Tag Archives: Support

Does the Bible condone slavery?

Matt and Madeleine Flanagan have a wonderful post up to answer this thorny question. These guys are professional apologists, not amateurs, like me! They have footnotes in their post!

Your strategy

If someone asks you a question like this, there are two responses you need to make:

  1. Explain why the Bible does not condone slavery
  2. Ask the challenger why slavery is wrong, on their worldview

Let’s start with number 1.

Does the Bible condone slavery?

MandM’s response is based on the writings of John Locke in his “Second Treatise on Civil Government”. Locke based his argument on a reading of Exodus 21, where the rules of “slavery” are defined.Locke’s argument is that the definition of slavery in the Bible is not the same as the slavery of modern times.

MandM quotes Locke’s argument. Then they summarize it:

[1] If a person is a slave then that person is “under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases.”
[2] The institution referred to in scripture that people could sell themselves into, was not one where they were “under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power.”

Then they explain some reasons why the indentured servitude in the Bible is not the same as slavery in the last few hundred years.

  • there was no kidnapping of an indentured servant, they served voluntarily in order to get rid of a debt
  • there was no racial component to indentured servitude
  • killing an indentured servant was a capital offense, striking one was illegal
  • indentured servitude was for 6 years, not for a lifetime
  • if the indentured servant fled from an abusive master, it was illegal to return teh servant to his master

References are provided for each of these points.

So the Biblical concept of “slavery” wasn’t what we mean as slavery when we look at British, Arab, or American slavery in history. Instead, the Bible is talking about indentured servitude.

What’s wrong with slavery, on atheism?

I think a more fundamental question that needs to be pressed on the atheist is whether slavery is wrong on their worldview. I’ve argued elsewhere that worldviews like atheism do not support the minimal requirements for rational morality.

Specifically, atheism does not ground:

1) Objective moral values: where is the standard?
2) Objective moral duties: to whom are moral duties owed?
3) Moral accountability: will I get caught if I am immoral?
4) Free will: are humans capable of free choice?
5) Ultimate significance: does it matter ultimately?

NEVER let atheists get away with making any moral statements, because even though an individual atheist might get lucky and act morally based on the objective moral law that God actually made, their actions are not rationally grounded by their worldview. Call them out!

This actually came out in the comments for MandM’s post, where John W. Loftus, a prominent lay-atheist, chimed in.

Here is a sample comment:

Rob says: (from Manawatu Christian Apologetics)

I presume John Loftus is a born-again atheist? If this is so, then upon what grounds would he criticize slavery at all?

If atheism is true truth, then I fail to see any possible ground that could provide a basis for outrage against moral evil, since moral evil cannot exist.

Indeed, if the universe is material only, then at what time did atoms create morality?

So John Loftus has to assume a Biblical morality to attack Biblical morality, but he would then be rejecting the basis for his indignation at slavery in the South, or any other slavery for that matter. He cannot logically have his cake and eat it too.

I can’t recommend this post and the comments enough. This is a great post and the comments are totally awesome, although you may find them difficult to understand. You will learn a lot from this post and exchange.

I am really impressed with MandM’s blog. Please pay them a visit and have a look yourself.

Related questions

You may be interested in similar challenges made by atheists that I answered in previous posts.

More questions here.

Debate: Must morality be grounded by God?

“Unbelievable”, is a show broadcast every Saturday in the UK. Every week, they feature a debate between a Christian and a non-Christian. The debate this week was on the moral argument, which argues that meaningful morality, including free will, human rights, moral rules, moral obligations, and moral significance, must be grounded in God.

THIS IS A MUST-LISTEN.

The debate starts a bit into the podcast, after they review audience reactions to last week and preview the next week’s topic.

Here is the link to the podcast. (MP3 audio)

If you have trouble with that link, try here instead.

The atheist Paul Orton argues this:

  • no moral absolutes
  • morality is a set evolved conventions
  • the set varies by time and place

The Christian David Robertson argues this:

  • morality is meaningless unless there are moral absolutes
  • cultural relativism doesn’t rationally ground moral judgments
  • the Bible does not teach that slavery is good

One of the best parts of the debate is when David contrasts H.G. Wells, an atheistic socialist who embraced socialism and fascism as a natural extension of his atheism, and a Christian, William Wilberforce who spent over two decades of his life trying to free the slaves in the UK.

This debate can be seen as an illustration of the thesis that I advanced in my series of posts on atheism and morality, in which I argued that atheism does not ground the minimal requirements for rational morality.

Further resources

This page contains a link to an excellent lecture on the ontological foundations of rational morality, as well as a number of debates between Christians and atheists on whether morality is rationally grounded by the worldview of atheism. And you can find some other apologetics posts here, including an article on whether the the moral statements of atheists are even intelligible, on atheism.

The best book ever written on this topic is Greg Koukl and Francis J. Beckwith’s “Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air“. You can see Greg deliver a lecture about relativism to an audience of students and faculty at UCLA (MP3 audio here). If you want to read something free on the web that explains the problems with moral relativism, which is the view of morality that is grounded by atheism, look here.