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June 18, 2015

Comments

I really can't believe you put this in a video. I wish I had time to debunk the whole thing in detail. But I'm going to stick with just a few points.

You might be able to get away with the voluntary "debt servanthood" thing between Israelites except for the fact that God told the Israelites to make slaves of the surrounding nations, both voluntarily and involuntarily. The Hebrews clearly held both Hebrew and non-Hebrew slaves. And the Bible refers to them as "property" in multiple places. (Here's one: Leviticus 25:44.)

The seven-year release law only applied to Hebrew slaves. And if the master provided a wife, and they had kids while in slavery, the master got to keep the woman and children (Exodus 21:1-36). The non-Hebrew slaves were to be property "forever", passed down to children as an inheritance. (Lev. 25:45-46).

You were allowed to beat a slave as long as he didn't die because "he is his property" (Exodus 21:20-21). So nice that abuses were curbed.

And the "God met them where they were at" excuse is garbage. HE'S GOD! He can tell them whatever he wants. He told them not to work on the Sabbath or use his name in vain. He killed a guy just for touching the Ark of the Covenant. He can just as easily tell them not to own other people.

You need to quit trying to justify this and own it. You're much better off claiming Divine Command Theory on this and just say it's a mystery but God said it so it's good. Then you don't have to twist the words of the Old Testament into pretzels.

Chip,

God told the Israelites to make slaves of the surrounding nations, both voluntarily and involuntarily.

God did not tell Israelites that they could attack and subdue free men from surrounding nations and make them slaves. Nor could they acquire slaves who were brought into slavery through such means (man-stealing). In fact such behavior was to receive capital punishment (Ex. 21:16) and a slave from another nation who fled from his master to Israel was to be given his freedom (Dt. 23:15-16).

But as I said in the other thread, I think Israelites could acquire foreign slaves through war. If another nation attacked Israel, captured enemies could become permanent slaves. However after doing some searching I haven't been able to find the relevant Bible passage. Maybe I'm just overlooking it (or maybe I'm mistaken).

So I think you're correct that temporary indentured servitude wasn't the only sort of slavery. But I think your statement which I quote above is misleading since it could give the impression that Israel could raid other nations for slaves whenever they wanted.

And the Bible refers to them as "property" in multiple places. (Here's one: Leviticus 25:44.)

It's important to realize that the slave being the slave-owner's property did not mean that the slave was not recognized as a human being who had rights which the slave-owner could not violate. In contemporary culture we tend to view treating someone as one's "property" to mean that we don't treat them as human beings. As I pointed out in the other thread, Job 31:13-15 indicates that slaves were recognized as having an equal ontological status. Murder of a slave was treated the same as murder of a free-man (Ex. 21:18-21) and recall that the rationale for the death penalty in the case of murder is that the person bears the image of God (Gen. 9:6).

Thus to say that the slave was the property of the slave-owner may cause confusion to modern readers since they attach baggage to that that is not necessarily present to the Hebrew context.

And if the master provided a wife, and they had kids while in slavery, the master got to keep the woman and children (Exodus 21:1-36).

There was no compulsion for the man (the slave) to take the woman as a wife. If a man went into slavery for a period of time and knew that he wouldn't be able to keep his wife and children if received a wife from his master during the period of slavery, he simply wouldn't get married while in slavery. If he did want to get married while in slavery and couldn't wait till he had his freedom then he could make himself a permanent slave. In this way he could keep his wife and children (Ex. 21:5-6).

What might be the rationale for this? I think the point is indicated in Exodus 21:3 - the indentured servant wasn't to use his master's time as a time for his own profit, but the master also couldn't profit from the indentured slave's time prior to becoming an indentured servant. The man selling himself into temporary slavery needed to know that this wasn't a time for him to start building his own family unless he was willing to make that a permanent condition.

You were allowed to beat a slave as long as he didn't die because "he is his property" (Exodus 21:20-21). So nice that abuses were curbed.

Exodus 21:20-21 does not teach us that masters were allowed to beat their slaves any more than Exodus 21:18 tells us that men were allowed to beat each other. Rather these are both case laws which informed Israelites about what they were to do if such a circumstance were to occur.

Does the Bible teach that Israelites were allowed to beat each other? Exodus 21:18 won't answer that question for you. We find that Israelites were to love each other (Lev. 19:18) and so obviously that would entail not beating each other. Still, the law recognized that people don't always love each other, so it lays down regulations in the case that people beat each other (Exodus 21:18).

Likewise, the Bible teaches that Israelites should have sympathy for the foreigner in their land and should love the foreigner in their land (Ex. 23:9; Dt. 10:19). That this sympathy and love would extend to the foreign slave in Israel is implicit in the fact that the sympathy and love is predicated on the Israelites as foreign slaves in Egypt.

And the "God met them where they were at" excuse is garbage. HE'S GOD! He can tell them whatever he wants. He told them not to work on the Sabbath or use his name in vain. He killed a guy just for touching the Ark of the Covenant. He can just as easily tell them not to own other people.

The fact that God *could* have given Israel laws which made no exception for slavery or any other number of sins (divorce) does not make the observation that "God met them where they were at" garbage. That God *could* have demanded more from them is implicit in the very idea of God meeting them where they are at.

God could have given them laws which more closely approximated an ideal society, but he didn't. And Israelites didn't even obey the laws that God did give them. What we see is that even when God accommodates himself to the hardness of our hearts we still reject his rule.

What standard could anyone use to judge God? He is the supreme point of reference in the universe. The fact that He hasn't condemned us all to hell is a sign of His mercy and goodness. Anyone wishing to remain in bondage to their sin doesn't really have a problem with slavery at all.

Coke (May I call you "Coke"?),

God did not tell Israelites that they could attack and subdue free men from surrounding nations and make them slaves.

You are correct. I meant to refer to the times where God explicitly ordered the Israelites to wipe out other groups and said they could take slaves from them, euphemistically or otherwise.

But I think your statement which I quote above is misleading since it could give the impression that Israel could raid other nations for slaves whenever they wanted.

Yes. That was probably the most poorly worded sentence of my post. I did not mean to give that impression. Sorry. I hope I've clarified.

Rather these are both case laws which informed Israelites about what they were to do if such a circumstance were to occur.

And what were they to do if a slave was beaten with no resulting permanent damage and no death? I am only aware of scriptural laws addressing the situation where slaves suffered permanent damage or death.

Again, I wish I could respond in detail to everything, but I must skip over a lot of stuff and go almost to the end.

The fact that God *could* have given Israel laws which made no exception for slavery or any other number of sins (divorce) does not make the observation that "God met them where they were at" garbage.

It absolutely does. If God was affording them accommodation with respect to slavery, what was his interest in all the purity laws? Why worry about boiling a goat kid in its mother's milk? Why bother with enforcing a day of rest? Or taking his name in vain? Now I know you can come up with rationalizations for all these laws, but I ask you to speak to the following point.

We consider slavery now one of the most heinous evils. Do you think God feels similarly? In the spirit of accommodation, it makes much more sense for God to say "Look, this slavery thing... it's really one of the worst possible things you can do. Here's some alternatives and by the way, while you get used to this, we'll overlook the thing about using my name in vain. I'm a big boy and I can really deal with that for now if it means you guys won't hurt each other this way. Deal?"

What we see is that even when God accommodates himself to the hardness of our hearts we still reject his rule.

Is this supposed to be a reason not to forbid slavery? That they (or we) were going to do it anyway? I hope that's not your point. If he can strike people dead for touching the Ark, I would think he could come up with an appropriate punishment for trying to own other people.

Chip

P.S. What "other thread"?

The whole challenge is based the idea of God being "immoral" due to an allowance of slavery in Israel. If we say slavery was never practiced in Israel, we would be incorrect. But the brand of servitude practiced there over against everywhere else was vastly preferable. It would be as if God perceived a system developed by the oppressive nations to exploit the weaker, and, instead of scrapping it, utilized it so work could be accomplished without the dehumanizing aspects of slavery.

Human system of slavery: slave perceived as inferior. The "seven-tenths of a person" perception practiced in America for polling purposes was almost a 100% improvement over the estimated worth of a Babylonian slave.
Divine adjustment: The slave is worthy of respect, beating only allowed in extreme cases (C-C's point on Ex. 21: 20-21).

Human system: Life long servitude.
Divine adjustment: Indentured servitude (seven years' duration). Life-long servitude would be mutually agreed upon in cases.

Human system: Manumission dependent on slave's performance (rarely given)
Divine adjustment: Manumission dependent on conscientious decision of the master (given as conviction of slavery as evil is accepted)

Human system: Slave as chattel/property.
Divine adjustment: Slave as brother.

You might say that, if God was working for Slavery Inc., He was making moves to put that corporation out of business.

Oh wait! If I remember people as Wilberforce and Stowe, I think He did.

In a discussion (at Tom Gilson’s blog) on this same topic of slavery we find the Critic, after realizing that the cerebral content of items found in the Critic’s comments in this thread amounts to misguided intellectual and cultural baggage, we find the Critic simply reverting back to square one after about 200 comments. “You basically just reset the conversation to square one. The entire point has been that the Bible condemns, universally, the mindsets and moral attitudes that make slavery possible. You want the Bible to start at the end of the conversation.” That thread soon ends and links to another follow-up thread, Ten Reasons the Bible Has It Right on Slavery. Comment #23 there in part parallels the other thread here at STR which was the first installment of this conversation a few days ago. Coca-Cola, in STR’s first installment, unpacks the laws in question, and, as noted, the 23rd comment in the “Ten Reasons…” link also looks at the very straightforward case law where we find that it is life for life should an indentured servant be killed, just as, we find all such servants gaining their freedom should they suffer so much as the loss of a tooth.


The reason the Critic cannot take such case law seriously are at least two fold. First, they have no concept of the Israelite’s mindset in relation to the context of their God and Law. Secondly, they can only think of the American South – full stop. They cannot think beyond their own culture – thus historicity is intellectually inaccessible to them – at least to the sort who seem to comment in these threads. They mirror the grade school child who reads a book and the child’s mind saturates all the lines as she colors them within the margins of her own cartoon-laden reality – because that is, to her as yet under-exposed mind, the only possible reality.


As pointed out in the first installment a few days ago, God simultaneously both hates Behavior-X and regulates actual motions of actual Behavior-X within Moses.

Unless and until the Critic can intellectually digest the fateful ontology which that astounding reality presses upon us, he has not earned the right to be taken seriously. The Means and Ends of Moral Excellence, according to Scripture, are not, indeed cannot be found in some lesser something than Moral Excellence Himself - transposed into the created order vis-à-vis the amalgamation that is God-In-Man, Man-In-God.


As noted already:


"The question hangs on the word “endorse” and the measure of cynicism is proportionate to the persistence to which they insist on us working under its connotations. We, of course, know the difference between “tolerate” and “endorse,” and the former is the only term that survives the implications of the whole Biblical narrative." (GM)


A few quotes from some of the links for a bit of background:


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


And:


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


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


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


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


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


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

There's far more, as the links are a good read, though tedious vis-à-vis their length.

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


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

Chip,

And what were they to do if a slave was beaten with no resulting permanent damage and no death? I am only aware of scriptural laws addressing the situation where slaves suffered permanent damage or death.

As far as we know, there was no legal provision for non-serious physical harm to a slave. A few things to keep in mind though: (i) the Torah is not an exhaustive law code. There are fewer than 700 laws in the Torah. Compare that with our own society where tallying up the number of laws is recognized to be "nearly impossible" (from Library of Congress website). I'm sure judges in Israel frequently encountered cases that were not explicitly covered in the law. Suppose for instance that a slave-master gets drunk, loses his temper one day and starts beating his slave. The slave recognizes this man is usually harsh and in a drunken state has lost even his normal minimum inhibitions. So the slave fears for his life and he fights back. Certainly the slave would not decide to lay passively and hope that the master stops before he dies, having confidence that if he does die at least the master will receive proper punishment. So the slave fights back and with a square punch to the jaw knocks his drunken master unconscious. What would be the legal consequences of such behavior on the part of the slave?

We really have no idea. There is no law in the Torah about such cases. Does this mean that the judicial system would overlook it? Slaves are free to fight back when they fear for their life? Maybe not, but then maybe it also wouldn't overlook a slave-master who is known to deal just cruelly enough with his slaves that he can get around the letter of the law. We don't know.

It is probably worth considering that the biblical worldview does not have such an aversion to corporal punishment as we do, in 21st century America. I mentioned in the other thread the issue of spanking and how corporal punishment has been viewed in other societies, like Korea. (That other thread, btw, is linked in the OP "this week's challenge.") On one level it's possible that contemporary western culture is misshapen here. Chesterton, in one of his books that escapes me at the moment, talks about Christian virtues gone mad. (Consider, for example, the recent survey which found that about 40% of people would save their dog over a fellow human. Google "Many people would save their dog over...") I have no doubt that modern man is very much a grotesque composite of the Christian virtues in his heritage. At another level, however, it should be kept in mind that ancient Israel had no police structure or extensive judicial structure that exists in contemporary societies. There was no prison infrastructure either. The best way to deal with an obstinate slave may have been corporal punishment. If slave knew that he could receive no corporal punishment whatsoever, why wouldn't the slave just refuse to work? What are they going to do? They can't throw him in prison and if they did then maybe they would prefer that over having to work all day. Perhaps this is why there is no legislation explicitly outlawing beating a slave (corporal punishment). That a slave-master was expected not to arbitrarily beat the slave is clear from the other Bible passages I referenced.

It absolutely does. If God was affording them accommodation with respect to slavery, what was his interest in all the purity laws? Why worry about boiling a goat kid in its mother's milk? Why bother with enforcing a day of rest? Or taking his name in vain? Now I know you can come up with rationalizations for all these laws, but I ask you to speak to the following point.

I have no rationalization for boiling a kind in its mother's milk or many other laws in the Old Testament. I assume there was something relevant to the Israelite context which is lost on me. Perhaps some Old Testament scholar knows. Broadly purity laws served to show Israel their great need for holiness, how far short they fell, and ultimately the need for a mediator.

We consider slavery now one of the most heinous evils. Do you think God feels similarly?

It is almost impossible for the modern western mind to disassociate slavery from recent forms of racial slavery and all of its abuses. One is probably even prone to conjure up a distorted picture of how racial slavery was carried out a few hundred years ago. We bring to mind the image of the belligerent white man who has no respect for his black slave, treats him as if he were retarded and little more than an animal, gives every command with an insult and a warning about slackness, and may beat and hang the slave at his whim with impunity. Is that one of the most heinous evils? Certainly. Does God feel similarly? Certainly. Is that the sort of slavery that was modeled for Israelites in the Old Testament? Certainly not. Again one merely needs to look at Job 31:13-15, Dt. 10:19; 23:15-16, etc.

If we were to ask what the necessary and sufficient conditions are to someone being a slave (and we assume this captured the various forms of slavery ancient Israel) and asked if *that* is one of the most heinous evils I would think not. However I can imagine that for some people it would still be considered one of the most heinous evils: for some people value individual autonomy as the greatest good. Man must be so autonomous that he can even choose which goods will direct his life and the social and legal structure of our culture must be ordered such that it allows man to achieve just that: his own self-determination. Someone on this website recently mentioned MacIntyre's After Virtue, which (for the most part) has hit the nail on the head.

In the spirit of accommodation, it makes much more sense for God to say [...]

Well you haven't actually given us an alternative such that we can compare the two and say "Yes, because of this, this, and this your solution is better." But at any rate the project would be misguided because while God clearly does accommodate the law to the people's condition, his primary goal is not to achieve the best balance of accommodation for an ideal society. The primary goal is to prepare a way and a background for the Messiah.

Is this supposed to be a reason not to forbid slavery? That they (or we) were going to do it anyway? I hope that's not your point.

No, the point was that the law serves a broader purpose, it's a schoolmaster which points to something else.

Interesting quote from the above links:


"It doesn’t go into two major factors, state-serfdom as a result of warfare, and the allowance of Israelites to “acquire slaves from the pagan nations.


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


.....If Israel’s laws had opened that up to everyone in a region where lifelong brutality towards slaves and the poor was the norm, the country would have been totally inundated and financially destroyed in a few decades. There had to be SOME caveats when it came to the bondservant contract for Gentiles if the nation was going to function. If an Israelite bought (enslaved) a foreigner for the purpose of slavery, he did so through means that are explicitly forbidden by the law, and thus outside of God’s temporary tolerance of a morally disastrous time in human history....


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


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


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


Another interesting quote from one of the links:

"I really don’t mean to be provocative, but this is incredibly tedious.

The picture you’re painting wouldn’t be just a bit off. It would be profoundly stupid. As in, thousands of years of people across the full spectrum of intelligence and scholarship staring at some blatantly obvious literary fact and just mooing like cows. I’ll give a tiny primer, because really, it’s not that complicated.

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


Here is the typical slave in the Hebrew context:


I am in debt. I have sold my land, I have no family to bail me out, I cannot borrow any more because I’ve ruined my credit and I am becoming a drain on the community. While the farmer’s gleanings, which they are LEGALLY OBLIGATED to offer to the poor to fend off local starvation, are great and all, I want to be a productive member of society again, and I don’t want to doom my children to multi-generational poverty. I enter into a bonded labor contract with a local family in exchange for seven years of work which covers my debt, completely. While I’m working there, I am not in chains, no one is allowed to injure me, and in the event that my bondmaster is a bastard, I can run away to a neighbor who CANNOT SEND ME BACK but must provide shelter. [As noted earlier, the truly bizarre law is the command to not send runaway slaves back to their masters, and this is stated without caveat. It doesn’t stipulate on the matter if the slave ran away from a Jewish or pagan master or if they were a Jew or Gentile themselves. This completely deconstructs the entire capacity for a society to enslave individuals against their will.] In seven years, my contract is up, my debt is cleared, and my bond master is required by law to set me up with grain, money and livestock so I can start to rebuild my life on my own. In 13 years, it will be a Jubilee year, and the land I had to sell will be returned to my family.


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


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

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

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


Coca-cola,

It is almost impossible for the modern western mind to disassociate slavery from recent forms of racial slavery and all of its abuses.

Do you think the Israelites didn't abuse the slavery they had in place at the time? Do you think they treated Hebrew and non-Hebrew slaves equally? What is the point of such a comment? Are you going to argue that somehow the Israelites were more moral in their treatment of slaves than 1800's American slave owners? On what basis? God's commands? Like the commands they repeatedly ignored causing God to punish Israel again and again? If, due to divine fiat, someone is fully invested in the idea that they own a person as one would a cloak, how long will it take for them to treat that person with all the consideration one affords a cloak?

[O]ne merely needs to look at Job 31:13-15, Dt. 10:19; 23:15-16, etc.

Dt. 10:19 does not speak to slaves but "aliens" in the land. Dt. 23:15-16 does not speak to slaves owned by them but to escaped slaves from outside Israel. And as for Job, if a slave's complaint is to be treated with such reverence, why do we not see applicable laws for this mixed in with the laws on beating slaves and passing them down to your children?

If we were to ask what the necessary and sufficient conditions are to someone being a slave (and we assume this captured the various forms of slavery ancient Israel) and asked if *that* is one of the most heinous evils I would think not. However I can imagine that for some people it would still be considered one of the most heinous evils: for some people value individual autonomy as the greatest good.

And I am one of those people. There is good reason for saying that even the most humane, kind, and loving treatment of people declared as the property of others constitutes a moral failure of gargantuan proportions.

Well you haven't actually given us an alternative such that we can compare the two...

What is my suggestion to command abolition while allowing name-taking-in-vain if not an alternative? I must be not understanding your point.

...his primary goal is not to achieve the best balance of accommodation for an ideal society. The primary goal is to prepare a way and a background for the Messiah.

If that goal is to be achieved by enslaving people, drowning everyone save eight, slaughtering Amalekites, Jephthah's voluntary fillicide, Abraham's commanded fillicide and the eventual condemnation of billions of people to an eternity of conscious torment, then I reject this goal EVEN IF everything in the Bible is absolutely, 100% true. I would rather live out my life unencumbered by such immoral baggage than to base my "salvation" on such monumentally horrendous behavior.

Most sincerely yours,

Chip

Chip,


Do you think the Israelites didn't abuse the slavery they had in place at the time?

Why would you think that Scripture affirms such a nonsensical idea? Scripture is nothing other than God’s failure to abandon Mankind to the pains of his own fatal privation vis-à-vis God’s involvement with liars, murderers, cheaters, cowards, and bastards. In fact, the Critic cannot find one sinless Man in Scripture save One.

Are you going to argue that somehow the Israelites were more moral in their treatment of slaves than 1800's American slave owners? On what basis? God's commands?
Well this is about God’s commands, not about Man’s behavior, and, as described in the above quotes, both historicity and Scripture affirm the complete deconstruction of the Critic’s baggage-driven idea that the Israelite could rightfully indenture any human being against their will. The fact that today’s brand of Critic is not capable of seeing past his own cultural milieu nor able to intellectually process more than a few verses at one isn’t the Christian’s problem.
does not speak to slaves but "aliens"
The laws governing death for death, freedom if so much as a tooth is lost, and the inability to return any runaway to the home they ran away from are all given without caveat – across the board. Other rules for other situations may apply vis-à-vis the typical trend of case law, but such does not, and in fact cannot, grant the undoing of the former. This is where the Critic’s inability to incorporate “all verses” into historicity’s Biblical narrative works against his ability to put the pieces together coherently.
why do we not see applicable laws for this mixed in with the laws on beating slaves and passing them down to your children?
There are no laws on beating slaves, as the case law there is in the context of all beatings, period. The ability to run away without punishment deconstructs the false idea that passing down indentured servants within a household was against the servant’s will, as described earlier in the thread.
even the most humane, kind, and loving treatment of people declared as the property of others constitutes a moral failure of gargantuan proportions
There is nothing loving about what God hates – and God hates the whole show there in Man’s privation. That the Critic cannot incorporate more than a few verses at a time explains why he fails to understand how it is that God simultaneously hates behavior X even as he regulates actual motions of the actual behavior X within Moses. That is one reason (there are others) why both the OT and the NT describe Moses as the Lesser, as that which will fail to bring Moral Excellence into Mankind. Of course, the idea of “property” somehow housing something against the indentured servant’s freedom to run away from that which absolves him of all of his debt is incoherent in the context of the full body of case law at our disposal. That said, it is nice to see that the Critic so passionately agrees with Scripture’s definitions of the value and preciousness of Every-Man despite his own paradigm’s inability to metaphysically ground such an “ontic-actuality”.
What is my suggestion to command abolition
That is why the freedom of all – without legal caveat – indentured servants to run away was so radical in that time. “.....If Israel’s laws had opened that up to everyone in a region where lifelong brutality towards slaves and the poor was the norm, the country would have been totally inundated and financially destroyed in a few decades. There had to be SOME caveats when it came to the bondservant contract for Gentiles if the nation was going to function. If an Israelite bought (enslaved) a foreigner for the purpose of slavery, he did so through means that are explicitly forbidden by the law, and thus outside of God’s temporary tolerance of a morally disastrous time in human history.....” (GM) The fact that today’s brand of Critic is not capable of seeing past his own cultural milieu nor able to intellectually process more than a few verses at one time isn’t the Christian’s problem.

Your erroneous assertion implying that “every” war is ipso facto unjust is bizarre.

Perhaps you feel that judgment is not a part of Good? Judgment against what? Well, all the stuff you rant against here as you erroneously claim such to be housed in Israel’s case laws such as all the slavery you hate – and burning children alive – and the filicide which neither Abraham nor God endorse/commit – are all, every bit of all that stuff *you* just demanded be dammed, is what is found judged by God even as He fails to abandon Mankind in his (man’s) fatal privation. You essentially argue against yourself here, and not actually against Scripture's terms.

people to an eternity of conscious torment
This is a confusing notion on your end given the inescapable freedom which love demands and the inescapable value of every Every-Man which love demands. The freedom to run away from that which absolves us of our debt - of insufficiency - is a necessary contour of love’s landscape and that is why we find it not only in the body of case law of Israel, but also in the very topography of Mankind itself there amid the landscape of motions amid God-In-Man, or Man-In-God.

You seem to think that “Person”, or that the “Self” is of no value such that God can (simultaneously) both “be love” and (also) somehow force or program each “Person/Self” to dive into love’s “Self/Other” and thereby freely participate in love’s singular “Us”.

Why on earth do you think that?

This is, first, incoherent, and, secondly, all of your paradigm’s moral ontology fails to end in Person / Being as all such lines are entirely arbitrary and mutable and contingent in your paradigm – and thus all of your moral ontology ends equally arbitrary and mutable and contingent. That is all fatal for any moral sentence.

The Moral Ontology of love’s categorical reciprocity in the triune God solves this. It’s uncanny. You cannot evade the ontology of “Self / Other / Us” in the Christian God nor are there *any* possible combinations or permutations of moral semantics which are factually void of those three (unavoidable) vertices of “Personhood/Being”.

None.

We find there a few unavoidable facts vis-à-vis love’s ceaseless reciprocity within “Self / Other / Us” (vis-à-vis Trinity as the fundamental shape of reality).


1) The inescapable topography of love’s landscape emerges in that which is perfectly intuitive and perfectly / intellectually coherent.

2) The Image of Man’s moral reality – and even of being itself emerges.

3) There is (therefore) no such thing as reality void of “Self” in the triune God as willful Privation there in Him just is the Great I AM.

4) As such we find in Mankind's reality, then, the very same ontology of love’s ceaseless reciprocity in the uncanniness of Trinity, of “Self / Other / Us” as we find in the Christian God.

5) We are confronted then with a fact of reality, with the fact that we cannot escape love’s reciprocity amid Contingency (Man) and the immutable grain of reality (God, who is love).

6) We are confronted, then, with the Fact of Man-In-God, God-In-Man as ipso facto that which sums to Man’s full and final felicity.


What, then, is Hell?

While the willful dive into the Self is, in the triune God, simply the Great I AM, or The-Good, or All-Sufficiency, we find that that very same willful dive into the Self is, in Man, in Contingency, by necessity, both *present* and also *just is* the pain of privation – or necessary in-sufficiency.

Fortunately we all ultimately embrace our true love, that which truly delights us, such that only those who love all the stuff of Self so as to exclude all the stuff of Other will ultimately embrace *their* full and final delight there in what just is full and final insufficiency. The question as to whether God Freely sustains such permanently evil worlds or whether He Freely ceases to sustain such would-be permanently evil worlds< a href="http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2015/05/a-philosophical-argument-against-annihilationism/comments/page/1/#comments">then necessarily comes to mind.

Either way it seems that that which is outside of love’s singular “Us” sums to “love-less-ness”, that is to say, “God-less-ness”, that is to say, “God-minus-some-thing” and that such is the case whether such an “ontic-location” is found within Time and Physicality here in our own temporal-becoming or whether such is found in some other Timeless, Becoming-less “ontic-location”.

Metaphysically it is the uncanny case that only vis-à-vis Christianity’s ceaseless reciprocity within Trinity’s immutable love does freedom find Love-less-ness, or the Cold Outside, as a contour which is necessarily available to the Contingent Self vis-à-vis the unavoidable freedom to run away from All-Sufficiency. At least that is the case “unless and until” said “Contingent Self” finds the amalgamation of Man-In-God, God-In-Man such that wherever he shall look he will see, not his own insufficiency, but rather All-Sufficiency Himself.

Love demands the freedom to run away from All-Sufficiency, from full and final absolution of insufficiency.

Hence Israel’s uncanny body of case laws impinge upon all inhabitants of the land without caveat. Hence we find that, at least in Man’s case, being made in the Image of Trinity, it cannot be otherwise, at least unless and until the peculiar semantics of amalgamation / incarnation emerge, finding Logos transposed into Man.

Chip,


First, the link in the proper form:


The question as to whether God Freely sustains such permanently evil worlds or whether He Freely ceases to sustain such would-be permanently evil worlds then necessarily comes to mind.


Second, you yourself demand that the indentured servant be given his freedom.


That is the very constitution which can only be granted should the fundamental shape of reality be love, and vis-à-vis Trinity, the ceaseless reciprocity within the immutable love of the Necessary Being, we find just that. And, that is the very constitution of the full body of case law there in Israel.


Love demands, and provides, the freedom *you* demand there in the land void of banks and prisons. Love demands, and grants, vis-à-vis the fundamental shape of reality, the freedom to run away from All-Sufficiency, from full and final Debt Absolution.


Hence Israel’s uncanny body of case laws impinge upon all inhabitants of the land without caveat. Hence we find that, at least in Man’s case, being made in the Image of Trinity, it cannot be otherwise, at least unless and until the peculiar semantics of amalgamation / incarnation emerge, finding Logos transposed into Man.

scbrownlhrm,

Initially, I did not respond to your posts because I did not want to try to defend myself on multiple fronts. In addition, I found your posts to be practically unreadable due to your style and your dismissive attitude toward "the Critic" who is not intellectually able to comprehend the intent of the totality of Scripture.

Finally, I find now that you ascribe to me thoughts of your own imagination. To demonstrate some of the problems I have with your comments, I offer my response to the first two paragraphs of your post dated June 24, 2015 at 11:57 AM.

Why would you think that Scripture affirms such a nonsensical idea?

I do not. I don't know where you got this from. What I suggested is a simple deduction based on what I observe of human behavior. Given power over other humans, it will be abused.

Scripture is nothing other than God’s failure to abandon Mankind to the pains of his own fatal privation...

"So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired" - Rom 1:24

Oh, it's verse mining or taken out of context or that's not what it means. Then shall we talk about the Noachian flood? Does this not go beyond "failure to abandon" into active destruction for their privations?

In fact, the Critic cannot find one sinless Man in Scripture save One.

"The Critic" finds the Bible to be myth and therefore concludes that every man is sinless, in and out of Scripture.

Well this is about God’s commands, not about Man’s behavior...

Yes, it is. And my claim is that the fact that God allows, even commands, slavery (i.e., the owning of another human being) while prohibiting trivialities is offensive and immoral regardless of the arc of Scripture.

The fact that today’s brand of Critic is not capable of seeing past his own cultural milieu nor able to intellectually process more than a few verses at one isn’t the Christian’s problem.

Again with the dismissive attitude.

Neither is this a problem for "the Critic"; this is a problem for your deity. If "the Critic" cannot, in fact, process this information, how will he ever be saved? How will the desire of God to save all men be achieved? (2 Peter 3:9) It appears that understanding has been made so difficult as to intentionally exclude many from God's kingdom.

I can respond no further. Half of your post is indecipherable and it appears every summation of my thoughts that you make is not representative. If my failure to understand what you write is a result of my own inadequacies, I can only offer my apologies. But if you wish to communicate effectively with me, you will have to take another tack.

Chip

Chip,


Of course men sin and abuse one another. But we are discussing the full body of case law, not Israel’s obedience or disobedience. A case law which, BTW, both the OT and NT affirm cannot bring Moral Excellence into Mankind's reality.

That you misguidedly and erroneously think that Israel's body of case law commands slavery against the will of the person, rather than indentured service wherein the servant has the freedom to run away (and so on, and so on….) is not the Christian's problem.

It's your problem - based in your inability to see past your own cultural milieu and cultural baggage as you extricate the narratives of other cultures/eons, and in your inability to intellectually incorporate more than a few verses or a few chapters at any one time vis-à-vis the methods required to extricate the wider canopy of narrative.


Given that you yourself demand that we have our freedom to run away from All-Sufficiency Himself, and, given that we have that freedom to embrace our own delights over and above the timelessness of immutable love, and, given that Israel's full body of case law provided that same uncanny sort of freedom to run away for all of its inhabitants without legal caveat, and, given that both the OT and the NT affirm that God hates the very things you are ranting against in this thread, it is unclear exactly what is fueling your rant of late. Again, it is not the fault of the Christian or of "Christianity" if you cannot see past your own cultural milieu and cultural baggage as you extricate the narratives of other cultures/eons, or if you cannot intellectually incorporate more than a few verses or a few chapters at any one time vis-à-vis the methods required to extricate the wider canopy of narrative.

Chip,


Your reference to II Peter places the work of salvation on Knowledge. That is rather odd. Our Judge, Christ, declares from high atop His Throne, “Forgive X, for X knows not…..”. Knowledge is given, perhaps to all, perhaps to only some. One cannot volitionally refuse One Whom he does not “know”. We can guess more. But, this much we do know: Should X know-not, well then, your appeal to Peter seeks to contradict the Judge with Whom we have to do. And it is impossible to overturn His Ruling.

...you misguidedly and erroneously think that Israel's body of case law commands slavery against the will of the person...

Once again, this is not my position.

Chip

Chip,

Great. Then we agree that slavery against anyone's free will is not commanded by the Law. Rather, indentured servitude with the freedom to leave, and the Law's protection should they leave, is there.

No. That is not my position either.

Chip

Chip,

Okay then.

The case law demands against the will and not against the will.

The law protects the runaway and it doesn't.

Got it.

You might consider that I don't frame my position in terms of your binaries.

It may also be the case that I've done a poor job of expressing myself.

Chip,

There's some general overviews in the earlier "quotes" (GM) and also Coca-Cola and many others echo some basic patterns obvious in the terms of the body of case law as a whole.

The larger problem of the wider meta-narrative is related but brings in even more statements of Scripture's terms.

Christ and others who only had the OT read it and find in it the express worth of Every-Man, even of the World. They were in large part Jewish as the NT was "spreading". They saw the obvious because the larger narrative's terms and definitions are clear.

It's only the uninformed who fail to see the unity of Scripture as a whole - as in the OT and NT being in full concurrence.

Case law taken as a body rather than in cherry-picked sound-bites thoroughly deconstructs any possibility of "enslavement" and affords the full protection of the Law to both (any) harmed person and (any) runaway "slave" (servant), and so on and such merges outward into the larger meta-narrative, which converges in *Christ* - the express love of God for all of us in the middle of our inhumanity to one another.

Not sure what your point is here. Sounds like you're just repeating yourself.

Chip,

Condensed it a bit, that's all. It's a bit unclear as to what definition of Moral Excellence in scripture's meta-narrative you are disagreeing with.

Given that the Judge with Whom we have to do declares from high atop His Bench, "Forgive X, for X knows not.", and, given that you yourself demand that we have our freedom to (knowingly, volitionally) run away from All-Sufficiency Himself, and, given that we have that freedom to embrace our own delights over and above the timelessness of immutable love, and, given that Israel's full body of case law provided that same uncanny sort of freedom to run away for all of its indentured servants (slaves) without legal caveat, and, given that both the OT and the NT affirm that God hates the very things you are ranting against in this thread, it is unclear exactly what is fueling your argument.

Forget about what's fueling it. You don't appear to even know what my argument is. Every time you try to restate it, I have to tell you that's not what I'm saying.

Chip,

Yes, it isn't clear what your disagreement with Scripture's meta-narrative actually is. It seemed to be based on premises of somewhat Non-Christian truth predicates. But, initial impressions can be a bit misleading - pending a more thorough investigation.

Cool. I await the results of your investigation.

Chip,


If you can figure out what definition of Moral Excellence, or what other "X", there in Scripture's narrative you take issue with, please let us all know.

So far all the complaints you've offered must have been about some book other than Scripture's OT/NT.


My very first post, right up there at the top, enumerated SOME of the issues I have with Brett's video, with specific Biblical references. I understand that you and others here disagree with my interpretation on what it means to be a slave, or view this as part of a larger narrative, or whatever. But to say that my complaints are about a book other than the Bible??!! It's very tempting to think either you're trolling me or your reading comprehension needs improvement. Either way it seems we're way past any productive discussion.

Chip,

So we *did* understand you and your somewhat misguided handling of OT case law (definitions of slavery etc.).

Hence our replies which followed.

It's sort of like hearing "Christ likes sin", or something like that.

Can you see how that sort of sounds like it came from someone who read a book other than the Bible?

"Christ likes sin? Huh? Where did you read *that* ?"

That's what was inferred by that comment.

Except that I told you right up front where I read it. Which means you still don't get what I'm saying.

I don't care about Bible story arcs. I reject the idea that Hebrew slavery was limited to indentured servitude. I scoff at the unfounded excuse that slaves received appropriate moral consideration. I consider comparisons to American slavery irrelevant. And I think you can find my reasons for all this in what I've already written.

But... even if the overarching Biblical narrative works with slavery, even if slavery was only indentured servitude, even if they received humane treatment, even if Hebrew slavery was nothing like American slavery, God still allowed people to own other people as one would property. This is sufficient to say that God is immoral.

Chip,

2 basic points:


First: "Property" that was free to run away, protection for that specifically delineated in the Law.


Second: The pesky ontological geography *necessitated* by the *fact* that, according to Scripture, God *simultaneously* hates Behavior X even as He regulates actual motions of actual Behavior X inside of Moses - that Law which both the OT and the NT affirm never could bring, transpose, Moral Excellence into Mankind.


2 basic points:...

What do you want me to do? Are you repeating your points because you want me to repeat my responses?

Chip,

Property free to run away isn't property.

God alone "owns".

That core principle is pervasive there in the.......

Chip,


Another approach to affirm the reality of PAIN in the OT case law:


The tone of Mortgage/Prison in a world with no banks and no prisons does break through - that is to say that all the angst we know of either debts that are hammering us or prison terms that are hammering us - all of that pain and "can't get out" is there, fully loaded in the case law.


However, if one chose to leave his banker / prisoner, the law protected him. Of course, if he owed any debt that followed him. One may be free to change bosses, but the Banks and the Prisons, like today, always came out on top.


The "owned" item there was the debt, not the man.


Even more bizarre than the laws protecting the run away, there were laws establishing safe-houses for "supposed criminals" - entire cities of such in fact. None could touch you there pending a more calmed approach later on.

Ownership of a Man was (and is) exclusively God's territory throughout Scripture.

Hence GM's and Coca-Cola's and others (Etc.) and history and case law and genre, and so on, all come into play to dissect these lines.


We can't read case law there in either one-page bites or through the lens of our own cultural baggage.


Is it painful to have a debt you may never pay off?


Is it painful to harm a man and be in prison for it?


Of course it is.


There's nothing "cozy" about it.


Jubilee is a bit bizarre too. A man could not permanently own even the land, never mind another man, as both belonged to God -and that fed into the reasons behind Jubilee.


But debt is still debt, pain is still pain, regret is still regret, and crime/prison is still no damn fun at all.


Still, to this day.


Law never did then what it won't do now. It can't. The OT tells us that of Moses.


Imagine if we told you that America's Laws are ultimately hopeless to change the human condition.


How would you respond? A nation of laws is great - and Israel had it down. They were the masters of hair-splitting to the Nth degree. Ultimately Christ had to turn their eyes away from rules of childhood and towards adulthood. That is when law gives way to gospel. Ought replaces Must. Desire replaces Fear. Love emerges as the Rod from which all those lesser, smaller realities hang.

Well, that is what the OT and the NT both say of Moses. That is why God can both hate "X" and also regulate the actual doing of an actual "X" inside of Moses.


And so on.

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