Over on his blog site, Biblical Musing, Don Camp is trying to justify why God appears to condone slavery. It’s not the first time Don has tried to defend the indefensible; he’s recently been arguing much the same thing on Debunking Christianity.
The fact the Old Testament appears to endorse the keeping of other human beings as slaves is a problem for Christians. It’s a problem compounded by the fact that Jesus in Luke 12.47-48 and the imposter-Paul, in Ephesians 6.5, both support the practice. How can it be that God approves, or at least raises no objection to it? Wouldn’t an omniscient, all-loving God have outlawed slavery, as he outlaws so much else, in one of his innumerable laws and commandments?
Instead, he provides instructions about how to keep and look after slaves; what to do, for example, when you flog one to within an inch of his life so that he later dies (Exodus 21.20-21) or when you deliberately blind your slave – she’s your property after all – or rape her (Exodus 21.26; Numbers 31.17-18).
Don’s answer is that, despite God involving himself in the minutiae of slave treatment, he knew it would be a waste of time telling his people slavery was wrong. Why? Because he took the trouble to tell them lying and stealing were wrong and yet they ignored him. So, hey, why should he bother telling them about slavery? They’d just ignore that too.
But the point is – disregarding the fact that not everyone steals and lies – ‘God’ did issue laws prohibiting stealing and lying (and eating shellfish, and wearing garments of mixed fabric). It seems it was important to him to tell his pet-tribe that these were wrong, even though he must have known many of their number, and many more subsequently, would ignore him.
What can we conclude from this? Only this: that God didn’t feel the same way about slavery as he did about lying and stealing, which is why he didn’t bother making even the same token effort for slavery.
Or, and much more likely: the tribes who wrote the laws didn’t think slavery was wrong. In fact, they thought it quite useful to have slaves. Given this utility, they were unlikely to have devised laws prohibiting their ownership. The enslaved themselves no doubt thought differently, but then they didn’t get to write the rules.
We don’t find a commandment prohibiting slavery in the bible because those who wrote it liked having slaves. For this reason too, we find all those inhumane instructions about keeping slaves and what should happen if you maim or kill them.
Of course God didn’t write these laws. People did. And they wrote them according to their understanding of what was moral, fair and legitimate within their own primitive milieu. Thus it was that slavery got a free pass.
There are some relationships in Scripture where the submission of one to another does not involve the ownership of one by the other. Examples of this would be the Biblical admonition to citizens to submit to civil governments and for church members to submit to their church leaders. God does not give governments ownership rights over their citizens and he does not give church leaders ownership rights over their members. These two spheres of authority are limited in their powers and jurisdictions.
But God established some spheres of human authority where ownership of human property is either allowed (such as slavery under certain circumstances) or ownership is simply implied such as the relationship between a father and his children or a husband and his wife.
The ownership of the wife by the husband is confirmed in the 10th commandment where a man’s wife is included in a list of his possessions:
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.“ Exodus 20:17 (KJV)
Again in the book of Deuteronomy a man’s wife is included in his possessions:
“And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it. And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.” Deuteronomy 20:5-7 (KJV)
These possessions all belonged to the man and he had the right to make use of them. In fact he was encouraged to make use of these possessions.
There are many that falsely attack the Bible based on these and other passages saying that the Bible makes a woman a possession that is no more valuable than cattle(Exodus 20:17) and a peace of land (Deuteronomy 20:5-7).
Another way of saying their argument is “If a woman is owned by her husband then she has no value as a person”.
But this could not be farther from the truth. While it conflicts with our modern values a person can be owned by another and yet have great value. The Bible says “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.“ (Proverbs 31:10). I don’t know about you – but I think rubies are far more valuable than a house, cattle or a vineyard!
Also the Bible calls on husbands to give “honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel“(I Peter 3:7). So just because women are the property of their husbands does not mean husbands can treat them the same as their cattle. This a false argument proposed by those who do understand the Biblical concept of human property verses the world’s concept of human property.
Today, a friend of mine sent me a quote from Doug Wilson’s book, Southern Slavery, As it Was. (his co-author was Steve Wilkins) Here’s what Wilson had to say:
“Sodomites parade in the streets, claiming that if we do not appropriate more money to study why people with foul sexual habits get sick, we are somehow violating their civil rights. Feminists, in rebellion against God, invert the order of the home established by God. They do so in a way that seeks to rob women of their beauty in submission and their security in being loved. For two decades, we have seen millions of unborn children slaughtered in abortion clinics. How did we get here, and what is the way out? The question cannot be answered fully without careful study of the War Between the States and the controversies surrounding it. Slavery was one of those controversies.”
Let this quote serve as a reminder that this kind of thinking is not the exclusive domain of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church and the Phelps clan. Bigots can be found in almost every sect, with the number of bigots growing increasingly larger the more conservative a sect is.
Wilson asks, which morality will it be, but same-sex marriage has nothing to do with morality. Allowing same-sex couples to marry affords them equal protection under the law and grants them the same civil rights as heterosexuals. Each of us have a right to privacy. Consenting adults have the right to engage in whatever sexual conduct that floats their boat without the government regulating the behavior. Theocrats like Wilson desire and demand that their interpretation of the laws found in the Bible be codified and made the standard for everyone.
I find it hard to see how this is any different from Muslims who want to institute Sharia law. As the quotes below will show, Wilson is quite willing to use the power of the state to enforce his version of Biblical law. Wilson also thinks that there may instances when execution is the rightful punishment for someone breaking his God’s law.
Such thinking should cause all of us to shudder. While Islam is center stage in our culture, proponents of God rule are working behind the scenes to destroy America’s secular foundation and legislate and enact a Christian version of sharia law.
“You might exile some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim. There are circumstances where I’d be in favor of execution for adultery. … I’m not proposing legislation. All I’m doing is refusing to apologize for certain parts of the Bible.”
A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.
This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.
But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.
True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.
Here’s a Doug Wilson quote about slavery I found on the Are Women Human blog: (link no longer active)
Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, [slavery] was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world. The credit for this must go to the predominance of Christianity. The gospel enabled men who were distinct in nearly every way, to live and work together, to be friends and often intimates…
The [WPA Slave] Narratives consistently portray an amazingly benign picture of Southern plantation life. Affection for former masters and mistresses is expressed in terms of unmistakable devotion. Testimony to the good treatment, kindness, and gentleness of many so-called “heartless slave holders” abounds. Many of the old slaves express a wistful desire to be back at the plantation.
Slave life was to them a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care. In the narratives taken as a whole, there is no pervasive cry of rage and anguish.. abuses came from a distinct and very small minority.
I believe that certain unspeakable things will be going on in Boy Scout tents within about five years — with our current tolerance pimps making it all happen — and they will be things that could best be addressed by a judicious use of the strongest form of disapproval a culture has. While I believe that the judicial law of Moses ceased when the nation of Israel ceased, as the Westminster Confession teaches, I also believe the general equity of the law remains. I believe that the general equity of the law includes this strong rejection of homosexual behavior. I also believe that the law of the Old Testament was the model for our common law system, and our system should work in the same way.
By the way, no need for any comments saying that I have confounded homosexuality and pedophilia. I haven’t, and am just giving an example of the kind of same-sex behavior I could see supporting the death penalty for.
But look what I just did. I cited an application of Leviticus 20:13 that could still have broad societal consensus, even in these jaded days. This being the case, what you will have to do is bookmark this page, wait about ten years, and send your outraged cries up to the skies then. By that point, a large number of boys will have been ushered into the fellowship of these men, and there will have been at least two HBO series exalting the lifelong friendships that resulted, and it will then be obvious and apparent to all (in 2023) that I am an incorrigible hater.