Ten Reasons the Bible Has It Right on Slavery

comments form first comment

I read Keith’s comment #172 this morning with deep grief in my heart. He wondered whether there was something unique about Christianity that would cause it to be more liberating than other worldviews (especially Jainism). My grief is this: we Christians have not explained and demonstrated the most basic realities of our faith. If we had, Keith would never have had to ask.

Slavery is many things. It’s a form of relationship between human beings. It’s an economic system, a way that work gets done. It’s a system of power and advantage. Slavery is evil because (and to the extent that) it gets these things wrong. Christianity speaks to all of these uniquely.

Here are ten reasons the Bible has it right on slavery. (Much of this, though not all, is integral to Judaism as well as Christianity.)

First, Judeo-Christianity speaks to what it means to be human. We are all created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26) without distinction (Gal. 3:28). God loves and cares for all ethné (Matthew 28:18-19), all “nations,” meaning in the Greek all tribes, tongues, and peoples (Rev. 7:9). Christ died on the Cross for all, again without distinction (Romans 3:23). There is no place in Christianity for regarding one person as worth more than any other.

No other major religious or philosophical tradition can explain humans’ high dignity and equal worth as Judeo-Christianity can.

Second, Judeo-Christianity speaks to the chief relationship that ought to obtain between humans: love. God is Love (1 John 4:7-8), and love is the highest ethic (1 Cor. 13). Love is to be expressed especially in relating to the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19, Prov. 14:31, Ps. 9:9, Zech. 7:10, Ps. 146:7, Jer. 22:13, Jer. 5:25-29, Is. 1:17, Ps. 12:5, and many more).

Does the Bible say anything against slavery, then? It says a lot about not treating other human beings as having lesser worth, and about not oppressing others. Does that have nothing to do with slavery? But there’s more.

Third, the Bible recognizes and explains (Gen. 3) the existence of sin, whose results include unequal relationships: the powerful oppressing others and treating them as having less worth. Note that the Bible does not condone everything that it recognizes, nor even everything that it regulates (divorce being one other example).

Fourth, Christianity is all about solving the problem of sin at its core: the level of the human heart, with effects extending outward from the individual to society (and vice versa). This is what Jesus came for: to die on the Cross to conquer sin and death. He came in love, he came in self-sacrifice, he came as an example, he came as a teacher, and he came to redeem us from our sins. This was a blow struck right at the heart of the impulse to hold others as slaves.

Jesus did not come to effect political change, which a call for abolition would have been. Still it is completely inaccurate to say he said nothing about slavery. He didn’t use the word, but he did speak of human worth and of human oppression. How was that anything other than standing against the real evils of slavery?

Indeed (fifth), his way was much wiser than a simple call to abolition. Had he said, “No more slavery!” then people would have huddled in committees, drafting documents describing the fine line between what counts or doesn’t count as slavery. They would have congratulated themselves for staying on the thin edge of the not-quite-slavery line, while completely ignoring the weightier matters of true justice and love. This is exactly the error Jesus caught the Pharisees in (Matthew 23:23).

Sixth, his way was wise for another reason as well: he had no political power. Had he called for abolition, he would have been politically ignored and ineffectual; or if anyone had actually started a movement that gained the authorities’ attention, it would have been brutally crushed.

Seventh, slavery was also an economic system. It’s naive to think that a culture built on one system could just decide one day it was wrong and give it up for another. Jesus, Paul, and others were not so foolish as to think that slavery could be replaced in a day; but they did call for an immediate cease to abuse, mistreatment, lack of love, and other evils associated with slavery. This was economically and politically realistic in the short run, as well as being a bold and powerful move in the direction of justice. In the long run it led to changed hearts and the ending of slavery.

Eighth, the Bible recognizes over and over again how easily powerful people can co-opt religion for their own false purposes. Virtually all of Jesus’ conflicts were with powerful religious leaders who had done that. So it’s hardly any surprise, from a biblical perspective, that southern slaveholders co-opted Christianity as cover for the horrific evils they committed. Because the Bible is so uniformly clear on matters of love, oppression, and human worth, however, there’s no reason whatsoever to see their use of the Bible as anything other than cold-hearted distortion of Scripture for unscriptural ends.

Ninth, this remains true even though slavery was permitted in the Old Testament law. As GM wrote recently (slightly edited here),

The Hebrews had a debt relief program where you could 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 would be legally obligated to set you up financially to go lead a self-sufficient life. If Israel’s laws had 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.

Tenth, history reveals that where Christian influence has prevailed, slavery has tended to end; and where Christian influence has not prevailed, slavery has tended to continue, at least where economic conditions have permitted it. This provides after-the-fact confirmation that the Bible indeed got it right on slavery, by placing the heart issues of love, the ending of oppression, and the equal worth of persons at the center, rather than a surface prohibition against the practice.

Going back to Keith’s comment: these are basic, core, fundamental teachings of the Christian religion. If they are not clear in the minds of atheists, skeptics, inquirers, or even some church-goers, then we who know them must do a better job of communicating them—and living them.

top of page comments form

185 Responses to “ Ten Reasons the Bible Has It Right on Slavery ”

  1. There’s also one not-so-minor note as far as New Testament writings on slavery: Had Paul or any of the other authors started making explicit condemnations of slavery and calls for some kind of overt power struggle to end it, every Christian enclave throughout the Roman empire would have been run down by the military and annihilated. The Apostles knew they were already pushing their luck by (in varying degrees of subtlety) subverting Caesar and Empire, but to call for the end of a social and economic institution like slavery, which was the lifeblood of the empire, would have made the Church insurrectionist with a political platform. Yes, having Paul just flat out say “Slavery is awful, free all the slaves.” would make you and me much more comfortable with the text, only in the event that we’d even be aware of it provided that the Romans didn’t just smash the Church out of history.

  2. GM @1:

    I left this point alone on the “Who Is the Bigot?” thread because I thought it would clutter things, but I do not find it convincing for two reasons:

    1. It is a red herring. God didn’t need to wait for Paul and the Romans. He could have told Abraham from the beginning.

    2. It is a very limiting view of God. To say that He is constrained by the socio-political structure of the time is to say He is far less than omnipotent. In fact, it’s to say He is basically no more powerful than progressivism.

  3. Read the OT, please, and see how you think that command to Abraham would have fit into the narrative. See also Romans 4. The Law was not given until centuries after Abraham.

    As for the limiting view of God, it’s exactly as limiting as my uncle’s saying, “God could have made a better berry than the strawberry—but he didn’t.” God could have done things lots of ways but he didn’t.

    He took a progressive approach toward revealing himself and his character, through history rather than through philosophy, and through relationships much more than through rules. He established a nation before he gave national laws.

    Now, what about the ten reasons the Bible has it right?

  4. Scott:
    The Old Testament has been discussed at length: The fact that Isrealite slavery was different enough in vital ways from the pagan world implies a condemnation of any other form of slavery, and the text’s acknowledgement of it being a temporary feature of Jewish society shows that it doesn’t regard itself as an ideal, but rather a historical and cultural reality that wasn’t simply a matter of wishing it away. Explicit, immediate condemnation would have changed nothing.

    The idea of God being limited because he didn’t do it in a certain way is a very Modernist approach to power. We look at power in terms of megatons, watts, RPM: Get it done and get it done fast. But this kind of power couldn’t apply to, say, the Sistine Chapel. No one would look at that and deny the painter’s power, and it would be thoroughly bizarre to say “Why didn’t you do it faster?”

    The most terrifying and infuriating thing God ever did was decide that humans were going to play a vital roll in creation and His purpose. From Genesis on, God has involved human beings as priests: Ones who bring creation together and build it up unto the ends of unity with the Divine. God, at Sinai, wanted the Isrealites to be a “nation of priests” all hearing His voice equally, knowing what to do as a community. Instead, they wanted someone else to be an intermediary, and then everything went bonkers with complex, unliveable laws and power structures.

    Paul, later, saw Christ and understood Him to be at once a condemnation of all human power, and a new way of doing human power. God established a church to WORK IN HISTORY as priests, to bring creation together and build it up unto unity with the Divine. It was going to do this while continuing the project of subverting human power.

    If the goal was just to end slavery, then God could have snapped His fingers and have had it done, yes, agreed. But that’s a pale goal compared to God’s original purpose of New Creation with Man as royal priest. It’s not a matter of pyrotechnical power, it’s a matter of supernatural patience to attain a more perfect end.

  5. Tom @3,

    Apologies for the derail. I stand by points 1 & 2, but they’re not really what your post was about, and I’ll save them for another time.

    As for the 10 ways the Bible was right about slavery, I understand each one, and I am glad that most Christians have come to the same conclusions you have.

  6. Until the Critic is willing to apply # 2, #3, and #4, from A to Z, ad infinitum, he cannot be taken seriously. Big armies and guns and law books are not the solution to Man’s Fragmentated Nature. Thinking so is metaphysical nonsense. Another paradigm is in play, or, we are hopeless.

    Immutable Love’s topography, ontological regressions, circumscribes that other paradigm. One which we all intuit out-distancing armies and guns and laws. God, Man’s Great Emacipator, meets Man in his hell and is Himself our Means and our Ends.

  7. 1) Domination of one human being over another human being is defined as Man in his Privation, in his Fragmentation, as the Dark, as the Outside, from Genesis onward.

    2) 4000 ++ 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).

    4) The Triune God in whom we find the very definition of love’s ceaseless reciprocity amid personhood’s self-other-us reveals motions in relation to Man: He does not A) Abandon us by His distance, B) Annihilate us by His nearness. Instead He C) comes into Man’s hell and meets Man right where he is and restrains death, as Life cannot be given, for, Life comes – on metaphysical necessity – by quite another kind of Means/Ends. Such explains how it is that God regulates man’s motions within the arena of Divorce all the while hating all such motions, and so on with slavery, with murder with intent, murder without intent, and so on to the bitter end of humanity’s fragmentation.

    5) The Necessary Being, Man’s Great Emancipator, makes of Himself Man’s Means and Man’s Ends as, on necessity, but for amalgamation with All-Sufficiency, In-Sufficiency has no hope. Guns and Laws and Armies are but Man in his Fragmentation and according to the metaphysical regressions of Immutable Love such vectors are ultimately, necessarily, hopeless.

    All definitions of Contingency, of Non-Contingency, of Good, of Evil, of Necessary Metaphysical Means, and of Necessary Metaphysical Ends which fail to satisfy Tom’s #’s listed in the OP (and these 5 items here) are non-scriptural definitions of the actualized state of affairs within Time and Physicality.

  8. “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].”

  9. Which of these is specific to Christianity? Many religions teach love and equality.

    And how can you show a causal relationship for #10 considering Christian nations also promulgated slavery for >1,000 years before deciding it was then bad? This seems more like the culture changing Christianity than the other way ’round.

    Also – Jesus didn’t have to fight the political system – wouldn’t it have been sufficient for Jesus to at least tell his followers that none of them are to keep slaves?

    “Had he said, ‘No more slavery!’ then people would have huddled in committees, drafting documents describing the fine line between what counts or doesn’t count as slavery. ”

    This is very weak. Yet God prohibits other things even though this does happen (murder, adultery, shaving sideburns, etc)?

  10. Andy M, which of these is specific to Judeo-Christianity (the claim I made)?

    Items 1, 3, and 4, which provide the context that makes the whole rest of it make sense; also 10.

    Item 2 excludes Eastern religions, and (on some interpretations) Islam

    Item 6 is unique to Jesus’ historical situation

    Item 8 is not unique to Christianity but it is certainly well illustrated in Jesus’ life

    Item 9 is unique to the Hebrew people

    Item 10 is virtually unique in history; no other worldview has had this effect in a lasting way.

    (Does that answer your question?)

  11. Your “promulgating for 1,000-plus years” charge is false.

    Wasn’t it enough for Jesus to tell his followers to love all persons? And what exactly would their freeing have done that would have been better than being treated according to the Golden Rule? Where would they have gone to work instead? This is not just a household matter, it’s about entire economic systems.

    What’s weak, Andy M., about the ethic of love played out in real-life situations? Have you ever tried it? Don’t you think it’s pretty powerful?

  12. A Christianized conscience – built atop the 4000++ year ontological meta-narrative already described, is responsible for the abolition / emacipation of millions – and millions – amid Wilberforce / UK, Gandhi / India, North America, and so on. The roots into the OT’s metaphysical definitions of immutable love amid personhood are, while inconvenient for the critic, simply inescapable. Christ tells us the OT speaks of Him, and within that paradigm, that Meta-Narrative, all such lines seamlessly converge.

  13. As for the 10 ways the Bible was right about slavery, I understand each one, and I am glad that most Christians have come to the same conclusions you have.

    But it isn’t just Christians. It’s become the ethic for almost the entire world Christian or not.

  14. As for the 10 ways the Bible was right about slavery, I understand each one, and I am glad that most Christians have come to the same conclusions you have.

    But it isn’t just Christians. It’s become the ethic for almost the entire world Christian or not.

  15. Tom,
    I think Andy’s question highlights something that’s missing from this dialogue. I don’t think it’s enough to say that the codex of Christian morality is wholly distinct from all other religions. Like Andy says, most religions value things like love and equality and forgiveness. One might say that since the rise and spread of Christianity, a global religion would not survive without those tenets, but that might be obnoxious and would need huge amounts of complex historical justification. I believe Christianity is unique in more important ways.

    From what I’ve seen, Christianity and the Bible do two things that are unique:

    1) It takes universally approved and celebrated ethics and places superlative commands and aims on them. Christian ethics are a *vocation* and not a list of social codes. The Christian loves kindness and does justice not to “be a good person” or “to get into Heaven” or “make the world a better place.” Christianity teaches that to do these things is what it is to be a human being, not just a favorable item on a list of other options. In doing so, this exalts what it is to be human while elevating the ceilings of our moral imaginations infinitely. Every time Christianity is asked “How far do I have to go ethically before my responsibilities end?” the answer is “How human do you want to be? Why would you tolerate a self-protected state of inhumanity?” The terrifying thing about Jesus is he talked about perfection, not as a platitude, but as an expectation.

    2) The second point is just as challenging. The Bible is unique and discomforting because it is an unflinching look at the realities of the human condition in contrast with God’s expectations and purposes in history. It rips to shreds the viability of the demands we put on God: The Bible is full of stories of humans who have witnessed spectacular manifestations of the glory of God, and then still rebelled, almost immediately. God provided point-blank normative moral instructions which we ignored and disobeyed. Time and time again, God made people’s wildest dreams come true, and then they went on to manifest their worst nightmares. And yet…

    Christianity is unique because it functions on a paradox. You must be perfect and you cannot be perfect. It superlatively affirms the greatness of man and superlatively confirms the misery of man. The intolerable thing about God is that He works within this context with an offensive grace. It is offensive to us as individuals because we do not want to need it. It is offensive to us when manifested in others because we demand justice to satisfy our outward-facing moral compasses. We do not want God to patiently and holistically deal with the problem of slavery in a creative way, we want a display of righteous power and judgement. Yet, we do not want God to judge us for our own evils, which could be just as destructive as slavery. Yes, our demands for explicit and manifest reckoning with slavery unto damnation on our 21st century terms would make us comfortable. For about 15 minutes, until God fulfills that wish on our preposterously inequitable western civilization.

    Morality is all well and good, but morality alone will not accomplish the Christian ideal of rebuilding the glorious ruin of creation. Only the Cross and Resurrection will. In that is our greatest hope and greatest despair. Jesus’ ministry did not “invent” the Golden Rule. It didn’t need to. All rules pale in comparison to the outrageous claim of “Behold, I make all things new.”

  16. Andy M: “wouldn’t it have been sufficient for Jesus to at least tell his followers that none of them are to keep slaves?”

    I believe he did when he prohibited all domineering relationships and called his followers to servanthood – Mark 10:42-44. This is another principle in addition to everything else that has been offered to you.

    GM – thank you for your comments #4 and especially #15. Right on.

  17. Critic: “God should have used really big armies and laws and guns to fix man!”

    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.

    The OT throughout the Prophets tells of its own insufficiency, of a Greater yet to come. History has proven the Critic’s asserted mechanism anemic at best. Genesis Ch. 3’s Protoevangelium subsumed the Nature of the problem from the beginning.

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

    To the Critic:

    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.

  18. How about if you deal with my post instead of Jim’s, and try to deal with all the evidence instead of what you can most easily twist to your own advantage, okay?

  19. Bob,

    The reason the critic likes to cherry-pick a verse here and a verse there and keep the conversation “right there” and “only right there” may be because doing so allows the critic to avoid, escape, evade, the wider meta-narrative which Scripture’s A – Z clearly circumscribes in its singular metaphysical descriptive-prescriptive, as Tom and others have presented. And, it allows the critic to go on foisting the evidence-free premise of Power-Alone as a supposedly valid option to the problem of Man in his painful Privation – which in metaphysics and in scripture and in history breaks down into absurdity/nonsense. The roots found within the OT’s metaphysical definitions of immutable love amid personhood are, while inconvenient for the critic, simply inescapable. Christ tells us the OT speaks of Him, and within that paradigm, that Meta-Narrative, all such lines seamlessly converge as we discover ontological regression into immutable love’s triune reciprocity amid personhood’s self-other-us in what is the Necessary Being (God). That triune geography of personhood is in Man as it is in God and therein the solution to painful Privation awaits the nature of Man. That is He Who declares Ugly all those relational motions which you and I call Ugly, from A to Z, and Who Himself Acts, Who Alone houses the proper Means, which is His Own All-Sufficiency which He pours into In-Sufficiency as He Emancipates Man – His beloved – within those motions of His Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self.

  20. Tom,

    This may be poor form, if so, apologies. But, I found this (by GM) helpful and wanted to add it here for future reference. GM, I hope you don’t mind.

    A descriptive which, firstly, was built atop a one-verse level of analysis, and secondly, avoided the wider meta-narrative of Scripture’s A – Z wherein all motions of relational domination are declared part of the Dark Outside, Man’s painful Privation (the Critic can’t seem to bring himself to look at the real God), and thirdly, ignored history, presented this: “Considering also that the Israelites were just released from the evils of slavery from a more developed society only to turn around and implement it themselves seems just a bit off.”

    GM replied with this for some added context:

    “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.”

  21. Christ is the central Paradigm of the OT/NT. Critics just don’t want to face the A – Z Meta-Narrative as a whole nor a proper and full exegesis of scripture. The OT itself said of itself (once again, let the Critic take note of how the Bible defines the Bible, how the OT defines the Law of Moses) that it (the OT paradigm of Law) would not be the paradigm by which and in which Moral Excellence would flow into Man’s reality, but that, rather, a Greater was yet to come. Of course that long prophetic tale coheres with Genesis chapter three and all ontological definitions which necessarily ripple outward inside of that very same Meta-Narrative alluded to in this OP/thread, that wider Meta-Narrative wherein Immutable Love is ultimately delivering Mankind from his hell, his painful Privation.

    The Law as the means to Moral Excellence? Why on earth would the Critic assert such when the OT itself defines itself differently? Critics who invent non-scriptural accounts of the actualized state of affairs within Time and Physicality need not be taken seriously.

    Stand To Reason has a few pieces addressing the question of whether or not scripture endorses slavery and offers sound evidence that it does not. With the added historical nuances alluded to by GM, we can add this brief / shortened exchange from one of those threads which sheds light on yet more lines in-play. For simplicity and clarity the exchanges will be labeled as just “Critic” and “Christian” in hopes that what is from multiple posts will be easier to follow:

    Christian:

    I think that you present a false dichotomy. I think that the rule points out that the ownership is limited in a similar way that ownership is limited when 7 years is up for the Hebrew. It should be pointed out that the death penalty for the murder of the slave was not out of the question. Thus, it does not diminish the value of the life of the slave beneath that of the master. It is a sure bet that the surrounding kingdoms had no such protections in place for the slaves and they could be killed with impunity. It seems to me that in the context of that kind of world, this rule was an improvement over the pagan treatment of slaves of that time. That alone should give you an idea which direction God was going regarding slavery…….

    That verse is paralleled with verse 18: If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, 19 the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed. 20 Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

    If the free man is killed capital punishment is in effect – as it is in the case of a slain slave. If the free man gets up and walks around after a few days he is paid for his lost wages. In the case of the slave there are no lost wages to be paid because it is the master who has lost the value. He is also responsible in both cases for the healing of the man, in the first, by law, in the second, in order that his slave recover and not be punished. Remember, the slave goes free if he receives any permanent damage, even if he only loses a tooth. The slave is not the man’s property to mistreat and do with as he wishes, he is his source of material gain or recuperation.

    Critic:

    Where does the Bible say killing a slave is a capital crime?

    Christian:

    In the verses quoted. The punishment for killing a person is death.

    Critic:

    Where does the Bible mention any permanent damage?

    Christian:

    In the verse cited – if you even knock out his tooth you lose the slave.

    Critic:

    Do you believe verse 20 applies to foreign slaves?

    Christian:

    Yes.

    Critic:

    I see that the slave goes free if he loses a tooth. I see that the slave goes free if he loses an eye. But how do you get from that to “the slave goes free if he receives any permanent damage”?

    Christian:

    By thinking and researching. This is case law, not a complete list of all legal possibilities. And the interpreters of the law have always held that this represented a principle by which the permanently damaged slave is freed.

    Critic:

    But the slave is his property.

    Christian:

    It was clarified that the slave is not his property to do with anything he liked. There was legal recourse, there were rules in place, the slave could take him to the court, he could be freed, he could be assigned a new master. It is not like he was a tool that the master could break or discard at will.

    By the way – what grounds does the evolutionary perspective give for objecting to slavery? Is it wrong because some inheritable trait has caused you to believe it’s wrong? I don’t see why your personal genes and memes should dictate what others can and cannot do. What about those who have inherited the trait that causes them to believe slavery is acceptable? Are they wrong?

  22. Well this is amusing. I actually asked Tom to remove that post altogether.

    It’s 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.”

  23. GM,

    My apologies. I find your posts quite helpful and was hoping the other thread would move to here for (my own selfish) easier reference in the future. If you / Tom remove it please consider re-summarizing some of the key points if feasible.

  24. No need to apologize, I appreciate the kind words.

    The whole conversation is interesting isn’t it? The difficulty is on one hand, the critic assumes that we have to defend slavery as God’s ideal. On the other, they seem to insist on framing the OT culture along the worst imaginable lines within their contemporary context of moral progress. This forces us to at least try to clarify the particulars of the matter, and in doing so, it can very easily sound like we are defending slavery as God’s ideal. Convincing someone of ONE thing argumentatively is difficult enough, but really these are two different topics that have to be dealt with in different ways.

  25. Tom, GM,

    Do either of you know of a resource / book which dives into the half of this equation dealing with Sin, Law, and so on as “Not God’s Ideal” as GM had alluded to (as contrasted to the historical focus on the other half of this topic). Christ in the OT landscape and so on. Such lines are both a beautiful and a necessary component of Christian ontological regressions. Oddly, the very landscape of personhood as experienced within love’s triune essence of self-other-us houses the explanation of Man (the created self) in Privation and in Wholeness. Perhaps this is an avenue we as the Church can do better with, although, I say that as a rank amateur on fall fronts. The Critic’s inability to observe Christ through and through is, it seems, addressed by such vectors at least in part. As GM noted, “Jesus’ ministry did not “invent” the Golden Rule. It didn’t need to. All rules pale in comparison to the outrageous claim of “Behold, I make all things new.”” That New, and the Fragmentation of Man in his Privation which such necessitates, as such is addressed in Genesis and into the OT Prophets, is a line, a paradigm, which we mistakenly reserve for dialogue with the Jew, while the NT expressly brings it to all men everywhere. The beauty of Trinity – ultimately – defines all lines here in such landscapes as the very nature of Man is reflective of such, both in Wholeness (what is seen there) and in Privation (what is extricated there). Such lines of His Image in relation to Man’s fundamental pains and essential joys are an exquisite component of the Christian’s ontological statement on the nature of Man, the nature of Law, and the nature of His Immutable Means, as expressly delineated in both the OT and the NT. Perhaps such ought not be reserved only for dialogue with the Jew merely because such begins in the OT. I’ve seen a few books on the OT which touch here, but seem timid in diving deep, and I am wondering if either of you have come across a good / robust treatment of it?

  26. Someday, when my life is not totally insane, I would love to go through John Goldingay’s 3 volume Old Testament Theology. The first sounds like a good place to start for what you’re looking for, as titled Israel’s Gospel. It’s an 800 page monster, but I mean, why not, right?

  27. The Critic just must allow Scripture to define Scripture, otherwise he criticizes some non-scriptural paradigm.

    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 and slavery and murder and Man’s privation, and so on. By regulating Man’s motions within Man’s Privation, by allowing divorce and regulating motions A and B and C therein, means nothing. Eventually there will be no divorce, the ideal, and so on.

    The Critic needs to figure out how it is that God hates X all the while regulating X. The condition of Man is a good place to start, within what is a World. Worlds are odd things, things which Man cannot fathom begetting. 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 (Not-Caring) or of being Immoral on the issue (Endorsing), or of being Pro-Issue (Prefers, likes).

    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 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 true felicity, his final Good.

    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.

  28. And too,

    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.

  29. Leviticus 25:44
    44’As for your male and female slaves whom you may have– you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you

    Unless I read your quote incorrectly, the bible specifically contradicts it. Also, to only mention debt-slavery in Israel is disingenuous, there was debt-slavery AND chattel-slavery.

  30. Comment #23 defines “property”.

    Still, even though you couldn’t treat them according to our definition of “property”, our condition was and is Ugly stuff. Well, at least God calls the pains of our privation Ugly.

  31. All manner of nightmarish things happened in ancient Israel. Our point is in light of the specific condemnation of a kidnapping-based slave trade and the legal demand to harbor runaway slaves, certain forms and manifestations of slavery, even as practiced by Israelites, were irreconcilable to both the letter of the mosaic law and the over-arching moral paradigms of the First Testament. This isn’t a defense of slavery of any kind, it is simply a reply to the suggestion that God approves of slavery as an ideal social ethic, and tolerates it in all forms. Even when He tolerates some kind of slavery on a temporary basis, there are certain behaviors under that umbrella which were never granted that tolerance.

  32. IMO, any discussion of the laws regarding servanthood or slavery among the ancient Hebrews in comparison and contrast with slavery as legalized in the American colonies and practiced in the ante-bellum South (Confederacy) should be based on concrete statements of the relevant laws. I recommend that folks glance at this web page that presents an analysis of the slave laws of the Colony (later State) of Virginia, which legalized the enslavement of blacks in 1660:

    http://www.history.org/history/teaching/slavelaw.cfm

    Based on the Virginia slave laws vs. slavery in the Book of Leviticus and the OT, we must ask these questions?

    Did the Hebrews ever consider slavery to be the “normal condition” of any race or group of people? Was slavery in the OT ever race-based? Was it ever written into Hebrew law that slaves were considered to be “real estate”? Was dismemberment of slaves legal according to Mosaic law? Did the Hebrews have a separate and different legal system for trying slaves or for trying cases involving the treatment of slaves? Where in the Virginia slave laws are the provisions for manumission of black slaves? And where is there a law regarding a Jubilee year where all slaves are freed and all the wealth of the society of Virginia redistributed?

    And to address Bob Seidensticker directly, since I was banned from posting on his blog a number of weeks ago when I was making strong arguments against his stance on biblical slavery, I’ll take the opportunity to request a reply to these questions since he posted on this thread (#19).

    JB

  33. 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.

    I don’t see how that fits with Leviticus 25:44-46.

  34. Ray,
    We are all aware of the verse. There are two specific laws, however, that make this more complex than what you seem to be implying.

    Exodus 21:16
    He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.

    The implications of this are obvious. If the act that allowed a kidnapped man to be sold into slavery is punishable by death, the buying of the slave is illicit behavior. Debt slavery, which however unfortunate and entirely unacceptable today, is not the same as “enslavement” or the wholly non-consentual participation of the slave. This is the only potential avenue for an Israelite to acquire a slave while staying in accordance to the law. This would be a major distinction between Israel and the African slave trade.

    Now, I’m sure there were Israelites who participated in that type of illicit trade, but it would have to be rare because it would be a profoundly stupid investment.

    Deuteronomy 23:15

    You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.

    If I was a kidnapped person and then sold into slavery in a country that requires the harboring of runaway slaves, I would get the hell out of Dodge. If my Jewish master was foolish enough to not research the legitimacy of the debt circumstances to verify that I had not been kidnapped (and to avoid being swindled), under which pretenses he would be legally required to purchase me under, I would still get the hell out of Dodge, and maybe leave a note.

  35. Now, to anticipate the question “If God saw it as ‘acceptable’ back then, why is it unacceptable now?”

    Slavery was a regional cultural reality. On one hand, the ancient near east lacked the logistical and financial resources to just halt on an immediate basis even under the circumstances of an absolute moral command. On the other hand, slavery also requires certain metaphysical assumptions about the value of the individual. Culturally propagated metaphysical assumptions, no matter how stupid, die very hard. It would be entirely unreasonable to expect a people entrenched in a culture for centuries to even understand the value of a moral prohibition. Trace the cultural line from the Civil War to Ferguson Missouri if this needs any justification.

    God, while allowing slavery up to a certain point, repeated in scripture over and over “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you.” This tells the Israelite to constantly put themselves in the position of a slave, even though they are free now. They reflect on their painful past and empathize, and look forward to a day of freedom for all. They are also reminded that even the land given to them does not belong to them, it, like all of Creation, belongs to God. What they consider property, they can only view themselves as being stewards of, not owners of. A good steward considers the owner’s authority over that which He owns, and treats it accordingly. The true Owner of creation is confronting His people with a metaphysical equalization between themselves and their slaves. To ask them to just ban slavery before understanding this would be futile in the aims of repairing creation, which is a key tenet of the Hebrew understanding of the covenant relationship between Israel and God, in all significant Hebrew traditions. God, in dealing with slavery, is repairing damaged metaphysical assumptions that manifest into evil.

    Now, there’s this question that comes from skeptics “If God is all powerful, why couldn’t He just wave His hands and magically make slavery go away?” In light of what I just said, this entirely misses the point.

    In the Middle East today, there’s this group of people calling themselves ISIS. They are rampaging across huge regions of land and doing things any sensible person would call evil. Now, there’s no question that the United States has the power to eradicate ISIS and the evil they are doing. I’m no expert in strategic warfare, but I would guess 20 or 30 nuclear warheads would, in fact, leave no trace of ISIS left on the planet.

    And I’m sure you would agree that this would be the absolute worst way of dealing with the problem. If someone sincerely thought this was the best way of handling the issue, ethically, we would have to conclude that this person has not counted the cost of the measure. Millions would die in the fireballs, and the environment would be poisoned with billions of tons of radioactive sand.

    Now, there could be the even rarer person who would think that the millions dying isn’t just ethically acceptable on an means-ends basis, but rather ethically neutral. It simply wouldn’t matter one way or the other as to who survived the fallout, so long as the goal of eradicating ISIS is the main object. This person wouldn’t necessarily be morally bankrupt, they would just be amoral, which would beg the question as to why they even bothered with dealing with ISIS in the first place.

    This bizarre second type of attitude tends to be an unwitting framework of the question as posed by the skeptic. Asking God to “nuke” slavery through some magical transformation of metaphysical assumptions within the minds of people removes the ontological value of morality, which hinges on the choice element of itself. I’m trying to avoid the devoid-of-nuance argument of simply saying “free will” and leaving it at that. I’m working in some bizarro world where somehow will could remain somewhat free while being changed by fiat as produced by a certain conception of omnipotence. I’m not particularly comfortable doing that, because as CS Lewis said, being capable of everything does not mean being capable of nonsense. The skeptic in this case, without knowing it (or really caring because they are just trying to win an argument) is asking for nonsense.

    But even still. In this bizarro world, you couldn’t retain the value of morality, the superlative nature of an ought chosen as an ought and understood as an ought. In the context of man made in the image of God, humanity would lose it’s purpose as the priests of creation, gathering creation together, building it up into perfect union with the Divine. The value of the oughts involved are the difference between a perfect creation, and a weird cartoon. The third alternative is to argue that non-existence is better than existence, which is the essence of the absurd.

    In working patiently with people, in their culture, in order to repair their damaged metaphysical assumptions as the way to stop evil, God is choosing to count the cost of the purpose of man. If you don’t think man has a purpose, then like the amoral conflagrator of ISIS and all of Baghdad, why begrudge God not halting slavery at all?

    If you think God’s idea to repair metaphysical assumptions was not the best solution that counted the cost while healing creation, provide a better solution and exercise it in today’s world full of stupefying violence.

  36. GM –

    We are all aware of the verse. There are two specific laws, however, that make this more complex than what you seem to be implying.

    I’m not implying anything – I am stating that I don’t see how that analysis can be reconciled with Leviticus 25:44-46. Indeed, I still don’t.

    If the act that allowed a kidnapped man to be sold into slavery is punishable by death, the buying of the slave is illicit behavior

    But kidnapping was far from the only way someone could become a slave. I’ve seen it alleged that most non-Hebrew slaves were prisoners of war (not, of course, anything like the modern conception of POW). But even if you discount that, there’s being born into slavery – which Leviticus 25:46 addresses – nay, endorses – explicitly.

    And I haven’t seen a commentary on Deuteronomy 23:15 yet that claims that applies to all slaves. Taking it “in context”, I’ve seen it argued that it applies, at most, to slaves escaping harsh and unjust treatment. Many others say it applied only to foreigners escaping into Israel, perhaps even only in times of war.

  37. GM –

    Slavery was a regional cultural reality. On one hand, the ancient near east lacked the logistical and financial resources to just halt on an immediate basis even under the circumstances of an absolute moral command.

    “Thou shalt phase out…” (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    The thing is, God was willing to be “revolutionary” about things like women’s rights. Indeed, “Christ challenges us to the beautiful and the impossible, and then scandalously, at the greatest cost, offers grace in the face of the impossibility.”

    But a simple thing like, “try not take slaves unless you must, and then free them as soon as possible” can’t be communicated? Why is it a choice between tackling metaphysical presumptions or a prohibition, anyway? “Why not both?”, as the meme goes?

  38. Prisoners of war is a matter of state serfdom, which is pretty different from buying an individual. From what I’ve read of ancient near east practice, broadly, this kind of arrangement involved the defeated people remaining in their own land and being obligated to perform certain kinds of labor for the conquering state as part of a peace treaty. Israeli warfare is an entirely different can of worms, but I’ve seen nothing that suggests Israel would show up, win a fight, and everyone would come back to Israel in chains and be disseminated to individual households. It would also be very difficult to establish that Israel had the capacity to absorb a large population of state-owned slaves to be fed and kept for plantation-style labor.

    “Taking it “in context”, I’ve seen it argued that it applies, at most, to slaves escaping harsh and unjust treatment.”

    Being kidnapped is pretty straight up unjust treatment, as supported by the text. A debt-slave, if he ran away to get out from under a contract, but was otherwise treated well, would still be on the hook for his debt, so that would discourage fleeing. But I don’t know how it’s deniable that a kidnapped slave could appeal to justice by escaping his master under those unjust circumstances, according to the legal framework.

    Any inferences that it only applied to foreigners escaping into Israel are arguing from silence. It would be bizarre to not write down caveats on a law with such broad implications if there were any caveats to begin with.

    Born into slavery, well, I’d have to see more about the structure of those contracts to be able to make further judgement. It was entirely possible for contracts to exist that allowed for slaves to purchase freedom, so it follows that multigenerational slavery was not a requirement, but could be permissible depending on the circumstances.

    But, the overarching argument involves the necessity to point out that none of this is representative of God’s ideal. You make a huge jump from tolerance to endorsement from God’s perspective that doesn’t take into account the moral vision of the biblical narrative.

  39. I’m sorry you couldn’t resist, too. “Phase out” is not even a ridiculous form of command for God to give. It doesn’t rise to that level.

    A simple thing like “try not take slaves unless you must, and then free them as soon as possible” might seem impressive to you, but it’s a whole lot less freeing than the instructions he actually did give.

    Perhaps you could just as easily have said,

    “No matter what God did to promote love, unity, equal dignity, and equal worth, in view of the exigencies of the time, if he didn’t word it my way he didn’t do it right.”

  40. Why doesn’t “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you” do both? Slavery is associated with Egypt, redemption is associated with God. God > Egypt. The cultural implication of the word “Egypt” carries a ton of connotation. Also, In Deuteronomy, there is the appeal to obedience to God leading to the end of poverty in the land, which was the main function of slavery to begin with. As that is situated in the middle of other slavery texts, it’s pointing to something better, associated with God.

    I mean, I freely admit that I’m coming to the limits of arguing this from a purely Old Testament perspective. Jesus shines specific light on a lot of the motivations. When he tells Jews that they were permitted to divorce under the law, He tells them this was only permitted because of “the hardness of their hearts.” Implying that they just weren’t capable of understanding anything else. He then appeals to “the beginning” as the way it should be, being Genesis 2, where the divine order involved a perfectly egalitarian human relationship structure.

    I mean, the story of the Ancient Israelites isn’t one of a people doing their damnedest to get it right by God’s commands. It’s a story of a lot of very stubborn people who were given countless chances, and blew it, over and over. If God waited around from them to even get His most straightforward commandments right, the whole project would have crashed and burned.

  41. Ray RE: #42 and Tom RE: #44

    I think God did give us wording to communicate the principle underlying the laws regarding servitude directly, explicitly and clearly in the Tenth Commandment:

    Exodus 20 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

    This says “don’t even want to, even if your neighbor does.” After freeing the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt through His almighty love and power, how much more does God need to say? It’s only their/our/humankind’s hard-heartedness that keeps us from getting the message, AKA God’s Word. This isn’t a wording problem, it’s a sinful human nature problem, and Christianity offers the antidote.

  42. To further the NT perspective:
    When Paul calls the law “a curse” he isn’t saying it’s evil. He’s alluding to that Impossible that I was talking about. God gave a group of people a legal code that was completely intelligible within their cultural context. It’s not ideal, it’s not superlative, at best it’s an improvement over and against the surrounding culture’s norms, and in a lot of ways, it was on terms that they requested themselves. Israel associated themselves with a God that they viewed as superior, so,”yeah, we can do this.”

    But they couldn’t. They were too spiritually broken, and needed something else. As God’s representatives to the rest of the world, they were also God’s example to the world. They couldn’t even keep standards that they participated in the establishment of. They, like the rest of us, needed a new paradigm, a new moral imagination, and a new source of moral energy.

  43. To add a touch of levity, which these conversations rarely have…

    If you look at the dialectical relationship between God and the Israelites, and then put it in modern parlance, it’s almost funny.

    At Sinai:
    God: OK! We made it! That was nuts. Now that we’re here, I want you all to come up to the mountain and meet me face to face, and I’m going to make it so that you can all hear my voice. I mean, this is gonna blow your minds, and you’re going to basically elevate the human race to a transcendent level.

    Israelites: (in hushed tones) Send Moses. Dude, Moses, just like go up there and tell us what happens.

    God: OH! Huh. So you want, like, an intermediary and laws dictated second hand. Alright, Moses, write this down.

    Fast forward to Golden Calf

    God: OH COME ON! 400 years of slavery ended, and you can’t camp for a month without forgetting Me? What are you, bored? Ok, Levites, you’re in charge.

    Halfway through Leviticus, Israelites are worshiping goat moon gods.

    God: THAT’S IT! Holiness code.

    After the settlement of the promised land.

    God: Ok you guys, you’ve got your priesthood set up with direct access to Me. Don’t have a king.

    Israelites: Mmmmm. No. We want a king. Everyone else has a king, so we’re definitely in the king camp.

    God: Oh… Uhhh, I’m not really… Yeah, no, I’m pretty serious, you don’t want a king, you have Me.

    Israelites: King. We’re pulling for king.

    God: Fine? I guess? I don’t know wh- forget it, have a king.

    Fast forward to David.

    God: David, whatever you do, do not take more than one wife. I can’t be more blunt about it.

    David: Yeahhhhh, about that…

    God: Oh boy.

  44. Perhaps a glance at the non-Israelite nations’ ideology may shed a little light. Going back to the creation accounts of the ancient Mesopotamian culture, it’s clear that the status of humanity was nothing but slavery. (See The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 by J. Richard Middleton) The Akkadian “Atrahasis Epic” explains:
    Great indeed was the drudgery of the gods,
    The forced labor was heavy, the misery too much:
    The seven(?) great Anunna-gods were burdening
    The Igigi-gods with forced labor.

    In other words, the lesser gods were slaves to the greater gods. So:
    Create a human being that he may bear the yoke,
    Let him bear the yoke, the task of Enlil,
    Let man assume the drudgery of god.

    The reason humanity was created was to provide for the needs of the gods. Unless you were the king who was believed to be the image of the gods, or, in some nations, a priest, you were a slave. That was the meaning of your existence. This was promulgated and maintained in the religious and sociological systems of the ancient Mesopotamian nations.

    Along comes Yahweh, who reveals that every human is created in his image (Genesis 1:26-27). All are to be seen as members of a royal priesthood instead of slaves whose sole purpose to be alive is to make life easier for the gods. He chooses a people to begin the process of restoring all humans to their original reason for existence. God’s redeeming work, including but not ending with Israel, was the addressing of deep, deep ideological values, the very core of human self-understanding. A mere “Don’t have slavery” wouldn’t get to the heart of the matter.

  45. The OT itself defines itself as the Less-Than Paradigm which would not be the means to Moral Excellence into Man’s reality and it (the OT) defines another, yet to come Greater-Than Paradigm through which Moral Excellence would come into Man’s reality.

    Ray and other critics who assert that the OT Law “ought to be aiming at moral excellence” are not speaking of the real OT, the one in Scripture. They are talking about their own invention. They cherry-pick a verse here and there and ignore the actual account of Reality given by Scripture.

    These critics ignore the necessary moral and metaphysical lines which Genesis 1, 2, 3, and all the OT prophets, and so on, declare of the actualized state of affairs prior to Man’s fragmentation and after it. They’d rather talk of their own invention.

    Genesis and Trinity there in His ontologcial Singular-Us are, perhaps, too toxic for the critic. As are the OT declarations of Man’s yet to arrive Moral Paradigm wherein Man finds the solution to the pains of his privation.

    Why are such too toxic for the critic? Because the necessary means and ends which such regressions grant both the OT and NT are of the sort which the critic wishes he could find outside of Scripture, but cannot, and which he wishes were not in Scripture, but are: the inescapable truths found in scripture revealing to us that Immutable Love is Man’s true felicity, his final Good.

    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.

    That is the Moral Landscape of Scripture.

    From A-Z

  46. Jenna @ 46:

    After freeing the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt through His almighty love and power, how much more does God need to say?

    Jenna… it never happened, it’s a story.

    Seriously.

    Just like Noah’s Ark.

  47. I can’t reconcile any of this with a God that cares about individual human suffering.

    GM @ 4 says “But that’s a pale goal compared to God’s original purpose of New Creation with Man as royal priest. It’s not a matter of pyrotechnical power, it’s a matter of supernatural patience to attain a more perfect end.”

    Ummm, OK, what about the slaves?

    Gmarley @ 43 says “You make a huge jump from tolerance to endorsement from God’s perspective that doesn’t take into account the moral vision of the biblical narrative.”, and @ 45 “As that is situated in the middle of other slavery texts, it’s pointing to something better, associated with God.”

    Sure, but what about the slaves?

    Tom @44 says “A simple thing like ‘try not take slaves unless you must, and then free them as soon as possible’ might seem impressive to you, but it’s a whole lot less freeing than the instructions he actually did give.”

    Well, yes, but what about the slaves?

    MikeH @49 says “God’s redeeming work, including but not ending with Israel, was the addressing of deep, deep ideological values, the very core of human self-understanding. A mere “Don’t have slavery” wouldn’t get to the heart of the matter.”

    Yeah, sure, whatever. WHAT ABOUT THE SLAVES?

    Is your God simply indifferent to us as individuals?

  48. Keith, RE: #51

    In this discussion, it matters not at all that you consider the Book of Exodus account of the Hebrews being freed from slavery just a “story.” The only thing that matters in the formulation of their laws, the Law of Moses, is what the Hebrews believed based on their experiences with and relationship with God. You are attempting to have it both ways: claiming that there was/is no God with whom the Hebrews had/have a relationship and also claiming that you can discern God’s opinion of slavery by examining the Hebrews’ laws regarding servitude, which they developed and derived in response to their understanding of and relationship with God. You are failing to keep in mind that all laws are interpretations of moral and ethical principles, values and beliefs within a specific historical, temporal, religious, spiritual and cultural context.

  49. What about the slaves?

    They are the victims and sufferers of humanity’s sin problem, as are we all in different ways. We all suffer in different degrees, too, so “what about the slaves?” is a very good question.

    It’s the same question today, in a different form, when we ask, “what about gross income inequity?” As I read the historical information, OT slavery was a question on approximately that scale of seriousness. It was not like antebellum American slavery, but it was still bad.

    As GM has repeatedly explained, though, as a way of dealing with poverty it had advantages over Western liberal democracy. It had relative disadvantages, too, of course, especially the loss of freedom. How many people today are in jobs that they would leave, though, if they thought they had the economic freedom to do so?

    Hebrew slavery was a time-limited debt-relief program with a guarantee of provision after seven years. It was personally administrated rather than distantly administrated, as governmental welfare typically is. It involved learning to work (if the person didn’t know already), as the U.S. has been trying to learn how to include in its welfare programs. It wasn’t all that bad, compared to the way we solve similar problems today. There were no homeless!

    Enslavement of captured enemy soldiers was not so humane in its design, I’ll grant you that. It would be an interesting exercise to think through how a victorious army could manage victory in any better way, when the fight was not fought on distant soil, as modern wars waged by Western countries have lately been.

    So what about the slave? Hebrew slaves could simply leave. Conquered people, enslaved, were less free, but they were treated far better than their counterparts conquered by other countries. Their numbers would have been far fewer than you might imagine, and they would likely be grateful that they had lost to Israel’s armies rather than another country’s.

    What about the slave? He or she lived in a land where the prophets preached against all forms of oppression and unjust advantage. Did their masters always practice what they were preached? Surely not. Would they have practiced what they were preached if the preaching had been, “Take no slaves?” And how would they have dealt with poverty among their countrymen? Was God supposed to have given them the Magna Carta and Locke and Burke and Jefferson and Witherspoon and Stowe and the whole history of Western liberal democracy all those thousands of years ago? But Western liberal democracy is a product of the Bible among us, including the New Testament, not just the Mosaic Law.

    So what about the slave? What that question comes down to is, what about evil among humans, including inequities in money and personal power. It’s a version of the problem of evil, and a way of answering it in practice. It’s not a perfect answer, but ours aren’t perfect today, either.

  50. But there’s more to be discussed on this. I’ve been thinking about your request, Keith, to go through
    Copan’s book
    together. I’m thinking we should do that, and over the weekend I’ll post an announcement along with a link to purchase the book.

    I think you have my email address if you want to let me know more about what you had in mind with what you said about supporting the blog. Otherwise you could contact me by the link at the top. Thanks!

  51. Intellectual & Existential Meta-Narrative:

    If the critic simply ignores the necessary moral and metaphysical lines which Scripture’s account of reality actually extricates within its own self-described ontological definitions, that is fine. Only, such makes understanding and dialogue impossible. As #’s 6, 7, 12, 18, 21, 23, and 50 briefly, and incompletely, allude to, what just is Scripture’s account of the actualized state of affairs within time and physicality houses that existentially and intellectually congruent Meta-Narrative which is both inconvenient and toxic for the critic’s false identity claims, invalid premises, and one-verse straw-men.

    Scripture’s Meta-Narrative unpacks the most coherent account of all that is the Human Experience within what just is Man’s existentially-felt reality and that same Meta-Narrative also unpacks what is the most robust ontological accounting of the Human Experience within what just is Man’s intellectual demand for metaphysical clarity and logical lucidity.

    The road of discovery is an interesting one as we explore both our felt-existential reality and logic’s intellectual demands. Existentially and Intellectually speaking the Meta-Narrative of Scripture delivers clear cogency from Prescriptive to Descriptive.

    If one starts with the purely intellectual and dissects such regressions within Scripture alone, one ends within the contours of what is at bottom Personhood’s necessary ends within what just is a three-fold topography of motions amid the Self/I, the Other/You, and the singular Us/We. Hard Stop. The OT prophets and the OT landscapes all echo such Means and Ends as Man’s Start, as Man’s End, as all lines there in Man’s motions within his pains of the Self in Privation are defined as failing – on necessity – to deliver mankind’s emancipation out of his frustration and into that final Good that is love’s peculiarly triune milieu. Unity’s amalgamation within the eternal pouring-out of the beloved-self amid the eternal filling-up of the beloved-other brings us to what just is the triune and immutable love of the Necessary Being. The inescapable ontological definitions there in that Hard Stop grant the OT, grant the NT, and grant the lines found in Man’s pains of the Self in Privation those same lines which it grants the metaphysical means which are unearthed as necessarily required to free him from such Privation. Those lines also, ad infinitum, grant him his true felicity, his final Good that just is an amalgamation void of Time within those same lines of Immutable Love.

    Intellectually speaking the metaphysical wherewithal to foist Immutable Love as the Ontological End of all Moral Regress finds in Scripture what it never can find in Pantheism or in Atheism.

    If one, instead, starts with the purely existential, void of Scripture, void of definitions period, one finds oneself awakening within an ocean of those very same lines spiraling within one’s tasted pains and one’s intuited joys there in what is one’s reeling discovery of what is at once both whole and fragmented, both pure and tainted as the very import of all that is personhood is found inside of what just is true suffering amid the fragmentation of love’s singular three-fold milieu of the Self/I, the Other/You, and the singular Us/We just as it is found inside of what just is true completeness of elation in love’s whole amid personhood’s amalgamation of that very same milieu of the Self/I, the Other/You, and the singular Us/We. One finds such lines to be the truth of the matter as such ends find in Pantheism the dissolution of that very milieu that is the existential end of regress, just as one finds in Atheism the regress into mereological nihilism’s absurdity, just as one finds in…….and so on. Such existentially justified metaphysical Hard Stops are not found outside of that peculiarly triune and immutable love of the Necessary Being. Scripture alone, that unique descriptive of Man’s actualized state of affairs within Time and Physicality, ultimately emerges with an endurance that outlasts all possible states of affairs, all possible worlds. Where all the former descriptive attempts had flailed in blind axiom or in dissolution of the very claims made, where all the former prescriptive attempts suffered those same deaths, failing to deliver, we then find in Scripture’s singular Prescriptive-Descriptive housed within the ontological regressions of the Necessary Being’s immutable love an unmistakable conformity with reality in all vectors both weak and strong.

    Mankind’s Emancipation comes in and by his true Felicity, his final Good, there at the end of ad infinitum, within that same Hard Stop that is that same milieu of that same immutable love of that same Necessary Being. Intellectually and existentially speaking Scripture’s descriptive just is Scripture’s prescriptive as the Moral Landscape of Scripture’s A-Z defines Actuality coherently within all that is Man’s existentially felt regressions just as Scripture’s A-Z defines Actuality coherently within all that is Man’s intellectual demand for metaphysical clarity and logical lucidity.

  52. Keith,
    What about the slaves is a very good question. From case to case, I just don’t know. Neither do you. There are laws in the texts that give contingencies in the event that a slave “loves his master” and chooses to willingly stay there, pledging himself for life. I don’t even know what to think about that, I can’t imagine what that’s like. And neither can you. We have WAY more social mobility than even 300 years ago, let alone 3000 years ago. I mean, we’re talking about a time that resulted in Rome being the peak of civilization, and those people watched live human murder for FUN.

    This is all very interesting in an academic conversation, but I’d be very careful to assert some kind of moral superiority over God in light of the mosaic law. If we complain that God was too lax back then, we certainly can’t complain that He was too lax about His demands to take care of the poor in our time. That’s a non-negotiable. Yet, the West benefits from a financial system that extracts as much money as possible from the billion poorest people in the world, people who’s lives will never, ever rise to the bare minimum quality of life of slaves in Israel, until we forgive their debt.

    And we don’t.

    And we cannot claim that God was not clear enough about that.

    So who’s better off? The people who, 3000 years ago, decided to elevate the moral value of society’s dredges, amid some morally-ambiguous legislation. Or us, who have clear, moral imperatives to not, under penalty of hellfire, “care not for the poor,” but go ahead and institutionalize the financial oppression that kills millions of people per year?

  53. Keith,

    The reason, make that a reason among other reasons, that GM’s reference to case law in reference to a Worker (you prefer slave, but the semantics just don’t fit our modern genre) wanting to marry a Boss carries such import is the case law referenced here in comment #23. Both the Worker and the Boss – should anyone so much as knock out a tooth – find a rather robust legal code affronting them. Marriage is an odd thing indeed within the critic’s false identity claim and we employ the term “Worker” just to make that point that our Southern Slavery Paradigm just cannot find overlaps with these lines, hence the semantics of “slave” does not, and cannot – given our modern concept of slave – ever bring to mind the actual state of affairs of that paradigm from 4K or 5K years ago there in that land mindset of those Ex-Slaves we call the Hebrew. The critic keeps trying to foist the false identity claim that A = B there, over and over (history be damned) and such is just false in palpable ways (as is the false identity claim that the Law’s regulation of X equates to the Law Giver’s endorsement of X). The differences are glaringly inconvenient even for a cherry-picking-critic who refuses to intellectually embrace the entire moral narrative, the more robust and wider moral paradigm of the self-defined Meta-Narrative contained within Scripture’s A to Z as briefly alluded to here in # 56 wherein every bit of Man’s painful Privation is deemed immoral, ugly, a curse, the Outside, and so on by such necessary ontological regressions. As GM pointed out, and others such as myself repeatedly, the mere presence of Law is a futile means to change the Nature of Man and we see this expressed in our laws today in relational context to the poor and our failures there, and so on. Really, really, really big books of really, really complex law codes wrapped up in really, really big militaries foisted as the Means of Moral Excellence within the paradigm of Man’s Nature in Privation is metaphysical nonsense. And here is a little funny something: History and moral shifts across time are here yet another proof of how the Bible got it, is getting it, right whereas the humanist-critic just keeps getting it wrong. You don’t win Monster-X by killing everybody. You aim at the mindset of their children, and then the next set of mindsets, and the next. The Divine Mind ever etching in Man’s consciousness Words of another sort. But let us not take hope here even in moral shifts across time for we are all, humanity always is, but one generation away from losing it all and having to rebuild every bit of it out of moral and/or intellectual darkness all over again. Think about that. And therein we find how – ultimately – it is not (to borrow from GM) the Golden Rule which will, can, ultimately set Man free of his Nature in Privation, but, rather, it is Christ Who in telling us to love Other as Self there in that Golden Rule ever unmasks our final ends as wholly unable to find such permanence and therein He then gives the True and Final Paradigm of Moral Excellence as He motions with, “Behold, I make all things new!” There that thorn in the critic’s side, that New Law touched on here in #32, that inconvenient (for the critic) and wider and inescapable Meta-Narrative of Beginnings and Means and Ends which within itself houses that narrower landscape of the entire OT prophetical declarations of Man’s insufficiency awaiting some Greater, Other, Outer Paradigm in which Man need never teach Man again unmasks Man’s true Felicity, his final Good in his amalgamation within the Immutable and Ceaseless Love of the Necessary Being.

  54. Cyclic Proofs of Wisdom, of Means, of Ends:

    A follow up: 4K or 5K years ago the whole moral landscape of moral change over time, of improvement followed by degradation over time, ever in cyclic fashions, and the business of a whole other Paradigm of Immutable Love in which Man need never teach Man again is announced to the Ex-Slaves in the context of Beginnings, Means, and Ends. Yet, today, 5K years later, after some 20 or 25 empires having risen and fallen, depending on who you read, Man ever in his painful Privation, over and over again in a cyclic proof of how the Bible got it – is getting it – right on Means and Ends, the Critic still thinks really big books of laws wrapped up in really big armies is the way to go, is the Means to Moral Excellence, and asserts, foists, that God-Ought-Have-Employed-Such. The mutability of Man in his frailty, in his Privation, will ever frustrate the Critic here, and will ever manifest the wisdom of He Who loves us, Who makes of Himself our Beginnings, our Means, our Ends as He makes all things new within his immutable love – wherein – it is said – we shall have no need to teach one another of love ever again for it will be Love Himself Who teaches us, every man face to face.

  55. One of the fallacious assumptions made by internet atheists, as well as other would be skeptics, is that the words “slave” is used in the Old Testament. It is not. People need to understand that the OT was not written in English; It was written in Hebrew. Words and terms translated into different languages don’t necessarily have equivalent meanings. For example, the words used for slave (or slavery) in English have very narrow meanings. However, the word that is sometimes translated as slave in Hebrew, ebed, has a much broader and more nuanced meaning. Here is an infomative article by Arie Uittenbogaard where he discusses the many varied meanings of the word ebed .

    http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Ebed.html#.VAEDw2eq9lY

    For example, he points out that the word is derived etymologically fron the “verb… (‘abad) [which] means to work or serve”. So it could be (and maybe should be) translated in some places simply as “worker”. Generally speaking ebed the word means subordinate or someone of “lower rank.” For example, it “may… denote a king’s subjects or officers (Exodus 7:28, 1 Samuel 19:1)”. Or, it could refer to “a religious devotee” as it is often used in the OT. In some cases this is a very positive usage, as when Abraham, then Isaac, Jacob and Moses are referred to “ebeds” (or servants) of God.

    The internet atheists also fail to comprehend that the ancient near east (ANE) was NOT an advanced modern society and culture with an industrialized urban economy but a very primative tribal culture with an agrarian economy that was based in large part on subsistance farming. How do you help people during times of famine? How do you keep an economy running? How do you keep people out of poverty? Nothing like modern welfare existed in the ANE. It’s unfair to judge a primitive tribal culture by modern standards. If on the other hand we judgle the ancient Isrraelite culture by comparing with other ANE cultures of the same period as, Paul Copan does, we find that the so-called “slave laws” were very humane and very progessive. Indeed many of our modern views about human rights– for example, the equal worth of all human beings– have their roots in ancient Israelite law and teaching.

    Finally, the internet atheists have arbitrarily decided to make the abolition of slavery a moral absolute, even if the so-called slavery they are talking about is a mistranslation of an ancient Hebrew term. But who are atheist’s to decide what is and what is not a moral absolute. How can people who advocate a nonbelief system determine what is and is not moral?

  56. What about the slave? In addition to what Tom, GM, scblhrm have said: they,too, are included in what God is actually accomplishing. As Victor Frankl said, writing about his concentration camp experiences: “I had but one sentence in mind – always the same: ‘I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and He answered me in the freedom of space.’ How long I knelt there and repeated this sentence memory no longer can recall. But I know that on that day, in that hour, my new life started. Step for step I progressed, until I again became a human being.” Even one trapped in slavery or any other dreadful and dehumanizing situation can experience that something better.

  57. Comment deleted by siteowner for being the most unbelievably extremely rude thing anyone has ever said on this website.

  58. Finally, the internet atheists have arbitrarily decided to make the abolition of slavery a moral absolute…

    And more ironically, the basis for their moral absoluteism is Christianity.

  59. I was reading an article today Tripping through IBM’s astonishingly insane 1937 corporate songbook.

    What triggered was this quote: It’s incredibly easy to cherry pick terrible examples out of a 77-year old corporate songbook (though this songbook makes it easy because of how crazy it is to modern eyes).

    If we find it difficult to understand why groups of men might write and chorus songs to herald TJ Watson’s leadership of IBM in 1940, how much more difficult is it to understand the nuances of a few-thousand year-old society that was, as JAD @ 60 says, “a very primitive tribal culture with an agrarian economy that was based in large part on subsistence farming.”

    Regardless, a quick thank-you to you all — I’ve certainly gained a better appreciation of the arguments being made here.

  60. Part of it, but not the worst part, was that ISIS “are as biblical as it gets.”

    (Larry there was a pronoun in your comment that could arguably have had a different antecedent than ISIS. The natural reading of your comment would have been that you were referring to ISIS, but the other reading is possible as well. If you want to explain how your comment was meant to be something other than this I’ll consider rescinding the ban on the grounds of unintentional miscommunication. You can comment here now if you’d like. The rest of your comment needs an apology as well, in my opinion.)

  61. Bill T @ 63,

    “And more ironically, the basis for their moral absoluteism is Christianity.”

    Ironic? I find the absolutism of the “new/internet” atheist to be absolutely (pardon the pun) baffling. For example, Keith in another thread (Who is a Bigot? comment #172) writes:

    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.

    That sounds to me like blatant moral relativism based on a Nietschean kind of “will to power” (ie “Had the Jains been more muscular and won…” IOW’ the winners write the rules) That raises the question: How can a relativist advocate or justify any kind of moral absolutism?

    I suspect what’s really going on here is some disingenuous gamesmanship– trying to out maneuver the “hapless” Christians by erecting (again– we seen this all before folks) another fallacious strawman argument. The thinking goes something like this: “We can use what everyone today agrees is wrong (that slavery is morally wrong) to back the absolutist thinking Christians into a corner, because clearly if the OT is using the word slave it is condoning slavery.”

    But the question is does it really? I would argue that many of the places (Exodus 21:2) where modern translations use the term slave, a more accurate translation (as some translations do– KJV, NIV) would be “servant”, because what is clearly being described in the context is something resembling indentured servanthood which was common during colonial times in America. IOW what the atheist critic is turning into an absolute is just a word. But as any student of the Bible knows, translated words are never the final word (pardon the pun again). To win this argument, I think, the atheist needs to do a little more homework first.

  62. JAD

    This entire discussion has a somewhat surreal feel to it. First, you have the secularists trying to claim the moral high ground regarding slavery by claiming the Bible has endorsed the practice. This in spite of the fact that the Judeo/Christian ethic provides the only possible moral/ethical basis for opposing slavery. Not only that, but this claim comes in the face of an established historical record of the effect of Christianity in eliminating legalized slavery, first from all of Christendom and then from nearly all the world at least ideally if not always in practice.

    Then, of course, you have the secularists personal opposition to slavery for which they can provide no reasonable explanation. They have to know, if they are at all honest with themselves, that they have simply appropriated that belief from Christianity. So we have people trying to claim a moral high ground without an ethical basis, in the face of the historical record and without an understandable personal belief.

  63. The Necessary Being got it – and is getting it – right.

    The Critic is in far worse trouble than he thinks. His entire anthology of criticism rests upon one premise: Law and Education (knowledge of such laws, and so on, across experience) are the proper and sufficient means to the goal of Moral Excellence.

    History contradicts him, over and over and over again.

    In the NT we find the echo of all the same definitions of the OT in Acts 17:30: “Such former ages of ignorance God allowed to pass unnoticed; but now He charges all people everywhere to repent….” as the Necessary Being’s law of immutable love begins to actualize through Christ. The OT speaks of a New Paradigm, and in the meanwhile pending “that”, 4K or 5K years ago right there within the landscape of repeated cycles of moral improvement followed by moral degradation repeating across time, ever in cyclic fashions, God’s Wisdom knew what we are only discovering today: both excellence and permanence via law and education is an illusion as Man ever, always, finds himself to be but one generation away from having to start all over again as his capacity for darkened ages is born anew with each new generation. The Critic seems unaware of civilizations rising and falling over and over again, losing all that was gained, and building again, and again.

    God knew this of Man long before Man began to see, to realize, and therein God in His Wisdom brings – from the very start – all the business of Seed’s Seed, of Contingency in amalgamation with Immutability, the foretelling of a whole other Paradigm of the OT Prophet’s “New Law” housing finally that immutable love in which Man need never teach Man again as such is announced to the Ex-Slaves we call the Hebrew and all in the context of Beginnings, Means, and Ends.

    4K or 5K years later, after some 20 or 25 empires having risen and fallen, Man ever in his painful Privation, over and over again in a cyclic proof of how the Bible got it – is getting it – right on Means and Ends, the Critic still thinks really big books of laws wrapped up in really big armies is the way to go, is the Means to Moral Excellence, and asserts, foists, that “God-Ought-Have-Employed-Such” with what seems the Critic’s delusion that Zeniths magically cannot fall or that Meccas just never have fallen…..over and over and over again. And again.

    Foisting such as the means to such ends when speaking of what just is the ever mutable, the ever newly blank-slate born of the womb in what just is the nature of man and of knowledge is metaphysical nonsense. If [Laws/Armies/Knowledge] is the only Paradigm in play then we are hopelessly fated to ever repeat our history of cyclic proofs of such. A mere ice age from what lay outside of man, a mere war from what lay within man, a mere “whatever” can do what has been done too many times for us to count. The fool asserts immunity and finds no grounds by which to assert such.

    The mutability of Man in the frailty of his Privation will ever frustrate the Critic here even as it will ever manifest the wisdom of He Who loves us, Who makes of Himself our Beginnings, Who makes of Himself our Means, Who makes of Himself our Ends. We here see that it never could have been otherwise for the frailty of Contingency as it simply can be no less than the immutable love of the Necessary Being as the Hard Stop as all vectors finally converge and find their Ends void of Law and of knowledge as He fills the Contingent and Insufficient Self called Man with His All Sufficiency. Man – there recreated – finds God’s All Sufficiency wherever his eyes should look – whether beneath his feet, above his head, or within his chest – for – Wisdom Himself has said – we shall have no need to teach one another of love ever again for it will be Love Himself Whom man spies face to face.

    The end of Knowledge and of Law:

    Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit will come, and will teach, lead, us into all truth. Which is to say into Truth, into God. This is the beginning of, the birthing of, that which will ultimately end in Jeremiah’s New Covenant foretold of coming to completion wherein man will no longer have need to be taught of man ever again as Love Himself becomes Man’s final Good. Such is the end of knowledge as we know it, such is the end of man’s perpetual cycles of empires rising and falling. Such is proof that the means to such permanent ends never was Law nor Knowledge, for Law is at bottom no more than the borders of what is the temporal knowledge of that other Paradigm, Tree, which by its very privation ever tastes frailty, ever lives in and by the life of man rising to life and falling to dust, over and over and over again, empire after empire, city after city, man after man, rather than by the Life of that other Paradigm, Tree, whereby the Paradigm called Knowledge is replaced by the Paradigm called Life. Genesis tells us of such in and by many vectors, as does the OT landscape, as does Jeremiah and the Prophets, as does Christ, as does the NT who tells us that the thing we call Hope will fade to non-entity, as will the fragmented thing we call Knowledge.

    Whereas, the Paradigm of Permanence, of Immutable Love will not, cannot, fade. He was there in Man’s Beginnings. He was there through Man’s Privation in and as Man’s Means. He is there as Man’s Ends. Such is the Necessary Being – Who could never have been some lesser some-thing. The ends and means of the Paradigm, Tree, we call Knowledge just must be Law and just cannot know permanence. Nor can it know that other Paradigm, Tree. What just is – just has been – just will continue to be – the inescapable nature of our experience within that (this) Paradigm proves such. The ends and means of the Paradigm, Tree, we call Moral Excellence, Life, is the immutable love of the Necessary Being and such just cannot know something less than permanence. God got it – still is getting it – right. All possible worlds for the Contingent Self are found – on ontological necessity – in the topography of such a Garden, the geography of which just is Man in Privation in juxtaposition with Man-in-God / God-in-Man. Such has been in front of our eyes from the very beginning. God got it – and still is getting it – right.

  64. @BillT:

    So we have people trying to claim a moral high ground without an ethical basis, in the face of the historical record and without an understandable personal belief.

    And from the safety of a computer keyboard, where talk is cheap and one does not have to face the inconvenient truth that slavery has not disappeared, has just changed name, all in the benefit of Western consumer society (from China’s sweat shops to the prevailing sex traffic — read the statistics. Enlightening).

  65. @BillT

    the Judeo/Christian ethic provides the only possible moral/ethical basis for opposing slavery.

    I agree with most of what you say, but there are many moral systems that provide a basis for opposing slavery. For example, a moral system based on the golden rule is a sound basis for opposing slavery. Kant’s categorical imperative is another basis for opposing slavery.

  66. Let’s be fair here. This is what Dawkins meant to say but couldn’t say on Twitter:

    “Obviously the choice would be yours. For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort. And, indeed, that is what the great majority of women, in America and especially in Europe, actually do. I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare. I agree that that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn. In any case, you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child. Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice. Having said that, the choice would be entirely yours and I would never dream of trying to impose my views on you or anyone else.”

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:V94R2udiEmIJ:https://richarddawkins.net/2014/08/abortion-down-syndrome-an-apology-for-letting-slip-the-dogs-of-twitterwar/+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    Notice what Dawkins is saying here. There are no absolutes when it comes to protecting the rights of the diabled and the handicapped. A Down’s syndrome child is of less values and worth than a “normal” child, so they don’t have the rights of a normal child. However, notice that freedom of choice is apparently an absolute… Why is that?

    I wonder what Dawkins position on OT slavery is? Does any one know? Is this another example of cherry picking your own moral absolutes? What gives Dawkins the right to declare something is an absolute?

  67. I agree with most of what you say, but there are many moral systems that provide a basis for opposing slavery. For example, a moral system based on the golden rule is a sound basis for opposing slavery. Kant’s categorical imperative is another basis for opposing slavery.

    Yes, but you should put “moral systems” in quotes as I did. That’s because those “morally systems” are completely arbitrary personal beliefs that provide no moral structure or guidance for anyone except those that choose to adopt them. And anyone that does accept them has no basis to expect anyone else to follow them. Therefore, it’s not really a moral system, it’s just a personal choice.

  68. That’s because those “morally systems” are completely arbitrary personal beliefs that provide no moral structure or guidance for anyone except those that choose to adopt them. And anyone that does accept them has no basis to expect anyone else to follow them. Therefore, it’s not really a moral system, it’s just a personal choice.

    I can’t think of any moral systems that are completely arbitrary personal beliefs. Usually they are carefully reasoned out, e.g. Kant’s categorical imperative.

    Perhaps you mean they aren’t completely objective, as in completely independent of people’s opinions?

    Even to regard Christianity as having objective moral values requires that you believe it. To those who just think it is another man-made religion it isn’t objective at all. So as Christians we have no basis for expecting others to follow Christianity’s values.

  69. I wonder what Dawkins position on OT slavery is?

    Dawkins indicates he holds to a utilitarian system of moral values, although he seems rather uninformed about the happiness of those who happen to have Downs syndrome and their families.

    So I suppose he holds a utilitarian view on slavery, whatever that means in practice (I suspect he doesn’t really know).

  70. “Someone might persist, “But why is God the standard of moral value?” The question is somewhat misconceived. Anyone has the right to present his moral theory and to explain its parameters. Every moral theory will posit some moral ultimate which serves as an explanatory stopping point. The apropos question will be whether that moral theory is plausible, in particular whether its moral ultimate is a non-arbitrary and adequate stopping point. In contrast to atheism, theism has a non-arbitrary and adequate stopping point. For God is by definition the greatest conceivable being, a being which is worthy of worship. Nothing higher could be imagined. Thus, identifying the Good with God Himself supplies a foundation for a plausible moral theory. Your second question about the alleged circularity of the moral argument is more easily resolved. As I’ve explained elsewhere, when the theist says that God is the Good, he is making an ontological claim, not a semantical [epistemological] claim. He is emphatically not offering a definition of the words “good” or “obligatory” in terms of God and His commands. He takes these words to have their usual dictionary meanings. That is precisely why I don’t offer definitions of such terms. The moral argument isn’t about moral semantics. It’s a metaphysical claim about the grounding of moral values and duties. Semantically, the theist is on common ground with secular ethicists in using ethical terms with their usual meanings. So the moral argument cannot be justifiably accused of circularity or triviality.” (W.L. Craig)

    Of course, blind axiom’s death of circularity just is where atheism’s prescriptive dies its death within its descriptive. The arbitrary end which cannot precede nor transcend the taste buds of the taster is where Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape falls off the cliff as “happiness” and “good” leave the door open to call all sorts of evil and abuse that which is – in what is a hard stop – true good and true happiness, in the past, in the present, and of course in wherever man’s peaks and nadirs will take him in the future. Should an ice age come well then all sorts of definitions will change as “the greatest good” shifts this way or that way. And so on in countless permutations. The hard stop just is wholly arbitrary, an ever shifting hard stop (radically different from Christianity’s Means and Ends of Immutable Love), and just never immune to environment, taste, and selective drift amid such things.

    That is merely the Prescriptive side of atheism’s (Sam Harris’) failed “moral landscape”.

    Its Descriptive side suddenly takes us to the wholly indifferent as genomic perpetuation assumes the Valuable, the Preferred, the Good and therein all those evolutionary neurobio-packages engrained within the contours of what actualizes as today’s very alive, (we can pick any random anything), say, [name any horror here] just is here expressly because it was selected, favored, valued by the blind, the pitiless, and the indifferent. Hard Stop.

    Whereas:

    Motions within personhood’s moral landscape of all that just is the triune milieu of Self-Other-Us finds what just is the Moral First Cause in that ceaseless reciprocity within the immutable love of the Necessary Being. The Singular Prescriptive-Descriptive. All those doors which atheism’s moral landscape stands unable to close are found in Him not only closed, but are in Him non-entity. We find in Him the Anchor, the Unchanging Ontology which ever loans at unimaginable interest rates to atheism’s epistemology, as all the atheist’s accounting is found ever borrowing, ever in debt to Immutable Love Who is in all possible worlds, in all possible state-of-affairs, love’s immutable First Cause.

  71. bigbird,

    They are arbitrary, or perhaps subjective is a better word, because they are completely dependent on the beliefs of the person. One can adopt humanism, the categorical imperative or any other basis for one’s own personal moral beliefs, or even change them from day to day depending on how one is feeling. The Christian basis for morality isn’t based in one’s own beliefs. It’s an objective system that is part of our overall belief system. One cannot decide they don’t work for them today but maybe will tomorrow. That non believers don’t find them binding is beside the point. They still constitute an objective orientation quite the opposite of the subjective beliefs you describe.

  72. I think it’s important to allow the skeptic a certain measure of the benefit of the doubt when first approaching the idea of Christian ethics. The skeptic may ask questions with a measure of cynicism that’s unworthy of them, i.e. “If God is so good why does He endorse slavery?” The question hangs on the word “endorse” and the measure of cynicism is proportionate to the persistence to which they insist on us working under it’s connotations. We, of course, know the difference between “tolerate” and “endorse,” and the former is the only term that survives the implications of the whole Biblical narrative. If Christians insist that we cannot ignore it, the skeptic would have to pay attention to it for the conversation to be worth while. So far, as we’ve seen in this conversation, there hasn’t been a thorough reckoning on the part of the skeptics with the Biblical narrative, there have only been complaints of “God would have done it my way if He really only tolerated slavery.”

    This is where the conversation turns almost futile. It complains of an all-knowing God dealing with a culture that is simply outside of our socio-ethical imaginations. Like I pointed out above, we simply cannot imagine the mindset that enjoyed the Colosseum’s blood sport as a celebrated social norm. That seems, appropriately, so horrifying to us that I don’t think we’d even be able to begin a dialogue with the Roman citizen about it without seeming totally insane to one another, probably in equal amounts mutually. So to with the Israeli slave who chooses to bind himself to his master’s house for life, by an act of free-will.

    For the skeptic to really have a case, they would have to have an empathic understanding of the Ancient Near East on an individual and social level that is just not available to them. Our argument then is forced to become “If you were all-knowing, you would understand the futility and danger of the prescriptions you are assigning to a world that you can’t claim to understand as you are right now.” This, combined with the refusal to deal with the rest of the narrative, betrays a cynicism that is too self-enforced to actually argue with. I’m not saying someone has to agree with us and everything we say, I’m saying for this particular argument, the earnest skeptic would have to move themselves from the tiny corridor of empathetic projections back into a world that they don’t know how to empathize with. The key to doing that is to admit a certain level of epistemic humility and to deal with the broader narrative with at least some credibility.

    The question THEN becomes “How does the Christian take this collection of ancient texts and form normative ethics from it?” THAT is a fascinating question that takes a lot of hard work. The conversation then becomes a comparison of Christian ethics and secular ethics, and that’s where I’m totally comfortable giving the skeptic the benefit of the doubt, because I believe Christian ethics are superior in ways that go beyond the system’s grounds of rationalization. The authoritative origins of a good and true ethic are important, and the skeptic will have a certain degree of difficulty with that, but what’s as important is their present and future implications.

    The West’s liberal ideals in a secular/atheist framework are practically mysticism. This idea of a “fundamental human right” in an evolutionary context is, as Bentham stated, “nonsense on stilts.” This is going beyond the otherwise-humble claims of the skeptic that morality is just a thing we have built into us, and is good for our evolutionary benefit. That’s fine, I can handle that and say “Ok well, good luck!” But then they go on to appeal to some concept of equality among individuals, which is utterly and perfectly contradictory to the fitness paradigm of the evolutionary future which we are bound to. The question to the skeptic is, how can you assert equality into a future that you anticipate will involve conditions requiring unfitness of certain types of individuals in the species? How can you begin to guess that our current, or ANY, pursuit of happiness is the scientifically verified insurance of survival and fitness for the species in the context of fundamental human rights and equality?

    I certainly don’t advocate judging the truth of a claim based on its consequences. However, for all the times that I am accused of cognitive dissonance, which I may be guilty of, I cannot imagine living under the volume of cognitive dissonance in saying incidental meat robots called humans have “fundamental human rights” while KNOWING those human rights could cause conditions that would be evolutionarily disastrous.

  73. GM,

    I just wanted to say that your recent appearance here and your contributions to this site and these discussions has been nothing short of exemplary. Thank you and I hope you continue to favor us with your thoughts and ideas.

  74. The Christian basis for morality isn’t based in one’s own beliefs. It’s an objective system that is part of our overall belief system. One cannot decide they don’t work for them today but maybe will tomorrow. That non believers don’t find them binding is beside the point. They still constitute an objective orientation quite the opposite of the subjective beliefs you describe.

    This is true for almost any system of morality based on a religion – as long as you hold to your religion, you hold to its morality, which is objective in the same way Christianity is.

    Similarly, if you are a utilitarian, as long as you choose to hold to that moral position, you (in theory anyway), have an objective moral basis. You can’t change your mind tomorrow unless you jettison your moral system (and are no longer a utilitarian).

    In fact, unless you’re a moral relativist (which is philosophically incoherent) or an emotivist (likewise), you are probably using an objective moral system.

    It’s true of course, that if you are a humanist you have a choice of moral systems you can adopt. But once you have chosen one, it is an objective basis for morality as far as you are concerned (unless you’ve chosen relativism, which virtually no-one does).

    The crux of the matter is actually the “ought” – Christianity (and other divine command theories) explain why we ought to follow their objective moral commands.

    This is where Sam Harris stumbles in *The Moral Landscape*. He presents an objective moral system (basically utilitarian in nature), but cannot explain why we ought to follow it.

    I bring this up because it is common to see Christians making claims about objective moral values, as if no-one else has objective moral values. It’s a lot more nuanced than that.

  75. Similarly, if you are a utilitarian, as long as you choose to hold to that moral position, you (in theory anyway), have an objective moral basis. You can’t change your mind tomorrow unless you jettison your moral system (and are no longer a utilitarian).

    I think you are muddying the waters with this language. On what basis are you saying a morality is objective simply because you have chosen to adopt it? There has to be more to it than that. At the very least, a moral reality has to exist so that you can accept and follow it. That, in my mind, is what it means for a morality to be objective.

  76. On what basis are you saying a morality is objective simply because you have chosen to adopt it?

    No, I’m using “objective” in the usual way, meaning “not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts”, or not subjective.

    Utilitarianism, like many moral systems, is based on something that can be measured (at least in theory although it is difficult in practice), i.e. it has an objective basis.

    What is missing (as is with all non-divine command theories) is the ought – the reason why utilitarianism should be chosen at all.

    At the very least, a moral reality has to exist so that you can accept and follow it. That, in my mind, is what it means for a morality to be objective.

    I don’t know what the statement “a moral reality has to exist” actually means. Are you talking about moral realism?

    I suspect what many Christians actually mean when they talk about objective moral values is transcendent moral values.

  77. bigbird,

    This wasn’t a discussion about the nuances of objective morality. All that and you have brought us nothing but an exercise in semantics. Well done.

  78. I don’t know what the statement “a moral reality has to exist” actually means. Are you talking about moral realism?

    If you look to your statement just above this one, you’ll find that you provided the answer.

    “What is missing (as is with all non-divine command theories) is the ought – the reason why utilitarianism should be chosen at all.”

    You need a real thing that can give you the missing ought. That’s the moral reality that I referred to. You agree it’s missing.

  79. This wasn’t a discussion about the nuances of objective morality. All that and you have brought us nothing but an exercise in semantics. Well done.

    You were the one who made the claim “the Judeo/Christian ethic provides the only possible moral/ethical basis for opposing slavery”. That’s obviously false, so I pointed it out.

    You then continued the discussion on morality. It seems rather churlish to then make a pseudo-accusation of “an exercise in semantics” when I continued discussing what you brought up.

  80. Gmarley –

    Prisoners of war is a matter of state serfdom, which is pretty different from buying an individual.

    I imagine the individuals themselves would have a harder time making the distinction. In any case, that doesn’t seem to square with Numbers 31:26-27.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not claiming that slavery in Israel was as bad in all respects as slavery in the American south. But “not as evil” isn’t “good” is a central Christian doctrine, no?

    It would be bizarre to not write down caveats on a law with such broad implications if there were any caveats to begin with.

    This claim seems inconsistent with the explanation for Leviticus 25:44-46 – if caveats are to be expected, then why wouldn’t there be caveats about a law that explicitly allows for buying and inheriting of slaves?

    You make a huge jump from tolerance to endorsement from God’s perspective that doesn’t take into account the moral vision of the biblical narrative.

    I don’t see tolerance of slavery as all that much better than endorsement of slavery, really. “The prison I run isn’t as bad as a Soviet Gulag, so it must be all right!”

    Why doesn’t “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you” do both?

    When slavery is explicitly allowed, it becomes more a behest to treat slaves well, than an invitation to free slaves, so far as I can tell.

    JAD –

    The internet atheists also fail to comprehend that the ancient near east (ANE) was NOT an advanced modern society and culture with an industrialized urban economy but a very primative tribal culture with an agrarian economy that was based in large part on subsistance farming.

    Technology does indeed drive morals, or at least the application of morals, very often. Indeed, pretty much the first thing I ever posted here noted that slavery was a step up from ‘slaughter everybody’. In a subsistence situation, perhaps a case for slavery could be made.

    Of course, I have no reason to conclude that God couldn’t convey technological knowledge as well as spiritual. (A specific point here.)

    scblhrm – Be careful about putting quote marks around words that aren’t actual quotes. Tom doesn’t like it.

  81. Ray,

    Quote Marks are of the “Theme” you continue to foist.

    Stop seeming surprised that the Law does not aim at Moral Excellence. Stop talking as if the OT (or the NT) calls the Law that which brings Moral Excellence, that which defines Moral Excellence or Man’s True Good. Stop defining the OT differently than the OT defines the OT. Stop ignoring the pesky landscape of Scripture’s Meta-Narrative.

    Then the quote marks implying Theme need not apply to what has been shown in this thread to be the Critic’s overall theme oddly free of scriptural definitions, themes, and meta-narratives.

  82. @Ray

    Technology does indeed drive morals, or at least the application of morals, very often.

    I’m interested to know what you mean by this.

  83. Ray, the difference between tolerate and endorse is massive, so long as the tolerance is temporary. I’m not prepared to die on the hill of any of my arguments about what slavery in ancient Israel was like in specifics. I’m just calling it like I see it, and if I’m wrong, then that’s fine. Within a certain margin of error, say excluding Isrealites being allowed to eat their slaves alive, the main crux of my argument that God dealt with a culture as it was for aims concerning a better future, in a way that was realistic, subversive and creative, is the hill I will die on.

    If we take the evidence of pending ecological problems seriously, which I do, everyone with a carbon footprint is contributing to what could be a calamity. Like a really scary situation. We should absolutely do what we can to minimize the coming damage. However, even knowing what we know, the idea of just halting all use of fossil fuels, globally, tomorrow, isn’t an option that’s on the table. The global economy would dissolve, and urban centers would become a cesspool of starvation. We are in a technologically-dependant culture and we simply can’t do anything else without a major cataclysm, even if doing nothing results in a cataclysm. We simply have to wait until a better option is available and hopefully learn a little something about being a civilization based on limitless consumption.

    Now that’s not a perfect analogy, but in some ways its very similar. Certain assumptions lead to a destructive system that penetrated our social consciousness very deeply. If a technological alternative came along that met certain types of basic needs we have and halted the damage to the environment, but limited our mobility and amount we could consume, I’m very confident that we would have a hell of a time getting past our sense of entitlement to unlimited options. We have to start coming to grips with the very real possibility that our survival isn’t JUST a matter of technology, but of moral assumptions of what our lives should be like.

    If we applied the example of God temporarily tolerating a practice while subverting the assumptions necessary for that practice, we would begin to equip future generations with the moral understanding they will probably need to derail the destructive industrial and consumption patterns that are threatening this planet so gravely. I think we are scratching that surface, but only just.

    But now, let’s look where the analogy breaks down. Slavery never posed an existential threat to the species. Imagine if our fuel-based, individualist, consumer economy didn’t damage the planet, but still resulted in huge inequities in economic classes (which it does.) How much harder would it be to convince people that self-limitation is a moral imperative simply for the benefit of others without ecological collapse looming over their heads to the point of real, creative change. Even WITH mass media, you’re talking generations of social reprogramming for any hope of significant results.

    We have done what we can, in this conversation, to establish an intent in God’s actions and words that deal with the reality of the human heart while working in history, WITH humans as key participants in that project. IF God is morally at fault in “endorsing” slavery, the job of the critic is to demonstrate the premise of God’s future-oriented, creation repairing agenda as a falsehood, and that the Sinai covenant represents His ideal for all mankind, forever. Until the critic does that, trying to force “endorse” into the key hole of temporary, forward looking tolerance is dialectical wishful thinking.

  84. GM,

    Thanks so much for your coherent and on-point analysis and summaries in this discussion.

    Earlier in this thread, I brought up the importance of actually examining the slavery laws of the Colony of Virginia around 1660 when black slavery was declared legal with the laws regarding servitude in Exodus and Leviticus. No atheist who claims that biblical slavery was as evil as slavery in the American ante-bellum South has taken me up on this challenge, so I want to elaborate on why examining the law is important in this argument, and important to Christianity. I refer to Jesus Christ’s words:

    Matthew 5:17 New Living Translation

    “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”

    I especially like this translation of this verse because rather than using the word “fulfill” it says “accomplish their [the laws’] purpose.” This makes clear that all laws are made to fulfill or accomplish some specific purpose. The slavery laws of colony (and later state) of Virginia had as their purpose to make black people, based solely on their race, permanent slaves for life and for all generations. As the laws state, slavery was to be the “normal condition” of all black people, with no real possibility of ever achieving a change in their status of servitude. The slavery laws of Virginia also had as their purpose to exempt any slave owner from legal penalties for mistreatment and murder of their slaves, as well as to severely penalize anyone who aided and abetted a slave’s escape. Compare this intent in the Virginia slave laws to the intent and purpose of the laws of servanthood in the Old Testament.

    So, when Jesus came to fulfill or accomplish the purpose of the Law of Moses, speaking against all forms of human bondage (poverty, disease, sin), no one can credibly claim that the intent of the Law of Moses, in retrospect, was to enslave human beings and condemn them to bondage. This interpretation of the relationship between the laws of the OT in light of Jesus’ teachings simply makes no sense. Therefore, the claim that “God endorses slavery” because of the Hebrews’ laws intended to ameliorate human suffering and provide for eventual release from bondage is clearly untenable, as you say, in light of the “meta-narrative” of Judaism and Christianity.

    Thanks. JB

  85. The OT is unmistakable in Genesis, the Prophets, and so on throughout its landscape. Jeremiah defines such immutable ends as Christ speaks of as the OT there and elsewhere defines the Old / New (Paradigms) precisley as Christ defines them.

    Its observable seamlessness in scripture, history, metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology.

  86. You were the one who made the claim “the Judeo/Christian ethic provides the only possible moral/ethical basis for opposing slavery”. That’s obviously false, so I pointed it out.

    It wasn’t “obviously false” unless you were being intentionally dense or obstinately contentious. Your choice.

  87. Jenna and BillT,
    Thank you for the kind words. And I’d also like to thank our challengers for civil and sincere inquiry. I feel challenged and encouraged learn more. I respect that a lot.

    I’d like to take a moment to comment on a surrounding factor in these conversations. In moral challenges to God’s actions and instructions, the question, in it’s finest form, is “Why did God do this?” I want to let the skeptics know that this is a question in Christianity that is in a certain place of reverence.

    Jesus of Nazareth was, if nothing else, a man certain of His vocation. He knew He was going to suffer to a horrifying degree, and He seemed absolutely certain of the purpose of His sufferings, “for the ransom of many.” This is beyond any hope of purpose for any of our sufferings. Perhaps we hope that because, say, we suffer a certain sickness, more research will lead to alleviating others, or our poverty will lead to better legal protection for the poor. Those would be lofty hopes, maybe even the ceilings of what we could hope without blushing. No one would dare to hope that their sufferings would actually cure death. But we hope with the idea that maybe the realizations of those hopes would somehow make the suffering more tolerable.

    But, so, Jesus knew. He said so. He went into the trial knowing, however terrified He was.

    And yet, in the agony, He asked “Why? God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”

    He KNEW the answer to the question, and yet the suffering demanded “Why?” Now, as a Christian, I believe something cosmic and unknowable was happening on the cross. Chesterton describes it as a tear in the absolute, something not for us to understand “in all of the eternity it purchased for us.” So, I don’t want to claim too much relation to the instance. But still. The suffering demanded an answer beyond facts.

    I do my best to keep this in the back of my head during these conversations. There is something about suffering that makes all philosophical calculations null. Even if I had a swift, blunt, tweet-able answer that everyone would be compelled by even crude reasoning alone to understand and accept without retort, are we so sure that resolve all the issues? Is it possible that the question has as many existential elements as philosophical?

    As a matter of dialectics, religious mystery is a dead end. But, and this is the part that the skeptic simply cannot tolerate, it is not a comprehensive dead end. Mystery is not an excuse to stop thinking about something. Mystery invites us to ask “Why?” but to adjust our expectations of what will come back in answer. I say adjust, I do not say lower. Mystery allows us to be open to unexpected truths experientially, truths that may not be available, or as valuable, through direct, domain-specific inquiry. A philosopher’s paper may demonstrate God to be some maximal X, and that’s fine. But when I ask God “Why?” and I feel that maximal X press on me AS THE ANSWER, the “Why?” becomes more valuable than an explanation on the question’s own terms.

    TS Eliot describes this magnificently:

    I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
    Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
    The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
    With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
    And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
    And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away—
    Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
    And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
    And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
    Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
    Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing—
    I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
    For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
    For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
    But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
    Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
    So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
    Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
    The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
    The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
    Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
    Of death and birth.

    You say I am repeating
    Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
    Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
    To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
    You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
    In order to arrive at what you do not know
    You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
    In order to possess what you do not possess
    You must go by the way of dispossession.
    In order to arrive at what you are not
    You must go through the way in which you are not.
    And what you do not know is the only thing you know
    And what you own is what you do not own
    And where you are is where you are not.

    If the Christian is not allowed mystery, if our faith is untenable if it cannot be explained in nth-degree-minutae to nth-degree modern philosophical drilling on the subjective terms of infinite skeptical inquiry, then there is no such thing as a tenable world view. Nothing could survive that kind of dialectical scouring. It’s where “marketplace of ideas” ends and “verbal prison riot” begins.

  88. @BillT

    It wasn’t “obviously false” unless you were being intentionally dense or obstinately contentious. Your choice.

    There’s nothing like a false dichotomy is there? There is at least one other option.

    A moral system based on the Golden Rule (the ethic of reciprocity, and certainly not confined to the Judeo-Christian tradition) in my opinion is obviously anti-slavery. And Kant’s categorical imperative is certainly anti-slavery.That makes your claim obviously false to me.

    If you want to make bold claims like “the Judeo/Christian ethic provides the only possible moral/ethical basis for opposing slavery” on a forum like this, you should expect that if the claim is not true, someone will point this out. Many atheists frequent these forums, and a claim like that is guaranteed to arouse ire.

  89. Kant comes close.

    Obviously BillT merely brings the a priori imperative of Do-X to its natural end at the footstep of the next – necessary – regress. That of necessary content, grounding. It is here where systems begin to falter as our lens zooms in. Having borrowed the semantics of Immutable Love all but one system find some other some-thing both preceding and outdistancing what ends as means lacking such reach. The Moral Landscapes there begin to outreach their own natural boundaries. Immutable Love finds us in the lap of Personhood’s inescapably triune milieu of Self-Other-Us within the ceaseless reciprocity of the immutable love of the Necessary Being. Therein love’s eternal sacrifice of the Self – poured out – amid, among the unending filling of the Beloved brings us to the ends of what we call sight as we peer into He Who precedes and outlasts all landscapes, Who endures, outreaches, all possible worlds.

  90. bigbird,

    You continue to miss the obvious and the point I’ve made numerous times. The choice to adopt the golden rule or the categorical imperative is an arbitrary personal choice with no more weight to it than one’s personal whim. “Moral systems” that wholly rest on such tenuous foundations can’t be the basis for the opposition to slavery. As I also pointed out a number of times, they are not really even binding to the person who chooses them and certainly even less binding for anyone else. And that’s not to mention that Christianity was the basis for the end of legalized slavery. This when the golden rule and the categorical imperative were both available as alternative bases. You’ve made two of the three mistakes that the secularists make that I pointed out in my #69.

  91. bigbird,

    Think about it this way. How much different is it saying “I adopt the categorical imperative, thus slavery is wrong” to “I say slavery is wrong”. How can either of those statements be the ethical/moral foundation for the end of slavery or even a principled opposition to it? They can’t because they are both just personal choices. Like you said (and I think most understood from my post) they lack the “ought”. This is the secularist’s blind spot. They say”slavery is wrong based on my humanism.” I say “Why should I or anyone give a hoot about your humanism.”

  92. How much different is it saying “I adopt the categorical imperative, thus slavery is wrong” to “I say slavery is wrong”.

    In this case, the categorical imperative is a useful fiction that was invented out of thin air so that a person can say “slavery is wrong” with more force. It’s a rhetorical ploy that carries as much weight as saying “slavery is wrong” while stomping your feet and making an angry face.

  93. @BillT

    How much different is it saying “I adopt the categorical imperative, thus slavery is wrong” to “I say slavery is wrong”. How can either of those statements be the ethical/moral foundation for the end of slavery or even a principled opposition to it? They can’t because they are both just personal choices.

    The categorical imperative (to Kant) was not a personal choice – it was an inevitable result of considering the rationality of conscious beings with freedom of choice. That’s why it is an imperative.

    True, no-one is obliged to follow it, just like no-one is obliged to adopt Christianity. Everyone makes a personal choice of their religion or moral system. But if you accept its derivation and adopt it, then opposition to slavery follows.

    This is the secularist’s blind spot. They say”slavery is wrong based on my humanism.” I say “Why should I or anyone give a hoot about your humanism.”

    How is your personal choice of Christianity different to someone else’s personal choice of, say, humanism? Why should anyone give a hoot about your Christianity? Because you believe in a God they think is a fiction?

    @SteveK

    In this case, the categorical imperative is a useful fiction that was invented out of thin air so that a person can say “slavery is wrong” with more force. It’s a rhetorical ploy that carries as much weight as saying “slavery is wrong” while stomping your feet and making an angry face.

    No, Kant spent a great deal of time and effort deriving his categorical imperative in its various formulations based on reason. It is a detailed logical argument on how to treat other rational beings. See Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals – it’s an impressive work.

    Now I’m not attached to the categorical imperative, although I have a great admiration for Kant’s development of his moral system.

    But I do think it is important not to be contemptuous of the moral systems of others, particularly when they have put a great deal of thought into developing them and you may know little about them. That insults people, and is my main point here.

    I think what you are both are trying to get at is that Christianity provides a set of objective moral values in the sense that they are moral facts independent of human opinion (provided by God), and that this gives them special status – providing the necessary “ought” that other moral systems lack as we’ve already talked about. I largely agree with this.

    But it turns out that the majority of philosophers out there are moral realists, most of who are not Christians. Even Sam Harris is a moral realist. So they believe in moral facts independent of human opinion too, but they have a different route for justification and determining what they are. For example, GE Moore was an ethical intuitionist, who believed in moral facts using intuition to justify his beliefs. Others use empirical arguments.

    Now you can argue that their justification is inadequate or incoherent, but it is unfair to accuse them of arbitrary choice of morals on a whim.

    It’s probably not a debate for this thread whether you can truly be a moral realist without being a theist, but it is an interesting question. Ultimately I don’t think you can be.

  94. If we ever see an ontological regress which ends in Love’s Landscape – where “end” means Actuality’s Hard Stop and not merely the end of the particular system’s particular playpen, then we could take such a paradigm and dialogue on such.

    But we’ve seen no such paradigm as that presented. Blind axiom sneaks in ahead of some ontological bedrock which precedes it, outdistances it.

    Every time.

    Except in one peculiar paradigm:

    Immutable Love finds us in the lap of Personhood’s inescapably triune milieu of Self-Other-Us within the ceaseless reciprocity of the immutable love of the Necessary Being. Therein love’s eternal sacrifice of the Self – poured out – amid, among the unending filling of the Beloved brings us to the ends of what we call sight as we peer into He Who precedes and outlasts all landscapes, Who endures, outreaches, all possible worlds.

  95. Now you can argue that their justification is inadequate or incoherent, but it is unfair to accuse them of arbitrary choice of morals on a whim.

    It’s not unfair at all. If a person attempts to ground their “moral facts independent of human opinion” in a being or in objects that are inadequate or incoherent then their decision to stand firmly on that choice isn’t reasonable.

    Now, you can say that this basis, this grounding, is difficult to understand or grasp but that is VERY different than the grounding being inadequate or incoherent. God is difficult to understand and grasp. God is not inadequate or incoherent.

    Do Kant and others resolve their problems or do they just insist that they are correct?

  96. Regarding my last sentence, my understanding of Sam Harris is that he thinks “moral facts independent of human opinion” is compatible with naturalism.

    When several problems are pointed out as to why the two concepts cannot logically coexist, it’s unreasonable to think that Sam’s view has rendered BillT’s comment “obviously false”.

  97. bigbird –

    Technology does indeed drive morals, or at least the application of morals, very often.

    I suppose to be most precise, technology has a profound effect on ethics, on how morals are applied. What you must do is affected by what you are actually able to do. Total war against the Axis powers made sense. Total war against the Soviets during the Cold War didn’t, because nukes. There were initial moral objections to things like heart surgery, or anesthesia during childbirth, or lightning rods – objections which seem unintelligible today, after having assimilated those technologies.

    It’s almost forgotten now in the developed world, but one of the early antibiotics was chloramphenicol. It’s an effective drug, but it has a rather larger incidence of toxic side effects than more recently-developed drugs. It’s relatively cheap and easy to produce, however, and is still used in economically-strapped areas of the world. Gmarley has another example, with fossil fuels.

    Check out this essay, and reflect on how many of those positive changes in moral behavior would be possible without the associated technological advances. Armies used to ‘forage’ for food as they traveled – i.e. strip the civilians and farms bare of food as they passed. Modern logistics and MREs has changed that.

    Technology has changed privacy, in practice, drastically. We’re still figuring out how to handle that change.

    Lots of people disagree, of course, but contraception has certainly at least changed the practices of many.

    The basic ideas of doing unto others as you would have done to yourself doesn’t change. But what can be done to others or yourselves changes drastically. This is central to the argument that slavery was necessary, or at least unavoidable, in the ANE.

  98. It’s not unfair at all. If a person attempts to ground their “moral facts independent of human opinion” in a being or in objects that are inadequate or incoherent then their decision to stand firmly on that choice isn’t reasonable.

    That assumes you can demonstrate that the grounding of their moral facts is inadequate or incoherent. I doubt that’s something you’ve done, and it’s unlikely to be doable in a blog post.

    Irrespective of this, you can hardly accuse people like Sam Harris or Kant of choosing their morality arbitrarily. Have you published a book explaining and justifying your moral outlook? They both did, so they’ve clearly given a great deal of deliberation to their position.

    Also your (and my) grounding of morality in God is just as incoherent to those who do not think the existence of God is coherent or adequately demonstrated.

    Anyway, the reason I bother writing any of this is that Christians needlessly arouse the ire and contempt of atheists and others by trumpeting the superiority of their moral values and being dismissive of those of others, often without understanding them. I guess that’s part of the reason why atheists respond with such glee when Christian hypocrisy is exposed in scandals such as child abuse in the Catholic church.

  99. That assumes you can demonstrate that the grounding of their moral facts is inadequate or incoherent.

    This has been done for many potential grounding candidates. Not by me, but by others.

    Anyway, the reason I bother writing any of this is that Christians needlessly arouse the ire and contempt of atheists and others by trumpeting the superiority of their moral values and being dismissive of those of others, often without understanding them.

    Let’s look at some of the more recent grounding candidates. (1) Orbiting teapots, (2) cause/effect relationships involving matter, energy, time and biological mutations and (3) Flying Spaghetti Monsters.

    Am I being needlessly dismissive when I cite reasons why each of these candidates are inferior to God? A “yes” answer is what I’m hearing from you.

  100. Ok I’ll jump in.

    I’m somewhere between Steve/Bill and BigBird.

    I think most atheists who have any cultural clout are utilitarians, even if they don’t actually cite the name. I accept the argument that “happiness” is just more preferable to “unhappiness.” Which, as far as a dialectical grounding goes, fine. I don’t see any point in trying to engage that isolated statement. If someone wants to try to form normative morals from that, go right ahead, and best of luck. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the general challenges that follow. But a basic argument for a grounding of a moral system as a concept, sure. Good.

    What I don’t understand, at all, is how the atheist can claim specific moral cornerstones of modern liberalism like equality and “fundamental” human rights is anything but vague mysticism in an atheistic framework. That is the strange turn I’m waiting for the conversation to take.

    Positivist, scientific naturalists and postmodern liberal humanities types both regard the Church as a pariah, so as of right now, they more or less have a common enemy to distract themselves from each other with. Take that enemy out of the conversation, and those two schools of thought are ready to eat each other.

    We saw a miniature version of it in the A+ wars on internet forums, but those are pretty isolated from actual culture formation. Wait for the panic when atheist college professors start LOUDLY pronouncing that natural human rights are, as Bentham put it, “nonsense on stilts.” It’s going to be absolutely hilarious.

  101. That assumes you can demonstrate that the grounding of their moral facts is inadequate or incoherent.

    This has been done for many potential grounding candidates. Not by me, but by others.

    References?

    Over 50% of practising philosophers are moral realists according to philpapers. 15% are theists. So at least 35% of practising philosophers are moral realists without relying on theism. I think it is fair to assume they don’t regard their views on moral realism as incoherent.

    Let’s look at some of the more recent grounding candidates. (1) Orbiting teapots, (2) cause/effect relationships involving matter, energy, time and biological mutations and (3) Flying Spaghetti Monsters.

    Whenever someone reverts to orbiting teapots or the FSM to try to make a point, I just can’t take them seriously (usually they are atheists). Neither have been suggested as grounding candidates by anyone that I’m aware of. Who knows what you mean by (2) – it sounds like the grounding for nihilism, not moral realism.

    If you are interested in learning something about moral realism, In defense of non-natural non-theistic moral realism has some useful discussion,

    A relevant quote is this:

    “Adams, Craig, and I all agree, then, that objective morality is somehow built into reality. We all posit a moral foundation of substantive, metaphysically necessary brute ethical facts. They also see divinity as built into reality, whereas I do not. But it is a mistake to think that on their approaches, the divinity that is built into reality provides a complete external foundation for objective morality. On both types of views, the bottom floor of objective morality rests ultimately on nothing.

    The ethical shopping list of Adams, Craig, and Moreland contains items like this: (a) there is a being that is worthy of worship, (b) if the Good commands you to do something, then you are morally obligated to do it, and (c) the better the character of the commander, the more reason there is to obey his or her commands. My ethical shopping list contains items like this: (d) pain is intrinsically bad, (e) inflicting pain just for fun is morally wrong, and (f) it is just to give people what they deserve. None of us can provide an external foundation for every item on our list; each of our lists contains some brute ethical facts.

    In light of this, one can perhaps forgive the non-theistic moral realist for being somewhat underwhelmed by the argument that endorsing that there is a being worthy of worship as a basic ethical fact is less arbitrary than, say, endorsing that pleasure is an intrinsic good as a basic ethical fact.”

    The point being, of course, that there is nothing special as far as anyone else is concerned about grounding your morals on the brute fact of God’s existence. That’s just as arbitrary as grounding your morals on the value of human flourishing.

    If God exists (as we believe), that makes all the difference of course. But as far as grounding Christian morality, his existence must be assumed as a brute fact.

  102. bigbird,

    I think the above takes the idea that “each of our lists contains some brute ethical facts.” a bit far. To wit: “inflicting pain just for fun is morally wrong” is certainly a brute fact. On the other hand: “there is a being that is worthy of worship” is supported by a number of pretty good philosophical arguments beginning but not ending with Aquinas’ Five Ways.

    The moral realists want morality to be real but they are grounding it in brute facts from top to bottom. On the other hand, theists posit the existence of God not as a brute fact but as a logical inference grounded in well reasoned argumentation. That doesn’t mean anyone has to accept those arguments but saying “there is a being that is worthy of worship” isn’t a brute fact in any way as compared to “inflicting pain just for fun is morally wrong” (which is circular as well as being a brute fact).

  103. bigbird,

    Obviously you know such things, though, for a reader or two:

    It is not the assumption of true/false which matters here in what any of these argue. It is the “If X is the end of reality, Then Y is the net moral fact left standing, if any.”

    It’s not a matter of the systems statement of morality; anyone can assert a coherent and capable object in X. The unpacking of X’s nature and contents is the actual statement the system actually makes on what moral fact is cogently left standing at the end of all regression and that is what is in play here.

    Systems which begin and end in the brainstem are one thing. But no one here is speaking of that. Rather, we are speaking specifically of the assertion that there are Moral Facts at the end of, not the brainstem, but of all Actuality.

    “I feel X” is fine. It’s a real feeling. Thus it is a real moral. But, as you know, such is not the sort of objective moral end of regress we are talking about.

    No. Rather, when Earth or Man or both cease to exist and are not in the picture, the moral fact outside of opinion just is never explained by anything even remotely resembling immutable moral ends.

    The author in your quote can assert all day long, all he wants, that X rests on nothing. If logical regressions to locations of moral facts outside of opinion are no-thing, then the quote would be right, but logical regressions are far from expendable, far from no-thing and so his assertion is actually absurd. If those regressions to those locations are not what the author references, then he isn’t talking about moral systems which claim moral facts which precede and outdistance our species, our planet, our world, and, of course, on necessity, all possible worlds.

    As you say, we ought not just shrug-off system A or B just because it is not our own.

    We don’t. Jumping in to the logical end of what are fairly well understood moral landscapes is not shrugging off. It’s (in a blog setting) getting to the point, the real point far, far past the I-Feel’s of the Christian or of the B or of the C . Christian beliefs don’t matter any more than any other, though, logical cogency in one’s regressions do.

    I think it is okay to put up that challenge without needing to have that move called insensitive. Though, you are right that character is often less than flawless.

    Sam Harris concedes that a world of psychopaths perfectly happy and flourishing satisfies the ends of his accessible regression. There is happiness and there is Flourishing.

    Hard Stop.

    False Identity Claim: “Human Flourishing and Happiness is the Morally Good”.

    (Before we get to the quote, note that Harris is too narrow to get past, outside of, our species. Right from the start this cannot posit a Moral Fact outside of a particular species’ opinion/feeling and so this is not even an attempt at a location of moral fact at the end of Actuality. Therefore, it is at its end blind axiom as Harris also is a naturalist and so finds real objects left standing once man is out of the picture, but he finds no moral objects left standing and does not even try).

    “[Sam Harris] makes the telling admission that if people such as rapists, liars, and thieves could be just as happy as good people, then his moral landscape would no longer be a moral landscape; rather it would just be a continuum of well-being, whose peaks are occupied by good and evil people alike. What is interesting about this is that earlier in the book Harris observed that about 3 million Americans are psychopathic, that is to say, they do not care about the mental states of others. On the contrary, they enjoy inflicting pain on other people.

    This implies that we can conceive of a possible world in which the continuum of human well-being is not a moral landscape. The peaks of well-being could be occupied by evil people. But this entails that in the actual world the continuum of well-being and the moral landscape are not identical either. For identity is a necessary relation. There is no possible world in which some entity A is not identical to A. So if there is any possible world in which A is not identical to B, it follows that A is not in fact identical to B. Since it’s possible that human well-being and moral goodness are not identical, it follows necessarily that human well-being and moral goodness are not the same, as Harris has asserted. By granting that it’s possible that the continuum of well-being is not identical to the moral landscape, Harris has rendered his view logically incoherent.

    Thus, Harris has failed to solve the “value problem.” He has not provided any justification or explanation of why, on atheism, objective moral values would exist at all. His so-called solution is just a semantic trick of providing an arbitrary and idiosyncratic redefinition of the words “good” and “evil” in nonmoral terms.” (W.L. Craig)

    And of course the Good, the Lovely often moves us to surrender both happiness and flourishing, and therein not only does Harris’ system fail the simple logical steps of Craig with identity claims, it cannot even match up to our own real, actual, world – the one in which we surrender flourishing and happiness for that other, non-flourishing, non-happiness Thing that is the Moral Good. So even outside of logic, and just right here where we live Harris’ system does not provide an A which is in fact the B.

    If there are no moral objects left standing at the end of one’s metaphysical statement on the contents of reality, one has not even begun to assert that Moral Facts exist necessarily. “Necessarily” is used here in the philosophical sense – as in the Necessary Being and so on.

    This is why (no such objects left standing) all systems outside of Immutable Love fail.

    So let’s all remember that key phrase: No moral objects are left standing once our planet, our species, our temporal universe, is taken out of the regress.

  104. Of course in Hawking’s timeless and immaterial X there may be an immutable moral object left standing. Physics has essentially forced us to leave our temporary and contingent matrix and look into the Landscape of Immaterial Timelessness for – well – Actuality’s Landscape.

  105. @GM

    What I don’t understand, at all, is how the atheist can claim specific moral cornerstones of modern liberalism like equality and “fundamental” human rights is anything but vague mysticism in an atheistic framework. That is the strange turn I’m waiting for the conversation to take.

    Yes, this is a good point. Utilitarianism or consequentialism is, I think, adequate for grounding some basic morals, but it quickly exhausts itself – it gets too complicated for practical use, and begins to throw up some disturbing conclusions.

    I don’t know much about the derivation of human rights, but I’m certainly interested to see how they can be derived from an atheistic framework. If you have any links or references on this I’m very interested to read them.

    @BillT

    The moral realists want morality to be real but they are grounding it in brute facts from top to bottom. On the other hand, theists posit the existence of God not as a brute fact but as a logical inference grounded in well reasoned argumentation.

    I think the main thing that non-theistic moral realists have on their side in the paper I referenced above is that no-one seriously disputes their brute facts. Brute facts they may be, but everyone (well, almost everyone) accepts that pain is bad and that it is wrong to inflict it for fun.

    Whereas the existence of God is a brute fact to non-theists (not theists) and by the very definition of a non-theist, not an accepted brute fact.

    In an ultimate sense, sure, non-theistic moral realism isn’t grounded in the way theistic morality is, but it is still grounded in brute facts accepted by (almost) everyone.

    In practice, of course, it may be that we don’t really know how a society solely based on this kind of morality will turn out. I think as you may have pointed out, many moral systems appropriate Christianity’s morals and simply ensure that their morals mirror the parts that they like.

  106. @scblhrm

    So let’s all remember that key phrase: No moral objects are left standing once our planet, our species, our temporal universe, is taken out of the regress.

    I don’t disagree with you, but it is a fair question for non-theists to say, so what?

    As long as they have a widely accepted foundation of empirical and/or brute facts, it seems quite reasonable, and certainly practical, to ground morality on them.

    The Islamic State is demonstrating quite clearly that a system of morality based on one’s interpretation of God’s requirements isn’t always desirable!

  107. Objective Moral Objects “built into reality” and GM’s Mysticism:

    Many including Kant and Harris and others put forth metaphysical descriptions of paradigm-x with their own reasoned connect the dots. The question of Ought, of Duty, is a whole other topic, one which we’ve yet to see a non-theistic framework grant while avoiding circularity. The simple question of Moral Objects which exist outside of opinion, which both precede and transcend the taste buds of the taster is in play here. Rather robust Naturalists, sincere Buddhist, the glaringly sharp Kant, and Harris’ mix of existentially felt nuance atop what the neuroscience of dopamine and serotonin can grant him in regress, and all other posited systems which assert the existence of Moral Facts / Moral Objects which precede and outlast a particular species’ existence have, so far, failed to unpack any metaphysical regression which cogently demonstrates such.

    As noted, Harris, as a naturalist, finds (real) objects (really) left standing once man is out of the picture, but, he never does find any moral objects left standing outside of the species we call man, once man is taken out of the picture, and he does not even try to locate such a moral object. His entire anthology begins and ends with the experience of the contingent animal and ends in an inescapably false identity claim. In a temporal universe full of unimaginable quanta of dark matter laden beneath unimaginable quanta of void and space, the assertion of morality housed within what is “the flourishing of” the barely noticeable micro-bubble of pitiless genome perpetuation blistering out of the surface of something unimaginably massive only to pop into non-entity just is the absurdity of a Moral Landscape’s false identity claim as found in Harris’ / other atheistic paradigms (as touched on in earlier comments on Harris’s moral landscape). As GM articulated quite well in comments #81 and #110, such paradigms are at bottom genuine mysticism.

    The false claim that Theists (Christians) and Atheists both posit systems of objective moral objects which are found left standing once man is off the stage is a sematic equivocation to redefine “objective moral object” from “a moral object which precedes and outlasts a particular species, which is found left standing outside of and independent from species X” into “objectively real feelings / tastes experienced by species X”. Yes, feelings are “real” in that sense of the word “real”. Unfortunately, paradigms which at the start claim to defend objective moral objects which are found left standing outside of and independent from species X (Man in our case) just do – in the end – regress to that equivocation on the term “real” (Real Feelings within species X) rather than to objective moral facts left standing outside of and independent from the opinions / feelings of species X.

    Any system which claims that Moral Objects, Moral Facts, objectively exist outside of a particular species’ opinions / feelings must cogently connect the dots for Logic to follow to such objects preceding a particular species’ opinions / feelings and to those same objects still standing outside of a particular species’ opinions / feelings. Once outside the species, then, from there, one must get past the planet with said moral objects left standing, then, one must get past the temporal universe with said moral objects left standing, then, because of, well, because of Physics, because, well, because of Hawking, because of….. science……all of us must then dive into the Landscape of Immaterial Timelessness wherein said moral objects must be found left standing.

    It just is a Brute-Fact that all that is less than “that” just is ever shifting subjectivism housed in what just is ever mutable moral objects which somewhere along the line of reverberating connect-the-dots blindly cascade from “out there in the contingent universe” down into “in here” within our skulls in what is yet more enslaved cascades of photon fluxes in what is psychic phosphorescence inside the skulls of species X. What is Earth/Man just is this planet’s incidental micro-blister on the skin of a dead-end cul-de-sac which swells for a few micro-seconds and then pops into non-entity and that provides the Naturalist no more than metaphysical absurdity as such not only fails to escape subjectivism / mysticism but such also fails to escape the necessary and unavoidable regress into the Landscape of Immaterial Timelessness.

    Challenge: All non-theistic frameworks provide only shifting subjectivism rather than unshifting objectivism when it comes to Moral Objects. There are no non-theistic frameworks which cogently locate objective moral objects, objective moral facts which are found still standing once our species is taken off the stage, that is to say, which survive all possible states of affairs, which survive all possible worlds.

    As SteveK noted, God is adequate, and, God is coherent. BillT alluded to the fact that the Theist’s metaphysical regressions subsume, are comfortable with, both the natural order of physicality and the order of – the landscape of – the timeless and the immaterial, which science affirms we must deal with and which the Theist is happy to embrace. The naturalist not so much. Naturalism’s necessary regress brings him in his discomfort to the doorsteps of GM’s articulated conclusion of what is for the naturalist an obvious mysticism (#81, #110).

    The Necessary Being – God – finds objective moral ontology void of circularity, void of blind axiom, void of false identity claims, void of semantic equivocation ever thirsty and willing to soak up Time/Material as well as Hawking’s inescapable Timeless/Immaterial. Those who spy the contours of Christ – upon surveying the OT and the NT …..and History ….and Science …..and Metaphysics – reasonably conclude an objective ontology which finds the contingent Man inside of the Necessary wherein he finds the Necessary Being and wherein said Being houses – ad infinitum – Immutable Love. Therein those who spy the contours of Christ gladly embrace all that is Time and Physicality even as they gladly embrace all that is Immaterial Timelessness as neither their physics nor their metaphysics need fear, ever, any extricated semantics of any amalgamated locations therein, from A to Z. God – Immutable Love – finds Man in the lap of Personhood’s inescapably triune milieu of Self-Other-Us within the ceaseless reciprocity of the immutable love of the Necessary Being. Therein love’s timeless sacrifice, pouring out, of the Self – amid and among the timeless filling of the Beloved brings us to the ends of what Man can call sight as he peers into He Who first precedes, then endures, and finally outreaches all possible worlds – all possible landscapes.

  108. Whereas the existence of God is a brute fact to non-theists (not theists) and by the very definition of a non-theist, not an accepted brute fact.

    This just isn’t a fair description of the non existence if God even from a non-theistic viewpoint. You are bending over backwards to make basic theistic and non-theistic beliefs equivalent. They just aren’t. Non-theists aren’t rejecting theistic brute facts, they are rejecting rational theistic argumentation for the existence if God. They have every right to do so but the existence if God isn’t posited as a brute fact and it’s rejection isn’t a rejection of a brute fact. You can’t reject an argument that was never made. You can’t do one thing and call it something else.

  109. @bigbird:

    I think the main thing that non-theistic moral realists have on their side in the paper I referenced above is that no-one seriously disputes their brute facts. Brute facts they may be, but everyone (well, almost everyone) accepts that pain is bad and that it is wrong to inflict it for fun.

    This here is precisely the weak point on which everything of interest revolves; for everyone can agree that X is morally wrong but it still remains the question of whether one actually has rational grounds for holding such. What Wielenberg is saying basically amounts to the fact that “X is morally wrong” while true, it is *unintelligible* why it is true. As a naturalist, he has to conjure up a magical supervenience relation between moral and non-moral facts, slap the label “brute fact” on it, and voila problem solved (yes, I am caricaturing, but not *that* much, not in a way that detracts from the main point). But this of course, explains absolutely nothing. Wielenberg’s defense is that at least he is no worse off than Theists; he then goes on to quote Swinburne on his defense that the existence of God is the ultimate brute fact. Two things can be said here: first, Swinburne does discuss different shades of brute-ness — but since I have already forgotten what he says, I will say nothing more. Second, and much more importantly, every classical theist will reject Swinburne’s contention.

  110. Typo:

    “Sematic” should have read as follows:

    The false claim that Christians and Atheists both posit systems of objective moral objects which are found left standing once man is off the stage is a semantic equivocation to redefine “objective moral object” from “a moral object which precedes and outlasts a particular species, which is found left standing outside of and independent from species X” into “objectively real feelings / tastes experienced by species X”.

  111. This here is precisely the weak point on which everything of interest revolves; for everyone can agree that X is morally wrong but it still remains the question of whether one actually has rational grounds for holding such. What Wielenberg is saying basically amounts to the fact that “X is morally wrong” while true, it is *unintelligible* why it is true.

    You are obviously correct that this is the weak point, but I’m not convinced that in practice the non-theist is going to care.

    For if everyone can agree that X is morally wrong, that agreement in itself is surely rational grounds for accepting “X is morally wrong” as a brute fact in your moral system.

    As a naturalist, he has to conjure up a magical supervenience relation between moral and non-moral facts, slap the label “brute fact” on it, and voila problem solved (yes, I am caricaturing, but not *that* much, not in a way that detracts from the main point). But this of course, explains absolutely nothing.

    Agreed, but an obvious reply from the naturalist is, so what? I can’t ultimately explain why X is morally wrong, but we all agree that it is so what’s the problem? Why is an ultimate explanation necessary?

    Anyway, the point of what I’ve been saying is that Christians tend to blithely dismiss all other moral systems as untenable because they aren’t grounded in God. I think we need to be a little more cautious and a little less arrogant, because many non-theists put a great deal of effort into their ethical systems, and they do so rationally and carefully.

  112. @bigbird:

    For if everyone can agree that X is morally wrong, that agreement in itself is surely rational grounds for accepting “X is morally wrong” as a brute fact in your moral system.

    I can understand if you say that everyone agreeing to “X is morally wrong” is defeasible evidence for the the truth of “X is morally wrong”; the stuff about brute facts is just extraneous matter. But quite obviously, this is not enough, for what *exactly* are people agreeing to? And if one has a different conception of what “morally wrong” amounts to, as is the case if you compare say, an atheist with a divine command theorist, of course they do not even agree to that much.

    Agreed, but an obvious reply from the naturalist is, so what? I can’t ultimately explain why X is morally wrong, but we all agree that it is so what’s the problem? Why is an ultimate explanation necessary?

    So you cannot give a rational account of why “X is morally wrong” is true, and you still ask so what? If you cannot give an account of why it is true, how do you *know* that it is true? The very fact that a framework like naturalism cannot give an account for basic data is damning evidence against it.

    This is all quite obvious, so my next quest is, are you pulling my leg?

    Anyway, the point of what I’ve been saying is that Christians tend to blithely dismiss all other moral systems as untenable because they aren’t grounded in God.

    Well, if that is your point, I do not disagree.

    I think we need to be a little more cautious and a little less arrogant, because many non-theists put a great deal of effort into their ethical systems, and they do so rationally and carefully.

    What is at issue is not whether they do so “rationally and carefully”, is whether their arguments succeed.

  113. The naturalist is more than welcome to devise whatever moral framework they like. They can see something being “wrong” or “good” as a brute fact, and if their answer to a lack of rational bases is “so what?” the conversation as a matter of dialectics is more or less a draw. The implications of the weakness in real life is where I’m more concerned.

    What’s funny to me in THAT conversation is how people tend to want to work in the hypothetical framework of some worst-nightmare scenario, something like a new Holocaust or “causing pain for fun.” The reason Man has such a hard time realizing his most noble dreams is because evil is much more diffuse than that, it’s the accumulation of billions of tiny decisions, globally, that rationalize self-interest. If the lack of a rational basis for what is right and wrong can be justified by “so what?” on paper, which I think it can, the danger is presenting an actual person with right and wrong in that context, to which they can dismiss then entire CONCEPT with “so what?”

    I don’t think that scenario has to be particularly self-aware. I also don’t see anything that makes me think someone who would look at a brute-fact-morality with a “so what?” as someone who is automatically going to just start raping everyone. In fact they would probably live according to most social norms. And that’s precisely why the problem is so insidious.

    What is a brute-fact-charity or honesty compared to taking home an extra 15% in income? How does a brute-fact-generosity make someone able to overcome greed? How does a brute-fact-fidelity impact an affair that goes undetected?

    While I totally see a decline in moral relativism in today’s liberal culture formation, I also see the rise of the power struggle: We live in a shame-based culture, despite all of the mid-20th-century’s philosophical struggle against the concept. The authority problems of postmodernism have established a new authority, ready to hand down banishing edicts for those who break the rules. Being a good person is an entirely real, but entirely public concept. If you, even verbally, break the rule of brute-fact-egalitarianism, you get the ban-hammer.

    This is all well and fine, for now. But the atheist has a problem: members of their own camp who have been trained in the black art of infinite skepticism. Convince people for long enough that everything is meaningless, and some will actually believe it. Then put those people in a power-struggle, shame-based system and put them on the wrong end of the arrangement. Eventually, someone is going to figure out what Nietzsche was talking about. Even IF it can be proven to these people that morality is a brute fact: “So what? You’ve used those brute facts to put yourself in power. I have some brute facts of my own.”

    Again, that doesn’t automatically lead to a bloodbath (although it could.) But WHY should these brute facts be worth paying attention to, be worthy of my energy, when nothing means anything in an ultimate sense, and power is for those with the will to take it? Bad person? So what?

  114. Of interest perhaps: P&R Publishing has a 15 book series entitled, “Gospel According To The Old Testament” compiled by multiple authors. Disclaimer: Have not read any / simply found the concept of interest to this thread’s background.

    Also, of similar interest to background: The following quote is helpful in drawing attention to the obvious fact that modernity falsely assumes plausibility. Modernity just borrows in a blind fashion as it has the terrible habit of not subjecting its normative statements to anything more rigorous than what is – at bottom – cultural norms housed within cascades of irrationally conditioned neurobiological reflexes. Such seems, far too often, to end its idea of “a logical regression to objective moral objects which exist independently of arbitrary opinion”. The only worthiness-of, or, the only why-bother actually found to be “real” inside of any normative paradigm therein is this or that historical accident of, “…..it just happened to have won out……”. Is that a sophisticated defense of “….objective moral objects built into reality which exist independently of arbitrary opinion”? Well, no. Such an end of regress (really) does end all moral statements with, “But, really, so what?” and the answer to the question (really) is a blank stare of indifference on the face of non-entity.

    Modernity’s borrowing: “The ethical presuppositions intrinsic to modernity, for instance, are palliated fragments and haunting echoes of Christian moral theology. Even the most ardent secularists among us generally cling to notions of human rights, economic and social justice, providence for the indigent, legal equality, or basic human dignity that pre-Christian Western culture would have found not so much foolish as unintelligible. It is simply the case that we distant children of the pagans would not be able to believe any of these things – they would never have occurred to us – had our ancestors not once believed that God is love, that charity is the foundation of all virtues, that all of us are equal before the eyes of God, that to fail to feed the hungry or care for the suffering is to sin against Christ, and that Christ laid down his life for the least of his brethren.” (D. Bentley)

  115. GM sums this topic well. The problem with brute fact morality is the same as the problem with evolved morality. If all morality is is a brute fact or some evolutionary hard wiring, why should I, or anyone else, care about it?

  116. I’d add to Bill’s questions this question: if it is a brute fact independent of life on Earth, where is it located? Or are the “objective moral objects” which exist “independent of opinion” really nothing more than an attempt at fancy-semantics to imply something more is there than just irrational shifting of evolutionary fluxes?

  117. So you cannot give a rational account of why “X is morally wrong” is true, and you still ask so what? If you cannot give an account of why it is true, how do you *know* that it is true?

    The point here is the atheist can give a rational account of why “X is morally wrong” can be used to construct their moral system.

    You are correct in that they cannot give an account of why it is true, but only moral realists will care – the non-realists don’t think moral facts are true anyway.

    And the moral realists will argue that even though they can’t give an account of *why* they are true, provided that the resultant moral system is acceptable, it is still rational to accept the moral system. There are many things that we can’t know that we accept because of pragmatism – few people are solipsists that I know of.

    What is at issue is not whether they do so “rationally and carefully”, is whether their arguments succeed.

    They succeed in constructing workable ethical systems – they
    just can’t demonstrate their moral facts are true. Because they aren’t theists, they don’t see that as a viable way of showing moral facts are true either.

    Now I am not saying this is a good thing. I think this goes some way to explaining a great deal of the change we’ve seen in society’s morals over the last 50 years or so. Because many people are no longer concerned about the unchanging truth of moral values, this means moral concepts such as the sanctity of life are easily jettisoned or twisted. Similarly for the definition of marriage.

  118. @GM

    The implications of the weakness in real life is where I’m more concerned.

    I think you’ve given a good summary of the weaknesses. As I’ve said above, I think this is part of the reason why society’s morals have changed so much (and for the worse) in recent years.

  119. ” Even the most ardent secularists among us generally cling to notions of human rights, economic and social justice, providence for the indigent, legal equality, or basic human dignity that pre-Christian Western culture would have found not so much foolish as unintelligible.”

    I think this is a good point also. Christianity has provided all these things, and the modern secularist simply appropriates what he or she wishes to keep and jettisons the rest. The result is a moral system based on Christianity but which gradually drifts away from its moorings.

  120. “And the moral realists will argue that even though they can’t give an account of *why* they are true, provided that the resultant moral system is acceptable, it is still rational to accept the moral system.”

    It is rational to accept, to tolerate for now, system X should “I” and/or “we” decide it is “acceptable”. However, it is not rational to actually believe irrational assertions.

    If in his mentation and emoting the atheist feels nothing upon seeing [Horror X] and looks into his rule book to see if this is part of the “accepted system for now” and reacts solely based on what he finds in his tolerated-for-now system, then he is being rational.

    If, however, he enters into such things as sorrow as those fatal (to his rationality) nuances within all the affairs of ought not have or of such interior motions as you don’t treat a life like that!, and so on, then the atheist is being irrational, for he believes, actually believes, what he knows is his naturalism cannot give to him.

    I’ve yet to meet an atheist who really believes his own atheism.

    William Lane Craig debated a person whose name I can’t recall. He pressed her on this issue of torturing babies – there in a lecture hall. She wouldn’t do it. She held back what she believed, knew, to be true and spoke of that which had better be true – else God – as she equivocated in very clear terms that it’s not an actual wrong – we just believe that it is.

    “The position of the modern evolutionist … is that humans have an awareness of morality … because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. …Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. … Nevertheless, … such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, … and any deeper meaning is illusory…..” (M. Ruse)

    Accepting an incoherent moral system as a temporary fix for one’s own ease of living, or survival, or gain, is rational because one is there awake, eyes open.

    But believing any bit of it – for a nanosecond – is irrational.

  121. BillT

    If all morality is is a brute fact or some evolutionary hard wiring, why should I, or anyone else, care about it?

    You should only care if the brute fact entails the fact that you should care. What naturalistic brute fact has this as a part of it’s essence/existence? None that I’ve heard.

  122. @bigbird:

    You are correct in that they cannot give an account of why it is true, but only moral realists will care – the non-realists don’t think moral facts are true anyway.

    Non-realists do not believe in moral facts, so why bring them up in the first place? When a non-realist speaks about morality, he is really speaking about something else entirely. Why the conflation?

    And the moral realists will argue that even though they can’t give an account of *why* they are true, provided that the resultant moral system is acceptable, it is still rational to accept the moral system. There are many things that we can’t know that we accept because of pragmatism – few people are solipsists that I know of.

    Remember the context: on naturalism (as an example, does not really matter for the point I am making) some of the moral facts are brute facts. There is not only no account of why they are facts, that is, why “X is morally wrong” is true as a matter of objective fact, there can be no account by the very nature of what a brute fact is. *Admittedly* so. Therefore:

    (1) No, it is not rational, it is the opposite of rational as it is basically a fallacious appeal to the majority. “Yeah, I haven’t got the foggiest why I should but everyone’s doin’ it, so yeah, why not.” Really?

    (2) The parallel to solipsism is no parallel at all, first because contrary to what you imply there are perfectly good cogent arguments against solipsism, second, because no, we do not reject solipsism “because of pragmatism” but because it is false, and third the already mentioned brute fact-ness, admitted and accepted.

    They succeed in constructing workable ethical systems – they just can’t demonstrate their moral facts are true.

    For the umpteenth time, no, it is not just a mere technical inability in that they have not hit with the demonstration yet. And really, do you listen to yourself? By your logic:

    (1) You are wrong.

    And though I cannot demonstrate (1), I blithely go on assuming it true and make my case based upon it. It certainly cuts the work I have to do, so I will just take it: you are wrong. Followed by the stamping of feet and similar tantrums.

  123. I am sorry but I think the OP is a lame defence of slavery in the bible. I very much doubt you can argue the bible provides objective morality where in some cases the law is clear and unambiguous, and in others, it is permitted to change over time. Any moral law that is permitted to change over time is by its very nature subjective. If you accept the argument in the OP, you accept subjective morality. If you are in the camp that the OT horrors were a result of “the ancient time” and therefore morally permissible based on the era, you accept subjective morality.

  124. What is a moral law, Graham? That’s a serious question, a crucial point of definition.

    And do you realize I do not think the OT horrors were “a result of ‘the ancient time'”? I don’t think time is a cause. It’s what’s going by while other things are happening, and it’s the other things that matter. One of them, of course, is our loss of knowledgeable contact with the full context. One of them is a modern shift of perspective such that we consider “freedom” to be one of the highest of all goods, and therefore is relationally cold, distant, and wasteful government welfare with “freedom” is better than relationally-close debt relief with “enslavement”—neither of which scare-quoted words are necessarily what they seem(ed) to be. “Freedom” once meant (primarily) the liberty to do what is right without authoritarian interference, now it means (primarily) the liberty to do what one wants without restraint.

    Is this about subjective morality changing over time? No. The principles have not changed. The meanings of some words (especially “freedom” and “slavery”) have changed a great deal, and the context in which the timeless principles are applied have changed even more. But the principles have not.

    To be honest, I think your reading of my OP is a bit on the crippled side itself. What you “doubt very much that I can argue,” I doubt you have taken sufficient time to understand. You assert that my OP entails subjective morality; I doubt very much that you can successfully argue it, however.

  125. Since both the OT and NT define the paradigm of Law as that which is neither the means of nor ends of Moral Excellence – it is clear that the Morally Excellent remained above the fray of God inside Man’s pains of privation. The God Who meets Man in Man’s hell at once both hates X and regulates Man’s motions within X. He has thusly defined these moral landscape-s – pleural.

  126. Let us add that the God Who meets us in our hell also supplies the Means of our Emancipation, which is Himself, even as He supplies Man his final Good, which is, again, Himself – and Scripture defines Him, those Means and Ends, as Immutable Love. But then, Contingency always knew that anything less than All-Sufficiency always was illusion and never stood a chance.

  127. Tom & GrahamH,

    The Old Law (Paradigm) in contrast to the New Law (Paradigm) touched on in comment #32 is I think where Graham is not distinguishing between the necessary differences between the two. The Ideal, the Morally Excellent, has, is, unchanging, whereas, Sinai is quite another paradigm in play, and also (as if that weren’t enough, which it is), as Tom just summarized, those factors of shifting (over time) definitions, beliefs, and semantics join in and begin making their own waves. Others here have done a much better job than I of drawing out those distinctions and a careful read of their comments will help distinguish those boundaries.

  128. Gmarley –

    Ray, the difference between tolerate and endorse is massive, so long as the tolerance is temporary.

    Only if the delay is mandatory. Take the example of our (over)use of fossil fuels – we can’t shift away from them immediately, we need to research and develop alternatives. God, on the other hand, has no need for R&D. God presumably could reveal better technology. Could have revealed better techniques – more productive farming techniques, for example – to the ANE or at least Israel.

    Slavery never posed an existential threat to the species.

    True, but slave societies tend to be static societies. A whole lot of effort has to go into policing and controlling the slaves. Innovation and development is retarded compared to freer societies. (C.f. the American south and north, pre-Civil War, Sparta vs. Athens, etc.) To the extent that slavery is tolerated, it acts against the development, social and technological but also especially moral, of humanity.

    IF God is morally at fault in “endorsing” slavery, the job of the critic is to demonstrate the premise of God’s future-oriented, creation repairing agenda as a falsehood

    Well, for a perfect being, It sure takes Its time about the repairs. I confess I don’t grasp the reason for the delays. (Of course, the main issue for me is the problem of evil – I don’t understand why creation got broken in the first place.)

    It’s not a matter of pyrotechnical power, it’s a matter of supernatural patience to attain a more perfect end.

    If the end is so great, why achieve it through the course of such evil? Isn’t that something almost literally like the end justifying the means?

    (All of this may come across as snide, but isn’t intended to be. These are honest questions.)

  129. Ray,

    “All of this may come across as snide, but isn’t intended to be.”

    At first I thought you said all of this may come across as insane…

    But, either way, the answer is that you do not come across that way. Neither insane nor as snide. The question of evil, of suffering, is a fundamental question of the very nature of this reality we all awake to find ourselves within. Snide? Insane? Not in a million years Ray. Not in this world…..

  130. @Ray Ingles:

    I don’t understand why creation got broken in the first place.

    That is indeed a difficult question; on the other hand, since if creation were not broken Ray Ingles would not be here to wonder why creation is broken (this by the way is also one answer to your last question — Love; Love for Ray Ingles. L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.). So to castigate God for allowing a broken creation seems… a tad counter productive.

  131. To choose to believe the irrational about Good, about Evil, about Love, as per #130, is to choose to think in a manner in which one just will not insist on coherency in one’s processing of any question at all. Therein the most sincere questioner of evil/good who has already chosen the utility of autohypnosis over what her worldview is screaming in her ear is the very questioner who ipso facto will not listen to truth screaming in her ear. As per #130, she only need look into one’s little black book of “This Generation’s Acceptable Morality” for an answer and just run with that until the next Edition is released, and then the next. Blood Sports in Roman coliseums? Let her check her little black book to see how to “define, answer, explain, and react to “that””. That is rational. But the questioner doesn’t do that. No. Instead she believes the “You just don’t treat a life like that!” and on such grounds asserts she has a valid question to ask of God.

    [Naturalism] asks of [Reality] — “Why Evil!?”

    Huh?

    Think about that.

    Accepting an incoherent moral system as a temporary fix for one’s own ease of living, or survival, or gain, is rational because one is there awake, eyes open.

    But believing any bit of it – for a nanosecond – is irrational.

    The moral landscape of Genesis’ opening chapters, of that Protoevangel-something right there in Genesis 3, of a New Paradigm spoken of to the nations through Israel’s centuries of Prophets, of Christ’s birth pains, none there are found in the Romsn Coliseum reading the naturalist’s little black book and finding, believing, that The Lovely is there beheld. All the while the little black book said otherwise.

  132. The last line of thought there merits clarification:

    …….of Christ’s birth pains….. none there are found in the Roman Coliseum reading the naturalist’s little black book of “This Generation’s Acceptable Morality” trying to find how to “react to” or what to “make of” the Blood Sports as they all, from A to Z, know that The-Lovely is nowhere there beheld. All the while the little black book of Generation-Coliseum in the hand of Naturalism’s Normative Reason said otherwise. Evil? What evil?

  133. Ray,
    I don’t think you’re being snide, I’ve found your conversation to be invigorating and challenging, and I thank you for it.

    You’re quite right to frame this conversation about slavery into the problem of evil as a whole. And that’s the Big Question. As far as my philosophical or theological arguments are concerned, I’m more or less satisfied by them. And by that, I mean I know their limitations, and they are very real limitations. Others have written more thoughtfully about them than I have the time, or the will, to expound on them here, especially in light of their limitations.

    I’ve also written elsewhere about my views on mystery, how mystery is supposed to be engaged with, just on terms other than merely looking for a satisfying logical construct that will make us comfortable. I don’t think that’s the point of mystery. And here, we are definitely dealing with a mystery.

    Now, before I continue, a few things about me: I’m a New Englander. My natural habitat is 15 degrees fahrenheit. I sneer more than I laugh. I’m pessimistic and I’m not particularly inclined to believe someone’s fantastic story. In short, I really do sympathize with the skeptic. So I wouldn’t believe the story I’m about to tell, and it’s rather hypocritical of me to ask anyone to believe it. But it’s all I really have, in my life, in how I approach this Big Question.

    For me, the Question in it’s purest form is this: If God knew there would be suffering and death in Creation, why go ahead with it? And I’m not really aware of a single philosophical *statement* that would answer it for me. So I would be disingenuous to try to offer you one.

    I was traveling for work in my early 20’s, somewhere in Georgia. In my hotel room, I had been reading something or other, and somehow I got to thinking about that question. Without much realizing it, I slipped into praying, and I asked “What did You know? What are You hiding?”

    Now, I don’t recall having any expectations, and I don’t recall any special feeling of sincerity or humility. I’m sure I did nothing to “invoke” a response. There was nothing magical or special feeling about that prayer.

    Steadily, but quickly, though, I had this feeling that I can only describe as though I was clinging to the face of the earth. I felt like I was shrinking, like I wanted to burrow into the ground to get away from something. I was aware of a presence, and I knew it was God, and I was terrified. But I wasn’t terrified because of some sense of malevolence, or fear of angering something that could destroy me at the slightest provocation. I was terrified because I was being confronted with a confidence that was justified, a perfect self awareness of perfection, not proud, but just honest with Itself and with me. It was terrifying only because I knew that I could never have that confidence, because I am something else. I am not That.

    I didn’t “hear” anything, but I, well, experienced an idea, and I knew it was true. “I know what I know, in ways you can’t know.” And from then on, I just had a certain kind of trust. I knew that was the difference between Him and me, why only He could be trusted with power, and I never could. By this time, I had already believed in God, but I didn’t really know what I meant by that. I still don’t, I still have a ways to go, but that was certainly a step forward.

    This was also before I read Job, so that book has a certain place with me that I can’t really expect others to share. But, my point is, I’m not trying to win an argument, in a way I’m relating to you. I couldn’t read Job and understand by forcing myself to reason my way to understanding that confidence, because I would always put myself, my self-doubt and my doubt of others, in between my mind and the book. The mere-words answers to the Big Question might take some of the edge off, maybe. But only just maybe. The answer I got was an answer I wasn’t looking for. I’m still not sure what to DO with it, and I certainly don’t know what I expect you to do with it. But it’s what I have.

  134. Tom – The OP relies on the subjective interpretation of the implications of the Bible to counteract its clear tolerance of slavery. In other words, what is implied is used sympathetically to counter what is distastefully expressed. I think it is also a highly subjective premise to state “Judeo-Christianity speaks to what is human”. The Golden Rule, which precedes Judeo-Christianity, repudiates slavery by definition.

    The OP also has God and Jesus playing Realpolitik by suggesting they tolerated something reluctantly at the time. Would it be permissible to allow this again I wonder? Hopefully everyone agrees not.

    And as for “There is no place in Christianity for regarding one person as worth more than any other.” Except it seems in certain parts of the Bible under certain political or economic conditions.

    Its seems inescapable to me one must adopt subjective morality, and pick and choose which parts of the Bible are morally acceptable, and which are not.

    One of the biggest objections I have in this regard is the praiseworthiness of child sacrifice.

  135. I think it’s important in these kinds of discussions to distinguish between God’s so called “perfect will” and His “permissive will.” For example, God’s original intention (His perfect will), according to Gen. 1-3, was for mankind to live in harmony with God, his fellow man and nature– this is what it means to be created in the image of God. God also gave man an extraordinary range of freedom (Genesis 2:16-17) with the real possibility of really disobeying his Creator. Of course, God could have chosen, the moment man fell, to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. Instead He decided to try to redeem mankind. God’s redemptive plan then is the purpose of human history. You could say, in a sense, that it’s God’s new plan for mankind.

    We see other examples in the Old Testament of God permitting his chosen people to pursue a course of action that is a departure from His original intention. For example, in 1 Samuel 8: 4-9 the elders of Israel approached, God’s prophet Samuel and asked him to appoint them a king. Samuel warns them that this is not God’s original intention but nevertheless God let’s Samuel know that he will permit (not condone) their request (Also see vss 10-21).

    [Also see: Judges 8: 22-23]

    In my opinion we can apply this same line of thinking to OT Slavery. I argued above (comment #60) that the term that is sometimes translated as slave actually describes indentured servitude, which is temporary, voluntary and contractual. The troublesome passage for me is Leviticus 25:44-46 which allows Israelites to buy foreign slaves. However, I would argue that this is a case of God permitting but not necessarily condoning slavery. Certainly slavery, using the English definition of the word, is never promoted in the OT or NT as something ideal. One tries to get out of slavery, not into it.

  136. G. Rodrigues –

    So to castigate God for allowing a broken creation seems… a tad counter productive.

    You sometimes see the science fiction story about time travelers who are trying to prevent an Awful Future. Frequently, they know that by so doing they will erase their whole existence, but they do it because the world they are in is that broken. (The recent X-Men movie provides examples.)

    If the price of Ray Ingles existing is a few billion children being abused, killed, or dying horribly from disease… then I, Ray Ingles, say that price is too high. If offered the trade, I’d give up ever having existed so that they could be reprieved.

  137. Ray,

    Possible Worlds – Your view presents an indefensible dichotomy on your end as we have no reach to such ends. God of course agrees with the painful ugliness you speak of and the metaphysical wherewithal of conceivable world modalities offers Him means and ends our hubris cannot fathom and too the capacity to so define ought-not-have, a phrase we all know is painfully true and yet which deterministic naturalism just cannot, to our painful disgust, grant us.

    “…..I have to admit that I find it impossible to take atheism very seriously as in intellectual position. As an emotional commitment or a moral passion – a rejection of barren or odious dogmatisms, an inability to believe in a good or provident power behind a world in which there is so much suffering, a defiance of “Whatever brute and blackguard made the world,” and so forth – atheism seems to me an entirely plausible attitude toward the predicaments of finite existence; but, as a metaphysical picture of reality, it strikes me as a rank superstition……”. (Hart)

    Suffering is not a stranger here as reality and descriptives thereof are painfully insulting to all of us inside of naturalism’s horrific indifference on every level.

    As per #143 and #144: What Evil? is unanswerable.

    Naturalism being incoherent given the landscape of perception and of physical evidence (see the David Hart quote in the Science and Reason thread), we are now even further from sanity once we come into the painfull (actual/true) paradigm of Ought Not Have. In His unstoppable love and in those countless lines amid reality’s fit with His contours we find that perfect fit which inside of other metaphysics are painfully absent.

  138. @Ray Ingles:

    If offered the trade, I’d give up ever having existed so that they could be reprieved.

    There are a couple of things to say about this.

    (1) You use the language of “trade”, with the implied economy of violence, which I absolutely reject. In particular, I did not say that “the price” of Ray Ingles existing is “a few billion children being abused, killed, or dying horribly from disease…”.

    (2) You are lying — since talk is cheap, this lie costs you absolutely nothing, except perhaps a (healthy?) dose of delusion.

    (3) What you say makes no sense. For you to reject anything you have to exist in the first place to reject it. Even *if* for the sake of argument Time Travel and the kind of time loops you allude to were metaphysically possible.

  139. Graham: dealing with the realities of humanity is so much more ominous when you say it in German. Why is that?

    And why is it that when you say, “I think it is also a highly subjective premise to state ‘Judeo-Christianity speaks to what is human.’ The Golden Rule, which precedes Judeo-Christianity, repudiates slavery by definition,” you do not recognize that your second sentence there rebuts the first?

    Third, why do you not see that when you write, “And as for ‘There is no place in Christianity for regarding one person as worth more than any other.’ Except it seems in certain parts of the Bible under certain political or economic conditions,” you do not recognize that your second sentence is not a rebuttal of the first?

    Fourth, what is subjective about what I wrote in the OP? Please provide some examples to illustrate.

    Fifth, please define child sacrifice and show one place where it is affirmed in the Bible. Feel free to reference your Internet atheist sources, but recognize that they are tendentious and secondary; you’ll really need to go to the primary source to have any credibility.

    Thank you.

  140. G. Rodrigues –

    In particular, I did not say that “the price” of Ray Ingles existing is “a few billion children being abused, killed, or dying horribly from disease…”.

    Yet that’s the consequence of a “broken” creation. (Or was that part of the original design?) You yourself introduced the hypothetical, “if creation were not broken Ray Ingles would not be here”. I simply pointed out the logical consequences of that hypothetical.

    You are lying

    You state this with remarkable confidence.

    I confess the first explanation that comes to mind is that you wouldn’t sacrifice yourself to save billions of children from suffering, so therefore you conclude no one else would either. I’ll defer to your self-assessment, if that’s the case, but I’m afraid I disagree with your assessment of me in this respect.

  141. @Ray Ingles:

    Or was that part of the original design?

    The question is meaningless.

    I simply pointed out the logical consequences of that hypothetical.

    And I pointed out that it is no way, shape or form, a “logical consequence” of the hypothetical.

    You state this with remarkable confidence.

    Indeed I do.

  142. @Ray Ingles:

    In response to:

    I simply pointed out the logical consequences of that hypothetical.

    I said and I quote:

    And I pointed out that it is no way, shape or form, a “logical consequence” of the hypothetical.

    Let me be a little bit more explicit: I did not say, and in fact reject it thoroughly, that God brought about (insert countless evils) *because*, or *in order* to bring about the existence of Ray Ingles. That indeed is a trade off economy of violence that is abominable; I am not particularly interested in theodicies or in defending God’s good moral behavior. What I did point out, or tried to, is that (insert countless evils) are, even though evils, conditions, even necessary preconditions, for the existence of Ray Ingles and that for Ray Ingles to abjure them is to engage in something, if not de facto at least close to, (performative) inconsistency.

  143. G. Rodrigues – I think your confidence about my ‘willingness to trade’ sadly says much more about you than me, but be that as it may:

    What I did point out, or tried to, is that (insert countless evils) are, even though evils, conditions, even necessary preconditions, for the existence of Ray Ingles and that for Ray Ingles to abjure them is to engage in something, if not de facto at least close to, (performative) inconsistency.

    Hardly. Given how many ancestors all living humans have had, and how prevalent it’s been through history, everyone must be the product of a fair number of rapes, including myself. Whether or not it produced me, I can – and do – fervently reject and repudiate rape nevertheless. And without inconsistency – I can and do quite earnestly wish it had been otherwise.

    I can only assume (or at at least, earnestly hope) you do as well. (Or do you think rape justified because, in the course of time, it can give rise to a splendid fellow like G. Rodrigues? Surely not…)

  144. GM –

    I didn’t “hear” anything, but I, well, experienced an idea, and I knew it was true. “I know what I know, in ways you can’t know.” And from then on, I just had a certain kind of trust.

    I understand. I can only evaluate things based on my reason and what my senses tell me, though, not having had such a revelation myself. Were I to receive such a revelation, I might well change my mind.

    (But I haven’t, though as noted on the other thread I have in fact searched for it. So I find accusations of contained reasoning rather off-target.)

  145. scblhrm –

    If, however, he enters into such things as sorrow as those fatal (to his rationality) nuances within all the affairs of ought not have or of such interior motions as you don’t treat a life like that!, and so on, then the atheist is being irrational, for he believes, actually believes, what he knows is his naturalism cannot give to him.

    The universe doesn’t care if babies are tortured. Humans do, though – for good reasons – and I’m a human. I’ll bet a fair amount of cash you are too, however difficult-to-parse your postings usually are.

    What if morals are a function of the perspective humans have on the universe, being what humans are and what kind of universe they live in?

  146. @Ray Ingles:

    I can only assume (or at at least, earnestly hope) you do as well. (Or do you think rape justified because, in the course of time, it can give rise to a splendid fellow like G. Rodrigues? Surely not…)

    Since I explicitly rejected the parenthetical remark, and since you have not offered any objection to my argument, besides parading your moral self-satisfied superiority (which by the way, and as an irrelevant aside, I do not doubt for a minute), I can only assume that we are done here.

  147. G. Rodrigues – If you “reject[] the parenthetical remark”, you also reject your words as any possible “argument” responding to the question I posed in #140. So yeah, there’s no point in following such a rabbit trail.

  148. @Ray Ingles:

    If you “reject[] the parenthetical remark”, you also reject your words as any possible “argument” responding to the question I posed in #140.

    I was not responding to the question in #140 (presumably these two: “If the end is so great, why achieve it through the course of such evil? Isn’t that something almost literally like the end justifying the means?”). Apologies if I mislead you into error.

  149. Ray,

    You forgot the Coliseum. Blood sports for fun aren’t wrong on naturalism. Just ask them as the games begin.

    As per #143 and #144

    Naturalism’s rationality changes its mind every few years with each new edition of your little black book, the one you call Reality. Whereas, the Ideal, the Lovely, has remained unchanged throughout Scripture’s Metanarrative. From A to Z. On pain’s distusting offense naturalism’s descriptive and prescriptive are unquestionably incoherent – even vile given its little black book. You choose to believe that book, while all along another Book disagrees with you ad infinitum given your chosen book’s beyond the pale end of regress. People matter. That is not an arbitrary paradigm, as naturalism’s little black book affirms, and the other Book disqualifies ad infinitum. Therefore, Theism. You agree, I am sure, on the Non-Arbitrary Paridigm, while your little book is forever arbitrary.

  150. To clarify:

    People matter.

    That is not an arbitrary, mutable paradigm. Naturalism’s little black book affirms an unquestionably arbitrary paradigm there. The other Book – Scripture – disqualifies that little book and finds it incoherent and affirms Immutable Love’s Meta-Narrative wherein such is Non-Arbitrary – ad infinitum. Therefore, Theism. You agree, I am sure, on the Non-Arbitrary Paridigm, while your little book is forever arbitrary – ad infinitum.

  151. scblhrm –

    Blood sports for fun aren’t wrong on naturalism.

    If you’re not gonna read the link in #157, just say so and save us all some time.

    People matter.

    Matter to whom? Things don’t just ‘matter’, they matter to someone. Maybe you’ll read someone else’s words if you won’t read mine?

  152. Ray,

    We want to be clear here:

    On People Matter:

    You’re disagreeing with the Non-Arbitrary Paradigm of Scripture’s Meta-Narrative and agreeing with Naturalism’s little black book of This Generation’s Acceptable Morality in its inescapably arbitrary paradigm?

    Is that right?

  153. G. Rodrigues –

    I was not responding to the question in #140

    Nor were you making an argument, either. And note, I don’t claim “moral self-satisfied superiority” – I simply find it laughable that you would believe yourself any kind of authority on the details of my moral failings.

    See, I’m happy to say that you are snide, manifestly unhelpful, and regularly decline to actually defend your pronouncements. But at no point have I accused you of lying. I’m willing to believe, absent proof to the contrary, that you actually believe what you’re saying. I’m perfectly willing to meet you as a human being, the way Tom wants on this blog. I have to say, though, that at this point I seriously doubt you’ll ever offer me a similar courtesy.

  154. scblhrm –

    “We want to be clear here”

    In light of your last paragraph, I’m afraid that strikes me as more than a little humorous. I don’t want to have to bust out a decoder ring every time I read what you write.

    Of course “people matter” – to other people. If you read the link I gave, you know why.

    Hmmm… actually, I can think of one interesting thing to try. They say the mark of understanding someone’s position is that you can paraphrase it back to them in a way they consider fair. Think you could do that for me? Warning: you may have to deploy regular English words in their typical usage, without Archaic Capitalization.

  155. @Ray Ingles:

    Nor were you making an argument, either.

    I pointed what the necessity of origins necessarily entails and that counts as an argument in my book.

    I simply find it laughable that you would believe yourself any kind of authority on the details of my moral failings.

    I did not comment “on the details of your [my] moral failings” except to say in a parenthetical, irrelevant aside that I have little doubt that you are a much better man than I am, and I add, not because I know you (I don’t) but because I know myself; I evaluated, and am not going to withdraw it, one public statement of yours as a flat out falsehood or lie, and I explained why it *cannot* be true, both as a matter of logic and a matter of psychology. If it offends you, my apologies — although given what I said in the previous sentence, I suppose the apology does not count for much.

  156. Ray,

    If you’re saying you are actually unfamiliar with the Theist’s metaphysical paradigm of an immutable moral excellence which is unchanging and which transcends naturalism’s arbitrary, mutable “moral inclinations” (Child Sacrifice is the Good) which gets re-wtitten every few decades (Well, not Teens anymore, just Babies…we’re not animals after all) then I’m very surprised.

    Is that what you are saying?

  157. G. Rodrigues –

    I evaluated, and am not going to withdraw it, one public statement of yours as a flat out falsehood or lie

    A lie requires knowing that what you are saying is false. A falsehood must, of course, be false; but a falsehood only becomes a lie when there’s intent to deceive. Whatever your notions of the truth of what I was saying, to call it a lie goes past that to intent. And yes, I find your claims to knowledge of my motivations to be quite laughable.

    Feel free to call me mistaken. Call me stupid, even – I honestly can’t imagine anything in the universe I care less about than your opinion of me. Calling me a liar says far more about you than me, though.

  158. @Ray Ingles:

    A lie requires knowing that what you are saying is false.

    Indeed.

    A falsehood must, of course, be false; but a falsehood only becomes a lie when there’s intent to deceive.

    Indeed.

    Call me stupid, even – I honestly can’t imagine anything in the universe I care less about than your opinion of me. Calling me a liar says far more about you than me, though.

    First, it is baffling why you feel the need to inform me of your absolute indifference about my (non existent) opinion of you, being in fact, with what I take to be a rhetorical flourish, the most indifferent among all the indifferent things in the whole universe. The odd thing would be if you actually cared about the opinion of a Random Joe, who has absolutely no authority, importance or influence over your sayings and doings. Doubly baffling, because as I already said, I have no opinion neither I expressed one.

    Second, I did not call you a liar; to call you a liar would mean that I know you have a habit of lying or propagating falsehoods with the intent of deceiving. I certainly do not know that, do not presume it, did not even expressed it. I said and I quote “You are lying — since talk is cheap, this lie costs you absolutely nothing, except perhaps a (healthy?) dose of delusion.”. On one thing, I think I can agree with you: it does “say[s] far more about me [you] than you [me]”.

    I will defer the last word to you. I will add this much to end this however: you did not simply say you wished (it were possible that) things had been different; if it were just that I would not have made a peep besides puzzling over what exactly it is you were wishing. You posed a concrete, over the top Jack-Bauer type scenario and a choice. And the conclusion you wanted to draw is quite clear: not only is God a moral monster (on the assumption He exists), ready to sacrifice “billions of children” to produce little Ray Ingles, but Ray Ingles is a second Jesus Christ incarnated, ready to lay his very existence for the “reprieve” of those unknown and unknowable “billions of children” trampled by the relentless course of History, or what amounts to the same, God’s fiendish calculus. And children alone? Why not everyone else? How exactly giving your life would be a reprieve is a mistery, first and foremost because of the causal asymmetry between past and future. Furthermore, the same suffering of “billions of children” is necessitated by the birth of your mother and father; the same can be said of each person in your pasdt light cone, including every one of those “billions of children”. I presume you would not be willing to make *that* trade off; and before you protest, your life is no more yours than your father or your mother’s is. And the hubris is not even the worse; worser still is how immoral the choice is (assuming for the sake of argument the scenario were not contradictory). But this is consequentialist moralizing: contrary to atheism, it starts in farse, but it ends in tragedy.

  159. Ray,

    You don’t like the fact that your normative rationality in naturalism fails to grant us anything but the absence of evil in those blood sports in that Roman Coliseum, in slavery, and so on in naturalism’s ever shifting and arbitrary moral landscape.

    That’s understandable.

    But there is another choice:

    The unchanging, immutable moral landscape of Genesis’ opening chapters, of that Protoevangel-something right there in Genesis 3, of a New Paradigm spoken of to the nations through Israel’s centuries of Prophets, of Christ’s birth pains, and so much more. None there are found in the Roman Coliseum reading the naturalist’s little black book of “This Generation’s Acceptable Morality” trying to find how to “react to” or what to “make of” the Blood Sports as they all, from A to Z, know that The-Lovely is nowhere there beheld. All the while the little black book of Generation-Coliseum in the hand of Naturalism’s Normative Reason said quite the opposite.

    We find ourselves awash amid both of those irreconcilable lanscapes as all the moral outrage against slavery in this thread affirms Scripture’s Meta-Narrative in its landscape.

  160. G. Rodrigues, I don’t need much in the way of last words. I simply need to point out two things.

    First, it was you who particularized things to “Love for Ray Ingles” specifically, as if that were some kind of justification for the consequence of a “broken creation”. I certainly didn’t introduce that topic; indeed, I abjured it.

    And secondly, to claim that saying “You are lying” is in some significant sense different from ‘You are a liar’ is… Well, c’mon now! You’re usually a much better sophist than that.

  161. scblhrm – Until you actually respond to my words, and not the general model of “Naturalist” you have in your head, I’m afraid I can’t be bothered to de-capitalize and decode your prose. Hint: I don’t think that blood sports are, or ever were, moral. Can you explain my reasoning?

  162. Ray,

    The Romans did think it was moral.

    When the Earth and sky are gone, when man is no more, when life is non-entity, they’ll still be right about that in what was once evolutionary morality’s selection of, development of, the violent, as that ever shinking ship finally fades to extinction as blind, pitiless indiffernce subsumes all lines.

    Immutable Love will outdistance any landscape you can think up here, Ray.

    Good luck.

  163. @Ray Ingles:

    First, it was you who particularized things to “Love for Ray Ingles” specifically, as if that were some kind of justification for the consequence of a “broken creation”.

    Well, I said you would give you the last word, but I reserve the right to correct the repeated misrepresentation of what I said: what I said was that some Goods necessitate some Evils — I gave the example of the birth of Ray Ingles to make an extended point; I could have given the example of Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a Good but it necessitates a wrongdoing. To employ ones gifts in the improving of Humanity’s lot is a Good that necessitates a lot (heh) to be improved. And the examples could be multiplied ad infinitum. Never have I said it “justified” anything, in fact I repeatedly said that I was not trying to justify anything and that I absolutely abhored such an economy of violence. What I did say, the extended point, is that to deny the conditions necessary for our own existence is if not, close to, a performative inconsistency.

  164. Ray,

    Immutable Love precedes, endures, and outdistances all possible worlds, and this necessarily.

    The metaphysical paradigm of Scripture’s moral definitions in all vectors begin and end there – in the immutable love of the Necessary Being.

    This is not a moral statement on slavery, or pride, or theft, or on any contingent anything. It is not a moral statement at all. It is Actuality – out of which all moral lines flow.

  165. G. Rodrigues –

    what I said was that some Goods necessitate some Evils… Never have I said it “justified” anything

    The Broken Windows Fallacy doesn’t become a theorem if you transplant it from economics to theology. So in what sense could it be a response to what I wrote?

    to deny the conditions necessary for our own existence is if not, close to, a performative inconsistency

    And I disagreed, and pointed out exactly why. And you declined to respond.

    scblhrm – Why are you talking about the Romans’ reasoning, when I asked you to discuss mine?

  166. Ray,

    If you are asserting that Everlasting Personood’s Immutable Love both precedes and outlasts evolutionary morality’s nurturing of the violent, Earth, Galaxy, Time, all other natures, ad infinitum, then we agree on the A and the Z of all moral lines as defined in Scripture’s metanarrative.

  167. A Moral Monster and the oxymoron of the morality too much of which is dangerous to itself:

    An interesting quote of GM here, “I certainly don’t advocate judging the truth of a claim based on its consequences. However, for all the times that I am accused of cognitive dissonance, which I may be guilty of, I cannot imagine living under the volume of cognitive dissonance in saying incidental meat robots called humans have “fundamental human rights” while KNOWING those human rights could cause conditions that would be evolutionarily disastrous.”

    Evolutionary moralists like Sam Harris and others redefine the word “good” to mean lots of babies that survive. Flourishing. As such, the whole end of that landscape ends in what is a false identity claim. For many reasons. Further, and just as bad, there is the simple fact that both life and happiness are – quite often – conceded by a person so that that same person can then further quite another non-life something, quite another non-happiness something – the Morally Beautiful. Moral Beauty very well can, often does, and often has trumped both flourishing and happiness. As for flourishing, well, The Descent of Man, by C. Darwin, adds perspective on evolutionary morality amid lots of life, “If … men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering.”

    Indeed the future is wide open as an untold array of yet-to-arrive selective pressures pile atop yet to materialize eco-aberrations across the eons ahead. Who knows what turns other species and our own species will drift into, be molded into in the eons up ahead as Nature’s ever fragmenting tethers mercilessly pull genome this way and that way. In fact, flourishing alone could prove very nearly fatal for us and thereby prove to be a “morality” that we wouldn’t want too much of. How twistedly bizarre. How intellectually vacuous. Too much morality is dangerous to morality. Huh?

    god wins:

    Mind is not “free from” Body, is not “free from” Genome and “volition” thus ends in incoherence as there is no “part of nature” that is “free of nature” – thus in the end nature truly does win. As we peer into the fragmenting cosmos it becomes inescapably obvious that Nature is – at bottom – indifferent, void of sight, void of pity. She is even, the naturalist must confess, immoral, given his definition of objective moral good. Huh? Nature’s morality is immoral? That sounds like Theistic ontological regressions. Too bad Immutable Love doesn’t precede and outdistance the god of the naturalist.

    If “lots of babies surviving” – yes – if flourishing dead-end cul-de-sacs of nano-blisters called “life” is Nature’s “Objective Moral Good” then Nature is going to prove to be an (in the true sense of the word) absolute Moral Monster even as she proves to be god. The nano-blister which we call life will, without question, at the hands of Nature, be expunged – ad infinitum. Nature’s moral is to delete nature’s objective moral good – ad infinitum as the universe, god, does whatever she does in expansion, shrinking……. A kind of ad infinitum immorality. Theism again?

    In a temporal universe full of unimaginable quanta of dark matter laden beneath unimaginable quanta of void and space, the assertion of “The Objective Moral Good” housed within what is “the flourishing of” the barely noticeable micro-bubble of pitiless genomic perpetuation blistering out of the surface of something unimaginably massive only to then precipitously burst into non-entity in a dead end cul-de-sac just is a “moral good” which Nature ceaselessly – and successfully – deletes. Were it not for her expressionless indifference one could justifiably claim she hates morality.

    And she is god.

    Slavery? Oh please. Didn’t you hear? She is god.

    This is not a moral statement on insect slavery nurtured over eons by god into various species of insects. This is not a moral statement on that same inclination nurtured by god into another very successful species. This is Nature – god – the Moral Monster who hates that morality called flourishing – that morality that we, life don’t want too much of. This is the Moral Monster who hates that eternal oxymoron: morality too much of which is dangerous to morality. This is she who is that same eternal oxymoron, she who pitilessly nurtures slavery into an array of species and who in the next breadth of indifference expunges the nano-blister called flourishing and deletes her labor’s irrationally conditioned reflex called happiness. This is god. This is that out of which all moral lines flow.

  168. There are no coherent, true, ontological statements about slavery wherein such a landscape is – in all possible worlds – the Dark, the Outside, the Ought-Not, the ontologically loveless, other than inside of Scripture’s Meta-Narrative in which all lines converge within the fountain of all personhood, the ceaseless water of all that is I/You – within the immutable love of the Necessary Being. In Christ we find the affirmation of our brokenness and of our redemption, our moral failure and our embrace. In Him, through Him, we find the affirmation of the horrific nature of the entity that we call slavery even as we find the affirmation of the only coherent Means by which Mankind finds his full and final emancipation. Our brutal moral experience is relentless here in our privation even as He is relentless in His dive into such for us – who He calls His beloved. Having now poured into us, He shall, on the grounds of Genesis’ Protevangelium and Israel’s centuries of Prophets – across millennia – finally fill us full with our final felicity such that no man shall need to be taught of love by another man ever again – as it will be Immutable Love Himself Who fills us. Wherever we shall look, that is to say, wherever we shall motion, whether beneath our feet, or above our heads, or into our chests, we will find that beautiful Freedom called Permanence.

  169. scblhrm – So, yeah. You haven’t read the link in #157. Your words, GM’s words, Harris and Darwin’s words… but none of mine. You clearly aren’t interested in a conversation with me, so I’ll just leave you to it. Have fun!

  170. Slavery’s Only Absolute – Ceaseless – Antithesis: Trinity

    Absurdity:

    Deep in the mire of unrecallable eons metaphysical naturalism finds her faceless god named Blind Indifference relentlessly falling forward, nurturing, rearing any potpourri of molecular happenstance worthy of yet one more step of genomic multiplication. The hodgepodge arrays of irrationally conditioned reflexes summing into the psychedelic inclinations we call “slavery” across various insect speciations is found ever worthy, highly favored and therein declared part of god’s fitted kingdom. Kaleidoscopic cascades falling forward ever outward, ever wider across fitted eras carried the kingdom’s self-serving heartlessness into yet other, even more successful species – effervescing into the ever irrationally conditioned psychic phosphorescence within the skulls of a more recent biped arrival. The bipeds immersed in their many and varied conditional – arbitrary – delusions each declare with fists raised that their own particular conditioned – arbitrary – delusion is the fact of the matter an all others are the “real” delusion. In a world of neurons awash in an ocean of blind molecular reflex antirealism’s ontological pluralism sits at god’s right hand – his expressionless name being Absurdity and god is his A and his Z. The bipeds are unaware that these too – these varied notions of trueness – are yet other crafty bits of stealth which god has laced deep into his array of reflexive feedback loops ever lurking beneath the surface compelling her mechanistic genomic duplications to spit out yet again. She always wins, eventually, across the eons as her beloved psychotics adrift in their ocean of conditioned – arbitrary – delusions ever shuffle this way and that way feverishly sprinting towards inevitable extinction there in what is the moral landscape of god’s kingdom.

    Sanity:

    Our brutally repeatable moral experiences intellectually and existentially coincides with Scripture’s Meta-Narrative – each affirming that Slavery is in all possible worlds – at every conceivable juncture – that which is – in existence’s full and final essence – the Ought-Not, the Outside, the Dark, the Ugly, such that once the universe’s fateful reorganization within its quantum change-of-states (energy’s absurd infinite regress) fluxes yet again and evolutionary morality is non-entity, there will yet be – still left standing – that immutable Objective Moral Object inside of love’s volitional grain amid personhood – still left standing – in all that is love’s I-You / Self-Other there as the final mediator, Actuality’s ceaseless envoi. The inescapable – unending – value of, beauty of, worthiness of Person, of Other there – we will see how – ends all regression – ad infinitum. This meta-narrative is the fact of the matter, is the state of affairs on the issue at hand – slavery – and that in all possible worlds, therefore – it is self-evident – we must look beyond both methodological and metaphysical naturalism’s inseparable identities with the kaleidoscopic fluidity of the arbitrary, the phantasmagoric, the amoral, the indifferent for in that hopelessly indifferent paradigm ontological pluralism wrapped up inside of antirealism’s variegated oscillations awaits all lines and while in such absurdity all may be the stuff of psychosis adrift in an ocean of irrationally conditioned delusion, all assertions just are an impossible case in such a world of delusion-laden psychosis. Naturalism as a metaphysics – not as a methodology of the study of the created order – accumulates here ever more hemorrhaging in what ends in fatality, and, in this issue now at hand, leaves SLAVERY ever intact as just one more bit of The-Real in that endless chain of bits within quantum indeterminism’s absurd infinite regress that just is energy’s change-of-state – that just is atheism’s god.

    Spying Freedom:

    Once out of metaphysical naturalism’s nihilism we find that Mind’s I-exist is declared actually intact – free of enslavement’s absurdity – where logic’s A in fact is not logic’s B as logic’s finger outreaches the edges of the natural universe and man’s own mind, his own living-i-am there awakes within an ocean of ontological contours which all begin to fuse as we move into the arena of our brutally repeatable experiences, into all that is logic, into all that is the beloved, into all that is love. We find at the end of these many lines all that is personhood’s necessarily triune real estate of the I’s motions amid all that just is the milieu of Self-Other-Us and there mind’s living-i-am’s perceive yet farther. In all these junctures that same triune real estate of personhood, of the I’s motions, is found seamlessly fluid in His Image, that ontological – moral – landscape that is the ceaseless reciprocity within the immutable love of the Necessary Being, there – in God – in Trinity.

    Emancipation:

    God – Immutable Love – Trinity – articulates, “Let Us make man in Our Image” and Genesis’ Actuality is the OT’s Actuality, is the NT’s Actuality, as Actuality finds Man in the lap of Personhood’s inescapably triune milieu of Self-Other-Us within the ceaseless reciprocity of the immutable love of the Necessary Being. Therein – in Trinity – love’s timeless Sacrifice, pouring out, of all which we call Self – amid and among the timeless Filling of all which we call the Beloved/Other forever begets within such living waters all which just is the singular Us – and this ad infinitum void of what we call First, void of what we call Last, void of what we call Thirst. Such triune contours within the immutable love of the Necessary Being bring us to the ends of what Man can call sight as he peers into He Who first precedes, then endures, and finally outreaches, outdistances, all possible worlds. The exegesis of filiation, of the eternally begotten as a proper and orthodox semantic paradigm is there forever housed within the Triune, that is to say, within those motions which both the intellectual and existential affirm as comprising love, Who Scripture affirms is Himself God. A key that unlocks: Man is by necessity the Contingent Self, fashioned in His Image – in God’s, the Triune’s, Image – and therein Man’s Means and Man’s Ends just are those motions found within Trinity by which all his (man’s) hope – all his (man’s) means and ends – are reduced to one word: Other.

    Slavery’s End:

    The geography amid Contingency and Necessity never changes as all that is the state of affairs of the contingent self’s volition amid self/other finds him in motion and such unpacks the affairs of volition’s delight, of volition’s trust within love’s many embraces and we find that should such motion be into the contingent’s own self he will there find – necessarily – insufficiency, lack, want, and this ad infinitum in the un-free permanence of the un-whole. Whereas, that same business of volition – of motion – into what just is Immutable Love finds the non-free of the non-whole fading into non-entity as – ad infinitum – He fills us full with our true and final felicity. All the OT’s assessment of means and ends across all those millennia just always were those same means and ends assessed in the NT which all these millennia just always have been all these affairs of His Love enunciating across all that just is the history of man that it is the case that in fact – actually, finally – no person shall need to be taught of love by man ever again – as it will be Immutable Love Himself Who fills us, Who we spy face to face. The Necessary Means here becomes the Necessary Being Himself as – it is self-evident – nothing less houses the reach required to tie up all such metaphysical ends in Actuality’s Paradigm. All-Sufficiency emerges as what must be the contingent’s hope: God Himself pouring Himself out for – pouring Himself into – we the contingent in all that just is the affairs of Amalgamation, all that just is Timelessness/Time, Immaterial/Material, Incorporeal/Corporeal, Word/Flesh, in all that just is the affairs of God-In-Man, of Man-In-God – of incarnation. By such All-Sufficient Means an unspeakable liberty will emerge in our Ends as wherever we shall there freely motion within Actuality’s Triune, whether into what lay beneath our feet, or into what sails above our heads, or into those possible worlds within our chests, we will find that beautiful freedom called Permanence.

  171. Tom

    “Third, why do you not see that when you write, “And as for ‘There is no place in Christianity for regarding one person as worth more than any other.’ Except it seems in certain parts of the Bible under certain political or economic conditions,” you do not recognize that your second sentence is not a rebuttal of the first?”

    Ironically, it is only through subjective interpretation of the Bible for that to be so. Putting aside that there is nothing in the Bible that states what the Biblical canon should be, or by what criteria which ancient books should be selected; it takes subjective interpretation and selection of distinct parts of the Bible to form a sympathetic doctrine that repudiates its more distasteful aspects such as condoning slavery, in order to then state “the Bible has it right on slavery”.

  172. GrahamH,

    I know that you addressed your comment #184 to Tom, but since this is an open forum, I jump in here to give you a response. I think that it is nonsense to say that “the Bible condones slavery” when the Bible does not speak as a whole. Most certainly, you must admit that Christianity as a religion does not condone slavery, although some Christians at different points in time have done so and have been proven wrong. You suggest that only through “subjective interpretation” of “distinct parts of the Bible” are the source of a “sympathetic doctrine” regarding slavery, while atheists seem to apply this same strategy to bolster a case for the conclusion that the entire Bible “condones” involuntary servitude.

    IMO, atheist overlook significant Bible exegesis in traditional and modern Judaism in order to draw their conclusion that “the Bible condones slavery” including the Passover, the Sabbatical Year and most particularly, the Jubilee Year, where as a matter of law, all slaves are freed, all debts forgiven and all the wealth of the society redistributed. Why would the sacred scriptures and the laws of a society that “condones slavery” include a mandate that all slavery end and all persons be given their freedom from debt (the source of involuntary servitude) every 50 years if this society really “condones” slavery?

    Atheists’ arguments that the New Testament “condones slavery” are even more flimsy and unfounded, thus calling into question the charge that the Bible (in its entirety as the sacred scriptures of Judaism and Christianity) “condones slavery.”

    It is amazing to me to hear atheists making arguments about the Bible’s “stance” on slavery that would make Jefferson Davis jump for joy. I always wonder what they hope to gain from these arguments. Meanwhile, my hope is that atheists realize that no Christian living today is in any way obligated to defend or justify the way the ancient Hebrews interpreted God’s will for them through the laws they devised in response to their Covenant with God as they understood God.

Comments close automatically on posts older than 120 days.