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« Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr | Main | God's Grandeur, Mundane Language »

August 13, 2009


"Didn't expect agreement. Was just suprised by some of the arguments. So it goes. "

So it goes, indeed, and im talking about argumentation in its entirety. Were all in the same boat.

When we speak of "just indentured servants" instead of outright slaves, one could argue that indenture is worse than slavery. Indentured servants have no "trade-in" value, and the master of an indentured servant would try to get as much out of the servant as possible before the indenture expires. Rental cars get more rough treatment than ones that are owned. So would it make sense that any legal system, bronze age or otherwise, might focus more on protection for indentured servants than it would for slaves?

If im not mistaken Johnnie, indentured servents owed debts, correct?
Wouldent slaves be more like rental cars than rental cars then?
Slaves dont owe anything *
Unless im mistaken in my first statement

... Whoops,

"Wouldent slaves be more like rental cars than indentured servants, then"

Is how it should have read


Amy offered Deuteronomy 23:15-16 as if these verses showed the Bible regulating slavery among the Hebrews.

The purpose of these verses seems to me to be to undermine neighboring economies by offering their escaped slaves safe refuge.

The Emancipation Proclamation was motivated in part by the same motive.


It seems to me that saying that "slavery is always wrong" is wrong. In fact, our modern societies continue practices which are conceptually similar to slavery.
For example:
- we imprison people today. Is that wrong? Conceptually, this is the same thing as slavery- we deprive them of their rights as an individual.
- people join the army. Conceptually, they are slaves to the people in their command for a fixed period of time.
- during war, residents from the enemy country are restricted in their freedoms, or worse, as a matter of safety for the home population and war effort.

Some of these reasons are the same reasons which included slavery in ancient times. Prisons were not practical to establish in ancient contexts, but slavery was a well known institution, achieving some of the same purposes.

The Bible shines as a light in showing HOW to practice slavery with justice, rather than seeking the impossible task in those days of eradicating a system which in fact was necessary for some social purposes.

this article is brilliant in dealing with the question from a Christian perspective:

Indenture is for a fixed period of time, not for a fixed amount of labor. The time is fixed by contract. The amount of debt is immaterial.

Through all of this, I'm still stuck on my previous question to joe, why all the hub-bub about slavery on your part?

Johnnie, was the contract ever based off of a particular debt?


ANY social injustice is worth getting worked up about. Are there any social injustices (abortion, gay rights debates, genocide, international human rights) that you consider worth protesting at all? That you spend any amount of effort opposing?

Joe is building his rationale on some very sound moral principles.
1) Morality applies equally and in the exact same way to every person at all times and places. In other words, if slavery was wrong during the Civil War, then it was equally wrong in the Peloponnesian War.
2) Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
3) No human individual or institution can rightly deprive anyone of their right to freedom without just cause.
4) If the Bible does not agree with these moral absolutes, then the Bible is inconsistent with self-evident moral principles.

Joe, I agree with you 100% on these bedrock principles. Where I depart from you is when you equate the despotic, unjust, barbaric slavery of 19th cent America with every other historic use of the word "slavery," and Jewish slave-holding in particular. If the actual practice was indentured servitude for debt relief, employment during time of famine, for martial protection or due to religious conversion, then this is NOT equal to modern slavery. If it was used in place of prison for criminals or during wartime, it was NOT the same. If it was the same RACIALLY motivated deprivation of liberty and ethnic dehumanization, then it was equally wrong.

One glaring oversight in your argument is that if Israel practiced slavery, and God never explicitly condemned it, then God tacitly gave it His blessing. Hopefully it is clear to you that God is not responsible for what Joe and Sage do, even if God fails to mention anything about the stupid, immoral things you and I choose to do. God does not explicitly condemn a multitude of sins...He hates them all, but based on the Exodus and Jesus' crucifixion as primary examples, He obviously hates slavery.

Slavery to a human master is a prison sentence that pales in comparison to eternal slavery to indomitable inner compulsions toward self-destruction (our sinful human nature).


An indenture is a contract. A contract is the exchange of a promise for money or the exchange of a promise for a promise. Many immigrants to the Americas signed indentures to get passage. Of the millions of contracts of indenture, I suspect that there was at least one that was based on a particular debt. So the answer to your question is yes. But the answer is immaterial to the purpose of this thread.

"Well, as God says, arbeit macht frei. Auf wiedersehen."

This is really a comparison that is a mismatch. The purpose of the slave labor camps of Hitler's Germany was to exterminate those groups whose lives were considered by the regime to be unworthy of living. The point here was not enslavement, but extermination as the final solution. Work does not make one free, but it does satisfy certain human needs. Slavery has never been "the right thing to do." I doubt that you can easily find a mainstream Christian that will affirm such a notion and certainly you will not find it within the pages of the bible. Just because our government has placed protections for criminals, in that they provide them defense lawyers, does not mean that they approve of the crimes those criminals allegedly, or possibly actually, commit. It simply means that they are afforded the treatment that affirms the dignity of that person as a human being and that is something that the Nazis in your example would never grant those they worked to death or gassed or shot in ditches of Poland. If you were a fly on the wall at the lakeside Wannsee conference, you would know this to be absolutely and irrefutably true. So, while I agree with you that slavery is a moral evil, I disagree with your claim that it compares in perfect parallel with what happened in the Third Reich. Apples aren't oranges.

I just wanted to thank Joe and Amy, and the rest of you for the discussion this is a subject that bothers me and I have spent a little time looking at. I have a Christian friend who is convinced that since the Bible doesn't condemn slavery, slavery can't be immoral, this slavery is morally acceptable. I've beaten my head against a wall using most of the arguments you have used and then just given up in frustration. However, it is a subject I am still interested in and I did see some new things in these posts to consider. I also really appreciated Joe's comments as they were the same (or better) challenges that I had in mind while reading. I have nothing to contribute, just wanted to sincerely thank you both.

(Joh 8:32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

(Joh 8:36) If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

(Jas 1:25) But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

And so...

(Mat 10:28) And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

(Luk 12:4) And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.

==I have a Christian friend who is convinced that since the Bible doesn't condemn slavery...==

The Word of God says that, even IF you are a slave in the physical, you don't have to be a slave in the spiritual. He says that physical confinement isn't your most pressing problem.

The word, "slave," appears only once in KJV.

The word, "slaves," appears only once in KJV.

Jer_2:14 (A.V.), but not there found in the original. In Rev_18:13 the word “slaves” is the rendering of a Greek word meaning “bodies.” The Hebrew and Greek words for slave are usually rendered simply “servant,” “bondman,” or “bondservant.” Slavery as it existed under the Mosaic law has no modern parallel. That law did not originate but only regulated the already existing custom of slavery (Exo_21:20, Exo_21:21, Exo_21:26, Exo_21:27; Lev_25:44-46; Josh. 9:6-27). The gospel in its spirit and genius is hostile to slavery in every form, which under its influence is gradually disappearing from among men. -- Easton's Bible Dictionary

Slave. The institution of slavery was recognized, though not established, by the Mosaic law, with a view to mitigate its hardship and to secure to every man his ordinary rights. -- Smith's Bible Dictionary


Amy offered Deuteronomy 23:15-16 as if these verses showed the Bible regulating slavery among the Hebrews.

The purpose of these verses seems to me to be to undermine neighboring economies by offering their escaped slaves safe refuge.

The Emancipation Proclamation was motivated in part by the same motive.

Posted by: RonH | August 14, 2009 at 04:47 PM

na'ar, meshareth. In our sense, "a free, voluntary attendant", as Joshua of Moses (Exo_33:11; so 2Ki_4:12; 2Ki_4:43; 2Ki_5:20; 2Ki_6:15 margin "minister"; 2Sa_13:17-18; 1Ki_20:14-15). 'Ebed on the other hand is "a bondservant or slave". -- Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Not "slave," as we mean it.

In the Light of Christ, this verse now has a different application: Those who serve God, through Christ, are "free, voluntary attendants." After all, if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed; and Knowledge of the Him will set you free, and He will not return you to the Devil's enslavement. It is the Devil who enslaves, not Christ.

God does not condone what the Devil does. That's cuz God doesn't condone evil which proceeds out of darkness, and God did not create darkness.

God didn't/doesn't condone darkness, either. That's why He spoke Light into the darkness.

God aks, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" [Amos 3:3]

We can take the argument of those who say He does not condemn slavery, that, therefore, He condones slavery.

Well, twisting His view, we can say that He does NOT say that two NOT walking together cannot be agreed, and, so, according to that argument, we don't have-ta agree with Him to walk with Him.

Of course, that's mere, ridiculous, human reasoning, not His. I go with His, that you can walk with Him only if you agree with Him, and, if you receive His reasoning in love, with an open heart and teachable spirit, you will come to agree with Him.

Sage S,

thanks for your thoughts. While I understand what you mean, i think you misunderstand the points of my inquiry to Joe. My simple questions to Joe were, what is evil and how does he demonstrate it specifically in the case of slavery? This he never answered.

On their behalf Douglas, you are welcome!

Ron H..... What?

Chris, was there something Joe said to call into question his rationale for applying moral absolutes to Hebraic slavery? I think he was pretty explicit about "demonstrating it specifically in the case of slavery" (remember his repeated mention of beating slaves, owning the children of slaves, holding people captive against their will, etc?). Now about requiring him to prove evil generally - I think this is a tactic you ought to reconsider. If every time we say something is morally wrong we are required first to give a compelling ontology of evil, then we pretty much avoid the original issue and place unwarranted rhetorical burdens on everyone. Whether or not we can give a fully reasoned defense of the existence of evil, we can all make valid moral claims. We don't have to prove gravity to drive a car.

Sage, i dont think calling my questions tactics is necessarily warranted. It is true that you dont need to prove gravity to drive a car, but you would need to define both gravity, car and drive before we could have an intelligible conversation about such. Joe was making broader claims about God and evil in his previous statements so i think it was completely apropos to ask him what exactly he meant. When one begins a conversation on evil, especially one knocking up against the notion of "God doing something wrong" why exactly is it inappropriate to ask the grounding question? Why would I accept a term for which no clear defintion and justification is given especially when given the nature of the conversation it's used ambiguously? I think joe's avoidance of the question in the previous post shows that when we actually seek to clarify these things, the implicit objection runs afoul.

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