in fragmentation inched such thinking into time and physicality, which has given him all his own definitions as his semantics are dripping with Christ’s love rather than with the utilitarian calculations of oppression held by the Roman’s who beat him. Sam Harris is clearly unaware of his history.

  157. BillT @160:

    I misread your posting @80, my apologies.

    I certainly agree with you the ethical/moral basis for the end of slavery in European-based cultures was Christianity. (And in non-European cultures, I believe I’ve read, although I’m not prepared to state that as fact.)

    Of course, I believe that was because Christianity was dominant when slavery was abolished — if there’s going to be major social change, the dominant ethical/moral framework will have to approve. Had the Jains been more muscular and won, we’d be saying the same thing about a Janean ethical/moral basis.

    If you believe there was something unique about Christianity, and other religious frameworks could or would not have abolished slavery, I’d like to hear more about that.

  158. BillT @162:

    Christian teaching had eliminated slavery in all of Christian Europe hundreds and hundreds of years before [the reintroduction of slavery in the New World]

    That’s not correct.

    Many of the laws prohibiting slavery in Europe didn’t appear until the late 1700’s, so I think we can assume slavery had not been eliminated in Europe until shortly before it was abolished in parts of the New World.

    For example, Portugal abolished slavery in Europe in 1761, Massachusetts in 1783.

  159. Keith,

    If Ontology X won out we’d be praising slavery. If that is all this whole discussion is to you then your concern over slavery suddenly appears anemic. Genesis till now grants Mankind the 4K to 5K year metanarrative of necessary love as housed within reciprocity’s triune Self-Other-Us. We mean necessary in the philosophical sense. Ontological and Etc. If such just happens to have preceded and outlasted X, then fine, it’s an accident. But it still does the work required of it, both historically and ontologically, a work you seem to assert is impossible if you feel Good ends at Man’s brainstem. Domination is the Dark Outside in scripture’s Metanarrative from the get-go, but, I don’t believe it actually is in your metanarrative…..unless you want to borrow from Him.

  160. Melissa @154:

    I completely respect your point — systems aren’t set up in a vacuum, context is vital to understanding any of it, and God is working through fallible members of a culture at a particular time. And I understand God’s ways are not mine, God’s plan is not mine, and God has chosen to limit His intervention.

    But Scott’s point is, to me, irrefutable.

    If God existed and cared for human suffering, the Bible would have been a different book.

    Maybe God couldn’t abolish slavery by fiat; but a rule to wash your hands and bury your waste downstream?

  161. Keith, RE: #175

    I’m wondering if you are even reading the same Old Testament as the rest of us when you make a statement like this. Have you read the Book of Exodus? Have you considered how God intervened, multiple times and in multiple ways, including sending the Angel of Death to the Egyptians, to free the Hebrews from slavery under Pharaoh? If you have read and understood this, how can you claim that God doesn’t care about human suffering? Remember, the OT is the ancient Hebrews’ account of their relationship with God as they understood and experienced God. Among my many Jewish friends, with whom I have celebrated many Passover Seders, I cannot name one who agrees with your claim that the God of the Passover doesn’t care about human suffering. Where do you get these strange ideas?

  162. Keith (@172) I’m sorry, but this is backward:

    Of course, I believe that was because Christianity was dominant when slavery was abolished — if there’s going to be major social change, the dominant ethical/moral framework will have to approve.

    If there’s going to be major social change, it has to be explainable in terms of the dominant ethical/moral framework, not just granted approval by it.

    I’m sorry about this, too, but in a completely different way:

    If you believe there was something unique about Christianity, and other religious frameworks could or would not have abolished slavery, I’d like to hear more about that.

    I’m sorry, and in fact grieved to the point of tears, that the uniqueness of Christianity is not more widely known and appreciated. I do not blame you for not knowing it, but us Christians for not communicating and demonstrating it. I am very, very, very sorry for our failures in that.

    I’ll be posting a separate blog post on this soon—tomorrow or Tuesday.

  163. Keith @173: your conjecture (for that’s what it is) is false. Slavery was eliminated in Europe shortly after the fall of Rome, and even serfdom was eliminated during the late Middle Ages. Slavery came up for legal discussion again after the discovery of the New World, the introduction of the Muslim-led slave trade in Africa, and the greedy and horrific cooperation in that trade by European merchants and New World “customers.”

    For a long time there was no law on the books because there was no need for such a law, not because slavery was practiced and condoned.

  164. Domination is defined as the Dark Outside from Eden / Fragmentation onward. Genesis’ Singular Us grants the Christian his 4K or 5K year old genre. “Meta-Narrative” and “ontological regressions” are (seemingly) so inconvenient that they must be either ignored or denied by the Critic as he borrows his own moral semantics from that same ontology and becomes forgetful about history’s gift to him in that ontology…. 4K ++ to 5K ++ years of it. The Necessary Being’s immutable love housed within triune reciprocity amid Self-Other-Us coheres through time, history, and metaphysical paradigms.

  165. Keith @#170: I’m afraid that’s not enough context at all.

    I won’t pretend to know anything about Jainism. It raises questions like this in my mind:

    1. What does Jainism understand humans to be, such that ontologically they are not to be injured?

    2. What does Jainism take ultimate reality to be, such that there is a basis in deep reality for its attitude toward humans?

    3. Does Jainism distinguish between humans and all other “breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures,” such that we have a basis for differentiating between human and animal labor?

    4. Does Jainism freely accept the human poverty that is entailed by the rejection of animal labor (if they do indeed reject it)?

    5. What is there in Jainism to show that no human is worth more than any other human (though humans may be worth more than at least some animals)?

    6. What basis in deep, ultimate reality does Jainism propose for its doctrine of nonviolence?

    7. Jains had castes in some places. Was this in discord or accord with the religion’s basic beliefs?

    These are questions I ask in ignorance of Jainism, but with knowledge that they are important to the point you are making.

  166. Keith @169:

    People interpret the Bible through cultural lenses, to be sure, and we can misinterpret it through cultural lenses as well.

    If, however, you can read 1 Tim 1:10, Eph. 6:1-9, and Col. 3:11, and conclude anything other than what we are saying—that the southern slaveholders were definitely, objectively wrong in their claim that the Bible supported their practices—then you are more of a postmodernist/postconstructionist than I had thought you were.

    The text says what it says, and it says it unambiguously.

  167. Keith,

    Care to borrow from a 4K or 5K year old metaphysical paradigm to account for slavery’s offensive ends in moral regressions? Surely you want to agree with that hard stop? Yes? But how can you claim such a hard stop? History brought you your own semantics of morality via that paradigm. Care to thank that paradigm for such insight, or do you only want to deny that metanarrative?

  168. Jenna @176:

    First, the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt and subsequent Exodus is a myth, there is no evidence it ever happened.

    But regardless, consider that story.

    In Exodus 7:3, or 10:1, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart.

    Imagine you’re God: infinite power, about to perform blatant miracles, and the miracle you select is to condition your enemy to behave a certain way, and then inflicting a series of punishments for that behavior, culminating in killing the eldest child of every family within an absolute dictatorship.

    Or, in Exodus 13, God, after the Egyptians have explicitly acknowledged God’s intercession on the side of the Israelites and are attempting to flee, God commands Moses to destroy them all by closing the Red Sea.

    It seems from your posting you equate human suffering in the OT with Hebrew suffering; you’re ignoring Egyptian suffering and the repeated OT slaughter of the innocent.

  169. Tom @177:

    Agreed, “explainable” is what I meant, you said it better.

    Tom @178:

    Thank you for the correction. BillT, objection withdrawn. 😉

    Tom @180:

    Yes; the cross of Christ. But at risk of trivializing Christ’s sacrifice (which is absolutely not my intent here), imagine I were the town fire marshall, and ignored fires all over town for decades, but then saved the most important building in town from burning down. Am I the best fire marshall I could be?

    Let’s agree Christ’s sacrifice is the most significant act of compassion in history; God could have trivially done so much more, and apparently chose not to, and that makes me doubt.

  170. Tom @181:

    I know almost nothing about Jainism, I cannot answer your questions.

    I don’t see your questions as important to the point I’m making (based on a misreading of BillT @80): there were religions and governments opposed to slavery before Christianity, based on moral/ethical views other than Christianity’s. Christianity didn’t invent abolition, far from it.

  171. Tom @182:

    I don’t think it’s difficult to do.

    First, let me make the point you have an advantage because your and my cultural lens precludes slavery. Do you believe these verses are definitive and unambiguous to a Christian slaveholder of 1850? Imagine a typically educated Baptist slaveholder of the time, reading the King James Bible. Can you still make that statement?

    I note most Southerners didn’t own slaves (a quick Google says in the 1860 census, 95% of the slaves were owned by 5% of the population), yet the non-slaveholding landowners, without direct economic incentive, obviously saw nothing wrong with slavery.

    It seems to me your argument requires Christians of the American South to have read, understood and then ignored these verses, and that’s not possible. They include what became the Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant organization in the United States. They were moral, Sola Scriptura Christians, who read their Bibles and saw nothing wrong with slavery.

    Yes, that’s a problem for any reliance on Biblical authority, but what’s the alternative?

    That said…

    In 1 Timothy 1:10, the word is not properly translated as people who own or deal in slaves, it’s better translated as “kidnappers” or “menstealers”. In other words, it doesn’t address legal slavery. (Not that my prototypical Southern slaveholder would have known that!)

    Ephesians 6:5 doesn’t argue that slavery is wrong (Ephesians 6 was preached in the slaveholding South as a supporting verse for slavery, as was Titus 2:9).

    I don’t even see why Colossians 3 is applicable? It contrasts Greek and Jew in the same way it contrasts slave and free; being in Christ doesn’t change your nationality, nor does it free you?

  172. Keith, please see my later post on this topic.

    Southern slavery violated the entire thrust of the Word of God.

    I don’t have any information on what the 95% believed about slaveholding, and I’m willing to bet that you don’t either. I’m also skeptical of the implications of your wording, “without any direct economic benefit.” Have you never heard that a community’s economy is interdependent?

    “It seems to me your argument requires Christians of the American South to have read, understood and then ignored these verses, and that’s not possible.”

    It was possible for the leading religionists of Jesus’ day to get things dreadfully wrong.

    ” They include what became the Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant organization in the United States.” To clarify, it became the largest after it eschewed slavery.

  173. Some other sources on 1 Timothy 1:10

    “Slave traders” is andrapodistais, which may be translated “kidnapers.” The Jewish rabbis specifically applied the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” to kidnaping—a crime that has greatly increased in the last few years. Philo, a Jew of the first century, makes this interesting observation: “The kidnaper too is a kind of thief who steals the best of all the things that exist on the earth” (Spec. leg. 4:13).

    Earle, R. (1981). 1 Timothy. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 352). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

    men-stealers—that is, slave dealers. The most heinous offense against the eighth commandment. No stealing of a man’s goods can equal in atrocity the stealing of a man’s liberty. Slavery is not directly assailed in the New Testament; to have done so would have been to revolutionize violently the existing order of things. But Christianity teaches principles sure to undermine, and at last overthrow it, wherever Christianity has had its natural development (Mt 7:12).

    Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1 Ti 1:10). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

    Slave traders may correspond to the eighth commandment since kidnapping was viewed as the ultimate act of stealing (Ex. 21:16; Deut. 24:7)

    Litfin, A. D. (1985). 1 Timothy. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 732). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

    If they thought there was anything right about holding stolen persons (stolen goods, in their perverted view of slaves as chattel), then they thought it in direct contradiction to what the Bible taught–which has been my point all along.

  174. Keith,
    @186,

    You’ve presented no rival thus far, neither historical nor ontological, to scripture’s 4 to 5 K year paradigm.

    And, of course the ontological underpinning of view X matters. Why would you think otherwise? Or do you only borrow and never worry about payment? Four or five thousand years of the Christian God defining domination as the Outside preceded X atop that as well. Your epistemology thus far agrees with the definitions of that metanarrative, though not with any other that you’ve presented as a rival capable of claiming the historical and ontological work-achieved as that 4K++ year metanarrative has done. So far you have presented no historical nor ontological rival to Christianity’s Metanarrative in work-done, though perhaps you’d care to?

  175. 1) Domination defined as the Dark, as the Outside, from Genesis onward.

    2) 4K ++ year coherent footprint leading up to the moral semantics of our current moral paradigm, the same as is responsible for this entire thread’s epistemological statement that domination is evil.

    3) Ontological regression to immutable love’s triune reciprocity amid personhood’s self-other-us in what is the Necessary Being (God).

  176. @ Keith (#188),

    First, greetings to you.

    Second, you said,

    “Do you believe these verses are definitive and unambiguous to a Christian slaveholder of 1850? Imagine a typically educated Baptist slaveholder of the time, reading the King James Bible. Can you still make that statement?…It seems to me your argument requires Christians of the American South to have read, understood and then ignored these verses, and that’s not possible. They include what became the Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant organization in the United States. They were moral, Sola Scriptura Christians, who read their Bibles and saw nothing wrong with slavery.” (#188)

    But it is entirely possible that these “Christians” ignored the verses that Tom (rightly) points to. The fact that Christian abolitionists leveraged some the same Scriptures (OT and NT) and arguments that Tom and other Christians have used in this thread is proof that it’s possible that slave-holding Christians deliberately misused the Bible to justify slavery. This is not to mention that it was economically and socially advantageous for them to intentionally misread the Bible in this way.

    Other “moral, Sola Scriptura Christians” read their Bibles and saw that something was drastically wrong with slavery, and they called it out for the sin that it was (as still is).

  177. “The evangelist Ravi Zacharias said that when he visited Mahatma Gandhi’s small home, he was surprised to find in the front veranda a banner on which was written a quote from Bertrand Russell: “It is doubtful that the efforts of the Mahatma would have succeeded except that he was appealing to the conscience of a Christianized people”. Dr. Zacharias was amused that the home of Gandhi, the pantheist, displayed a banner quoting Russell, the atheist, who said the former’s efforts would not have succeeded save for the [Christianized Conscience].”

  178. As I understand you, Tom, you are saying that under certain circumstances the enslaving of human beings is a better alternative to some greater evil. In your example you mentioned a dictator that would reign down atomic bombs if he couldn’t enslave people. I also understand that you are saying that slavery in the bible is the better choice than something else. If so, then I have a couple of problems with that. One is that since there were no atomic bombs back then what was the greater evil? What evil existed at that time that made selling one’s daughter into slavery morally acceptable? No where does the bible state that slavery was allowed in order to resolve some other problem. Considering also that the Israelites were just released from the evils of slavery from a more more developed society only to turn around and implement it themselves seems just a bit off. If slavery was wrong for basically everyone around them then why was it allowed for them? Why did they need it while other similar cultures were considered bad for implementing it.

    The other problem is that we are talking about an all-powerful, all-knowing God here, someone who is able to basically will entire universes into existence, complete with billions and billions of galaxies each with billions and billions of stars. I find it hard to believe that such a being was limited to allowing slavery as a solution for some still undefined problem. Why didn’t God just eliminate this somehow greater and yet undefined evil? Weren’t there other solutions that God and the Israelites could have implemented instead?

  179. Patrick,

    @196,

    Man’s final Good is Immutable Love.

    An endless series of (and it would deteriorate every-single-time into just that) external power plays by God in affronting Man with recruited masses of Armies, Laws, and Guns is not the cure for Man’s Nature. To assert such a mechanism as a solution to such a paradigm is metaphysical nonsense.

    While your mechanism of resolution is incoherent for the pains of man’s privation, your assertion that Immutable Love must Act, must supply the Means, is perfectly coherent.

    The very pains of Privation you complain of and the very ends within love you say ought-be and the very means of Immutable Love in reconciliation in every bit of all of it which you assert are the proper means just is the whole Christian narrative. Your eyes see. Welcome to the undeniable knowledge of Truth. Tom’s link above to the new thread brings in a more complete descriptive.

  180. Patrick,

    “Considering also that the Israelites were just released from the evils of slavery from a more more developed society only to turn around and implement it themselves seems just a bit off.”

    I really don’t mean to be provocative, but this is incredibly tedious. The picture you’re painting wouldn’t be just a bit off. It would be profoundly stupid. As in, thousands of years of people across the full spectrum of intelligence and scholarship staring at some blatantly obvious literary fact and just mooing like cows.

    I’ll give a tiny primer, because really, it’s not that complicated.

    If you read the entirety of OT debt-slavery laws (which is what the Israelites practiced, as utterly opposed to capturing entire ethnic groups to keep as human cattle for centuries) you would see it’s a matter of ancient economic reality. There’s literally no room for alternative interpretation. Here is the typical slave in the Hebrew context:

    I am in debt. I have sold my land, I have no family to bail me out, I cannot borrow any more because I’ve ruined my credit and I am becoming a drain on the community. While the farmer’s gleanings, which they are LEGALLY OBLIGATED to offer to the poor to fend off local starvation, are great and all, I want to be a productive member of society again, and I don’t want to doom my children to multi-generational poverty. I enter into a bonded labor contract with a local family in exchange for seven years of work which covers my debt, completely. While I’m working there, I am not in chains, no one is allowed to injure me, and in the event that my bondmaster is a bastard, I can run away to a neighbor who CANNOT SEND ME BACK but must provide shelter. In seven years, my contract is up, my debt is cleared, and my bond master is required by law to set me up with grain, money and livestock so I can start to rebuild my life on my own. In 13 years, it will be a Jubilee year, and the land I had to sell will be returned to my family.

    Please, illustrate to me any single practical parallel between that and what the Hebrews experienced for 400 years in Egypt. Anything. Because THIS is what we’ve been reading for thousands of years. The shocking, ridiculous reality is, the Hebrews treated their SLAVES better than we treat our poor.

  181. My last comment was rash, and I regret that. Talking about these things when constantly offered simplistic dismissive reasoning can be frustrating. The reality is, it’s just not as simple as saying “Oh, here’s this law, God thinks slavery is great.”

    My comment was a little bullish and unhelpful in that it doesn’t go into two major factors, state-serfdom as a result of warfare, and the allowance of Israelites to “acquire slaves from the pagan nations.”

    However, I have no reason to believe the latter is chattel slavery as practiced in the American south, for two very obvious reasons. First, the act of kidnapping someone to sell into slavery is explicitly a crime punishable by death, so it stands to reason no one is supposed to benefit from it. For someone to really affirm American Southern style slavery was accepted and practiced in Israel, they would have to establish that Israelites were specifically purchasing stocks of kidnapped peoples. But even if they did…

    The truly bizarre law is the command to not send runaway slaves back to their masters, and this is stated without caveat. It doesn’t stipulate on the matter if the slave ran away from a Jewish or pagan master or if they were a Jew or Gentile themselves. This completely deconstructs the entire capacity for a society to enslave individuals against their will. Now, if I’m a debt slave, running away arbitrarily basically banishes my own self to abject poverty, I’m still in debt and there has to be some recourse for that. That’s not controversial in an ancient context without modern financial systems or governmental safety nets. If I’m a kidnapped person however, and I get sold into a country that legally permits me to, well, LEAVE… what do you think I’m going to do?

    This would force the Israelite to be very cautious when purchasing a slave from a foreign country. You wouldn’t want to be purchasing a debt that didn’t exist. Add to that practical fact with the scripturally intense repetition of “Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt and the Lord redeemed you” and there was obviously an awareness of serious moral duty. It just doesn’t stand to reason that a country that was practicing humans-as-cattle slavery on abducted people against their will would institute a law that eliminates the social power to actually carry it out. Elsewhere, also, I’ve addressed the different laws regarding gentile slaves as immigration policy.

    State serfdom was a war practice, as part of a peace treaty. Now, that’s pretty bizarre to us, but the idea of occupying a defeated enemy state as we understand occupation, especially for Israel, was impossible. Israel kept no standing army and there were crops to harvest. War in Israel was either in response to an existential threat, or part of God’s judgement on a people for being crazy evil (whole other can of worms). In the case of an existential threat, in the ancient near east, simply taking someone’s word for it upon surrender and going home was the first step in getting invaded shortly thereafter. The serfdom, however, doesn’t mean the ethnic group lived under chains and whip forevermore. They simply had a duty to do a certain kind of labor for Israel. It wouldn’t have made logistical sense for them to be able to absorb a population of humans to be housed and fed like animals. They would still need to feed themselves and have families and sustain their lives, while, for example, seeing to it that Israel had chopped wood or transported water. It’s ugly! I’m not “defending” it necessarily. But this is a far, far cry from Europeans going to Africa and saying “My, look at this dark skin, they must be a sub-species, let’s pack them into boats at gun point and sell them into an existence of categorical hell on earth.”

  182. Yes, biblical slavery and American slavery were the same, provided that “same” is understood to mean, “partly alike in a few ways, but markedly different in a whole lot of other crucially important aspects.” That would be a rather non-conventional definition of “same,” but it does allow him make his point of sameness–something that would be impossible under the usual definition.

    Seidensticker already referred us to that post. My response is this: while his criticism of J. Warner Wallace’s work is weak in its own right, it’s also completely irrelevant to what I wrote most recently, and of no particular interest in this discussion.

    Those who have comments concerning his blog post are welcome to leave them on his blog post.

    Those who think he said something there that’s relevant here are welcome to say it here, and to explain what’s relevant about it.

  183. Patrick,
    Bob completely ignores the two main functions in OT slavery laws that I cited: the condemnation of an abduction-based slave market, and the legal obligation for all Hebrews to harbor all runaway slaves. Seeing as the former severely condemned the lifeblood of black slavery and the latter totally undermined all possible enforcement of black slavery, the whole thing is just a little silly.

  184. Tom, GM,

    Would you personally advocate for a system of human enslavement that strictly adhered to instructions given in the Hebrew Scriptures? That is, if HS-style slavery were practiced right here right now, what reasons would you give to argue it is a morally good institution, or what reasons to argue it is morally wrong?

  185. The reality is, it’s just not as simple as saying “Oh, here’s this law, God thinks slavery is great.”

    And let’s not forget the fact that we know that laws regulating certain behaviours does not mean that the law-givers think that the particular behaviour is great or that the laws are an endorsement of the behaviour they regulate. We also know that this is true in the case of God and the OT laws.

  186. Nope. This is part of the problem of this whole conversation. One half is to accurately describe what was going on in the Old Testament slavery laws, and one is the moral vision of the Old Testament as a whole.

    It’s absolutely vital to understand that the Mosaic law was not God’s ideal, it was God working with a certain people group in a certain cultural context to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant of bringing a certain kind of blessing to the world (a savior and kingdom of God). That the law was not God’s ideal is apparent in the narrative of the development of the law, God explicitly saying so through Jeremiah and Jesus himself saying that they were granted laws, not because they are good in of themselves, but were accommodations to the hardness of their hearts, and asking more of them would have been futile. And so on.

    The perfectly egalitarian human relationships of Genesis 2 is the ideal moral paradigm of the Old Testament.

  187. Tom,

    Would you not advocate for HS slavery today because of some objective moral principle?

    GM: “It’s absolutely vital to understand that the Mosaic law was not God’s ideal.”

    Oh really? An older tradition maintains that the instructions issued by God Himself directly to Israel were and are ideal. You seem to be suggesting God didn’t get it right with the 614 instructions. If so, maybe that same God didn’t get it right with Jesus and so required the additional steps of Mohammed, then Joseph Smith, then L. Ron Hubbard, then my Uncle Murray.

  188. Sure. Agreed. We all should watch this. Anything to add that will advance discussion based on what I previously remarked?

  189. Maybe, Tom. Let’s both watch our own biases and preconceptions.

    Now, from above, Tom, “Would you not advocate for HS slavery today because of some objective moral principle?”

  190. Yes, really. But I am not suggesting God didn’t “get it right.” The first testament is not an experiment, it is the project of the historical fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant of blessing all nations through Israel.

    17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty;[a] walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram,[b] but your name shall be Abraham,[c] for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

    A father of many nations, not just one.

    Isaiah 49:5-6
    And now says the Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,
    To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him
    (For I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
    And My God is My strength),
    6 He says, “It is too [d]small a thing that You should be My Servant
    To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
    I will also make You a light [e]of the nations
    So that My salvation may [f]reach to the end of the earth.”

    So there’s that.

    In working with a people group, it only made sense to have laws so they could function as a people group.

    The Sinai events are a multi-stage degradation of an ideal proposed by God (to be a nation of priests, all hearing His voice without intermediary or complex ritual), and only becomes more complicated following disobedience/rebellion by the Israelites. The Ten Commandments, which followed the rejection of the first, ideal proposal weren’t a joke, but the legal code grew out to 614 commands due to Israel needing more and more laws to the point of a constant, hour-by-hour reminder of being God’s covenant people.

    This stuff is right on the page. It takes no special exegetical skill, and it’s entirely from an Old Testament standpoint with no New Testament paradigmatic interpretation.

    Jeremiah 7:21-26
    Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat flesh. 22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’ 24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward. 25 Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them. 26 Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers.

    “Backward, and not forward.”

    What is that supposed to mean?

  191. Larry,

    The OT and the NT define the paradigm that is the OT as insufficient to bring Moral Excellence into Man’s reality, that it is a Less-Than, while the Greater-Than stands yet to come.

    If we don’t allow scripture to define scripture then there is no real understanding.

    God hates Divorce. So by allowing divorce, even regulating motions A and B and C therein, means nothing. Eventually there will be no divorce, the ideal, and so on.

    You need to figure out how it is that God hates X all the while regulating X.

    The fact that He does not – there and then – annihilate those who divorce or give Man the hard stop of Never Divorce is not evidence of His being Amoral on the issue or of being Immoral (endorses) on the issue, or of being Pro-Issue.

    Does it?

    So your whole premise is based on an If/Then about the nature of law as such flows amid man’s nature inside of his painful privation. But the If/Then (If you are opposed to it morally you must in all possible worlds forbid it) which your whole assertion rests upon is invalid.

    Tom can answer “No” or “Yes” and stopping “right there” and “only there and no further darn-it!” is, well, unthinking. You need to wait for the Yes/No, and, then, keep quite and wait for the rest of hell’s pains to be circumscribed in what is a World.

    So your If/Then is invalid: If you are opposed you must forbid, in all possible Worlds. Worlds are odd things. And, your Did-Not-Forbid [equals] Endorses is invalid. And, your Regulated [equals] Endorses is also invalid.

  192. “Yes, really. But I am not suggesting God didn’t “get it right.” The first testament is not an experiment, it is the project of the historical fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant of blessing all nations through Israel.”

    Interesting hypothesis, but your interpretation is totally wrong, according to an older, continuous tradition closer to the sources of the very texts you cite.

  193. Interesting answer, but your interpretation is totally wrong, according to a continuous tradition that covers all of the relevant material.

    Or something like that. Sure, I made it up. But I could have just left it like that and it would have carried all the same authority that your comment 215 has.

  194. Larry,
    You’re flailing. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is constantly referred to as God’s witness to the nations. TO the nations.

    Genesis 12:2-3
    I will make you (Abraham) a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you, and in you ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.

    I CAN’T hypothesize anything, the text is blunt-force. Are you a practicing Jew? Does your rabbi deny the global implications of the Abrahamic covenant? If so, why and how, on a textual basis?

  195. Larry,

    A new law that He will write on hearts…. no person will need to be taught by another person….. and so on. Look at that and the New Creation.

    The list goes on.

    The condition of Man in Eden, and, the condition of Man Outside of Eden, and, the condition of Man under Old Law, and, the condition of Man under that New Law yet to come, a New Creation wherein Man is not taught by Man. God meets Man right where Man is, in whatever condition Man is in, even should such be hell. God does this in the OT even as He does it in the NT. While our perception of Immutable Love changes as our condition changes, His Motions towards us never change.

    “…..not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33″But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34”They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me…..”

    Immutable Love is Man’s final felicity.

    Of course, as we all know, it is inescapable, there is no Love void of all that is the Self, just as, there is no Love void of all that is the Other, just as, there is no Love void of all that is the singular Us, as revealed in Genesis and in Trinity. The motions of Personhood’s necessarily triune landscape amid self-other-us emerges within the immutable love of the Necessary Being.

    And so on, worlds without end, in all possible worlds.

  196. A bit more,

    A New Law that He will write on hearts…. no person will need to be taught by another person…. the New Creation, the New Law, Christ’s Law of Love, emerges there in the OT description of a New Greater-Than Paradigm which is to replace the OT’s Less-Than Paradigm.

    The Immutable Love of the Necessary Being is – it is inescapable – Man’s true felicity, his final Good. That always has been the state of affairs, God never changing in Condition, though Man often changing in condition. Though, upon His volitional dive into Man’s – His beloved’s – hell, upon Man’s volitional dive into the Necessary Being, it seems the mutable gives way to, is subsumed by, the Immutable Who – therein – becomes Man’s All-In-All.

  197. GM, scblhrm, et al:

    Consider that there is no OT, which is to say that all instructions — they are not ‘commandments’ — of the HS remain in force.

    Consider also that the view that the HS pre-figure Jesus is a particular, post-hoc reading that departs from the traditional view. I understand that the ‘OT’ view is what you hold, but there is another view from the older, more authoritative Jewish tradition that significantly and irreconcilably differs from yours.

    Every ‘OT’ cite you give is invalid from the older tradition’s perspective because your approach and your method regarding the texts depart from Mosaic/Rabbinic doctrine.

    Plus, as said before, by re-making the HS as the ‘OT,’ you necessarily open the door to additional testaments, such as the Koran, Book of Mormon, and so on. You have no way to claim authoritatively or definitively that the NT is the final ‘testament,’ that additional testaments cannot or will not become revealed as God sees the need or opportunity.

  198. What’s most amazing up about this, Larry, is not that you are wrong, but the breezy self-confidence with which you seem to think that we have never thought about these issues before.

  199. Tom,

    I am sure you have thought about such issues. Do you have any further comment, or do you wish only to tone troll?

    The issues are worth repeated consideration, some might think. I do. I think the difference between the HS and the OT is endlessly fascinating. So too am I interested in how ancient Israel’s library of texts became weaved into the HS.

    In any case, considering the differences of the OT, HS, and pre-HS demands that we be both careful and humble in any statements we make purporting to speak of God’s intent and ideals.

    Hope this comes across as not to breezy for you. At least, I hope you can understand my position on some of these interesting matters and some of where that position comes from.

  200. Larry,

    I was on my mobile expressing an immediate response. My continuing response now that I’m at a keyboard is the same, although I have time to elaborate.

    I am not sure what “HS” refers to. My best guess is “Hebrew Scriptures.” Is that right?

    Now to elaborate on what I wrote before.

    First, you keep making reference to some older tradition with no specific citation, no elaboration, and which I have no reason to think you believe yourself. I find that to be unhelpful at best. It doesn’t even rise to the level of a red herring, it’s just (so far) irrelevant.

    Second, your claim that we “necessarily open the door to additional testaments,” and that we have no way to “claim … definitively that the NT is the final ‘testament,'” is stated with amazing self-confidence (as I said before). If I were making such a strong statement about someone else’s faith, without direct knowledge of my own, I would phrase it either as a question (“How is it possible for you to claim definitively… ?”) or as an argument, explaining why I thought the person “necessarily” opens the door, etc.

    What you did instead was just pronounce us wrong, with no apparent recognition of the possibility that we have done the work and can articulate reasons to reject all other putative “testaments.”

    I don’t know the technical definition of tone-trolling. I do know that your tone was surprisingly self-assured for someone who displays so little knowledge of the facts.

    Now, the other matter is this: whether we can reject other testaments or not is a red herring. It’s irrelevant to the current question. The current question has to do with whether the Christians’ scriptures support the Christians’ beliefs.

    The view that the HS pre-figure Jesus is post-hoc but not ad hoc. There is a difference. The fact that the Jews of the OT period didn’t understand what they were foreshadowing is no surprise. We knew that. The fact that Jews today dispute it is also no surprise. We knew that. In view of the question at hand, I don’t know what your point is.

  201. Larry,

    You’re arguing two different things with too much overlap for coherence. I’m arguing that, in a wholly Jewish context, the legislation in Torah does not represent God’s ideal moral paradigm, it is part of a covenant towards a certain aim. As a Christian, I agree, but I don’t have to be a Christian to understand that this is what Jews teach and believe, and have done so for millennia.

    Your reply doesn’t clear anything up because you haven’t demonstrated examples of Jewish traditions/teachings (either before or after Christ, whatever significance that’s supposed to hold) that maintain the particular legislative instructions (however that’s supposed to be different from commandments) of Torah represent God’s ideal.

    For example, while prescriptions for the death penalty are plainly spoken of in Torah, the Babylonian Talmud took steps to effectively make the death penalty nigh on impossible to hand down in court, because those rabbis saw a higher ideal of the sanctity of human life over and above legislation, in Torah.

    Maimonides, probably the most influential rabbinic author since the diaspora on contemporary Jewish orthodoxy, recognized that the letter of the law permitted the harsh treatment of slaves, but the “pious” would see that the ideal of compassion and justice are required over the letter of the law. Torah presents a higher ideal over and above legislation, period. That’s a purely Jewish statement.

    The Mosaic law is loved because it provided a Jewish identity as a special covenantal relationship with God in pursuit of an eschatological aim, not because of assumptions of prescriptive moral perfection. Any discussion of Jewish traditions and teachings without a concept of covenantal theology is totally pointless and irresponsible, and you haven’t demonstrated anything remotely close to it.

    Contemporary Jewish eschatology is massively influenced by the Disapora itself, which is representative of thought that is younger than Christian writings. However, the global, multi-ethnic implications of the original Abrahamic covenant are still a main facet of that contemporary-but-continuous, generally orthodox eschatology (all wars between nations will cease and all nations will come to know and be blessed by Israel’s God in the messianic age to come.)

    I simply cannot imagine a contemporary or ancient orthodox Jew trying to twist a single syllable of the Abrahamic covenant to mean anything other than what it plainly states, because so much Jewish identity is anchored in it, and rightly so.

  202. GM, you say: “I’m arguing that, in a wholly Jewish context, the legislation in Torah does not represent God’s ideal moral paradigm, it is part of a covenant towards a certain aim.”

    You cannot argue this.

    For one, you have no standing to comment on Jewish context or tradition. A phrase such as “God’s ideal moral paradigm” is not Jewish and simply does not apply to the 613 commandments. You are thinking like a modern, and like a modern Christian at that. You are so removed from a Jewish context that it neither enters your mind nor your language that the Jewish context is radically different than what you are claiming it to be. Finally, you are thinking of Torah as only the written books, when it includes two inseparable parts, the written and the oral. The complete Torah is lived out communally; it is not a prescription for living the morally perfect life. For you or anyone outside the tradition to blather on about ethical ideals and covenants is an insult to the integrity of what Judaism, Torah, and the Hebrew Scriptures are.

    I hope all this does not sound breezily self-confident, but to hear Christians wax on about the so-called OT and covenants and other nonsense gets wearisome. To me, your breezy assurance that you know what you are talking about — well, it grates.

  203. Sorry to grate, to the extent I’ve contributed to it. But not really, or at least not until I understand better. It’s hard to apologize when I’m not so sure what I’ve done wrong.

    You see, Larry, I don’t like what’s going on here with you. Maybe you’re not asking or trying to answer the same question we are. Your participation here began with something you thought “any child could tell….” That doesn’t exactly ring of the necessity of understanding everything about Torah in its original or current understanding, does it?

    Then in #204 you asked,

    Tom, GM,

    Would you personally advocate for a system of human enslavement that strictly adhered to instructions given in the Hebrew Scriptures? That is, if HS-style slavery were practiced right here right now, what reasons would you give to argue it is a morally good institution, or what reasons to argue it is morally wrong?

    But now you say that we’re utterly unqualified even to consider that we have a trace of a clue as to the meaning of the question, much less to answer it.

    In view of that, why did you ask?

    Also, why are you not similarly lambasting Patrick Reynolds for his questions about slavery in the Bible? He must be just as ignorant as we are, don’t you think? Or did he stumble on the proper traditional rabbinic understanding by accident? (I guarantee it wasn’t by scholarship!)

    If the problem, too, is that we’re reading the Bible through modern eyes, how much more is Patrick, who insists that all slavery is the moral equivalent of the one type of slavery he is personally most familiar with?

    Are you crusading against inaccuracies (as you see them)? Or are you just crusading against inaccuracies that are inconvenient to your secularism?

    Your whole line of argument here just smells.

  204. Or in a word, when you tell GM, “You cannot argue this,” but you do not tell Patrick, Scott, or Keith the same thing, what you’re saying is really this:

    “Look, none of you here knows what you’re talking about. And I’m telling you, it grates on me. It grates on me, that is for the people who agree with me that ‘Yahweh is a monster and Jesus a self-serving zealot.’ Sure, they’re pretending to know what they’re talking about, too. But that’s okay. I have nothing to say against them.”

    It smells.

    (Keith, I include you in this list with hesitation, and with apologies as well if I’m over the line of misrepresenting you, since I recognize that your approach here has not been the same as the others’. I still think that if Larry were being consistent he should have directed his disgust at all of us.)

  205. Larry,
    I just posted a comment, but I deleted it because it seems pointless.

    Like Tom, I’m starting to think something is going on here. You started the conversation by asking us about the morality of slavery and in repeatedly mentioning 614 commandments (or is it instructions? I can’t tell) it seems to follow that you’re asking us to reckon with the implications of a text, so I tried just that. If it’s unanswerable along those lines, then, echoing Tom, what was your point in even asking?

    If I’m wrong about the text and how it relates to Jewish life, then I’m wrong about it, but the way you’re arguing about it without any illustration or attempt to correct based on, I don’t know, data, suggests to me that either you’re withholding information on purpose or you’re making things up to sound clever. I don’t really have a lot of patience for either. If it’s just that you don’t have time to flesh out your arguments, the least you could do is throw us a small bone to go investigate on our own.

    I absolutely reject, however, this notion that I can’t argue anything from a covenant perspective. It’s not that mysterious, and as far as I can tell, the Oral Torah doesn’t modify the significance of the written accounts of God forming covenants with a people for an historical and spiritual purpose. I can find absolutely nothing controversial about that from a Jewish perspective.

  206. The interesting thing is that Christians are basically stating that slavery was okay back then but wrong now. By the same token, then homosexuality can be wrong then but okay now.

  207. Sure, and by the same token you could argue that it was impossible for men to swim like dolphins then but we can now.

    What I really mean to say, Patrick, is that just stating that there’s an analogy doesn’t mean there is one. You have to show it. In this case, you need to compare the principles underlying the change (or not) over time.

    You can’t just say that “things change over time, so things change over time”—not unless you want to make a case for men swimming like dolphins, too.

  208. Patrick,
    By the same token, Christians would have to say that murder is okay now. Or that’s completely absurd and the actual answer is vastly more complex. Don’t be tedious.

  209. Oh, and another thing: for you to reduce all of this conversation to “Christians are basically stating that slavery was okay back then but wrong now,” is to take the patently dishonest approach of ignoring what we’ve really said.

    You started out here making some bald statements about the “bible” supporting slavery. Since then we have written about 29,000 words in response to you and other skeptics. That’s an actual count of words written by me, BillT, scblhrm, SteveK, Melissa, GM, Myron, MikeH, Rob, and whoever else I missed.

    In the end, after all that, you conclude that there is nothing to be said except that “Christians are basically stating that slavery was okay back then.”

    I know you know how to read. This particular word from you, however, is no demonstration of your having that skill.

  210. You started out here making some bald statements about the “bible” supporting slavery. Since then we have written about 29,000 words in response to you and other skeptics. That’s an actual count of words written by me, BillT, scblhrm, SteveK, Melissa, GM, Myron, MikeH, Rob, and whoever else I missed.

    Most if not all of these people said that their stance against slavery was biblically-based but none of these people were able to produce statements from the bible that said that slavery was either evil or wrong. The only statements in the bible that talk about slavery only encourage or condone it. It even condone selling one’s daughter into slavery. On what basis do you condemn slavery since the bible does not condemn it?

  211. Patrick,
    You basically just reset the conversation to square one. The entire point has been that the Bible condemns, universally, the mindsets and moral attitudes that make slavery possible.

    You want the Bible to start at the end of the conversation. The Bible wants you to make the right decision based on the underlying morality, because what you believe, matters. If you don’t think individual people are valuable above your self-centeredness, not owning slaves won’t help you be a better person, you’ll just find new, distant ways of oppression.

    This country had a nightmarish war because the “right” for a state to institute slavery was challenged. That notion of that right was based on hideous racism and a false sense of superiority that has zero, and I mean ZERO, biblical justification. The exact opposite mindset is morally demanded by the Bible.

    And so, yeah, we had a war, the people who said slavery is wrong won. The statement was exercised through force. And then, a century and a half later, that same racism and false sense of superiority haunts us to this day.

    So, instead of instituting that same mistake with moral declarations that the immediate audience couldn’t understand in their cultural context, the Bible takes the creative, historic approach of subverting the assumptions that make evil possible, in gradual steps. Because that’s how humans work.

    Is that not satisfying? Then produce an historically justified example of doing things your way that don’t result in destructive, stale-mate power struggles. And then go do that.

  212. Patrick,

    Please read the answers to your question that I wrote here.

    Please do not ask the same question again without showing some awareness that you’ve paid attention to the answers we’ve already made.

    In other words, if you ask question A, and we say, “The answer to your question about A is B,” the thing for you to do is not to complain that we haven’t answered. The thing to do is either to

    1. Agree that B answers A, or
    2. Raise questions about B so that you can understand why we think it answers A, or
    3. Disagree that B answers A, and explain your reasons for disagreement, or
    3. Disagree and keep it to yourself.

    Those are all legitimate responses. This, however is not to ask question A again without demonstrating the slightest awareness of our answer B. To do that is to do as GM said, to reset the discussion to the beginning. I can’t begin to imagine what good you think that could do.

    Now I want you to take note that you and others have been reminded by sblhrm once, and by myself three times, that this discussion has been advanced over to a new post.

    Since you have insisted on ignoring that new post, in spite of my pointing you there in #197, I’m going to close comments here. The discussion is not closing, it’s just moving.

    I use that word “discussion” advisedly. For it actually to be a discussion requires that the parties take note of what the other parties have said, and respond accordingly. So I’m counting on you reading the discussion so far on that thread before you continue participating; and when you do participate, I’m counting on you actually interacting rather than just repeating A as if no one had answered B.

    Deal?

  213.