If not the Bible, then how did we come to know that slavery is wrong?

That WWJTD’s response to my August 24 post, Ten Reasons the Bible Has It Right On Slavery, was scornful is hardly surprising. First, he caught me legitimately in an error: I misused the word “condone” where I meant “heartily affirm.” I should have said, “Note that the Bible does not heartily affirm everything that it recognizes, nor even everything that it regulates (divorce being one other example).”

JT notes correctly that the Bible does condone slavery, which is to say, it allows that which is considered wrong to continue. The question is, who’s considering it wrong? JT certainly does, as does virtually everyone else today. The question is, did the writers of the Bible consider it wrong? If God was the ultimate author of the Bible, did he consider it wrong? If so, then why didn’t they just say so?

From what I’ve been told, the morals of the Bible are something to strive for. There was no delusion that putting something in the Bible automatically caused it to phase out of the space-time continuum. It was meant as a guide, and to improve society (not that I think its moral code is all that moral)… something for individuals to work towards.
We don’t necessarily need to start a movement… just throw in 3-word rule into the 1000+ page book (or roughly 850 pages if we’re talking about the OT) – “Don’t own people”
Suppose that only one person, ever, is freed, because one Christian actually decided to listen to his/her Bible for a change, and free a slave. Is this one person’s freedom worth so little to God, that he couldn’t include that 3-word rule? Does he care so little? Is there a 783,137 word limit for the Bible, and they just managed to max it out?

That’s a great question. It’s a question with a context, which is that today, JT and everyone else knows that slavery is wrong. What I want to know is where JT learned that from? If Christianity is at fault for never issuing that simple three-word command, I want to know what other major philosophy succeeded.

How did we discover that slavery is wrong? Plato considered it necessary to an orderly society, even to justice itself. Aristotle took it that certain people were slaves by nature. The Hindu religion carries that to an extreme. Islam orders dhimmitude—not necessarily slavery per se, but nevertheless greatly dehumanizing even its gentler forms.

Was it in the Enlightenment that we discovered there was something evil about slavery? I’ve heard that suggested, and I’d be willing to hear it defended, but not in terms of when it happened, but why it happened; specifically, what were the intellectual currents leading up to it?

Do we know it because we’ve witnessed its horrors in the modern age? Certainly that’s driven the conviction deep into our souls, but we wouldn’t have regarded it as a horror unless we first recognized it as wrong. New World slavery didn’t explain to us that slavery was evil, it showed us how extreme its evil could be. We had to know slavery was wrong to know that this extreme version was extremely wrong.

Do we know from modern science that slavery is wrong? I am not aware of any lab experiment or field work that’s demonstrated there is such a thing as wrongness.

I have my opinions on these questions, and I spoke about that briefly in my “Ten Reasons” post, but for now I’ll leave my voice out of it and let you suggest your answers. From where did we gain the discovery that slavery is evil?

For now, also, I will acknowledge that I’m not offering any direct answer to JT’s great question: why didn’t God just say it was wrong? I don’t intend (or need) to evade that question; rather I’m building toward it a step at a time, and also trying to keep the conversation open.

Comments 81
  1. John Moore

    From the ancient Roman point of view, slavery is mercy. A person of noble character would fight to the death or commit suicide, but many people lack such nobility so they surrender. There’s no such thing as prison camps, and no nation states that can sign peace treaties, so the choice is between death and slavery.

    In order to say slavery is wrong, you must overcome the idea that people are either noble or slavish. Today we no longer blame a person for being a slave, but we blame the slave-holder, and that’s because we think slaves and slave-holders are both merely human, morally equal to each other. The slave-holder sets himself up as noble, and he dehumanizes the slave.

    When did our attitudes change? When did we shift from the noble-versus-slavish mindset and embrace the universal humanity mindset? I think it’s related to the end of feudalism and the rise of the middle class, which led to the rise of representative government. It was a long process, of course, but it might have started in the Renaissance and blossomed during the Enlightenment.

  2. scblhrm

    Nietzsche’s herd mentality in its will to power amid the weaker didn’t just evolve in a poof – and as such requires man’s far more rapid motions atop such stasis. A brutally tasted ominous a priori value of the Other alongside, within, man’s perception of All Things began entering intelligibility only as certain irreducible a priori narratives replaced less whole, less complete Hard Stops. An End of ad infinitum in Meaning’s regress, a Hard Stop named Love, surfaces in a Meta-Narrative, and intelligibility actualized. There have been many hard stops along the way – only one of which outdistanced the stuff of autohypnosis, the stuff of man as god, the stuff of god as god, and thereby both displaced and justifiably displaced all such lesser hard stops. Wives and Children and Slaves and Prostitutes and the Sick and Criminals are declared as on par with Christ – God – and Philemon’s author grants Rome its felt justification of his execution, even as an a priori execution of Another was also justified on grounds of His declaring that very same Hard Stop of God-In-Man, of Man-In-God.

  3. Ronwilliams

    Your point is really worth ,So as to say slavery isn’t right, you must beat the thought that individuals are either respectable or submissive. Today we probably won’t accuse an individual for being a slave, yet we accuse the slave-holder, and that is on account of we think slaves and slave-holders are both just human, ethically equivalent to one another. The slave-holder sets himself up as honorable.

  4. killerbee

    The title of your blog is very apt. You demonstrate two examples of christian thinking in this article.
    The first one is the idea that there needed to be an external reason for humans to decide that slavery was wrong. Humans didn’t need any external help, they had been repulsed by slavery for some time and through empathy and compassion decided that slavery should end.

    The second is your deflection in answering the question “Why didn’t god just say slavery is wrong”
    Christians are adept at evading direct factual questions that demonstrate the fragility of the bible story. Deflect, move in circular motions, delay. These are the tactics employed by the christian apologist.

    Good to see you are at least consistent.

  5. Tom Gilson

    killerbee,

    Your explanation in terms of repulsion is historically false, possibly even naive, for reasons I gave in the blog post. The deflection you accuse me of committing was addressed in advance in my closing comments.

    I suggest you be careful what you describe as examples of poor thinking.

    Please note that “Christian,” “God,” and “Bible,” being proper nouns, are capitalized in this context by people who know how to write in English. See item 5 here. (“Christian” is also capitalized, as a matter of proper English, when it’s used as an adjective.)

  6. Bill L

    Tom,
    You’ve asked a very good question about what is wrongness in a sense, and are scientists any closer to understanding it? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I think we may agree that it takes a conscious entity to decide that. I have no doubt that you would think the only one that matters is that ultimate conscious entity. Of course I am not sure that is the case…

    Why do Capuchin monkeys act with a sense of anger at unfairness when rewarded with cucumbers when their fellow Capuchins are given grapes? Obviously this leads me to wonder about a kind of pre-morality expressed in many animals. [Shermer wrote about this well in “The Science of Good and Evil” as have many others].

    Were people even aware of a slow social current that led them to empathize more with others? Were they aware of the shifts of cultural perspectives that led them to take hypotheticals more seriously? [See Pinker’s “The Better Angels of our nature”]. It seems probable that this kind of slow unconscious change would have brought about the kinds of changes you wonder about.

    “Don’t do this to me since you wouldn’t want this to be done to you.” The Golden Rule goes back to many cultures that pre-date the Bible. But many cultures took painstaking steps in order to circumvent its application.

    I think John Moore has it right in his last paragraph (above) but I would say it slowly started long before the Renaissance and Enlightenment.

    I think it’s too bad that the Bible is seen as some kind of immutable truth by so many. Exodus 21:20-21, seems like a direct endorsement not only of slavery, but a prescription of just how sternly you can beat your slaves. I have never seen an honest way out of this one.

  7. toddes

    I’ll keep this short as I have responsibilities that I must attend to this morning.

    It is a mistake to say that ‘slavery’ is always wrong. As a Christian, am I not a ‘slave’ to Christ? If ‘slavery’ is always wrong then being a Christian is always wrong.

    Personally, I am tired of the semantics. There is a huge difference between a servant (voluntary) and a slave (involuntary). Not all references in the Bible ( or elsewhere) are pointing to the latter and to assume so is fallacious if not dishonest. But there are also times when both groups need to be discussed as a whole: those who have sold themselves and those who have been bought unwilling. How best to do that?

  8. SteveK

    Skimming over the comments so far, I don’t see a direct answer to Tom’s question of HOW we came to know about morality.

    If you’re not a moral realist/objectivist then that question misses the mark. If you’re a moral relativist, you would say that we didn’t discover this knowledge, we carved out and created the category of morality ourselves – individually and as a group – to coincide with the numerous utilitarian urges these individuals and groups have at any given time.

    If you are a moral realist/objectivist and you are also a naturalist then I think you will find yourself in an impossible situation. Impossible in the sense that – in principle – the question cannot be answered without accepting a logical contradiction.

    But maybe I’m wrong…

  9. scblhrm

    Moral realism is a critical point – a little more on that in a moment:

    Lions and lambs living in cooperation, unity, is, per the OT and NT metanarrative, the expected, the excellent. As such, we expect to see those lines in those places. As a proof of metaphysical naturalism or of God such lines are therefore a wash – they cancel out. On to the next thing.

    Beating a free man merits death for the beater if the person beaten dies and re-payed lost labor if he lives. Indentured servants also merrit death for the person who beats them if the servant dies, and lost wages are translated to whatever means of redemption the arrangement has. The case law of that Exodus chapter was discussed in the other threads dealing with slavery. Reading the whole set of verses in their proper context of case law applicable across a wide array of circumstances and OTHER such verses also in those same arrays of variables helps avoid the error of chronological snobbery on the one hand and of contextual abuse on the other.

    The innate equality of violence (fully present now) and empathy (fully present now) in any evolutionary ESSENCE is inescapable until we begin foisting all the typical false identity claims and blind axioms of wish fulfillment by which Sam Harris’ moral landscape fatally suffers.

    Metaphysical naturalism has no objective moral ontic which outdistances the taste buds of the tasters.

    Fine. We like it now. Now we don’t. Now we do.

    But the argument made by Scripture’s meta-narrative is that Slavery (different from indentured servanthood) is wrong even though (if atheism) evolution built every bit of it, or, even though men favor it.

    Not when, but WHY Man came to that same conclusion is under review.

    That conclusion is nothing more than a misperception of the Really Real (no-god) in which case no matter HOW or WHEN or WHY we “got there” is just fodder – or it is a perception of some immutable contour of the Really Real, in which case ANY explanation is one of discovery rather than invention.

  10. Bill L

    SteveK,
    You’re right; I did not directly answer the question – it would not only take too much time, but I don’t have all the answers and others have done a better job than I ever could. But I ask people to think about the implications from the observations that we make of other animals – namely that they have strong reactions to things like injustice. If THIS is where morality arises, then I don’t know if that makes me a realist/objectivist or a relativist.

    If brains are the origin of morals, then I would think we can look at their reactions to stimuli in a similar way to how we look at any chemical reaction – it is real and objective in the sense that it describes a world as real as it gets. However if you take the position that objective must be something that is outside of the brain (not a position I hold), then I suppose it is relativistic.

    I’d love to hear your feedback on this.

  11. Robert Jeyne

    This new book looks very relevant to the discussion:

    Storm of Words: Science, Religion, and Evolution in the Civil War Era (Religion & American Culture) Hardcover – July 31, 2014

    by Monte Harrell Hampton

    The part of it I can read free through Amazon quotes a number of leading Southern Presbyterian theologians and pastors in the 1850s and 1960s making the argument that antislavery was a product of the radical Enlightenment, was anti-Bible, etc. For example:

    Storm of Words: Science, Religion, and Evolution in the Civil War Era (Religion & American Culture) Hardcover – July 31, 2014

    by Monte Harrell Hampton

    e.g., pp. 12-13:

    ——-
    Addressing the history of antislavery opinions, Armstrong averred that, though slavery had waxed and waned in Christian nations due to the “operation of worldly causes,” no one had deemed it a violation of true religion or morality until the late eighteenth century. This change had come not from within the church or from more thorough study of the Bible, but from “that infidel philsophy on the subjects of civil government and human liberty” that had culminated in the French Revolution. This “science, falsely so called,” substituted for “the Bible account of the origin of the civil government in the family, the theory of the ‘civil compact’ … and confounds human liberty with unbridled license.” Outside the South popular expositions of scripture increasingly mingled this “heresy” with the truths of God’s word, and Armstrong believed it the faithful preacher’s responsibility to warn against this encroachment of rationalism upon the sanctity of revelation. 10

    In New Orleans, Benjamin M. Palmer — the leading Presbyterian of the Old Southwest — declared it the South’s “providential trust” to perpetuate the institution of slavery. In his “Thanksgiving Sermon” of 1860, delivered to a throng dizzied by the anticipation of war, Palmer said: “In this great struggle, we defend the cause of God and religion.” Arrayed against the southern defenders of biblical truth was nothing less than a modern incarnation of the atheistic spirit of the French Revolution. “The demon which erected its throne upon the guillotine in the day of Robespierre,” he warned, “yet survives to work other horrors, of which the French Revolution is but the type.” Rejecting the social order prescribed by the Bible and divine providence, northern cries for “liberty, equality, and fraternity” really meant “bondage, confiscation, and massacre.” Palmer reminded his audience of their diving calling: “To the South the high position is assigned of defending, before all nations, the cause of all religion and of all truth. Palmer, Armstrong, and Dabney spoke for many others when they linked antislavery to scriptural infidelity and slavery to southern faithfulness to God’s word.
    ——-

    It goes on like this for pages. Some of the people mentioned, from Wikipedia:

    Robert Lewis Dabney: Dabney studied at Hampden-Sydney College (B.A., 1837) and the University of Virginia (M.A., 1842), and graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 1846.[3]

    He was then a missionary in Louisa County, Virginia, from 1846 to 1847 and pastor at Tinkling Springs Presbyterian Church from 1847 to 1853, being also head master of a classical school for a portion of this time. He is considered a distinguished son of Providence Presbyterian Church.[4] It was at Tinkling Springs that he met Margaret Lavinia Morrison. They were married on March 28, 1848. They had six sons together, three of whom died in childhood from diphtheria (two in 1855, the other in 1862). From 1853 to 1859, he was professor of ecclesiastical history and polity and from 1859 to 1869 adjunct professor of systematic theology in Union Theological Seminary, where he later became full professor of systematics. In 1883, he was appointed professor of mental and moral philosophy in the University of Texas.

    George Dodd Armstrong – 1857 – author of The Christian Doctrine of Slavery
    (maybe also the namesake of George Armstrong Custer?)

    Then described as “Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Norfolk, VA”

    (“The Christian Doctrine of Slavery” is a free ebook at Google Books I see)

  12. SteveK

    Bill L

    But I ask people to think about the implications from the observations that we make of other animals – namely that they have strong reactions to things like injustice. If THIS is where morality arises, then I don’t know if that makes me a realist/objectivist or a relativist.

    Here’s my take on this…

    The way you are stating it, it appears you have an objectivist view of morality. I don’t really think animals are reacting to injustice – primarily because I don’t think they have the ability to know what injustice is.

    Setting that aside though, your words imply that the mind of an animal is reacting to something external to the being itself. You said it is reacting TO injustice. Your words imply that it’s not reacting to something within itself – its feelings, hardwiring, biological makeup, urges, desires, emotions, priorities, temptations, etc – otherwise you would have said that THIS is what the animal is reacting to.

    Additionally, the concept of injustice entails a prescriptive component. Nothing within the animal itself (refer to my prior list) has this attribute, hence it is impossible for it to be reacting to this concept of injustice if it is reacting to something within itself. It must be reacting to some other concept of injustice that doesn’t entail a prescriptive “ought”. But now everything falls apart because there’s nothing that needs to be corrected. This is the relativistic view.

  13. Bill L

    Interesting Steve. But I should have (or could have) said that the animal is reacting to a perceived sense of injustice… that is, external stimuli (not getting a grape when his counterpart does) are affecting his brain. There seems to be something in the brain that calls this “injustice.” So is this injustice real? Well, I don’t know that it’s any less real then “salty things taste salty” or “concordant sounds” sound nice. The brain seems to tie concepts to real external stimuli and develops a model of what that is or what it feels like. The ways that emotions and desires are states of the brain, it seems plausible that the brain can react (a sense of injustice) to what is inside of it.

  14. toddes

    Slavery in the Bible isn’t about one person owning another and treating them fairly. It is about the God who redeems.

    “I think it’s too bad that the Bible is seen as some kind of immutable truth by so many. Exodus 21:20-21 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] , seems like a direct endorsement not only of slavery, but a prescription of just how sternly you can beat your slaves. I have never seen an honest way out of this one.”

    Bill L., all you have to do is read verses 18-19 in conjunction with 20-21.

    “When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed.

    When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.”

    If you think that the phrase “for the slave is his money” is referring to the slave as property you’re misreading the command. The recovery time for the ‘slave’ is the responsibility of the injuring party just as in the prior command however the ‘slave’ already owes a debt to the injuring party. You can read elsewhere that for certain injuries the ‘slave’ is to be given freedom. These situations aren’t about property ownership but about debt payment. Slavery in Israel was the welfare system of the day. (Let the hue and cry begin for making that affirmation.)

    God doesn’t directly state that ‘slavery is always wrong’ because it isn’t. The sooner we realize that the focus of slavery in the Bible is on redemption, the sooner we can get back to the important issue of the One who redeems us.

  15. SteveK

    Bill L

    But I should have (or could have) said that the animal is reacting to a perceived sense of injustice… that is, external stimuli (not getting a grape when his counterpart does) are affecting his brain.

    Okay, maybe then you are a moral relativist.

    There seems to be something in the brain that calls this “injustice.” So is this injustice real?

    It would be real but this form of injustice you are speaking about would not entail an objective (mind independent) prescriptive component.

    The prescriptive component that is being perceived was either (a) created by other animals (humans, etc) or (b) created by the subject itself. They are real in the sense that they do exist, but all of these “oughts” are rooted in the fact that they were all created by some individual – rather than having an existence beyond all individuals.

    This is subjective morality through and through. The rule of “ought” changes from subject to subject, and over time.

    What ought to be done, and how ought we live our lives? The answers are rooted in the mind of the individual who created the rules and are subject to change over time.

    Well, I don’t know that it’s any less real then “salty things taste salty” or “concordant sounds” sound nice.

    I would argue that perceptions do entail the subjective concept of nice-ness, but could never entail the objective concept of ought-ness. This is the key difference.

  16. Bill L

    Toddes,
    That is interesting. I have encountered many who talk about slavery in the OT as a guide for treating them fairly.

    I usually use net.bible.org for my translations. Here it says “…. However, if the injured servant survives one or two days, the owner will not be punished, for he has suffered the loss.” In the notes: “he”; the referent (the owner of the injured servant) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.”

    This seems in line with the point I was making… namely, that you can beat your slaves as long as you don’t do it with so much force that it kills them. This seems to speak volumes about fair treatment. I’m not sure how else to look at it.

  17. Bill L

    Steve K,
    Thanks for your reply. Perhaps you’re right and “oughts” are more subjective under my view. Perhaps they are in the mind of God.

    How do you think we could tell the difference?

  18. Melissa

    Bill L,

    This seems in line with the point I was making… namely, that you can beat your slaves as long as you don’t do it with so much force that it kills them. This seems to speak volumes about fair treatment. I’m not sure how else to look at it.

    The only way to look at it is that the penalty for beating anyone was to pay for lost wages. ie. the penalty is the same whether the person was free or slave.

  19. BillT

    Were people even aware of a slow social current that led them to empathize more with others? Were they aware of the shifts of cultural perspectives that led them to take hypotheticals more seriously?

    If it was really a “slow social current” then why did that current happen pretty much only in Christian Europe? Islamic nations, Hindu nations and the Eastern Empires didn’t seem to benefit from any of this. In Christian Europe the church essentially eliminated slavery throughout the area of its influence. Elsewhere, not so much.

  20. Bill L

    Melissa,

    Could you clarify that? What for example would be paid for merely striking a slave say hard enough to make him be bruised or bleed, but not interfere with his ability to work?

  21. Bill L

    BillT,

    If it was really a “slow social current” then why did that current happen pretty much only in Christian Europe?

    That’s a great question… I’m not so sure I have the answer. I’m guessing you have read Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel?” So in that perspective we could talk about the development of cultures with advances in technology and literacy that seem to lead people to be able to take the perspectives of others (again see the Pinker book I mentioned).

    I suppose one could mention that the vast majority of the Christian world did not make the kinds of changes that the Church did. You may counter that they were not really following the true teachings.

    What then of other cultures that did not take slaves? I am not aware of any devout Buddhists or Jains that ever did.

  22. Melissa

    Bill L.,

    Could you clarify that? What for example would be paid for merely striking a slave say hard enough to make him be bruised or bleed, but not interfere with his ability to work?

    My only point is that the verses you referred to show that in the instance where a person is beaten so they lose the ability to work the penalty is the same whether the person beaten is free or a slave. In context it is “fair”. I don’t think we can conclude from these verses that it was OK to beat anyone (slave or free) as long as they didn’t lose work time.

  23. SteveK

    Bill L

    How do you think we could tell the difference?

    I think we can tell through the normal act of knowing – however impossible it is for anyone to explain how that occurs. Unfortunately we are all corrupted in varying degrees so that can be difficult.

    When you speak of injustice are you speaking of the knowledge you have about yourself or some group of people? Most would say “no”, they are speaking of the knowledge of a concept that entails objective rules of ought that apply equally to everyone regardless of the person or group. That knowledge is knowledge of something beyond all people. I know this to be true because people admit to it all the time. Maybe even you do this.

  24. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    You asked, “What for example would be paid for merely striking a slave say hard enough to make him be bruised or bleed, but not interfere with his ability to work?”

    If the man who is hit, struck, so much as looses a tooth……its there in black in white. If he looses a tooth….. and there the entire body of case law kicks in……..the redemption comes if an injury makes that applicable. It’s two different areas of law – each clearly present. Not all injuries amount to lost money, yet those are listed. It’s not a list of every situation nor of every needed result – its a frame within which to work. Some indentured servants may even go free on occasion….. all sorts of lines and trajectories are given to help frame their overall approach.

    It’s called case law / etc. and isn’t new here…..Judaism and so on.

    If you think God’s design was a Billion Page Book for every possible permutation – well – you are then no longer speaking about Scripture’s construct.

    The Critic would then say, ad infinitum:

    “Okay, lets say no teeth are hurt, but his toe IS hurt! What THEN?”

    And that little bit of insanity in the Critic’s analysis is where the whole essence of what the Old Covenant “is” in its case law applications across many varying situations becomes a pointless discussion, and, also, that little rush of insanity is also the real world proof of Man’s nature and demonstrates exactly why and exactly how it is that LAWS never were put in place by God as the Morally Excellent, or to save, redeem, Mankind, but were only put in place to contain, sustain, him for those far Greater Means/Ends which the OT also defined in all its semantic lines but which the Critic seems to ignore.

    By “Critic” I do not mean you Bill, its only a generic “they” sort of meaning here.

  25. Bill L

    scblhrm,

    If the man who is hit, struck, so much as looses a tooth….

    I must be missing something. Where are you getting this from? The way I read it says “….if the injured servant survives one or two days, the owner will not be punished….”

    Could you point out some references to compensation for injured slaves?

  26. Bill L

    Steve K,
    I understand your feelings on this, but you may already anticipate the problems… My “normal act of knowing” tells me that rocks are solid, not 99.9%+ empty space. My “normal act of knowing” initially told me to stand where I was when faced with Monty Hall Problem.

  27. SteveK

    Bill L,
    Regarding my #22, if most everyone is correct in the way they communicate their knowledge of reality, then their knowledge is knowledge about something other than you, me or any other individual or people group.

    So now we come back to Tom’s basic question, how did we come to know about this whatever-it-is that is beyond all people? Well, the first thing is it has to exist in order for anyone to know about it. That’s the beginning of the end for naturalism.

  28. Bill L

    Melissa,

    You have more knowledge than I do. Was there a proscription against beating non-slaves according to the OT?

  29. scblhrm

    Bill L:

    As toddes pointed out (#13) the overall theme / paradigm there in those case laws is amid both free men and indentured servants.

    Exodus 21 has some injury laws – in the wider context of that already described earlier: “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye. 27″And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on account of his tooth….”

    One must at this point resist the urge for that little bit of ad infinitum of slicing up the denotative ever thinner to escape. All murder is a crime, so, your question to Melissa is bordering on that bit of insanity……..prove positive yet again.

    “But God didn’t say don’t pull hair, He just said don’t murder!!”

    Law as a Means/Ends to Immutable Love?

    God knew better.

    What a world huh? Beating. Poverty. Payments.

    Some believe God should just do magic and snap his fingers to make the dream go away.

    But reality isn’t a dream. As for the ugliness of the pains of our privation here outside of wholeness – well – Genesis 3 defines many things, one of which is the whole paradigm of domination as part of what just is Dark, Sin, Death, and so on. It’s a matter of Man’s essence, or nature.

    Definitions just do matter. Defining anything differently than Scripture does leads to all sorts of straw-men. Your question to Melissa about not beating up non-slaves inches close……

    Scripture ominously defines entire metaphysical paradigms in Genesis (and of course elsewhere) and it would serve everyone well to include those definitions in one’s analysis of what God says, does, seeks, loves, hates, and so on.

  30. SteveK

    Bill L,

    My “normal act of knowing” tells me that rocks are solid, not 99.9%+ empty space.

    To repeat your question, how do you think we can tell the difference (which is true)?

    And to anticipate your reply, did this knowledge come via some superior act of knowing or via the normal act of knowing?

    And to anticipate your reply to that, how do you think we can tell the difference (which is true)?

    If you don’t see the problem, just keep looking.

  31. BillT

    That’s a great question… I’m not so sure I have the answer. I’m guessing you have read Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel?” So in that perspective we could talk about the development of cultures with advances in technology and literacy that seem to lead people to be able to take the perspectives of others…

    Bill,

    The problem with your question is that “the development of cultures with advances in technology and literacy that seem to lead people to be able to take the perspectives of others” isn’t an accurate description of what happened. Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel misses the real point in the development of modern civilization. Try Stark’s “The Victory of Reason” if you want to really understand what the driving forces were. (And BTW, Pinker’s book is a mess.)

  32. Bill L

    Steve K,
    To be clear, I don’t pretend to have the answer.

    And with that – goodnight everyone. Time to sign off. Thanks for the good thoughts – all of them.

  33. SteveK

    But seriously, Bill L, if you are implying your knowledge that rocks are solid conflicts with the knowledge that they are mostly empty space then you need to look up the word equivocation because you are equating two very different perspectives as the same.

    My normal act of knowing tells me the earth is flat, not round.
    (gasp! what shall I do!?)

  34. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    First, I should say that I shared your questions of the ugliness of the world’s landscape and also that of the OT’s (seeming) lack of Means/Ends that we intuit ought be actualized. But in discovering what the OT really is, was meant to be relative to means, to ends, and to man’s nature, and what the NT really is in terms of that same nature and those same means/ends, the Meta-Narrative of Scripture’s “A – Z” puts all those (valid) concerns to rest.

    To qualify case law, the law need not say “If X then Y” to have X/Y included inside of its frame of approach.

    So the absence of “brothers, don’t beat up your sisters” does not mysteriously exclude such, and in the same way the presence of some “X” does not mean that X was always the bitter end of the law’s commentary.

    Pharisees, unfortunately, used the law in such a sinful way as the hair-splitting denotative brother/sister stuff – and (if we need more) the Definitions which we find in Genesis and in the Prophets and in Christ both precede and outdistance that (silly) approach and therefore disqualify it on grounds of the wider meta-narrative.

  35. Jenna Black

    It needs to be pointed out that JT’s solution to the problem of the morality of slavery is for God to have issued this pronouncement: “Don’t own people.” This is strange indeed, because both Judaism and Christianity have as a fundamental belief that it is impossible for any human being to own another human being. If we think we own someone else, we are wrong (from the get-go). If the problem that JT has with biblical slavery is the concept of “ownership” of others, he demonstrates a great misunderstanding of Judaism and Christianity. JT’s proposed solution does not make any sense at all, nor would it have to the ancient Hebrews any more than it does to modern Christians.

    Slavery is all about a form of involuntary servitude. Servitude, not “ownership” is at the core of the issue.

  36. scblhrm

    Tom’s question “If not the Bible….. about how we come to know moral knowledge reminded me of two comments which SteveK made.

    SteveK I apologized for quoting you, but these comments “stuck” with me, as many of your comments have and (IMO) offer something here on coming to know moral truth without the Bible.

    Someone once said to you, “More to the point, I think a God who existed and cared could have made clear that neither system was just. He didn’t, so it seems to me He either didn’t exist or He didn’t care.” To which you replied: “If the Bible is so very unclear on all of this, I’m curious how you came to know that any of this is unjust? If you know what is just and unjust – clearly know it – without referring to the Biblical text, then what does that do to your argument that God didn’t make this very clear?”

    And, someone had commented, “From my perspective, such a God may well exist but he is utterly unconcerned about my lack of belief in him.” Your reply seemed helpful here: “If you know something about the reality of goodness, then you know something about the reality of God. That you twist yourself into philosophical knots with the goal of absolving yourself from this knowledge isn’t God’s problem – it’s your problem. You seem to share something in common with Solipsists who tell us we really can’t know if external reality is, you know, really there. They would say, “If external reality exists then why doesn’t it make itself known?””

    I don’t want to reinvent the thread about moral knowledge as evidence for God, but, I will offer this much on coming to moral knowledge with or without the Bible: Man is either in darkness and is discovering some immutable contour of the Other/Outer, or, this is about nature’s indifferent invention of some inconsequential and hopelessly mutable baby-making apparatus in a land where lots of (truly evil) “real things” called “real tastes” just are (truly evil) “real means” which successfully grant “him” access to “her”. If the former – if discovery – then any sightline into Goodness is the sight of some contour of “Him” exactly because “God” is “that” actual end there in “Goodness”, whereas, if the latter – if nature’s unfeeling invention – then all sightlines end in reflex-laden autohypnosis awash in an ocean of some bizarre substance which is – absolutely – arbitrary. And that inescapable bit about arbitrary is where metaphysical naturalism’s claim on “ought” dies many, many deaths, from the death of circularity, to that of blind axiom, to that of false identity claims, to that of the genetic fallacy, and so on.

    “Slavery” is a part of an essence which we denote with the semantics of Sin, or Death, or the “Outside”. Always. In all possible worlds. Ad infinitum. Because Personhood lands within the immutable love of the Necessary Being in what is the lap of ceaseless reciprocity in Trinity. You matter whether I know it or not, feel it or not, taste it or not. Should man or evolution grant me some other taste against His Grain – they are fatally broken. He precedes and outdistances me. He precedes and outdistances my sight, and my feeler, and my taster. On the paradigm that is love’s eternal self-sacrifice within Trinity, it just is the state of affairs that He is. He reveals. We discover. We become.

  37. Bill L

    SteveK,

    But seriously, Bill L, if you are implying your knowledge that rocks are solid conflicts with the knowledge that they are mostly empty space then you need to look up the word equivocation because you are equating two very different perspectives as the same.

    My normal act of knowing tells me the earth is flat, not round.
    (gasp! what shall I do!?)

    Maybe I’m missing your point. I don’t see how this is an equivocation.

    As for what we should do… I would say that we need to be very careful about using intuition as an epistemological tool. I’m sure I don’t need to go through myriad examples of how often our intuition fails us. I would be especially cautious when the results we come to believe through our intuition are ones we desperately want to be true in the first place. Notice that I have not said that it is not true. I’m just saying be cautious.

  38. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    Scripture’s meta-narrative does not rely on intuition alone. The narrative of Man houses that and far more. It even tells us that intuition is flawed, fragmented. That descriptive coheres perfectly with Scripture’s other half: the prescriptive, and our brutal moral experience confirms the whole show – as such. Knowledge of all flavors are taken through that conduit.

    It is the metaphysical naturalist, not the Christian, who is indebted solely to I-Feel, I-Taste, as the end of “explanation” of what the naturalists are (attempting) saying is an objective moral ought.

    I-Feel fails to do the work needed there, firstly, and secondly, reasoning within metaphysical naturalism will – if we push it – break down into all sorts of absurdity, one of which is ontological pluralism, another of which is mereological nihilism.

    Ad infinitum equivocations on semantics spiraling into ontological pluralism or mereological nihilism is fine. The Christian need not even bother to argue the point. He need only point out that that is what is happening to the naturalist’s argument – where his argument is taking all his “conclusions”.

    Including any conclusion about value, about ought, about person. He travels, and then ends, without any stopping point short of absurdity , he ends in a room without walls – and thereby he ends without any statement at all.

    Man is a thing without a nature of its own – ad infinitum.

  39. Bill L

    scblhrm,

    Thank you. You’ve given me much to think about and it may force me to reconsider my position. I can think of no better gift.

    Still, I can not help but agree with JT in the OP somewhat. It seems that an omniscient god would have foreseen the horrors of slavery to come and could have had written some very simple commands, if not “don’t own people” then something like “do not injure your slaves at all” or “If they want to go free, then let them go free.” I think this would have gone a long way to prevent what has been probably the worst crimes against humanity.

  40. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    To be complete, the nihilism ahead of the naturalist also, unquestionably, renders him unable to make that very assertion of nihilism. It will be blind axiom and ontological incoherence embraced at some point short of absurdity, or, it will be absurdity.

    That is why the Christian need not argue the point, and needs only point out where all of the naturalist’s conclusions end.

    The stopping point of Knowledge, whether of Ought or of Love or of this or that metaphysical paradigm, and so on, there in Christianity finds coherence with our observed world, our perceived experience, our measured physics, our moral ends, and the presuppositions therein survive far more states of affairs than those of the metaphysical naturalist.

    Plausibility emerges as presuppositions thusly survive………….we all make a choice in the end.

    On the OT, one must realize what Law is – in its nature, and, what Man is – in his nature – and why God never would offer up Law as a Means to Life, but only as a Means to contain, to restrain Death. Life is not possible in this paradigm – only Death. Law – in metaphysical terms here – can only restrain Man, and can never free him.

    Freedom, Emancipation, comes, but only by an all-sufficient means capable of grating all-sufficient ends.

    As for the case law of Exodus, there is this copy/paste from another thread elsewhere which offers insight:

    We must read verses 18-19 in conjunction with 20-21. “When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed. When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.”

    Christian:

    I think that the Critic presents 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…….

    The 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 be 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 I 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?

    End copy/paste.

    Scripture tells us that various tones of indentured service amid various tones of redemption isn’t, are not, cannot be, man’s emancipation. It is Law. It is Death restrained. That’s Scripture’s narrative.

    Life comes, but by Him, of Him, out of Him, Nature filling nature. All-Sufficiency must pour-out. As pointed out by toddes in #13, the whole show is about Redemption, about His love for His beloved.

  41. Tom Gilson

    Bill L. @38, thank you for saying that.

    Frankly I’m bothered by the same thing that bothered you and JT. I don’t have an answer. I’m researching to see what kinds of thinking others have done on this. It is not an easy question.

    killerbee (above) accused me of evading the question. If I had really wanted to evade it I would have ignored it. JT’s blog traffic is not so great that it demands attention. I brought it up here because I intend to deal with it.

    I’ve been on the road all week–1100 miles of driving and eight meetings already–so I’m not working on it very much this week, but I have begun and will continue.

    Anyway, that was more for killerbee than for you, Bill, except for this: I agree it’s a good question. The explanations given here so far help a lot but they don’t answer it to my complete satisfaction, and apparently not yours either.

    Meanwhile, though, the naturalist’s/atheist’s/skeptic’s position seems far more hopeless, since seems to be no satisfying answer there to the question, “what makes slavery wrong?” That’s a huge problem.

  42. SteveK

    Bill L

    Maybe I’m missing your point. I don’t see how this is an equivocation.

    Unless I was reading your comment incorrectly, your point in saying “My “normal act of knowing” tells me that rocks are solid, not 99.9%+ empty space.” was to tell me there is a problem with what I am calling the normal act of knowing. You’re telling me it leads to a contradiction here.

    Of course, your statement is not a problem nor a contradiction because the term ‘rocks’ is used differently in each case.

  43. SteveK

    Bill L,

    It seems that an omniscient god would have foreseen the horrors of slavery to come and could have had written some very simple commands, if not “don’t own people” then something like “do not injure your slaves at all” or “If they want to go free, then let them go free.”

    Unlike Tom, I don’t struggle with this issue. My reason is that God most often changes the hearts of individuals through other people.

    All people groups carry within them the knowledge that humans have intrinsic value. I’m being careful with my words – people groups, not necessarily every individual.

    Just watch how any people group reacts to the sight of a baby. Somewhere in that group there is the knowledge that a baby is worth cherishing and worth caring for. Somewhere in that people group is the knowledge that a baby doesn’t change into some other kind of being that you can exploit for personal gain and own simply because it grows up.

    Those individuals in the people group that don’t share this view have other people around them to remind them of God’s truth. God uses those people to change the world. Those people are the salt and light.

    Matthew 5:13-16

  44. Jenna Black

    Tom, RE: #40

    I want you to know that I really appreciate having this forum for discussing these controversies about the Bible in an environment that supports inquiry and analysis, most especially knowing how busy you are. I have engaged in the discussion of biblical slavery in/on other blogs, with a much less satisfying result.

    I think that it is worthwhile to parse and analyze killerbee’s post #4 to point out the common and customary fallacies in atheists’ arguments about biblical slavery. To do this, I will address the underlying assumptions that are revealed in posts such as killerbee’s:

    1. Modern 21st century Christians are responsible for explaining and defending the sacred writings and the understanding of God of the ancient Hebrews who lived over 3,000 years ago. If/when we “apologists” do not do this to the satisfaction of our atheist interlocutors, we are “deflecting, evading, delaying” and using other “tactics” to avoid answering “direct factual questions” that, if answered, would expose the “fragility of the Bible story.”

    To make my point about this accusation, allow me to ask one of those “factual questions.” Whose “story” is the Bible and what is it the “story” of? Let’s limit the question to the Old Testament, since it seems to generate the most criticism among atheists. The OT is the “story” of the Hebrews’ relationship with God as they understood God and how they organized, shaped and conducted their society, its laws and social practices in every area of their lives in response to their understanding of God and to keep their Covenant with God as a people.

    I have no problem with our efforts to understand how the ancient Hebrews understood God, but I refuse to be held accountable for their understanding of God, only my own.

    2. killerbee asks this “factual question”: Why didn’t god just say slavery is wrong?” The question communicates killerbee’s assumption that God did not or has not “said” that slavery is wrong. I disagree with killerbee (and other atheists) on this point. I point specifically to two ways (among many others) that God has said that slavery is wrong, in chronological order: First, God’s actions in freeing the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and then, the giving of the law (Torah), specifically the Tenth Commandment. As I understand it, God is consistent. The ancient Hebrews, not so much.

    So, killerbee’s accusation against apologists merely indicates to us that in his/her mind, the controversy regarding slavery in the OT is God’s fault (that God that s/he doesn’t believe exists) and that we modern Christian apologists have to defend God against his/her indignation at the unacceptably slow progress in achieving modern atheists’ standards of social justice in the ancient world.

    Let’s talk about the purpose of apologetics in relationship to controversies about the Bible and the role of the apologist in responding, since I believe that you, Tom, and many Christian apologists such as Paul Copan and Glenn Sunshine have done an excellent job in responding to the issue of biblical slavery.

  45. scblhrm

    I’m not as bothered by Law’s innate ineffectiveness, its innate insufficiency, its innate inability to accomplish the thing we ask of it, either.

    The Command of Eden’s wholeness: Love God. Love one another.

    The Command of Sinai – to Man in his brokenness: Love God. Love one another.

    The Command of Christ: Love God. Love one another.

    It’s all right there in black and white.

    Which “neighbor?” is always, without fail the final result.

    The fact that our own law books, in our own civilization, of N-Pages always, without fail end up as [N X 10000]-Page law books in endless hair-splitting and loop-hole closing tells us what the nature of Man amid Law actually houses in the real world.

    Scripture is about the real God in the real world.

    In the OT and in the NT the real God enters into the real world and in doing so He enters into man’s hell to rescue man from his hell, not to give him more of the same.

    Love needs no laws – just as – law cannot birth love. These are two entirely different paradigms – wholly alien to one another.

  46. SteveK

    Bill L
    Have you noticed that we have in the text “repent and believe” and yet atheism persists? I’ve noticed that. Writing down instructions may seem like the solution to the slavery issue, but it’s not because the problem cannot be fixed that way. Instructions do not fix the problem of fallen man. The solution to the problem is Christ himself.

  47. Holopupenko

    @1: “…to say slavery is wrong, you must overcome the idea that people are either noble or slavish” … “I think it’s related to the end of feudalism and the rise of the middle class, which led to the rise of representative government. It was a long process, of course, but it might have started in the Renaissance and blossomed during the Enlightenment.”

    As if the Ancient Greeks did not understand the term μεγαλόψυχος (magnanimous). As if being noble (= great as a person, not just a title) is allegedly an affront to equality. (Well, only if one stupidly employs the word “equal” to rocks as one does to humans.)

    What your personal, uninformed opinion (“I think…” … “If might have…”) without any referenced support, Mr. Moore, is irrelevant. It’s only value is to you personally so that it can be used as a cute rhetorical device to deflect from WHAT it means to be noble (or a slave) rather than reducing it to an operational political construct that is then manipulated depending upon the regime in power.

    Obfuscate with ignorance elsewhere, please.

  48. G. Rodrigues

    @BillL:

    It seems that an omniscient god would have foreseen the horrors of slavery to come and could have had written some very simple commands, if not “don’t own people” then something like “do not injure your slaves at all” or “If they want to go free, then let them go free.” I think this would have gone a long way to prevent what has been probably the worst crimes against humanity.

    (1) Murder is no less serious than slavery (it is much more serious, but let that pass).

    (2) God gave an explicit commandment against Murder.

    (3) Genocides are common throughout the history of mankind to the present day (tune in your favorite TV station).

    So why exactly do you think that “would have gone a long way to prevent what has been probably the worst crimes against humanity”?

    note: and I do note that in the OT God did gave a prescription (under some conditions) for “If they want to go free, then let them go free.”

  49. scblhrm

    On Objective Moral Realism:

    Q&A # 388 titled, “Is the Theistic Anti-Realist in a Predicament?” at William L. Craig’s webpage is (hopefully) at the LINK HERE.

    Basically the challenge posed to the Theist there is this:

    “The problem is that if you are an anti-realist and you deny that aesthetic truths are objective, then it becomes much more plausible that moral statements are not objectively true. The intuition that tells me that a man whose eyes are not aligned, whose nose is crooked, and whose face is proliferated with acne is an objectively ugly man is just as strong as my intuition that tells me that stealing for fun is objectively wrong. There is no reason to limit your anti-realism from extending to moral truths. This, as you probably realize, undermines the second premise of your “Objective Moral Values Argument”: objective moral values exist. It therefore seems you are in a predicament. If you reject the objectivity of aesthetic statements, you immediately undermine beliefs about the objectivity of moral statements. If you affirm aesthetic objectivity, you are immediately lead to Platonism which you have written is irreconcilable with classical theism. Do you see a way out of this predicament?”

  50. Chris Packnett

    What about
    Deuteronomy 24:7 “If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” ESV

  51. DJC

    In Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature”, Chapter “Whence the Humanitarian Revolution?” starts out:

    We have seen that in the span of just over a century, cruel practices that had been a part of civilization for millennia were suddenly abolished. The killing of witches, the torture of prisoners, the persecution of heretics, the execution of nonconformists, and the enslavement of foreigners–all carried out with stomach-turning cruelty–quickly passed from the unexceptionable to the unthinkable.

    He calls this the Humanitarian Revolution and credits a major force for it being writing and literacy. Reading exposed people to diverse places, cultures and ideas, and taught people the unique skill of perspective-taking. When someone else’s thoughts are in your head, you are observing the world from that person’s vantage point and practising a form of empathy. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was considered a catalyst for the abolitionist movement.

    Reading and writing also created a hothouse for new ideas about moral values and social order, Pinker writes. When a large enough community of free, rational agents confers on how a society should run its affairs, they are steered by a logical consistency and feedback from the world. Their consensus won’t be just arbitrary; it will move in certain directions. With enough scrutiny by disinterested, rational and informed thinkers, practices like African slavery, cruel punishments, despotic monarchs and executions of witches and heretics cannot be justified indefinitely.

    (This is a brief summary and there are other pacifying and moralizing forces Pinker describes as he gives his theories for why violence in the world has declined both in the long run and short.)

  52. Shane Fletcher

    Hi G. Rodrigues,

    “(1) Murder is no less serious than slavery (it is much more serious, but let that pass).

    (2) God gave an explicit commandment against Murder.

    (3) Genocides are common throughout the history of mankind to the present day (tune in your favorite TV station).

    So why exactly do you think that “would have gone a long way to prevent what has been probably the worst crimes against humanity”?”

    Throughout history how many Christians have been apart of a genocide? Throughout history how many Christians have committed murder? Throughout history how many Christians have owned slaves?

    I would suggest the number of the latter far outweighs the numbers of the first two. Do you think that might be because the first two are prohibited and the last is condoned in the bible?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  53. scblhrm

    Shane,

    The NT defines all humans, women, sick, slave, free, prostitute, thief, Gentile, Jew, child, Etc. as on ontological par with Christ.

    Christians sin. Murder. Pillage. All that is human sins.

    Rules are not the solution to the latter. And never will be.

    Ransom is.

    Odd that you think the absence of this: “Boys don’t pull your sister’s hair” equates to condoning such in the NT.

    The Meta-Narrative dissolves all such assertions.

    Of course, getting a critic to acknowledge that wider paradigmatic narrative is not to be expected, as you demonstrate.

  54. scblhrm

    DJC,

    @51

    Yes, Knowledge, light:

    1) directly impacts our moral experience
    2) can never yield immutable love
    3) has to be built from the ground up in every neonate.
    4) accounts for EVERY “shift” in man’s moral experience for the last 10K years….. genomic shifts being – in relative terms – essentially static
    5) Darkness, the absence of Knowledge, is identical – but in the reverse. Etc.
    6) This Paradigm of Knowledge = old news in Genesis.

    Neonates can be taught to hate.

    Arbitrariness, mutability, thus ever remains.

    This is not a new insight into human nature.

    Immutable Love has a mechanism – it just never will be genome, nature, or Knowledge.

    Again, nothing new here.

    Sociology, Genesis, and the facts affirm your observation of all these glaringly obvious items. For – like – 4K to 5K years now.

    Borrowing from Genesis’ metaphysical definitions as to what is “in play” and publishing it as “news” is – well – comical.

  55. scblhrm

    Shane,

    @#52

    God did tell us – repeatedly – to love one another.

    Also, “my people die for lack of knowledge”.

    What knowledge? That stuff of love which Man keeps messing up – in the real world.

    Law always fails – in the end – in the real world.

    #39 and #45 dissect these lines a little further.

    In this Paradigm of Knowledge your hope in Knowledge is good in so far as it gets us – as per #53. Of course, there is no “cure” there to the mutable, the arbitrary, though.

    Nothing new in any of this – including your evasion of God’s commands to love one another from thr get-go and the wider meta-narrative of Scripture wherein Scripture’s definitions about “slave” and Etc….. and Etc….. surpass (in worth) any naturalistic definitions of essence.

  56. scblhrm

    Shane,

    BTW – it’s nice to see you borrowing Scripture’s epistemological semantics even though metaphysical naturalism cannot contain such essence. I mean, like, everybody “gets” the ontic of immutable love….even if they can’t put their finger on why.

    #39 and #49 briefly look at such intuitive lines.

  57. G. Rodrigues

    @Shane Fletcher:

    Throughout history how many Christians have been apart of a genocide? Throughout history how many Christians have committed murder? Throughout history how many Christians have owned slaves?

    I would suggest the number of the latter far outweighs the numbers of the first two. Do you think that might be because the first two are prohibited and the last is condoned in the bible?

    I do not know if “the latter far outweighs the numbers of the first two”, but if you are correct, then it seems to be the case that the Bible has had a measurably quantifiable good effect. Are you sure you want to be committed to that?

    edit: risk that; I do not have any numbers to go by, merely a plausibility intuition, but saying that the number of Christian slave owners far outweighs that of Christian murderers just seems preposterous.

    And if you say that “the latter far outweighs the numbers of the first two” has nothing to do with the Bible (say, because while it is certainly advantageous to have slaves, it is a somewhat risqué business going around bashing skulls by the hundreds), then neither can you say that its the alleged fact that the Bible “condones it” that makes the difference and the original argument dies a similar death.

    Even more problematic, even if it is the case that “the latter far outweighs the numbers of the first two”, it is also the demonstrably true case that it were the Christians that spearheaded the abolitionist movement. But what is distinctive about Christians that led them specifically (as opposed to some other group) to spearhead the abolitionist movement if *not* Christian principles as laid down in the Bible? In other words, even if one would grant that the Bible had no direct relation (which I do not), it certainly had an indirect one.

    So from the Christian POV (mine), what you say seems to be a win-win for Christians, that is, it is the truth (grin).

  58. Bill L

    Sorry to get back to these so late. I’ve been really pressed for time and will be so for the next few months.

    SteveK,

    I’m afraid I still really don’t see the problem with pointing out how using human intuition as a way of obtaining knowledge has been replete with problems. Perhaps you are trying to say that I am pointing this out to you by using intuition, but that was not my intention. I am trying to point out how we have discovered (through other epistemological tools such as science or mathematics) that we can know that our intuition often famously fails us. [I really enjoyed “The Invisible Gorilla” by Chabris and Simons on this. There are many other similar good books].

  59. Bill L

    SteveK and G. Rodrigues (@ 46 and 48),

    So why exactly do you think that “would have gone a long way to prevent what has been probably the worst crimes against humanity”?

    My concern here is that so many Christians used the Bible as a justification for slavery for so long. These people really believed they were following the word of God, and they could point to many references in the Bible to justify their actions.

    You may counter that they really weren’t following the rules of slavery as the Bible had intended. But since interpretations were taken from arguably ambiguous sources, I feel this led to their rationalizations.

    In fact, I often wonder if the parts from Exodus 21:20-21 led to the practice of whipping (or solidified its use). But I don’t have enough knowledge on this.

    On a more general note, I don’t find this argument that God did not like slavery but he let people keep their cultural institutions very convincing. There are too many examples where the law seems to be a clear break with traditions (such as having no other Gods).

    I am afraid I won’t have much time to reply for a while. But thank you again everyone.

  60. scblhrm

    Bill L,

    @ #57,

    I’ll let you and SteveK discuss this. Just one comment. One must tackle comment #49 here and also avoid the fatal falls into absurdity of Positivism, Scientism, and Ontological pluralism (or its close cousin mereological nihilism). All of those shatter one’s own assertions and definitions if one is not careful.

    @ #58

    Genesis defines domination amid persons as part of the death entailed in Man’s Privation. And He tells us Male/Female are one, and so on. Then, in the Law He permits divorce all the while the OT is replete with God hating both divorce and domination, in Genesis and in the Prophets and elsewhere – all the while telling us the Morally Excellent is not found in the Law’s Ends.

    One must use Scripture’s A and Z, Start/End of metaphysical definitions – otherwise one is not talking about the Christian God.

    You can define things differently than the OT/NT, but when you do you haven’t said anything about Scripture’s accounting of Man and Reality.

    That is the short version…… as such as been discussed at length elsewhere.

  61. scblhrm

    An observation:

    Human Beings, Personhood, and so on, is not innately precious there at the end of ad infinitum in any of the following when we track them to their natural ends of essence:

    1) Metaphysical naturalism / atheism
    2) Buddhism
    3) Pantheism
    4) The Straw-man versions of Scripture invented by critics unwilling to allow Scripture’s meta-narrative to define itself

    The inverse is found in only one ontological regression on planet Earth:

    1) The meta-narrative of Scripture. The metaphysical regressions of all that is personhood finding its natural means and natural ends inside of the ceaseless reciprocity housed within Trinity’s immutable love there in the Necessary Being.

    Epistemology just is not ontology.

    There is no getting around that.

    Immutable love’s ceaseless reciprocity – that eternal self-sacrifice, ever pouring, ever filling, void of what we call first, void of what we call last?

    Yes.

    There is one ontological genre on planet Earth wherein such means, such ends, fills all paradigms, defines all lines.

  62. SteveK

    Bill L

    I’m afraid I still really don’t see the problem with pointing out how using human intuition as a way of obtaining knowledge has been replete with problems.

    This isn’t your big problem. For naturalism, the big problem here isn’t HOW knowledge of morality is obtained. I agree that you have indeed obtained it. The big problem is the inability to obtain knowledge of something that doesn’t exist under your worldview.

    If my worldview holds that, objectively, circles and nothing but circles exist, and I also hold the view that I have discovered and therefore have knowledge about the existence of squares, am I being logically consistent with my worldview? No.

    You say that you have knowledge of a universal rule of nature, specifically, the rule that humans ought not enslave other humans. In what extra-mental form does this cosmic rule exist so that you, a naturalist, can discover it and KNOW about it?

  63. Jenna Black

    Bill L. RE: #58

    You say this: “You may counter that they really weren’t following the rules of slavery as the Bible had intended. But since interpretations were taken from arguably ambiguous sources, I feel this led to their rationalizations.”

    I tend to think that anyone who believes that clearly articulated and unambiguous statement of rules of proper conduct will guarantee compliance has never been a parent!

    I assume that you are familiar with the metaphor that Jesus Christ used consistently of God, our Heavenly Father. Think how God must feel after telling the ancient Hebrews through His actions (freeing them from slavery in Egypt) and through His Commandments (most especially the Tenth Commandment) that they should not even desire to have slaves, even if/when their neighbors do. Yet, their laws and customs do not reflect a full understanding of and compliance with God’s law. It is really not credible for anyone to claim that when we humans fail to fully comprehend and abide by God’s Law, that it’s because God didn’t make Himself clear enough. Nor is it credible to claim that because the ancient Hebrews’ laws do not reflect our understanding of God’s Law today in the twenty-first century and that historically some groups of people have used the ancient Hebrews’ laws in an attempt to justify and legitimate their own violations of God’s Law, that it is somehow God’s faulty.

    Let us return to the allegory from the Book of Genesis of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. What does it really teach us about God’s children? God only commanded A & E not to do one thing: eat the fruit from one particular tree. And what did A & E do? They ate from that tree. And who did they blame their disobedience on…?

    It seems to me that atheists may be reluctant to make judgments about other people’s cultural laws, traditions and practices out of a reasonable deference to their particular cultural, social, economic and chronological and if applicable, religious context and circumstances, and to avoid coming across as cultural imperialists. However, they make an exception with the cultural, religious, social and economic context of the ancient Hebrews, the authors, transmitters and preservers of the Old Testament. Why is this? Lamentably, atheists fall into cultural and chronological snobbery when expounding on their judgments about the ancient Hebrews as they portrayed themselves in their sacred scriptures.

  64. Bill L

    SteveK,

    For lack of a better metaphor… Is there a real universal rule of nature that the good-looking and more successful people should be paired with other good-looking and more successful people? Is there an objective pairing out there? Or is this most common occurrence a byproduct of how people simply looking out for their own best interests will interact with one another?

    [Fun party game: Give 40 guests a card with a number (1-40) on it. Have them display it to everyone else in the room in a manner that they can not see their own card themselves. Now tell everyone that the highest sum of any two cards will win the 1st prize, the 2nd highest will win the 2nd prize, and so on. – What happens?… the people with the highest cards will be approached rather quickly and realize that they have a high card. People with low values will not and they will soon realize it.]

  65. Bill L

    Jenna,

    That’s always been an interesting point. But it leads me to wonder, why then would God give any commands at all?

  66. Jenna Black

    Bill L.,

    God gives us commandments for our benefit. Parents also give their/our children rules and restrictions for the same reason: for their benefit so that they can live in peace and harmony in society and not engage in anti-social and self-destructive behavior.

    If you examine the Ten Commandments closely, you will see that they are a blueprint for living peacefully in a society where we are dependent upon cooperation and community, as well as a guide to how to love and be in relationship with God, our Creator and Father Almighty.

  67. SteveK

    @Bill L #63

    Your example is subjective, and I don’t recall you arguing for “that’s your truth, not mine” when it comes to morality. If you are, let me know so I can stop responding to you on this subject.

  68. Bill L

    SteveK,

    Most animals recognize patterns in other animals (e.g. symmetry) that lead to higher rates of successful mating. I’m sure you’re aware of this. Would you say that this is just a subjective preference in zebra finches for example?

    If there is something “hard-wired” in the brains of healthy animals to find certain mates more attractive and their interactions lead them to preferential pairing, why should we not expect a similar process in humans when it comes to morality?

  69. Ronwilliams

    Its a different blog from other blogs differencing a the slavery . There some points of debate and some are exactly pointing to blog informatiom.

  70. Bill L

    SteveK,

    You asked me HOW knowledge of morality is obtained under naturalism. I’m trying to point out to you that is may arise from the outgrowth of how people view their own self interests from the way they like to be treated themselves.

    We also talked about morality being either subjective or objective. I don’t see that this is strictly an either/or, but rather see it as somewhat of a continuum.

    If you’ve not looked into this much before, I suggest you read “Moral Minds” – Hauser, “The Moral Animal” – Wright, or even “Touching a Nerve” – Churchland.

    If you want to continue here, start with answering the question.

  71. SteveK

    Bill L,

    I’m trying to point out to you that is may arise from the outgrowth of how people view their own self interests from the way they like to be treated themselves.

    This is subjective morality – ‘that’s your truth, not mine’. Thanks for bringing clarity. I think we can stop here.

  72. Bill L

    Sorry you feel that way SteveK,

    Myself, I’m not so convinced that things like symmetry recognition (or many brain functions) are subjective. But it’s good to know your subjective opinion on the topic. 😉

  73. SteveK

    Bill L,
    I’m sorry that you think the answer to the question, ‘How do you know slavery is wrong?’ is this:

    ‘I know this because I’ve examined my desires and self-interests.’

  74. Bill L

    SteveK,

    Then you should be glad to know that I don’t think that.

    If your intention is to stop this conversation, then I suggest you do that. If your intention is to understand, then I suggest you try something different.

  75. SteveK

    Bill said: [moral knowledge may] arise from the outgrowth of how people view their own self interests from the way they like to be treated themselves.

    My rephrasing of Bill: [moral knowledge may] come to us from (a) how people view their own self interests, and from (b) the way they like to be treated themselves

    Both (a) and (b) are covered in my answer although in reverse order. Help me understand where I went wrong.

  76. Bill L

    SteveK,

    I think you went wrong when you concluded that this was all I had said or was going to say.

    But it’s OK. It seems you’d rather not be bothered. I have plenty of other things I should be doing anyway.

  77. SteveK

    Bill L,
    It was a rephrasing of your statement, not a conclusion about something you hadn’t said. Please come back when you have more time. I’d like to know what you think and if you have more to say then I’m interested.

  78. Billy Squibs

    Bill L,

    For someone coming late into this discussion can you point me in the direction of your answer to Tom’s question of even repeat it form me. Thanks.

  79. scblhrm

    Brain fluxes are objective chemical cascades.

    Now, if that is where one’s regress ends, well, ought is ever arbitrary, ever mutating, ever shifting, and the cascades which were, over eons, favored, selected, nurtured, and retained there in the goodness of, the fittingness of the cascade which in summation effervesces into the psychic phosphorescence commonly called “Child Sacrifice” just is – on this definition of objective goodness, objectively good. We find Ought inside a room without walls, without a nature all its own, and that is because we find Man inside a room void of walls, void of “a” “nature”. Sam Harris tried the move of false identity claims to – at this particular location – hedge, evade, redefine, but such moves were ultimately unsuccessful.

    “Man” is a thing without “a” nature – ad infinitum.

    Sure, chemical reflex cascades are “real”.

    But no one cares. And no one cares because we’re all talking about something other than an array of arbitrary biological itches which we scratch – the scratching itself being yet another of those arbitrary itches.

    If the naturalist is going to say more, or is going to take the regress of Objective Morality to some more distal location in metaphysical naturalism’s ontological regress,then, when he does, we do hope he avoids confabulation and, or, equivocation.

    In all possible worlds Child Sacrifice has – there at the end of ad infinitum – there in the heat death of all chemical flux, the retained ought-not, and that is because there is timelessly retained there at the end of ad infinitum all the stuff of Personhood, of Love’s Reciprocity.

    As per comment #62 here.

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