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It’s a Pro-Slavery Free-For-All!

Our little friend William Lane Craig is up to his old shenanigans. God apparently can’t defend himself against charges that he condones slavery, so Craig steps into the breach to do it for him.

We need to help [skeptics] come to grips with the fact that they have not studied the Hebrew text carefully and in many cases simply have a misunderstanding of the text. So-called “slavery” in the Old Testament is a prime example.

Why, I do believe I’m being condescended to! But Craig isn’t alone in his view. This idea that biblical slavery was very different from American slavery—indeed, that it was a good thing—is common within many Christian blogs.

The slavery referred to in the Bible was a fundamentally different practice [than that practiced in the West]. Some translations try to indicate this by using the word “bondservant.” … Biblical “slavery” was not race-based (Stand to Reason blog).

The “New Testament Slavery” of the Ancient Near East … has little in common with the “New World Slavery” … of our American ancestors (Please Convince Me blog).

Let’s compare these two approaches to slavery. They’re a lot more similar than the apologists will admit.

During U.S. history, we had two kinds of servitude. There was indentured servitude, where Europeans would come to America to work for fellow Europeans in return for payment of their transportation. This servitude would typically last for five years or so.

And, of course, we had slavery. Slaves were almost always not Europeans. They were slaves for life, as were their children.

The Old Testament outlines the very same categories of servitude. Fellows Jews could be slaves, but only for a limited time:

[God said:] If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free … (Exodus 21:2).

That’s pretty much indentured servitude, and that’s the “slavery” that many Christians like to point to. They often ignore the other kind:

[God said:] Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. … You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life(Lev. 25:44–6).

Slavery in the Old Testament was regulated, just like commerce. And, like commerce, slavery was kosher from God’s standpoint.

Granted, slavery was common in this part of the world. During New Testament times, as many as a third of the population of Italy were slaves. We can see the Bible as just a product of its times, but wouldn’t a book inspired by the omniscient and holy creator of the universe be better than that? And why were the Greek Stoics the first to condemn slavery and not God’s chosen people?

Now, back to Craig. Determined to force-fit slavery into a godly world, he says:

I think that [the point of the book Is God a Moral Monster? is] that our understanding of [slavery] is shaped by the experience of the American South prior to the Civil War and that what is described in the Old Testament is actually a sort of anti-poverty program designed to help the poor in the absence of a strong national government.

That’s an interesting spin. But is this so called “anti-poverty program” a moral institution? It must be, since God defines the rules for slavery and so obviously approves of it. But Craig has dug himself into a hole—either indentured servitude is moral for society today, or morality changes over time and we discard the idea of objective morality. Neither can be a pleasing option for Craig.

The problem is worse with slavery for life. Surely we can agree that this biblical institution is wrong today. Either it was wrong in Old Testament times, and God made a mistake in giving rules for it, or it was right then and morality changes with time. Here again Craig finds himself in a difficult spot.

How do Christians rationalize the fact that the Ten Commandments have “Don’t covet” but not “Don’t enslave anyone”? When we read the Bible, we see the work of Man, not the hand of God. The Bible was simply a reflection of their society.

Christians who justify slavery in the Bible are determined to shoehorn an ancient religion into modern society, but the result is as out of place as a Neanderthal in a tuxedo. My advice: they should stop embarrassing themselves.

None are more hopelessly enslaved
than those who falsely believe they are free.
— Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Rick Townsend

    This is an admittedly challenging area. Hebrew enslavement for economic reasons was far different from enslavement experienced by foreigners. To go from that challenge to “there is no God” is a bit of a stretch though. I would put this in the “I don’t fully understand all the implications” bin along with all the things you have there that science hasn’t yet explained.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

      This doesn’t prove there is no God. It proves the Bible isn’t a good place to go for morals or ethics, since it approves of some pretty horrible things.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Hebrew enslavement for economic reasons was far different from enslavement experienced by foreigners.

      Thank you. You understand the issue without whitewashing it.

      To go from that challenge to “there is no God” is a bit of a stretch though.

      That’s true, and I don’t think the post goes there.

      However, when a book looks and smells like it was written by men and we have many other examples of supernatural tales written by men, it’s a smart move to say that the Bible is probably yet another book written by men.

      I would put this in the “I don’t fully understand all the implications” bin along with all the things you have there that science hasn’t yet explained.

      I can see that you’d want to do that, but are you saying that you and I are equally justified in our respective actions? Because I sure don’t. There is a long, long list of puzzles that were eventually satisfactorily answered by science. On the Christianity side, I see nothing but embarrassments–illness is caused by evil spirits, no recipe for soap in the Bible, no explanation of germs in the Bible, Jacob and the wands/reeds causing spotted lambs, and so on.

      • Stephen

        There are some Christians who argue that there is a recipe for soap in the Bible:

        Numbers 19:7-9
        “7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterwards he shall come into the camp; and the priest shall be unclean until evening. 8 He who burns the heifer shall wash his clothes in water and bathe his body in water, and shall be unclean until evening. 9 And a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the people of Israel for the water for impurity, for the removal of sin.”

        The above ingredients, cedar wood, ashes from the heifer, fat from the heifer, hyssop oil, and the scarlet worm are combined in water and a soap is made. This soap then is stored (rested) in a clean place outside the camp as “water of filthiness”.

        http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/8_heifer.html

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Stephen:

          Yes, ashes, fat, and water, boiled down, will make soap. That’s not what this recipe gives you. When you burn up the heifer, you burn up the fat as well.

          I have yet to see any science in the Bible that wasn’t common knowledge to people of that time.

    • trj

      I would put this in the “I don’t fully understand all the implications” bin…

      Actually, it’s extremely easy to understand. I’ve never seen a Christian apologist being able to explain the moral worth of slavery. At most they make a dishonest attempt to brush it off as indentured servitude dressed up as some kind of social responsibility, completely ignoring that whole “slavery for life” thing (and in doing so revealing their own discomfort with it in a most telling manner).

      You want us to believe that lifelong slavery, which appears to us to be evil and unjust, was actually a moral good in some mysterious way which nobody can explain. A rather simpler and more plausible explanation would be that ancient slaveholding men justified their morally deficient behavior by having it codified into their holy scripture. Mystery solved.

  • Greg G

    The bond servant option was reserved for males only. Girls were slaves for life. There are passages that allow a bond servant to become a slave for life. Exodus spells out a formula for this. The owner gives the bond servant a slave wife. When his service is up, he can go free and leave hia wife and children or he sticks an awl through his ear and vows that he loves the OWNER to become a slave for life.

    The Bible says to treat the fellow Israelites well but does not extend that to foreign slaves. Even Jesus is OK with beating slaves, condoning the practice in parable.

    The slave owners of the South used the Bible to conduct slavery.

    I have read that indentured servants in this country would be assigned the riskiest jobs in case the worst happened. No sense risking a long-term investment when you can use one who is due to leave your employ soon. I can’t help suspecting this wasn’t an original idea.

  • http://busterggi@aol.com busterggi

    But Craig is okay with the parts that tell the Hebrews to slaughter all the men and rape all the women?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      buster:

      Oh yeah. Here’s my summary and rebuttal of Craig’s rationalization for that slaughter.

  • Greg G

    Biblical enslavement is more consistent with “there is no god” than with the modern concept of the triple omni god. Which omni do you abandon? If you drop one, the god isn’t worth the struggle of faith, is it?

  • Greg G

    “for the removal of sin.”

    So we don’t need the blood of Jesus to wash away sin? Of course, shampoo is best for washing sin out of your hair.

  • https://twitter.com/truthovercmfort truthovercmfort

    Modern Christians often refer to passages such as Galatians 3:28 (“Because all of you are one in the Messiah Jesus, a person is no longer a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a male or a female.”) to claim that the New Testament encouraged love between master and slave, and thus set the stage for the eventual abolition of slavery. If that were actually the Bible’s goal, it at least would have included passages such as “He who frees his slaves is favored in God’s eyes,” or “A day will come when all slaves are freed.” With such passages nudging culture in the right direction, Western Civilization might not have taken almost 1865 years to (mostly) end slavery.

  • DrewL

    Surely we can agree that this biblical institution is wrong today.

    And Bob has found his moral objectivity again. Perhaps it shows up every other month?

    You’ve got a solid argument against Craig–I wouldn’t expect any non-Christian to find his type of logic convincing. But it’s still very puzzling how you introduce timeless, non-culturally-bounded moral principles whenever is favorable for your argument. Remember when you claimed societies never “improve” when they abolish slavery, they just “change”? What happened to that Bob?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      drewl:

      And Bob has found his moral objectivity again. Perhaps it shows up every other month?

      Gee–if it pops up so often, perhaps you can give me a single example where I acknowledge objective morality, ’cause I certainly don’t do it here.

      Remember when you claimed societies never “improve” when they abolish slavery, they just “change”? What happened to that Bob?

      I keep explaining things and expect that you’ll understand my point. I guess that’s my mistake for expecting too much out of you.

      Societies never improve in an absolute sense (that I have seen) because there’s no evidence of an absolute sense. (But perhaps you’d like to show us accessible absolute moral values?) Person A might see a change as an improvement; person B might see it as going backwards.

      It’s really pretty easy when you simply accept what I’m saying instead of deliberately reading it wrong to shoehorn what I say into something you can lampoon.

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        So, Bob, you are saying that a person could see going to a society which held the Hebrew rules for slavery for Hebrews and for foreigners as an improvement on our society?

        And is there any reason their justification for their moral position would have any less value than you have for yours?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          So, Bob, you are saying that a person could see going to a society which held the Hebrew rules for slavery for Hebrews and for foreigners as an improvement on our society?

          We live in a strange world, my friend. Who knows what nuttiness people will rationalize if they’re trying to salvage some sense out of the Bible. Wm. Lane Craig looks to be more than halfway to doing so.

          And is there any reason their justification for their moral position would have any less value than you have for yours?

          I’m sure you know how laws work. I’m sure you’ve had discussion with someone where one of you changed to the other person’s viewpoint. It happens millions of times per day.

          To your question: their moral views and mine would have the same absolute worth because there is no “absolute worth.” In our society, we can discuss topics, learn, and possibly change our minds when faced with compelling reasons to do so.

        • DrewL

          I’ll translate this as: there are no absolute grounds to arbitrate between person who prefers our society to person who prefers Hebrew slave laws. We got damn lucky the Civil Rights leaders happened to be particularly persuasive, as had their cause not won out, there’s no moral reason to say our society would be any the worse.

          But that still leaves you “no absolute sense” to say the biblical institution of slavery was wrong. It just so happens to displease your personal opinion on the subject, but whose to say your opinion is any more significant than the Old Testament slavery owners? Perhaps you can discuss the topic with him, learn, and possibly change your mind when faced with compelling reasons to do so.

          Not quite the thundering moral outrage you were reaching for in your original post.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          But that still leaves you “no absolute sense” to say the biblical institution of slavery was wrong.

          You’re just now realizing this?

          And you say it as if that’s a condemnation of some sort. Hey–am I missing the boat here? Then why not show me? I’ve invited you many times to show us that morality is (1) objective or absolute and (2) accessible by ordinary humans.

          I guess you prefer the ridicule that comes with dancing around the issue rather than that which comes from attempting to provide compelling evidence for so nutty a concept.

          It just so happens to displease your personal opinion on the subject, but whose to say your opinion is any more significant than the Old Testament slavery owners?

          Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was just his opinion. No more important, really, than his preference for strawberry ice cream over chocolate.

          Sure, you could spin it that way if you want but, since this is just how you do things, I wonder why you’d do that.

          It’s like you don’t know how laws are made or you’ve never had a discussion with someone where someone changed his mind. C’mon out of your cave and see how the rest of society does things–I think you’ll be quite surprised.

        • DrewL

          What remains unclear is why you think Christians are caught between this either-or…

          Surely we can agree that this biblical institution is wrong today. Either it was wrong in Old Testament times, and God made a mistake in giving rules for it, or it was right then and morality changes with time.

          I believe you choose option B. I’d probably take option B too with a little more philosophical development, mainly because anyone with knowledge of history knows orthodox Christianity morality has evolved over the centuries. So does that make me pro-slavery? An atheist? Crazy?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          So … you gonna respond to my last comment? Or should I assume that we’re on the same page now?

          I believe you choose option B.

          My own opinion: slavery is wrong now, it was wrong then, and that God not only condones it but gives rules for properly conducting the institution of slvery shows that God is either a barbarian or (more likely) that he doesn’t exist and the demands attributed to him are just stuff written about him by Bronze Age tribesmen whose moral sense speaks for itself.

        • DrewL

          …shows that God is either a barbarian or (more likely) that he doesn’t exist and the demands attributed to him are just stuff written about him by Bronze Age tribesmen whose moral sense speaks for itself.

          Barbarian? That’s an awfully harsh word for someone who has different subjective opinions on morality than you. I don’t get it: you want to be a “no absolute morality” guy but ALSO reserve the right to call an entire age’s morality “barbarian.” It’s like you can’t decide between perspectivism–which recognizes everyone, including yourself, can never escape a particular limited perspective on morality–and a high-ground fist-banging moral objectivism that puts God on trial for breaking universal laws of the universe. You’ve got some real confusion here because you think you can have it both ways.

          I don’t really get your “last comment” to respond to it.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          Barbarian? That’s an awfully harsh word for someone who has different subjective opinions on morality than you.

          Why? What does the infallible drewl do when he has a different subjective opinion on morality than someone else?

          I don’t get it

          Ah–now we’re on the same page.

          you want to be a “no absolute morality” guy but ALSO reserve the right to call an entire age’s morality “barbarian.”

          Is there some difficulty here? Show me.

          You’ve got some real confusion here because you think you can have it both ways.

          How many times have I explained my moral position? Too many to repeat it yet one more so you can try to misinterpret it yet again.

          And hey–I haven’t ever asked you what your moral view is? How rude of me! Since you say that objective morality exists, share with us your evidence for this objective morality and show us how to reliably access it.

        • DrewL

          What does the infallible drewl do when he has a different subjective opinion on morality than someone else?

          Perhaps you said this in jest, but I’ll answer: I am personally quite inspired by MLK Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which cites a particular sense of justice and law by which he judges the existing set of laws in the South unjust and wrong. Is he making this judgment from some “absolute” sense of morality? You’ll have to take a look and tell me what you think. He at one point appeals to “natural law,” which I am not personally a fan of, at least in how it is generally employed (typically: all my moral beliefs happen to be “naturally” written on the social order, and all yours happen to be wrong.) But he’s making an argument that appeals to criteria outside of himself and outside of the surrounding Southern culture morality; I don’t think you would approve of this, correct?

          I’ve said in at least two places I wouldn’t categorize myself as believing in an “objective” morality. Such a view runs into problems both with ontology (how do abstract ideas “exist”? Can I touch them?) and epistemology (why could no society access something so “objective” until our own particular cultural perspective was born? Isn’t it just a tad coincidental that everything we believe about morality happens to be “natural”?). You’ll have to pull up the old threads if you want to see more thoughts on this. But I am not an emotivist as you seem to be, nor do I think morality can be reduced to mere opinion, power of coercion, or skill of manipulative persuasion…all of which creep into your thinking. Or at least they do when you’re not bringing charges against God (or anti-gay marriage activists) for doing something you label evil.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          I’ve said in at least two places I wouldn’t categorize myself as believing in an “objective” morality. Such a view runs into problems both with ontology (how do abstract ideas “exist”? Can I touch them?) and epistemology (why could no society access something so “objective” until our own particular cultural perspective was born? Isn’t it just a tad coincidental that everything we believe about morality happens to be “natural”?).

          Sounds good. So why hassle me when I say just about the same thing? Just bored, I guess?

        • DrewL

          I generally reserve the hassling for times when you slip back into objective morality outrage Bob, which is what this post was about.

          …that God not only condones it but gives rules for properly conducting the institution of slvery shows that God is either a barbarian,,,

          (Say it with me: “… a barbarian BUT NOT IN ANY ABSOLUTE SENSE, JUST MY OPINION” How hard is it to add that phrase? Oh wait, that would undermines your argument, thus your slippage to objective moral outrage Bob. )

          Surely we can agree that this biblical institution is wrong today.

          (well we actually can’t agree, since there are 30 million slaves in the world today, and you don’t believe in any outside criteria to tell slaveowners they’re any more right or wrong than you are, so that’s going to be a fun time for you to “discuss topics, learn, and possibly change your minds when faced with compelling reasons to do so.” )

          Did you go read the MLK letter yet? I’m still closer to his beliefs than your own, despite having questions on the “objectiveness” of morality. You should do a post on how MLK was wrong on morality and your belief system is far superior to his–I’d enjoy seeing Patheos pass that around.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          I generally reserve the hassling for times when you slip back into objective morality outrage Bob, which is what this post was about.

          Objective morality? I’ve never leaned on objective morality. Perhaps you’ve heard me make this clear before?

          (Say it with me: “… a barbarian BUT NOT IN ANY ABSOLUTE SENSE, JUST MY OPINION” How hard is it to add that phrase? Oh wait, that would undermines your argument, thus your slippage to objective moral outrage Bob. )

          Seriously? Every time some knucklehead might possibly maybe in some fevered state be confused, I need to put in this qualifier?

          Nope. That’s not how good writing works.

          And since I’ve already clarified this point with you explicitly many times, you can never pretend that you have a reason to be confused.

          (well we actually can’t agree, since there are 30 million slaves in the world today, and you don’t believe in any outside criteria to tell slaveowners they’re any more right or wrong than you are

          Say it with me: Bob will, with enthusiasm, tell someone with whom he disagrees on a moral issue that they’re wrong. How hard is it to accept this? I’ve told you plenty of times. A fallible memory can’t be an excuse anymore.

          Who needs an outside criteria? Is that what you use? I simply make the arguments that convinced me.

          Did you go read the MLK letter yet?

          No. If it’s worth summarizing, I’m sure you will do so (or your previous comments will serve).

          I’m still closer to his beliefs than your own

          Tell me how we differ.

        • DrewL

          The justification to intentionally misrepresent your views with this “…but think what those qualifiers would do my beautiful prose!” excuse never stops being amusing. What if the Westboro Baptist Church actually shares the same subjectivist view you do, but they just can’t fit those qualifiers on their signs? We should probably excuse them for sounding so black-and-white since apparently professing black-and-white moral views is sometimes just what good writing demands.

          You’re not going to read the MLK letter, that’s fine. Reading stuff that challenges one’s beliefs isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Perhaps someone else will read it and provide some comments.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          No one’s confused about my views except you, and that’s only because you’re determined to do so. (Not much to write about otherwise, I guess.)

          And, once again, my encouragement for you to tell me what the truth is, how you think morality works, is rejected. Is it a subscription kind of thing? You have to pay to learn the inner secrets? Maybe it could be like Scientology, where people pay thousands of dollars and then you give little fragments of the Drew Truth.

          You hate what I say, but not much else comes through clearly. Must be really good stuff if you it’s so secret.

    • Mr. X

      I guess that intellectual consistency just doesn’t happen to be one of Bob’s arbitrary subjective values…

      • Bob Seidensticker

        You and drewl are clearly able to detect things that I miss. Tell me more about this inconsistency. I missed it.

        • Mr. X

          The inconsistency is that you explicitly deny objective morality in half your blogposts whilst implicitly appealing to it in the other half. Here, for example, your argument requires us to believe that the Bible is wrong to permit slavery, and modern society is right to ban it. But comparing two things and judging one of them to be better presupposes an objective third standard against which they can be measured. Otherwise, you can say “I happen to dislike slavery” or “Modern people tend to disapprove of slavery”, but so what? Why should anybody care whether you or modern people approve of slavery, any more than they should care of whether you like chocolate cake or enjoy jogging? If some people are interested in your subjective preferences about slavery, that’s fine, but there’s no reason for anybody to change their own moral views based on what you happen to like, any more than there’s reason for them to stop eating chocolate cake because you personally don’t like the taste.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          X:

          The inconsistency is that you explicitly deny objective morality in half your blogposts whilst implicitly appealing to it in the other half.

          Just to split hairs, I say that I have no evidence of objective morality. To say, “It is objectively true that there is no objective morality” might be a little weird.

          Here, for example, your argument requires us to believe that the Bible is wrong to permit slavery, and modern society is right to ban it.

          I laugh at the idea of objective morality. I appeal here to your moral instinct, nothing more.

          If we’re on the same page about slavery being wrong, then you can understand where I’m coming from.

          But comparing two things and judging one of them to be better presupposes an objective third standard against which they can be measured.

          Nope. I think that slavery is wrong. That’s it. And (since I don’t live in a cave) I’ll bet that most of my readership agrees.

          Hey–common ground! Y’know, if we all formed a society, we could make a law that said that slavery was forbidden. All in favor say, “Aye!”

          Why should anybody care whether you or modern people approve of slavery, any more than they should care of whether you like chocolate cake or enjoy jogging?

          I get this a lot, so your saying it isn’t insane (I don’t suppose), but I see absolutely no grounds for this.

          You put Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in the same category as whether he preferred chocolate to strawberry? All opinions are the same in your mind?

          In an absolute sense (which IMO doesn’t exist), yes all opinions have the same ultimate value–none. But here on earth, we tend to see high moral instinct differently than ice cream preference.

          How about you? If you see a difference but appeal to an objective moral standard, show me that such a thing exists and is accessible.

          If some people are interested in your subjective preferences about slavery, that’s fine, but there’s no reason for anybody to change their own moral views based on what you happen to like

          Ever seen a debate in Congress? “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?” “Inherit the Wind?” Any of this ring a bell?

          If so, then you know how discussion is used to change opinions. That’s how moral opinion matters.

        • Mr. X

          “I laugh at the idea of objective morality. I appeal here to your moral instinct, nothing more. “

          And why should I care about what my, or your, or anybody’s moral instinct says, if all moral systems are equally valid?

          “Nope. I think that slavery is wrong. That’s it.”

          What grounds do you have for thinking this?

          “You put Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in the same category as whether he preferred chocolate to strawberry?”

          No, because I believe that there’s such a thing as objective morality, but not an objectively best ice cream flavour (or whatever). But, if there’s no such think as objective morality, why should I put the two into different categories?

          “In an absolute sense (which IMO doesn’t exist),”

          What do you mean by saying that an absolute sense doesn’t exist?

          “But here on earth, we tend to see high moral instinct differently than ice cream preference.”

          Here on earth, “we” tend to assume that there is actually an objective morality. But you think we’re wrong to do so. So why aren’t we also wrong to see moral instinct differently to ice cream preference?

          “How about you? If you see a difference but appeal to an objective moral standard, show me that such a thing exists and is accessible.”

          Red herring. The issue is your intellectual inconsistency, not what I think about morality.

          “If so, then you know how discussion is used to change opinions. That’s how moral opinion matters.”

          I suspect that most people change their moral opinions because they think that there is an objective morality about which it’s possible to be right or wrong. If I don’t think this, why should I change my opinion based on what you say? Why should I even bother listening to what you say?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          X:

          And why should I care about what my, or your, or anybody’s moral instinct says, if all moral systems are equally valid?

          Do you think all moral points of view are equally valid? Me neither. I will, with pleasure, tell someone else where I think his moral position is wrong. Sometimes I’ll take action (an assault, for example).

          What grounds do you have for thinking this?

          I consult my moral instincts.

          No, because I believe that there’s such a thing as objective morality

          Interesting. Can you show the rest of us evidence that such an incredible thing exists and is accessible?

          if there’s no such think as objective morality, why should I put the two into different categories?

          I can only speak for myself (but I suspect that you operate in a similar manner). I put slavery and chocolate ice cream in different categories, again, because my moral instincts tell me to.

          What do you mean by saying that an absolute sense doesn’t exist?

          That there is any sort of supernatural bookkeeping (I know that’s not what you mean literally) that tallies moral actions.

          Here on earth, “we” tend to assume that there is actually an objective morality.

          If you mean that most people think this, you might be right. But again I ask for evidence. I doubt that more than a handful of this majority that you point to have thought about it enough to realize that such evidence is necessary.

          So why aren’t we also wrong to see moral instinct differently to ice cream preference?

          What is “morality”? It’s what your moral instinct tells you is morality (tweaked by social norms).

          Red herring.

          So you don’t want to talk about objective morality? You claim that it exists and that I’m wrong for rejecting the idea but you see no burden on your broad shoulders to give the evidence for this claim?

          The issue is your intellectual inconsistency

          And has your curiosity been satisfied? Do you agree that there is no inconsistency on my part?

          Why should I even bother listening to what you say?

          I already answered this. People have disagreements. Some people, as you’ve done here, say, “Why should I bother listening to you? You’re not my mother.” OK, fine. Don’t listen to me then.

          And yet I’m sure you listen to people all the time. You’re open minded. You read the paper, you talk to friends. You may be reluctant to admit you’re wrong, but you do it every now and then. That’s all I’m saying.

        • Mr. X

          “Do you think all moral points of view are equally valid?”

          No, because I believe in an objective morality, which moral points of view can be more or less close to. Tell me, what justification do you have for thinking some points of view more valid than others?

          “I consult my moral instincts.”

          And what makes you think your moral instincts should dictate the behaviour of other people?

          “I can only speak for myself (but I suspect that you operate in a similar manner). I put slavery and chocolate ice cream in different categories, again, because my moral instincts tell me to.”

          So we should accept whatever our moral instincts tell us? Presumably not, since my moral instinct tells me that morality is in fact objective, but apparently I’m not right to think this. So how do we tell when to follow our moral instinct and when to ignore it?

          “So you don’t want to talk about objective morality? You claim that it exists and that I’m wrong for rejecting the idea but you see no burden on your broad shoulders to give the evidence for this claim?”

          No, because the question of how intellectually consistent your beliefs are has nothing to do with the question of whether or not objective morality exists. It’s inconsistent to explicitly affirm subjectivism whilst implicitly relying upon objectivism, no matter what moral theory is true.

          “And has your curiosity been satisfied? Do you agree that there is no inconsistency on my part?”

          No, because your position is actually inconsistent.

          “I already answered this. People have disagreements. Some people, as you’ve done here, say, “Why should I bother listening to you? You’re not my mother.” OK, fine. Don’t listen to me then. “

          It’s not a case of “Why should I bother listening to you? You’re not my mother,” but of “If all moral viewpoints are ultimately just as valid, what reason do I have to change mine?”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          X:

          No, because I believe in an objective morality

          Show me that it exists.

          Tell me, what justification do you have for thinking some points of view more valid than others?

          The same way that you do. I consult my moral instincts, and I do what they tell me to do.

          And what makes you think your moral instincts should dictate the behaviour of other people?

          You ask this as if you’re an alien and this doesn’t apply to you as well. You could answer the question yourself.

          I think that some things are important enough to impose my will on other people.

          So we should accept whatever our moral instincts tell us?

          No: morality is what our moral instincts tell us that it is.

          my moral instinct tells me that morality is in fact objective, but apparently I’m not right to think this.

          Let’s pursue your hypothesis. Lay out the argument in favor of objective morality and let’s see if it holds up.

          No, because the question of how intellectually consistent your beliefs are has nothing to do with the question of whether or not objective morality exists.

          You brought up objective morality. Is it out of bounds somehow to ask what you think? Did I make some sort of faux pas by asking?

          I thought we were having a conversation here.

          It’s inconsistent to explicitly affirm subjectivism whilst implicitly relying upon objectivism, no matter what moral theory is true.

          We’ve long since gotten past this confusion. I’ve made clear that I don’t imagine that objective moral truth exists.

          No, because your position is actually inconsistent.

          You gonna show me? Or just repeat your claim.

          “If all moral viewpoints are ultimately just as valid, what reason do I have to change mine?”

          I certainly don’t think that all moral viewpoints are just as valid! Who would believe that??

          This is the “as a moral relativist, how can you say that Hitler was wrong?” argument. If that’s what moral relativism means in your mind, then I am most certainly not a moral relativist. I will, with pleasure, say that Hitler was wrong, or you, in any moral area where we disagree.

        • Mr. X

          “You ask this as if you’re an alien and this doesn’t apply to you as well. You could answer the question yourself.”

          I answer the question by saying that there is such a thing as objective morality. If I didn’t think this, I would have no rational justification for expecting other people to conform to my moral standards.

          “You brought up objective morality.”

          Yes, to point out that your usual dodge of “Hey, you do this sort of thing too!” doesn’t work in this case, because my worldview has a justification for applying my moral standards to other people, whereas your worldview doesn’t.

          “I certainly don’t think that all moral viewpoints are just as valid! Who would believe that??”

          Somebody who had the intellectual courage and consistency to act according to his professed beliefs, instead of just ignoring them when they prove inconvenient.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          X:

          If I didn’t think this, I would have no rational justification for expecting other people to conform to my moral standards.

          And that I do put some demands on others’ morals completely baffles you, given that I see no evidence of objective morality? I’m surprised that this would be startling to you.

          Yes, to point out that your usual dodge of “Hey, you do this sort of thing too!” doesn’t work in this case, because my worldview has a justification for applying my moral standards to other people, whereas your worldview doesn’t.

          (1) It’s not a dodge if you do, indeed, do it too. I don’t dodge (though I can certainly be wrong).

          (2) “Hey, I just made up something that explains my worldview, so guess who wins?!” is no justification.

          (3) I’d still be interested in hearing your justification for believing in objective moral truth, if you’d deign to share it with me.

          Somebody who had the intellectual courage and consistency to act according to his professed beliefs, instead of just ignoring them when they prove inconvenient.

          (1) I don’t believe that all moral viewpoints are equally valid.

          (2) This somehow betrays my cowardice and inconsistency. Show me. I’m too stupid to see it for myself.

  • Greg G

    Truthovercomfort brings up an interesting point. Galatians 3:28 can only be construed as being against slavery if one also accepts that gender is also abolished. Paul was promoting equality within the church but they are still Jew or Greek, free or slave, male or female to the outside world. The next chapter uses the slave metaphor instead of strengthening any anti-slavery intent.

    BTW, that verse leads me to think many Corinthians verses about women not being permitted to speak in church are interpolations from the pseudopigraphal pastoral epistles.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Interesting point about Gal. 3:28.

      Our oldest complete copy of 1 Cor. 300 years older than Paul’s autograph. Who knows what happened to the copies during that period.

  • smrnda

    Paul proclaiming equality in Christ for both masters and slaves is a kind of ‘pie in the sky’ nonsense. Since we’re all equal in Christ, it doesn’t (apparently) matter that everybody is unequal on earth in all sorts of blatantly obvious ways, like some people owning other people like property. “Don’t worry, we’re all equal in Christ!”

    On Craig, it would be nice to ask him what he would think of the God of the Bible if people proclaiming that god had enslaved him for life. Would he think highly of their god if he was put in the position of the ‘heathen slave?’ Craig can only spout this pro-slavery nonsense since as a privileged white American, it’s purely academic to him.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      smrnda:

      Good point. It’s an amusing image to see Craig being beaten daily as a happy slave cog in God’s glorious Jewish machine.

  • http://www.attaleuntold.wordpress.com Arkenaten

    @ Drewl
    Some people have often asked me why I bash religious adherents and this is one of the number one reason. I live in a country, South Africa, that experienced state sanctioned slavery – Apartheid – that was spin-doctored with the euphemism separate development for around fifty years.
    Ironic how the World Council of Churches Hallelujahed all the way down the Isle when it was abandoned, yet poo-poo’s biblical slavery as being little more than ‘cultural’ .
    And of course let’s remember that part of that state-sanctioning included unreserved backing by the NGK Church.

    So, Mister Drewl,what is the difference with what the Afrikaner NGK Church did and what you and arseholes like William Lane Craig and his ilk are doing in justifying ‘God’s’ actions?

    There is a term for blokes like you Mister Drewl. Dickhead.

    • DrewL

      I don’t know what’s worse: you blaming me for Apartheid or you implying I agree with William Lane Craig on anything.

      But nevertheless, I think you’ve got comment-of-the-year potential here as far as advancing civil discussion. Nicely done.

      • http://www.attaleuntold.wordpress.com Arkenaten

        @Drewl
        Blame you for Apartheid? I did no such thing. Selective reading is something biblical adherents are very adept at.
        I merely asked why would you consider God’s actions re biblical slavery justified and not Apartheid?
        The NGK invoked the Christian god as its justification,so where is the problem, right?
        However, if you still believe God was right in justifying biblical slavery, then I am afraid you are still a dickhead.
        LOL…civil discussion. You are so funny. Your regular asinine ripostes and pseudo intellectual attempts to fault Bob’s arguments are a joy to read.
        You and Bob Calvin should team up.
        But thank you for the potential nomination all the same. I am just a ‘slave’ to idiotic religious rhetoric. ;)

  • Greg G

    Richard Carrier and Bob Seidensticker both agree with me. It makes me feel smarter than my wife thinks I am. Carrier argues that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 about women not being permitted to speak in church is an interpolation from the pastorals.

  • Greg G

    In a universe of rocks, there would be no absolute morality. In a universe full of tri-omni gods, there would be no absolute morality. In both cases, nobody is vulnerable to killing, theft or dishonesty. We call those moral issues because we don’t like them to be done to us and our innate empathy has us respect others like desires.

    We wish to be treated in certain ways and the best way to get our peers to treat us that way is to establish a reputation that we will do likewise to our peers.

    Another way to get others to treat us as we wish is to acquire enough power to compel them to do so.

    A third way would be to convince others that a powerful entity wishes them to act a certain way. Those who accept this will tend to compel others to follow along by any available means.

    We see this all over the world today and we see it in the Old Testament. The Israelites instituted fairness to their peers and compelled people with less power to work for them with torture or the threat of death if necessary. They justified it by telling themselves it was Yahweh’s idea.

    Bob says it was wrong then because he can identify with the oppressed. Absolute Moralists identify with the god character and his followers so they don’t apply their empathy to the slaves, therefore they question whether it was wrong.

    What we call morality has advanced over the past two and a half millenia by being more inclusive with respect to the oppressed.

  • Rick Townsend

    Bob,

    Reference your comment to DrewL,

    No one’s confused about my views except you, and that’s only because you’re determined to do so. (Not much to write about otherwise, I guess.)

    And, once again, my encouragement for you to tell me what the truth is, how you think morality works, is rejected. Is it a subscription kind of thing? You have to pay to learn the inner secrets? Maybe it could be like Scientology, where people pay thousands of dollars and then you give little fragments of the Drew Truth.
    … You hate what I say, but not much else comes through clearly. Must be really good stuff if you it’s so secret.(sic)

    DrewL and I have disagreed and surely will again. But when you say “no one is confused,” you’re easily proven wrong.

    I clearly agree with DrewL that when you, who acknowledge no standard other than personal preference for morality, proclaim strongly what is right and wrong, you do so with no credible foundation for those strongly expressed views.

    And you’re being kind of snarky about the ways you say it as well… just sayin’.

    DrewL has a point, and I wanted to chime in as saying he isn’t alone.

    Some of us are simply tired of being abused instead of being allowed to engage in the process in a civil way. We are still watching, but not necessarily commenting in this venue. At the moment, he is taking the abuse, but it is starting to be a pretty hostile place for those who disagree, which defeats your purpose of encouraging clear thinking and free discussion of the issues.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      But when you say “no one is confused,” you’re easily proven wrong.

      Perhaps if you’ve gotten it explained to you as many times as Drew has, you wouldn’t be confused.

      I clearly agree with DrewL that when you, who acknowledge no standard other than personal preference for morality, proclaim strongly what is right and wrong, you do so with no credible foundation for those strongly expressed views.

      I use the same foundation as (it seems to me) that everyone does. Morality comes from instinct and from society.

      Is yours different? Tell me about it. You’re not impressed with where I get my morality; show me that another source exists.

      And you’re being kind of snarky about the ways you say it as well… just sayin’.

      Touché. You’re quite correct. Drew is determined to remain in the dark. After a few times of explaining the same thing and seeing his willful ignorance, I do get frustrated.

      DrewL has a point…

      Oh, I very much doubt it! But hey–maybe you can pitch in where our ever-shy Drew fears to tread. I’ve thoroughly explained my views (not here but in other comments). Tell me yours. And, just to anticipate what you may be thinking, you’re welcome to point to a supernatural source for morality, but I’ll need evidence that it exists. Since we all understand moral feelings, this should be doable.

      Some of us are simply tired of being abused instead of being allowed to engage in the process in a civil way.

      And if you have civil input, you’re very welcome to participate.

      Not to pick on Drew, but since you brought him up, I’ll observe that his hit-and-run tactics where he attempts to lampoon my views by mischaracterizing them, his refusal to adjust his points when he’s corrected, and his refusal to present his own views are getting annoying.

      At the moment, he is taking the abuse …

      You must’ve missed his comments. Give ‘em a read.

      • Rick Townsend

        I use the same foundation as (it seems to me) that everyone does. Morality comes from instinct and from society. Is yours different? Tell me about it. You’re not impressed with where I get my morality; show me that another source exists.

        You are playing. You already know mine, but you just want me to post it again so you can lampoon it, which I do expect, so you can hold your fire. I’ve looked at the evidence for the Biblical creator and find it compelling. You don’t. I know. So don’t bother to line it out again, as I know you tire of repeating yourself. But anyway, that Biblical creator has what I consider to be an absolute morality. You disagree. That is why you have your blog–to make your case over and over again.

        …give ‘em a read…

        I know, he sometimes gets testy like the rest of us. You are usually better at taking the high road. I was surprised that you didn’t this time. Because in the past, when people have been called, “liar,” “d—head,” and when folks on your side have taken credit for not calling someone worse things like “s—head,” you simply ignore it and don’t jump in to correct them. Instead you reserve your ire for those who ask you to repeat your views.

        What kind of civil discourse would that be? Does excusing that kind of behavior come from instinct and society? Just sayin’… You may be losing control of the clear thinking part of the discussion. Or your silence may be leading the breakaway from it.

  • Greg G

    Hi Rick

    What do you mean by “absolute morality”? If it’s absolute, God must be under it. If he’s not, then morality is just God’s whims, not absolute in any way.

    If morality is absolute it must be separate from God. How do we know what it is? If we must be informed by God, can we really trust him? He might have mysterious reasons to deceive us. Damning souls to Hell might be absolutely immoral, but how would we know if our only access to that knowledge really delights in eternal anguish? It makes as much sense as a Supreme Entity lusting for the worship of creatures barely capable of conceiving such a being without understanding it.

    If absolute morality comes from God’s whims being unchangeable, we’re that much further from understanding it. I would say that “absolute” is the wrong word in this case.

  • Greg G

    Let’s talk about the arbitrary consistency of Christianity. Supposedly God arbitrarily set down 613 laws for people to obey. Paul tells us we don’t have to follow them. Jesus tells us that murder is no worse than getting mad at the person and that adultery is no worse than lust. Christians pick and choose which of the 613 to follow and which to apply to others. Then their absolute, objective morality changes with the times, lagging a generation or so behind secular mores. The Holy Ghost can’t even get them to concur on the subject. They all think they are right and any believer or non-believer who disagrees is wrong.

    So what if there is an objective morality? Do we have access to it or must we rely a collection of writings that disagree with one another while completely condoning and accepting slavery? Slavery! It allows you to beat a slave to death if they suffer two days before they die.

    Secular ethics are not arbitrary. We use reason and empathy toward fairness to guide our relations with others.

    Trying to make sense of biblical morality will only stunt yyour sensibilities.

    • Rick Townsend

      Greg,

      I don’t know where you got the 613 number, but I’m OK with you using it. Clearly you are referring to the Old Testament ritualistic practices that were written in a specific time to a specific people who were to follow them. These don’t apply to us today. The purpose of these rituals was not to please God, but to show the Jewish people how difficult it is to please God through working for favor. The Jews’ discovery should have been that such an effort was impossible, and they were supposed to use the rituals as reminders to worship God and be contrite before him. They were not supposed to think they were able to work their way to a relationship with Him.

      The 10 Commandments, on the other hand, are an expression of what is right and wrong and are based on God’s own moral character, not a whim nor a lark. They help us to see His character. That is why they are still valid. Jesus indicated that failing in any of these was to miss the mark of purity and thus miss the real goal of fellowship with God. Therefore, we need a sacrifice God Himself provided for us to restore the relationship.

      None of us are able to perfectly follow the intent of the 10 commandments, let alone the 613 or whatever number of ritualistic practices. That is why all of us need a Savior. It is a universal message.

      The objective morality is therefore summed up in the 10 commandments as further illuminated by the teachings of Jesus.

      This whole issue of slavery is a difficult one because God’s mercy is extended to those who call out to Him for it, but there is a limit to His patience. There comes a point where a people or an individualwear out God’s patience, and He has at times in the past called them to account. We as humans have enslaved people without the moral justification to do so. But we don’t have the perfect view of why God allowed certain peoples to be enslaved at all times in the past. We do know that they usually are characterized as groups that were deeply involved in idol worship, usually involving ritual sacrifice of their own children.

      Our society today is doing that same thing on the alter of convenience, but that was last week’s diatribe.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        I’ll jump in if I may.

        I don’t know where you got the 613 number, but I’m OK with you using it.

        613 is widely cited as the number of rules in the OT.

        Clearly you are referring to the Old Testament ritualistic practices that were written in a specific time to a specific people who were to follow them.

        It that what the OT Jewish community thought? I’ve seen nothing in the OT about them being a stopgap, just a temporary better-than-nothing set of laws until the final set comes from the printer. I think they’d see it as quite the opposite–the immutable, unchanging and unchangeable laws from the Creator.

        The purpose of these rituals was not to please God, but to show the Jewish people how difficult it is to please God through working for favor.

        OK, that’s what Christians say today. But what did Jews 2500 years ago say?

        If you’re saying that God yanks people’s chains to teach them a lesson, then I agree to some extent. In Ez. 20:25-6 we see God’s twisted side:

        So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live; I defiled them through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn—that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the Lord.’

        Rick says:

        The 10 Commandments, on the other hand, are an expression of what is right and wrong and are based on God’s own moral character, not a whim nor a lark. They help us to see His character.

        I’m afraid it’s not a pretty sight. “Don’t covet,” but nothing about rape, genocide, or slavery?

        It is a universal message.

        If you mean that it was obvious in the OT, then I disagree. But perhaps you mean that it’s common to all religions? But even that isn’t the case.

        The objective morality is therefore summed up in the 10 commandments as further illuminated by the teachings of Jesus.

        Any reason to see these commands as objectively true?

        We as humans have enslaved people without the moral justification to do so.

        And, from God’s standpoint, we clearly have done it at times with his blessing.

        But we don’t have the perfect view of why God allowed certain peoples to be enslaved at all times in the past.

        The lesson seems clear to me: if they’re not like you, slavery for life is A-OK. If they’re like you, then it should be limited. Is there another interpretation?

        We do know that they usually are characterized as groups that were deeply involved in idol worship, usually involving ritual sacrifice of their own children.

        Or not. “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you” (Lev. 25:44).

  • smrnda

    The problem with believing that there’s some ‘perfect point of view’ or ‘more enlightened’ point of view that god has where lifelong slavery of people and entire nations would make sense is that unless you can cash out and explain this point of view to me, one is claiming ‘there’s a good reason for this’ and then not supplying the reason. I find that unsatisfying, since the Christian god seems like the type who, when challenged on ‘hey, why did you allow slavery and all that? Now that I’m in heaven, I want the reason’ this god is just going to say (as he said in the good book) “shove it, i’m god and you’re not and if i want some people to be slaves, tough excrement.’

    In other words, the problem is the Bible sets up the precedent that god doesn’t provide any better reasons that ‘just because.’ A guy holding a gun to my head can tell me ‘well, I have a really good reason why you need to dig this hole right now but at present, you wouldn’t understand.” I’m not digging the hole because I trust in his reason, but because he has a gun (and I’m probably digging my own grave, given the circumstances.) It seems like the same situation with the Christian god.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      smrnda:

      In other words, the problem is the Bible sets up the precedent that god doesn’t provide any better reasons that ‘just because.’

      I think that the OT God would quite happily say, “Sure, it’s OK to enslave people. Who’d think otherwise? As long as it’s not you, what do you care?”

      And similar logic for genocide.

  • Greg G

    Mr. X

    It is possible for someone to change positions when one acquires more knowledge. It’s the sensible thing to do but would you hold people to their first impression? Reason and empathy will result in a more consistent morality than supporting your prejudices with the big book of multiple choice.

    • Mr. X

      “It is possible for someone to change positions when one acquires more knowledge.”

      According to Bob’s view, it’s incoherent to talk of somebody “acquiring more moral knowledge”, since there’s nothing to know about in the first place.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Bob who? Certainly not me.

  • Greg G

    Rick,

    Thank you for the reply.

    If we can’t live up to the 613 or the 10, why should we think one set reflects the nature of God but the other doesn’t?

    If God can control his nature, then it’s all a capricious whim. If he cannot, then his nature is arbitrary. It’s just an accident he is that way and not another.

    His nature then would be to hold his creatures to a standard that is not their nature. If Jesus having a bad 40 hours or so could fix it all, the Bible is unnecessary drama.

    How do we know the Bible can tell us anything about God’s nature? It more likely that the Law was stuff the Temple priests made up to guarantee more sacrifices.

    There are three versions of the 10 Commandments in the OT. The original, the one Moses broke, forbids cheeseburgers. Which version is best aligned with God’s nature?

    In Galatians 2, Paul tells about an argument he had with Peter about eating with Gentiles. Paul gives his side but not Peter’s. Paul doesn’t claim to have won the argument either. Paul tells us Barnabas was led astray, so Peter must have won.

    In Mark 7, Jesus abolished the food laws. If that actually happened, why does Paul argue that and Peter (and James) oppose him? The positions should be reversed. Paul wasn’t there but Peter and James would have been.

    If Jesus didn’t rescind the food laws, how can you think any of the other 613 laws are not still in effect?

    • Rick Townsend

      You may jump in, but I won’t be playing on this one. All I did was summarize classical Christian thinking on the commandments’ mirroring of God’s nature. You disagree. I just like to chum the waters once in a while with some red meat to get you spun up.

      There are many more qualified than I to elucidate Christian theology. But since this blog is all about clear thinking about Christianity, I’m sure you have that covered.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Rick:

        I just like to chum the waters once in a while with some red meat to get you spun up.

        You start up arguments that you never finish? That’s an odd hobby. Kinda makes it look like you don’t have the arguments on your side to do so.

        • Rick Townsend

          You (not I) started the discussion (it’s your blog) that you gain pleasure from turning into an argument. That is what makes it interesting for you. I get that. I just added the clear thinking about Christianity back in. You’re welcome.

          But for you, this is a hobby. For me, it is what makes life matter. Kinda different.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          You’re the one who lies “to chum the waters once in a while with some red meat to get you spun up.” I was just responding to that.

      • http://busterggi@aol.com busterggi

        Interpretation? More like classical Christian cherrypicking & excuses. But then, what is Christianity other than regurgitated paganized Judaism anyway?

    • Rick Townsend

      Greg,

      As I mentioned to Bob, I won’t further muddy your thinking. I already made an attempt to clarify the difference between the 613 and the 10. You clearly disagree with my characterization and want it parsed more finely. Enjoy that exercise, but I’m not going to go any farther than I already did.

      The Christian Gospel message is tantalizingly clear. If you reject it, that is your choice and your consequence one way or the other. But trying to get Christians to change the interpretation won’t change the nature or the facts of how God chooses to reach out to us. The payment of Christ is available to all who would ask for it. And trying to make the Gospel or the Bible look as twisted as you seem to think it is won’t really help either side, so what is the point?

      I gave you a way to look at it. You would do well in my opinion to think about that some rather than firing off one quick “yeah, but” after another. But it’s your choice. I’m just giving you notice that I have better things to do than continuing this particular line of interrogation.

      Enjoy… You and Bob can have the last word.

      I think I’ll go to church tomorrow, then attend a visitation for a friend’s father (bad timing, I know), and watch the Super Bowl. Have a nice weekend!

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Rick:

        And trying to make the Gospel or the Bible look as twisted as you seem to think it is won’t really help either side, so what is the point?

        If the Bible actually is twisted (nonsensical, ridiculous, whatever) then there’s quite a bit of benefit to the person who realizes this and drops the Christian worldview.

        • Rick Townsend

          And if it’s not, then there is benefit to taking it more seriously than you do.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Agreed. So your “won’t really help either side” doesn’t seem to apply.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      There are three versions of the 10 Commandments in the OT. The original, the one Moses broke, forbids cheeseburgers. Which version is best aligned with God’s nature?

      I like the second one (Ex. 34), the only one that says “Ten Commandments,” and clearly the one that was in the Ark of the Covenant since Mo had broken the previous set. Lots of nutty stuff–don’t eat goat cooked in milk, for example.

  • Greg G

    Rick,

    Thank you for the conversation.

    I am interested in what is true but I’ve found the Bible doesn’t support the current reinterpretation any more than it supports any of the interpretations throughout the history of the religion. I’m not trying to twist except to untwist it.

    Are there any apologetics on the Galatians 2/Mark 7 question?

    Enjoy your weekend. I’m missing the game but enjoying breezy, eighty degree days in the Mekong Delta. This evening, were going to Can Tho for a tour of that area and the floating market. Later in the week, we’ll be in Ho Chi Minh City for the Lunar New Year. I may not have Internet access until we’re back in HCMC.

  • Greg G

    Bob,

    The “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk” is the one that forbids cheeseburgers when taken to its most logical conclusion. Is it specific to goats or does it apply to other animals like cows. Is it OK to seethe a kid in its grandmother’s milk? Melting cheese on a burger patty may be seething a steer in its own mother’s milk, for all we know.

    Maybe a beef patty with feta cheese might not be a transgression but it’s not as good as cheddar.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      The “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk” is the one that forbids cheeseburgers when taken to its most logical conclusion.

      And Christians imagine that the 10 Commandments is a single unambiguous statement.

  • Rick Townsend

    Are there any apologetics on the Galatians 2/Mark 7 question?

    Your bad cheeseburger joke notwithstanding, I will treat your question as a serious inquiry, hopefully not to be regretted (as usually is the case on this blog).

    As I understand the passages, all of the requirements of the 613 less the 10 commandments are removed after the fulfillment of all requirements of the law by the sacrificial death of the perfect lamb of God, Jesus.

    As for the food issue, all foods that aren’t poison or unhealthy (per common sense) are allowed after the New Testament church period. Peter was catering to Jews for appearance sake, and Paul called him on it. He should have avoided legalism for the Gentiles and should have been helping the Jews to understand the differences post-crucifixion.

    The covenant changed from the Mosaic law period to the New Covenant period, and the 600 or so Old Covenant laws didn’t apply as they had been, again, fulfilled. There are different opinions on exactly what the disagreement over Barnabus concerned, but it seems like it was more over his having been unfaithful in the past. He later became a stalwart of the NT church. I think Paul and Peter would have said they both won and came from the confrontation as brothers and were united in spirit in the long run.

    • http://busterggi@aol.com busterggi

      “As I understand ”

      And that my dear boy is the problem, its all personal, convenient agenda-driven interpretation – the book never actually says that.

      • Rick Townsend

        Way to take a colloquialism as an excuse to avoid thinking.

        • http://busterggi@aol.com busterggi

          Clearly I have read it and thought about it and find it poorly written and contradictory along with the centuries of warped apologetics that have followed by such as yourself.

          You may think a bat is a bird but that doesn’t make it one.

        • Rick Townsend

          Your call. Guess I just can’t write well enough for you. Sorry.

      • Mr. X

        Erm, actually St. Paul specifically says that the old Jewish Law no longer applies.

        • http://busterggi@aol.com busterggi

          And Jesus says it doesn’t. If you have to choose – who do you believe? And if you choose Paul why keep harping on about OT laws you like still being in effect?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      As I understand the passages, all of the requirements of the 613 less the 10 commandments are removed after the fulfillment of all requirements of the law by the sacrificial death of the perfect lamb of God, Jesus.

      What about the anti-gay stuff? You never refer back to those?

      Peter was catering to Jews for appearance sake, and Paul called him on it.

      Well … Jesus was a Jew. It’s not like he was trying to start a new religion or anything.

      “One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven” and so on.

      The covenant changed from the Mosaic law period to the New Covenant period

      If you told the OT Jews that the Mosaic covenant was temporary, would they have agreed?

      • http://busterggi@aol.com busterggi

        More importantly – had Rick told the OT Yahweh the rules were temporary would he have agreed?

      • Rick Townsend

        Anti-gay stuff?

        God talked about fidelity in the 10 commandments. Paul reconfirmed the position in Romans. That is all I need to say on it. Not controversial for me.

        If you told the OT Jews that the Mosaic covenant was temporary, would they have agreed?

        Many did and became Christians. That is how the church got its start. Read Acts. Thousands in the day Peter did his sermon after Pentecost alone. Some didn’t get it and still don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah. That is why we still have Jews today.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          God talked about fidelity in the 10 commandments. Paul reconfirmed the position in Romans.

          So this is the totality of your “homosexuality is wrong” argument? You never point to Leviticus, for example?

          Many did and became Christians.

          Uh … none did in 700 BCE. Let me ask again: If you told the OT Jews (I’m not talking about the first century) that the Mosaic covenant was temporary, would they have agreed?

        • Rick Townsend

          Probably not. And Adam and Noah would have been mystified at the Arc of the Covenant. That is what progressive revelation is all about. Until 33AD, all of the Jews, (not just the 700 BCE era) were Old Testament Jews. Those who don’t accept the Messiah status of Jesus are still living as Old Testament Jews from the perspective of New Testament theology.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          Probably not. And Adam and Noah would have been mystified at the Arc of the Covenant. That is what progressive revelation is all about.

          They wouldn’t have agreed that the Mosaic covenant was temporary, and I can’t imagine that they’d agree with your point about progressive revelation. “Progressive revelation” is what the later adulterers of the religion would call it to justify their actions–isn’t this how the OT Jews would respond to your justifications?

          Until 33AD, all of the Jews, (not just the 700 BCE era) were Old Testament Jews.

          Technically, yes. Nevertheless, they didn’t believe the same thing throughout that time. Attitudes did change over time (to your point), and the various books beyond the Pentateuch document this evolution. But this simply makes it look like yet another mythology that drifted with time, not the declarations of an omniscient creator of the universe.

  • Rick Townsend

    Bob,

    So your “won’t really help either side” doesn’t seem to apply.

    Sure it applies. You have to think through it to have it help your thinking. If you don’t, and instead just throw potshots, it won’t help the other side. Cheesy twisting statements cloud the issue, and they don’t help the other side clarify their thinking.

  • Rick Townsend

    You’re the one who lies (sic) “to chum the waters once in a while with some red meat to get you spun up.” I was just responding to that.

    I hope you mistyped the lie accusation. I trust you did. You know I like to clarify when I can. I just don’t want to get dragged in any deeper than the clear statement I made.

    Good night. It’s later here than there.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      likes/lies typo.

  • Greg G

    Thanks, Rick.

    Peter was eating with Gentiles until certain men who were sent by James arrived. Then he withdrew and the Jews joined him. Now it seems the Jews here were from James. Why would James be sending Jews who were unaware of the mission. But Paul accused Peter of forcing Gentiles to follow Jewish customs. Why would Peter be doing that if Jesus had canceled the old covenant? Why would Paul call Peter on it if Peter was taught by Jesus?

    The cheeseburger thing comes from Exodus 23:19. Cheeseburgers are not kosher for this reason. Check out the Wikipedia page on Cheeseburgers. It talks about this.

  • Greg G

    Mr. X

    What is objective morality and how can I rationally justify expecting others to conform to it?

    God must also be subject to objective morality, otherwise morality is nothing but a whim.

    How can we know what is objectively moral if we can’t access it individually through reason, empathy, and a sense of fairness? Trying to get it from God doesn’t work because he seems to tell different things to different people.

    We are often faced with moral dilemmas. This could never happen if we had access to objective morality. Every moral choice would be easy. You just do the objectively moral thing. But sometimes telling a lie to a psychopath is the right thing to do if he’s chasing a victim. If lying was objectively immoral, you couldn’t do it.

    We can’t really make an objectively moral choice without weighing the consequences of the choice. Since we cannot anticipate with certainty into the air distant future, trying to make an objectively moral choice is ridiculous. We can only hope to judge the choice by probabilities.

    I know what I prefer and I have a good idea about what is fair. I treat others as the would like to be treated so they will treat me as I would like to be treated. If things don’t work out so well, we tend to stop interacting. I will stand up for someone who is being taken advantage of in hope that someone will do something similar for me. Social creatures, like humans, benefit from cooperation. Those who try to beat the system risk being shut out of the system.

    This system works whether there is an objective morality or not. It deals with reality.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      That’s pretty much how I see things as well. My programming has the Golden Rule, and that’s where my instinctive morality comes from. Since we’re all the same species, we all pretty much have the same instincts.

      This natural approach to morality nicely explains the available facts. Not so the remarkable claim of accessible objective morality.

      One dodge that I’ve seen is claiming that morality is objective but that we don’t have reliable access to it. But this to me is angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin thinking. If it exists [but might as well not for all the practical good it does], who cares?

  • Greg G

    Bob,

    I think empathy and a sense of fairness are instinctual. Dogs have been shown to have a sense of fairness. Capuchins have a more developed sense of fairness. Chimps and gorillas also show this plus empathy and altruism.

    I also think reason plays a big role apart from instinct, though it works with them. Steven Pinker has shown that human society has become far less violent despite developing more efficient methods of violence. Civilization has transformed much faster than an instinct could pass biologically so it would have to be due to reason, intellect and education.

    I have recently begun to toy with the idea that we act moral to get others to act moral to us, so morality is just social cooperation for our own interests. I posted my first stab at articulating the theory a few days ago. I think it was in this thread. I’d check but I fear losing track of that button.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      I agree that there’s an intellectual component (“Hmm … this guy’s a dick, but he could be useful to go hunting with. Maybe if I play nice, he’ll reciprocate.”) But this doesn’t explain what I think of as instinctual–when you instantly put yourself in danger to help someone else (saving the toddler that walks into traffic, for example). Or the components of societies that are common. Everyone has a sense of the golden rule, but the interpretation of honor varies widely by society.

  • MNb

    “That is what progressive revelation is all about.”
    I like this argument. It predicts that there have been some more revelations after the Resurrection thing. Personally I think Bobby Henderson had a very progressive revelation a couple of years ago. Rick T should convert to Pastafarianism.

  • BT

    One surmises that Mr Craig is then a political progressive after this comment;

    “that what is described in the Old Testament is actually a sort of anti-poverty program designed to help the poor in the absence of a strong national government. ”

    One would think a strong national safety net would be better than slavery, yet most folks that share his position are intensely antigovernment.

    I think he is being inconsistent here.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Good point. I wonder if Dr. Craig thinks through the consequences of what he says.

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