Tag Archives: Christianity

Slavery and Christianity: A Christian Response.

Today I read a CNN blog entitled, “How religion has been used to promote slavery”, written by John Blake. He opens up his article by asking the question, “which revered religious figure–Moses, Jesus, or the Prophet Muhammad–spoke out boldly and ambiguously against slavery?” Blake answers, ” None of them.” From that answer forth, Blake attempts to show that since none of the religions directly opposed slavery, then there isn’t any reason that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam had members in their respected religions who condoned slavery at some point in their history. The question, however, is this: is it true that Christianity is guilty of not condemning slavery? Better yet, is Jesus guilty of not openly condemning slavery? This article will answer these questions by responding to both Daniel C. Peterson, and John Dominic Crossan’s assertion that Christianity, both Old and New Testament, fails to condemn slavery.

When dealing with Jesus and the issue of slavery, one has to first admit that Jesus did not deal with slavery by condemning it. Jesus, however, never condoned it either. Even Crossan had to admit it, ” He[Jesus} doesn’t say anything for or against it.” Crossan believes that despite Jesus lack of judgement for or against slavery, Jesus would have opposed slavery. I most certainly agree with Crossan on this point. Jesus loved all people and didn’t show partiality toward anyone. He who commanded His followers to “love your neighbor as yourself” demonstrated it throughout His entire three and a half years of ministry. Slavery, as we are familiar with, is in complete opposition to the “second greatest commandment.” A person cannot abuse and love his neighbor at the same time.

While Jesus is given a pardon for not addressing the issue because He was a perfectly moral person, the Bible as a whole and the Apostle Paul are not as fortunate. It is regularly argued that the Apostle Paul was for slavery because of what he taught and commanded in Ephesians 6:5-8. Crossan called the Apostle Paul of this book to be a “Pseudo-Paul” which was created by early church leaders to appease Rome. The real Paul was the Paul who opposed slavery as indicated in 1st Timothy 1:10 where “men stealers” or “kidnapping” is against the law. Is there two different Paul’s in Scripture? The authentic Paul who opposed slavery and the “Pseudo-Paul, supporter of slavery? No there isn’t.

The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:5-8 does not describe slavery in terms of forced labor and abuse. It couldn’t because of what this same Paul goes on to say in verse 9, ” And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatenings, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” The Apostle Paul here clearly warns slave masters to treat their slaves with respect and dignity, not threatening them and abusing them. Therefore this kind of slavery is not the type of slavery which is oppressive and demeaning. Both slave and master are commanded to respect each other. Both are given ethical guidelines on how to treat each other. There are no signs of unethical treatment being promoted against a slave. The slave is commanded to obey his master and the master is commanded not to threaten and abuse his slave. Both are to do so unto the Lord (v. 5, 9).

Another attack on the Christian faith regarding slavery is from the Old Testament where the Israelites had slaves. This also is an attack against Judaism since the Old Testament is their Holy Scriptures as well. Daniel C. Peterson attempts to undermine the morality of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by questioning why He and His people Israel would sanction slavery at all. Peterson says, ” But how could ancient Israel sanction any form of slavery given their exodus from Egyptian captivity? Didn’t their God explicitly condemn slavery when he ordered Moses to tell Pharaoh to ‘let my people go?'” So how could God sanction any form of slavery?

First of all, before we answer that question, we should ask, “Are all forms of slavery immoral? If yes, says who? On what moral grounds do one base that on? Biblically only one kind is condemned. In Deuteronomy 24:14-15 it says, ” You shall not oppress a hired servant [slave} who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you.” Here we see God commanding slave masters in Israel to not oppress their slaves, but pay them their wages for working for them. Slavery here is the poor servant working for wages. The kind of slavery here is not the kind of slavery Israel experienced in Egypt. In Exodus 3:9, God says, ” Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.” God brought Israel out of Egypt not because of slavery itself, but because of the type of slavery: oppressive slavery. The type of slavery that caused Israel to cry out to God for deliverance.

The slavery described in Deuteronomy 15:12-18 is again a worker-employer type of slavery. The Hebrew slave works for six years and is released in the seventh year during the year of Jubilee when all debts are forgiven and released. In verse 18 Moses, by the Word of the Lord, sternly instruct masters to release their slaves in the seventh year; for in doing so that master will be blessed by God.

Therefore in no way is slavery condoned in either Judaism or Christianity. Clearly we have seen from both the Old and New Testament that the only form of slavery which is condemned time and time again is oppressive slavery. In the Bible a labor for wages type of slavery is presented in Scripture. Moreover, the protection of the slave from oppression is commanded in both Testaments. I would say this is far from the unethical slavery of times past which sadly has been practiced and preached by Muslims and so called “Christians”. Both Crossan and Peterson are guilty of selective interpretation; picking out only those passages in Scripture in order to interpret them to teach what the whole of Scripture does not teach. I would strongly encourage Blake, Crossan and Peterson to search all the Scriptures which speak on the issue. In doing so they would see how frail their arguments are. It is true, unfortunately, that religion has been used to promote and practice slavery. Christianity however, was used in this way due to either false brethren or by true brethren who did not know the whole counsel of God [the Bible} on this subject. Sadly to this day, Christianity still has the ethical black eye due to this. The good news is, however, that the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Christian Church has never and will never endorse oppressive slavery because God is a God who is morally perfect and stands for human value and dignity.

Free Will: Illusion or Reality?

I recently came across an intriguing column on the USA Today website entitled, ” Why you don’t really have free will”, written by Jerry A. Coyne. As you can probably predict, Coyne is making a case against the belief that humankind has free will. The denial of free will is part of the fabric of evolution. Theistic and atheistic philosophers have been debating this issue for ages. Philosophically it is the debate of Determinism vs. Free Will. Determinism by definition teaches us that all actions and events have been determined by preceding events or natural causes without the aid of free will or choice on humankind’s part. All actions and events have been determine to happen in a particular way and those actions or events could not happen in no other way. For instance, if Jim murders his entire family and then kills himself, it was determined that Jim would do so and he could not have done differently. Jim murdering his family, then killing himself, was not a choice on his part according to determinism. It was determined to happen that way either by God (theological determinism), biological effects (biological determinism), a product of Jim’s environment (sociological determinism) or psychological (psychological determinism). With the understanding of determinism laid out, let us proceed to Coyne’s case against free will in which he comes from the school of determinism called Biological determinism.

In Coyne’s column, after he has defined free will as when a person has two or more alternatives and that person freely chooses one of those alternatives, he presents two lines of evidence to suggest that free will is but an illusion. The first is that “we are biological creatures, collections of molecules that must obey the laws of physics.” Coyne goes on to say, ” Science hasn’t shown any way we can do this (step outside of our brain’s structure and modify how it works) because ‘we’ are simply constructs of our brain.” What Coyne is basically saying is that what “appears” to be us exercising free will is nothing more than biological workings of the brain.

The second line of “evidence” Coyne presents to us is that our brains are “meat computers”. Coyne said, ” Our brains are simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into predetermined output.” This means that our “choices” are a result of our genetic make-up and our environment.

Based on the studies of psychologist and neuroscientist, Coyne said the notion of free will “itself could be an illusion that evolution has given us to connect our thoughts, which stem from unconscious processes, and our actions, which also stem from unconscious processes.” Free will, therefore, is an illusion of evolution. Now let us see why these two lines of evidence are anything but evidence.

First, Coyne’s position that free will is an illusion assumes that the theory of evolution is true. He assumes that we are just biological creatures governed by the laws of physics. We must first ask for scientific evidence for the universe coming into existence from nothing and humans as products of the evolutionary process. Better yet, is the idea of evolution and determinism itself an illusion which some other thing or being gave to us to connect our thoughts? Could actions and events “appear” to be determined and can happen no other way, but in reality be the opposite? That free will is real and humans can choose or reject a certain course of action? By what standard can we judge by to determine whether free will or determinism is illusionary or not?

Lastly, if determinism is true, it is impossible to hold anyone morally responsible. If one’s immoral act is the result of biological workings of the brain and being influenced by his or her environment, then holding him or her morally accountable is meaningless. Furthermore, if evolution is true, by what moral standard or law does one judge a person by? What is evil and what is good? Without an absolute moral law from an absolute moral law-giver(God), morality is relative and therefore meaningless.

From a Christian worldview, God gives us free will. The first demonstration of that is found in the book of Genesis. God commands the first man and woman not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but ” Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.” (Genesis 2:16-17) In Genesis chapter 3 Eve and Adam freely ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6) in complete disobedience to God. The serpent, Satan, tempted them, but they chose freely to give in to the temptation and partake of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Further evidence of God giving people choice is the nation of Israel. In Deuteronomy 30, God presents the blessings Israel would receive as a result of returning to God. Moses as he closes his discourse said, ” I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”(Deut. 30:19)

The greatest of all choices is the choice to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation or not. In John 3:16 Jesus said, ” For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This is only possible if free will exist. God has bestowed on humankind the ability to choose freely as He has the ability to choose freely. Lucifer freely chose to reject God and become God’s enemy. God does not determine who will be His enemy or who will be His ally randomly. Free will is an attribute of His that He freely chose to give us creatures who are created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, it is true that free will is a reality, not an illusion. Determinism and evolution is the illusion given to us by Satan Himself to keep us from God. Determinism vs. Free Will in reality is nothing more than another debate derived from the age-old debate: Does God exist? If God doesn’t exist, there can be no free will; but if God exist, free will is inevitable.