Search This Blog

Loading...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Christian Delusion: Chapter Seven--What We've Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate

In chapter seven of The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (ed. John W. Loftus), Loftus asks the question: what are we to make of the way God communicated, given the final canonical Bible? My claim is that God did a woefully inadequate job, especially since he's supposedly omniscient and knows how "sinful" people such as us could misunderstand his words (pp. 181-82). The fact is that the Bible is so unclear that it has given rise to literally thousands of different interpretations. Loftus cites the words of Robert Ingersoll, 19th century agnostic: Every sect is a certificate that God has not plainly revealed His will to man. To each reader the Bible conveys a different meaning. About the meaning of this book, called a revelation, there have been ages of war and centuries of sword and flame (p. 182). He also cites the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:
A god who is all-knowing and all-powerful and who does not even make sure his creatures understand his intention--could that be a god of goodness. Who allows countless doubts and dubieties to persist, for thousands of years, as though the salvation of mankind were unaffected by them and who on the other hand holds out the prospect of frightful consequences if any mistake is made as to the nature of truth (p. 182).
Loftus argues that if finite man can see what improvements could have been made in the clarity of the Bible in order to eliminate confusion, strife and suffering, why could not an omniscient God have foreseen the problem and thus made his will crystal-clear so that only the stubborn or defiant would have failed to see it?

Areas that could have been made more clear include moral issues and doctrinal issues. Two of the most significant moral issues in human history which the Bible helped to perpetuate is human slavery and the inequality of women. The Bible clearly condones slavery. As a matter of fact, prior to the Civil War in the United States, conservative Christian theologians, especially in the South, defended ownership of slaves based on specific biblical texts (typically it was the more liberal Christians who tended to oppose slavery). As Loftus points out, one simple addition to the 10 commandments, such as, "thou shalt not own another human being as property," would have prevented this barbaric and inhumane practice, at least by those who claimed to believe the Bible.

With regard to the place of women, the OT clearly identifies women as the property of their husbands. Their rights are extremely limited as compared to men. In the NT, while the situation is somewhat better, women are still seen as inferior to men. Untold hardship and suffering has been inflicted on women throughout the centuries because God did not clearly state their equality with men. Did God not care about the suffering that would take place due to the Bible's failure to condemn these practices? I think it makes more sense to see the Bible as reflecting the moral sensibilities of the time and culture in which it was written than to suppose an all-loving and all-knowing God is the author.

The Bible is also unclear with regard to a number of doctrinal issues. This ambiguity has resulted in Christians persecuting Christians and even killing Christians who differed with them on doctrine. For example, the Eucharist has been a major contention between Protestants and Catholics. Did Jesus mean for his words, "this is my body" and "this is my blood" to be taken literally or symbolically? Wars between Catholics and Protestants in 16th and 17th century Europe brought the death of at least seven million people. While there were certainly other issues involved in the conflicts, there is no doubt that religion played a major role. Protestants have also killed each other over doctrinal disputes. Calvin is known to have had Michael Servetus burned at the stake (for denying the Trinity) and Anabaptists drowned (for rejecting infant baptism). In the American colonies, various Protestant sects persecuted, including imposing fines and imprisonment, other Protestants for disagreements on doctrinal matters.

Even today, while physical suffering is usually not inflicted, there is enormous division and strife in the "body of Christ" over various doctrines. Christians simply cannot agree on even the most basic elements of their faith, for example, how one is to be saved, whether that salvation can be lost, whether man has the free will to choose to be saved or whether the choice was made for him through predestination, whether or not there is a hell for the eternally lost and if it does exist what the nature and duration of the punishment is to be. The list goes on and on.

How do Christian apologists respond to the problem that Loftus has raised in this chapter. Christians might finally respond by claiming that no matter what God revealed it would still be misunderstood by the Church to some extent and used to justify harming other people (p. 201). But as Loftus replies, if God had been at least as clear as human beings today could be in revising the Bible, There would be no way the historic church could biblically justify religiously motivated crusades, wars, heresy trials, witch hunts, or slavery (p. 201). The simple fact is that the Bible does not read as one would expect a divine revelation to read. It reflects the mindset of late Bronze age peoples, not the mind of an omniscient being.

35 comments:

  1. When confronted with this argument, many people will say that Bible interpreters differ so widely because they have "agendas." The person who says this, though, usually claims to be agenda-free. It's always everybody else.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Ken, I've seen a lot of your comments on apologetics 315 and out of a lot of atheists that I've encountered over the Internet you are one of the best. In fact, what I've been doing lately in my philosophical studies is studying the arguments and views of atheists and I've come up with this questionnaire if you will, asking atheists general and thought provoking questions. If you want me to I'd be more than happy to let you take part in it. I've taken this to many places where atheists debate at like Carm.org, Godandscience.org, reasonablefaith.org (William Craig's site) and I've well over a hundred responses. I think with your experience and time as a former theologian would be a great addition to the data that I've collected thus far. If you want me to I can either post the questionnaire here, or I can send through e-mail or any other method you want me to. Just let me know and I'll send it on over. Anyway, I thank you for your time and participation. Take care.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Strader,

    Thanks for your kind words. Send me an email and we can discuss further.

    pulliam at mail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Ken,

    I appreciate your column. I hope that this response helps to continue a stimulating yet civil ongoing debate on this subject. As Steve J properly points out, we all have an agenda. My background is a Christian turned Agnostic and returned to Christianity--hence my agenda.

    I don't understand Loftus' issue with the Bible not being clear. I would love to discuss in further detail but on the surface applying the ten commandments from the OT would take care of almost everything on the list. Even the first words by God in Exodus 20 cited his delivering Israel from slavery, pointing out that slavery was not a good thing. The 10th commandment talks about maidservants and manservants but that is very different from slavery and many laws applied to protect them.

    When Loftus points out that the Bible does not read like a divine revelation, and that it appears to be the mindset of a Bronze age people, there needs to be more substance to the argument. The Bible describes historical events which were from other eras, but I would argue that divine revelation runs through all of the Bible.

    With the New Testament, as you know, Jesus boiled the ten commandments to a foundation of two--'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' These two commandments, noted in Mathew, Mark and Luke, are easily understood--even crystal clear. I know that it is Loftus' statement, "...if God had been at least as clear as human beings today could be in revising the Bible. "There would be no way the historic church could biblically justify religiously motivated crusades, wars, heresy trials, witch hunts, or slavery." Is this a point where you agree with Loftus. Which of these injustices (or any other) is not covered by Jesus' two commandments. Jesus had the harshest words with the religious rulers of the day and I doubt that it would be any different now.

    If, as Loftus suggests, human beings today are wise enough to revise the Bible, then it should not be difficult for someone to respond to this blog with something more profound, complete and brief as what Jesus said that when followed would also prevent these injustices.

    This is a good test to see if 2000 years is better than an omniscient being.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Jesus's commandment to love thy neighbour as thyself is nothing more than the Golden Rule which Confucius stated 600 years or so previously. In other words, this is not unique to Christianity. It also appears in other religions.
    The first one about loving God with all thy might is nothing but promotion and advertising!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Boyd writes:

    "Even the first words by God in Exodus 20 cited his delivering Israel from slavery, pointing out that slavery was not a good thing. The 10th commandment talks about maidservants and manservants but that is very different from slavery and many laws applied to protect them."

    In the Old South, slaves were as often as not referred to as "servants," and "servants" were afforded a modicum of legal protection. You couldn't wantonly kill your "servant"; that was murder. Nor could you fail to provide your "servant" with a minimum of food, clothing, and shelter.

    Any Biblically literate American slaveholder could have told you that slavery was ordained among the Jews by God, just as soon as the Jews had been delivered from their own bondage in Egypt. God told Moses on Mt. Sinai (Leviticus 25:44-46), "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly." How ruthlessly a Jew might rule over a "servant" is suggested by Jesus (Luke 12:47-48): "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Clare,

    You are right. Confucius did state something very similar to the Golden Rule. He said, “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.”

    I gave a rebuttal to the quote "But as Loftus replies, if God had been at least as clear as human beings today could be in revising the Bible, There would be no way the historic church could biblically justify religiously motivated crusades, wars, heresy trials, witch hunts, or slavery"

    People who justified these bad actions went against scripture and also what Confucius said. Wuld you agree r disagree that human beings, including Confucius, were clear enough in the time of the Bible that actions like the ones mentioned were not justifiable.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Boyd,

    I appreciate you stating your situation and perspective in the discussion. What I'd be interested in is hearing what were the doubts or issues that lead you first to an agnostic position and how those were apparently countered to cause you to become a "believer" again. (Believer in what theology is of importance, but you seem to refer to general Protestant orthodoxy).

    Based only partly on my own situation, my understanding is that once one has more than just "doubts," but has looked deeply at the elements that are necessarily linked to create a coherent belief system, and found them lacking in orthodoxy, that they seldom re-connect to that orthodoxy. I base that on more than bias or wishes, as I left the fold only very slowly after very, very extensive studies, first within the "system," and then in question of it. Some have a more sudden "aha!" that produces a break. But I looked at many evidences from many angles, studying various theologies. Most people aren't "wired" to do that, nor have the time, and leave based on a more intuitive basis (not a negative in itself), or for "emotional" reasons (disillusionment with God or Christians, a serious loss or injustice blamed on God, etc.). So again, would you mind sharing some of your own process and current reasons for believing the Bible is inspired and an authoritative revelation from God?

    Howard Pepper

    ReplyDelete
  9. Claire,

    I didn't address your comment about Jesus's first commandment being promotion and advertising. I don't believe that is what Jesus was doing.

    I think that what Jesus is saying is that loving God has multiple facets and loving is choosing, or exercising faith. Faith is from the heart (love), from the soul (mind, will and emotions), strength (persecution certainly requires strength), and mind (intellect).

    I looked at my last entry and the o is sticking on my keyboard. (There is no excuse for me ending a question with a period. Oops)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Howard,

    Thank you for your question.

    Speaking about this might be a better forum because this blog is not about me and that is a long answer. If you have Skype, c3solutionsgroup is my name.

    A brief answer to your question is that I was raised in a Protestant Church that was very liturgical--template styled services.
    I was fortunate enough to have traveled to other countries and had seen different cultures. I knew that being born in a Christian family did not make Christianity the correct religion. I began to study other religions and philosophies. It would have been disingenuous then to be anything other than an Agnostic. My rededication to Christianity happened 16 years later and it was an "aha" moment. From that time forward, now 19 years ago, the more that I have studied and seen, the more I am convinced of the truth of the Bible. Prophecies, history and archaeology continue to confirm this belief. Twice I have been so fortunate to visit Israel visiting the holy and "traditional" sites. I have also been to the sites of the seven churches of Revelations.

    As to Orthodoxy I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that He died and rose again. I believe that Jesus was the only begotten Son of God. As to denominational conflicts, they are interesting to discuss but not to divide over and I would not be surprised if there was no church on earth that had everything right. That's how it goes when you add people to truth. As time goes on I'm sure I will have different doctrinal beliefs, so I don't label myself to any particular denomination, though I do regularly attend the same church.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Boyd,

    Glad to have you here and look forward to your comments. I want meaningful dialogue here. Many sites just "preach to the choir" but I hope we do more than that here.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Boyd, the problem with people using Bible to justify bad actions or decisions is partly because people interpet the Bible to justify what they want, and cherry pick what suits them. I think John Loftus means that if the Bible is really the inspired word of God-as evangelicals say it is- then you have to take every word literally, and a lot of it is very confusing nad contraditory. Therefore if God really did inspire every word, then he didn't do a very good job of making it clear to everyday folk. I know moderate Christians like John Selby Spong do not take the Bible literally,and do not beleive in the superstitions such as the virgin birth and the resurrection and so it is harder to disagree with their viewpoint.

    ReplyDelete
  13. @P.Coyle

    This is an excellent point regarding Leviticus 25:44-46. "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly." This passage refers to slaves being sold from other nations. These slaves were already indentured servants. The laws regarding these slaves were that they could not be sold again by the Israelites. Slave trade was prohibited. They were considered property, but the slaves had the rights of physical protection, freedom of movement and if they chose to escape they were guaranteed their freedom. This is very different than the treatment of the slaves in the surrounding nations and is also different than the slavery of America. Additionally, Leviticus 19:33-34 gives the picture of how God told Israel to treat the slaves. 'When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. 34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God."

    There is an excellent in-depth article on Slavery in the Bible at http://bibleapologetics.wordpress.com/slavery-in-the-bible-25/ that covers Chattel Slavery, Indentured Servitude, Bride Sale and Vassalage. It is well referenced.

    The passage from Luke 12:47-48 is a parable that runs from Luke 12:35-48. To make an argument that Jesus is actually referring to the treatment of slaves is to completely take this parable out of context.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Boyd,

    I plan on doing some posts in the near future on the issue of slavery. The problem with your position and others who attempt to mitigate the Bible's approval of slavery is that in the finaly analysis, the Bible still condoned slavery, which is the owning of another human being against that person's will. It is my contention that no matter what the circumstances nor the cultural setting it is wrong to own another human being as your property.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Boyd:

    The passage from Luke 12:47-48 is by no means taken out of context. Yes, Jesus is telling a parable, but it is a parable which presumes that beating slaves was a perfectly normal thing to do. If the slave deliberately disobeyed, he would be beaten a lot. If he simply failed to understand his master's will he was only beaten a little. The point of the parable was NOT to stop beating slaves.

    According to Exodus 21, the lawful limits on beating slaves were laid down by God himself: "If a man hits a manservant or maidservant in the eye and destroys it, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the eye. And if he knocks out the tooth of a manservant or maidservant, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the tooth." And "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property."

    In other words, God supposedly said it was OK to beat the snot out of a slave, as long as the slave could manage to get up a day or two later. Why would Jesus have taken exception to the idea of beating slaves, if he understood his Torah well enough to know that God had clearly and specifically provided for such a thing right after handing down the Ten Commandments?

    ReplyDelete
  16. @ Claire

    The problem with the justification of bad actions is certainly not restricted to cherry picking from the Bible. The real issue is that there are people that will justify bad actions or, in some cases, not care if there is justification for their actions at all. Hitler, for example, was more of a follower of the occult. My point is that people can twist around almost anything for their own purposes. Manson used the lyrics of The White Album. I wouldn't be surprised to hear of a serial killer getting their ideas from a soup can label. (Please understand that I am not making the fallacious argument that any injustice excuses another injustice.)

    I agree with evangelicals that the Bible is the inspired word of God. Sure, I have run across passages that are confusing but each time as I did more research I have found an answer that has helped strengthen my faith. The phrase, "to take every word literally" contains enough in it for another entire thread of discussion and could easily become a red herring. Without going into the discussion, I will just state my position and recognize that it may not make sense. I believe that the Bible is a living thing. (Please, no jokes about how often to feed or water it.) What I mean is that through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the same scripture can be read at a different time and provide a Christian a revelation not previously comprehended. This is one of the reasons that I believe in the Bible as divine revelation. The closest non-divine comparison is to rereading a book and understanding a different theme of the storyline that the author intended, but it is definitely not the same.

    I do not read Hebrew or Greek, but those who do have helped make translations and paraphrases more accurate through the years. Even still, the context of the stories in the OT and NT were probably better understood because it was given within the same cultural understanding. For example, when Jesus through Paul's letter to the church at Laodacia talks about being neither hot nor cold, the analogy immediately made sense because of the surrounding "warm springs" Pamukale and Heiropolis. The taste of "lukewarm" water was familiar to them. Translating by culture, or by idiom allows us to better understand the Bible. Looking at individual words through the original meanings is enriching as well, but scripture does not contradict scripture unless taken out of context. (This again could be another thread of discussion.)


    I do believe in the virgin conception and birth and the resurrection and do not think they are superstitions.h Interestingly enough, when I was at the garden tomb near Gordon's Calvary, I asked the rabbi who was our tour guide what he thought about the resurrection from a Jewish perspective. His reply was, "Of course we believe that Jesus rose from the dead. We know that from the writings that we have. We just don't believe that he was the Messiah."

    As I have been transparent regarding my background and faith, it would be a pleasure to hear from others on this blog describe their path to being an Agnostic, Atheist or other belief system.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Perhaps a good addition for background of this discussion is to ask how we of varying faiths have been able to interpret Loftus' reference to, "religiously motivated crusades, wars, heresy trials, witch hunts, or slavery" as being bad. If indeed, these things are implicitly understood as being bad, where is our standard of agreement, or does anyone think that any of these things weren't bad. My standard is how my family raised me to understand good and evil and that came from a Biblical reference. What are some other people's reference if it is different?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ken,

    The slavery posts sound like a great idea. The website that I discovered yesterday could be a great resource for participants to look over before the discussion. Perhaps the writer could be part of the discussion also.

    Would you list any other source materials to look over before the posts on slavery?

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  19. @P. Coyle

    I do agree with you that "The point of the parable was NOT to stop beating slaves.", when referring to Jesus's parable in Luke 12:35-48, although the setting of the parable talks about servants and a Master, Jesus's point is about slavery at all. Looking at 12:47 alone is the cherry picking argument that Claire made.

    If we were to take the earlier verses of this parable out of context then we would make an argument that slaves were to be served by their masters with the minimal work of watching for their return.--Luke 12:35-37 "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.

    By looking at the whole story in context, Peter asks Jesus if the parable applies to everyone or just to the disciples, Jesus's reply is that the more someone knows about him and willfully disobedient, the greater his punishment will be because "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." The disciples would have immediately understand that they had been entrusted with much. In like measure someone who had not heard of Jesus would be held to a different standard.

    The references to many or few blows in this parable is for the servant who the master put in charge over the menservants and maidservants. That servant treats them terribly--Luke 12:45-46 "But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers." Jesus is talking about Himself as the master who is returning. On one level, the church would then be the servant in charge over the menservants and maidservants. There is a high price to pay for the churches that disregard Jesus's teachings because they know better. The parable can be taken on a personal level as well.

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

    This is a parable that ties in with Romans 2:12-16 that points out that all have the law written in their hearts and apart from understanding the laws of God, there punishment is based on doing or not doing what they know is right. This is a way of coming back around to the initial argument by Loftus in that there is no excuse for doing evil because a person must first disregard their own conscience and past that, does it really matter what they use to justify their actions?

    As to the part about condoning slaver by talking about the punishment, it is similar to making the argument that a law in modern society that calls for the death penalty for a certain act is condoning that act. In other words the death penalty for Jeffery Dalmer was proof that our society condoned his killings. It just doesn't make sense. Again, there are many scriptures OT and NT that show treating others well was meant to be the norm. That can be part of the discussion when Ken adds the other slavery posts.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Boyd writes,

    "Hitler, for example, was more of a follower of the occult."

    By coincidence, I'm currently working my way through Sir Ian Kershaw's magisterial biography of Hitler. That Hitler was a follower of the occult seems to be a persistent myth of popular culture, but there's very little reliable evidentiary basis for the myth. At the Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg in 1938 he declared, "We will not allow mystically-minded occult folk with a passion for exploring the secrets of the world beyond to steal into our Movement. Such folk are not National Socialists, but something else—in any case something which has nothing to do with us." A few of his leading henchmen were occultists, however.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Boyd writes:

    "As to the part about condoning slaver by talking about the punishment, it is similar to making the argument that a law in modern society that calls for the death penalty for a certain act is condoning that act. In other words the death penalty for Jeffery Dalmer was proof that our society condoned his killings."

    If there's any logic whatsoever to be found in this statement, I'm afraid it eludes me. You've got it exactly backwards. The fact that Jesus presented a parable which impliclty assumes the appropriateness of beating of slaves for intentional or even unintentional disobedience would suggest in general that Jesus did not morally disapprove of slavery and in particular that Jesus did not morally disapprove of beating slaves. That is, of course, if Jesus actually told such a parable. One might argue that he did not, but such an argument is not open for bibliolators.

    Your equating of slaves with Jeffrey Dahmer has a distinctly odd ring to it, if you don't mind my saying so. A correction: Dahmer was not given the death penalty. He was sentenced to 15 life terms in prison. While in prison, he became a born-again Christian. Does he hold a ticket for the train to eternal life?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Regarding Hitler, it seems that the greatest influence on him concerning the "Jewish problem" was a tract written by his fellow German, Martin Lutherin 1543. Luther outlined a program for dealing with the Jews and Hitler implemented it.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Just to complete the story here, Dahmer was converted and then murdered by an inmate. If evangelicalism is correct, he's in heaven now looking down on the lost, gay victims he dispatched to the next world.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Steve,

    Yes and according to Jonathan Edwards he is taking great pleasure in watching them fry.

    ReplyDelete
  25. @ P.Coyle

    Thank you for the correction on Dahmer. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty and I should have done the research before that assertion. The underlying point is the same, though. My mistake.

    It is only right for you to state your argument so please reply with the clarification if this is wrong. Currently I see the basis of argument as:
    By a person's refers to actions of others that are commonly happening, they are condoning those actions.

    Jesus said some slaves might be beaten with many blows while others might be beaten with few blows. (premise)
    Jesus condoned slavery and the beating of slaves. (conclusion)

    Further backing evidence that you give for your argument:
    Jesus knew that the Torah allowed for slavery (premise)
    There were laws, given by God, that pertained to the beating of slaves and their punishment. (premise)
    Jesus would not have gone against the law. (premise)
    By using a parable with slavery in it Jesus is implicitly approving of the beating of slaves. He did not morally disapproving of slavery in the parable. Therefore Jesus condoned slavery. (conclusion)


    However, if we apply this same argument in another case we reach a false conclusion

    "The slave whom you can not drive with the lash to break seventy-five pounds of hemp in a day, if you will task him to break a hundred, and promise him pay for all he does over, he will break you a hundred and fifty. You have substituted hope, for the rod." (premise) Abraham Lincoln September 15th, 1859
    Lincoln implicitly agreed with slavery (premise)
    Slavery was legal at the time. (premise)
    Lincoln believed in the laws of the United States. (premise)
    Lincoln condoned slavery and the slaves should double their work. (premise)

    Lincoln said enough times that he was opposed to slavery that we would realize that this conclusion is false.

    My argument:
    When a person describes the actions of another you cannot conclude that they are condoning those actions.

    Jesus told a parable about slaves (premise)
    Slaves in the parable were beaten (premise)
    It cannot be argued that Jesus was condoning slavery or the beating of slaves. (conclusion)

    ReplyDelete
  26. I want to ask again for a brief profile of the participants. Ken, you have yours posted but if you wanted to add anything it would be appreciated. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  27. Boyd,

    You can read more about me at here and listen to a podcast in which I am interviewed here.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Boyd,

    How much time would it have taken for Jesus to say something like "Oh, by the way, this concept of treating human beings as property is morally offensive and the guy who wrote Leviticus is a moron."

    Now that's a savior I might could respect!

    Seriously, though, Jesus was portrayed as modifying the food law and the sabbath law so why not take a stand on what is one of the most repugnant practices in the history of human kind? How might a simple command from Jesus have affected the course of human slavery for the next 2000 years? We'll never know, of course, because Boyds saviour chose to remain silent.

    And despite your best attempts, Leviticus 25:44-46 describes the very type of slavery that was practiced in this country. They were possesions forever and could be willed to the children of the slave owners.
    I once saw an apologist try to defend that verse by saying "Well, God didn't say that the Isrealites "must" hold those slaves as possesions forever, only that they "may" hold them forever." See how that works? A loving, fair god gives options!!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hi Kilo Pappa,

    You may have missed one of my earlier posts

    Previous to Leviticus 25:44-46, God gives a general command in Leviticus 19:33-34 "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." This set the standard for treatment of slaves also. Slaves were to be given one day away from work each week and they also were allowed to participate in various festivals and feasts.

    Slavery in the Old Testament did not look anything like slavery in the American south. The images of Chattel Slavery in America cloud our view of what it was like in the Old testament. If a Israelite slave was mistreated and ran away they were free any not to be punished.

    They were not allowed to sell slaves so they had to hold on to them until their debt was fulfilled. Slaves as property is a good subject for debate.

    In the parable of Jesus, Peter is asking Jesus if the first part of the parable applies to everyone or to just to himself (implying himself and the other disciples) Jesus gives Peter the answer. Let's say that He gave the answer for all to hear. What does His answer say?
    In 12:42 Jesus talks about a prudent steward that is appointed over the master's household to feed the menservants and maidservants. In 12:46 Jesus says "if the Lord of that slave", where that slave is referring to the steward of the household. The Greek word used was oikonomos meaning manager or administrator and it is 3623 in Strong's concordance. 12:44-45 As the story continues we see that the steward is treated harshly if he does not take care of the servants. Jesus again is not talking literally because he says that the steward would be cut in pieces, (dichtomeo in GK) and given a place with the unbelievers. 12:47 He is then beaten for the mistreatment of his responsibility to the servants. Jesus uses extremely harsh language to make the point of how important it is for the steward to be found doing what his master has asked. Peter would have understood that he and the other disciples were being held to a higher standard to follow Jesus through this second part of the parable.

    Just for fun, see if the following story is not plausible in our culture. It is about a construction owner who loves his company and all of the workers in it. They respect and admire him also. He is getting ready to go on a vacation.

    The owner says to his workers that he is going away and if he comes back and they aren't doing the work, there will be trouble. The foreman says does that mean me too? The owner says, If I come back and you're not doing your job, I'll rip you a new one and toss you out on the curb. If they aren't doing the work you are supposed to oversee, they'll just get slapped around a little. It will be a lot worse for you.
    Don't we understand that the owner is not advocating disembowelment or physical abuse?

    ReplyDelete
  30. Boyd,

    Leviticus 25:46: You may bequeath them to your sons after you, to inherit as a possession for ever; you may make slaves of them, but over your brethren the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another, with harshness.
    Nothing in you post addresses the fact that the slaves referred to in this verse are property "for ever."
    You say "Slaves were to be given one day away from work each week and they also were allowed to participate in various festivals and feasts."
    Well, golly gee!! That more than makes up for that whole "servitude for life" thing, doesn't it?
    Please tell me more about the ancient society that centered their worship of god around the burning of a dead animal carcass and offered no fewer than a dozen absurd reasons to stone someone to death and yet had an enlightened view of human slavery!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Boyd writes:

    It is only right for you to state your argument so please reply with the clarification if this is wrong. Currently I see the basis of argument as:
    By a person's refers to actions of others that are commonly happening, they are condoning those actions.

    Jesus said some slaves might be beaten with many blows while others might be beaten with few blows. (premise)
    Jesus condoned slavery and the beating of slaves. (conclusion)


    You've got it wrong, so here's the clarification:

    Jesus said that God is like a slaveowner who will beat his slaves if they do not carry out his will (premise).

    Jesus (unlike, say, Christopher Hitchens) believes that God is great (premise).

    Jesus accepts the beating of disobedient slaves by slaveowners as a matter of course (conclusion).

    It is true that slavery among the Jews in Jesus' day was nothing like as savage as it was among the Romans. Nevertheless, it would be extremely naive to think that Jews would not subject disobedient slaves to corporal punishment. Jesus (if indeed it was he who actually made the analogy between God and the slaveowner who beats disobedient slaves, and not someone else who put those words in his mouth) clearly regards this as perfectly normal and reasonable. That's why he likens God to the slaveowner who beats slaves.

    ReplyDelete
  32. If you guys can be patient, I am going to do some posts on slavery this week.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thanks P.Coyle for the clarification.

    Ken,

    I'll wait for the posts to come up.

    ReplyDelete
  34. While waiting for the continuing posts I will request once more for the spiritual backgrounds and journeys for the other participants. If this is uncomfortable, just say so and I won't ask again. but Ken and I have been forthcoming in this area. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete