Are you a moral relativist?

If your answer is a resounding “NO”, I suggest you start pondering the following. In the Old Testament there are several verses, which deal with slavery, and those verses do not talk about the subject in a condemnatory manner. Slavery was an accepted way of life in the biblical times.

So, was slavery “immoral” back then?

Whenever this question is raised, the believers unanimously answer: “slavery in those times was something different. It is best described as indentured servitude”. True, indentured servitude was a variant of “real” slavery, but there was plenty of “real” slavery in those times. The members of conquered tribes became “real” slaves, and not just the males, but the females, too.

Anyhow, the life of those “indentured servants” was not an enviable existence. The master could beat them if he so chose, as long as the “servant” was able to get up within three days. Also their progeny, if conceived during the time of the servitude belonged to the master, who could sell them whenever he wanted. So there is not a lot of difference between “real” slavery and indentured servitude.

What is the ever-present response to the question: “was slavery moral in the biblical times”?

And the answer is always the same: Ah, but those were different times, and you cannot make a value-judgment based upon our era. :slight_smile: And with this OOPS “rebuttal” they declare themselves “moral relativists”, unknowingly, of course.

So you have two options: 1) either accept that indentured servitude was (and thus IS) moral, or 2) admit that the Bible - the never changing word of God teaches seriously “immoral” behavior. Which one do you prefer?

You were very sneaky in the way you started by saying the Bible has verses that “do not talk about the subject in a condemnatory manner”, and then concluded with the “Bible… teaches seriously “immoral” behavior”. Those two things are not the same.

There are other events recorded in the Bible which are not and never have been morally good, such as men having multiple wives.

There is a difference between the Old Covenant which God had with the Jews, and the New Covenant that came with Christ. In the Old Covenant, God specified ceremonial, judicial, and moral laws and enforced them among the Jews. Some of those laws specified certain allowances; this was because of the hardness of the hearts of the Jews, and not because God desired those things.

With the coming of Christ, he put aside the ceremonial and judicial laws of the Jews, and instituted the Church, which would govern all men to lead them to God. The moral laws of the Old Covenant are brought into the New, and were “fulfilled” by Christ who completed them.

The bottom line here is that you need to stop grouping “believers” into one pot and assigning us beliefs which fit in line with your worldview. You are completely incorrect to do so, and you are not only deceiving those who read what you write, but you are deceiving yourself.

I find that one needs a depth of historical knowledge to know what went on in those days under the word “slavery”. It seems certain that many instances involved behaviour unequivocally immoral. Is it possible that some arrangements were otherwise? I imagine that could be so - but on what basis could I, without relevant historical expertise, know?

Care also needs to be taking in reading scripture, particularly prior to the time of Jesus. This was a time when God was drawing a people slowly together. Thus scripture does not focus on parsing all events into moral and immoral groups. It does not set out to define/require a step change in behaviour. The premise you adopt about scripture seems to be at odds with this.

Q: When God gave the Hebrews instructions on how to properly enslave people where were they?
A: In the desert without any slaves.

Q: According to the Bible how long had the Hebrews been enslaved by the Egyptians?
A: Either 400 or 430 years.

So the Hebrews were without slaves for the length of their enslavement and were partway through their 40 year sojourn through the desert. They hadn’t had slaves for many centuries. So we can’t say this was a continuation of the practice that God tried to regulate. I know I don’t do things just because my ancestor from 1580 did it.

[quote=Rau]Care also needs to be taking in reading scripture, particularly prior to the time of Jesus. This was a time when God was drawing a people slowly together. Thus scripture does not focus on parsing all events into moral and immoral groups. It does not set out to define/require a step change in behaviour. The premise you adopt about scripture seems to be at odds with this.
[/quote]

Q: In Exodus when God gave the Hebrews instuctions on how to properly enslave people didn’t he also define and require a step change in behaviour on several other matters?
A: Aboslutely. God gives a single speech between Exods 20 and (I believe) Exodus 24 an all sorts of matters on what one is to do including, but not limited to, slavery, how to lend money, whether sorceresses are to live, basic tort law, how to honor the Sabbath, how to treat the poor.

Vera_Ljuba is absolutely right that when the topic of Biblical slavery arises moral relativitism is sure to follow.

Vera seems to want to imply that all that is tolerated or not condemned in all parts of the Bible are therefore good (at least, good at that time). My point is that God did not seek to change all things at once, so that premise is unsound.

This is a question that has been very hard for me to explain to people I debate, and to be frank you guys are making quite a mess of it. If it is true that God did not seek to change all things at once, what is the point of God? Man seems to find out what moral and upstanding actions are at his own pace anyways. Think about it – if you were to go to a nation in Africa and see that the tribes were being very unfair to certain groups of people, and the practice of excessive punishments for minor infractions was still in place, would you not draft a law that remedied all that you could think of that needed remedied? You would not allow a little bit of slavery to exist, simply because it had existed for quite some time would you?

You were very sneaky in the way you started by saying the Bible has verses that “do not talk about the subject in a condemnatory manner”, and then concluded with the “Bible… teaches seriously “immoral” behavior”. Those two things are not the same.

There are other events recorded in the Bible which are not and never have been morally good, such as men having multiple wives.

There is a difference between the Old Covenant which God had with the Jews, and the New Covenant that came with Christ. In the Old Covenant, God specified ceremonial, judicial, and moral laws and enforced them among the Jews. Some of those laws specified certain allowances; this was because of the hardness of the hearts of the Jews, and not because God desired those things.

With the coming of Christ, he put aside the ceremonial and judicial laws of the Jews, and instituted the Church, which would govern all men to lead them to God. The moral laws of the Old Covenant are brought into the New, and were “fulfilled” by Christ who completed them.

The bottom line here is that you need to stop grouping “believers” into one pot and assigning us beliefs which fit in line with your worldview. You are completely incorrect to do so, and you are not only deceiving those who read what you write, but you are deceiving yourself.
Today 6:32 pm

This is not the argument here – you are missing the point. The Bible does not condemn the practice of slavery, even though it was a major part of commerce not only in Mesopotamia, but also in Rome and in Israel around 70 AD (around the time of the writing of the New Testament). If it had been so immoral, wouldn’t there have been something in there saying something along the lines of “Oh and by the way, you know that slavery thing you have going on? Yea that’s not such a great thing to do to people, might wanna stop it. Yup just quit.” Slavery has existed for quite a long time, pretty much since the beginning of civilization, and only recently have we seen how erroneous the practice is.

*A correction to the OP. I would not say that a person only has two options. This is called a false dichotomy, and it is logically fallacious. In addition, the Bible doesn’t “teach” this behavior, it simply condones it – like every other religion at the time.

Your argument that putting all believers into a group is an error is a very good one. However, these slight problems do not dismiss the entirety of Vera’s argument. There are still a few points that must be addressed.

That’s just it. Slavery in the Bible isn’t just tolerated, its use is given from God in great detail. Not only that God expanded the practice in two ways. First, as mentioned, he layed out the rules to a people that had no slaves and hadn’t for over 400 years. Second, in Leviticus 25:44 God tells his people that they can purchase slaves from other nations. Why, if God only tolerates the practice, does he look to expand it? To introduce it to people whose great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents were the last to own slaves?

One analogy I use is if a town were to pass laws on how one can legally rape someone, then that town is more than tolerating the practice – it’s endorsing it.

So how can a believer handle Biblical slavery. Three common ways I’ve seen are:

  1. State that it was necessary because of the hardness of the hearts of the Hebrews. I’ve shown here that they can’t use that.

  2. State that God erred in introducing and allowing slavery. That doesn’t happen.

  3. State that we have to consider the times. That’s moral relativism and that’s usually the go-to defense.

It is factually evident that God’s law was revealed over long time periods. We will continue to learn the meaning of “love thy neighbor” till the end of time.

Interesting perspective. However, the question remains – is it not more reasonable for a leader to establish definite rules, instead of mentioning general mantras which allow for infinitely many interpretations?

God acted to draw people to his ideal in a manner and time of his choice. I cannot tell you why he did not rule against it at some earlier time. Ditto for polygamy, btw.

Perhaps it would be better to pray about that, given the context in which you ask the question.

New Testament:

Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior. (Titus 2:9-10)

Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church; rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved. Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1 Timothy 6:1-5)

:shrug:

I have several answers of which I know you won’t like nor accept because you have made up your mind.

I will say this, if you have issue with it, take it up with God. I tend to follow St. Peter and in the same manner he replied to Jesus, to whom would we go, I reply, if not to God, where would I go. Meaning, I trust in God, I believe in God, I adore God, I love God and that is enough for me. I may not understand everything, but I am okay with that. God does…

Do you have children?

I have a toddler, a preschooler, and an elementary aged child. As a family, our general rules are in fact broad. But the specific application to each child can vary a lot, based on their individual maturity and general flaws and virtues.

Curiously, if you were to ask them about the rules and why we have them I would not be surprised at all if their answers were all over the map, even contradicting each other. But as they grow to maturity, overall they should develop some sense of my meaning. But right now, I could perfectly express something until I’m blue in the face and there’s very little guarantee they’ll hear what I actually say AND implement it appropriately.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have consistent rules and expectations. It just means I have kids, who can’t comprehend how my adult brain works.

I appreciate that you hold to that, although this seems like a variant of moral relativism minus the explanation.

[quote=pensmama87]But as they grow to maturity, overall they should develop some sense of my meaning.
[/quote]

Unfortunately that analogy doesn’t work. We don’t have children do things then a long time later explain that it’s wrong. We especially don’t teach them how to do the wrong thing, then much later tell them not to do it. Instead of adding restrictions later we restrict them greatly at first, then release those restrictions as we see fit.

That’s not universally true. We allow and excuse all manner of things in children we would not tolerate as they grow up. We may even teach some behaviours we would not condone later.

Do you have any examples, especially any behaviours or practices we teach children and then tell them not to engage in later?

:D. Are you a parent?

I am not a parent, but I have three siblings who are the parents for my six nephews and three nieces. I’m familiar enough with the parenting process that if you gave an example or two I’d know what you’re talking about.

Think about dinner time.

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