In my previous blog post, I decided to do my best to answer charges from blogger ClubSchadenFreude who left several long comments on a previous post of mine. ClubSchadenFreude is an atheist, and you can read her blog posts on WordPress. In her comments on my posts, she strung together some things in the Bible that struck her as unanswerable. Here’s part of what she wrote:

No reason to think you or anyone else knows what this god is “like” since Christians cannot agree on that nor show that their version is the right one. What do you think about a god that kills a child for the actions of its parents, a god taht [sic] requires a man to make a choice between freedom and his family, a god that kills a people who are ruled by a king and who can’t do anything about him, a god who kills a man who simply tried to keep this god’s magic box upright, if not vicious? If a human tried to make people do these things, killed children, etc, would you think that human vicious?

Your bible betrays your claims of a good and benevolent god.

I’m sure she could have found more, but I’m only going to address what she wrote.

Apologetics

Answering things like this is called “apologetics.” From my point of view, God doesn’t need to make apologies, but you and I might need someone to explain things to us, especially if what we read seems to contradict what we know about God. We might need to have God explained to us because we can misunderstand him. And that’s often what happens if we approach God — not from faith — but our own intellect.

In my previous post, I answered the first two charges ClubSchadenFreude levels against Christianity. I’d like to try to answer the next charge in this post. While I doubt ClubSchadenFreude will be impressed, I’m not writing for her — or any non-Christian. I’m writing for my fellow believers. Non-Christians are invited to look over our shoulders, of course, but I doubt I’ll say anything so profound as to change minds.

Slavery

a god taht [sic] requires a man to make a choice between freedom and his family

While ClubSchadenFreude doesn’t cite chapter and verse, I think she’s referring to Exodus 12: 1-6.

In my book, Solid Ground, there is a chapter titled The Question of Slavery. The chapter can be purchased separately as an eBook, but I’m going to give you the Reader’s Digest condensed version here absolutely free because I wrote the book — not to become wealthy or famous — but to help believers and unbelievers understand Christianity better.

When the Old Testament was written, slavery was the norm. Every culture owned slaves. In fact, if someone was in financial need, that person could voluntarily sell himself to a richer person. (Leviticus 25: 39 – 43) In Exodus 12, we learn that this man could serve as a slave for six years, but after six years, he was to go free. If he had a wife and children before he became a slave, that wife and children were to leave with him. But if after he became a slave he married a woman who was already a slave and they had children, he was to leave without them. He had the option to stay and remain a slave forever because he loved his master, wife, and children.

And I think ClubSchadenFreude has a point. Might a man not stay with a harsh master imply to remain with his wife and children? Why would God do this?

Stay with me

What I’m going to say next seems (at first) to have nothing to do with this issue, so stay with me.

In the New Testament, Matthew records a conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees in chapter 19, verses 3 – 9. They are talking about divorce. Our culture has embraced divorce with gusto, but Jesus says here that “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

The Pharisees are unhappy with this answer. Basically they say, “Then why did Moses permit divorce?”

Jesus says, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce….”

What we learn from this

What we learn from this is that there is a higher law than the law of Moses, one which is harder and more difficult. It is the perfect law of God. The law of Moses (given by God) was not the final end God wanted, and he permitted some things he didn’t want to prevent even worse things from happening. Because of the hardness of hearts of the people of Israel, God permitted things that did not have his full approval. This is why the prophet Jeremiah famously says that a new covenant is coming. (Jeremiah 30: 31 – 34)

Some theologians have a name for these kinds of laws: they call them laws that “limit evil.” And I think they have a point. So, because God knew that men would divorce their wives without good reason, he put a limit on divorce instead of forbidding it outright by commanding how it would be done to limit just how bad it could get.

Back to slavery

I believe laws like the one in Exodus 12: 1 – 6 we are discussing were to limit evil. A Hebrew man could not be kept more than six years. There was a limit on how long he could remain a slave. If he was married when he became a slave, his wife and children were freed with him. The slave owner could not keep the wife and children. He was limited. But if that poor man turned slave married a woman who was already a slave, then she and any children from the marriage were to remain with the slave owner.

Of course, this was a known rule. It was part of the law. It would be smart for a man in that position of extreme poverty to remain unmarried in any case. If you can’t support yourself, you can’t support a wife and children, either. If he was so poor he couldn’t support himself, what would happen to his wife and children if he left with them? But humans being what we are, we don’t always do the smart thing. If he married while a slave and left, he did so knowing he would leave behind his wife and children.

Or at least, that might have happened. If his master was really one he loved, he could stay. But he had other options, too. Stay with me, and I’ll explain why that wasn’t the final word.

Slavery was never what God wanted

God permitted slavery as a way to provide for the poor, though I believe he would have preferred charity, and he says so in Leviticus 25:35-38. God calls the rich to sustain the poor in these verses. But I suspect God knew what was coming. He knew that people’s hearts would be hard and they would not sustain the poor, so he permitted slavery (in the next verses Leviticus 25: 39 – 43) as a less desirable method for preventing starvation. And, even here — read the verses — God instructs the master to treat the slave as a hired man. He is not to be treated severely.

I think it was because of the slave owner’s hardness of heart, God permitted the slave owner to keep the wife and children of a marriage that was contracted while a slave, not because it was his desire.

What makes me so sure?

Because it Deuteronomy 23: 15-16, we read this: You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.  He shall live with you in your midst, in the place which he shall choose in one of your towns where it pleases him; you shall not mistreat him. Although the pronoun “he” is used, back then (as in many languages even today) the masculine address was used to refer to all human beings, man, woman, and child.

Any slave could escape and leave a harsh master. And I am confident that God would treat a man who escaped a harsh master with a wife and children the same way.

4 thoughts on “Answering the Unanswerable (Part II)

  1. It is true, I would have no problem in finding more verses in your bible that show your god to be anything but merciful, or giving free will, etc. That *should* make a human being wonder why their god is so heinous and make them question why they need an entire industry of apologetics to excuse their belief in such a being.

    That Christians need things explained to them, and that those explanations vary widely, contradicting each other again shows that Christianity is nothing more than a man-made article, just like every other religion. Our authors claim that the only way to follow is faith, and not intellect, is a common excuse used to accept anything a tyrant does without question. “We can’t understand but golly, it must be right.” That is unquestioning e.g. blind faith.

    He is right that he is only writing for his fellow believers, not even all Christians, since they disagree. That’s the target of apologetics, to get people not to think anymore, just believe blindly.

    The excuses presented here for slavery are fairly typical for any apologist for that cruel institution. They were used in the USCW with abandon.

    We first have the excuse: God is limited by humans, so he had to work “with” slavery. This shows a less than omnipotent god so I am always bemused when Christians undercut their god just to excuse it.

    Then we have our author claiming that in Exodus, “we learn that this man could serve as a slave for six years, but after six years, he was to go free. If he had a wife and children before he became a slave, that wife and children were to leave with him. But if after he became a slave he married a woman who was already a slave and they had children, he was to leave without them. He had the option to stay and remain a slave forever because he loved his master, wife, and children.”

    What our author doesn’t mention is that this only held for Jewish slaves. Outsider slaves were property for life. He also has no problem with a man being forced to choose between slavery and love by this god of his. How disgusting.

    Our author is right, what he says about marriage does have nothing to do with the injustice of slavery. It is simply an excuse to justify it.

    As for the laws of Moses, they aren’t Moses’ laws, they are our author’s God’s laws. If there is a “higher law”, then this god made false claims to Moses and the Israelites intentionally to damn them. We know that this was indeed the final end that the god of the bible wanted, at least per the author (purportedly Moses) because this god says that follow the law, and you are good to go with this god. This is a Christian’s excuse to try to validate his religion as the only “real” one. This god could have given this supposedly “higher” law, but chose not to and lied to claim that the commandments were the complete law. Our author has to claim that he knows that something “worse” would happen if this god didn’t lie. We have no evidence of this at all, just one more excuse.

    The verses in Jeremiah that our author wants it use are in Jeremiah 31. “31 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,[g] says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

    Which says nothing at all about the Christian messiah, but that this god will make everyone understand the law he gave to Moses directly, and not have people teach each other. The laws are not changed, despite the hopes of Christians since those laws are terribly inconvenient.

    “Some” theologians make up a lot of stuff, so they can make up excuses for their god. There is nothing that shows that these laws “limit” evil. That’s just made up by humans who have problems with their incoherent god.

    We are back to slavery again, and again, our author ignores that slaves who weren’t Jewish were property for life, just like slavery now and in the US antebellum. The laws of slavery weren’t limited for human beings. Just the “chosen people”. I do wonder about a human being who has no problem with humans being considered property.

    Our author again makes up excuses for this god, praising how wonderful it is how this god “planned” for poor people and their misery. Yeesh. It’s rather like reading “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
    “Are there no prisons?”
    “Plenty of prisons…”
    “And the Union workhouses.” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
    “Both very busy, sir…”
    “Those who are badly off must go there.”
    “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
    “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

    What our author would hope to “believe” is shown to be false since this god of his chose to do nothing of the sort. A pity this god always has to depend on humans when any actual help has to be given, this god no where to be found. This world is just like there is no god at all. This god could make food and water magically appear e.g. manna and quail, but for some mysterious (not so) reason, it can’t do anything at all.

    This god doesn’t “instruct the master to treat the slave as a hired man”. This god also says to obey a harsh master no matter what, and to never seek freedom. So much for our authors attempt to misrepresent the bible… again. This is what Leviticus 25 actually says “39 If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves. 40 They shall remain with you as hired or bound laborers. They shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then they and their children with them shall be free from your authority; they shall go back to their own family and return to their ancestral property. 42 For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves are sold. 43 You shall not rule over them with harshness, but shall fear your God. 44 As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. 45 You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. 46 You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness.”

    When you read the bible, you find out that Christians intentionally repeatedly misrepresent it to make it less horrible than it is. This is for their benefit only.

    “I think it was because of the slave owner’s hardness of heart, God permitted the slave owner to keep the wife and children of a marriage that was contracted while a slave, not because it was his desire.”

    Again, this god limited by humans so a believer can try to pretend that this omnipotent being just couldn’t do a thing about slavery to salve their conscience.
    The verses in Deut 23 are interesting “15 Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. 16 They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them.”

    Now, this is, in context, about Jews, no one else if one reads Deut 15, etc. Outsider slaves are still property. We still have this in the NT where Paul is giving back a slave and having no problem with it at all. For him, it’s a business transaction with a partner, Philemon, for a useful piece of equipment. “0 So I make a request to you on behalf of Onesimus, who is my own son in Christ; for while in prison I have become his spiritual father. 11 At one time he was of no use to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me.
    12 I am sending him back to you now, and with him goes my heart. 13 I would like to keep him here with me, while I am in prison for the gospel’s sake, so that he could help me in your place. 14 However, I do not want to force you to help me; rather, I would like for you to do it of your own free will. So I will not do anything unless you agree.
    15 It may be that Onesimus was away from you for a short time so that you might have him back for all time. 16 And now he is not just a slave, but much more than a slave: he is a dear brother in Christ. How much he means to me! And how much more he will mean to you, both as a slave and as a brother in the Lord!”

    No, “any slave” can’t escape and leave a harsh master. That is just a Christian excuse to blame the victim.

    Like

  2. Hi, Vel:

    As I said earlier (in my most recent blog), I worried about you when I didn’t hear from you. You and I disagree, of course. But it’s good to know you’re well.

    CultureClayBlog

    Like

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