• Welcome to Christian Forums
  1. Welcome to Christian Forums, a forum to discuss Christianity in a friendly surrounding.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register to be able to join in fellowship with Christians all over the world.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon and God Bless!

  2. The forums in the Christian Congregations category are now open only to Christian members. Please review our current Faith Groups list for information on which faith groups are considered to be Christian faiths. Christian members please remember to read the Statement of Purpose threads for each forum within Christian Congregations before posting in the forum.

Why would a benevolent god condone slavery?

Discussion in 'Christian Apologetics' started by Brother Billy, Sep 30, 2018.

  1. Brother Billy

    Brother Billy Member

    174
    +31
    Australia
    Skeptic
    Private
    Overview

    The bible explicitly endorses two types of slavery....indentured servitude (for Hebrews) and chattel slavery (for non-Hebrews). With indentured servitude, a person voluntarily agreed to sell his labor to his master for a temporary period of time after which the servant would be granted some kind of remuneration. With chattel slavery (the type of slavery that existed in America during the 1800s), the slave was the permanent property of his master. Most Christians acknowledge that indentured servitude existed for Hebrews, so I won't discuss this. I want to concentrate on the slavery that applied to non-Hebrews (i.e. chattel slavery). Below I will show that the Hebrews got their chattel slaves by buying them or capturing them during war.

    Obtaining slaves through purchase

    Leviticus 25:44-46 says that the Hebrews can buy non-Hebrew slaves as permanent property. This is in contrast to Hebrew indentured servants who entered into a contract with their masters for a set period (7 years). Indentured servants couldn't be bequeathed as inheritance because they were not considered permanent property. Also, notice that this passage makes a distinction between the treatment of Hebrews servants who are not to be treated ruthlessly like non-Hebrews were.

    Obtaining slaves through warfare

    The second way chattel slaves could be obtained is by attacking foreign cities and enslaving the inhabitants. Deuteronomy 20:10-18 says that when the Hebrews attacked a non-Hebrew city they made an offer to the inhabitants:
    (1) surrender and pay a tribute (i.e. they would be forced to work for the Hebrews) OR
    (2) the men would be slaughtered and women/children and livestock taken as plunder.

    In case (2), women and children are described as plunder, which is property that is (usually violently) acquired by the victor during a war. Here the Hebrews could march into a house of the conquered city and drag out any women and children and enslave them. These weren't combatants and posed little treat to the Hebrews, but they were of economic value.

    Why is slavery wrong?

    Today we recognize that slavery is immoral because slavery, by its very nature, is a violation of a person’s liberty. It reduces people into objects that can be owned. Some apologists claim that slaves were treated with kindness and not abused like black slaves in America were. Even if this was true, this makes no difference to the morality of owning another person as property - slavery was and will always be immoral. Other apologists argue that these laws are no longer in force. Again this is irrelevant. The fact is that there was a point in history where god thought that owning another person as property (chattel slavery) was okay.

    My question is, if an omnipotent and benevolent god exists and he gave these laws to humans, why would he condone slavery? A benevolent god and a god that condoned slavery is a contradiction. Either the god of the bible exists, in which case he isn't benevolent or he doesn't exist.

    Christian apologists respond to the above


    Below is an excellent video which counters many of the objections that apologists have on this subject:



    Below, I've listed a few of the common objections that people have made under this thread, together with my response.

    Claim 1: Exodus 21:16 bans the practice of slavery

    No it doesn't and anyone who makes this claim is either dishonest or hasn't read their Bible propertly. Exodus 21:16 says "Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper's possession." This verse is about kidnapping and says nothing about slave traders or slave holders in general. The main ways that Hebrews were legally allowed to acquire slaves were through purchase or inheritance (Leviticus 25:44-46) or warfare (Deuteronomy 20:10-18). Slaves could also be obtained if a female slave gave birth since her children automatically became slaves as well. Exodus 21:6 also provides a means by which a master could turn a Hebrew indentured servant into a permanent slave.

    Regardless of the above, the consensus view among Biblical commentators is that this verse only applies to kidnapping Hebrews i.e. this laws didn't prohibit kidnapping and enslaving foreigners. See Exodus 21:16 -

    Claim 2: Deuteronomy 23:15-16 shows slavery was voluntary because a slave could leave if he was abused

    This is not true. Deuteronomy 23:15-16 says: “You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not wrong him."

    Take note of the underlined portion above. The law is telling Hebrews to allow slaves who have escaped their foreign masters in foreign lands to settle in one of their (Hebrew) towns.

    Even if it did apply to all slaves, it just meant that Hebrew masters had to keep their slaves locked up if they thought that they might escape. It doesn't mean that slaves were free to leave when they chose.

    Claim 3: Slavery in 17th-19th century America was unbiblical

    No, slavery in the America was based on the Bible. See Yes, Biblical Slavery Was the Same as American Slavery and History of slavery in Massachusetts - Wikipedia.

    Claim 4: Slavery in the Bible was more enlightened than that of 17th-19th century America

    Even granting this point for the sake of argument, this fails to answer the simple question: is owning another human ever moral, or not? The relative kindness of a slave owner does not enter into the basic moral question of owning other humans as property.

    Even if you thought that the morality of slavery is influenced by how well a slave is treated, what evidence is there that slaves were treated any better than in America? There were laws in the Bible that protected slaves from being abused:
    • Killing a slave merited punishment. (Ex 21:20)
    • Permanently injured slaves had to be set free (Ex 21:26-27)
    • Slaves who ran away from oppressive masters were effectively freed (Dt 23:15-16)
    • The law also gave slaves a day of rest every week (Ex 20:10, Dt 5:14).
    However, the mere existence of the these laws doesn't mean that they were followed in practice. There were laws that protected American slaves from being mistreated too.
    • the 1739 South Carolina code limited the number of hours that slaves could be made to work and fined anyone who killed a slave £700.
    • The 1833 Alabama law code dictated, “Any person who shall maliciously dismember or deprive a slave of life, shall suffer such punishment as would be inflicted in case the like offense had been committed on a free white person.”
    • Ten Southern codes made it a crime to mistreat a slave.... Under the Louisiana Civil Code of 1825 (art. 192), if a master was "convicted of cruel treatment," the judge could order the sale of the mistreated slave, presumably to a better master
    • In 1791, the North Carolina legislature made the willful killing of a slave murder unless it was done who was resisting or under moderate correction
    • The South Carolina slave code was revised in 1739, with the following amendments:
      • No slave could work on Sunday, or work more than 15 hours per day in summer and 14 hours in winter.
      • The willful killing of a slave was fined £700, and "passion" killing £350.
    Does this mean American slaves were not mistreated? What evidence is there that the Hebrews treated their slaves well? Regardless, as I pointed out above, the way slaves were treated makes no difference to the morality of owning other people as objects - it is always wrong.

    Claim 5: God tolerated slavery just like he tolerated divorce, because of the "hardness of peoples hearts", he knew they wouldn't obey him

    Do you really think that God wouldn't make a law if he thought that people might have difficulty following it? What about "Thou shalt not commit adultery" or "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” Not only have humans always had great difficulty in following these, these are minor in comparison with chattel slavery. Why the inconsistency?

    A good moral teacher doesn't tell his followers that they can engage in immoral behavior if they find it difficult to refrain from it. He tells them what ideals they should aspire to. Where does God tell the Hebrews that slavery is wrong?

    Claim 6: Christians brought an end to slavery in the US

    Christians may have been responsible for ending slavery in the US, but remember virtually everyone identified as a Christian at the time. Also Christians on both sides of the slavery debate used the Bible to justify their views.

    Many southern Christians felt that slavery, in one Baptist minister’s words, “stands as an institution of God.” Here are some common arguments made by Christians, who supported slavery at the time:
    • Abraham, the “father of faith,” and all the patriarchs held slaves without God’s disapproval (Genesis 21:9-10).
    • Canaan, Ham’s son, was made a slave to his brothers (Genesis 9:24-27).
    • The Ten Commandments mention slavery twice, showing God’s implicit acceptance of it (Exodus 20:10, 17).
    • Slavery was widespread throughout the Roman world, and yet Jesus never spoke against it.
    • The apostle Paul specifically commanded slaves to obey their masters (
      Ephesians 6:5-8).
    • Paul returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master (Philemon 12).

    While there were also many Christians who opposed slavery, they picked and chose the verses that supported their cause and ignored or interpreted away the verses that didn't. In particular they ignored 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, which says "each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them." The fact that it also says "although if you can gain your freedom, do so" is more of an afterthought and of no real help to the slave. It effectively said: “if your master lets you go, then take your freedom”. I can imagine a slaves response to be "Gee, thanks for nothing!"

    Also remember that although the Abolitionist Movement used religious arguments against slavery, there there were also many enlightened thinkers who condemned slavery on humanistic grounds. People realized that slavery was deeply immoral because:
    • It reduces people to objects that can be owned
    • Increases leads to a great deal of suffering
    • It exploits and degrades human beings
    • It violates basic human rights
    • It perpetuates the abuse of children

    My view is that the Abolitionist Movement was successful in ending slavery, in spite of, and not because of Christianity or the Bible.

    Claim 7: Jesus was against slavery

    Jesus refers to slaves and their masters in his parables as if slavery was the natural order of the day. Slaves in the parable of the prodigal son perform routine work in the background of the estate (Luke 15:22, Luke 15:26). Other parables depict cruel treatment of slaves, such as the parable of the wicked tenants. Slaves are disposable: they suffer beatings and death at the hands of tenants (Matt 21:33-44, Mark 12:1-12, Luke 20:9-18). Other New Testament writers accepted violence against slaves as normal as seen in these parables (see Matt 18:23-35, Luke 19:11-27). If Jesus thought that "love thy neighbor" was inconsistent with keeping slaves as property, don't you think it is strange that he never spoke out against slavery or at the very least, told his followers that slavery was not ideal?

    Claim 8: The Golden Rule effectively banned slavery

    The Golden Rule was not a pronouncement against slavery! If it was, why wasn’t it obvious to the large swaths of “Founded as a Christian Nation” America for over 200 years?

    Also Matthew 7:12 is just Jesus repeating Leviticus 19:11-18. Jesus’ audience, well-versed in their scriptures, would have known that he was quoting from Leviticus, one of the “Five Books of Moses.” They would also have known that these books include Deuteronomy, which commands Israel to invade and enslave distant cities, and Exodus, which says that slaves are just “property” and may be beaten so severely that they can’t even get up for just shy of two days. Unless we are prepared to say that one book of the Pentateuch contradicts another, it’s hard to see how the Golden Rule in Leviticus overrides the slavery passages Deuteronomy and Exodus — at least not for Jesus’ audience.

    For that matter, Leviticus itself grants Israel permission to buy foreign slaves. Would Jesus’ audience have thought Leviticus could contradict itself? Would Jesus? Would today’s Bible-believing Christians? I don’t think so.

    So, in the minds of Jesus’ audience, and possibly for Jesus himself, it would have been far from obvious that the Golden Rule outlawed slavery. In their minds, the two concepts had coexisted in the scriptures, presumably without contradiction, for centuries.

    If Jesus had intended his statement of Leviticus 19:18 to override the slavery commands and regulations also found in the Five Books of Moses, surely he would have made that more obvious to an audience for whom those books were a central feature of spiritual life.

    Regardless of the above, if Jesus meant the Golden Rule as a command to abolish slavery, then millions of slaves in the next 1800 years would wish he had made his intent far more obvious.

    Claim 9: Chattel slavery was God’s punishment against wicked nations

    If slaves were acquired during war as described in Deuteronomy 20:10-18 for punishment, it seems bizarre that God would judge a whole nation by the actions of a group of individuals within that nation, even if that group constitutes the majority of the nation. There would have been young innocent children and unborn babies who did not deserve to be enslaved. God, being omnipotent, could easily have made every wicked individual drop down dead if he wanted while sparing the innocent ones. However he ordered these innocents to be punished as well.

    Regardless of the above, slaves weren't only acquired during war. Leviticus 25:44-46 says non-Hebrew slaves could be purchased from non-Hebrews who lived among the Hebrews themselves or from non-Hebrew nations during peacetime. How is this punishing wicked nations?

    Claim 10: God desired the end of slavery, but it had to be done gradually because of the social, cultural and economic dynamics at the time

    Why would an omni-benevolent god tolerate one of the most evil practices ever created, because of economics or social customs? There are numerous examples in the Old testament where God killed Hebrews by the thousands because they didn't follow his instructions to the letter. It seems bizarre that he would balk at telling them to give up their slaves.

    If God really desired the end of slavery, he could just end slavery (he never did). Failing that, he could make clear in the Bible that he disapproves and that we should stop it (he never did). Failing that, his earthly representation as Jesus could make it clear that he disapproves (he never did). Failing that, one of the epistle writers could make clear that he disapproves so the Bible could say at least something against slavery (no one ever did). Exodus and Leviticus have extensive lists of laws that ban all sorts of behavior, everything from murder, adultery, incest, rape, bestiality....why not slavery too?

    For whose social/cultural/economic benefit did God condone slavery for anyway? The slave-owners or the slaves themselves? What could be worse than being the property of another person, being forced to labor for no wages, being forced to stay with your master, seeing your wife and children treated as cattle, etc?
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2018
    • Like Like x 1
    • Winner Winner x 1
    • List
    We teamed up with Faith Counseling. Can they help you today?
  2. David Cabrera

    David Cabrera Catechumen

    +2,794
    Ecuador
    Christian
    Single
    US-Republican
    If you were God, what would you have done?
     
  3. Brother Billy

    Brother Billy Member

    174
    +31
    Australia
    Skeptic
    Private
    If God desired the end of slavery, he could just end slavery (he never did). Failing that, he could make clear in the Bible that he disapproves and that we should stop it (he never did). Failing that, his earthly representation as Jesus could make it clear that he disapproves (he never did). Failing that, one of the epistle writers could make clear that he disapproves so the Bible could say at least something against slavery (no one ever did). Exodus and Leviticus have extensive lists of laws that ban all sorts of behavior, everything from murder, adultery, incest, rape, bestiality....why not slavery too?

    Apologists often respond to the above by quoting Exodus 21:16 which says "Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper's possession."

    This verse says nothing about slave traders or slave holders in general. Furthermore, the Hebrews never obtained their slaves by kidnapping. Instead they were obtain through purchase or war as described in my original post on this thread.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  4. SoldierOfTheKing

    SoldierOfTheKing Christian Spenglerian

    +2,074
    United States
    Presbyterian
    Married
    In antiquity, slavery was a necessary feature of the economy of a civilized society. Civilization required division of labor - there needed to be a means of assigning the necessary but menial work so that society's elites had sufficient time to use their brains for society's advancement, and until the medieval feudal system that meant slavery. When the institution of slavery arose in the Neolitihic, it was step forward. Previously, enemies captured in battle were usually simply killed.

    What does the New Testament say about slavery?
     
  5. timewerx

    timewerx the village i--o--t--

    +4,143
    Christian Seeker
    Single
    The Hexagram is probably one of the strongest embodiment of the number 666. 3 sets of 6 lines at the same angle, comprising a 666.

    The Hexagram symbol and the derivatives of is universally present in all positions of power and wealth in the world. As Jesus said, the world is under the grasp of the evil one.
     
  6. timewerx

    timewerx the village i--o--t--

    +4,143
    Christian Seeker
    Single
    The New Testament is not the pure message of Truth either. There are both truths and lies in it.

    In it, Jesus warned against someone who will claim to see Him in the desert / wilderness --- Saul / Paul.
     
  7. Brother Billy

    Brother Billy Member

    174
    +31
    Australia
    Skeptic
    Private
    Just think about your answer for a moment. You're saying that god had a particular goal in mind (i.e. end slavery), however he couldn't achieve this goal because it was too difficult given the economic dynamics at the time. Instead he settled for something that wasn't ideal (still chattel slavery and indentured servitude like what existed in America), but it was still an improvement on what existed before. I thought we were talking about an omnipotent god who can create whole Universes at will? For something so trivial, he seems awfully incompetent?

    If humans were so backwardly moral in those days, how was it possible for non-Christian countries to ban slavery? Examples: - During the 6th century BC, debt slavery was abolished in Athens - During the 3rd century BC, the slave trade was abolished in India - In 221-206 BC, the Qin Dynasty abolished slavery - In 9-12AD, the Xin Dynasty abolished slavery

    The New Testament makes no condemnation of slavery and does no more than admonish slaves to be obedient and their masters not to be unfair. Paul, or whoever wrote the epistles, at no time suggested there was anything wrong with slavery.
     
  8. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 En cuanto lo hicisteis a uno de estos mis hermanos Supporter

    +9,328
    United States
    Lutheran
    Legal Union (Other)
    US-Democrat
    Marcionism, the belief that the God of the OT is not the same as the NT, is considered an ancient heresy. Though I don't know if it contradicts the standards of the forum.

    The OT reflects peoples experiences and beliefs about God at the time (thousands of years ago, when even philosophers accepted slavery), but it is not the ultimate guide to human conduct or ethics.
     
  9. Al Masihi

    Al Masihi Well-Known Member Supporter

    +1,749
    Saudi Arabia
    Melkite Catholic
    Private
    In the case of the Bible, God is the judge, jury and executioner, Satan is the dirty criminal who tries to tempt others into breaking the law. We listen to Satan and we break the law. Satan doesn’t actually hold any authority over our lives unless we let him, God has full authority on our lives in this world and the next.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • List
  10. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 En cuanto lo hicisteis a uno de estos mis hermanos Supporter

    +9,328
    United States
    Lutheran
    Legal Union (Other)
    US-Democrat
    Christians are not the only ones with access to genuine wisdom and morality. And sometimes non-Christians may even come up with better insights into those things. Ultimately being a Christian is about believing in Jesus Christ, not Christians or what we call Christendom or Christian civilization. Some Christians of course misrepresent this and want to pretend that Christians are perfect people that are always right, but that is actually a distortion of the message of the Gospel.
     
  11. Monk Brendan

    Monk Brendan Well-Known Member Supporter

    +2,714
    United States
    Melkite Catholic
    Private
    US-Others
    Was God condoning slavery, or merely tolerating it temporarily as a concession to human weakness and hardness of heart, as He did divorce for a while?

    By the time of Jesus, slavery ownership by Jews was hedged with so many restrictions that there was a saying: He who buys a slave buys a master to himself.

    And NOWHERE in the Bible is slave ownership called a good thing.
     
    • Agree Agree x 7
    • Like Like x 2
    • List
  12. Al Masihi

    Al Masihi Well-Known Member Supporter

    +1,749
    Saudi Arabia
    Melkite Catholic
    Private
    God couldn’t just tell people to give up all of their slaves, it had to be done slowly, Paul obviously did not see anything wrong with slavery because it was normal back then. Not ending slavery doesn’t make God incompetant, God is omnipotent all powerful God, but the only way to actually abolish slavery were for God to directly intervene which at the same time would compromise his future message. Also check your historical facts, debt slavery was abolished in Athens, slavery itself not so much. India is still having trouble with slavery today. The Qin dynasty never abloshed slavery, the Xin dynasty only momentarily abolished slavery at the reign of emperor Wang Mang, but he was assassinated and slavery was reinstated shortly after his death.
     
  13. Strathos

    Strathos No one important

    +2,913
    Christian
    Single
    US-Democrat
    You might as well ask why God created a world that fell to sin in the first place instead of just only having angels in Heaven.
     
  14. Samaritan Woman

    Samaritan Woman Active Member

    271
    +207
    United States
    Christian
    Single
    Brother Billy -
    I watched the You Tube video in full so between that and other believers' comments on this thread I will strive not to be repetitive.

    For American slave owners to use Genesis 25:9 as a means to justify their viciousness simply demonstrates their use of "isogesis" (reading your own bias/agenda into scripture); unfortunately this happens all the time and at its root is pride among other sins of the heart. The actual meaning of this verse is a prophesy regarding the future judgement on the Canaanites for their wicked pagan religion and fertility cults which incorporated child sacrifice and deviant sexual practices such as male and female shrine prostitutes. That is the reason why God wanted the Israelites to obliterate their enemies - it was because of their perverse idolatry. I know that this seems to have nothing to do with your question about slavery, but what I'm try to say is that these nations were not inhabited by innocents concerned with righteous living. This leads into my next point...

    Regarding Leviticus 25:44-45, for these Canaanites to be sold into slavery to the Hebrews was actually a more humane option in lieu of being killed; God did not want them free as for reasons stated above for He could not tolerate such gross unrepentant sin.

    Jesus' lack of condemnation of slavery was due to His role being to fulfill the Old Testament law and Messianic prophesies; He did not come to be a "social justice warrior" to put in 21st century terms.

    I'm sure that this post doesn't address all your questions; please state any further ones you might have...
     
  15. DogmaHunter

    DogmaHunter Code Monkey

    +8,430
    Atheist
    In Relationship
    I would have said that humans aren't to be treated as personal property.

    Sounds easy enough.

    As Matt Dilahunty put it once: "He's GOD.... if he can tell you not to eat shrimp, he sure as hell can tell you not to keep slaves!"
     
  16. DogmaHunter

    DogmaHunter Code Monkey

    +8,430
    Atheist
    In Relationship
    It was never "necessary".
    In economic terms, it was just a matter of the rich elite wanting to be even more rich and elite. And, maybe, also a matter of social organization in ancient society - sure.

    None of these are things that couldn't have been sorted out by an all powerfull, all knowing entity.

    But no..... Instead, he tells "his people" to go on a genocidal rampage, including killing babies toddlers and cattle, and to enslave the virgin girls as war booty.

    It certainly doesn't say "don't do it".
     
  17. Brother Billy

    Brother Billy Member

    174
    +31
    Australia
    Skeptic
    Private
    Just to repeat what I said earlier....If God desired the end of slavery, he could just end slavery (he never did). Failing that, he could make clear in the Bible that he disapproves and that we should stop it (he never did). Failing that, his earthly representation as Jesus could make it clear that he disapproves (he never did). Failing that, one of the epistle writers could make clear that he disapproves so the Bible could say at least something against slavery (no one ever did). Exodus and Leviticus have extensive lists of laws that ban all sorts of behavior, everything from murder, adultery, incest, rape, bestiality....why not slavery too?

    I'm not denying that slave-owners were bound by certain rules if they wanted to buy and keep slaves in Biblical times. However the same was true in America during the 1800s and in no way prevented people who wanted slaves from having them. In fact, some slave-owning states had laws that were more restrictive than the Mosaic laws.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
  18. Brother Billy

    Brother Billy Member

    174
    +31
    Australia
    Skeptic
    Private
    You do realize that Leviticus 25:44-46 and Deuteronomy 20:10-18 didn't just apply to certain nations/foreigners? Slaves could be obtained from any non-Hebrew nation, except of course from those nations that God wanted exterminated which are explicitly mentioned.
     
  19. Par5

    Par5 Well-Known Member

    672
    +425
    United Kingdom
    Atheist
    Married
    it seems strange that the biblical god could not just plain say that slavery in any guise was wrong when it had no problem in telling people that it was wrong to eat certain marine animals, wrong to wear clothes of mixed fabrics or wrong, under pain of death, to do something as mundane as collecting wood on a particular day.
    When you look at the biblical god's instructions on the treatment of slaves it makes you wonder. It considers slaves to be the property of the slaver. Considering another human being to be your property is totally repugnant. Beating your slaves is totally repugnant. Even more repugnant is if the slave dies as a result of a beating the slaver has an escape clause to avoid punishment. Taking possession of the slave's children is repugnant. Tagging a slave's ears to show he is your possession and a slave for life is repugnant.
    Funny how a supposedly all-powerful all-knowing being didn't seem to realize just how repugnant it really was!
     
  20. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 En cuanto lo hicisteis a uno de estos mis hermanos Supporter

    +9,328
    United States
    Lutheran
    Legal Union (Other)
    US-Democrat
    Those rules do not have to do with morality in the sense we would understand it today. They have to do with ritual purity, which is another concept altogether.
     
Loading...